(1) CON REPORT. Outer Places went to Steve Wozniak’s comic con — “The SVCC Tech Showcase Was Filled With Robots and Supercars”.
Second only to the Woz himself, the night’s biggest show-stealer was SoftBank Robotics‘ Pepper the Robot. The machine is designed to be able to accurately perceive emotions, and is currently being marketed as a personal assistant in Japan. Tonight, Pepper mostly just rolled up to people and requested they take a selfie with them – that may sound like a waste of Pepper’s talents, but any robot who can perceive emotions would eventually realize that humans enjoy doing really silly things. So before the robots take over, we’ll take selfies with them.
(2) CAPTAIN KIRK. Of course, that may be underestimating William Shatner who was at SVCC yesterday, too — “William Shatner delights fans at Silicon Valley Comic Con” . Watch the KGO news video at the link.
From “Star Wars” to “Star Trek” and everything in between, the second annual Silicon Valley Comic Con did not disappoint on its opening night. In addition to costumes and cosplay fans were treated to an evening with Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.
(3) SOMEBODY’S WRONG ON THE INTERNET! The Fargo/Hugo Award identification continues to outrun the correction – as per usual in social media. But I’m impressed how many people know what a Hugo is. By comparison, it’ll be a cold day in Fargo Hell before the masses think they recognize a Dragon Award being used as a murder weapon on TV – take that, Puppies!
Series of tweets here:
(4) SCIENCE’S SIBLING RIVALRY. Star Trek, Arrival, linguistics, and “soft” science versus “hard” science: “Uhura Was a Comms Officer: Why Linguistics Matter”.
In Arrival, Louise Banks melds xenolinguistics, language documentation and underlying pattern recognition—even within the film, however, her specialty is derided as “not real” science by her male (theoretical physicist) counterpart Ian Donnelly. After quoting from a book on linguistics Banks wrote, Ian says flatly that she’s wrong:
“Well, the cornerstone of civilization isn’t language. It’s science.”
This is a succinct rendition of how language study tends to be viewed by those outside of it: that the scientific study of language isn’t science. This also, of course, ties into other things (such as sexism and whatnot, plus trying to use dialogue as characterization in media) but detailing such factors is beyond the scope of this article; suffice it to say, Arrival tries to detail the work of documenting and recognizing patterns of a completely unfamiliar system.
(5) WELCOME TO MARS, NOW DROP DEAD. Daily Mail, which enjoys such a reputation around here, warns “Visitors to Mars Will Die in Under 68 Days”..
…One of the most important conclusions of the research is that neither crops nor oxygen generated for the inhabitants will be sufficient to support life for long. A fatal fire is also a major risk.
The Daily Mail summarized the very long MIT paper:
Mars One is an ambitious plan by a Dutch entrepreneur to send people to Mars next decade and start building a colony there. The proposal has received fierce criticism for its lack of realistic goals, and now one study has dealt the team a crushing blow – by saying the colonists will begin dying in 68 days. Low air pressure, habitats at risk of explosion and a lack of spare parts are among the potentially fatal dangers that apparently await anyone who makes the inaugural trip.
(6) LEND A RESEARCHER A HAND. Zack Weinberg asks for your help. I ran this past a friend whose computer and network knowledge I respect and he agreed it looked bona fide – but as always, exercise your own wisdom about participating. This demo is part of a research study conducted by Zachary Weinberg, Nicolas Christin, and Vyas Sekar of Carnegie Mellon University. And as he says at the end, “’I particularly want Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and South America.”
The experiment is testing “active geolocation”, which is when you try to figure out where a computer physically is by measuring how long it takes a packet of information to go round-trip between one computer and other computers in known locations. This has been studied carefully within Europe and the continental USA, but much less so elsewhere.
This is relevant to Internet censorship because, in order to measure Internet censorship, you need access to a computer within the sub-network run by a censorious country or organization. Commercial VPN services are one way to do this. Unfortunately, the countries that are most aggressive about censoring the Internet are also countries where it is difficult and expensive to host servers. I suspect that several commercial VPN providers’ claims of widespread server hosting are false: they are placing servers in countries where it is easy to do business, and then adding false entries to commonly-used geolocation databases. If whatsmyip and the like tell their users that the VPN server is in the right country, that’s good enough to make a sale…
I have run these measurements myself on many VPN servers, but I don’t know how accurate they are, and the accuracy varies depending on the true location. By visiting this page, running all the way through a measurement, and then telling me honestly where your computer really is, you provide me with data that I can use to calibrate the VPN measurements. Again, data from places other than Europe and North America is especially helpful: I particularly want Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and South America.
