Pixel Scroll 5/23/17 Pixel, Pixel, Scroll, Scroll, Know What I Mean? Say No More

(1) ZENO’S MARTIAN THEOREM. You can’t get to Mars before you…“The first trip to Mars will come with the longest layover ever”

Nobody likes layovers, but the first astronauts heading to Mars will get to experience one of the longest such experiences of their lives. They’ll have to spend one year going around the moon, which will probably be a very annoying wait for the first people heading to the red planet. It’s not all bad news, however, as they won’t just wait for time to pass by. NASA actually wants to make sure that the round trip to Mars, a 1,000-day endeavor, is carefully planned during the time.

NASA’s Greg Williams, revealed that the agency’s Phase 2 of its plan to send humans to Mars includes a one-year layover in orbit around the moon in the late 2020s, Space reports..

Williams, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for policy and plans at the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, revealed that NASA wants to build a “deep-space gateway” around the moon that would serve as the testing ground for the first Mars missions.

(2) ZUBRIN’S MARTIAN KERFUFFLE. Joel Achenbach’s article for the Washington Post, “Mars Society founder blasts NASA for ‘worst plan yet’”, reports on a space exploration conference sponsored by The Atlantic in which Robert Zubrin said NASA’s plan to build a space station orbiting the moon is a giant waste of money because no one before this suggested Mars expeditions needed to have a midway stop before.

Until recently, NASA branded virtually everything it was doing as part of a “Journey to Mars,”and Mars remains the horizon goal. The destination was even mandated in a recent congressional authorization act for NASA that was signed by President Trump.

In the meantime, NASA has more modest plans — and these plans don’t please Zubrin, for one.

NASA wants to put a “spaceport”in orbit around the moon. It would be a habitat for astronauts on long-duration missions. You could call it a “space station”if you wanted, though it wouldn’t be nearly as big as the one that’s circling the Earth right now. NASA refers to it as the Deep Space Gateway and describes it as “a crew tended spaceport in lunar orbit.

…After the presentations, Zubrin gave The Post some additional thoughts on what he perceives as NASA’s failure to come up with a bold and coherent plan. He said that in the long history of NASA studies on the future of human spaceflight — and there is a long list of these lengthy reports — no one ever suggested that an orbital lunar outpost was a necessary part of an exploration program. Part of the problem, as he sees it, is the agency’s recent announcement that the first, uncrewed flight of the Space Launch System rocket will be delayed again, to 2019: “The tragedy of SLS is not that it is being delayed. The tragedy is that it doesn’t matter that it’s being delayed, because there’s nothing for it to launch anyway.”

(3) BACK IN ACTION. After an 8-year break, Elizabeth Moon relaunched her Vatta’s War series in April with Cold Welcome.

(4) EMERGENCY BACKUP. “Justice League director Zack Snyder steps down due to family tragedy”. Joss Whedon comes off the bench to finish the picture.

Zack Snyder, who has acted as DC Comics’ directorial visionary on a number of its most ambitious film projects, is stepping down from Justice League due to a family tragedy. The news, announced in an interview published today by The Hollywood Reporter, means Snyder will be handing the reins over to Avengers director and writer Joss Whedon, who will ferry the project through its remaining post-production stage before its November 17th release later this year.

‘Justice League’ is now in Joss Whedon’s hands

Snyder, whose daughter committed suicide in March at the age of 20, admits that he originally misjudged how the loss would affect his work. “In my mind, I thought it was a cathartic thing to go back to work, to just bury myself and see if that was way through it,”Snyder told The Hollywood Reporter. “The demands of this job are pretty intense. It is all consuming. And in the last two months I’ve come to the realization…I’ve decided to take a step back from the movie to be with my family, be with my kids, who really need me. They are all having a hard time. I’m having a hard time.”

