July 23, 2018
[moon] How the Earliest Images of the Moon Were so Much Better than we Realised … The story of how images taken by a Moon Orbiter in 1966 were saved from obsolete analog media. ‘Since 2007 the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project has brought back 2000 images from 1500 analog tapes. The first ever picture of an earthrise. As Keith Cowing said “an image taken a quarter of a fucking million miles away in 1966. The Beatles were warming up to play Shea Stadium at the moment it was being taken.”’
July 22, 2018
[space] First contact: what if we find not organic life but ET’s AI? … More interesing hypotheticals on alien hunting. ‘The most challenging task for a nursery-room AI would be how to expose its collective of savants to the complexity of the real-world environment. Nature isn’t just about meeting fixed goals; it’s full of noise, randomness and trillions upon trillions of interacting pieces. For example, from the very instant an embryo forms, it is exposed to constant variation. First just a few cells, it senses the world purely from a molecular point of view. As the embryo develops organs to register light, sound, touch and smell, the portals to experience – and their complexity – expand. In short, the way for a species to make a better AI is to let that AI and its components explore the messy Universe. As complex and nourishing as a single planet can be, a cosmos filled with worlds offers millions, billions, even trillions of natural test tubes, each with its own tale of natural selection and chance. Spreading savant AI pieces across the stars offers a way to exploit these endless natural experiments and sensory inputs.’
July 21, 2018
[space] NASA astronaut Ellison Onizuka’s soccer ball that survived the Challenger explosion … the moving story of a long forgotten football from the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and the family that sent it back into space.
Clear Lake High School principal, Karen Engle, got an email from a parent. He was leaving a booster club meeting and stopped to look at the ball, remembering it from so long ago. He figured it should have its own display case, and he offered to build it.
July 20, 2018
[spaceships] On the Taxonomy of Spaceships … An attempt to classify types of fictional spacecraft. ‘There are lots of different ship classes in science fiction, and I’m not talking about the designated name for a particular frame (like Victory-class or Firefly-class). I’m talking about classification of ship roles; or ship types. You have your cruisers, your destroyers, your frigates and corvettes, your dreadnoughts, and all sorts of other roles. But something that always confused me is exactly what the differences are between them. If you had shown me two ships and claimed one was a destroyer and one was a cruiser I wouldn’t have really understood what that actually means and what roles they employ in a battle. How is a battleship different from a battlecruiser? Is there any difference between a star cruiser and an assault cruiser, and if so what is it?’
July 19, 2018
[space] For all we know, aliens could be as careless with space junk as us … Interesting approach to discovering aliens by looking for evidence their garbage in space. ‘However, while it is looking like humankind may soon be able to spot the biomarkers of exolife, spotting a technologically advanced civilisation continues to present a challenge. Astroboffin Hector Socas-Navarro proposes that rather than looking at the exoplanet itself, researchers turn their attention to the “Clarke Exobelt” (CEB). This is an area around the planet touchingly named after Arthur C Clarke, who proposed using a geostationary orbit around the Earth for satellite communications in a 1945 paper.’
July 18, 2018
[aliens] Fermi paradox: why haven’t we found aliens yet?… An attempt to answer a (currently) unanswerable question.
…the idea that intelligent life is extremely rare in the universe feels completely counterintuitive. We exist, along with other intelligent life like dolphins and octopi, so we assume what we see must be extrapolatable beyond Earth.
July 17, 2018
[books] 55 Essential Space Operas from the Last 70 Years … Great list of Sci-fi books… ‘Use of Weapons, by Iain M. Banks – Though it technically kicked off in the late ’80s, Iain M. Banks Culture novels could be said to be the genesis of what came to be known as the New British Space Opera in the ’90s and 2000s. An twist on utopian space operas, The Culture presents a future where benevolent AIs govern everything, genetic engineering has resulted in immortality and perfected human design, and the most powerful faction in the universe (next to the energy beings) is the Culture, a group of cheerful collectivists with massive, heavily armed sentient starships. Banks’ imaginative world design and massive scope is paired with an iconoclastic and anarchic sense of humor for a modern classic.’
