Friday, November 30, 2007

Card: dealing from the bottom of the deck.

A War of Gifts. By Orson Scott Card.
Reviewed by Ron Huber & Paul Cole.

There are some novels so good, so well written, by such universal acclaim, that the authors should be barred from publishing sequels. Just as with great lithographic etchings, the stone is broken after but a few uses, lest increasingly blurred and imperfect additional versions arise, so it should be with great works of literature.

Such a murky scan is A War of Gifts. This brief tale by Orson Scott Card is set somewhat precariously in the early stages of his magnificent novel Ender's Game, and deals with the warping, then rewarping of protagonist child soldier/refusnik Zeck Morgan's mind, which, having first been twisted into alienated pacifism by the sermonizing and physical abuse (called 'purifying') wrought by his father, a self-ordained fundamentalist preacher, is then reshaped by Ender-to-be Andrew Wiggin who, in several several cameo appearances, overpowers Zeck with superior logic and Christ-like verve, lancing his boil of pacifist righteousness and bringing Zeck into the killing fold.

There are internal perturbations within this short (126 half-sized pages) text, that will disturb Card-ophiles, that suggest A War of Gifts may have started life as a stillborn sequence of Ender's Game, one that, for any of a number of reasons, has resurrected from the cutting room floor 22 years later.

There are anachronisms. Andrew Wiggin didn't receive his nom de guerre Ender until rather later in Ender's Game than the time period described in AWOG. Would his mum really have called him Ender and not Andrew or, dare we say, Andy, during the rather testy exchange between she and her co-wiz kid son Peter that takes place once Andrew is aboard the Battle School? What prescience! She wouldn't hear from him for years; how'd she get his jeesh tag? The otherwise unmemorable sequence does its duty, however, as a let's-fill-in-the-blanks vehicle for AWOG readers unfamilar with Ender's Game.

Certainly by the Battle School standards of Ender's Game, Zeck's utter refusal to cooperate with his military trainers, coupled with his willingness to 'rat out' his fellow students, should have speedily had him washed out and planetside a third of the way through AWOG.

Despite these whoopsies, and the brevity of the book, and the annoying one dimensionality of most of A War of Gifts' characters, and the feel of it being a thrown-together-for-Christmas product, that combined make AWOG a sort of throw-away book, it is nevertheless charming to revisit Ender, Peter, Valentine, Ma and Pa Wiggin, the imperturbable Colonel Graff and the gang aboard the good ship Battle School, to get an exposition on the Dutch origins of Santa Claus, and to read Card's depiction of the repressed rage and sexuality of neo-primitivist Christianity, of a form found in the Carolina mountains.

Spiced with a dash of militarism-uber-alles preachery to make the book attractive to that vast readership of American enlisted men and women who voraciously consume sci-fi during the interminable waits in the hurry-up-and-wait life of active duty personnell, or while recuperating in veterans' hospitals,

It is interesting that for all the warring and wargamery of their books, Orson Scott Card, like Robert A. Heinlein, never served upon a battlefield. Card sensibly refrains from detailed war scenes; he is less cautious, though, with penning pro-miltarist rhetoric. Perhaps he should heed trench poet Wilfred Owen's warning to non-combatant warfare-fiction writers, that if they had actually taken part in combat:

"..... you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori."

Overall A War of Gifts is a charming but forgettable story that will add little to the Ender Series Canon, nor, likely, to its author's bank account.

What will happen in the next 100 years!

From the Ladies Home Journal December 1900, Shaun Saunders sends us a a fascinating look into the future past, which prognosticates what life will be like in the next century (for them) . Shaun Says

This is fascinating, both for where it is wrong (but shouldn't be) and where it is right....especially the section on coal burning, and walking 10 miles a day....and food animsls bred exsclusively for consumption - battery farming, in essence. And a free university education for every person...what a world, I wish it were here (except for battery farming)

Article link

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nasa outlines manned Mars vision

Nasa has released details of its strategy for sending a human crew to Mars within the next few decades. The plan is to send a "minimal" crew on a 30-month round trip to the Red Planet. The "Mars ship" would be assembled in low-Earth orbit using three to four Ares V rockets. The mission's journey from Earth to Mars would take six to seven months in a spacecraft powered by an advanced cryogenic fuel propulsion system. The cargo lander and surface habitat would be sent to Mars separately, launched before the crew. Once there, astronauts could spend up to 16 months on the Martian surface, and would use nuclear energy to power their habitat. Nasa has said that they plan on using future Moon missions to test out some of the hardware that that would have to be developed for the extended Mars mission.

Thanks to Shaun A. Saunders for the post

pictures from bbc news article

Sci-fi Meets Reality: Taser Firing Flying Saucers Now in Production

Shaun A. Saunders spotted t his article in The Third Eye Concept online magazine. Shaun's comments were particullarly telling: "Here we go - a blend of Mallcity 14, 1984, and Dark Angel..."

Which is very apt, when you come to consider the simularities. The meat of the article is that a French businessman has revealed that his company is working on putting TASER stun guns on a flying saucer that could zap protesters, and anyone else that authorities target. Antoine di Zazzo is a high ranking rep for the company TAZER. He revealed that his company is developing a small airborne drone version of a weapon that can administer electrical jolts of 50,000 volts. The mini-flying saucer like drone will fire Taser stun rounds on criminal suspects or rioting crowds. He expects it to be launched next year and to be sold internationally by Taser.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Town recalls heyday of UFO sightings

Nelson was listening to show 80 and it seems it rang a bell for him. This is what he wrote

" “Dave” mentioned Gulf Breeze. I happened to read this a couple days ago. Read a book on it, even. That town has quite a history."

and he sent me this link

this is the story blurb

Two decades ago, the area around the Florida Panhandle town of Gulf Breeze was the center of sightings of unidentified flying objects.