(5) DANCING IN THE SAND. A ballet adaptation of Dune will be performed August 4-6 by the Vaught Contemporary Ballet at the Baltimore Theater Project (45 West Preston Street, Baltimore, MD 21201):

Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune, is widely recognized as the best selling science fiction novel of all time. It’s exploration of politics, religion, sexism and ecology set against an interstellar backdrop allows the reader a reflection on the human condition in the modern era. Herbert’s Fremen of Arrakis provide a counterpoint to a culture consumed by avarice — the desire for melange.

Join us as we depict Herbert’s illustrative words through the art of ballet. Movement will be on full display in its varied definitions as we follow Paul Atreides in his rise to power as both royalty and the prophet of the Fremen.

Keep track of the event on Facebook.

(6) GO GO GO. I don’t pronounce it, I just report it. “Google’s AlphaGo AI defeats world Go number one Ke Jie”The Verge has the story.

Google’s AI AlphaGo has done it again: it’s defeated Ke Jie, the world’s number one Go player, in the first game of a three-part match. AlphaGo shot to prominence a little over a year ago after beating Korean legend Lee Se-dol 4-1 in one of the most potent demonstrations of the power of artificial intelligence to date. And its defeat of Ke shows that it was only getting started.

“I think everyone recognizes that Ke Jie is the strongest human player,”9th-dan professional and commentator Michael Redmond said before the match. And despite defeat, Ke’s strategy suggested that the 19-year-old Chinese prodigy has actually learned from AlphaGo’s often unorthodox approach. “This is Master’s move,”said Redmond of one of Ke’s earliest plays, referring to the pseudonym that AlphaGo used for a recent series of online matches in which it racked up a 60-game winning streak.

(7) COMIC SECTION. A commenter seeing yesterday’s news item about someone in a T-rex costume scaring horses in Charleston aptly contrasted the episode with the comic “Menace” at Hyperbole and a Half.

(8) THE PHENOMENON. Carl Slaughter has an update about prolific YA author Bella Forrest:


When we last checked in on Bella Forrest, she had just launched her dystopian Gender Game series and was continuing her longrunning Shade of Vampire series. In June 2017, she will wrap her Gender Game series. In March 2017, she launched her magic academy Spellshadow Manor series. Shade of Vampire is at #45. With all 3 series, she cranks out a book per month. Meanwhile, the first Gender Game novel has received 1500 Amazon reviews, over 90% of them 4 and 5 star.

(9) PUSHME PULLYU. “Oh, your tractor beam is so itty bitty.” “Oh, your imagination is so itty bitty.” —“Physicists sketch plans for a matter-wave tractor beam”.

A team of physicists have outlined a means of making tractor beams to push and pull objects at a distance using “matter waves” those strange analogues of light waves that underlie quantum mechanics.

Tractor beams, staple tools of science fiction for remotely pulling in space shuttles and yanking away incoming space debris, have been edging into reality in recent years.

The first real-life tractor beams were made of photons. It is easy to imagine a stream of photons carrying a particle of matter along like a river picking up a leaf and carrying it downstream. What is astounding about tractor beams is that by skilfully manipulating the transfer of momentum from the beam, physicists do not have to rely only on pushing particles, but can make light pull particles of matter, like a tractor. Beams made of sound waves have also been demonstrated in the lab.

(10) LEST PAYDAY FAIL. At Tor.com, Jo Walton asks “Why is Genre Fiction Obsessed with Belisarius?”.

I once wrote jokingly here that there are only three plots, and they are Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, and Belisarius, because those are the ones everyone keeps on reusing.

There is a conference in Uppsala in Sweden the weekend before the Helsinki Worldcon called “Reception Histories of the Future“which is about the use of Byzantium in science fiction. The moment I heard of it, I immediately started thinking about our obsessive reuse of the story of Belisarius. (I’m going. Lots of other writers are going. If you’re heading to Helsinki, it’s on your way, and you should come too!)