July 16, 2018
[space] Cinema Space Tribute …
July 13, 2018
[movies] The meaning of the ending of 2001 according to Stanley Kubrick … Two Kubrick interviews where he explains 2001: A Space Odyssey collected together.
The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by god-like entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form. They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. It just seems to happen as it does in the film.
July 12, 2018
[movies] My Incredible, Agonising Quest to Find the Worst Movie on Netflix … ‘But my quest hit a snag. Though there were many truly awful sounding movies listed, every single thing I looked up seemed to have been removed from Netflix. InAPPropriate Comedy, a sketch comedy show directed by the Shamwow Guy that was widely accused of being racist? Gone. Avalanche Sharks, a horror film about, well, what it sounds like it’s about? Also gone. I was beginning to worry that, due to the constant reduction in the number of movies on Netflix, all the real garbage had been purged.’
July 11, 2018
[politics] What If Trump Has Been a Russian Asset Since 1987? … Long, plausible scenario about Trump’s collusion with Russia. ‘Then there is Trump himself. While the president’s character has never been exactly deemed above reproach, some doubts have lingered about whether he would really hire prostitutes to defile a bed merely because Obama had slept there and whether a tape of such a thing would truly shame him. These questions have been answered in the affirmative. Trump’s payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels and other women proves that he holds his sexual privacy dear. And the obsessive hatred of Obama that grew out of Trump’s humiliation at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner has blossomed into a perverse and often self-destructive mania. People both inside and outside the administration report that Trump will ultimately pick whatever option he believes is the negation of Obama’s legacy.’
July 10, 2018
[movies] Doctors Diagnose The Injuries In Home Alone … Doctors give their opinions on the injuries the criminals in Home Alone would have received if the movie was set in the real world.
July 9, 2018
[true crime] The Queasy Verdict of ‘The Staircase’ … A spoiler filled examination of the true-crime documentary “The Staircase”. ‘It’s tempting to call the story of Michael Peterson a tragedy. Not just because his protestations of innocence and grief are pitiable (although they are), or because he summarizes his life with a quote from Romeo and Juliet, “All are punished” (although he does). It’s tempting because, in The Staircase, it’s Peterson—as opposed to his dead wife—who’s unfailingly presented as the victim. After a short news brief detailing how Kathleen Peterson’s body has been found in the couple’s mansion in Durham, North Carolina, the series begins in earnest with Peterson walking the camera crew around the home, describing the events on the evening of Kathleen’s death. He’s calm and detailed in his account of how the couple watched a movie, talked about their kids, and drank a first bottle of wine, followed by a second. Then, he explains, the couple went down to the pool on their property. In Peterson’s telling, Kathleen went upstairs to bed while he stayed by the pool with his wine. It was the last time he saw her alive. What happened next was so bizarre, so unpredictable, that it made the Peterson murder investigation a national story…’
July 6, 2018
[life] Prick from school now describing himself as an ‘influencer’ … ‘Tom Booker, a devious little shit you assumed was going to be an letting agent, is instead putting a lot of selfies on Instagram and referring to himself ‘a brand ambassador in waiting’.’
July 5, 2018
[funny] Mattel Master of the Universe Spoof Advert … ‘NICE GUY – Why Won’t You Ladies Just Give Him a Chance?’