Quite a history indeed! Adds a bit more punch to Dave's mutterings .... yes it does. lol

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Super' scanner shows key detail

from BBC News

Shaun Saunders makes a great point many sci-fi movies does this technology relate too? Total Recall; Star Trek...........

and the list goes on.....

A new scanner has been unveiled which can produce 3D body images of unprecedented clarity while reducing radiation by as much as 80%.

Mars orbiter spots rover on weird plateau

Shaun Saunders sends in this cool article and photo of one of the Martian rovers as photographed by the Mars Orbiter. His comments are just as interesting though. Shaun wrote "The above link is interesting for me in that it raises a new line of inquiry: have lunar orbiters imaged & photographed apollo landing sites and the mission hardware left behind?"

Here is part of the article copy from MSNBC

NASA's sharpest-eyed orbiter at Mars has spotted the Spirit rover far below, sitting on an enigmatic rock formation nicknamed "Home Plate."

and I am thinking.....damn, I would really like to see some of the Luna landing sites.....where are those pics anyway?

pic NASA / JPL / Univ. of Ariz

The Philip K. Dick android

Oh and you want something that will really creep you out? Check out the Philip K. Dick android.

This is so very wrong...I watched it for about 30 seconds while it tried to look people in the eye and I ran screaming from the room.

NBC's Journey Man on the bubble 2 week notice!

Ouch! from AMC sci-fi scanner JourneyMan is in big trouble. 2 Weeks People! Get you **** together!

Bad news, Journeyman fans! Though NBC's quirky quasi-update of Quantum Leap has become the surprise sci-fi hit of the season, the current rumor is that bad ratings areas about to kill the show off.

According to Zap2It: the Nielsen numbers for Journeyman for the episodes airing on November 19th and 26th are critical. If the numbers don't improve substantially, the network will yank the show. Even more astonishingly, the source claims NBC won't even air the remaining episodes!

Now I know I busted on this show for just that....being a Quantum Leap rip off....but to kill it and not show the remaining episodes!!! come ON! what has...NBC got trickle down mentality from the Sci-fi morons of scheduling? Yeah, I will fess up, I am watching the show and it's not bad, just compare it to that piece of crap the sci-fi channel brought in (yep talking about Flash again) as a season replacement. That's supposed to be acceptable sci-fi for the masses and Journey Man is not? I am breaking out my darts again.

Robotic Exoskeleton Turns Soldiers Into Space Marines

From AMC

Sci-fi has trained us to expect military personnel to be walking around in mech suits. From Starship Troopers to Robocop, our expectations have been set: if you're not walking around in a flying skeleton of titanium alloy, you're just a flaccid water balloon full of meat slurry in a shooting range.

here is some video of very up to date "super suit"


Shatner doing WOW

Ok, you know me, every now and then I just have to put up a vid that I think is really well just plain damn funny. So here goes, Bill Shatner pluggin WOW and lampooning himself and fans alike

Scientists Melt Million-year-old Ice In Search Of Ancient Microbes


Researchers from the University of Delaware and the University of California at Riverside have thawed ice estimated to be at least a million years old from above Lake Vostok, an ancient lake that lies hidden more than two miles beneath the frozen surface of Antarctica. The scientists will now examine the eons-old water for microorganisms, and try to figure out how they survived the ages in total darkness, in freezing cold and without food and energy from the sun. segments of ice were cut from an 11,866-foot ice core, 656 feet above the surface of Lake Vostok. This ice was once water in lake Vostok itself and froze to the bottom of the existing Antarctic ice sheet. No samples have been taken directly from lake Vostok as of yet due to fears of contaminating the area. Since the lake has not had direct contact with the surface world for at least 15 million years, this would be a contamination of one of the most pristine environments on Earth.

amputees can now "feel" with new limbs

From AFP via Boing Boing

I have often said and felt that a subset of science fiction is stories about people with damage due to accident, disease or defect who by one mode or another are "enhanced" to live a normal or above normal lives. like, say Cyborg (better known to tv views as the six million dollar man) Flowers for Algernon, The Ship Who Sang, Mars, The Demolished Man, Kiln People and so on. These stories ring a bit truer for me than others maybe but I really think a blending of the human body with augmentations of one type or another has a very real future. One very real subset of this is advancements in bio augmentation hardware and prosthetics. The closer they get to true "bionics" the hard its going to be to tell where the "original" ends and the "repair" begins.

In the article listed here, advancements in the field of sensing are discussed. Some researchers have developed a technique of rerouting nerves from amputated limbs to regain some sense of touch etc. The scientists doing the research suggest their success in reviving such specific sensation identified with missing limbs could lead to establishing nervous system feedback in prosthetic devices like artificial hands, arms, feet and legs. In a very real sense, this research could lead to people having normal sensations through their replacement limbs. Very science ficiony if I do say so myself.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Universe being destroyed by mistake

Humanity may be accidentally hastening the end of the entire universe. Oops. To any and all other lifeforms out there in cosmos, sorry! Our bad!

It all comes down to quantum mechanics and the bizarre fact that subatomic thingamabobs behave differently if someone is watching them. Especially those peeking at dark matter...

One can imagine physicists Laurel and Hardy: "Stanley?...Now look what you made me do!"

Image courtesy Cinema Fantastique gallery

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Star Wars Galaxy Map!

Peter Sciretta over at the /Film blog wrote:

As far as I know, George Lucas never created a map of the Star Wars galaxy. But the galaxy map pictured above was first compiled and published in 2002, in Issue One of The Official Star Wars Fact File. It was later republished in Issue 65 of the Star Wars Insider, which was released in February 2003.

Well here is the "map" at on it to enlarge it.

On Sequoia Time a though and a review.

