Category Archives: Miscellanea

Einstein’s brain (and some science links)

“I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” — Stephen Jay Gould. I don’t have anything to add to that quote, but I thought it was a good start to another post of science-related links and SF covers

Vox suggests robots taking our jobs are less of a problem than robots and AI making work worse.Plans to help the bison by building the world’s longest wildlife bridge.

The fossil fuels industry allegedly saw the problems of global warming and rising waters years ago — and lied about it.Dogs protecting penguins. I know it’s not exactly science, but it’s so cute.Jungle cities of ancient cultures were more successful than we think.

#SFWApro. Covers by Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane, Kane again and Roy Krenkel

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Links of luck and chance

Vox says “acknowledging luck is profoundly threatening to the lucky.” Lots of people, as Texas Governor Ann Richards once said of George W. Bush, are born on third base and think they hit a triple. Being reminded they’re not all-star material upsets them no end

Trump, of course, was profoundly lucky. Born to a millionaire. Won the presidency partly on luck — if not for factors such as the FBI’s Comey announcing a last minute investigation into Clinton (who already had decades of right-wing propaganda painting her as the devil incarnate), he’d have missed his shot. Of course he also has the advantage that when you’re rich and well-connected you don’t need luck. “One of many undeniable truths about the American elite is that once you’re in it, you can get away with nearly anything providing you have the right friends.”  Trump, of course, ignores all of that and believes that he’s some kind of superman.

Another advantage is that Trump’s a sociopath who doesn’t give a crap about the law. As Above the Law says, the system only works, to the extent it does, because “most people, most of the time, follow the law, for no reason other than it happens to be the law. We don’t run red lights even when nobody is around, we don’t piss in the elevator, we don’t maliciously defame our enemies, we don’t solicit prostitution, we don’t leave the restaurant without paying our bill, we don’t cosh random black people in London.” The system isn’t good at dealing with people who do whatever they damn well please and will sue you if refuse to cooperate

Not everyone is that lucky or secure. And even if we are, “when considering whether we should endorse a proposed law or policy, we can ask: if I did not know if this would affect me or not, would I still support it?”

What does the Bible teach about wealth and poverty? That fortune and misfortune are often just a matter of dumb luck. Merit, blessing, cursing, reward and punishment don’t enter into it, “but time and chance happen to them all.””

Some things aren’t luck though: the failure of complex systems is inevitable. Some things aren’t inevitable: contrary to libertarian dictum, the “tragedy of the commons” is a myth. More here.

But what about Jew-hating preacher Rick Wiles, who declared the vaccines were Satanic and now has the Trump Virus? Obviously if you catch a pandemic you’re not protecting yourself from, that’s not luck. Or more precisely, there’s still an element of chance but the odds are going to shift against you. Or I suppose we could take a leaf out of the “God sent that hurricane to punish us for abortion!” school of Christian thought and assume this is God warning anti-vaxxers to stop that shit.

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Filed under economics, Miscellanea, Politics

Science and tech links

Some of these are old, but they’re still interesting (I hope)

The Washington Post discovers Apple’s new AirTags make it easy to find things. Slipped into a car seat or a purse, they can also make it easy to stalk you.

What bacteria might be thawing out in the Arctic and how dangerous are they?

The U.S. Army is looking to a cyborg future and worried movies will bias us against cyborgs.

To tighten its grip on the people, the Russian government is deploying its own internet.

In the 1940s, city architecture decided cities should be built as if the default resident was a six-foot tall man. Female designers of the 1980s, pointed out that was bullshit.

The UK recognizes animals as sentient beings.

Remember the days of the 19th century when Baptist priests built experimental airships inspired by the Bible?

Naughty, naughty Facebook — a new lawsuit attacks the social media over censorship of anti-vaxxers.

Electric books, classes by radio and other tech that would supposedly transform education. And then there’s the dream of 50 or 60 years ago that by now Americans would be working 30 hours a week, or less.

The challenges of beating ransomware.

“Trump’s blog shows none of the technical sophistication his team would need to build a new social media site. The blog does not save one’s progress or previously read messages, and asks viewers every time they open the page whether they want alerts to their email and phone, regardless of whether they’ve already signed up.” — a look at Trump’s efforts to stay important online.

#SFWApro. Cover by Rafael De Latorre, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Let’s do sciencing! Science and tech links

We’ve lost so much polar ice to global warming, it’s shifting Earth’s axis of rotation.

Are unidentified drones in the midwest just a new UFO myth? It seems not.

The NYPD introduced a Robodog to fight crime. The public objected.“Do not think that thoughtful design is just for the elderly, or the sick, or the disabled. In the field of design, this is called “inclusive design” for a reason: It helps everyone. Curb cuts were meant to help people who had trouble walking, but it helps anyone wheeling things: carts, baby carriages, suitcases. Closed captions are used in noisy bars.” — from an article on why good design for the elderly can benefit everyone.

The Netherlands may have reversed the decline in its bee population.

Speaking of bees, here’s how honey can stay edible for centuries.

Florida has banned social media companies from censoring journalism or deplatforming candidates, but Disney + gets an exemption.

Three years ago, a piece of the Vesta asteroid crashed into Botswana.

There’s a global shortage of semiconductor chips — and even dog-washing is suffering from it.

Arkansas is pushing creationism back into schools.

Azimuth Security has hacked iPhones for the government. Apple does not approve.

