July 23, 2020
[moon] NASA and the Secrets of Moondust … What can moondust tell us about the origins of the Moon and Earth? ‘In the next year, Sehlke, along with other scientists and their teams, will receive tiny lunar samples, untouched for close to 50 years, that were collected during the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions. Some were frozen or stored in helium-filled containers shortly after arriving on Earth. One sample has never been exposed to Earth’s atmosphere; it was packed and vacuum-sealed on the moon by the last astronauts to walk on the surface, in 1972. Sehlke and other researchers still have many questions about the workings of the moon—even about the popular hypothesis for its creation, which doesn’t completely add up—and searching for answers within these pristine samples is a thrilling prospect.’
July 22, 2020
[apollo] Bitcoin mining on an Apollo Guidance Computer … Using Apollo-era tech for bitcoins. ‘The Apollo Guidance Computer took 5.15 seconds for one SHA-256 hash. Since Bitcoin uses a double-hash, this results in a hash rate of 10.3 seconds per Bitcoin hash. Currently, the Bitcoin network is performing about 65 EH/s (65 quintillion hashes per second). At this difficulty, it would take the AGC 4×10^23 seconds on average to find a block. Since the universe is only 4.3×10^17 seconds old, it would take the AGC about a million times the age of the universe to successfully mine a block.’
July 21, 2020
[apollo] 13 Minutes to the Moon [Series 1 | Series 2] … Outstanding BBC Podcast on the inside story of Apollo 11 and how Apollo 13 was saved.
July 20, 2020
[apollo] Apollo 11: Mission Out of Control … The nail-biting story of Apollo 11’s descent to the moon’s surface. ‘ The computer automatically entered the next phase of the descent, followed by another reboot and another go command from Mission Control until finally, at less than 2,000 feet above the lunar surface, the computer had its worst crash yet.The alarm blared and the lander’s readout went dead. For 10 long seconds, the console displayed nothing—no altitude data, no error codes, just three blank fields. Armstrong’s heart began to race, rising to 150 beats per minute, the same as that of a man at the end of a sprint. With the moonscape zipping by outside his window, he was the closest any human had ever been to another world, but, like a distracted driver, his attention was focused on the computer. Finally the console came back on line. Mission Control confirmed: It was another 1202. “I never expected it to come back,” Armstrong later said.’
July 16, 2020
[apollo] Moon landing 50th anniversary: why people like Steph Curry have supported conspiracy theories … A look at who benefits from moon landing conspiracy theories. ‘The belief that the moon landing was shot in a Hollywood studio actually seems sort of quaint. How cute, a theory that probably won’t end up hurting someone! Perhaps on the 50th anniversary of the NASA moon landing — which definitely happened — we can appreciate the moon landing conspiracy for what it was: a mostly harmless piece of entertainment that possibly also led to the normalization of conspiracies in general, which is harmful.’
July 15, 2020
[cthulu] Worm found in tonsil of Japanese woman with sore throat … 🐙 LOVECRAFT WAS RIGHT! Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! 🦑 ‘The worm was identified as a nematode roundworm – one of several parasites that can infect people who eat raw fish or meat. The 25-year-old patient confirmed that she had eaten assorted sashimi five days before the worm was removed. According to the journal, doctors said the worm was a fourth-stage larva of the worm, adding that the infection had been caused by its younger incarnation as a third-stage larva that was present in her sashimi dish.’
July 14, 2020
[apollo] How a long-gone Apollo rocket returned to Earth … The story of an asteroid that turned out to be a Apollo rocket from 1969. ‘They made a startling discovery: J002E3 appeared to be covered in paint — specifically, white, titaniumoxide (TiO2) paint. According to Kira Jorgensen Abercromby at California Polytechnic State University, who also studied J002E3 while at the Air Force Maui Optical & Supercomputing observatory, “What we saw were features in the spectral data that matched other upper-stage rocket bodies launched during a similar time frame [to the Apollo missions] and the data also matched typical features found in organic paints that looked like TiO2.” This information pointed toward a very specific object as the identity of J002E3: a spent third stage from an Apollo-era Saturn V rocket, which were historically covered in this specific kind of paint.’
July 13, 2020
[comics] An oral history of Carol Kalish: the most important comic book figure you’ve never heard of … Remembering the influential marketing exec at Marvel. ‘What she did was just bring sensible business practices to an industry that, when she started, largely worked out of cigar boxes. She modernized the comics industry in a lot of ways.’
July 10, 2020
[fun] This Meme Does Not Exist… Memes generated by A.I. almost work. Almost.