July 4, 2018
[comics] Creator of Milk & Cheese Talks About a Weird, Brilliant Career … Evan Dorkin Interviewed. ‘In general, these stories that go too far, after a while, it’s just diminishing returns. In wrestling, with pornography, in horror movies, in horror comics, you always end up reaching this point of no return. So you have to do three women getting their heads cut off, or five guys stitched together into a centipede, or whatever the fuck. And when you save the Earth and everybody dies every three months in Marvel and DC Comics, where do you go from there? You can’t have bank robberies anymore. Everybody goes bigger all the time, and nobody cares about what’s going on with anybody other than the top five wrestlers…’
July 3, 2018
[comics] The ‘Lost’ Alan Moore interview … a little-known pre-Watchmen interview from 1985. ‘My basic theory is that I’ve got a single world that I’m writing about in three dimensions. I want to get that over to the artist, but I don’t want to imprison the artist. Especially since it’s quite likely that he’s got a better visual imagination than I have. I try to give them as much detail as they possibly need, but also explain in the script that if there’s a panel that they want to change or if they think they have a better idea, they should follow it up. The script’s not, engraved in stone. I want to give them maximum freedom and, with the amount of detail, maximum support as well. WATCHMEN, in particular, has been really, really thick, like I’ve said. I’m capable of spending two or three typed pages just on one panel, especially if I’m talking about the lighting, and the camera angles, and the positioning of the figures, the atmosphere, the expressions on their faces… when you try to describe reality, there’s quite a lot to talk about.’
July 2, 2018
[people] Ask Reddit: What drama is currently going down in the world of your hobby that the rest of us probably haven’t heard about? … Large collection of amusing posts about some huge dramas in small worlds. ‘Cockygate – A lucrative erotica e-author tried to trademark the word “cocky” and was going after romance authors. Romance Writers of America hired a lawyer to contest that nonsense.’
June 29, 2018
[people] Inside Trials of Johnny Depp: Lawsuits, Drinking, Marriage Gone Wrong … Unputdownable profile of Johnny Depp. ‘We move to the dining room for a three-course meal of pad thai, duck and gingerbread with berries. Depp sits at the head of the table and motions toward some rolling papers and two equal piles of tobacco and hash, and asks if I mind. I don’t. He pauses for a second. “Well, let’s drink some wine first.” This goes on for 72 hours.’
June 28, 2018
[comics] When Alan Moore wrote football comics… Scans of a comic Alan Moore wrote for a 1982 World Cup souvenir from Marvel UK.
June 27, 2018
[tech] Confessions of a Disk Cracker: the secrets of 4am. … Interview with 4am – a modern software cracker cracking old programs. ‘Nobody got kudos for cracking “Irregular Spanish Verbs in the Future Tense,” no BBS would waste the hard drive space to host it, and no user would sacrifice their phone line to download it. So it never got preserved in any form. And even the things that did get cracked weren’t fully preserved. Those same technical constraints led to a culture where the smallest version of a game always won. That meant stripping out the animated boot sequence, the title screen, the multi-page introduction, the cut scenes, anything deemed “non-essential” to the pirates. The holy grail was cutting away so much that you could distribute the game (or what was left of it) as a single file that could be combined with other unrelated games on a single floppy disk.’
June 26, 2018
[rorschach] The Eye of the Beholder … A look at the history, art and theories behind Rorschach’s inkblots. ‘The science of the Rorschach, to the extent that one can refer to it as a science, is a science of artistic response as the key to personality.’
June 25, 2018
[movies] David Lynch: ‘You gotta be selfish. It’s a terrible thing’ … A Profile of David Lynch. ‘There is another striking scene from childhood. One night, Lynch writes, he encountered a beautiful naked woman walking down the street, bruised and traumatised. “It was so incredible. It seemed to me that her skin was the colour of milk, and she had a bloodied mouth.” He was too young or too transfixed to find out who she was before she vanished. After art school, Lynch hustled for years to make Eraserhead, widely believed to be a response to the birth of his first child, Jennifer, who had club feet. Cineasts still debate what the onscreen infant was made of: skinned rabbit, lamb foetus? But when I ask Lynch he bats it away. “I don’t talk about the baby.”’