Why does QAnon enthrall people? A game designer’s analysis says it’s beautifully designed to lead you away from reality and into a maze of mystery.

#SFWApro. Covers by Sheldon Moldoff, Murphy Anderson and Jack Kirby

 

 

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I like tea. I like Sherlock Holmes

So when my sister got me a gift certificate to Local Spicery, which sells both spices and tea, I couldn’t resist buying this one.A satisfactory blend, in case you were wondering. I’m also pleased with the others I ordered: Assam, Darjeeling and Brobdingnag tea (an Irish breakfast blend). Though the latter should, of course, have come in a giant size tin.

Due to becoming caffeine sensitive with age, I have to drink all my day’s tea in the morning, which is occasionally frustrating, but better than getting even less sleep than I often do. I’ve begun having a cup first thing in the morning, which lets me squeeze in extra. And I love starting the day with tea, so hey.

#SFWApro.

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Filed under Miscellanea, Personal

Image of a tree, reflected in a puddle

I fell behind in post-writing so you get an arty photograph of a puddle reflection.And because I keep forgetting to link to my Atomic Junkshop posts, here’s the most recent ones:

Why Geoff Johns’ The Three Jokers is a train wreck.

The failure of Jack Kirby’s Omac.And my entirely irrational fondness for B’Wana Beast, one of the last of the white jungle gods. But hey, anything where the villain has a hundred-foot tall crocodile mecha for his mobile base can’t be all bad.#SFWApro. Images by Jack Kirby (top) and Mike Sekowsky, all rights remain with current holder.

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Science and SF comics covers again

Along with preserving artifacts and sights of the past some scientists want to preserve smells.

Can we make a mummy speak?

A century ago, a British barrister bought Stonehenge at auction for £6,600.

The government spent tens of millions to get a treatment for chemical weapon attacks. The maker won’t guarantee it works.

Why we have too many ventilators. Not incompetence, just changes in medical procedure.

If you think social media and disinformation are bad now, deepfakes will make things worse. Forensic science can exposes fakes, but let’s face it, most of us (myself included) aren’t likely to probe that deeply.

Some ESP research may not have proved psi exists, but it shows a boatload of problems with psychological research. Not that psychology is unique in this.

Annie Jump Cannon developed the modern system for classifying stars. Like so many women in science, she didn’t get the credit she deserved.

I’ve read speculation that AI could eventually replace writers. Here’s an example.

Experiments question the fundamentals of quantum theory.

#SFWApro. Covers top to bottom by Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane, Nick Cardy, Kane, Kane and Kane

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Assorted writing and media-related links

Even if Marvel wanted to stop cops wearing Punisher insignia, there’s not much they can do.

How a l0w-budget indie horror film became the hit of the summer.

Foz Meadows recounts some really unpleasant interactions with the Red Sofa literary agency.

Publishers filed suit to stop Internet Archive lending out unlimited copies of digital books. The Archive stopped, while spouting bullshit about how this is an attack on the very concept of library lending (nope. Libraries actually pay for digital books).

Vice calls out an author for arguing pirating creative works is cool. Don Henley, meanwhile, has asked Congress to do more to fight digital piracy.

Wonder where President Tiny-Brain got the idea that old man police knocked down in Baltimore was a false-flag operator? From One America Network, which makes Fox News look like Walter Cronkite.

When blogs became a thing, a lot of right-wingers prophesied the end of the “lamestream media.” They’re still prophesying it.

Spotify now rules the podcasting world.

John Scalzi signed a record-breaking multimillion-dollar publishing deal with Tor a few years back. Here he reviews the first five years.

If you need sound effects, the BBC has your back.

Scalzi, again, this time on creatives who aren’t talking about politics.

 

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Filed under copyright, Miscellanea, Writing

Science/tech links and SF comics cover art

What is Stockholm Syndrome and does it really happen?

Could the U.S. government shut down our Internet?

How good are online DNA testing services?

Antarctic temperatures are hitting 60 and 70 degrees. It’ll get worse.

IBM touted Watson as the AI that could cure cancer. They overhyped.

The Pentagon is sitting on a lot of the bandwidth needed for 5G networks.

Some hospitals think a great way to train medical students in pelvic exams is to have them make exams on unconscious patients without their consent. This may be even creepier.

IBM touted Watson as the AI that could cure cancer. They overhyped.

What we can learn about the past by studying tooth tartar.

New ideas about how humans feel pain.

I’ve always thought of clothes moths as a problem left behind in our past. But no, they’re not.

The secrets behind the E-13B typographic characters.

With so much proprietary software in farm equipment, John Deere claims farmers have no right to make their own repairs.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Kirby, Bob Brown, Kirby, Brown, Sheldon Moldoff and Murphy Anderson.

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Merry Christmas, One and All

I was going to post some Christmas movie reviews, but they’ll have to wait until this weekend.

If you’re Christian, or celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas.

If you celebrate anything else, whether it’s Kwanzaa, Festivus, Yule, Solstice, Eid, Diwali, Hanukkah, or any other event, happy holidays!

To all of us, peace and goodwill. Neither is always attainable, but that’s all the more reason to wish for them.

We’re halfway through the darkest part of the year. Let’s hope/pray/wish for light to grow strong, in every way.

Merry Christmas.

#SFWApro. Rights to all images remain with current holders. Bottom cover is by John Howe.

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