Thursday, August 14, 2008

Making Light: The Ball of Kerrimuir

Jim Macdonald of the Making Light blog has started a glorious science fiction/slash thread in the style of the endlessly inventive bawdy classic The Ball of Kerrimuir.

"Slash" is a fan fiction term, originally referring to Kirk/Spock stories written by Star Trek fans that had a romantic or sexual subtext.

Slash fiction

Making Light

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mars features named after SF writers

Jack Williamson, Roger Zelazny, C.S. Lewis and Fredric Brown recently had features on Mars named after them by officials of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Mars Rover project.

Full article

Honoring Williamson

I checked the NASA/JPL Mars Rover website to see if there is more about this there. No information on these unofficial names available there, and they still haven't gotten a search engine for the site after all these years.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Yuri's Planet

"On April 12th, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alexseyevich Gagarin became the first human in space. His remotely controlled Vostok 1 spacecraft lofted him to an altitude of 200 miles and carried him once around planet Earth. Commenting on the first view from space he reported, "The sky is very dark; the Earth is bluish. Everything is seen very clearly". Alan Shepard, the first US astronaut, would not be launched until almost a month later and then on a comparatively short suborbital flight."

See a much better version of the picture at the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) page, which shows much more subtle detail.

Credit: Astronaut Photography of Earth "ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth’s horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible." Image courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center.

Thanks to Making Light blog

1930's fragment of John Carter of Mars animation

In the 1930's, animator Bob Clampett proposed to Edgar Rice Burroughs that he do an animated John Carter of Mars movie. At the very least this clip survives, though I'm unclear as to whether any other clips are available. In the Boing Boing comments section, posters note that while he was alive, Bob Clampett showed it at the San Diego Comic Con every year, and that it is found as an extra on the "Beany and Cecil" DVD.

SciFi Scanner article, with clip

Poster jackanaples comments on Chris Roberson's blog Roberson's Interminable Ramble: "Incidentally, Charles Edward Pogue (screenwriter on David Cronenberg's THE FLY amongst other films) wrote a screenplay for A PRINCESS OF MARS that ERB's grandson supposedly thought the best adaptation of the master's work ever. I'd read online that Pogue occasionally sells this unmade script to fans at Burroughs cons."

At SciFi Scanner, John Brownleee discusses his concerns about the upcoming Pixar film of A Princess of Mars.

Snarkerati reports that the film, a blend of live action and CGI, is the first of a projected trilogy of John Carter of Mars movies, and is set to be released in 2012.

The editor of ERBzine notes, "I have taken photos of the original storyboards that are still preserved in Danton's Tarzana Archives. These will be featured in future ERB Webzines." He also points out that the birth name of Charlton Heston, born well after the start of the ERB Mars series, was John Charles Carter.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Quote of the Day

"I will look forward to more photos of Mars. Number Seven, coming up hopefully, will read, in large canal letters across the whole surface of the Red Planet: Bradbury Was Right!" -- Ray Bradbury, in a letter to Richard Grossinger, 1971

Book of the Earth & Sky Book II by Richard Grossinger.
Black Sparrow Press, Los Angeles, 1971

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Virgin and Google announce joint Mars Base 100 year plan

Maybe you saw the header on Google's main page today:

A Cool World: Enjoy a rosier future as a Virgle Pioneer

Maybe you ignored it it because it sounded daffy. Uninformative. You don't click on links that tell you how you can become one of the cool kids. "Virgle" sounds like strangling virgins. And no matter where you stand on the issue of depicting the true colors of Mars, you reserve "rosy" for translations of Homer, not Virgil, and certainly not Mars.

So if you managed to bypass all those reasons not to open the link, you find "An invitation. Earth has issues, and it's time humanity got started on a Plan B. So, starting in 2014, Virgin founder Richard Branson and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin will be leading hundreds of users on one of the grandest adventures in human history: Project Virgle, the first permanent human colony on Mars."

They seem to have glommed onto the Mars Society, so I guess that rules out anomalists as being the kind of Mars geek they want onboard. Or will it?

Curious illustration at their opening page, . Teeny weeny little explorers on some kind of long rectangular mesa, the mesa having seemingly escaped some intense ejecta from the crater. Ejecta that has hurtled out into the air in long rectilinear pillars, some with straight channels, some with straight channels forming a cross. Their FAQ gives no nod to planetary SETI; the illustration lists the page URL as its address in properties. Wonder what that's meant to show?

Then again, consider the date. It gets much sillier as you go on.

