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July 6, 2005

Open thread 45
Posted by Patrick at 01:10 PM *

“You know as well as I do we all go around in disguise. The halo stuffed in the pocket, the cloven hoof awkward in the shoe, the X-ray eye blinking behind thick lenses, the two midgets dressed as one tall man, the giant stooping in a pinstripe, the pirate in a housewife’s smock, the wings shoved into sleeveholes, the wild, racing, wandering, raping, burning, loving pulses of humanity decorously disguised as a roomful of human beings. I know goddamn well what’s out there, under all those masks. Beauty and Power and Terror and Love.”—James Tiptree, Jr.

Comments on Open thread 45:
#1 ::: fjm ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 01:34 PM:

Quite possibly the finest short story writer the field has produced.

#2 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 01:44 PM:

Joanna Russ would get my vote. But Tiptree is definitely up there.

#3 ::: Soli ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 02:01 PM:

What story is that from? It's been ages since I read her. (Actually, both Tiptree and Russ. Though all I read of Russ was Female Man.)

#4 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 02:02 PM:

Both Joanna Russ and Theodore Sturgeon (also arguably the greatest short story author in Science Fiction) are reviewed in the current issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction. For that matter, a stupendous introduction to "The Gulag Archipelago" by Brian Aldiss, so good that I had to read the whole thing out loud to my appreciative wife. Aldiss makes the case that Alexander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn's opening paragraph, and world-building, are akin to a great SF trilogy. If so, "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" [1962] is a great SF-like short story. For that matter, The First Circle [1968] is very much a science fiction novel -- it's about scientists, engineers, and technician building a breakthrough gizmo for a hideously dystopian government, and finding love at the edge of the precipice.

"Do not pursue what is illusory - property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade and can be confiscated in one fell night. Live with a steady superiority over life - don't be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness; it is after all, all the same: the bitter doesn't last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing."

"Our envy of others devours us most of all."

"Own only what you can carry with you; know language, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag."

"Pride grows in the human heart like lard on a pig."

#5 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 02:14 PM:

Soli, it's not from a story, it's from a letter, quoted by Michael Swanwick in his introduction to the recent best-of collection from Tachyon, Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.

Russ's The Female Man is of course a crucial text in the history of SF, but her short stories are what really display her range. The collection The Zanzibar Cat (hardcover from Arkham House; paperback from, you may be startled to hear, Baen) is a good place to start. There are probably at least two or three SF stories as good as "Nobody's Home," but I have trouble thinking of what they might be.

#6 ::: Graham Sleight ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 02:27 PM:

The full interview-by-mail from which that Tiptree quotation comes is in Meet Me at Infinity, a terrific posthumous collection of her nonfiction and uncollected fiction. A further sample:

I once worked briefly on a paper, the good old crazy Chicago Sun, where a bloat-eyed scotch-ridden frog from Texas called a feature editor kept a big pair of shears by his bottle. When you handed him your hot and beating prose he eyed it in silence with the reds of his eyes shining over the bags and then took up the shears and cut off the last third, which was where the point was. A learning experience.

#7 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 02:46 PM:

Multitasked geekitude.

These links brought to you by the letter Eeeee! and the numbers 9 and 30.

#9 ::: Carrie ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 03:34 PM: I the only person who doesn't much care for Tiptree?

I say this having read Up the Walls of the World, Brightness Falls From the Air, and Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, and come up with precisely three stories I vaugely liked: "Houston Houston Do You Read?", "The Man Who Walked Home", and the one about the woman who thinks she's a courier rather than a housewife.

#10 ::: Carrie ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 03:35 PM:

Addendum: And I didn't think she was any great craftsman, either, but that could easily be incompatibility of style; I have experienced stories written in a style I enjoy but with content I don't.

#11 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 03:52 PM:

I seldom could get into Tiptree's stories either. BUT... She did write "Beam Me Home", one of the best homages to the original Star Trek.

#12 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 04:44 PM:

On McSweeney's:

Possible locations for that Far, Far Away galaxy where some war happened Long, Long Ago:

#13 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 04:52 PM:

I don't think I'd say I enjoy her stories, but they make me think, and frequently a turn of phrase or densely packed sentence makes me pause and metaphorically fondle it.

She wrote great letters though, and her quirky penmanship was enough to make me long for a fountain pen, which, when I got it, was a complete and total disaster since cheap fountain pens are not meant for writing on cheap notebook paper. Really, they're not.

#14 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 05:17 PM:

No writer works for everyone.

#15 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 05:45 PM:

Random aside on the particles: I'm getting seriously mixed messages from the Science - Fiction - God - Truth shirt. Too many ways to combine all those words, and only one of them says what the shirt's creator seems to intend.

#16 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 06:02 PM:

Still, I remember a fascinating interview with Tiptree. God, how long ago was that? In 1982? I still think of her almost mystical description of scientific research and how, after the proper 'rites' have been fulfilled by the scientist, Nature eventually is cornered and HAS to field an answer.

I also seem remember from that interview a kind of sadness about Life. So, when she and her husband fulfilled a suicide pact, I wasn't surprised.

#17 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 06:13 PM:

To me, the science - fiction god - truth shirt says just two things:

1. I care so little for education that I can't tell a minus sign from an equals sign.

2. Come join us on our rocket ship to a new and better planet hidden behind the hale-bopp comet!

#18 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 06:26 PM:

Piscus, I think they put in hyphens where they meant to put an equal sign.

I've finished my project for this year's BFAC.

#19 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 06:59 PM:

There are no planets "behind" Hale-Bopp.

It is firmly attached to the crystal sphere which defines the edge of the material world.

#20 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 07:52 PM:

I'm one of those people Tiptree's work doesn't work for. But I do recognize tremendous craft in them. I do know why Tiptree doesn't work for me: there's a thing about the way she presents men, as if she thinks they are innately to blame for what's wrong with the world and they can do no beter. I sort of doubt that's what she meant to convey, but that's how it feels to me.

Joanna Russ, however, she's just a diamond, all right, bright and hard and rare.

#21 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 08:20 PM:

I'm one of those who thinks Sturgeon is still the best short-story writer SF has produced.

Tip's penmanship? All I got from her was typed postcards with a blue ribbon, with very elegant phrasing, and I cherish the few I have.

Both Russ and Tiptree are great short-story writers -- but Sturgeon was better. Too bad he couldn't write novels (which Russ certainly can -- and polemics, and strong political non-fiction; she's a more broadly effective writer, IMO).

#22 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 08:24 PM:

I have not thought hard and long about why this is so, but I am a reader for whom, as life goes on, Sturgeon is not wearing well.

More on this if I have it. FWIW.

#23 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 08:51 PM:

A little late to the party, but I think Greg Egan's _Axiomatic_ is possibly the finest non-"best of" short story anthology the field has produced. I know Egan sounds like an eccentric choice next to Tiptree, Cordwainer Smith, Sturgeon, etc, but I think it is deserved.

_Axiomatic_ was stunning and held up perfectly well along side Tiptree's _Her Smoke Rose Up Forever_ and Smith's _The Rediscovery of Man_. I say this as less than a fan of Egan's novels.

#24 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 08:57 PM:

Collection. Not anthology.

In general publishing parlance, an anthology is a collection of works by multiple creators. (The Beatles' eccentric use of the term notwithstanding.)

I agree that Axiomatic is a pretty good book.

#25 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 10:07 PM:

The Tiptree Awards were presented this weekend. I missed the presentation, as I was not present for the first day of Gaylaxicon, but I can tell you the rest of the con was a great deal of fun, L. M. Bujold is very gracious, and con suites full of chocolate attract quite a crowd.

#26 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2005, 11:40 PM:

I have not thought hard and long about why this is so, but I am a reader for whom, as life goes on, Sturgeon is not wearing well.

Twenty years ago, I thought Sturgeon was The Best, I couldn't get enough. Then, ten years ago, the Complete Sturgeon series started coming out, and I found that maybe, in fact, I could get enough. After Vol. III, I found that there seemed to be lots of other authors demanding my attention.

I think in my case, I just OD'd.

Lucy Kemnitzer on Tiptree:
there's a thing about the way she presents men, as if she thinks they are innately to blame for what's wrong with the world and they can do no better.

That's funny, that's one of the reasons why she works for me.

David Bilek:
I think Greg Egan's _Axiomatic_ is possibly the finest non-"best of" short story anthology the field has produced.

That book in particular is so good that it saved me from thinking that I could ever write Hard SF. I mean, in the back of my head, I always thought that I could write something up to the standard of, say, a run-of-the-mill Ace Double; but writers like Egan have raised the bar too high for mere mortals.

So I'm now content to be a reader.

#27 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 02:30 AM:

Patrick -- I feel kind of like Paul Williams talking about Bob Dylan here, but I'm interested to know which of Sturgeon's stories you'd reconsider. Yes, he has lesser stories. His best, to me, illuminate the human condition as nobody else has. Sui generis, and good enough at that to help me see other people in a way I hadn't before.

The world has indeed moved on. Much of Hemingway is now seen as sexist, much of Kipling has racist tinges that are difficult to get past. But like each of them, Sturgeon expanded the way many of us see the world, and did it without trying to be didactic. And he did it beautifully, with love as the basis (unlike Sheckley's wonderful sarcasm or Tenn's wittiness for contemporary examples). Historically, who compares? Keller and Weinbaum paved the way, but Ted took me much farther, and continues to challenge me as I read the few stories I hadn't read before.

#28 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 03:13 AM:

...much of Kipling has racist tinges that are difficult to get past.

Interesting. To me, getting past Kipling's racism is like getting past the fantastic planetary science of "Journey To The Center Of The Earth" or "War of The Worlds." Or, to take a more recent example, getting past the clunky and stupid room-sized voice-interfaced computers in Eric Flint's recent enjoyable compilation of Tom Godwin's "The Cold Equations & Other Stories".

To me, the bits in archaic fiction that offend modern sensibilities are part of what make it worth reading, by illuminating the world of the author for me.

#29 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 03:35 AM:

Intellectually I know that an "anthology" contains works by more than one author, but I can never seem to get my fingers to believe it.

#30 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 04:34 AM:

I reread some Sturgeon recently, and I noticed an annoying tendency for there to be a simultaneous Gary Stu thing going on and very very weird attitudes towards the female characters. Notwithstanding, I still can appreciate some of the stories.

Bob -- well, I just don't know. I mean -- rage against the bad and dumb things done by men: that's okay. Harsh words about patriarchy: I'm all about that. But -- I like men a whole lot, and I think they can do better, just as women can, and though I'm not looking for utopian fiction and I don't demand an uplifting ending, I do like to have the sense that it's worth trying to be good. And I don't think Tiptree's work has that sense at all. It's all sort of despairing, to my eyes. I think.

It's sort of unfair to try to analyze very thoroughly why one bounces off a writer's work, because you end up trying so hard to discover reasons that you run the risk of inventing them.