June 22, 2018
[art] How to spot a perfect fake: the world’s top art forgery detective … Fascinating look at using forensics to find forged art. ‘Like criminals of every stripe, modern forgers have kept easy pace with the techniques that attempt to trap them. The mismatch between the purported age of a painting and the true age of its ingredients is the workhorse of Martin’s technique. So forgers have grown more rigorous in their harvesting of materials, taking the trouble, for instance, to source wooden panels from furniture they know is dateable to the year of the fake they are creating. (The trick isn’t wholly new; Terenzio da Urbino, a 17th-century conman, scrabbled around for filthy old canvases and frames, cleaned them up, and turned them into “Raphaels”.) Forgers also test their own fakes to ensure they’ll pass. Wolfgang Beltracchi, a German artist who served three years in prison for forging paintings worth $45m, surveyed the chemical elements in his works by running them under X-ray fluorescence guns – the same handheld devices, resembling Star Trek phasers, that many art fairs now train upon their exhibits.’
June 21, 2018
[comics] Notes Toward a Future Understanding of Wally Wood … Some interesting views on Wally Wood. ‘The violence in Total War and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents isn’t bloody, but it is blunt. You don’t empathize with the civilians, but you recognize that brutality has been done. It’s not the villains that are doing the destruction here, but the artist, and it’s directed inward. That his focus and his allegiance to his craft remains crystal clear as this battle is waged—-yes, here we come to part of what I think makes Wood so important and why I always want to read one of his stories. He is there, in every one of them, and often there with pain, though he never indulges it.’
June 20, 2018
[wiki] Galloway’s war of words with a mystery Wikipedia editor … A look at George Galloway’s feud with a supposedly bias pseudonymous Wikipedia editor… ‘He’s recently caught the attention of bloggers and has been the subject of stories in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and Russian state-owned outlets Sputnik and RT. There have been allegations on social media – all unproven – that he’s a government agent, employed by rich and powerful media interests, or is a mainstream journalist with an obsessive hobby.’
June 19, 2018
[charts] Spurious Correlations … Amusing graphs proving that Correlation is not Causation.
June 18, 2018
[the sea] The Thieves Who Steal Sunken Warships, Right Down to the Bolts … Fascinating story which feels like the start of a Dirk Pitt adventure. ‘For the most part, this kind of theft tends to be a low-tech job. Salvagers pose as fishermen aboard ramshackle boats anchored at the site, and then dive the wrecks for particular parts. Sometimes, they’re audacious enough to arrive with a barge and crane and bring up heavier pieces. They make off with valuable parts first, like those made of brass and copper. But even as salvagers move on to less valuable things like aluminum shafts, they’ll leave plenty of debris in their wake—fasteners, broken metal plating, and of course, the hulls of the ships themselves. That’s a huge part of what is so mysterious about these Java sea wrecks: Not a single bolt remains. Highly unusual, even for skilled and ambitious salvagers.’
June 15, 2018
[phones] Why Doesn’t Anyone Answer the Phone Anymore? … Alexis Madrigal wonders about the death of analog phone culture. ‘If someone called you, if you were there, you would pick up, you would say hello. That was just how phones worked. The expectation of pickup was what made phones a synchronous medium. I attach no special value to it. There’s no need to return to the pure state of 1980s telephonic culture. It’s just something that happened, like lichen growing on rocks in the tundra, or bacteria breaking down a fallen peach. Life did its thing, on and in the inanimate substrate. But I want to dwell on the existence of this cultural layer, because it is disappearing…’
June 14, 2018
[thinking] 9 Mental Models to Solve Difficult Problems … Another look at mental models. ‘Hanlon’s Razor – Hard to trace in its origin, Hanlon’s Razor states that we should not attribute to malice that which is more easily explained by stupidity. In a complex world, using this model helps us avoid paranoia and ideology. By not generally assuming that bad results are the fault of a bad actor, we look for options instead of missing opportunities. This model reminds us that people do make mistakes. It demands that we ask if there is another reasonable explanation for the events that have occurred. The explanation most likely to be right is the one that contains the least amount of intent.’