Oh well. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Quantum Linguistics Roundtable Discussion

Quantum Linguistics Roundtable Discussion

"Quantum Approaches to Consciousness" Physics Conference

August 1, 1999, Flagstaff AZ

"Well, the most frequently asked question of me during this conference is: What is quantum linguistics? In a few words, it's a corrective linguistic lens for quantum theorizing. It's a response, to Heisenberg's Lament: "We've reached the limits of our language." And, it's an antidote to the unchecked Chomskyan formalism that has been dominating linguistics for the past few decades.

Quantum linguistics is to normal Chomskyan/classical linguistics as quantum physics is to classical physics. In physics, you often get your insights from fairly culture-free mathematical languages. But quantum linguistics derives most of its insights from the qualitative language/culture systems of Native America. I can give you quickly, in a brief sketch, three foundations of quantum linguistics: consciousness, nonlocality, and relativity.
-- Dan Moonhawk Alford

Full article

Friday, March 21, 2008

Meet the First Realistic Martian Woman

What would we have to do to our bodies if we wanted to live on Mars? io9 consulted scientists, our imaginations, and a designer, and came up with the most realistic-possible portrait of a Martian colonist who might truly exist on the Red Planet in 100 years. She's really tall, doesn't have to wear a bra, and has some pretty awesome photosynthesis and water-reclaiming implants in her exosuit. It's time to meet the first Martian woman. Click through for full frontal.


Somebody had better check the air composition in the io9 comments section -- they're getting awfully giddy over the notion of braless Martians. Let's hope these lads have the waist drawstrings of their exosuits nice and tight so their errant emissions don't end up fogging the faceplates of their suits.

Listen. The same lower gravity which would not pull so much on breasts would allow them to bounce upward more. Breasts move in three planes of motion. It's that motion that causes discomfort, and stretching of the ligaments. That's why a good sports bra will suppress the motion in all directions.

If Martian tits go wibble wibble wibble all the time unsupported in the weak Mars gravity, there's a chance that centrifugal force will eventually lead to them being stretched out so much that buxom Martian lasses will be able to do the classic "tie them in a knot" and "tie them in a bow."

Lower gravity would "require" her to be tall? Why?

So you figure 100 years of living on Mars (4 or 5 generations) will make Lamarckism suddenly kick in? Or that a Mars colony has so many potential parents that they can afford to be choosy about which colonists the eugenicists will allow to breed? Or that screwing around with genes or our endocrine systems will be routine on a frontier colony that needs to focus on basic survival?

In her boots and strapped to her thighs, she has water drilling/processing packs. A cannulated drill can extend out of it, go deep under martian crust, suck up water, run it through a filter to get the salt and acid out, and then store it close to her body to keep it liquid so she can sip from it.

If she's outside long enough to need enough water that she's got to drill for it and process it, rather than carrying her own supply of potable water with her, what will she be doing with the piss, shit and menstrual blood she'll be producing during that time? Does that mean she needs a separate, parallel processing unit for those wastes? Maybe a menstrual cup? Will the solids and liquids somehow be collected and jettisoned? Or saved for their precious composting value back at the colony?

There are elaborate waste collection devices for shuttles and space capsules, designed to keep both liquids and solids from floating free in zero gravity. Current space suit designs seem to employ a version of an adult diaper to simply trap any wastes generated in the few hours the suit will be worn, until the suit can be removed.

Special thanks are due to the team whose very informative draft paper on"Waste Management in Space" for Space Science Outreach and Research (SSOAR) is available online. Their work seems to confirm that you really aren't going to be wearing a space suit for any longer than you can handle pooping in your diapers and not wiping your butt. Given that the weight of any drinking water you'd need in that time would far lighter than the water you'd carry for a few hours hiking on Earth, the notion that you'd need to drill and process water using your martian Uggs is just plain goofy. Perhaps that is why the scientists and designer allegedly consulted for this are un-named.

Other than the titillation of bra-less women, there is nothing in io9's piece that seems to be gender-specific. Perhaps someone has been doing too much drooling over pictures of Dejah Thoris.

Let me repeat the realization that came out of writing my response to the io9 article. While there are occasional articles on how astronauts go to the bathroom in space, what this means has not been taken further.

We are a clever and ambitious species, who may eventually walk the surface of many of the planetary bodies in our solar system if we don't kill ourselves first. But without nano-bots who can carry away those particles which would create diaper rash, our direct space-suited exploring and experience of the surface of Mars, the moon, or any other bodies will be limited to the number of hours we can handle wearing poopy diapers.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Life on Other Worlds: Mars

David S. Zondy presents some great images of life on other worlds, as well as futuristic depictions in his "tales of Future Past" series:

In the 1920s and '30s the most influential of science fiction illustrators was Frank R. Paul. He supplied many of the covers for Hugo Gernsback's magazines such as Amazing Stories and though the people he drew looked like suet poured into clothes, his buildings, machines, and aliens had a complexity, detail, and drama about them that provided artists with the visual vocabulary of science fiction to this day.