On Beam Me Up, we have reached episode 80. In that time we, and I say we because several of us have read some really excellent fiction. I have myself read quite a few of those stories. I think I have chosen well, the others, equally well. If I have chosen not to read a story, it was only because I could not figure out how to do it justice and quite frankly, some of the time I just didn't like the piece. Many of the stories upset me in one fashion or another. But I still read them. Here my friends is a story that I don't think I will read on BMU. The story is On Sequoia Time. The writer is Daniel Keys Moran. When I can find Mr. Moran's email address, I will certainly write him and tell him that I would love to read some of his works, one like "Old Man" But Sequoia Maybe Ron will.....But when I read it, I felt like I was being blasted by the very winds the story talks about and grieved at the passing at the end. The work is there for you to read....Please do, it is truly a great piece of fiction. But Mr. Moran will feed you a piece of the blackest fiction you might ever read.

On Sequoia Time

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Odd things in the sky! photos from Dave

These are some of the devices that Dave mentioned in this weeks show (#80) Very odd looking well.....satellites? They are not aircraft but are they satellites? If you haven't listened to this week's interview with Dave, take a listen....I haven't got a clue what these things are.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Who we'll eat in space. Or, what to do with all those Throgs, Buggers and Skinnies the Space Cowboys mow down.

Space-and planet-colonizing humans will likely desire to eat animals as much as any Terran anthropoid, but almost every animal subject to human consumption has so many complicated life requirements that the amount of energy invested in production can outweighs the nutritional values of the critters. This whether the organisms being raised are mammals, poultry or seafood.

The question has sent humanity looking to its dietary beginnings. Back to when animal food was plentiful for the taking. Not feathered, or furred, not reptilian. No. For its dietary flesh fix, as paleoanthropologists examine coprolites have discerned, Homo sapiens sapiens wisely bellied up to the most successful, most adaptable and easily consumed animals of all. The insects.

The creatures of Class Insecta—the most diverse group of animals on the Earth, with over a million described species claiming 20 to 30% or all planetary animal biomass—are also the most adaptable of animals to all air-breather environments. Spacefolk of the future will, quite sensibly, raise select insect types for food and recycling purposes, for textiles and pharmameuticals, and may ultimately make them as integral a part of their ecology as insects are back on Terra, if not more.

This according to "Entomophagy; a key to space agriculture" (pdf) wherein Researcher N. Katayama from Nagoya Women’s University, and her team of six other scientists came to this conclusion as the logical solution to the challenge of feeding off-planet humans:

"Among many candidate group and species of animal to breed in space agriculture, insects are of great interest since they have a number of advantages over mammals and other vertebrates or invertebrates. About 70-75% of animal species is insects, and they play an important role in materials recycle loop of terrestrial biosphere at their various niche. "

The researchers suggest the optimum start up space farm to include the following mix:
rice, soybean, sweet potato, green-yellow vegetable, silkworms, termites and small fishes. Such a mix would meet space colonists nutritional requirements.

In a sort of reverse engineering, space bugs may show the way to solving world hunger according to the optimistic scientists, who wrote:

"The design of systems for space agriculture will also provide insight into improving the management of Earth's biosphere for its sustainable civilization. Entomophagy may be very well proven as a key idea in solving the world's food problems, to which we are facing now."

Insects are actually a familar human food in some southern Asia and Mesoamerican cultures. For the more squeamish American types, marketing strides have been taken seeking a breakthrough to the western palate by - how else?- appealing to the vast American sweet tooth.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Canada sending up new surveillance satellite to spy on inhabitants of North Pole

The Global SpyState is moving apace. The Canadian Space Agency has announced its new surveillance satellite Radarsat-2, set to begin "safeguarding Canada's sovereignty" over its Arctic realms.

Jim Prentice, Canada's Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Canadian Space Agency said that RADARSAT-2 "will provide improved surveillance and monitoring capabilities that will provide critical data for the active management of natural resources and monitoring of the environment. .. In the event of a disaster, RADARSAT-2 will be an indispensable tool to provide rescue and humanitarian aid to those most in need".

All well and good, but as is well known, Terra's collapsing Arctic ice is opening up industrial access to hitherto unexploited seafloors where riches unknown await--at least Big Industry hopes so. But inconveniently for the exploiter wannabes, amid the ice are the islands and Innuit people of the Nunavut Territory of arctic Canada, 30,000 strong, whose two million square kilometer expanse extends from north of Hudson's Bay to the North Pole. Established in 1999, Nunavut is Canada's newest province. Check out their arctic lights link

With Radarsat-2 however, surveillance of the activity of everyone in Nunavut, from tiny isolated villages to the streets of Iqaluit, the capital, may be carried out from afar, quite as easily as a downtown street in Toronto or Brisbane; bringing the Innuit, like it or not, into the global spystate, from which, one assumes , it'll keep and eye on the non-corpatriotic among the Innuit.

Set to launch December 8, 2007 the from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Radarsat-2 is one of those "unique public-private sector partnerships" ; i.e. another government/industry hybrid where the taxpayers foot the bill and the shareholders get the profit.

Tips for the gravitationally challenged.

Twenty things you didn't know about living in space. By Corey S. Powell. In Discover Magazine, November 2007.

1. Nearly every astronaut experiences some space sickness, caused by the wildly confusing information reaching their inner ears. In addition to nausea, symptoms include headaches and trouble locating your own limbs. Just like college, really.

2. And those are the least of your worries. In weightlessness, fluids shift upward, causing nasal congestion and a puffy face; bones lose calcium, forming kidney stones; and muscles atrophy, slowing the bowels and shrinking the heart.

3. At least you'll be puffy, constipated, and Tall: the decreased pressure on the spine in zero-g causes most space travelers to grow about two inches.

4. Lab rats sent into space during midpregnancy, while their fetuses' inner ears are developing, spawn some seriously tipsy babies.

5. No humans have yet been conceived in space, so we can only imagine.

6. So that's what it takes: A 2001 study showed that astronauts who snored on Earth snoozed silently in space.

7. But astronauts sleep less soundly; 16 sunrises a day throws a major wrench into their circadian rhythms.

8 And Ziggy played guitar. At the start of the workday on the space shuttle, mission control in Houston broadcasts wake-up music, usually selected with a particular astronaut in mind. On the all-work, no-play International Space Station, crews wake to an alarm clock.