(7) CHARLES VESS. Coming this fall, an art book by the master — “Charles Vess Has An Original Art Edition of The Book of Ballads”.
From Neil Gaiman’s retelling of “The False Knight on the Road”, to Jeff Smith’s “The Galtee Farmer”, and Jane Yolen’s “King Henry” – Charles Vess’ The Book of Ballads brought new visions of the classic folktales from the brightest New York Times bestsellers, award winners, and masters of science fiction and fantasy together with stunning art from Charles Vess. With this new The Boo of Ballads Art Edition, get ready to experience the stories anew!
Hits comic stores September 13, 2017 and bookstores on November 10, 2017.
(8) SQUEE DOWN UNDER Ryan K. Lindsay is an excited Aurealis Award winner.
(9) TODAY’S DAYS
Two choices for April 22 —
Earth Day Network
The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the landmark Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed. Twenty years later, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage.
MARCH FOR SCIENCE
March for Science
The March for Science is the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.
(10) MARCHER FOR SCIENCE. Given what a lot of you think about the Daily Mail, why wouldn’t most their coverage of the March for Science in London revolve around Doctor Who’s Peter Capaldi? Except that you think it’s a good thing, don’t you. Fess up!
Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi joined physicists, astronomers and biologists at the March for Science as protesters paraded past London’s most celebrated research institutions.
Leading figures used the occasion to warn Britain’s impending divorce from the continent could compromise their work by stifling collaboration with overseas colleagues.
Organisers claimed 12,000 people joined the London event, as hundreds of similar protests took place around the globe, from Australia to the US.
Somebody needs to say it: What’s Doctor Who but a show that glorifies fake science and boasts a stunning lack of internal consistency? Yes, I love it, too, but let’s not get confused about what happens every episode….
(11) TODAY IN HISTORY
- April 22, 1953 – Sci-fi horror movie Invaders From Mars was released on this date.
- April 22, 1978 — The Blues Brothers make their world premiere on Saturday Night Live.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
- April 22, 1894: Legendary film heavy Rondo Hatton is born in Hagerstown, MD. (Which makes me wonder, did he ever meet Harry Warner, Jr.?)
(13) SEE THE AUTHORS. Here are Ellen Datlow’s photos from the April 19’s Fantastic Readings at KGB with Laura Anne Gilman and Seth Dickinson.
(14) HEAR THE AUTHORS. At the next Fantastic Fiction at KGB on May 17, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present E.C. Myers and Sam J. Miller.
E.C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and a public library in Yonkers, New York. He has published four novels, and short stories in various magazines and anthologies, including Space & Time Magazine, Hidden Youth: Speculative Stories of Marginalized Children, and Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy. His first novel, Fair Coin, won the 2012 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult SF and Fantasy, and YALSA selected The Silence of Six as one of its “Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers” in 2016. His next book will be DoubleThink, a collection of stories related to The Silence of Six from and he continues to write for ReMade, a science fiction series from Serial Box Publishing.
Sam J. Miller’s short stories have appeared in publications such as Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and Lightspeed, along with multiple “year’s best” anthologies. His debut novel The Art of Starving, forthcoming from HarperTeen, was called “Funny, haunting, beautiful, relentless and powerful… a classic in the making” by Book Riot. His second novel, The Breaks, will be published by Ecco Press in 2018. He graduated from the Clarion UCSD Science Fiction & Fantasy Workshop in 2012. A finalist for multiple Nebula Awards along with the World Fantasy and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards, he won the 2013 Shirley Jackson Award for his short story “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides.”
May 17th, 7 p.m. at KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)
(15) GO AROUND AGAIN. The … individual … pushing circular runways backs up his ideas: “Circular runways: Engineer defends his proposal”
Last month we published a video arguing the case for circular runways at airports, as part of a series called World Hacks. It took off and went viral.
The video has had more than 36 million views on Facebook and generated heated debate on social media – including within the aviation community. Many people are sceptical about the concept.
So we decided to hand-pick some of the top concerns and put them straight to the man proposing the idea: Dutch engineer Henk Hesselink.