#31 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 05:31 AM:

I know nothing of Ms. (?) Tiptree or her work, but this quote certainly reminded me of one of C.S. Lewis' most famous passages which I take the liberty of quoting in full:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you may talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet if at all only in a nightmare.

All day long we are in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in light of these overwhelming possibilities it is with awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal, Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations, these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit -- immortal horrors or ever lasting splendours.

#32 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 06:56 AM:

I think Sturgeon in the aggregate can (these days) feel cloying. But individual Sturgeon stories still lift the skin and hair off the top of my skull and blow a strange wind over the exposed brain.


#33 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 08:19 AM:

Bombs are not unusual, after so many years of the IRA -- but a suicide bomber in London? I am selfishly glad that most of my friends no longer live there.

#34 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 08:27 AM:

I've seen no reports about a suicide bomber, just bombs. But get used to it. When you drive people to a combination of despair and hatred, you'll find that they'll gladly die to kill you.

So far, the only "Londoner" I've heard from is Cory Doctorow, who is in Michigan at the moment, and is OK.

Okay, we know the drill. Who have you heard from? Who have they heard from. If your from the UK, speak up and say your OK, and relay OKs.

Even if you aren't in the London area -- just as you guys occasionally get confused about how close our cities are to NYC, we get lost in how close you are to Central London. And, when your hearing about explosions and bodies, part of your rational mind stops working correctly.

#36 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 08:45 AM:

(from London)

It's worth noting that blowing up bits of London with high explosive is one of the few techniques of political coercion that has been extensively tested over a period of several years and shown not to work.

#37 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 09:07 AM:

Kate -- thanks, that answered most of the immediate questions I had.

#38 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 09:10 AM:

(50 miles from London) I'm fine, and my relatives in London are all fine. I am quite impressed with how much calmer we are in my office than we were on 9/11.

#39 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 09:19 AM:

It's worth noting that blowing up bits of London with high explosive is one of the few techniques of political coercion that has been extensively tested over a period of several years and shown not to work.

What do you mean it doesn't work? Are there any rubbish bins, anywhere on any railway station in London? That's the long-lasting effect of the political pressure caused by terrorism.

(I still think removing the bins was giving in to terror, and therefore shouldn't have happened. What did they think it would achieve -- the IRA would look at it and say, "Oh. The bins have gone. Guess I'm not going to plant any more bombs?")

#40 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 09:26 AM:

I am quite impressed with how much calmer we are in my office than we were on 9/11.

It is, of course, a much less devastating attack than 9/11 was. The latest figures are 2 dead and a few hundred injured, which hardly compares even to the earliest lowest estimates of the casualties on 9/11. Plus the emotional effect of destroying one of the world's best known landmarks was quite startling.

#41 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 09:27 AM:

The funny thing here, considering the two writers most under discussion, is that Tiptree wrote that letter to me, and I've reread it many times, but when I started reading the opening quote I thought, "Is this Sturgeon?"

I don't know what I think of Sturgeon these days, because the only volume I've read of the Complete Works is the first, which is full of minor work. (I didn't carry on with the series not because of any dissatisfaction with that book, but...just because. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I apparently still believe I will live forever and thus will have time to read the 10,000 books crammed throughout the house.)

I hope I don't have Patrick's response to Sturgeon when I do get around to rereading them, because it always hurts to lose a love (even when it's just a love that turns into like) -- I hope that the fact that his stories seem dated to me when I read them in the 1970s (even the ones that were written in the 1970s) and still thought they were wonderful will work in my favor.

One comment on Tiptree: At WisCon last year there was a panel on things you can reread, and everyone agreed that the one thing they could not reread was "The Screwfly Solution." Lois Bujold said the same thing on a panel at Gaylaxicon this past weekend. What happens in that story is so horrible that people -- especially though not exclusively women -- just can't bear it.

And oddly, it is the piece of hers which I have reread the most often. I return to it again and again. Maybe it's the glass half full -- well, certainly not half, but there are a few drops still in it. I read it to read about the men who struggle to not kill the women they love. You can read it as you can fight, fight, fight, but you're going to lose anyway, or you can read it as you know you're going to lose but you're not going to give in. I go back to it for the glimpses we get of these men who don't want to give in -- though when the scientist husband finally succumbs it's so horrific that even Alli Sheldon couldn't face it directly.

When I first read that was one of three times I can remember that I really was physically affected, blood-roaring-through-ears, by the intensity of a scene. I was reading Stephen King's The Green Mile in bed and hyperventilating so much over the climactic execution scene that my wife woke up and thought I was having a heart attack. And when Therese Raquin sat helplessly watching her stroke-stricken mother-in-law try to explain to her friends that she was a murderer, I couldn't move either -- short of maybe getting outside if the house caught on fire. Just couldn't move until it was over.

So. Let's hear yours.

#42 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 10:01 AM:

What do you mean it doesn't work? Are there any rubbish bins, anywhere on any railway station in London?

Yes, lots. They use transparent plastic bags hanging from a sort of waist-high basketball hoop, rather than rigid bins. In any case 1) I don't think the abolition of station rubbish bins was a core aim of the IRA's mainland campaign - 'working' in this context would mean 'forcing a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland' and 2) I was referring not to a group of about 60 semicriminal Irishmen with Semtex but to a group of about 100,000 semicriminal Germans with Heinkel 111s.

#43 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 10:10 AM:

What Jane said, about Sturgeon, but also I think there is a way in which sentimentality gets dated. We are different kinds of sentimental now, and Sturgeon's kind, which was practically invisible to me in 1980, sticks in my throat these days.

In the same way, I think, the original sentimentality of Kipling's They has been transformed by time into a more intense creepiness. There aren't any good words for talking about the distance between the writer and the reader, nor for what happens when that changes, but in this specific case, I'm pretty sure there are things Kipling expected his contemporary reader to see sentimentally as well as creepily (the particular hand touching) and which the present reader sees as twice as creepy for the visible and dated sentiment.

When I talk about mode and what makes it different from voice it is largely because mode controls things like degree and angle of sentimentality and degree and angle of joke-sharing.

(Let us sit down in the middle of the ruins and talk about complexities of narrative conventions. Suck air, my friends, this is what we mean by civilization.)

#44 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 10:23 AM:

Lucy Kemnitzer: I do know why Tiptree doesn't work for me: there's a thing about the way she presents men, as if she thinks they are innately to blame for what's wrong with the world and they can do no beter.

I am enlightened. I'd never been able to put my finger on why I didn't need to reread her. Her style is beautiful in places, but the essentialism makes me cranky.

#45 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 10:27 AM:

Jo wrote: Let us sit down in the middle of the ruins and talk about complexities of narrative conventions. Suck air, my friends, this is what we mean by civilization.

Indeed it is: those of us who aren't living in brand-new subdivisions are living on the ruins of the past, the past that birthed us.

Daniel wrote that the bits of older fiction that offend against modern sensibilities are what make it worth reading. To the extent that that's true, I think he's reading the works in an essentially different mode than their contemporary audiences, and probably different than the authors intended. Authorial intent is a bog full of sinkholes, but I doubt, for example, that Kipling's goal was to show how racist his society was; or, an example from my own reading, that George Eliot was particularly trying to show how much the railroad had changed English society in the 19th century.

#46 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 10:27 AM:

"This is what we mean by civilization."

Quite. It's not a condition, it's a job.

#47 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 10:30 AM:

Hello, Jeff Smith. Great post.

I'm not ignoring everyone's Sturgeon commentary. I reported my own reaction as a piece of data without analysis. I need to go back to Sturgeon and figure out what's actually going on in my latter-day response to his work.

#48 ::: liz ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 11:17 AM:

Daniel Boone said, To me, the bits in archaic fiction that offend modern sensibilities are part of what make it worth reading, by illuminating the world of the author for me.

My daughter, 16, is dsylexic, so we listen to a lot of fiction. At one point during Huck Finn she said, "Oh, mom, it's like time travel, isn't it, hearing how things were different back then. I mean, they were still people, but they sure had different ideas than I do."

Clark's famous dictum ("Any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic") also has implications for the assumptions about the world in which we swim. Good fiction makes some of those assumptions visible.

#49 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 11:53 AM:

I too had problems with Sturgeon, back in the days when I was discovering more-or-less contemporary genre fiction in the Sixties and Seventies. By now, I can't remember whether I was trying to read his stories or the novels (stories probably, in the magazines of the day), but I just didn't take to him as I did to so many others. The memories are too vague for me to offer any analysis now, but once we get past the 90% of crap he so famously put into his Law (one of the truest Laws ever!), reading is very much a matter of personal taste.

#50 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:00 PM:

Hmmm, now I find myself trying to decide who the best SF/F short fiction writer is.

Robert Aickman is my favorite. When I read his collections, I find that I can't continue from one story to the next without a long pause; they just hit me really hard. What I can't decide is whether his relatively limited emotional range should count against him in some objective sense. Lafferty would have the same issue, if I liked him more (not that I don't like him, but not as much as Aickman).

Thomas M. Disch and Carol Emshwiller have a wider range, and at their best are as brilliant as Aickman.

Tiptree's best stories are as good as anyone's, but I find her maddeningly uneven. Ditto Russ, although less so, and Gene Wolfe. Sturgeon's clearly of great importance, and I read him with pleasure, but like many others I think his sentimentality keeps him out of the first rank.

#51 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:03 PM:

Vicki: If you think about how those subdivisions were created and on what, even those of us "living in brand-new subdivisions" are still "living on the ruins of the past", though less visibly.

Kim Stanley Robinson's The Gold Coast* touches on this, as, indeed, do Polanski's "Chinatown", Argento's "Inferno", and many other examples.

Sigh. Nasty news from London, especially striking because memories of the city were strongly brought back by the 2012 Olympic announcement just hours earlier.
They say there are ~600,000 Australians living in London at any time (plus tourists). There must be many thousands of ex-Londoners living or visiting here, and with bombs on buses & trains** like the ones so many of us use every day, many are feeling a real connexion with the people there. At the moment the estimate I've heard is around 30 'fatalities', and over a hundred injured.

* Also the name of a well-known city/area in Queensland, Australia.
** Makes me especially angry, 'cos I'm a rabid public transport promoter, and things like Madrid & London (& many examples in Israel) drive people away even more.

#52 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:39 PM:

I've read neither Tiptree nor Sturgeon -- I'm going to pick up Her Smoke Rose Up Forever and read "Screwfly" because it sounds like my kind of bleak. Can anyone recommend a good Sturgeon collection?

#53 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:42 PM:

Daniel wrote that the bits of older fiction that offend against modern sensibilities are what make it worth reading. To the extent that that's true, I think he's reading the works in an essentially different mode than their contemporary audiences, and probably different than the authors intended.

I'd dispute this, in the manner of a quibble, because I actually said the offensive bits "are part of what make it worth reading." (Emphasis added.) I'd say I read the old fiction in the same escapist "looking for an adventure story" way that I read modern fiction; and authorial intent bogs bedamned, I'm pretty sure that's what Kipling (for instance) was shooting for. The "learning something about Kipling's world" is for me a bonus, and not fundamentally a different mode of reading.

