Here are 12 developments of interest to fans:
(1) We California conrunners are certainly in no position to disparage anyone else’s taste in tectonic plates. Still, it caught my attention when I read that if a big quake cuts loose on a newly-discovered fault the Martis Creek Dam might let go and flood part of Reno. Says Livescience:
You’d think in a seismically active area like California that every potentially earthquake-producing fault to be found would’ve been identified. It turns out there are plenty of such faults hiding in the ground, and one of them has just been found.
And this fault holds the potential of producing more than just an earthquake — it could also release a flood from a nearby dam.
Scientists with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were inspecting the Martis Creek Dam, which sits just outside Truckee, Calif., and about 35 miles upstream from Reno. It is one of 10 dams in the United States that has “urgent and compelling” safety concerns, according to the Corps, which owns the dam. Data from the most recent evaluation revealed that, not only does the dam have significant leakage, it also lies in close proximity to not two, but three fault zones.
The risk of flooding ordinarily would rank pretty low on my list of concerns when I’m visiting a city 4,400 feet above sea level. And will this time, too, to be perfectly honest.
(2) Google will make 250,000 books in the British Library available online reports the Globe and Mail.
A treatise on a stuffed hippopotamus, an 18th-century English primer for Danish sailors and a description of the first engine-driven submarine are among 250,000 books to be made available online in a deal between Google and the British Library.
The agreement…will let Internet users read, search, download and copy thousands of texts published between 1700 and 1870.
It is a small step toward the library’s goal of making the bulk of its 14 million books and 1 million periodicals available in digital form by 2020.
(3) If you’ve felt that the Martian technological soap-opera has been lacking something once supplied by Spirit, now defunct, even as its companion Opportunity carries on, there’s good news. A brand new rover will land on Mars next summer:
The MSL rover, named Curiosity, is scheduled for shipment from JPL to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in late June where it will be readied for a launch window between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18, 2011. The rover should arrive at Mars in August 2012. After Curiosity lands on Mars, researchers will use the rover’s 10 science instruments during the following two years to investigate whether the landing area has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.
(4) “Goodbye, Oxford comma? Hello, Shatner comma!” was the irresistible headline on an LA Times blog post about the latest riot to rock the Twitterverse. It all began when a GalleyCat posting gave everyone the impression Oxford University Press was abandoning the use of its eponymous comma, also known as the serial comma:
The Oxford comma, thought by some to be an annoying punctuation foible, appears in a list of multiple items before the “and.” Here’s how the Oxford comma looks in a sentence: “Scotty transported Spock, Kirk, McCoy, Sulu, and a redshirt down to the planet’s surface.”
In fact, the OUP is making no such change. The confusion arose because the University of Oxford’s “Branding Toolkit” does follow a different rule.
(5) Got to admire the work they do at Jet City Cakes – “Wild Cakes for Weird Times.” The H.R. Geiger cake won’t work for every wedding – well, for any wedding – but it’s sure funny.
(6) “7 Geeky Flowcharts” posted at Mental Floss begins with a pair of diagrams that wickedly satirize people we know whose lives revolve around computers and anthropomorphic fiction. Definitely not us. Definitely somebody else.
(7) Complaints are being heard about J.K. Rowling’s new marketing website “Pottermore”:
Harry Potter battled the forces of evil and now is set to conquer the web — coming to e-books in a groundbreaking deal that has delighted fans but alarmed the book industry that helped make creator J.K. Rowling a billionaire.
Rowling announced Thursday that her seven novels about the boy wizard will be sold for the first time as e-books, beginning in October, exclusively through a new online portal to her wizarding world called “Pottermore.”
The deal brings longtime e-book refusnik Rowling into the digital fold, but comes as a bitter potion to established booksellers, who will be shut out of the latest chapter of a vastly profitable saga.
If brick-and-mortar stores are now in the business of selling e-books, too, I suppose that makes sense. Got to follow the money.
(8) Another outfit that’s cleaning up in the sf marketplace is Luxury Lane Soap. Their products include a bar of soap stamped with the image of a Dalek, and another cast in the shape of a Tardis. When is the last time you saw a Dalek pitching a product?
“REB-ELS OF CLEAN-LI-NESS! THIS IS YOUR LAST WARN-ING! OUR FI-NAL OFF-ER! SHOW YOUR-SELVES IN THE OP-EN STREETS. YOU WILL BE SOAPED AND WATER-ED, BUT WORK IS NEED-ED FROM YOU. THE DA-LEKS OFF-ER YOU LIFE!”-Dalek Soap Supreme
Are you ready to EX-TER-MIN-ATE your filth?
(9) Missed this one: some San Diego writers created and performed a radio play to celebrate Tom Swift’s 100th Birthday in 2010. James Keeline, one of the authors, told KPBS:
“It’s interesting that the original Tom Swift series (1910-1941) was not perceived as science fiction. A lot of readers thought that a young person working in their garage could be achieving the kinds of things they were talking about in the stories. The Tom Swift Jr. series (1954- 1971) though, he’s going into space, meeting aliens, traveling underwater and those sort of things were more in the class of science fiction.”
(10) Yes, San Diego is fertile territory for people interested in old time radio. And the creators of a new sci-fi drama, “Message from Proxima,” have invited the public to help develop the script. The story involves a mysterious machine — called Proxima — that’s discovered in a hidden room at the Palace of Electricity in Balboa Park in 1935. Here’s the kind of thing they’re using:
PROFFESOR THOMPSON: So true, so true. But my daughter Buddy really wanted to see the Palace of Electricity. This will certainly be one of the highlights of 1935, don’t you think?”
BRADLEY: I do. And Buddy, what do you think?
BUDDY: It’s so keen. Dad says electricity might someday be used to power automobiles!”
BRADLEY: “I wouldn’t be surprised. You came to town on the Pacific Beach electric car, didn’t you?”
BUDDY: “Yes! ‘Flash Gordon’ is playing at the Cabrillo. Dad’s going to take me — if I can ever drag him away from Lux Radio Theater. And next month, we’re going to watch President Roosevelt dedicate the Hoover Dam!”
I hope the public input will rock them out of the bland, “Gee, willikers!” kind of dialogue offered as the initial sampling of their work. It doesn’t matter whether that stereotype is genuinely representative of kids’ programs on old-time radio (the lines delivered by somebody excitable and screechy, like the young Richard Crenna), because who can stand to listen to it now? There’s a reason we all embraced Firesign Theatre.
(11) Look out for the flying car. Look out!
When US company Terrafugia unveils the prototype of its new car this July the $200,000 price tag will probably barely be mentioned. Not because this is a car to rival a Ferrari, but because it is one to soar above it. The Transition will be the first flying car….
“But it’s a remarkable statistic that a third of those orders are from people who don’t have any kind of flying qualification at all,” says chief operating officer Steen Strand, who, as a measure of the company’s seriousness, also counts among his colleagues the former CEO of Boeing. “These people have just said to themselves, ‘I’ve seen this aircraft and now I’m going to fly’.”
David Klaus predicts lots of crashes due to untrained pilots until new regulations are in effect.
(12) When Dr. Jack Williamson retired from his position as Professor of English at Eastern New Mexico University in 1977, the university launched a lectureship series in his honor. The Haffner Press has issued a book of these lectures to celebrate Thirty-Five Years of the Jack Williamson Lectureship. Click on the link to see the impressive slate of contributing sf writers, which include Connie Willis, Tim Powers, Robert Silverberg, and the late Jack Williamson himself.
[Thanks for these links goes out to James Hay, David Klaus, John Mansfield, Laura Simmons and Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol.]