It’s strange that science fiction and fantasy are obsessed with retelling the story of Belisarius, when the mainstream world isn’t particularly interested. Robert Graves wrote a historical novel about him in 1938, Count Belisarius, and there’s Gillian Bradshaw’s The Bearkeeper’s Daughter (1987), but not much else. Whereas in genre, we’ve had the story of Belisarius retold by Guy Gavriel Kay, David Drake (twice) and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and used by L. Sprague de Camp, John M. Ford, Jerry Pournelle, Robert Silverberg, and Isaac Asimov. So what is it about this bit of history that makes everyone from Asimov to Yarbro use it? And how is it that the only place you’re likely to have come across it is SF?…

(11) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie says a Chicago convention is pivoting to serve a different market and adopting a new name — “Kollision Con Calling it Quits, Organizers Launching GEM Expo Chicago Gaming Con in Its Place”.

After six conventions, Chicago based anime convention Kollision Con€˜s organizers have decided to call it quits. They made the announcement on the con’s official Facebook page late last week, citing venue issues and an overcrowded Anime con scene as their primary reasons for ending the show.

The organizers aren’t giving up on running conventions though, as in that same post they announced the GEM Expo Chicago, a gaming convention that will occupy the dates originally reserved for Kollision Con 2017.

(12) FLYING OFF THE SHELVES. Last year toy sales received a boost and the reason is clear — “Year-round ‘Star Wars’ toy sales boost entertainment merchandise revenue” reports the LA Times.

Year-round “Star Wars” hype is giving a boost to Hollywood’s merchandising business.

Licensed goods based on movies and other entertainment properties generated $118 billion in global retail sales last year, up 5% from 2015, according to a new report.

Toys, apparel and other wares tied to movies such as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” helped propel the increase, the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Assn. said Monday.

The year benefited from two “Star Wars” installments as bookends: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which was released in December 2015, and “Rogue One,” which came out a year later, said Marty Brochstein, senior vice president of the association.

“In 2016, you had a full year of sales of ‘Star Wars’ merchandise,” Brochstein said. “Obviously that helped on the entertainment side.”

(13) DON’T STIFF THE STAFF. Are you a bad tipper? You’re a science fiction fan, of course you’re a bad tipper. Okay, maybe not you personally. But ever been out to dinner with a group of fans? It can be excruciating! Here’s one commentator’s advice about “How to Tip in All Situations”.

Tipping has been known to divide families, ruin relationships, and even start wars. Not really. But tipping is an issue that brings out all sorts of passionate opinions.

Who should you tip? How much should you tip? When is it appropriate to leave a bad tip? And is the whole idea of tipping flawed in the first place?

If you’ve ever asked those questions, then we’re here to provide a little clarity on the all-important subject of tipping etiquette.

When in doubt about whether or not to leave a tip, always err on the side of generosity. Remember, your tip says more about you than the person you’re leaving a tip for.

So let’s take a look at some of the people you should tip. Then we’ll give you a general idea of how much to tip them.

(14) FEELINGS OF INSECURITY. Yahoo! News lists major cyber attacks over the past 10 years.

A huge range of organisations and companies around the world have been affected by the WannaCry ransomware cyberattack, described by the EU’s law enforcement agency as “unprecedented”.

From “cyberwar” to “hacktivism”, here are some of the major cyberattacks over the past 10 years: …

…In November 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment became the target of the biggest cyberattack in US corporate history, linked to its North Korea satire “The Interview”.
The hackers — a group calling itself Guardians of Peace — released a trove of embarrassing emails, film scripts and other internal communications, including information about salaries and employee health records…

(15) STATE OF THE ART. Carrie Vaughn’s Amaryllis and Other Stories was named winner of the Colorado Book Award in the Genre Fiction category on May 21. [Via Locus Online.] (See, proper attribution can be done. It hardly hurts at all.)


(16) WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY. The latest explanation for bee colony collapse — “How beekeepers help deadly parasites thrive” in Cosmos.

Deadly mite infestations considered a leading cause of the continuing collapse of the global commercial honey-bee industry are being abetted by modern bee-keeping practices, new research suggests.

The research, published in the journal Environmental Entomology, points the finger at the practices of siting commercial hives too close to each other, and of thwarting the bees’ swarming behavior, for creating conditions ideal for the rapid growth and spread of the parasitic Varroa mite.