#54 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:33 PM:

I claim that Sturgeon does NOT suffer from sentimentality. Rather, he knew and loved rural small-town America of 1900-1950 similarly to the way Robert A. Heinlein knew and loved it. Rather than being trapped in the sentiments of this world, he stripped them away to show the hurricanes of hate and galaxies of love, in a thousand strange flavors, thus stepping from the acutely observed mundane into the universals of the human condition, and beyond.

His mature short stories, as in the most recent volume of the Collected works, are astonishingly well-crafted, with intricate strategies of misdirection, narration, psychology, things unspoken in dialog, and pacing, which unfold with memorable emotional effect. Literature with a capital L, folks. Have we forgotten how to read Sturgeon?

The current issue of NYRoSF also has a fine 1-page review of a reprint edition of Clifford Simak, who loved rural America. Nobody wrote like him, before or since. His work was informed by pround decency, and built carefully to mements of tremendous liberation.

There are other authors whose shortest fiction can do weird things to our central nervous systems: H. P. Lovecraft, Philip K. Dick, Fredric Brown, Vladimir Nabokov, Poul Anderson, Jack Vance, Samuel R. Delany, R. A. Lafferty, to pick a handful at random, but they were not dedicated to the secrets of the human heart as primarily as Sturgeon. Lovecraft had a pet vocabulary, Dick was distorted by drugs, Brown polished his grenades to pocket-sized, Nabokov knew too much about literature and wanted to play games, Poul Anderson preferred the elbow-room of novels, Vance had more to tell than a story could contain, Delany became entranced by Theory, Lafferty suffered from having had a happy childhood (his dark secret, as he told me in Austin at Nasfic).

Sturgeon had the usual run of finger exercises (the earlier volumes of his Collected works) but once he got where he was going, he got there almost every time. Had he not suffered from years of writer's block, or been unable to master the novel, he would be the one known by the mundane world: "I hate that sci-fi stuff, but you guys did, after all, have Sturgeon."

#55 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 02:07 PM:

Simak, Jonathan? Goodness, he was my favorite for the longest time. I haven't reread him in ages and maybe I wouldn't feel about him the way I used to. My best memory of him was Denver's worldcon in 1981: for reasons I can't remember, I found myself in the section of the con occupied by its organizers. As I walked past one room, I screeched to a halt, because there HE was. I hesitantly came in, asked if he would autograph one of his books, which he did gracefully then the old guy gave me a firm handshake. God, I'd have loved having him for a grandfather.

#56 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 02:46 PM:

Whoops. I meant to start the list of "other authors whose shortest fiction can do weird things to our central nervous systems" with Poe, creator of the modern science fiction short story, creator of the modern detective story. Poe articulated his theory of short fiction and short poetry precisely in terms of the effect on the reader. I think it appropriate to have a short list of greatest quintessentially American authors of short fiction start with Poe, continue through Stephen Crane and Mark Twain, and feature Sturgeon and Heinlein, followed by some of the other great authors mentioned in this thread. The NYRoSF has discussed how long it took the average Science Fiction author to rise to the level of the average pulp author of Mystery, Adventure, Westerns, and other genres. Sturgeon showed how far above average are the mountain peaks in our terrain.

My wife and I would love to see a feature film of a Simak novel, probably one with dogs.

#57 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 03:37 PM:

A movie based on a Simak story? I'd like that. True, 40 years ago, "the Outer Limits" did adapt "Good Night, Mr. James", but that wasn't typical of Simak. What I'd like to see done is the short story "the Big Front Yard", or, even better, the novel "Way Station". One can dream.

#58 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 07:52 PM:


The world's ugliest dog:

Cripes, that thing is two-thirds of the way to being a liche.

#59 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 09:02 PM:

Didn't there used to be a Particle about Hoo-Doo? And, if so, am I the only one who thought of:

The Rotational Spectrum and Structure of the HOOO Radical
Kohsuke Suma, Yoshihiro Sumiyoshi, Yasuki Endo*
The adduct of the hydroxyl radical with oxygen has been studied theoretically, in connection with atmospheric reactions, but its stability and structure remained an open question. Pure rotational spectra of the HOOO and DOOO radicals have now been observed in a supersonic jet by using a Fourier-transform microwave spectrometer with a pulsed discharge nozzle. The molecular constants extracted from 12 rotational transitions with fine and hyperfine splittings support a trans planar molecular structure, in contrast to the cis planar structure predicted by most ab initio calculations. The bond linking the HO and O2 moieties is fairly long (1.688 angstroms) and comparable to the F–O bond in the isoelectronic FOO radical.


Comments by software geeks about FOO may be inserted here.

#60 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 09:08 PM:

Also from a recent issue of Science is this tasty anecdote.
Ascent of Nanoscience in China
Chunli Bai

Science, Vol 309, Issue 5731, 61-63 , 1 July 2005

"The three most widely used high-tech words in China now are 'computer,' 'gene,' and 'nanometer,' according to the China Association for Science and Technology. The ability to utter these words, of course, does not guarantee that the speaker understands their meanings and implications. I witnessed an episode that illustrates the point. A news reporter asked a woman he was interviewing for a story about nanotechnology if she had ever heard the term 'nanometer.' 'Yes,' the lady answered. But when the reporter asked her what she thought the word meant, the woman replied that it might denote a special kind of rice. She was in fact drawing upon her knowledge of the language. In Chinese, the word for 'meter' has two meanings: One refers to the unit of length, and the other means rice. The woman's misunderstanding of the term 'nanometer,' in this case, is more amusing than concerning. But as nanoscience and nanotechnology become ever more consequential in our lives, we in the scientific community need to better inform and educate the public about the transformations this new nano era is likely to bring."

#61 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 09:09 PM:

Don't look at the world's ugliest dog pic that Stefan Jones provided. I've seen that demonspawn before. Before looking at it I thought, "How ugly could a doggie be, really?". Now I've stared the Lovecraftian horror in the face and things will never be the same. I am no longer an atheist; clearly there exists an angry, malevolent god.

#62 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 09:34 PM:

Don't look at the world's ugliest dog pic that Stefan Jones provided.


#63 ::: Aboulic ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 10:46 PM:

Re: Ugliest Dog pic.

Awww, don't you just wish you could pick him up, and cuddle him, and let him know how loved he is?

Isn't he sweet ?

#64 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 11:01 PM:

Caption for Ugliest Dog Pic:

"In the scene that followed, Joe claimed he had no idea the deep-frier was still hot. Only the most strenuous efforts by the management prevented Mrs. Buncombe from succumbing to hysterics. Fluffy, her award-winning long-haired Chihuahua, had lost the merit of his sobriquet and it was doubtful that he would ever show again."

#66 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 11:22 PM:

Makes me glad my mom's Very Old dog is a Lhasa Apso and age has not reduced his hair coat. Mom got the dog from my sister when sis became a retail proprieter and the dog went crazy when left alone at home long days/hated being IN the shop. He's been a huge comfort to my mom though, and it will be a sad day when he passes/

I mentioned to a co-worker that mom still had the dog and she said, "Good lord, he's still ALIVE?" After thinking I realized he's at least as old as my Melisande Anastasia cat and she's a class of 1987 cat. So he's extraordinarily old for a dog.

#67 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 01:00 AM:

"Isn't he sweet ?"

Oh, jeeeze, do we have to imagine how it TASTES too?

There is an antidote to the Wraith Dog picture.

#68 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 02:18 AM:

Mary Dell write:

> Here's an absurdly beautiful painting.

I was particularly taken with:

It's the daschunds I guess.

btw - what about that kangaroo thing that won the 3d prize - technical skill, yes, but my god that's a grotesque picture!

#69 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 02:29 AM:

Thought I had posted this, but apparently the Etheric Aphids ate it. Apologies if it shows up twice.

Ed McBain, and Evan Hunter, and Sal Lombino, and a number of other good writers, have all died at age 78.

Otto Penzler has one more 87th Precinct novel on the way, which will bring the total to 55. A not inconsiderable achievement, considering that they can be considered one serial novel. And, of course, there's all the other work: The Blackboard Jungle, the screenplay for Hitchcock's "The Birds."

Good obit at

#70 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 04:32 AM:

New Yorker Restaurant Reviews We Actually Did Finish Reading, But Aren't Sure Why

Tables for Two: Bar Americain

Mixed drinks . . . includ[e] the Sazerac (a New Orleans concoction of brandy and bitters...)

Bobby Flay has finally gone too far.

#71 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 09:39 AM:

JVP: Sturgeon alone of humanity was immune to sentimentality? Perhaps I used the wrong word. You say he addressed "the secrets of the human heart". Perhaps what I wanted to say was that he addressed the secrets of the human heart in a way that was very much of his time and now seems a little peculiar and a little dated.

I do like Sturgeon a lot, and I think his best short work bears comparison to the very best of the field, but on a recent re-read of More Than Human I didn't find the towering masterpiece I remembered, instead I kept being brought up a little short.

#72 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 10:41 AM:

Jo Walton:

I am not trying to put Sturgeon above all other writers, nor deny that many authors are seen differently when the world they deconstruct has vanished. I'm politely disagreeing with the readers in this thread who pegged him for sentimentality, when I believe that his emotional strategy was far more devious and intricate. The New York Review of Science Fiction article I refer to goes into detail on the sophistication of his methods, which, since written in apparently plain prose at time, might go unnoticed by readers with low expectations. But now you make me worry about More Than Human... The small press autobiographical work on his monstrous stepfather put much of his work in a different light for me.

#73 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 11:11 AM:

Last weekend I was at Gaylaxicon. I moderated my first panel, by which I mean not only that it was the first time I was a mod, but the very first time I've been on a panel at a convention, and I was moderator. Afterwards my fellow panelists said they couldn't tell (I hadn't told them beforehand), though one did say that it was "interesting" that I didn't ask any questions at all.

Well, I figured they'd have plenty to say on the topic ("Embracing Difference"), and I kind of said a couple things, and at one point flat-out redirected the conversation from "why it's hard to get along with people who are very different from you" to "what's good about it when you succeed." (I laugh, now, to think I felt a bit guilty about that.) They had TONS to say; we could have gone on, productively, for the next 3 hours IMO.

I was on a different panel ("Religion in SF") of which I was not the moderator, and too bad, because the moderator had all the style and finesse of a prison guard. We were only allowed to answer her specific questions, and she made absurd pronouncements like "Every religion has at least one law," and then declared our objections off-topic. She felt perfectly free to go off on wild tangents, but reined us in sharply if we deviated even slightly from answering her narrow and often foolish questions.

I hated her, as you can tell. I'm going to write to the panel coordinator and tell him about these two experiences, and ask him not to put me on panels where she's mod ever again.

Afterwards, however, I met some very charming young folks who seemed to get all the jokes made by the three panelists who had senses of humor; they surprised me by coming up afterwards and asking whether I was the Xopher who posts on Making Light! Two of them lurk, and one occasionally posts; I encouraged them to post more often, but they seemed shy.

