Pixel Scroll 8/2 Something Pixeled This Way Comes

It’s a party. It’s a dog party! But don’t drink the punch. That’s the advice in today’s Scroll.

(1) Well, that was brutal. HitchBOT the hitchhiking robot met its fate in Philadelphia.

The now-destroyed robot hails from Port Credit, Ontario. It completed a successful 26-day journey in 2014 in which it “traveled over 10,000 km from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia.” Then in early 2015, hitchBOT moved onto a 10-day German adventure, followed by a three-week jaunt in the Netherlands.

Three countries. Zero incidents. But once hitchBOT made it stateside, it didn’t even make it past the Mason-Dixon line before getting the wiring kicked out of him.

Buzzfeed linked to a vlog recorded in Philly made during hitchBOT’s final hours.

This video from YouTubers BFvsGF shows them discovering hitchBOT Friday night. The researchers said the vloggers are the last known people to have seen hitchBOT.

 

(2) Nichelle Nichols may wind up the Star Trek cast member who came closest to reaching outer space, all despite her recent health setbacks.

The actress who played Lt Uhura in Star Trek is to blast off on a mission for US space agency NASA aged 82 – and three months after suffering a stroke.

Nichelle Nichols, who has been an ambassador for NASA since portraying the groundbreaking character in the 1960s, will fly on the SOFIA space telescope in September.

While the telescope – housed in a specially converted Boeing 747 – doesn’t quite go to the final frontier, it makes it as high as the stratosphere, around 50,000 above the Earth.

(3) Numerous features of Pluto and Charon are being given names from science fiction and fantasy. Kowal Crater on Pluto, just north of the right side of the heart, is not named for Mary Robinette Kowal (which would have been cool), but rather Charles T. Kowal, who discovered a new class of object in the solar system (centaur asteroids, which cross the orbits of major planets).

Showalter told BuzzFeed Charon is the first solar system body to have features named after geography and characters from both Star Wars and Star Trek. Darth Vader got a dark rimmed crater, while Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker both got lighter-rimmed craters.

Doctor Who is well-represented. Gallifrey, the home planet of the Time Lords in Doctor Who, is intersected, fittingly, by a chasm named Tardis, the Doctor’s time machine and space ship.

On the Star Trek side of things, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Lt. Uhura, Lt. Sulu, and the Vulcans all get shout-outs in Charon.

“We felt strongly as a mission team that we stood on the shoulders of giants,” Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, told BuzzFeed Science, and that they needed to “honor the missions and the engineers and scientists who figured out how to do space exploration, because we could have never pulled off New Horizons without their experience.”

(4) Some of you should plan on going to Pluto – in person! That’s Brad Torgersen’s recruiting pitch on Mad Genius Club today.

Okay, kids, wake the hell up. I know you’ve been sitting in those desks since zero-four-hundred, wondering what the hell is going on, but never forget that you volunteered to be here. Nobody is making you do this. If you want to, you can go directly out that door in the back of the room, call your mommy or your daddy to come pick you up, then go home to your comfy little beds . . . No?

Right. Good. Now, pay attention. This is your official inprocessing brief.

A few days ago, the New Horizons probe did a close fly-by of the (dwarf) planet Pluto. Did you see the news? The pictures? I know, Pluto kinda gets lost in the shuffle — what with all the politicized, hyperbolic, narrative-laden bulls*** they cram into your brains all day. If it’s not the snooze news, it’s social media — where the way you change the world is by clicking your mouse, then giving yourself a hug. Because you care so much. No, don’t bother denying it. You’re children of your era, I know that’s how the game works. Virtue-signaling. Slacktivism. Never get your hands dirty.

Well, be prepared to get some soil under your nails, boys and girls. Because Pluto is where we’re ultimately headed. And beyond. Not with robots. But with human beings.

(5) The Radchaai do not believe in coincidences, and neither does Lou Antonelli.

(6) Inside Out – How It Should Have Ended.

(7) Hugo voting has closed and here is John Scalzi’s valedictory to the Puppy movment.