9. If you are ever exposed to the vacuum of space without a suit on. don't hold your breath. Sudden decompression would cause your lungs to rupture.

10 In addition, water on the tongue, in the nose, and in the eyes would boil away. This actually happened in 1965, when a space suit failed during a NASA experiment and the tester was exposed to a near vacuum for 15 seconds.

11. Contrary to Hollywood, though, you wouldn't explode. Lack of oxygen in the blood is what would kill you, but it would take about two minutes.

12. More explosion paranoia: Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson's space-tourism company, reportedly considered barring women with breast implants due to fears that they might blow up.

13. John Glenn found it hard to choke down his food, but not because of the lack of gravity: Early astronauts relied on aluminum tubes of semiliquid mush, food cubes, and dehydrated meals.

14. Today astronauts can spice up their meals with salt and pepper—in liquid form. Sprinkled grains would float away, tickling noses and clogging vents.

15. Missing something? Those vents on the space shuttle and International Space Station serve as the lost and found, sucking up anything that's floating about unsecured.

16. The shuttle commode requires that astronauts align themselves precisely in the dead center of the seat. A mock-up of the shuttle toilet, complete with built-in camera, is used to train them how to position themselves.

17. NASA tried building a bathroom into its space suits—a fitted condom attached to a bladder for men, a molded gynecological insert for women—but gave up and passed out diapers to all.

18. Returning astronauts report extreme difficulty moving their arms and legs right after touchdown, one reason why they call landing "the second birth. "

19. But some long-duration cosmonauts report that the hardest thing to readjust to about life on Earth is that when you let go of objects, they fall.

20. Better just to stay up there? Eighteen people have died on space missions, but never in space—always on the way up or the way down.

(NASA photo of space shuttle toilet.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Strike may kill BSG

It's no mystery that the writers strike is having a crippling effect on television in general and many programs that are teetering on the brink.

Case in point is Battle Star Galactia. Already on hiatus on the SF Channel - NBC has pushed back new production of any new episodes of BSG to the point that there is now rumor that NBC may be going to cancel the whole project.

That would be a major disappointment in my book. After we were told that this would be the last season, I reconciled myself to the fact that I would at least see the series to a proper end. Now even that may be in jeopardy. Well, nothing solid yet, but if something permanent comes along, I will let you know.

Forced Immunization - one step away from MallCity says Saunders

A recent action by Circuit Court Judge C. Philip Nichols to force parent of school age children in Maryland to prove that their children have been vaccinated or risk up to 10 days in jail - has spawned some very heated debate from many people. One of our resident social critics, writer and psychologist Shaun A. Saunders has aptly pointed out that, right or wrong, this is a move well into his MallCity universe where civil liberties, personal freedom and privacy are things of the past. He has cited several recent news articles that describe in detail, just what is going on in Maryland.

Shaun writes

The weblink below tells of forced vaccination of schoolchildren in Maryland, USA, where kids were literally herded up into a courthouse and illegally and forcibly vaccinated without their or their parents' consent. Is this a democracy? Or another example of government and state acting as paid agents of big industry?

I've said more than once in recent radio interviews about my books Mallcity 14 and Navigating in the New World that the current reality of corporate Australia and its big brother the US of A is every bit as scary as my fiction...democracy? LOL - just forced consumption...



Here are his links.

The official marketing spiel

A one-sided news article before the event

and another:,0,6491912.story

dissension from physicians:

Virtual Eve: first in human computer interaction

Shaun Saunders sends in this piece from with the comment

Meet the software behind the Infopanels of mallcity 14!!!!!!!!!!

The near-human performance of a virtual teacher called Eve created by Massey researchers has drawn the attention of scientists across the computing world. Eve is what is known in the information sciences as an intelligent or affective tutoring system that can adapt its response to the emotional state of people by interaction through a computer system. he ability of virtual Eve to alter her presentation according to the reaction of the child facing her at the keyboard has been hailed as an exciting development. Although Eve was developed for one-to-one maths teaching with eight-year-olds, she is a significant new character in the future of human computer interaction and could be a personalised virtual tutor by any name.

(of course Shaun would say that it will make intelligent billboard or his "infopanels" that closer to reality. Yep, dead on Shaun!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Beowulf - just a minor bitch

Ok, not having seen the film yet, and not even sure we can even really classify this one AS science fiction, though in truth it does seem to resemble what we have come to accept as a space opera...oh I know already....there ain't in Beowulf... but all you have to do is look at the promos and you will see the similarities. No, my bitch is just an observation on the script writers who are doing the trailer scripts. I know you have seen this one... its where you see non-stop carnage and the announcer is saying "Beowulf, you'll leave the theater screaming for more!" Now this precious line caught my interest right off the bat. My first reaction was..."what idiot wrote that line?!" I mean, think about it for a the end of a satisfying meal, you don't kick back and scream "I want more!" No! you might say..."Damn, I can't wait until I have that meal again!" Or "I will be back to eat here again!" Nope, coming out of a theater screaming for more, came across as...what? that's all!? That's it?! WTF! Gimme my money back! What a gyp! I want more! ok, I know, nit picking, but screaming for more sounds like your dissatisfied - Don't you think it should be....Beowulf, you'll want to see it over and over again....
ok, I'm done