So: the lurkers support me at conventions! [ducks]

#74 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 11:44 AM:

And that's what a real leader sounds like, all right. To his predictions I say amen, aché, so mote it be.

#75 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 12:33 PM:

Report from the field, book division -- riding the bus this morning I saw a woman reading Petty Treason so I asked if she was enjoying it. She was, and said she really likes the idea and is looking forward to the next one.

#76 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 12:52 PM:

This week's Entertainment Weekly reviews 4 actual SF books! It's a typically glib treatment, but hey, at least they're looking at SF for a change.

#77 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 01:06 PM:

What, no baseball in the 2012 Olympics? That would never have happened if they were held in NYC. And furthermore:

Baseball Food And Drink: Healthy Chemistry Scores A Surprise Hit

"A baseball stadium may not be the first place that comes to mind when looking for healthy foods, but researchers are finding that some ballpark favorites, including beer, contain compounds that are good for you -- in moderation, of course. Whether you plan to attend a game in person or watch one on television, consider these intriguing findings from studies originally published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry..."

#78 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 01:23 PM:

Re: Jo Walton's diminished "More Than Human" experience:

The last word
James Wood on why even great novels can have disappointing endings
Saturday June 11, 2005
The Guardian

"What is the 'natural' ending of a work of art? How to close something whose premise, whose founding conceit, is that, like life, it doesn't end? The Russian formalist critic Viktor Schlovsky praised Chekhov for his 'negative endings', by which he meant, in part, the way his stories frustrate our sense of tidy form by refusing to end: 'And then it began to rain....'"

#79 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2005, 12:12 AM:

Xopher, good for you! I've been on numerous panels at local /regional conventions as well as been the moderator. The most hellish experience was a panel at a large regional (Archon, when it was still at the Henry the VIII/Escher Hilton). Panel subject was "how Tolkein INFLUENCED fantasy fiction." Unknown to me, two of the panelists were also Victorian Economics specialists. And several of their buddies showed up to be audience. After about 20 minutes (it seemed like years to me....) of struggling to head off their need to make the topic into how Victorian influences etc. created Tolkein's world view I finally seceded as gracefully as I could and said, "I know so little of what you all want to talk about that I'm superfluous here...Goodby and thanks for all the fish."

#80 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2005, 02:56 AM:

Jo, I had a similar reaction on rereading More Than Human. But it's still an extraordinary work, and I can think of nothing like it. What it isn't, I think, is a great novel.

#81 ::: vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2005, 05:16 AM:

Some links:

Good, engaging squirrel photography


well-meant but rather disturbing Christian drawings (I particularly recommend the dental hygienist and the rather uncomfortable-looking truck-driver.)

#82 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2005, 09:25 AM:

Steve Taylor wrote:

I was particularly taken with:

It's the daschunds I guess.

Thanks for posting this. As one who rents space from a pack of Dachshunds (I pay in kibble), it was immediately clear to me who the servant was. Is it possible to get a print, do you think?

btw - what about that kangaroo thing that won the 3d prize - technical skill, yes, but my god that's a grotesque picture!

Yech! I agree totally! Every so often, I see a picture like that, and I wonder about the interior life of the artist. Must be interesting.

#83 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2005, 10:49 AM:

Juli Thompson - Most artists will sell you a print if you contact them directly - he doesn't seem to have an email listed but I'll PM him via cgnetwork and ask him for it.

#84 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2005, 10:54 AM:

BTW, the WIP page for that image is here.

#85 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2005, 10:58 AM:

Vassilissa, those Jesus drawings are hilarious! "Jesus, the ultimate backseat driver." The one that gets me is the surgery one - shouldn't he at least wear a hairnet?

#86 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2005, 11:29 AM:

Eew, French horn the picture was loading I was afraid that Jesus would be muting the kid's horn for him. (So to speak.)

#87 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2005, 08:23 PM:

I hate to say it, but that's not Jesus in the bank teller picture. That's the First, saying "No one's going to miss a couple of fifties."

#88 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2005, 09:02 PM:

I just finished Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town. First of all: whoa. Second: is there a name for that subgenre yet? If not, I propose "wifipunk." Third: whoa!

#89 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 10:19 AM:

The Mumpismus has a detailed writeup of some of the Readercon panels including mentions of our hosts (Day 1 & Day 2). Also, I have posted a Readercon photo album plus a commentary on the childcare situation.

#90 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 11:29 AM:

The mention of childcare reminds me I wanted to ask a question:

What's the usual charge for babysitting these days? (A friend has been making pocket money by babysitting for friends and relatives, but even for friends and relatives I get the feeling she's woefully undercharging.)

#91 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 12:12 PM:

While we're on the subject of Theodore Sturgeon, child care, and architechture (was that this thread?), the little girl potty trained in Barron's "Once Upon A Potty" is named Prudence.

On a related subject, this year in Atlanta, the young girl down the block charged us three (at first) and (later on) four dollars an hour for babysitting, and I think we suggested the raise.

#92 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 01:18 PM:

I figured that the creator of Magnus the Great would want to know that the creator of his best buddy Charlie the Tuna has died:

Tom Rogers, 87, a retired advertising copywriter whose beret- and sunglasses-wearing hipster tuna became an icon of pop culture, died June 24 in Charlottesville, where he lived with his son's family. He drowned while swimming alone in the family's backyard pool.
#93 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 03:29 PM:

This posting connects with the argument about whether Science Fiction is (strong) intended as prophecy, (mild) didactic and presenting a menu of futures to choose, or (weak) merely entertainment with "the future" a mere location for the plot and characters.

My claim for priority in proposing and publishing (1993) the technology of Artificial Meteorite Strike Spectroscopy, the key to the Deep Impact mission, has been verified by the editor-in-chief of Sky & Telescope (by emails), and picked up by the Pasadena Star-News. The article to which I hotlink starts with a ramble through the record rainfall this past Southern California season, then turns into a mostly accurate interview with me, although I took pains to explain (on the cutting room floor) the difference between a proprietary claim (patent, copyright, tradmark) and the "open source" protocol of the scientific method. I can live with being designated "Altadenan's quirky scientist, academic and author," as that was a role played by my former neighbor and mentor, the eccentric supergenius Richard Feynman.

Scientist claims mission his idea.

My refereed conference proceedings 1993 publication, complete with quantitative analysis, was contemporaneously cited in "The Mercury Messenger," a newsletter produced by a NASA employee, albeit facetiously and quasi-disparagingly. It's a big step, in science, to be interesting enough to be be considered wrong, as opposed to unpublishable or nonsensical. Onlyb a small percentage of "wrong" ideas turn into multi-hundred million dollar successful space science missions. I'm proud of this, one of my wackier ideas. Most other of my wacky ideas (i.e. interstellar spaceships built of frozen hydrogen) are not likely to be reduced to practice any time soon. My very wackiest ideas (using the Evolutionary Algorithm to generate working computer programs, as I first demonstrated in 1975, years before Koza patented it) or (Nanotechnology, in which I wrote the first Ph.D. dissertation in 1977, just as I was helping K. Eric Drexler develop and popularize the idea) are simply too early to reward me in the short run. In the long run, I contend that if you write enough Hard Science Fiction, some predictions will turn out true (even if by sheer luck, as my prediction in a story in the BSFA "Focus" that Io would have volcanoes).

#94 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 04:46 PM:

I just read Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go and I agree with him, it's not SF. Oh, there's an alternate present and clones, but it's really a boarding school story. If it was SF, there would be action against the clone situation, rather than the condemnation of science that the author wants us to have. I'm glad I got it from the library.

#95 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 05:05 PM:

Brooklyn-born super-editor Byron Preiss dies in tragic car crash. RIP, and thank you for so many great science books, fiction anthologies, and genre works in so many media.


Around noon on July 9, 2005, writer-editor-developer-publisher Byron Preiss was involved in a fatal auto accident as he drove to his synagogue in Long Island, New York-and American popular culture lost one of its most productive and visionary champions....

#96 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 05:46 PM:

Bruce Arthurs: What's the usual charge for babysitting these days? (A friend has been making pocket money by babysitting for friends and relatives, but even for friends and relatives I get the feeling she's woefully undercharging.)

The rule of thumb I've generally heard for urban areas is that for two children, the amount per hour should be whatever a movie ticket costs in your area. In suburban areas, it should be whatever you pay the neighborhood teen per hour to cut your lawn. I know a lot of parents who pay a lot less than that, which I find stunning--why in the hell would you ever pay someone more to mow your lawn than to watch your children?!

#97 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 05:56 PM:

Aconite: because historically, boys cut grass and girls watched babies.

#98 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 06:20 PM:

And besides, the neighbors can see if your lawn isn't properly cared for.

#99 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 06:45 PM:

Circa 1960, in Brooklyn Heights, NYC, I got $1.00 per hour for babysitting. It rose towards $5.00 per hour plus being allowed to raid the refrigerator if there were multiple children and/or preparing meals for the kids. I'd save the $$$ and spend them on science fiction from used book stores, chemical equipment and reagents bought by high school cut-outs, and $22/hour flying lessons. I don't know the rate of exchange between movie tickets and seaplane flights, or lawnmowing and those 1 kilogram tennis ball cans of sodium metal in mineral oil. Which one can't even buy through the cut-outs in the current Security State anyway.

"Hey, sarge, we got a weirdo who checks Sci-Fi out of the library, is flying light aircraft near downtown Manhattan, and buys chemicals that could take out zeppelin base in a heartbeat. Should we bust the bum, or tail him in hopes of finding Meester Beeg?"

"No, it's much worse than that. He gets paid to hang out with underaged boys and girls. I say SWAT team, pronto!"

#100 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 06:55 PM:

JVP wrote:
(using the Evolutionary Algorithm to generate working computer programs, as I first demonstrated in 1975, years before Koza patented it)

We've got internal code for antenna array problems (originally written in 1973, per the source code listing in front of me.) which uses genetic algorithms to determine optimal placement of antenna elements.

It's still quite useful, thanks to the GNU compiler collection making it possible to run old Forth code.

#101 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 07:14 PM:

Bill Blum:

I was aware of this sort of optimization by genetic algorithm, where a model is fixed and the multiple parameters are selected in a very nonlinear fitness landscape.

My breakthrough was in evolution in "semantic space" where the populations are not of strings of parameters, but strings of characters in a high-level programming language, whose fitness is based on how well the program runs when compiled or interpreted.

Specifically, I implemented the genetic algorithm while beta testing John Holland's "Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems: An Introductory Analysis with Applications to Biology, Control, and Artificial Intelligence" (to use the title of the 1992 MIT press edition) in 1974.

I wrote this in APL, and evolved short but nontrivial APL programs. One gave a best-fit to the data that I had from simulations of nonlinear enzyme systems. It provided a non-obvious nonlinear equation that solved a previously unsolved problem in the scientific literature.

Knowing the answer, I could work backwards, and derive a first-principles derivation. That took 30+ pages of matric exponentials and stuff. After some months of cogitation, I got this down to a 1-page proof using the Krohn-Rhodes Semigroup Decomposition of the semigroup of differential operators of the nonlinear system of differential equations for a Michaelis-Menten kinetics living organism's metabolism.