The mite (Varroa destructor) is a text-book example of zoonosis — a predatory or parasitic species that has “spilled over” from its traditional host into a new species which, not being adapted to it, suffers catastrophic consequences.

Varroa’s natural host in the Asian honey-bee (Apis cerana). Co-evolution has resulted in the two species being able to live in balance.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Kreiri, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

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113 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/23/17 Pixel, Pixel, Scroll, Scroll, Know What I Mean? Say No More

  1. Treating customers like an ATM?

    I think not. They may regard them as such, but if they stay employed, it is likely because they banter, smile, chuckle, and otherwise interact with their customers in such a way that a diner is left feeling, gosh, special. The same applies to a lot of service industries. Should we believe the ones who smile at customers only do it because they like them? Should we believe they like every customer, including the ones who are jerks? Do they have the option of telling them they are without being fired or penalized on the spot?

    I think, however, that there has been an increased empathy for servers, from people who care about the fortunes of others they are not even related to. I won’t even bother being sarcastic about it.

  2. Up until the 80s, serving personel didn’t smile in Sweden. It was just a job, why should they smile in theirs? Sometime late 90s personel didn’t only smile, they had irritatingly enough starting to disturb you in the middle of your meal, asking if everything was ok. What the hell is that about? As all proper swedes, we will always answer “yes”, regardless of what we think. Just skip out on coming back if we are not satisfied.

    Maybe the younger generation are rude enough to tell people when they are not satisfied with the service or the food. These are strange times.

  3. @Darren Garrison on May 24, 2017 at 3:02 pm said:

    The early Earth may have briefly been a doughnut.

    Cool! At first I thought of Homer Simpson’s theory of the doughnut-shaped universe, but upon reflection, I seem to recall Hal Clement reporting that when people actually calculated the likely shape of Mesklin, they came up with a disk-shape with a rim, which seems like what’s described in this article.

    P.S. “Pixels, Mr. Allnut, are what we are put in this world to Scroll above”

  4. Hampus Eckerman on May 27, 2017 at 7:18 am said:

    Maybe the younger generation are rude enough to tell people when they are not satisfied with the service or the food. These are strange times.

    I was…if not sympathetic, at least understanding, up to this point. A quick “is everything ok?” is very useful, as long as it isn’t repeated to the point of being intrusive. It’s not just for complaints (although it’s very handy if, say, one person’s drink order was accidentally forgotten). It also provides a handy opportunity to cover such things as “could we get more water, please?”, or “do you have [condiment]?”. Some people are too shy to flag down a waitron even when they have legitimate requests. In other words, it’s useful even if you’re going to pretend you’re satisfied with the food and service. 😉

  5. Oh, and speaking of worlds with rims, the equatorial mountain range which goes almost all the way around Saturn’s moon Iapetus is a fascinating and lovely phenomenon. It’s perfectly straight, and high enough that the moon, close up, almost looks like a walnut!

  6. @BIll: Federal law says the employer has to make up any shortfall between the server’s wage + tips, and the minimum wage.. [citation needed].
    Surely you would agree that the forces pushing it in that direction come from those receiving the tips, rather than those giving them. I would agree to no such thing; all the pressure I’ve seen comes from the givers — restaurant reviewers, assorted columnists, etc. Have you ever been pressured for a tip?

  7. @Chip Hitchcock: I’m curious where the shift came from, and can believe it started from or with servers and people who knew servers – which doesn’t mean “servers pressuring individual customers to tip more” (not how I read @Bill’s comment, BTW). I don’t see anything wrong with the push coming from servers & people who know them – that makes more sense than some random columnist starting a trend.

    Here’s an interesting TIME article about tipping from a few years ago.

