Snapshots 119 Longest Psalm

Here are 8 developments of interest to fans..

(1) Once upon a time there was a gigantic boil on the Earth’s butt.

Now accorded honors as the planet’s biggest volcano, Tamu Massif is at the bottom of the ocean 1,000 miles east of Japan.

How large is “largest”? According to a paper published in Nature Geoscience, the “immense shield volcano” spans about 120,000 square miles, making it equal in size to the British Isles – which, for you stateside readers who may be unfamiliar with that geographical designation, encompasses both Great Britain and Ireland.

Its summit is 6,500 feet below the surface and parts of its base go four miles down. Tamu Massif is estimated to be 145 million years old, and has not been active for eons.

(2) NASA has handed out $100,000 grants to applicants pursuing a dozen imaginative tech concepts — including suspended animation.

The “Torpor Inducing Habitat for Human Stasis To Mars” proposal reads in part —

The idea of suspended animation for interstellar human spaceflight has often been posited as a promising far-term solution for long-duration spaceflight. A means for full cryo-preservation and restoration remains a long way off still. However, recent medical progress is quickly advancing our ability to induce deep sleep states (i.e. torpor) with significantly reduced metabolic rates for humans over extended periods of time. NASA should leverage these advancements for spaceflight as they can potentially eliminate a number of very challenging technical hurdles, reduce the IMLEO for the system, and ultimately enable feasible and sustainable missions to Mars.

SpaceWorks proposes the design of a torpor-inducing Mars transfer habitat and an architectural-level assessment to fully characterize the impact to Mars exploration.

To learn about all of the 2013 Phase 1 selections, go to this NIAC Web page.

(3) What makes American agriculture distinctive? How about that 4-H missile program?

BEFORE growing up to become farmers, a startling number of America’s rural kids are taught how to build rockets. Every year rural skies fill with mini-missiles built by children. The largest fly hundreds of feet, carrying altimeters, parachutes and payloads of eggs. Baseball diamonds are popular launch sites, as are alfalfa fields: the latter tend to be large and, compared with other crops, alfalfa tolerates a fair bit of trampling. All this tinkering and swooshing explains a lot about American farms.

One youth organisation lies behind many thousands of rural rocket launches: the 4-H club (it’s an acronym, derived from a pledge involving head, heart, hands and health).

(4) Enroll in Jack Kirby 101 at AV Club to learn about the King of Comics —

As surely as Elvis Presley is the King Of Rock ’N’ Roll and Michael Jackson is the King Of Pop, Jack Kirby is the King Of Comics. Not that he ever aspired to such lofty heights. In fact, the notion that comics could be anything noble was an alien idea when the late Kirby (who would have turned 96 on August 28) broke into the nascent medium in the ’30s, brimming with energy and imagination. Any normal artist would have had those qualities beaten out of him by the grueling, low-paying, glory-free grind of the industry back then. Instead, Kirby flourished. Prolific and profoundly innovate, he fought through setbacks, market upheavals, and an egregious dearth of creators’ rights, yet emerged by the end of the century as the undisputed figurehead of a medium that had made billions off his work—and continues to do so with the successful franchising of his most popular co-creations: The Avengers, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, and the character that put Kirby on the map, Captain America.

(5) Pip R. Lagenta has posted a cartoon by Linda Mayfield, signed with her penname “Cody”.

(6) Bruce Schneier and Karen Cooper were Hugo nominees in 2000 in Best Related Book category for their Minicon 34 Restaurant Guide. But Schneier is rather more widely known as a privacy expert and was recently interviewed by the Minneapolis Post for its Five More Questions feature —

4. Can you imagine a technological situation where it would be possible for the average citizen to easily access all the known information about him or her and see who has had possession of it and how it has been traded?

Schneier: It’s likely to be more legal than technical. Look at Europe, where the movement of personal data is more restricted. In the United States, it’s a free-for-all. If a company collects personal data about you, they can use it. They can sell it. They do whatever the hell they want. In Europe, it is not like that. Data tends to be restricted to the purpose for which it was collected. Secondary uses are much more restricted.

Google is actually pretty good about letting you see what interests they’ve tagged you on, for the purpose of feeding you ads. Facebook is much less transparent. But it is reasonable to be able to see your FBI file, your NSA data. These are not difficult things.

The corporate side, though, is much more difficult. You being able to see your raw data is much easier than being able to see your processed data, because companies will see that as their proprietary information. For example, you can see your credit report, but you cannot see how that score is calculated. Because that is their secret sauce.