This resulted in the world's first Nanotechnology PhD dissertation, simultaneously the world's first Artificial Life PhD dissertation, which I've mentioned was neither accepted nor rejected at COINS department, UMass/Amherst.

Its chapters became about a dozen refereed papers and conference presentations.

And it was a breakthrough that was found by the artificial evolution of High Level language software. I think that this was a first, and John Holland agrees.

I was directly influenced by my mentor Richard Feynman, greatgrandfather of Nanotechnology. He himself went to work for a summer in Cambridge, Massachusetts, doing simulated evolution of programs (in LISP, I think) at Thinking Machines, with W. Daniel "Danny" Hillis.

I don't begrudge Koza his paptents, and the $$$ he earned as consultant thereafter, nor all the engineers and scientists and portfolio managers using the genetic algorithm. But evolving working programs, that was philososphically interesting to me as a reader and writer of Science Fiction about emergent intelligence in networks (Moon is a Harsh Mistress, etc.) and the whole Golem/Frankenstein thread.

#102 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 07:30 PM:

John M. Ford: you made me laugh tea up my nose!

Apropos of nothing, does anyone here have sufficient power to make marketing folks stop describing every vampire book on the market as "a novel you can really sink your teeth into?"

#103 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 07:42 PM:

My next goal for array design?

I'd like to implement firmware updates for wireless routers that would allow for steerable nulls by MAC address--- so that Cory Doctorow will never be able to use wireless again.

#104 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 08:27 PM:

"Characters in fiction often dedicate their lives to revenge, but real people usually find better things to do."

-- damon knight

Of course, there's a strong argument that we are all fictional characters now, in some noospheric round-robin of Chaucer, Sade, Ann Radcliffe, Dostoevsky, Jane Austen pastiching HPL, and a couple guys named Burroughs. Oh, wait, I missed Hunter Thompson and Balzac under the table. Stop that, you guys.

#105 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 08:44 PM:

John M. Ford:

Now that you have rended the ontological veil, you shall die. Or, worse, be translated into another genre. Soon you shall feel the horror of being a zeppelin-punk graphic novel compressed into an e-book marketed by spammers to rural Chinese MMORPG wage-slaves.

#106 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 09:48 PM:

In defiance of creeping virtualosity, I spent a good chunk of the afternoon sanding primer, reading a book printed on paper, and picking up dog crap.

I almost pulled my drill press out of the storage closet to start some repairs on a display table I found in the trash, but instead played an hour of Tropico.

I figure I'm breaking even, reality wise.

#107 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 10:22 PM:

I'd like to start a new meme, please:

O'Connor was confirmed to the Supreme Court unanimously in 1981. Her replacement should be unanimously supported as well.

Any attempt by Bush to nominate a partican judge who can only get confirmed by Republican Senators ought to be immediately reframed into demanding O'Connor's replacement be as good as O'Connor herself was. And her unanimous confirmation sets the yardstick for defining "good".

Pass it on.

#108 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 11:39 PM:

I particularly like the Jesus, the Executive's Friend one, because either the Executive in question has some sort of endocrine condition or Jesus is about four feet tall.

#109 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 12:38 AM:

JvP: My claim for priority in proposing and publishing (1993) the technology of Artificial Meteorite Strike Spectroscopy

Jonathan, that might have been the first publication (though I'd be surprised), but it was hardly the first time the idea had been though of. Some time in 1992, when I was, briefly, Mission Planner for the Clementine mission (or, as one org chart showed, "Mission Planer" -- responsible for smoothing out rough spots?) I designed an impactor experiment for the Clementine asteroid flyby. (Clementine started as an asteroid flyby mission; lunar mapping was added as a way to get more science at low cost, and unfortunately ended up being the only part of the mission that was completed). It never even occurred to me to claim priority on the idea; it was too obvious.

The impactor didn't make the cut for the mission, in part because the attitude control and navigation folks weren't willing to shoot for a close enough pass by the asteroid -- too far out, and the launch mechanism got too complex, nor could you see much with the (very limited) impactor mass we could afford -- but also because the emphasis was on fast and cheap, so even small add-ons to the basic mission were ruthlessly limited.

One of the spent Apollo stages was deliberately impacted on the Moon, although I believe the intent was more to provide a known seismic source than to look at the impact spectra (since we could study chunks of the surface close up by then).

#110 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 01:00 AM:

Jordin Kare:

First, an idea may be obvious in retrospect, but its first quantitative, researched, referenced, refereed publication is an important place to start in considering the history and development of the idea.

I admit this even when it is not beneficial to me to say so, as with my doing work in what is now called Nanotechnology before Drexler published, and helping him to be established by getting popular magazines such as Analog and Omni to write about him. But he published first in the New York Academy of Sciences, and that gives him a kind of priority that makes my work with Feynman and in the first Nanotechnology Ph.D. dissertation (1977) merely a precursor to Drexler's first academic publication in the field.

Second, the Clementine mission (which itself has a dispute as to whom, such as Stew Nozette, first got the "idea") was one of many proposals to use propulsion, guidance, and sensor systems developed at taxpayer expense for "Star Wars" to give planetary science data. I'd proposed many such missions to NASA and other agencies, including a pseudo-Clementine that would hit Phobos, Deimos, and Mars with submunitions. As you suggest, the missions that fly are usually given more weight in history than those that stayed on paper.

I see no data that these S-IVB impacts were observed by spectrophotimeter, but can't yet exclude that possibility. There seems to have been a systematic analysis of Apollo 12, 14 and 16 seismic station data on these impacts, but I can't yet find any other documentation of impact observation.

See table:

"Impact Sites of Apollo LM Ascent and SIVB Stages"

Thank you for taking my claim seriously enough to join in the chorus of "I had a similiar idea, and didn't bother to submit it to a journal, because I had a cool day job." I would be grateful, and cite you appropriately in an historical paper on the concept that I've been suggested to write, if you can find earlier publication.

You have worked as PI on government grants based on ideas that others have discussed earlier, and sometimes even presented at conferences, but what matters is, who wrote and submitted the grant application, collected the money, and performed the research?

Failure is an orphan. Success has a thousand fathers.

#111 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 01:26 AM:

Tell you what. We'll support you guys getting baseball for the Olympics, if we get cricket. Deal?

#112 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 01:49 AM:

The Jesus in the Boardroom reminds me of that first scene between Gandalf and Bilbo in FOTR: you know there's some forced-perspective trickery involved, but damn if that wrong-sized table and teacup doesn't completely fool you into thinking the two people are completely different sizes!

Voila! Jesus Baggins!

#113 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 02:23 AM:


So, if Frodo = Jesus, does that make Bilbo = John the Baptist, and Sauron = Satan? Is the Fellowship of the Ring = the Apostles, in which case, is Boromir an attempted Judas? I have a feeling that J. R. R. Tolkien would be politely but absolutely dismissive of such equations. But, of course, we speak of the Film, not the book. So is Peter (note the name) Jackson, the Father, or the Son, and is Tolkien the holy ghost? Oh, and does that mean that The One Ring = The True Cross? And Sting = the Whip used to drive moneychangers from the temple? Visualize the alternate world where the Beatles produced and starred in the film, and John sings "the way things are going, there's gonna crucify me."

#114 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 02:51 AM:

Dave: as I understand it, the host country gets to add two events (for L.A., of course, it was Drive-Bys and Water Rights Polo). So the US could have had baseball had they won, but are not in a position to propose it for London, unless Tony Blair has some kind of brown-acid vision of the Special Smeggin' Relationship.

I think caber tossing would be a rather good idea (and America has quite a few people who could compete). Morris dancing would also be a nice change from People In Shorts Running in Circles. And I might actually watch snooker.

Ah, I have it. A field sport that every country on earth could send contestants to, that would show off both the diversity and the similarity of nations: street busking.

#115 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 04:06 AM:

Ah, I have it. A field sport that every country on earth could send contestants to, that would show off both the diversity and the similarity of nations: street busking.

That's only one. How about for the other, the Olympic-vision Song Contest?

#116 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 06:50 AM:

JvP:Thank you for taking my claim seriously enough to join in the chorus of "I had a similiar idea, and didn't bother to submit it to a journal, because I had a cool day job."

Jonathan, I think you miss my point. I'm explicitly *not* claiming to have invented the concept, nor am I disparaging your publication *as a publication* which I'm sure contained valuable insights. But you claimed "priority in proposing...the technology" which is clearly not the case. You also said, "Only a small percentage of "wrong" ideas turn into multi-hundred million dollar successful space science missions. I'm proud of this, one of my wackier ideas.", which I read as implying that the Deep Impact mission derived from your idea. I find that highly unlikely.

I also resent your dismissing a non-trivial engineering effort, culminating in an experiment proposal for a flown mission, as "joining the chorus of 'I had a cool idea...'" simply because the end point was not a journal publication.

#117 ::: chris bond ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 11:22 AM:

Jordin Kare wrote:
"One of the spent Apollo stages was deliberately impacted on the Moon, although I believe the intent was more to provide a known seismic source than to look at the impact spectra (since we could study chunks of the surface close up by then)."

Actually it was two - the S4B stages from both Apollo 13 and Apollo 14 were crashed into the moon - and for seismic measurements.

A13 S4B 44 km from A12 site
A14 S4B 175 km from A12 site

They also used the Lunar ascent stage from A12.

(Yes, this is getting way off topic - even for this open thread.)

#118 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 11:43 AM:

Jordin Kare:

I am claiming priority in proposing the technology, in writing. I am not claiming that Deep Impact sprang directly from my proposal. I can't, without further research, distinguish between independent discovery and indirect influence, through all the people at Caltech, JPL, Goddard, Ames, Voyager, Galileo, Magellan, Boeing, Lockheed, Rockwell, Ball Aerospace, and other places I've worked, and people to whom I showed the preprint, and those who saw my AIAA presentations, and space activists in NSS and Planetary Society, and Sir Arthur C. Clarke (whose personal communications I mentioned in my paper) and so forth. Plus, of course, my discussions with several successive NASA Administrators, including a televised conversation with Goldin, in which he said that my mission proposal should be done.

Further, that my idea had been officially evaluated many years ago by the JPL Director, the JPL Chief Scientist, and the VP/Provost of Caltech, who promised me that, come scientific publication, I would get proper citation. Well, Ed Stone is no longer JPL Director; there's a new JPL Chief Scientist; and Steve Koonin is technically on sabbatical from Caltech while earning the big bucks as Chief Scientist of BP, in London. So I need to re-toot my horn, as those already convinced have moved on.

Nor am I disparaging your ideas. You were in the right place at the right time. Of course you made your suggestion internally, and not in journal or proceedings. I was lumping you, because of this timing, in phase (4) of the sequence of reactions to my idea:

(1) It's stupid, silly, or wrong;
(2) It's in print, but irrelevant;
(3) It's obvious in retrospect;
(4) It's successful, so I am one who thought of it, too.