Actor Dick Wilson, "the Charmin man," Dies

British-born actor Dick Wilson, who will forever be known as the "Please, don't squeeze the Charmin" man, died 19 November 2007 at the Motion Picture & Television Fund Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. From 1964 to 1985, he played the grocer, Mr. Whipple, who always found himself squeezing the product. His few genre film roles included parts in The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981) and Diary of a Madman (1963). But he was far more a television actor, and his genre appearances on the small screen were much more numerous, including: Fantasy Island (1978), Tabitha (1977), the two-part Disneyland episode "The Whiz Kid and the Mystery at Riverton" (1974), 18 episodes of Bewitched (1965-1972), two episodes of I Dream of Jeannie (1969), two episodes of Get Smart! (1966 and 1968), The Flying Nun (1967), My Mother the Car (1966), The Munsters (1965), three episodes of My Favorite Martian (1963 and 1964), My Living Doll (1964), and two episodes of The Twilight Zone (1959 and 1963).
ap photo Wilson as Mr. Whipple

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Best Science Fiction Books of the Year

Michael Berry at the San Francisco Chronicle has put together a list of what he considers the best Science Fiction books of the year. It's a very interesting list with a great mix of authors. Here is the list, for Michael's reviews click here or on the article title to go to the complete story in the Chronicle

Michael Berry

The Sons of Heaven By Kage Baker
One for Sorrow By Christopher Barzak
Territory By Emma Bull
20th Century Ghosts By Joe Hill
Un Lun Dun By China Mieville
Empire of Ivory By Naomi Novik
The Name of the Wind By Patrick Rothfuss
Bad Monkeys By Matt Ruff
The Terror By Dan Simmons
Halting State By Charles Stross

post from

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bionic Woman, other shows "suspended"

From SF Scope online

Variety reported this morning that "Universal Media Studios on Thursday began notifying the regulars on NBC's Bionic Woman, The Office, and 30 Rock that the studio is suspending them, citing the force majeure provisions in their SAG contracts."

Force majeure essentially equates to "act of God," meaning the studios are pretending that they had no control over these circumstances. By throwing everyone out of work, they are hoping to make the actors and directors angry at the writers, hopefully splitting the solidarity of the strike. We'll see how that works out in that notoriously incestuous town. I tell you, it's like watching the Medicis at work.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Surf's Up! and it's bringing in an new GUT!

Shaun Saunders sends in this article from the Uk's Telegraph online

The headline reads:
Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything!

An impoverished surfer has drawn up a new theory of the universe, seen by some as the Holy Grail of physics, which has received rave reviews from scientists. Garrett Lisi, 39, has a doctorate but no university affiliation and spends most of the year surfing in Hawaii, where he has also been a hiking guide and bridge builder. Despite this unusual career path, his proposal is remarkable because, by the arcane standards of particle physics, it does not require highly complex mathematics. Even better, it does not require more than one dimension of time and three of space, when some rival theories need ten or even more spatial dimensions and other bizarre concepts. And it may even be possible to test his theory, which predicts a host of new particles. Lee Smolin at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, describes Lisi's work as "fabulous". "It is one of the most compelling unification models I've seen in many, many years," he says. The new theory reported today in New Scientist has been laid out in an online paper entitled "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything" by Lisi, who completed his doctorate in theoretical physics in 1999 at the University of California, San Diego.

Click article title or here for complete story

By their irises, ye shall know them.

Is it the real Gordon Cooper? Anything could have happened during those 3.3 million miles he traveled aboard Gemini 5. But ...the Scanner knows...

Returning space stationeers and the rest of the off-planet crowd will likely have to do the eye scan before being set loose on Terra. Ditto for Terrans boarding the coming orbital mini-earths?

Could be soon...In the ongoing slouch towards Dystopia, England is taking the Great Leap Forward: all UK-ers re-entering their kingdom from elsewhere shall shortly have to pass biometric screens before disembarking on Albion's shore; with universal biometry of all Britons but a few years off, and offplanet eye-dee-ing before we know it. Image(s) courtesy us govt

Incredible Comet Bigger than the Sun

The Nov. 1 photo at left, by an amateur astronomer, shows Comet Holmes' coma consists of concentric shells of dust and a faint tail. The Hubble image at right, made Nov. 4 and enhanced to reveal details, reveals the bow-tie appearance created by twice as much dust existing along the horizontal direction. Credit: NASA,ESA, and H. Weaver (The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory); Alan Dyer

Thanks to Cathy for the post

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Spaceflights now for sale; scary part is price

Considering space travel on one of Virgin Galactic's new ships?

The sales pitch goes like this: The first hour will be relatively painless, a graceful ascent in a spaceship attached to a mother ship. Once the vessels reach 50,000 feet, the ship containing you, five more tourists and two pilots will detach and fall for a moment.

Then, the thrusters will propel it up for 90 seconds, traveling three times the speed of sound. All of the spacecraft's fuel will burn away, leaving its tanks empty.

The G-forces on your body will push your blood toward your feet. It is hoped that you won't black out, but if you do, you'll come to when you're at zero gravity.

Once above the undefined line that delineates Earth from space, your craft will arch to a height of 360,000 feet for about four minutes. You will be weightless and have stunning views of Earth's curvature, 1,000 miles in any direction.

And then gravity will beckon the vessel down to Earth, the human bodies within it feeling pressure six times their weight, sort of like a "big, hairy, fat cat sitting on your chest."

Total approximate time: two hours and nine minutes. All this for only $200,000 -- a lot of money to most folks, but a mere fraction of the millions spent by previous space tourists.

(Join us this week when we talk to Virgin's sale rep! That will be on BMU #79 for 11/19/07)

Antipodean #114 is online!

I have been informed that the newest issue of Antipodean online flash fiction magazine is now available online.

This is AntipodeanSF Issue 114 for November-December 2007

Here is the table of contents of issue 114

"Conversations At A Garden Party" by Andrea Gawthorne

"For The Love Of Mike" by Bren MacDibble

"The Death Of A Man" by Peter Tennant

"Things That Make You Go MMMMM" by Barbara J. Holten

"I Spy" by Shaun A. Saunders

"Love Your Pet" by Carl Palmer

"Wishes" by Amanda Pillar

"Selling The Plan" by Robin Hillard

"Heaven, As Built By Tackleby Ames", by Bart Meehan

"Apocalypse...Now?" by Matt Tighe

Click the title or here to go to Antipodean's newest issue

The 22 Most Awful Moments in Science Fiction

From the online oft hilarious magazine Something Awful is the 22 most awful moments in science fiction. These series of rants are often extremely funny and often you can't help but agree...