(7) Seeing Fred Pohl’s obituary in the NY Times prompted Andrew Porter to write a tribute of his own —

I’ve known Fred Pohl for longer than I’ve been in SF fandom. I first heard him when I was barely 10, on The Long John Knebel Show on WOR Radio in New York City in the mid-1950s, where he was a regular guest, along with Lester del Rey and The Amazing Randi. Later, I met him at my earliest SF conventions at the beginning of the 60s. I reprinted a chapter from his The Way The Future Was in my Algol in the mid-1970s. From that sprang his original column, Pohlemic, which survived the death of Algol/Starship, appearing in my Science Fiction Chronicle until the end of the 20th century. I have a vast collection of his novels, collections and short stories in my bookcase, and the original Richard Powers artwork for his Star Science Fiction No. 6 on my wall.

Though I hadn’t seen him in person for several years, I often spoke to Fred on the phone, and sent him e-mails about his youth in Brooklyn. Fred told me he was being considered for inclusion in the Walk of Fame at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Once, long ago, Fred told me that he wondered if he could touch the bottom of the pool while diving at the swimming pool in the Hotel St. George, here in Brooklyn Heights, across the street from where I live—and when he surfaced, he discovered his two front teeth were missing.

Word of his death came for me in San Antonio, just after the closing ceremonies for this year’s World SF Convention.

I’m really going to miss Fred.

(8) The Guardian asks The Hugo Awards: ‘beauty contest’ or prize of the people? Jonathan McCalmont, Justin Landon, Cheryl Morgan and Charles Stross all take a hack at the answer.

Here’s your instant trivia quiz – Match each of the preceding names with his or her description of the Hugo.

(A) Twaddle. (B) Shouldn’t be taken too seriously. (C) Continues to get it wrong all too often. (D) None of the above.

Thank goodness The Guardian loves sf fandom! Imagine if they didn’t. [Makes gagging sign…]

 [Thanks for these links to David Klaus, Petréa Mitchell, John King Tarpinian, Dan Goodman and Andrew Porter.]

9 thoughts on “Snapshots 119 Longest Psalm

  1. @Supergee: But was he a great leader? I have a hard time seeing Tony Curtis and the rest yelling, “I’m Hugo Twaddle!”

  2. What does it say about me, that I don’t know (or particularly care) who Jonathan McCalmont or Justin Landon are?

    And to Robert: the Hugos have always been about popularity; I think that people tend to notice this more when the “wrong” books are more popular than the “right” books. My own loss of respect for the award came the year that a Harry Potter book won for best novel, over novels by George R. R. Martin, Robert J. Sawyer, Ken MacLeod, and Nalo Hopkinson.

    I suspect that in addition to the Star Trek association, one thing that gave Redshirts votes was Scalzi’s personal popularity: he writes a popular blog, he’s a nice guy, and he did a great job as toastmaster at Chicon last year. And we know that people vote without having read (or seen) all of the nominees.

  3. Anyone who voted and is willing to say, what novel did you put in first place?

    All the nominated novels were part of the Hugo Voter Packet, which should act to level the playing field.

  4. The Worldcon gives the Hugo, and the Hugo is usually about being popular with people who are members of the Worldcon. Kind of a dim insight once you reduce it to that… If I had the money for decadent gestures, I’d establish my own award — no bowling trophey, just a $5,000 check framed in a cheap $1.98 plastic frame from Target — then give it with a lot of fanfare to who I think should have won.

  5. Taral’s comment is … debatable; how well did the Aussies know Mieville or Bacigalupi? It may be more accurate recently for U.S. Worldcons; LSC3 had what I considered a surprising number of supporting memberships (~1400 after conversions, per an informal search by Elayne), and there’s been some speculation that this related to the vote — or just to the free packet. FYP: I’m blanking on what I put first, but I put RedShirts 5th (just below No Award).

    wrt the 4-H model rocket program: as a former model rocketer myself, I think it’s entirely appropriate that kids are encouraged to mix tech into a farm-related program. MR can be just fun, or it can be a good way to learn about formal thinking without a classroom; the next generation of farmers are going to need to know more about technology and about dissecting tech arguments than their ancestors did.

  6. Taral, in a sense that a Hugo Award is the symbol of “I should be paid more”. It gets tacked onto paperback book blurbs along with quotes from guy named “Locus Magazine”. The assocation helps sales. Robert Bloch for decades, used the line on his released “by the author of PSYCHO.” A little bit of acknowledgement helps. But I don’t think it will ever devolve into s “winning check” award.

    Maybe in the future some screen play novelisation will win an award. Or is that another future catagory to consider?

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