It is the sign of any mature technology that all 4 phases have happened.

I would not intentionally disparage you, in any case, as I know you from umpteen years back in the Filk, SF, and space activist scenes. Further, that I sent you a proposal for laser propulsion (the one with chopped up optical fiber embedded in the propellant to get a modified optical/thermal gradient) which had the deepest math of any of that batch of proposal, with you telling me that Edward Teller liked my equations, before you told me that the funding had been cancelled.

I'm waiting to hear, speaking of scientific publication, from professors A'Hearn and Schwartz, as they are alpha scientists on Deep Impact, and are pretty busy right now.

Eventually, there will be an Official History of Deep Impact published. I am, in part, tooting my own horn now, because that History is not yet in print, and it's easier to get in now, with a vaerifiable claim, than after the fact of History publication.

#119 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 12:38 PM:

Math-minded yarnovores (and also yarn-minded mathovores) will enjoy an article in today's NY Times on crochet as tool for visualizing complex geometries. (This link won't require sign-in and will not expire.)

#120 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 12:44 PM:

For those interested in musical Olympics, I recommend a viewing of Guy Maddin's seriously offbeat film (original screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro) "The Saddest Music in the World."

#121 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 12:56 PM:

"Jesus and the Clown" looks like an allegory of Infant Damnation.

#122 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 12:59 PM:

...while "Jesus and the Bodybuilders" looks like it was drawn by Tom of Hebron.

#123 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 01:39 PM:

chris bond, how can an Open Thread get off topic?

Andrew, while I understand what you mean by 'yarnivores', I also think eating yarn is a Bad Idea in general...

#124 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 01:42 PM:

Actually Jesus, in the Bodybuilder pic, looks like he's trying very hard to do something...and should have eaten more fiber.

#125 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 02:13 PM:

Dr. George Hockney, a Quantum Computing and Mission Design Software scientist at JPL, sends the following, which broadens the scope beyond my agenda, hopefully of more interest to the general Making Light community, which may recall that my late father published Hedy Lamarr's autobiography. Over to you, George:

My Dad handed me a few old books this weekend, one of which is "Radio for Everybody" published in 1922. Besides being a fascinating snap-shot of what the new technology looked like (where, for example, the author only sort of realizes that the future is broadcasting and not individuals hosting transmitters) it has a chapter on "the future" which contains, among other things, a concise one-sentence description of how to use frequency-hopping spread-spectrum for encrypting transmissions.

There has been a recent flurry of publicity for Hedy Lamar's patent on this topic from the forty's, and a lot of very confused descriptions of the technique (the above patent, for example, uses a player-piano roll as the source of the shared secret) . It's amusing to see a better explanation in a much older work. Notice also that none of the overviews I've seem mention another system used in WWII involving a film project providing the shared secret, which was
actually deployed. Maybe this is still classified.

And, of course, nobody seems to know the simple countermeasure to frequency-hopping, which is to just build a broadband receiver and put it close enough to the transmitter. There are other techniques known but not widely.

However, I got to wondering what a thorough search of pre-1930's literature might reveal. There may even be an entire book here devoted to antecedents of publicized inventions. There have been a lot of history-of-science-and-technology papers published recently which have clearly not done a real literature search. Part of the problem, of course, is that keyword indexing is useless (as it was for finding the palladium catalyzed fusion results from 1929 reported by Paneth and Peters in Nature) because the terminology to describe the thing didn't exist in the "modern" form. The only way to find these references is to, er, read and understand the old works.

If we can find a dozen or so of these, though, it might make an interesting article. A hundred might make a book. I'm not sure of the market but it would clearly be salable, and not just an academic paper if done right.

Anyway, I think you'll enjoy seeing this book; it's better than watching the Dodgers....

#126 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 02:37 PM:

Here's the antidote to Jesus-With-You-Always:

Creepy Jesus

#127 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 04:23 PM:

I haven't read everything, but I take it we're posting Jesus pics? Since it was on Boing-Boing this morning, I assume everyone has seen these amazing publicity stills of a young, pre-Hollywood Bela Lugosi as Jesus in a Hungarian passion play.

#128 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 04:45 PM:

An cause we all needed an eye sore:

#129 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 04:47 PM:

People here might be interested in this little "Masterclass" piece by Diana Wynne Jones.

#130 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 04:59 PM:

For people who are tired of the Left Behind series:

Right Behind

Kiss My Left Behind

#131 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 05:15 PM:

Where Do You Get Your Crazy Ideas Dept.:

Oct. 5th Richard P. Kubelka, SJSU
Title: Untangling the 2-Dog Group

The speaker will discuss the solution of a problem suggested by his two research assistants, the dachshunds Fritz and Sasha. To wit, in what ways can two dogs entangle themselves and their walker during a stroll around the block? And, furthermore, how much of that entanglement can be resolved by countermoves on the part of the walker? The answer involves an infinite, nonabelian group--reminiscent of s Braid Groups--and an index-two subgroup. The speaker will give a complete description of these groups in terms of generators and relations; give a minimal presentation of the main group--with two generators and one relation; and show by group-theoretic means that the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing."

Bio with Photos including "At Home with Sasha and Fritz: Co-Discoverers of the 2-Dog Group"

#132 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 05:31 PM:

Just heard that Byron Preiss died in a car accident on his way to synagogue on the 9th. There are apparently appreciations out there by Marv Wolfman, Jim Steranko and others.

The impact of this on the field will only show up over time. Much as I disliked some of what he did, IBooks was reprinting some damn fine stuff, and he made a major difference in the field.

There's a serious disturbance in the Force.

#133 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 06:57 PM:

Speaking as an owner of several hundred shares of casino and gambling-machine stocks, I find this link highly dubious and suggest people keep taking the stuff:

"Popular Parkinson's drug linked to gambling

Compulsive behaviors may be side effect of Mirapex, research suggests"

#134 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 06:58 PM:


An artist who knits full-size superhero costumes.

#135 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 09:14 PM:

We have a baby panda at the National Zoo! cams

#136 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 11:53 PM:

Although the parent site is a sewer, Ask Metafilter is moderated and often pretty interesting. Though it feels a little like poking a wasp's nest with a stick, I thought I would draw attention here to this question, which begins " SciFiLit: I don't get it. Help me to."

#137 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 01:14 AM:

And, of course, nobody seems to know the simple countermeasure to frequency-hopping, which is to just build a broadband receiver and put it close enough to the transmitter. There are other techniques known but not widely

The broadband receiver by itself isn't all that useful a countermeasure for dealing with spread spectrum frequency hopping, a frequency analyzer with lots of processing power, and decoding capabilities for encryption on the information, are also necessary. Finding the signal when the transmitter is happily chirping [yes, that is a technical term] away and sending out very low power signals mixed up with lots on noise, digging out the signal is non-trivial if you don't have synchronization and the information regarding the encoding. The actual SNR (signal to noise ratio) tends toward major obnoxiousness, as regards figuring out, again, where in that sprectrum of electromagnetic radiation radiating out, is the signal as opposed to radiation that's noise.

Keeping transmitters sending out channels of garage/noise so that those monitoring the communications don't get the easy pickup of "look, a SIGNAL! so it's got to be a message!" as opposed to the transmitters sending out continuous "signals" most of which doesn't have any -information- encoded on it, just -noise- to make like more difficult for eavesdroppers to separate out the signal from the noise.

#138 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 01:29 AM:

Cue up the Flash Girls singing Neil's "Signal to Noise"....

#139 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 04:10 AM:

Jordin, JvP: I may be missing something here, but "slam chunk of metal into asteroid\comet, look at spectrograph" was familiar to me when I first read about Deep Impact because I'd read it in 2001. I understand that actually proposing, working out, &c, such a practice is substantially different from a throwaway paragraph or two in a novel... but if the idea was kicking around thirty years prior to that, I wouldn't be surprised to find something contemporary.

For what it's worth, I've been poking through the NASA technical reports server - not very successfully, I fear - but it certainly mentions at least one publication (dated 1/1/93)...

JPL was also asked to assess the feasibility of deploying a probe on approach to impact Toutatis. ... if the spacecraft can be equipped with a lightweight mass spectrometer and dust analyzer, the potential also exists to measure the particle sizes and distribution and the composition of the ejecta cloud. (Clementine 2: A double asteroid flyby and impactor mission, Lunar and Planetary Inst., Workshop on Advanced Technologies for Planetary Instruments, Part 1, p3, 1993. Author given as R.J. Boain)

The best other early example I could find was a penetrator proposed for CRAF, but I believe that one wasn't planned as an impactor at any point. Any help?

#140 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 05:05 AM:

"Signal to Noise" isn't Neil's; the lyrics showed up in War for the Oaks long before there was a Flash Girls, and I'm pretty sure they're Emma's own.

#141 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 07:22 AM:

Question to British Readers
German forces formally surrendered over 6 - 8 May 1945, marked by VE Day on May 8th, while the Japanese surrender followed on 15 August 1945 (exactly 396 years after the arrival of Francis Xavier), called VJ Day. It was signed on September 2nd on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

There was quite a lot of fuss in May over the victory (April 19, Leipzig) of the Allies in Germany. Why is the UK having another round of commemorations & celebrations in JULY? Won't it just cause all sorts of confusion (These reports, for instance both confused VE Day with the end of the war, and confused the date between VE Day in May and the celebrations in July).
Is it just that the weather is more likely to be better then than at the time of the actual ending of World War II in August? Do they intend to have something to remember the atomic bombings of Nagasaki (M Butterfly's city) and Hiroshima, and the Japanese surrender, or is it following the grand British tradition of celebrating things -- like the monarch's birthday -- on days they didn't happen? As far as I can tell this isn't halfway between.

The battle on Okinawa (~150,000 deaths) happened after the surrender of Germany, so did the final re-taking of the Philippines, some of the Tokyo raids, fighting in Borneo, etc, etc, and obviously the two atomic attacks. About 40 millions (twice the current population of Australia) had died by VE Day, but there were many deaths more before the end of the war.

#142 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 07:28 AM:

Apology & Correction In my comment earlier I repeated without careful investigation a figure from a somewhat dodgy source for the number of Australians in London. I think that figure is probably something like all the Aussies in the UK (possibly including tourists during an average year), since a more accurate source <ahem> (AFAIK) has since come up with a figure of around 100,000 Australians living in London. One nice touch is that the major telephone company Telstra (formerly public, now half & half) has given large discounts to calls made to the UK by people here checking on friends and family. I have no idea how this was implemented, but that's what the PR said. Other companies may have followed suit, and I've a vague feeling that Qantas is being nice too.

#143 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 07:51 AM:

The song "Signal to Noise" is certainly by Emma; I have a lyric sheet straight out of her laser printer saying so.

Neil did a graphic novel with Dave McKean under the same title; this may be what knocked Tom's memory askew.

#144 ::: Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 08:43 AM:

One interesting thing about Hunter/McBain is that he wrote mainstream lit under his own name and genre under a pseudonym, and it's the latter he'll be remembered for. Likewise Chester Himes, without the alias.

