Science Fiction Wonders

First (bear with me) a slug of Brin-news….

David-Brin-2050A series of interviews with thought leaders at the European Union’s recent ICT conference in Vilius are now available for viewing, including half a dozen short, topical segments with yours truly on topics like the future of information technology, challenges for privacy, how to prevent bad futures and how to strive for good ones.  Others offered views on the “future of the Cloud,” Big Data,  Peace and conflict, and the search for aliens!

The new incarnation of Amazing Stories — the latest version of the oldest and greatest name in science fiction — is now online as a free social-sharing-fiction site.  I gave an extensive interview to the two bright fellows who are performing this resurrection.  (Typically, I do go on, at-length, in I-hope interesting ways.)  Have a look at this bold endeavor.

Shadows-New-SunThis long review offers you a glimpse at a terrific holiday gift, the tribute anthology Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe, containing stirring tales by Gaiman, Swanwick, Resnick, Haldeman, Kress, Dietz and others, dedicated to honoring the science fiction grand master Gene Wolfe.  The reviewer lingers over my own contribution to this (otherwise excellent) volume, filled with darkly-inspiring explorations of possibilities at the edge of wonder. Click here to order!

The Uplift Universe is number three on this list: 12 Book Series that are the Equivalent of A Game of Thrones.

Best of all… The latest edition of Starship-Sofa features a wonderful reading-podcast of my creepy and chilling short story “Mars Opposition.” Truly, it is a great audio version and perfect for that commute…

… oh!  It has cameo appearances by great authors and scientists like Joe Haldeman and Bruce Murray… and… you’ll see why it’s resonant with my earlier post (and reiteration below) urging you all to put your names on the New Horizon mission to Pluto.

Be brave.

== Phew… now on to important news ==

New-Horizons-initiative-lombergHere’s a terrific interview with the great space artist Jon Lomberg about his recent talk here at UCSD, about the New Horizons Message Project, in which a million Earthlings might upload their names to the New Horizons spacecraft after is flashes past Pluto in 2015.  Want YOUR name aboard our fifth interstellar probe?  Learn more! 

In collaboration with the Society for Science & the Public, ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination and the Intel Foundation, The Tomorrow Project has announced an innovative fiction competition geared at 13- to 25-year-olds worldwide, asking them to contribute science fiction stories, essays, comics and videos to explore the kinds of futures we want to work toward together. Deadline is Dec 31, 2013. Short stories or essays have a 3000 word limit maximum.

And related news from those busy folk at ASU. The Hieroglyph site for optimism in science fiction visions of a human-made tomorrow keep getting better.

Sometimes nepotism proves itself utterly justified! (Hey, I would do it, too: though satiably.)  You really need to watch this terrific example,  Jonas Cuarón, son of “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuarón and co-writer of the feature’s script, wrote and directed a six-and-a-half minute companion short, “Aningaaq,” which reveals the other half of the conversation that Sandra Bullock’s character has with a man down on Earth, gaining comfort from the sounds made by his dogs. Beautiful and moving.

Warp your kid’s mind with some gray Sci-Fi this holiday season: here’s a delightful Christmas guide to favorite sci fi books for children, by NPR reporter Jason Sheehan. (Or see my own list of Favorite Science Fiction Novels for Young Adults.)

make-it-so_175x263In the visions of future shown by Sci Fi movies, the future is blue… or at least the screens or technology interfaces shown in 99% of movies. This is one of the observations from a recent book: Make it So: Interaction Designs from Science Fiction, by Nathan Shedroff and Christopher Noessel.

One more tech breakthrough making animation cheaper and easier. Soon, writer-centered teams will be able to storyboard-mockup an entire 90 minute movie, including music and voices… and such small teams will then present studios with a rough cut vastly more advanced than today’s screenplays. The mockups will themselves be works of entertainment-art, with media attention and awards. And fans will vote by their interest as to which ought to be made into live-action versions.

Invasive-speciesJust released: Joseph Wallace’s Invasive Species is an apocalyptic thriller wrought from plausible science, medicine, and natural history, that takes a world perched on a technological precipice and shows what happens when a single explosively spreading organism exploits human society’s every vulnerability. “A novel that gets under your skin with an ‘it could happen here’ kind of chilling grace.”– Caroline Leavitt.  Learn more about this chillingly plausible story at

== Testing Scientific Claims ==

A Dutch teenager has floated an idea that has many scientists, oceanographers and environmental activists swimming.  Set up active buoy-based collectors to rid the ocean of much of our plastic garbage. He envisions “an anchored system of floating barriers and platforms that can be dispatched to some of the most notorious waterborne garbage patches, where plastics tend to accumulate in massive currents known as gyres. After being arranged so that they transect one of these gyres, the floating barriers can then be angled in such a way as to create a funneling effect—gradually directing debris toward the platforms, where it can then be stored before being transported to land-based recycling facilities.”  How wonderful. If we did this, then maybe the secret alien observers would let us into the Club of Sapients, at last.

Does the idea sound great? Ah but alas, it may sound better than it is. Cool ideas need to be scrutinized and this one may come apart under light.  See some critiques here.

Indeed, here are Twenty tips for reinterpreting scientific claims, including: Extrapolating beyond the data is risky, Dependencies change the risk, Extreme measurements may mislead…and more.

==And More Science==

Surgical 3D printing: Handheld BioPen writes in bone, nerve and muscle.

Cyborg cockroach biobots could swarm over disaster sites — to aid in search and rescue missions.

Top-Fifty-innovationsJames Fallows offers an interesting rumination on “The top 50 inventions of all time.”

New research finds that stimulating a specific part of the brain can increase appreciation of certain types of art.

A novel method to rapidly and cheaply 3D-print electrical circuits has been developed by researchers from Georgia Tech, the University of Tokyo, and Microsoft Research. For about $300 in equipment costs, anyone can produce working electrical circuits in 60 seconds.

Another miracle material?  Calculations suggest that a single layer of tin would be a topological insulator (100% efficient) at and above room temperature. Adding some fluorine atoms the mix might extend its 100 percent efficiency operating range to at least 100 degrees Celsius.

what-should-we-be-worriedWhat Should We Be Worried About? Real Scenarios that Keep Scientists Up at Night, a new anthology edited by John Brockman, with dire scenarios imagined by scientists including Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, George Dyson, Lisa Randall  and others.

And finally… thanks to the fine folks at io9 for this lovely way to skip a meal and lose a pound.  Ick… an exploding whale….

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