In the late '30s, Paul had a chance to let his imagination run for a bit with a series of back-cover pieces depicting cities on other planets and the creatures that inhabit them. His ideas of what our neighbours in the Solar System and beyond look like were often strikingly beautiful and showed a creativity that put the standard Star Trek man-with-a-lumpy-forehead school to shame. They were meant as flights of fancy rather than educated theories, but it says a lot about the times that his Martians, Venusians, and Whateverians were taken seriously and not as the product of using paint thinner in an unventilated space.

The image is courtesy of Fabio Feminò, who has an excellent online collection of SF art. His site is in Italian, but if you go in through the home page you can click on the Babelfish link, which will translate all the text on the site.

Femino has a collection of covers of Robert Heinlein novels published in Italy, Chesley Bonestell, the Colliers series of space explorations depictions from the Fifties, and other futuristic art.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Maori on Mars


THE NIGHTMARE BEGAN late one night in 1796, when the NGA MAIA tribe literally vanished from the face of planet Earth. Gone, every single man, woman and child! Scooped up as easy as fish in a net by intergalactic slavers and transported across space and time to a screaming nightmare on Mars. Taken to slave until death, joining millions of other godforsaken creatures abducted from all over the Universe, building the mountain-size FACE ON MARS for the bizarre, raven winged OMEGONS.

Full article

Website says the series is due to go straight to DVD, but hasn't got it, and the film-makers' website gives no contact information.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Post-Apocalypse Statue of Liberty

Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair

It was my week to post at culturemonkey this week, and I delivered with a post about the motivations for apocalyptic fantasy, what it is and what it's for. Check it out. Comments, criticism, and elaborations of all sorts are very welcome.

While writing the post, in connection with Ryan's theory that the most salient feature of apocalypse in science fiction is the way in which the same images are simply repackaged for us over and over again, I was struck by the recurrence of a ruined Statue of Liberty as perhaps the quintessential icon of disaster since the 1940s. So struck, in fact, that I began to obsessively collect these images from the 'net wherever I could find them.
-- Gerry Canavan

Full article with lots of illustrations

Thanks to Rigorous Intuition blog

Movies that Smash the Statue of Liberty. io9's list.

If anyone knows of any bibliographies or checklists of science fiction that is set in New York City or upstate New York (preferably short stories or novels), I'd love to hear about them.

The Dutch Moisturize Mars

The Dutch Moisturize Mars

The pessimist mourns the glass’s half-emptiness, the optimist rejoices that it’s semi-full and the engineer just thinks the glass is twice the size it should be. I wonder what a space engineer would think of this map of Mars, half underwater.

Although the latest scientific evidence seems to indicate there once was water on Mars - laying to rest a controversy that has raged ever since ‘canals’ were detected on its surface – The Red Planet nowadays is rather rocky and definitely dusty, and not even close to moist. To map Mars as if it’s covered with oceans, seas and bays is clearly too Terra-centric.

It might help to know that this map of of a semi-submerged Mars is of Dutch origin. As the Dutch have always struggled to keep their country above sea-level, they might find it impossible to imagine a world without encroaching seas. This map therefore may say less about the precarious environment of Mars than about that of the Netherlands itself, a country not coincidentally named for its disadvantageous position vis-à-vis the North Sea.

Full article

One of the commentators gives the source as the Dutch translation of Camille Flammarion’s Astronomie populaire, published in 1884 as De wonderen des hemels (”The Marvels of the Heavens”).

The Dutch image which was originally accompanying the article has disappeared from the blog. I've substituted what I believe is the French version, thanks to

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dior Haute Couture Cellular Automata

The fashion press so far appears to have missed a mathematical reference in one of the gowns presented by John Galliano for Dior, in the current Paris Fashion Week presentation.

This purple gown features trianglar patterns quite reminiscent of cellular automata. Cellular automata are diagrams which grow and change according to simple rules, yet which can produce very complex structures and behavior.

It's a concept that can illustrate the relationship between the haute couture and the read to wear collections. The haute couture collection, usually flamboyant, conceptually sophisticated, and labor-intensive, supplies the basic rules for generating the ready to wear trends that will follow in its wake. The couture outfits are not to be taken literally, but offer gestures of color, shape, line, pattern that will be picked up by the mass manufacturers and mutated according to their reading of the zeitgeist.

Steven Weinberg, "Is the Universe a Computer?"

The Wikipedia page on Conway's Game of Life shows some of the patterns animated.