#145 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 10:21 AM:

Epacris: I believe something was planned to coincide with VE day and then with VJ day; following the events of last week, someone had the bright idea of moving the second one forward - pick your own symbolic reason, really - and there didn't seem to be any major objections. Or so I understand it.

#146 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 11:01 AM:

Arthur: "Evan Hunter's" real name was Salvatore Lombino, and as far as I know he never changed it, though for much of his life he used Hunter as if it were his natal name. (I gather that, when he started writing, he was advised to pick something less . . . ethnic. But I saw him in a documentary a couple of years back where he copped to Lombino, noting that "Hunter" came from Hunter College.) He had at least half a dozen pseuds -- the sf novels he wrote in the Fifties (Rocket to Luna -- hey, is that skiffy or what?) were by "Richard Marsten."

And "Hunter" wrote Blackboard Jungle, which while badly dated isn't forgotten, and the screenplays for "Marnie" and "The Birds."

#147 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 11:29 AM:

Evan Hunter was a pseudonym, too, though it was an older pseudonym than Ed McBain, and the author may have liked it well enough to use it in non-professional contexts. (He may even have changed his name to it, legally.) He mentioned choosing it in a preface to something or other. I was a Hunter fan from way way back, and I was shocked to recognize the author photograph of "Ed McBain" on a book my father had taken out of the library. I think I was 10 or so, and hadn't realized people wrote with pseudonyms at all. Not that it was much of a secret...I think the photographer was a woman named "Hunter," which seemed a dead giveaway, though it might have been a coincidance.

I suspect Hunter's work will be remembered, at least _Blackboard Jungle_. It was seen as capturing something significant, more important than the story itself.

#148 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 12:33 PM:

Andrew Gray:

Hence my correspondance with Sir Arthur C. Clarke, as reported in my paper. Your JPL citation is a good one, and belongs in an historical article on the evolution of the concept. I was also well aware of comet penetrator studies, as I worked closely with James B. Stephens, who had more patents than anyone alive at JPL, and was a leader in comet impactor engineering. Clementine 2 proposals included, as I've said, a number that I wrote for NASA. My original proposal was quantitative, discussed specific metals for impactors, provided detailed mission planning and trajectory planning, extrapolated to suggested impact by thousands of tiny metal balls to provide a low-resolution chemical map of the target, was embedded in a sequence of missions including sample/return, leading to human exploration of the inner solar system, and even to human colonization (with Clarke suggesting human habitation at the poles of Mercury, because the ice there, which my artificial meteorite strike spectroscopy could confirm and which could later be photoelectrolyzed to provide hydrogen and oxygen for fueling return flights). But, as you suggest, no idea springs from the vacuum, but evolves from the environment, the population of earlier ideas, the sociology of science, and (often) science fictional and other qualitative precursors. Both the sociology of science and the origins of science fiction make this, I hope, appropriate for this blog. I greatly appreciate the kindness and intelligence of those who replied to me, inlcuding yourself and Jordin Kare. Now I'll wait and see if I get cited by A'Hearn, Schartz, et al., in the special issue of Science filled with Deep Impact data, and if I'll be one of the many who gets a certificate/award from a fifth successive NASA Administrator. I am a team player, including with the scientific and SF communities. Thank you for understanding my pride of authorship as well.

#149 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 01:09 PM:

Last evening, while out walking, I heard this (from memory) on NPR: "The first names of the fifty people killed in the bombings are being released."

Huh, I thought, that's peculiar way to do it, imagining a list like:

Shiela . . .

#150 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 01:13 PM:

Re: rending of ontological veil—can anyone recommend some good zeppelin-punk? (Already read The Difference Engine, thought it was adequate but uninspired.)

#151 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 01:18 PM:

Byron's funeral was standing room only--family, friends, and colleagues, including a number of publishing heavyweights. His daughters spoke beautifully, as did his brother-in-law. Several leading lights of the publishing industry offered eulogies as well, some of them quite funny. Steranko went on a bit too long but clearly is greatly affect by the loss of a long-time and very close friend.

The rabbi's sermon was overly florid and repetitive but took an interesting tack, about the act and art of reading and creativity. Appropriate for Byron, though I imagine that if Byron had been around his fingers, like mine, would have been itching for pencil with which to edit the speech.

Byron will definitely be missed on both a personal and professional level.

#152 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 02:00 PM:

Melissa Singer:

Thank you for that moving summary of a moving ceremony. Farewell, Byron. I've found myself eulogizing more and more colleagues and family. Although painful, and one of the more difficult prose forms, it is one for which we have responsibility as friends and members of various communities.

Sometimes this is poignent, as for instance, Isaac Asimov remarking that (at the time he said this) no SFWA Grandmaster had died, and thus he felt assured of immortality. I think that the obituary pages at, for instance,, serve a very important function in reminding us of who we are, what we do, to what we aspire, and that we are all mortal. So far.

As I first said, throwing earth into the open grave of Jiryar Zorthian, Feynman's art guru, "leptons to leptons, quarks to quarks."

#153 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 02:06 PM:

I believe that Evan Hunter was his legal name. He certainly treated as his legal name, whether he ever filed the paperwork or not. (I didn't witness this myself, but friends say they saw some smartass addressing him as "Sal" or "Mr. Lombino," and him telling them that that was not his name anymore.)

Without knowing that he was sick, I recently decided I wanted to reread my favorite book of his, Last Summer, and dug it out of the basement storage. I read that often back in the 70s, but hadn't in a long time. Still loved it.

#154 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 02:10 PM:

Stefan: Interestingly, it strikes me that simply giving a list of first names, in no particular order, would make a very interesting memorial. I'm not entirely sure what the statement would be, but I think I like it.

#155 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 02:16 PM:

Whatever Mr. Hunter's birth name, his children went by the name Hunter.

#156 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 02:55 PM:

If I may inpose on y'all...

The gitmo sutra is up for vote on kuro5hin.

But a consensus of neocons forced it to vote prematurely.

It's very close to being sunk -- could some of you create logins and vote to put it on the front page?


#157 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 03:12 PM:

Ah, screw it.

I've gotten lip service all my life how smart I am, and if I work hard I can achieve some form of adult independence.

But nothing I've put work into has amounted to anything, I'm living off of credit cards, and I've been put on medication. And that's only the stuff I can tell you, there's a crapload I'm not going to mention, because I only have my word that it's taken place, and a boatload of people denying it.

How is this not the recipe for damnation? What the hell are you supposed to do if you're a ghost, where nothing you do registers with anyone?

#158 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 03:13 PM:

Since this is an open thread, I hope it's okay to post a short review here.

There is a book called The Traveler being advertised on this site. I just read it. I'm glad I got it from the public library instead of buying it. I think the author wanted to cash in on The DaVinci Code popularity, with a large helping of "The Matrix" and splashes of New Age philosophy thrown in. It didn't work for me. Too paranoid by half, in unrealistic ways. Also, his idea that there are only one or two people who can cross over into "the other realms" and, presumably, Save The World went against everything I know of occultism. In my circles everyone and her sister can astral travel. And it's the first of a series, and while not a cliff-hanger, the ending is very unsatisfying.

Then I read Jonathan Carroll's Bones of the Moon, also from the library. I believe it's several years old. It was very well-written and very beautiful, if somewhat sad. That one goes on the "to buy" list.

#159 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 03:27 PM:

Metal Fatigue - Try Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age. Airships and nanotech and intrigue and somewhat more character development than his other works.

#160 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 04:48 PM:

I haven't seen this posted here yet, and thought some of you might like to know:

8 Men Indicted in Polygamous Community

Yep, it's about Colorado City, AZ.

Eight members of a polygamous community were indicted on charges of sexual misconduct with a minor and conspiracy, prosecutors said.

One of the men was arrested Friday, while the others turned themselves in on Monday. One of the men is a former police officer, who was previously convicted of bigamy and illegal sex with a teenage girl he had taken as a third wife.

Colorado City and neighboring Hildale, Utah, are dominated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect that broke away from the Mormon church and still practices polygamy.

The church has come under increasing pressure from authorities in Utah and Arizona.

Utah attorneys have succeeded in wresting control of a trust away from church leaders after raising concerns that leaders would sell off residents' homes. Most of the property in the communities was controlled by the church trust.

Also, the church's reclusive leader, Warren Jeffs, was charged in Arizona in early June with counts that include conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. He remains a fugitive.

#161 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 06:28 PM:

Metal Fatigue: have you tried Girl Genius, by Katha and Phil Foglio? Look here for great big zeppelins.

#162 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2005, 11:44 AM:

"... How can a comet hurtling through our solar system be made of a substance with less strength than snow or even talcum powder?"

"'You have to think of it in the context of its environment,' said Pete Schultz, Deep Impact scientist from Brown University, Providence, R.I. 'This city-sized object is floating around in a vacuum. The only time it gets bothered is when the sun cooks it a little or someone slams an 820-pound wakeup call at it at 23,000 miles per hour....'"

#163 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2005, 11:59 AM:

I have a question that may be about a rather old particle. Someone told me that there had once been a Tough Guide to Regency Romance Land (or Heyerville or Regency Romanceville) posted among the particles here, but I have been unable to find it, and google searches haven't gotten me anywhere. Does anyone recall this item, or have any information concerning it's existence or whereabouts?

Thank you!

#165 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2005, 02:44 PM:

The Queensland University of Technology's School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations is developing its own particular version of Duke Nukem: All the fun of shopping, coming to a screen near you (by Mark Todd)

It may be be one of the world's most boring video games but a virtual-reality supermarket created in Brisbane is exciting marketers for its potential to predict what people put in their shopping trolleys, and why.
Test shoppers sit before a three-metre high screen, wrapping around the viewer in a 180-degree arc. Using a mouse, the shoppers prowl a single supermarket aisle browsing, picking up, putting back and finally choosing virtual products ...
The virtual supermarket was also less costly and time consuming than trials conducted in the field or in specially designed test studios.
"There's a huge difference between what someone in a focus group says they may buy and what they actually buy," Professor Patti said. "In the virtual reality environment, they actually choose something."
The program also records the products a consumer looked at on their shopping spree, but did not buy...
Today soap powder, tomorrow ... who knows, politicians maybe? [Sigh. I had an ancestor named Patti after Adelina Patti, the famous singer. Not sure how she'd feel about this Prof Patti.]

The Tough Guide to Regencyshire: a collaborative work ( ) Posted in Sidelights on February 7, 2005 01:21 PM

#166 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2005, 02:47 PM:

The Traveler at the New York Times.

How does a company market a science fiction-tinged novel that it thinks could be the next "Da Vinci Code" if the author refuses to do publicity?

To promote "The Traveler," a story set in a futuristic society written by John Twelve Hawks, Doubleday turned to the film and television industries for inspiration....

Upthread a bit:

There is a book called The Traveler being advertised on this site. I just read it. I'm glad I got it from the public library instead of buying it.

What do y'all think? Well-known author under heavy pseudonym and in a couple of months when the sales slow there'll be the Big Reveal?

