Automatons: Imitation of Life

672px-NAMA_Machine_d'Anticythère_1

The creation of robots and androids has always fascinated mankind. There are accounts of automatons in ancient mythology such as the artisan/god Hephaestus who created divine machines like the bronze man Talos to defend Crete. There are accounts of Greek temples housing "god" machines that belched smoke, replicated thunder and even bled. and philosophers like Aristotle mused about robots replacing slaves. But throughout history, there have been actual attempts to construct such mechanisms. This is where mythology and reality blur. The Physical proof of such pursuits came in the form of the Antikythera mechanism (150 to 100 BC), recovered from a shipwreck off the coast of Greece in 1900/1901. The device  served to calculate the positions of stars and planets.   Other notorious accounts of automatons appear in the 8th and 9th centuries. Wind powered automatons appeared in the Abbasid Palaces of Baghdad and the Arabic alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan (writing under … [Read more...]

From the Indie Side: A New Anthology

From The Indie Side

From the Indie Side is an fascinating milestone for the independent publishing movement. Why do I say that? Because if you want proof that Indie authors can write concise, beautifully turned out prose, then look no further than this collection of stories. With some of the most talented new voices on the Indie scene, this anthology has the raw, electric energy of an underground movement. The stories span a multitude of genres; science fiction, fantasy, dystopian and paranormal. Many of the stories have a dark slant, many take place in dying or post apocalyptic worlds. There's excitement here. Meet the new paradigm; hard working craftspeople honing their writing and taking on the jobs traditionally left to publishers. Some of the stories in this collection are more polished than others, but all are well written, inventive and at times, even captivating. These writers are passionate about story as evidenced by the short commentary each author provides. It's clear that obstacles, the … [Read more...]

Steampunk Carousels & Infernal Machines

Galerie des machines:  le calmar géant à rétropropulsion

Science Fiction books of the of the Victorian age and the Belle Epoch echo certain themes. After all, this was the age of Edison and Tesla, of mechanized war. It was an emerging era of shocking scientific theories such as evolution and flight. 19th century science fiction novels chart the course of these shocks with themes of science run amok and strange encounters with monstrosities. Steampunk imagery is generated from works of the fantastic such as Frankenstein, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, War of the Worlds and  The Time Machine. So, when I first saw The Project of Machines de l'île in Nantes, I felt for a moment that sense of wonder at that strange convergence of science and fantasy, machine and dream. All the beautiful and terrible possibilities of the future exist in these odd mechanisms. The machines are built in the warehouses of the former shipyards of Nantes, France by François Delarozière and Pierre Orefice who were also inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci's infernal … [Read more...]

Scientist Grace Hopper explains Nanoseconds

Grace Hopper

Google just honored Grace Hopper with a doodle and once you see her in action, you'll know why. Grace Hopper was an accomplished naval officer/computer scientist with a wry sense of humor and a down to earth style of communicating. One of the first programmers on the Mark I Computer (IBM's Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator or ASCC), Grace Hopper once described the Mark I as having " 72 words of storage and could perform three additions a second." In comparison, the cell phone in your pocket has more computing power than NASA's first moon launch, so if you are using your phone to send lol cats.... think about it. It's not the power, it's what you do with it. The early behemoths Hopper worked on were as large as 51 feet long and 8ft high. She also worked on Harvard’s Mark II and III computers as well as the UNIVAC I computer. Affectionately known as "Grandma Cobol," because she lead the team that invented COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language). She was one of … [Read more...]

Future Shock: Writing Sci Fi, Drones & Paranoia

Orwellian Cops

Dystopia. The word hisses off the tongue with sibilant ease, a slow slide into the dark cellar of the collective psyche. The black regimes of our fears, the fascism, the rage, the oppression which mirrors our inner shades, often realized in nightmarish reality. Conversely, Utopia sounds so hopeful, so inclusive, like a suspended note of a celestial choir. A future where technology is used compassionately to further creative pursuits, knowledge and collective awareness. What's it going to be? One of the great tasks of Science Fiction is to explore humanity in the context of earth shattering change. In the case of Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451 with its mechanical hound or George Orwell's 1984, the startling portrait of the darker probabilities of the future, shaped the minds of a generation. The word "Big Brother" is now part of our lexicon of ideas. On the Utopian side, Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek inspired cell phones, interactive computers and has scientists noodling over … [Read more...]

Amazon Prime Air: Will Drones Deliver?

Amazon Air

Remember The Jetsons? The cartoon about the future where the Jetson family had a plethora of wacky, futuristic gadgets to make life easier? Well it looks like CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos took that show seriously. Just when you're getting used to an irobot vacuum scooting around the floor, Amazon just revealed the next level of droid services. First Amazon created automated warehouses and now flying drones will deliver packages in under 30 minutes. The drone delivery service is called Amazon Prime Air: … [Read more...]

Astronaut Chris Hadfield sings Space Oddity

Chris Hadfield channels Bowie

With Gravity topping the box office, pushing special effects to the edge, I'm posting my favorite space clip, starring astronaut Chris Hadfield. After attending the premiere, Hadfield tweeted about the film: “Good morning! Gravity was fun last night. Fantastic visuals, relentless, Sandra Bullock was great. I’d fly with her.”  When asked about his own tour of duty, Hadfield said, “Fortunately, the five months that I spent on the space station went way calmer." In fact, his tour of duty was a bit more rock and roll. Here is the supremely musical Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield saying goodbye to the International Space Station with this mind-blowing version of David Bowie's Space Oddity.     … [Read more...]

Space Craziness with Astronaut Chris Hadfield

There's no crying in space.

I am going to miss the amazing videos from Commander Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut who streamed his odd missives from the International Space Station with an earthiness that was both hilarious and informative. Many of his videos are practical demonstrations about the reality of our physical bodies meeting a gravity-free environment like space. Watching these videos will change your perspective of gravity. Hadfield's experiments create a visceral understanding of the fact that everything we do from moving to eating and everything we experience around us is in a complex dance with gravity. Our very existence depends on gravity. What better way to show it than to wring out a wash cloth in space? Hadfield demonstrates crying in space: Chris carries out student experiment by wringing out a wash cloth in space then waxes philosphical: Chris talks about "space vision" and testing eyeballs in space:   Hadfield talks to William Shatner AKA Captain … [Read more...]

Simulation Theory: Is God a Computer Programmer?

Are we simulacra?

Computers and the Internet have changed the way we conceive of the universe.  Complex systems, algorithms, programming, pixels, data-mining, viral propagation and virtual realities are new additions to the vocabulary of modern thought. These concepts have migrated to books, films and TV and to the single most powerful way we create models of our universe, scientific hypothesis.   Welcome to The Simulation Theory, because without computers, this theory couldn't exist.   If you've seen The Matrix, you already know a lot about this theory. Neo is trapped in an extremely compelling artificial reality. He wakes up in the real world which is nowhere near as seductive or addictive as the illusory Matrix. The theory was first proposed by the futurist Hans Moravec (Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University)  and was elaborated on in a paper by Professor Nick Bostrom (Oxford University) who theorized we could all be living in a simulation. But Bostrom doesn't stop … [Read more...]