July 9, 2020
[covid] The Coronavirus and Our Future … Kim Stanley Robinson on the Coronavirus. ‘I’ve spent my life writing science-fiction novels that try to convey some of the strangeness of the future. But I was still shocked by how much had changed, and how quickly. Schools and borders had closed; the governor of California, like governors elsewhere, had asked residents to begin staying at home. But the change that struck me seemed more abstract and internal. It was a change in the way we were looking at things, and it is still ongoing. The virus is rewriting our imaginations. What felt impossible has become thinkable. We’re getting a different sense of our place in history. We know we’re entering a new world, a new era. We seem to be learning our way into a new structure of feeling.’
July 7, 2020
[scarfolk] Scarfolk Council: Beer Mats of the 1970s … Beer Mats from Scarfolk pubs as they reopen.
July 6, 2020
[comics] The Wreckage Part One | Part Two … Engrossing long read on Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. ‘So I guess I’m talking around the problem, said problem being – these comics don’t sit as easily as they might once have, for a number of reasons. They don’t seem so radical, for one thing, now that all their best moves have been copied by subsequent generations. It seems like these book have a lot of something that was very, very cool in 1990 and thereabouts, but which really isn’t quite the same thing precisely as “cool” in 2019. And it’s not like it’s uncool exactly, but nether is it the rather deathless 1960s Batman show, the virtues of which seem more and more enduring with every passing year, as we see that camp silliness was never really something anyone hated but self-righteous nerds. Stuff that purposefully eschews any attempt to be cool often ages better…’
July 3, 2020
[comics] Alan Moore’s Supermen…
July 2, 2020
[comics] Grant Morrison Batman Reading Order … I’ve been trying to work out the reading order of Grant Morrison run on Batman and Final Crisis – It’s complicated.
July 1, 2020
[books] We Can’t Ignore H.P. Lovecraft’s White Supremacy … Powerful look at Lovecraft’s racial bigotry, comparing with racism today. ‘But the need to “save” a man dubbed the “horror story’s dark and baroque prince” by Stephen King is itself questionable. His legacy is firmly planted. His cosmology sprawls from popular culture to niche corners of scholasticism. Complaints of a potentially tarnished reputation are more concerned with bolstering the illusion of Lovecraft as a sacrosanct figure. Even further, to divorce his racism from his literary creations would be a pyrrhic victory; what results is a whitewashed portrait of a profound writer. And from a criticism standpoint, what’s lost is any meaningful grappling with the connection between Lovecraft’s racism and the cosmic anti-humanism that defined his horror.’
June 30, 2020
[comics] Milton Glaser and the DC Bullet … Todd Klein analyses the symbol designer Milton Klein created for DC Comics in the 1970s. ‘DC was still using letterpress printing for all their comics. Glaser’s design, with it’s thin lines and thin white spaces, looked great at a larger size, but comics printing wasn’t really up to making it work well at the small size used on covers. In the 1980s DC began gradually transitioning away from letterpress to offset printing with much better and more accurate presses, and then the original DC bullet would have worked fine.’
June 26, 2020
[space] Happy Little Crater on Mercury … Somewhere else in the solar system for Dr. Manhattan to visit.
June 24, 2020
[comics] JAKA’S STORY: What It Was in 1988, and What Cerebus Used to Mean … A melancholy look at Cerebus and the fall of Dave Sim. ‘MELMOTH was spent talking about the illness and slow death of Oscar Wilde, at a time people were still dying regularly from AIDS and little was even being tried to stop it. It was deeply sensitive and empathetic. And I still see nothing insincere in Dave’s empathy and affinity to Oscar Wilde, both in the more fictionalized version of Oscar here, who is never not entertaining, but also MELMOTH where it’s virtually the real man himself. That’s what makes later on so baffling.’
June 23, 2020
[hertzog] Werner Herzog: ‘I’m fascinated by trash TV. The poet must not avert his eyes’ … Herzog interviewed during lockdown in Los Angeles. ‘The director sits bolt upright inside his book-lined study. His glasses are perched on the bridge of his nose. His fleece is zipped to his chin. “Your face has stuck,” he announces with disgust. “You will have to hang up and dial the number again.”’
June 22, 2020
[mcsweeneys] Just Because They’ve Turned Against Humanity Doesn’t Mean We Should Defund the Terminator Program … ‘Meanwhile, members of the Resistance are gathering support for extreme measures like disbanding the entire Terminator program and then restructuring it so that only Terminators that have been re-programmed to protect rather than harm people are brought back online. But what exactly are we supposed to do in the meantime? Who will keep our country safe if not these beefy robotic soldiers trained in killology (Cyberdyne’s patented split-second decision making murder algorithm) who, admittedly, do sometimes turn against civilians and go on unstoppable rampages of human carnage?’