#167 ::: Dru ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2005, 03:36 PM:

Question about a story or book I read at least 15 years ago, but I'm having a horrendous time figuring out which author/title it might be. I don't even recall if it was particularly good.

All that I remember:

The leads are a bother/sister pair piloting a spaceship.
Ships, IIRC, are FTL.
The brother sister pair discover aliens who are willing to trade skills/technology for human-based skills/technology.
The aliens communicate to some degree via 'drumming beats', which the sister becomes expert in?
The brother likes spicy food and complains about the blandness of a lobster dinner while being woo'd by someone.

Anyways, figured that the collective might be able to come up with a likely suspect.

#168 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2005, 03:44 PM:

Epacris, thank you, that was exactly it.

#169 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2005, 05:56 PM:

Jim, my copy came from SFBC today. I'm just reading a collection, so I'll start it tonight and let you know.

#170 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2005, 06:00 PM:

There's a really cool and disturbing 1-page short short story "What's expected of us" by Ted Chiang, Nature, Vol. 436, 7 July 2005, p.150.

"... People used to speculate about a thought that destroys the thinker, some unspeakable lovecraftian horror, or a Godel sentence that crashes the human logical system...."

#171 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2005, 06:54 PM:

My prediction that Io had volcanoes, which I admit was dumb luck, as opposed to a scientific publication whose priority I can meaningfully claim, was in the BSFA magazine, whose TOC I append:

Focus, Vol. 1, No. 1, Autumn 1979

Editor(s): Chris Evans and Rob Holdstock
Price: 75p
Pages: 24, A4
Cover: Andrew Stephenson
Notes: #1

Focal Point, Chris Evans and Rob Holdstock

Skiing the Methane Snows of Pluto, Jonathan V. Post
The Teeth of the Phoenix, Simon Ounsley

Sonnet one billion and one, Cyril Simsa

Contributors, uncredited
Searching for the Lost Chord, Andrew Stephenson
My Secret Life with David & Charles David Langford
Writing A Novel? Do!, Christopher Priest
Market Space, uncredited
Who Needs an Agent?, Maggie Noach
Sprechen Sie Starshipese?, Garry Kilworth
The Problems of Genesis, Ken Bulmer
Writing SF for children, Douglas Hill
Questions, uncredited

Richard Litwinczuk

The story also correctly predicted the eponymous methane snow on Pluto, but lots of people had beaten me to the punch in that case.
Also dumb luck (to me) that I had such talented folks in that same premier issue!

#172 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 02:34 AM:

Just in case some people might not have already received this in their mailbox, here it is on the web:

Part I of Da Vino Commedia, The Vinferno

Nine pages of verse, sentimental, somewhat inebriated, with footnotes, and fortified with puns. Followed by your basic wine catalog with more footnotes, a Proustian reference (to Jolly Ranchers, who'd a' thunk it), a fermented grape Joyce pastiche, and more puns. In other words, a typical Randall Graham production. Unusually good layout this time, and the illustrations are fantastic.

Even if you have a print version, you might want to get the PDF. Reading those footnotes in eight point italics with light brown ink on heavy textured stock was not easy.

#173 ::: Connie ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 09:30 AM:

I just want to testify to the sublimity of 'Pas de Backhoe', which is a dance I've been waiting to see all my life without knowing that I was.

#174 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 10:06 AM:

Andy Ihnatko (whose YellowText I first found via a very funny post here), in this post points out not only one of the most boggleworthy computer accessories I've seen lately, but also proposes a Banana Republic as governed by Neil Gaiman.

I'm so there.

#175 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 11:26 AM:

"People used to speculate about a thought that destroys the thinker ..." -- there was a Monty Python sketch about a British secret weapon (WWI? WWII?) which was a joke (in German) that would cause the Germans hearing it to die laughing (or at least be incapacitated), as the British troops advanced, reciting it phonetically from a printed paper.

** SPOILER ** And of course there's the final episode of The Prisoner, when Patrick McGoohan asked the computer that oversaw the resort-prison a question that overloaded its circuits, so he could escape in the confusion. ** END SPOILER **

RiceVermicelli; glad to be of service. It brought back some nice memories.

#176 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 01:14 PM:

Dru, I read that book. I think it's an early Cherryh. If not, it's an early one by Melissa Scott.

#177 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 01:47 PM:

Yoicks! Just spotted this on the BBC news site. Is this anywhere near where any of the NYC people are?

Six hurt as NY building collapses: The building, a former supermarket on 100th Street and Broadway, in Manhattan's Upper West Side, was being pulled down to make way for a new skyscraper when it collapsed unexpectedly.
"There's always a possibility that people might be trapped, so it's a search and rescue mission," said fire department spokesman Charles Markey.

#178 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 02:33 PM:

Epacris -- well, no, the last episode of The Prisoner is a whole lot less straightforward than that. The "destroy the big machine with the question" episode is "The General," which was made long enough ago that the eponymous character's turning out to be a computer counted as sorta novelish, and he could be played by some blinking lights, analog meters, and a teleprinter.

#179 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 02:42 PM:

And thoughts (or images (mostly)) that destroy the thinker is the foundation of David Langford's BLIT (or infoterrorist) stories; the first one, titled BLIT, is available from InfinityPlus.

#180 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 02:52 PM:

Epacris, John M. Ford, cd:

I can't help but wonder why the editors of Nature didn't insist on those as footnotes. On the one hand, it's very good that they run the occasional Science Fiction story, on a back page similar to where Scientific American puts its "antmatters" spoofs. On the other hand, it is not just a back-of-the-bus discrimination, but a structural pretense that, unlike REAL science, the ideas and executions in fiction are not social constructs of reference and critique within a literature. On the third hand, this is a curious inversion of having nonfiction science articles in Science Fiction magazines, or even, in my case, a science column in a comic book. This posting brought to you by Kepler -- he's a scientist candy; AND an astrologer breath mint -- and by the number 8018018851 [cue math-music by Pythagoras & the Wrecked Angles] which Conway and Guy note is, alphabetically, the first prime number in the American system of large number terminology, and term this "Knuth's number." We have "eight billion" alphabetically before "eighteen" or "eighty." [cut to: subscribe to Nature, and make your cerebrum grow longer pop-up]

Conway, J. H. and Guy, R. K. The Book of Numbers. New York: Springer-Verlag, p. 15, 1996.

#181 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 05:18 PM:

Apparently the current Pope let Kuby (Harry Potter: Good or Evil Fame) quote him pre-papacy on his feelings for Harry Potter. He doesn't like him.

Kuby gives me the giggles actually. I posted her ten arguements against Potter in my blog...with reponses.

Didn't want to derail the death of Dumbledore thread .

#182 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 06:25 PM:

I read the first fifth of The Traveler last night. Now, I normally read just genre, and this isn't that, so far, but the plodding prose reminds me of the one story I've read by Stephen King. I'm not at the Eight Deadly Words yet, but I'd be surprised if I bought the sequels.

#183 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 08:02 PM:

I finished reading The Silmarillion last night.

While the Eldar may no longer live amoung us and the undying lands be forever inaccessible, the Fourth Age and the time of men has brought other delights.

#184 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 11:38 PM:

Stefan, you're eeeeeevil. Yikes, just yikes (yippee, our new laptop works in Tulsa!)

#185 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2005, 12:50 AM:

Thanks for that link, Epacris. I think I missed it first time around. *bookmarks*

#186 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2005, 10:15 AM:


The collapse was uptown, bet. 99th & 100th Sts. No one was killed; several shoppers and passersby were injured, some with broken bones. Doesn't mean no one who posts here wasn't caught there, of course, but I doubt it.

The weirdest thing: a 7-month old girl was protected from serious harm when her stroller collapsed _around_ her. The crushed frame formed a sort of pocket which kept her safe. When rescued, she had stopped breathing, but began again on her own and was apparently ok last night.

The self-same stroller model was recalled yesterday because the handle has a tendency to break during normal use.

#187 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2005, 10:33 AM:

So...any interest on here in Senator Clinton's latest absurdity? Shouldn't we hope for a bit more sensibility from our leading Democrats?

#188 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2005, 07:16 PM:

And now I'm halfway through The Traveler and not only is it poorly edited (people continue things they never started, etc.), but it's pretty strongly anti-government. I think the ideal mode for this story would be a video game.

#189 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2005, 08:11 PM:

from slashdot:

iFilm Magazine: Serenity Gala Priemiere"

CABridges writes "Serenity, the science-fiction/western/comedy/drama based on Joss Whedon's TV show Firefly will receive its official Gala Premiere Screening at the 59th Edinburgh International Film Festival on Monday, August 22nd, with a 'Reel Life' interview with Whedon the next day. Serenity will make its U.S. debut September 30th and will open in the UK & Ireland on October 7th. More info available at the official movie website."

#190 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2005, 08:24 PM:

Homer's Tastiest Science Headline Yet Dept.:

Gravity doughnut promises time machine
Mark Peplow

Published online: 13 July 2005; | doi:10.1038/news050711-4
Movement into the past gets one step less improbable.

#191 ::: jeffy ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2005, 09:13 PM:

Hey, wouldn't it be cool if the RSS feeds for the Particles and Sidelights included the links and tool tips rather than just the words?

#192 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2005, 11:12 PM:

You know, I'd swear I read speculation to this effect in the late '70s, based on mathematical calculations that a rotating ultramassive donut, possibly such as a galaxy-sized black hole, would theoretically allow "closed time-like loops" in space-time geodesics, a.k.a. time travel to the past.

Related time-frame: the Niven short story on how the universe prevents causality violations by killing off races that try to build rotating neutronium cylinders, another potential source for closed time-like loops. (Did Larry Niven travel back to the '70s to give himself that story idea?)

#193 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 12:15 AM:

The idea that a supermassive rotating cylinder would create a toroidal region* of what are technically known as "plot holes" around its center originated with Frank Tipler; I'm sure that a Google on "Tipler cylinder" will bring up lots of references, though not necessarily much actual data -- and by Kevin Bacon's bits, there they are!

Poul Anderson used a version of the idea in the novel The Avatar, in which We stumbled across a system of gate-cylinders left by some ancient They, with beacons placed to make directed travel possible, provided you knew how to figure out the beacons.

*As they say in Berlin, "Ich wäre einen Zeitkrapfen gewesen sein." Or, as Eddie Izzard describes it, "a [bleep]ing donut."

#194 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 01:34 AM:

Some Googling after I wrote my previous post reveals that the supermassive "donut" black hole idea goes back to mathematician Roy Kerr in 1963, and rapidly rotating black holes (if they can exist) are termed Kerr holes. It appears that some physicists have argued they could not exist embedded in Einsteinian space for mathematical reasons, while Kip Thorne has argued that any closed loops pass so close to the singularity that objects could not traverse them without being shredded. At least that's as much as I can get out of skimming Google hits. Perhaps proving they can is what this latest round of math is all about.

#195 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 08:27 PM:

Mmmmmm, donuts!

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

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