This is what he had to say….
Chip Hitchcock remarks, “I like how he casually dismisses increased landing speeds (ignoring their effects on tires) and doesn’t even discuss how difficult it would be to build several miles of surface with a uniform concavity or to refit several thousand airplanes with an autopilot sophisticated enough to handle such a landing — or how much harder aborting safely would be if the autopilot failed.”
(16) GET YOUR TISSUES READY. Nerdist has photos — “Little Jyn Erso Cosplayer Delivers Death Star Plans to Leia at STAR WARS Celebration”.
Harley and her dad made the data cards as a fun activity for the convention. Harley loves interacting with other people, and they thought this was a fitting tribute to their love of Star Wars and Fisher. As Harley ran into Leia cosplayers of all variety of ensemble, she handed over the Death Star plans. I don’t know how many Leia cosplayers were moved to tears by this act, but I’d wager it wasn’t a small number.
(17) KAMIKASSINI. Cassini sets up for final plunge: “Cassini probe heads towards Saturn ‘grand finale'”.
In the years that it has been studying the Saturnian system, the probe has flown by the haze-shrouded world on 126 occasions – each time getting a kick that bends it towards a new region of interest.
And on Saturday, Cassini pulled on the gravitational “elastic band” one last time, to shift from an orbit that grazes the outer edge of Saturn’s main ring system to a flight path that skims the inner edge and puts it less than 3,000km above the planet’s cloud tops.
The probe will make the first of these gap runs next Wednesday, repeating the dive every six and a half days through to its death plunge, scheduled to occur at about 10:45 GMT on 15 September.
The probe is scheduled for deliberate destruction to avoid any risk of it hitting and contaminating a Saturnian moon.
(18) APOLLO 13. Now there’s a documentary about “The unsung heroes who prevented the Apollo 13 disaster”.
Two days into what should have been a mission to the Moon, disaster struck Apollo 13. A new film explores the drama – and astronaut Jim Lovell recounts the incredible efforts to bring the crew back….
These tanks, in the spacecraft service module, were Liebergot’s responsibility. They held oxygen and hydrogen, which was converted to electricity and water in three fuel cells – powering the capsule and providing the astronauts with drinking water. The routine instruction to turn on stirring fans was to make sure the liquid in the fuel vessels was properly mixed, to ensure the gauges gave accurate readings.
Swigert flicks the switches for the fans. Two minutes later, there is a bang and the master alarm sounds.
On the ground, Liebergot is beginning the last hour of his eight-hour shift and is the first to see something has gone wrong. “The data went crazy, there was a lot of commotion in the room,” he says. “We didn’t know what we were seeing.”
That eight-hour shift would eventually end three days later.
“Houston, we’ve had a problem here,” Lovell tells mission control. “It looks to me, looking out the hatch, that we are venting something. We are venting something out into space.”
Chip Hitchcock opines, “To go with a documentary about the rescue, which I can see starting another round of does-this-qualify-for-the-DP-Hugo — provided it gets enough attention. (Released 5 weeks ago, but I don’t recall it showing in Boston at all; did anyone else see it before it went to Amazon video?)
(19) BACK IN THE STEM. “Why Russia is so good at encouraging women into tech” — Chip Hitchcock introduces this with a lemony comment: “Makes an interesting contrast to the recent proposal to decriminalize wifebeating; I wonder whether their rightward political shift will affect this.”
According to Unesco, 29% of people in scientific research worldwide are women, compared with 41% in Russia. In the UK, about 4% of inventors are women, whereas the figure is 15% in Russia.
Russian girls view Stem far more positively, with their interest starting earlier and lasting longer, says Julian Lambertin, managing director at KRC Research, the firm that oversaw the Microsoft interviews.
(20) PUB SIGN. Catching up on the news from 2011 — “Sizewell: Unique pub sign scoops top award” in the East Anglian Daily Times.
His unique creation features three variations on the vulcan theme – the Roman god, the delta-winged jet aircraft and the TV character Mr Spock.
Mr Fisk, who has been at the pub since 1997, decided to create a new sign after the old one was hit by a lorry around 18 months ago.
(21) HOLD EVERYTHING. In “Love in Public” on Vimeo, Noah Malone explains what happens to relationships when talking club sandwiches give gratuitous advice.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Zack Weinberg, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]