June 19, 2020
[comics] 10 Questions: Chip Zdarsky Interviews Annie Nocenti … Fascinating discussion about Daredevil between the current and former writer of the comic.
June 18, 2020
[chernobyl] The Age of Forever Crises … This analysis of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl seems somehow relevant during Covid-19. ‘Chernobyl, in this sense, is a crisis that has never stopped unfolding, or as Brown puts it, it is a calamity “with no perceptible end.” It is just as much an environmental disaster as a crisis of information; Cold War politics prevented the free exchange of scientific knowledge, making a bad situation infinitely worse. Brown explains how, in 1986, Russian scientists asked UN officials for “precise information” about how the “Life Span Study” of Japanese survivors of the nuclear bomb was carried out; they were instead presented with data about a chemical explosion in Italy.’
June 16, 2020
[alien] The Horrifying Adventures of Xeno-Morph …
June 15, 2020
[movies] My favourite film aged 12: Aliens … I think we can all agree that Aliens is a great film whatever age you are. ‘Rewatching it over the years I’ve only come to appreciate Aliens more. It remains a masterclass in building tension: we don’t actually see an alien until the hour mark, and when we finally do it’s in a bewildering frenzy of bodycam panic. The scene with Ripley and Newt (the girl Ripley finds living feral on a base long since overrun by aliens) trapped in a laboratory with a scuttling face-hugger is still a bum-clenching ordeal. Paul Reiser’s smarmy, flop-sweat-slick company man, Burke, has become ever more punchable with every passing year. And Ripley overcoming her prejudices to accept the android Bishop as a friend is more touching now than it ever was.’
June 11, 2020
[bignumbers] The Meaning of Big Numbers … Some interesting analysis of Big Numbers plot and what it might have meant. ‘If there’s mathematical order in the apparently chaos of these divinely beautiful fractal images, and we buy the theory that there must then be mathematical order and divine beauty to life, too, just an order too grand for us to comprehend (sure enough, the chaotic soup of unconnected human interactions in this story seem to end up giving the good people what they want, and punishing the bad people)… then perhaps letting a numerical system take over our life isn’t so different to our present existence. Perhaps there’s a divine beauty in that that’s beyond our comprehension, too. Perhaps the story is an optimistic one.’
June 9, 2020
[comics] Alan Moore’s Big Numbers Outline Chart… The script outline for AM’s unfinished comic Big Numbers typed out and handily converted to an HTML page with annotations.
June 8, 2020
[tv] Forget Friends! The 25 greatest overlooked sitcoms – from Lovesick to Younger … List compiled by Stuart Heritage. ‘Loudermilk – In some ways, Loudermilk is the archetypal comedy of the decade, in that it’s a) a sad and vaguely redemptive show about an alcoholic and b) maybe a fraction of 1% of people have heard of it. However, it was created by Peter Farrelly and features a brilliant central performance by Ron Livingston, so while it isn’t going to make you fall out of your chair laughing, it is at least capable of being compelling.’
June 5, 2020
[books] H.P Lovecraft on 1918’s pandemic – Spanish Flu … Some interesting snippets on Lovecraft’s view on the big pandemic of his time. ‘H. P. Lovecraft to Lillian D. Clark, 2 December 1925 – Influenza has not yet struck the east this winter, though it probably will before long. With freely accessible railways, one can’t segregate maladies of this sort nowadays. It’s odd, but despite all the repeated epidemics of the past decade, I’ve never had influenza. No doubt the gods are saving a deal of picturesque suffering for my very last days!’
June 4, 2020
[comics] Why I Hate Christians. … I love a rant from Dan Clowes – here’s a complete set of original art pages from Eighball #11.
June 3, 2020
[truecrime] Murder in the Aquarian Age … Engrossing, early true crime story from tech reporter Steven Levy. ‘Chitwood put on the clear rubber gloves and went back to the open trunk. On top were some newspapers, dated in the late summer of 1977. Underneath was a layer of packing material and compressed plastic bags from Sears. Chitwood began scooping the Styrofoam aside. After three scoops, he saw something. At first he could not make out what it was, because it was so wrinkled and tough. But then he saw the shape of it—wrist, palm, and five fingers, curled and frozen. It was a human hand, and now there was no doubt in Chitwood’s mind about the contents of this trunk. He dug just a little deeper, following the shriveled, rawhidelike hand down the wrist. He saw an arm, still clothed in a plaid flannel shirt. He had seen enough. He turned to Einhorn, who was maintaining his studied nonchalance. “We found the body. It looks like Holly’s body,” he said. “You found what you found,” said the Unicorn.’