Like calling the original Battlestar Galatica creatively bankrupt! OMG can you say letter bomb?!

or calling Kubrick's 2001 self-indulgent ugly psychedelic BS (I swear, I am not making this up!

How about when Marc Okrand wrote the dictionary of Klingon? the writer said "Klingon may not be a true language, but it's close enough to ensure that 50 fat guys with lumpy headpieces aren't getting laid anytime soon"

And it goes on and on! Be warned the language is rough and the opinions will often make you consider mass murder or something close to it. But it goes away fast, because you will be laughing so hard that you will need to change your skivies.... Have fun

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Crater From 1908 Russian Space Impact Found

Almost a century after a mysterious explosion in Russia flattened a huge swath of Siberian forest, scientists have found what they believe is a crater made by the cosmic object that made the blast.
The crater was discovered under a lake near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in western Siberia, where the cataclysm, known as the Tunguska event, took place. In their new study, a team of Italian scientists used acoustic imagery to investigate the bottom of Lake Cheko. The basin of Lake Cheko is not circular, deep, and steep like a typical impact crater. nstead it's elongated and shallow, about 1,640 feet (500 meters) long with a maximum depth of only 165 feet. "We suggest that a 10-meter-wide [33-foot-wide] fragment of the object escaped the explosion and kept going in the same direction. It was relatively slow, about 1 kilometer a second [0.6 mile a second]," said Luca Gasperini, a geologist with the Marine Science Institute in Bologna .

Click here for complete article

Faux robot walker

Want to create a robot walking machine for yourself, but don't want to deal with all of the fussy gyro stabilization and gait-control issues? Here's how to fake it. (And get your started thinking about NEXT Halloween's costume.)

click here for the Make Magazine article on how to build

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wastelands set for 1/19/2008 release!

Editor John Joseph Adams writes me to let us know that his newest collection Wastelands which can best be described as stories where the central theme is the Apocalypse. 22 stories from a diverse and talented group. Here is a partial list of the stories:

Hugo Award winner "Speech Sounds"by Octavia E. Butler

Locus Award winner "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth" by Cory Doctorow

World Fantasy Award finalist"The End of the Whole Mess" by Stephen King

Hugo & Nebula Award finalist" The People of Sand and Slag" by Paolo Bacigalupi

Hugo & Nebula Award finalist "Ginny Sweethips' Flying Circus" by Neal Barret, Jr.

Nebula Award finalist "The End of the World as We Know It" by Dale Bailey

The book is set for January 19th release in 2008. I will be putting up a review of the book asap, but what I have already seen in the contents and the graphics, I am very impressed. Looks good so far.

Click the title or here to go to Night Shade books.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Film Of 1954 Extraterrestrial and U.S. President Eisenhower Meeting?

Ever read an article that is so twisted it could be a really good story? Well then, if you answered yes, you are going to love this piece that Shaun Saunders sent me. What the writer purports is that there exsists a black and white movie of the meeting between President Eisenhower and human ET’s which took place allegedly in 1954. It runs on a bit, so I am not going to ruin it by cutting parts out of it and posting it here. It's entertaining and would make a great story all on its own. Click here for the complete story

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mars's tiny moons – one small step for mankind?

Forget Mars – the Red Planet's moons Phobos and Deimos could be the next stop in the solar system for humanity, according to planetary scientists. During a recent conference at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, in California, Scientists speculated that astronauts could make their first footprints on one of them within 10 years. As a counterpoint to a return mission to Earth's moon, some scientists believe that a manned mission returning to the moon is counter productive. Plus a robotic mission to either of Mars' moons is easier than one to Luna.

Granted, the Moon is only a short three-day spaceflight from Earth, whereas Phobos and Deimos are several months away using current propulsion methods.

But the Moon's gravity is one-sixth Earth's, strong enough that a landing craft has to fire retrorockets to slow its descent to the surface, and again to leave. This wastes tonnes of heavy, expensive fuel and adds millions of dollars to the cost of a mission.

Mars' two potato-shaped worlds, on the other hand, are tiny – Phobos is the size of Manhattan and Deimos is about a third as large, just 6.3 kilometres wide. So their gravitational pull is only one-thousandth that of Earth, making landing on them more like docking with another spaceship.

Estimates put a robotic or manned mission to Mars' moons at a tenth of the cost of a moon or Mars mission. Plus there are many unknowns about the makeup and origins of both of Mars' moons that such missions could help answer. Scientists have theorised that the moons may be asteroids captured by Mars's gravity, or that they may be remnants of a single moon that was blasted apart by a massive impact. But until we have missions that target these bodies, we will always have questions.

This image of Phobos, taken by Europe's Mars Express spacecraft from a distance of less than 200 km, shows the Mars-facing side of the moon (Image: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/G Neukum)

Thanks to Shaun A. Saunders for the post

Friday, November 09, 2007

10 sf/f Books that should be Movies!

From Geekend and the very fertile imagination of Jay Garmon we read his list of books he would like to see movies made of. He does qualify the list with this comment (I’d rage against the omission of Ender’s Game except that Wolfgang Petersen is working on it. Of course, the same could be said of Rendezvous with Rama, but that daunting project is in a deeper circle of development hell than Ender. Also, HBO is doing A Song of Ice and Fire as an epic miniseries, but I guess the small screen doesn’t count. After what we got with the Sci Fi Channel’s Earthsea miniseries–which infuriated Le Guin–I can maybe understand that. )

1 The Dark Tower by Stephen King
2 Foundation by Isaac Asimov
3 The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson
4 A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin
5 Hyperion by Dan Simmons
6 The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
7 Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
8 The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny
9 Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock
10 A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Now, just for argument's sake......