It does seem to me that the all the Puppy bullshit ran down and out of steam there at the end; at a certain point there was nothing left to say, there was just the voting, and you voted or didn’t. The last bit of nonsense I saw from the Puppy environs was some of their nominees rage-quitting the Hugos and deciding to “No Award” themselves, and at least one of them saying that was the plan all along, because apparently when you have no idea what you’re doing, every outcome, no matter what it is, is a victory condition. At which point you just roll your eyes, pity the sad and meaningless sort of existence where being the turd in the punch bowl is a legitimate life goal for a presumably adult human, and move on.

Doesn’t “Floating in the punchbowl” scan about the same as “rolling on the river”? I won’t take that idea any farther…

[Thanks to Steven H Silver and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

292 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 8/2 Something Pixeled This Way Comes

  1. @idontknow: ” I just don’t see long term habitation in domes or the like being sustainable, because the living space would be tiny, meaning the colony would be tiny, and the entire arrangement would be too fragile to last for long.”

    At first, sure. However, I fully expect that the colony would physically expand over time, and excavation is probably the easiest way. That’s one thing I really think Heinlein got right in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

    As for why they’re there, two significant motives come to mind: research and species salvation. The first is self-explanatory, but the second may not be. Right now, all of humanity’s eggs are in one big basket. One asteroid comes along, and that’s all she wrote. Even interplanetary colonies only make the basket a little bigger; they just move the single stress point to Sol. We need to get some colonies elsewhere if we want humanity to survive over the long haul. I don’t mean half a dozen people in a ship, either; I’m talking about self-sustaining colonies that don’t require outside support.

    Of course, that’s decades away, maybe centuries… which is all the more reason to start now, IMO. I wouldn’t start with the moon or Mars, either; I’d shoot for establishing a mining station in one of the Sol-Jupiter Trojan zones. Plan things out just right, and it could be built in the same modular way the ISS has been, with several modules “fired” at the zone at regular intervals and assembled there. Once it’s able to start acting as mining support for those handy bots, they can feed it resources and it can start expanding on its own. Yes, it would depend on Earth for crew rotation and consumables for some time, but I think that’s the best way to get a Belter civilization started… which I think would be better-suited to kick-start interstellar exploration than a planet-bound society is. Not having to expend huge amounts of resources to escape a gravity well is a huge advantage.

  2. @McJulie

    The only issue I have with 2 year eligibility is wondering just how it will work with publication of the full nomination list. Whether those works featuring near the top of the nomination list but not appearing on the final ballot have a leg up on their second year of eligibility. Or whether winning some of the other big awards will also boost the chances of getting on the Hugo final ballot in the second year of eligibility.

  3. @Cat: Re Torgersen’s rebranding.

    think he’ll make it clear that his beef is not with the rich, (now that would be heresy) but rather with the well educated.

    So he cannot even come up with an original beef–the anti-intellectualism of the U.S. and the “we had the edumacated types” has been around for decades if not centuries…I live in one of the hearts of it, rural Texas.

  4. Rev. Bob: re species salvation.

    I’d think we would need to prioritize dealing with climate changes and growing extinction of other species and those little problems down here on earth before there’d be any point in trying to ensure species survival via colonizing planets.

    After decades of reading sff (including Stephenson’s Seveneves) while watching funding for NASA and scientific research in general decline (or become tied to corporate interests), not to mention the wholesale destruction of education in this country, I’ve lost the optimism I had when I was a wee childe reading all the colonize the other planets sff of my youth.

  5. Torgersen’s romancing of Pluto is retro to the point of being ridiculous. I’ve been fascinated by the New Horizon’s mission too, but not to the point where my brains fall out.

  6. > “I was wondering how Swordspoint got on there- as a sacrifice?”

    I think of it more as throwing someone in front of a runaway train just in case they turn out to be Spiderman.

  7. 1. Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny
    2. The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula K. Le Guin
    3. Small Gods, Terry Pratchett (Many other McKillipses would’ve won this one. Then again, many other Pratchetts would’ve won from those. Although… *ponders Winter Rose vs Night Watch, before running away screaming*)

  8. Halftime report:

    Every candidate has a double digit number of votes. No shut-outs here or even close.

