Here are 11 groovy developments of interest to fans:
(1) Shouldn’t high school guidance counselors update their battery of aptitude tests to include “Which Star Wars Occupation Is Meant for You?”
This simple (for some values of simple) flowchart leads to such glorious career choices as Sith Apprentice, Ewok Chief, Bounty Hunter, Jedi Knight, Death Star Laser Operator, and Jabba’s Slave Girl.
(2) I see in National Geographic that “Orangutans May Be Closest Human Relatives, Not Chimps”:
John Grehan, of the Buffalo Museum of Science in New York State, and Jeffrey Schwartz, of the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, say that the DNA evidence cited by many scientists only looks at a small percentage of the human and chimp genomes.
What’s more, the genetic similarities likely include many ancient DNA traits that are shared across a much broader group of animals.
By contrast, humans share at least 28 unique physical characteristics with orangutans but only 2 with chimps and 7 with gorillas, the authors say.
Until now I thought the closest relatives of human beings were mundanes. Right turn, Clyde!
(3) Those ancient shared DNA traits lead to all kinds of possibilities, you know. Japanese researchers will soon use cloning technology in an attempt to resurrect the long-extinct mammoth:
The researchers will try to revive the species by obtaining tissue this summer from the carcass of a mammoth preserved in a Russian research laboratory, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.
Under the plan, the nuclei of mammoth cells will be inserted into an elephant’s egg cell from which the nuclei have been removed, to create an embryo containing mammoth genes, the report said.
(4) Since the beginning of the 20th Century Popular Mechanics has been predicting our technological future, sometimes with more enthusiasm than accuracy. In The Wonderful Future That Never Was, curated by Gregory Benford (published last October), these predictions, both brilliant and dubious, are remembered. The link leads to an extensive online exhibit of the magazine’s ever-changing vision of the future.
An example from 1929 is the prediction future clothing will be made from Asbestos:
Dresses of asbestos that will be as lustrous as silk and will give long wear, with ease in cleaning, are predicted by an eastern scientist. Fabrics are already being made from trees and vegetables and the Romans made a sort of cloth from asbestos fibers centuries ago, so this prophecy is considered entirely reasonable by experts…
Experts from companies with paid-up product liability insurance policies, I trust.
(5) Taral recently discovered Qwiki — “What Twitter is to Wikipedia, I gather.” The page with his name on it — http://www.qwiki.com/q/#!/Taral_Wayne — briefly summarizes the same information about him posted at Wikipedia. Perhaps the only reason to click the link is so you can listen the computer-generated voice read the content aloud. Taral says, “Amusingly, the voice can’t pronounce ‘Rotsler Award.’ It comes out more like ‘Ricksler’ or ‘Rickler.’”
(6) It’s not like you needed an excuse to drink beer at this year’s Worldcon, but here’s a good one: Reno is #5 on the list of worst drinking water quality of major US cities for which the water quality information is available.
Jack Lissauer, planetary scientist and a Kepler science team member, said: “The Kepler-11 planetary system is amazing. It’s amazingly compact, it’s amazingly flat, there’s an amazingly large number of big planets orbiting close to their star – we didn’t know such systems could even exist.”
(8) “Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology is Indistinguishable From Magic– An Exhibition by Janos Stone,” an art exhibit in DUMBO, Brooklyn, gives Clarke the credit he is due for its title.
(9) These fascinating hand-drawn maps show that the Anglo Saxon language remains alive in the names of London suburbs and neighboring towns:
Look around any map of London and you’ll find the echoes of long-forgotten individuals. Cena, Padda, Fulla… ancient farmers who had no idea their names would live on down the centuries as Kennington, Paddington and Fulham.
Could the dairyman whose cheese farm (Ces wican) once graced the banks of the Thames have conceived that his humble business would live forever as Chiswick? People of Croydon: whatever happened to the valley of crocuses (Crogdene) after which your town is named. And who knew that the perennial football chant of ‘Wember-ley, Wember-ley, Wember-ley’ is actually pretty close to the area’s original name of Wemba Lea (Wemba’s forest clearing).
We’ve never seen these Anglo-Saxon hamlets and farms mapped out before, so we thought we’d give it a go. The period shown covers 500-1050 AD, between the retreat of the Romans and the coming of the Normans.
David Klaus points out that some of these ancient place names feature in the Doctor Who universe: “When the 4th Doctor dropped off Sara Jane Smith at the end of her time with him, she lived in Croydon, and of course 10th Doctor companion Donna Noble was ‘the best temp in Chiswick.’”
(10) As a young science fiction reader I assumed the writers made it all up. In time I discovered they made liberal use of all kinds of sources, for example, Poul Anderson drew heavily on the history of real empires in his space operas. Mel Gilden has written an entertaining essay about his own youthful preconceptions along this line:
Despite the stack of To Be Read books already on your night table, there may be some books you think of as The Ones That Got Away.
It’s true that in a world where online bookstores carry almost everything, it is rare that you cannot find the prize you’ve always wanted to read. But when I was a kid there were no online bookstores, and worse yet I had very little money to call my own…
I didn’t even look for [one] book I wanted to read because I didn’t think it existed. The book was Three Men In a Boat — To Say Nothing of the Dog by Jerome K. Jerome. Robert Heinlein mentioned it in his science fiction novel Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, but I was pretty sure that Heinlein had made it all up, particularly the author’s name.
For years and years, you had a bust of Roddenberry – with a blindfold covering his eyes –on your desk at Paramount. Where is that bust right now and is the blindfold still on it?
Berman: I am looking at it as we speak. It’s in my (home) office and the same blindfold is on. I think the man who made the bust made two of them. He gave one to me and one to Gene. One day I was in a meeting with the writers and somebody – I forget who it was – took a little piece of cloth, like a ribbon that was wrapped around something, and put it over Gene’s eyes, like “God forbid he hear what’s going on in this room.” It was a joke, but it has been knotted around his eyes ever since.
[Thanks for the links in the post goes out to Andrew Porter, David Klaus, Gerry Williams, Steven H Silver, Taral Wayne, Paula Lieberman and Mel Gilden.]