Dark Tower.....uhhhhh DUH! have you read the books?!! do you question the inclusion? My concern is that they do a DUNE on it. The Dark Tower is no more complicated than Herbert's Dune which means that there is every chance that they will completely trash it.

Foundation again DUH! Foundation on the other hand is VERY COMPLICATED which means that you will have to have someone explain the voice over that explains the movie! I was at the showing of Bladerunner and saw everyone who had read the short story leaning over and explaining Harrison's voice over. Which is the same thing that happened to DUNE.... kind of see a pattern developing here? Don't get me wrong, I would love to see these big screen....... Just that it sound be a rule that the producers, directors and screen writers understand the damn book first!

Hyperion....OMG! Yes this should be a movie.....and no it probably won't be....look at what they did with I Robot and run screaming away from this project.

Rendezvous with Rama, is already having a screenplay written for it...right? I will hold my breath and cross my fingers......any of the Kubricks still willing to ruin their careers? Oh I know, that's harsh....but that's only from the people who didn't see 2001.

And as much as I love Zelazny I can not foresee how this could be made without everyone going insane.

Earthsea....ditto on the author's comments and to be quite frank, the rest are fantasy novels....and I know, the title says fantasy and Science fiction...but I don't drool over the thought of a fantasy novel being made...Now that doesn't mean I won't watch them...I would, and will...hell I am looking forward to Tin Man on the Sci-fi channel. Glutton for punishment I guess....(scarecrow with a zipper in his head? groan.....)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Kelly Completes Reading of Podcast Novel

James Patrick Kelly announces that he has just finished a podcast of his 1989 novel LOOK INTO THE SUN. The unabridged reading, over eleven hours long in thirty-four parts, is available for free downloading under a Creative Commons 3.0 license at Kelly's Free Reads Podcast site and on iTunes.

Kelly began the weekly readings back in March. This is Kelly's second novel recorded for Free Reads.The first was BURN, which won the Nebula award for best novella in May,2007. Also available on Free Reads area number of previously published stories and a selection of his "On The Net" columns from Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.

Kelly also produces a for-pay podcast on called James Patrick Kelly's StoryPod. "After a brief vacation," said Kelly, "I look forward to posting more of my work on Free Reads. I am an audio book aficionado, and it is my ambition to have one of the most extensive libraries of Creative Commons podcasts of any professional science fiction writer."

James Patrick Kelly has written novels,short stories, essays, reviews, poetry, plays and planetarium shows. He has won the World Science Fiction Society’s Hugo award twice and his fiction has been translated into eighteen languages. He serves on the faculty of the Stonecoast Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine and the Board of Directors of the Clarion Foundation. His web site is

LOOK INTO THE SUN was extensively reviewed when it was first published:

"An earthling architect hired by aliens to build a tomb for a dying goddess must overcome a difficult case of culture shock. His struggle to maintain his identity while shifting his point of view is treated with admirable seriousness." New York Times, New and Note worthy Books

"A complex and richly constructed novel of a man faced with the destruction of everything with which he is familiar." Science Fiction Chronicle

A rich, slow, allusive, glinting pastoral edifice." Washington Post Book World

"Kelly explores the literal and figurative boundaries of alienation in this evocative novel of a man's search for his own humanity." Library Journal

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Largest extrasolar planetary system discovered

A fifth planet has been discovered around a nearby star, making it the largest planetary system known outside our own. The planet appears to be a gas giant like Saturn. The planet was discovered around a star called 55 Cancri that is about 41 light years away from Earth and is slightly cooler and dimmer than our own Sun. The 55 Cancri system was already known to include four other planets, including three giant planets that orbit the star closer than Mercury orbits the Sun. The fourth is four times as massive as Jupiter and orbits at about Jupiter's distance from the Sun.

For more on this new planet, speculation about life in this system and a video simulation of the system, click here to go to the complete article.

Thanks to Shaun A. Saunders for the post

(Illustration: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Key Found to Making Robots Human-Friendly

On average, robots today can hold human interest for only about 10 hours, but in a new study, a humanoid robot dubbed QRIO (pronounced "curio") was accepted by human toddlers as "one of them" for 5 months before it was taken away. Why? Well it is no mystery that humans revel in the sense of touch. The premise that if a robot responded when touched - would improve the chances that the robot would be much more acceptable was proven out when QRIO was programmed to have a crude sense of touch. In the study, QRIO was introduced into a classroom of toddlers aged 18 months to 24 months. Children of this age group were chosen because they have no preconceived notions of robots and they communicate using touch as much as speech. In phase I of the experiment, which lasted 27 sessions, QRIO was instructed to interact with the children using its full behavioral repertoire, which included head-turning, dancing and giggling. At first, the children would touch the robot on its face, but as they warmed to him, the majority of their touches were to its hands and arms—a pattern the children also displayed toward each other. During phase II, which lasted 15 sessions, QRIO ignored the children's touches and danced throughout the session. At that point, the [children] quickly lost interest. When QRIO's ability to respond to touch and giggle were returned for three sessions in phase III, the children became friendly with the robot again. What proved even more interesting is that the response to touch is more important than being humaniform. QRIO only basically mimics the human form, this however seemed no impediment to it being accepted as long as it responded when touched.

Thanks to Shaun A. Saunders for the post

pic credit
Credit: J. Movellan et al., UCSD

Jack Mangan responds to Unsolvable Deathtrap broadcast

As you might recall, I ran Jack Mangan's excellent short story "The Unsolvable Deathtrap"
in episode 73. Jack was kind enough to write back, and I thought I would share his comments with you.


Hey, I realize that the show ran about a month ago --- but I wanted to write and say thanks for the wonderful treatment you showed "The Unsolvable Deathtrap". Greatly appreciated! And you did an excellent job. ............ keep up the good work!