    The Last Unicorn has not only closed the distance with Nine Princes in Amber, it has pulled ahead by the thinnest of razor-thin margins!

    Riddle-Master has been keeping vote-for-vote pace with Small Gods for a while now — but Small Gods began by opening up a lead, so Riddle-Master needs to do better than that if it’s going to close the gap.

    Swordspoint is not quite keeping vote-for-vote pace with The Tombs of Atuan, which also started by opening up a lead; Swordspoint isn’t doing at all badly, but that means the gap is slowly widening.

  9. Winter Rose is one of my favorites, Aan! Have you read the sequel?

    (Night Watch is likely my favorite Pratchett, too, but it was ineligible for the bracket because of its publication date.)

  10. To be fair, astronauts are closer to blue-collar than Mission Control or other support personnel are, and any colonization mission would require a big blue-collar contingent.

    Well, given that Torgersen seems to think “white-collar” means “has lots of education”, I suspect that Aldrin and his Ph.D. would disagree with the notion he is closer to blue-collar than the typical inhabitant of Mission Control. And so would McNair, and the other 36% of NASA astronauts who have held Ph.D.’s let alone the others who have “only” held master’s degrees.

  11. Ouch ouch ouch ouch.

    1. Nine Princes in Amber.
    No. The Last Unicorn.
    No. Nine Unicorns in Amber.
    The Last Amberprince.
    I can’t decide.
    Abstain.

    2. The Tombs of Riverside.
    Swords of Atuan.
    Abstain.
    Swordspoint.
    Aargh.
    Tombs of Atuan.
    Swordspuan.
    Who was it who was dispensing forehead cloths?
    Swordspoint.
    Ouch.
    And that’s my final atuan answer.

    3. The Riddle Master of Hed.
    ouch.
    I can’t believe I’m voting against Pratchett.
    Who dealt this mess, anyway?

  12. Steven Silver on August 3, 2015 at 6:01 am said:

    Alice Crater … could just as easily have been named for early fictional lunar explorer Alice Kramden.

    If Ralph had ever said, “To Pluto, Alice!”, I’d agree with you, but we all knew Charon wasn’t “the moon!” he was talking about.

  13. Rev. Bob et al

    In the near certain destruction of modern medicine the global population will take a massive hammering; one of the reasons antibiotic resistance has escalated is the vast usage in factory farming methods. The probability that livestock will miraculously be spared the consequences of antibiotic resistance is zero, which means they will be dying along with us.

    Sadly, the ‘let’s all become Vegans’ option isn’t hugely helpful because lots of high quality protein intake is immensely useful, and, indeed, necessary, in host defence.

    Which is why my diet, in and out of hospital, is distinctly counter-intuitive to normal ‘healthy eating guidelines’, though approved, of course, by the nutritionists who actually know what they are talking about.

    Add that catastrophic blow to the consequences of global warming, and run the projections together, each aspect reinforcing the other, and Rev. Bob looks downright restrained in his conclusions. Of course I’m very fond of CJ’s Belter duology, so I’m not completely dispassionate…

  14. @Stevie:

    Unfortunately, we may have already passed the last possible starting point for the path I outlined, for the very reasons you cite. Humanity might well be Nero, fiddling while the planet burns. I hope not, but…

    Oh, and if anyone wondered why I didn’t suggest a planetary jumping-off point: we already know space’s risk conditions. Mars might have added risk factors, but Ceres could be a viable option. Not as a “planet” in and of itself, but as a decent belt HQ.

  15. rob_matic : I know Brad Torgersen is in no way racist or homophobic but… I did raise my eyebrow at the people he identifies as necessary for successful space exploration: the sturdy white folk who settled America, and nobody who is ‘poofy’.

    Yeah – if you wanted to choose a group of people with a culture of setting off on long, uncertain voyages of colonization and living together in close communities dependent on each other for survival, would you chose Polynesians rather than Europeans?

    James Nicholl : I expect the doughty space miners of tomorrow will be a collection of cubicle nerds in a building in Flin Flon, remotely controlling a flotilla of distant machines.