    But to your question – yes, I’ve had servers (rarely!) say or do something inappropriate that was clearly intended to guilt or intimidate me regarding tipping. I tip well anyway and don’t appreciate someone mentioning the tip, making leading comments, or – especially! – standing there, staring pointedly and creepily at what I’m writing, as I’m filling out the tip line on the credit slip.* Again, I’ve only experienced this rarely, but I’ve had it happen. Pressure (verbal or body language or whatever) ticks me off hugely. Of course, good servers don’t do this, nor IME do servers at better restaurants.

    * Depending on circumstances, I’ve covered what I was writing, or put it aside to make it clear I wouldn’t write while they’re standing there, or told them “Thanks, I’ll leave it when I’m done,” or whatever seems to work best.

    I try to make sure to thank servers, bartenders, maitre’d’s, etc. at the drop of a hat because from the outside look in, it seems like they have thankless jobs. Yeah, I “thank” with my tip, but a little verbal appreciation is a good idea IMHO, too. /ramble.

    ETA: BTW to clarify, I try to be verbally appreciative because I appreciate when folks appreciate my own work. Treat others how you’d like to be treated, etc.

  8. Xfltr: That’s where the two halves of the moon were pressed together. They’re supposed to file that down. Sloppy.

  9. @Kip W: I’m pretty sure the server where we go for ribs who remembers my kid pleasantly and can recall a couple of incidents from our past is moderately fond of us.


    But to your question – yes, I’ve had servers (rarely!) say or do something inappropriate that was clearly intended to guilt or intimidate me regarding tipping. I tip well anyway and don’t appreciate someone mentioning the tip, making leading comments, or – especially! – standing there, staring pointedly and creepily at what I’m writing, as I’m filling out the tip line on the credit slip.* Again, I’ve only experienced this rarely, but I’ve had it happen. Pressure (verbal or body language or whatever) ticks me off hugely. Of course, good servers don’t do this, nor IME do servers at better restaurants.

    I’ve been called out about a tip exactly once and I’m glad it happened. In the late nineties, a woman I’d been dating visited Tulsa, where I was on assignment, with a friend, and the two of them offered to take me to dinner. There was a very good Italian place, D’Allesandro’s, I liked a lot. I suggested it and they took me there. Wonderful food, and they introduced me to this painting with a print in the men’s room*: Oil Field Girls, by Jerry Bywater. A favorite restaurant which is no longer there.

    Anyway, the next time I went in there, the head waiter took me aside and asked me if something was wrong with the service the last time I was there. No, I said, it was fine. Anything wrong with the food? No, it was wonderful as always. Why, then, he asked, had I rounded the bill up to the nearest dollar for the tip? What had they done?

    I was terribly chagrined and explained I hadn’t paid that bill, that I was being taken out to dinner, then abused my per diem (which I don’t) to leave a very large tip that night.

    It’s not why we broke up, but it could have been.

    *The men’s room at Blue Moon Cafe, also on Fifteenth Street and still there, so far as I know, has an equally memorable, if less beautiful, painting over the urinal.

  10. @John A Arkansawyer: D’oh, yes, good to hear about that – very different type of thing, though. Is it possible whoever filled out the tip line mis-added?

    My other half likes to make the total be an even dollar amount, which just makes for Higher Math and, a couple of times, requests for Help With Math. (It’s possible I even caught an error once – in time – requiring a correction.)

  11. @Kendall: I don’t remember. I seem to recall asking about it and the explanation being inconclusive. It’s certainly plausible. I do the rounding up to a dollar thing myself when I have to use a credit card to tip. I try to carry cash to tip with, though, so they can report according to their own conscience instead of mine.

  12. John A. Arkansawyer, that’s nice. I’ve had retailers drop off a CD I bought over the phone at my place of work, but I don’t expect it.

  13. I had terrible service this weekend, in a restaurant that wasn’t busy. Took forever, order was incorrect in several ways, guy couldn’t even bring the damn check promptly, and never once came by to ask if there was anything we needed. He got 14% when our default is 20. Everyone else working there was great, so it’s not like a systemic favor. Also, he was a wee bit sexist and now that I’m typing all this I kinda wish I’d only left 10.

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