Jack Mangan

Thanks Jack!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What To Do Before the Asteroid Strikes

From Discover Magazine online

In 2004, a dozen or so scientists quietly confronted an impending disaster. They had inside intelligence that a chunk of rock and metal, roughly 1,300 feet wide, was hurtling toward a possible collision with the most populated swath of Earth—Europe, India, and Southeast Asia. Furiously crunching numbers on their computers, the researchers put the odds of impact in the year 2029 at exactly those of hitting the number in a game of roulette: 1 in 37. Researching back data proved that conclusion wrong, however in 2029 the asteroid, dubbed Apophis—derived from the Egyptian god Apep, the destroyer who dwells in eternal darkness—will zoom closer to Earth than the world’s communications satellites do. And April 13, 2036, it will return—this time with a 1-in-45,000 chance of hitting somewhere on a line stretching from the Pacific Ocean near California to Central America. What causes even more concern is that this is far from an unusual situation. There are literally hundreds of thousands of small to medium object that are now being tracked that are no where near the size to end civilization like the one that killed off the dinosaurs, but still could pack a vicious wallop in the arena of a good sized nuclear or multiple nuclear weapon! Slamming into the ocean, Apophis could create a tsunami dwarfing the one that killed more than 200,000 people around Indonesia. NASA is trying to pinpoint 90% of the NEOs that could be extremely dangerous to life on Earth and ESA is in the experimentation phase of plans to deflect smaller objects before they hit Earth. Click here to read more about their concerns and first serious attempt at developing a planetary defense.

Thanks to Shaun A. Saunders for the post

Comet draws scientific, amateur interest

A comet that has unexpectedly brightened in the past couple of weeks and now is visible to the naked eye is attracting professional and amateur interest. The comet in question and of interest is Comet 17P/Holmes which can be seen in the northern sky, in the constellation Perseus, as a fuzzy spot of light about as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper. The comet is exploding and its coma, a cloud of gas and dust illuminated by the sun, has grown to be bigger than the planet Jupiter. The comet lacks the tail usually associated with such celestial bodies. Until Oct. 23, the comet had been visible to modern astronomers only with a telescope when it suddenly increased in brightness which indicated that the comet nucleus had disintegrated. Scientists speculate the comet has exploded because there are sinkholes in its nucleus, giving it a honeycomb-like structure. The collapse exposed comet ice to the sun, which transformed the ice into gas. Paul Lewis, director of astronomy outreach at the University of Tennessee, says that "This is a once-in-a-lifetime event to witness, along the lines of when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 smashed into Jupiter back in 1994,"

Thanks to listener Cathy for the post

Monday, November 05, 2007

BMU 77 podcast is up- we look at a galactic slugfest, the moonrush, gravity-free evolution,, talk with Shaun Saunders, listen to Doctorow and more!

BMU's latest podcast lets you: take sides on the wager on who won the great galactic barroom brawl three billion years ago, and who got the dark matter kicked out of them; find out why moon mining is suddenly where the smart money is rushing, how the Chinese may have effectively preempted other nations in gaining exclusive economic use of the moon and beyond--all the way to the limits of 'the heavens'!; why NASA must open its secret UFO files to a journalist; what organism is proven to evolve in nongravity environments; Australian novelist/psychologist Shaun Anthony Saunders on the making of Mallcity 14 (the book), and his and BMU's thoughts on the social challenges likely to crop up on longterm space voyages, when the stress of competing for expensive, continually updating material status symbols -- something endemic to Terran human socio-economics today -- is suddenly removed. And Cory Doctorow on wikipedia and other e-resources for today's internetia.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Moonrush is on, as wannabe exploiters and luna-huggers square off.

'Harvest Moon' takes on another meaning, as Terran "Moonrushers" point to fortunes to be made exploiting the vast deposits of madly valuable lunar ores containing helium-3 (He-3) that are now asserted to exist in easily mineable and transportable commercial quantities of the material.

Others, noting an increased propensity by the planet's nation-states to extraterritorially lay claim to the hitherto sacrosanct polar regions of Antarctica and Arctica, warn that Chinese planning for lunar colonization is well underway,

But do they have a claim? The host of mining interests and rocketeers that hope to stripmine Helium-3 rich moondust from the lunar "seas" have no more claim than any other earthlings. The Chinese nation however, could invoke their historic claim to already possessing the entire moon as their exclusive economic zone under the Shang Dynasty Son of Heaven declaration asserting China's extraplanetary hegemony as the ruler of "All under heaven".

With even a conservative definition of the outer rim of "heaven" encompassing the entire suite of planets and suns perceptible from Terra, Chinese claims to the moon could be seen as a small expression of the ancient claim.

In recent centuries competing groups of Terrans have used such ancient ownership claims as the aforenoted Chinese one to justify struggle for control over regions of their planet from which they may have departed millenia earlier.

(It is of course doubtful in the extreme that the People's Republic would ever advance the Shang Dynasty's space claims. But China has sent historic exploratory voyages before; Zheng He's explorations of the Indian Ocean are renowned.)

Moon-struck fight back.

Luna-huggers have also appeared, demanding protection of their planet's sole moon from the visible-from-earth scarring that would be the outcome of the application of industrial mining operations on a profitable scale to the nearly entirely pristine lunar surface environment.

Concerned about presently unforeseeable consequences, such opponents of lunar commercial exploitation may call for development and of a precautionary Lunar Impact Study Protocol requiring consideration of likely extralunar impacts of such mining, including degradation of the Moon's aesthetic resources.

Is is widely believed that large quantities of He-3 brought to Terra could power suffient fusion energy to allow for significant reduction in the use of carboniferous fossil fuels useful in s0lve the planet's global warming/energy source challenges

For the record, the Harvest Moon is the full moon nearest to Terra's autumnal equinox.