    Cubicle nerds can work in Chinese just as much as they can in English with nods to French…

  16. Rev Bob. Right now, all of humanity’s eggs are in one big basket. One asteroid comes along, and that’s all she wrote.

    Apart from the alien anthropologists watching reconstructed Disney cartoons a few millennia from now, of course.

  17. CPaca

    I’d vote to include the Vikings; they happily sailed off with distinctly minimal information about where things were and how to get there, not to mention ‘what is this for’ and yet achieved some remarkable things. I’d be honoured to nominate them!

  18. @Cat
    Not heresy, no but kind of startling, since the Sad Puppy campaign was basically running around shrieking and crying when, for example, Alex Dally McFarlane suggested moving beyond binary gender in fiction or Irene Gallo correctly if briefly described the Pups on Facebook.

    I thought the Sad Puppy campaign was running around shrieking and crying when everyone wasn’t given a medal just for showing up.

  19. MickeyFinn

    I really don’t understand why people, or at least some people, are so attached to the Last Unicorn; I reread it before I voted, trying to find that vital spark that others see and I don’t, but it eluded me.

    I didn’t care, is what it boils down to, and that’s not something I am happy about when it comes to awarding the glittering prizes…

  20. Rev. Bob

    Like you, I really wish we had time enough, and no, that’s not a Heinlein pun.

    I fear that we don’t; there are altogether too many people driven together by ignorance, incompetence and malice, and asking them to play nice is an exercise in futillity. They won’t because they don’t want to.

  21. @Richard Brandt: “I thought the Sad Puppy campaign was running around shrieking and crying when everyone wasn’t given a medal just for showing up.”

    Which, when people they don’t like do it, the Pups consider a hallmark of “Speshul Snowflakes.”

    They truly possess dizzying intellects.

    EDIT:

    @Stevie:

    I think we’ve gone past the point at which political reconciliation would make a difference. Even if the whole planet settled all of its social differences (from bigotry and respect to politics and patriotism) tomorrow, I doubt we could solve the technical problems in time.

    Naturally, I would love for humanity to take that as a challenge and prove me wrong…

  22. Hmm, I just read through the BT article.

    Space exploration – yay ! Tough frontier style adventurers – sure why not.

    Belief that having differencing opinions than Brad about gender or privilege make you weak and unfit for space – nope.

    He really can’t write anything of reasonable length without trying to kick out at culture war issues.

  23. I really don’t understand why people, or at least some people, are so attached to the Last Unicorn; I reread it before I voted, trying to find that vital spark that others see and I don’t, but it eluded me.

    Which is totally okay! I don’t understand what people see in Amber!

    But for me, at least, there’s a combination of being young and watching the animated movie and being older and hearing Molly say “It would be the last unicorn on earth that came to Molly Grue.” And the dry sound of a spider weeping, and the fact that you must never run from a harpy, and the cat and the skeleton drinking and…yeah.

  24. 1. UNICORN VARIATIONS
    The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle

    2. THE DISPOSSESSED
    Swordspoint, Ellen Kushner

    3. FOOL’S RUN
    The Riddle-Master of Hed, Patricia McKillip

    Don’t forget to stock up on your All-Natural Organic Official Certified Bracket Cool Forehead Cloths, ready for the Final Bracket(s)! Don’t forget, a portion of all proceeds goes to the Kyra Dice Sledgehammer Fund! Buy early! Buy often!

  25. He really can’t write anything of reasonable length without trying to kick out at culture war issues.

    There’s an incorrigible partisan stupidity to Brad Torgersen that will limit his development as a writer. He seems utterly blind to any worldview that’s not his own, and if he can’t understand the views of others, how’s he going to create convincing characters who don’t share his beliefs and prejudices?

    His Pluto piece includes “the people with chips on their shoulders” among the pussies (his term) who won’t cut it in manly manspace.

    If that’s true, I have some bad news for you, Brad.

  26. It is evident that Torgerson knows less than nothing about spaceflight, astronomy, solar system physics and about a dozen other relevant fields. His opinions are of no value, except as an insight (if one were desired) into how assiduously cultivated juvenile masturbatory fantasies can substitute for an adult mind.

  27. the sturdy white folk who settled America

    folk who settled America

    Who settled America? Wasn’t there somebody already there when the Europeans arrived and brought their African friends*? I think there was.

    *Said repatriated Africans, having survived far, far worse than anything the Europeans had gone through (except for those who didn’t survive, of course), probably deserve whatever complimentary adjectives have been applied to European settlers far, far more.

  28. Torgersen:

    ” I know it’s pure heresy for me to suggest that running around like spoiled children — shrieking and crying every time something rubs you even a little bit the wrong way — is not just a bad idea, but a complete failure of moral fiber. “

    Said by the guy who broke the Hugos because he didn’t win. That’s a really remarkable lack of self-awareness.

  29. Stevie:

    What I see in The Last Unicorn:

    I first read it no later than 1970 (the Ballantine Adult Fantasy edition), when I was13 or 14, and re-read it frequently during my teenage years.

    In From Elfland to Poughkeepsie, Le Guin talks about the pre-eminent place of *style* in fantasy. Beagle’s style in The Last Unicorn’s is unparalleled: sometimes as humorous as Pratchett, but sometimes as elevated as Dunsany, as heart-wrenching as Tolkien.

    And then there’s Molly Grue. How important was it to me, growing up as a girl, to have Molly for one of my heroines? Words cannot express it. A full-grown woman of no particular beauty, practical and domestic in her skills, and yet worthy of a unicorn.

  30. NelC

    Who settled America? Wasn’t there somebody already there when the Europeans arrived and brought their African friends*? I think there was.

    What would people do all day if they couldn’t spend time hitting these softballs?

    John W. Campbell thought engineers of Scots descent would do for space what they did for the British Empire in the 19th century. That was far from realistic in 1961, but it looks like at least one Analog author is trying to hang onto whatever is left of John’s readers.

  31. Torgersen would have more fiber if he didn’t throw a tantrum every time his wife served him something other than Nutty Nuggets for breakfast.

  32. It is evident that Torgerson knows less than nothing about spaceflight, astronomy, solar system physics and about a dozen other relevant fields.

    In preparation for voting for the Hugo Awards, I went back and read all of the issues of Analog in which the nominated stories from that publication appeared. In one of them, there was a letter pointing out that the physics in one of Torgersen’s allegedly “hard science fiction” stories was wildly wrong. Torgersen responded. His response amounted to basically saying “I’m not going to bother taking the time to get that right, so just go away and stop complaining”.

    So basically, Torgersen claims to be a “hard” science fiction author, but isn’t, because he doesn’t actually care enough (or know enough) to get the science correct.

  33. I’ve become a complete skeptic about human colonization of our own solar system, let alone other star systems. A hazard of browsing Stross’s blog. The very short, simplified list of reasons amounts to:

    * It’s economically useless – actually worse than useless. I don’t mean “under capitalism”; I mean under any conceivable political economy.
    * Humans have evolved to die quickly in space and to live poorly there. You’re fighting ground truths of the species.
    * It’s very unlikely to work even as a hedge against planetary catastrophe because to make space colonies genuinely self-sustaining, as opposed to play-pretend self-sustaining, you probably need something like 9 figures worth of people Out There and, yeah, no.

    That’s for interplanetary colonization. Interstellar colonization is almost too silly to even bother listing objections to.

    Basically, if you can imagine commanding the free resources and mastery of energy required to get a major solar or stellar colony going, you are imagining levels of resources and energy sufficient to do amazing things on Earth, and those would get done first. As a synecdoche for the general problem, if you can tunnel well enough to build underground civilizations on the Moon as a hedge against a dinosauricide-level impact, you might as well do it here. If you can afford the resources to get out of the gravity well, throw raw materials back into it and land them softly enough to use them, you can afford to filter seawater and waste ore for the same stuff.

  34. Said by the guy who broke the Hugos because he didn’t win. That’s a really remarkable lack of self-awareness.

    The Puppies as a group are remarkably self-unaware. I’m not sure whether that is their dominant group personality trait, or if their dominant personality trait is complete ignorance on the subjects they see fit to opine upon (including ignorance concerning the history of science, science fiction, and science fiction awards).

  35. @rcade

    It occurs to me that if I were to write a story that included a character like Brad, he wouldn’t be believable. Surely, my readers would say, nobody could be so completely unselfaware. It must be my prejudice against conservatives that makes me write such things!*

    The problem with characters for stories is that they have to be believable, which is more difficult that being someone who could actually exist.

    * note that I have written very few stories and none for years

  36. I’m inclined to view the prospects for off-Earth settlement much like Jim, for similar reasons. Someone can still sell me the fantasy of it, as long as they make an effort to give it a good feel. But really, if we were tuckerizing people in the sf world, a successful off-Earth settlement would need to be populated by folks more like Abi Sutherland and Mike Glyer than Torgersen.

  37. @ Doctor Science:

    And then there’s Molly Grue. How important was it to me, growing up as a girl, to have Molly for one of my heroines? Words cannot express it. A full-grown woman of no particular beauty, practical and domestic in her skills, and yet worthy of a unicorn.

    Yes! This!! It’s also part of my love for The Blue Sword and the Hero and the Crown by McKinley — way back when, it was just so utterly wonderful to find stories other than a romance where a woman character could be the hero (I’m not knocking romance, by the way — you can have my Georgette Heyers when you pry them from my cold dead hands). It’s why I think diversity in the genre is such a very good thing — because just as it is wonderful to see into the lives of others, it is wonderful to see possibilities for your own self as well.

  38. The first rule of Pioneer Club is “have a credible plan for building a better life for yourself on the frontier” The *second* rule of Pioneer Club is “have a credible plan for building a better life for yourself on the frontier”

    Brad seems to want to skip this in his eagerness to colonize nitrogen glaciers.

  39. Ah, you’re all no fun. I hold out hope, myself. Someone pointed out that the oldest humans alive today were around when the Wright Brothers made their first flight, and we just buzzed Pluto, for god’s sake. We make so many wild breakthroughs so often that I am an optimist despite it all. In a hundred more years, who knows what we’ll know? (Which is not to say that I think we’ll be colonizing Pluto with good ‘ol fashioned ‘Murican pioneer spirit, despite Torgersen’s “Little House on the Glacier” vision.)

    And if it all comes crashing down (and perhaps it will) and we are struck with runaway climate change and flu mutates and takes down half the population…well, I will likely die, but I will have written some neat books before then, and read a lot more, and eaten some good meals and enjoyed some fine company, and this is as much as a person can ask for.

  40. Any minute now, Brad Torgersen’s going to start muttering about “precious bodily fluids.”

    Which makes me hear his whole screed in the voice of George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson, and it’s much, much more entertaining that way.

  41. “In the near certain destruction of modern medicine the global population will take a massive hammering; one of the reasons antibiotic resistance has escalated is the vast usage in factory farming methods. The probability that livestock will miraculously be spared the consequences of antibiotic resistance is zero, which means they will be dying along with us.”

    Eh, antibiotic resistance will be a shock and hard to get used to, but the real revolution in health care came about before antibiotics were invented – clean water, clean food and vaccinations. That cut down mortality to the extent that the lives antibiotics saved were the icing on the cake (comparatively speaking, in raw numbers). If humans have a massive die-off, IMO it’s not going to be because most antibiotics stopped working.

  42. 1. UNICORN VARIATIONS
    Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny

    2. THE DISPOSSESSED
    The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula K. Le Guin

    3. FOOL’S RUN
    Small Gods, Terry Pratchett

  43. Torgersen desperately needs to read (or reread with attentiveness) Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. Without half a pinch of science, it illuminates, clearly, just about every wrong assumption Torgersen has about space flight, from who qualifies to how practical it is – the bit about working blind outside the ISS because of a tiny trace of cleaner is just one example.

  44. Speaking of real astronauts – this is a fun link. Chris Hatfield talking to Adam Savage about their incognito walk in spacesuits at Comic Con.

    I can’t recall if this was in a roundup or I just found it but it’s really fun when Chris starts talking about how real spacesuits are designed and what you hear when you are spacewalking.

    http://youtu.be/hxRoK5LZa_A

    ETA: Lenora thank you for the book mention, I am going to check it out from the library

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