Wednesday, August 28, 2013

August: a few links

"The problem with all simulations is that the laws of physics, which appear continuous, have to be superimposed onto a discrete three dimensional lattice which advances in steps of time. [..] The question that Beane and co ask is whether the lattice spacing imposes any kind of limitation on the physical processes we see in the universe." The Matrix hypothesis, simulations of tiny bits of reality that go to the finest grain we can possibly access and so are in a sense actually real, cutting edge anthropic reasoning, and developing the empirical tests: seriously, are we living in a simulation? (MIT Technology Review).


"Stocco compared the feeling of his hand moving involuntarily to that of a nervous tic." Researcher Controls Colleague's Motions in First Human Brain-To-Brain Interface. Other things besides Stocco you can move around with your mind include wheelchairs and small helicopters.


That's the same NASA who have just 3D-printed a rocket injector (

Alex Dally MacFarlane gets an email from the NASA book club.

"But making a ‘hole’ in my spacesuit really would be a last resort." What's more, astronaut Luca Parmitano lived to blog the tale!


The Invocation paperback is now (sort of) available on Amazon. For Edinburgh folk, there may also be a few cut-price copies in Pulp Fiction. Still way cheaper on Kindle.

You backed the fun run, now back the fam ram. I mean, I suppose I would recommend supporting Steve Aylett's Heart of the Original (Unbound).

Recently I've been thinking a bit about the relationship between the avant-garde impetus in today's speculative fiction and poetry (a division which, BTW, Aylett sprawls across noncommitally). This here is the speculative fiction blog and there will be no mission creep . . . but readers curious about the poetic state of the art could do worse than to check out Hix Eros (PDF), a shiny new reviews sheet with a focus on small press, political and experimental poetry.


I like this weird little Flatland-inspired action game, where you have to sort of slice bits of your enemies away with your sort of nose.

Flatland: Fallen Angle

Glitch to 3D: I am the heart lodged in the wall

Noir, all ages, slightly elusively-accented narration. See also Edwin Abbott Abbott's Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (PDF) and Physics Games.


Who pays if an autonomous car gets ticketed? The vehicles themselves? Presumably they can moonlight as cabs? Autonomous NissansVolvos (Engadget) and GoogleWhips (Wired), on our roads within a decade.

The oligopilistic imperative to simultaneously hit the shelv-- no, they won't hit anything, that's their whole point. Still, each make of self-driving car will be separately developed and tested only in the context of human-driven traffic. Then they'll all zoom out onto the roads at once: could the various systems interact in unforeseen ways? Whatever: telly that watches itself.

Oh, an eco drone (Wired).


Strange Horizons has republished John Rieder's essay, "On Defining SF, or Not: Genre Theory, SF, and History."

"It is not quite enough to argue, as Kincaid does, that there is no 'unique, common origin' for the genre (415); the collective and accretive social process by which SF has been constructed does not have the kind of coherent form or causality that allows one to talk about origins at all. Even without reference to Wittgenstein's anti-essentialism, the historical approach to genre proposed in Hans-Robert Jauss's reception theory exposes the logical problem with identifying the moment of origin for a genre insofar as, for Jauss, the notion of genre is based on repetition and is strictly opposed to his notion of originality. In Jauss's reception theory, there cannot be a first example of a genre, because the generic character of a text is precisely what is repeated and conventional in it. A text can violate established generic expectations, but it can only be said to have established new expectations when other texts, in imitating its strategies, solidify them into the features of a genre. In order for a text to be recognized as having generic features, it must allude to a set of strategies, images, or themes that has already emerged into the visibility of a conventional or at least repeatable gesture. Genre, therefore, is always found in the middle of things, never at the beginning of them."

The essay is filled with sensible and subtle perspectives -- if perhaps a little given to that pragmatism / post-structuralism lite tic of playing off a "come all ye" pluralism against the insistence that some things (often it's a centre, an origin) do not exist here, as though everybody assumed that they did, and as though these assumptions of ours are moreover magnificently literal, rather than provisional manners of speaking which we can suspend when we feel like it.

(Maybe John Frow's idea that texts use genres instead of belonging to them does not really belong to the single true heart of Rieder's essay's essence: I don't see why science fiction texts can't both use and belong to science fiction, particularly since one of the ways in which science fiction texts use science fiction is by confronting readers with richly equivocal relationships of belonging to it: set membership, ownership, lineage, constitution, rhizomic pathfinding etc.).


"Science fiction fandom presents itself as a friendly and inclusive space and is so desperate to believe in its own myth of inclusivity that the myth now serves as a barrier to reform." Jonathan McCulmont on fandom and racefail. See also, from September 2011, Rachael of Social Justice League on How to be a Fan of Problematic Things.


This month, Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years (Wired) for passing on classified evidence of war crimes to WikiLeaks (PMSN).

"The DABs were written in standard DoD memorandum format and addressed the commander US SOUTHCOM. Each memorandum gave basic and background information about a specific detainee held at some point by Joint Task Force Guantanamo. [...] I have always been interested on the issue of the moral efficacy of our actions surrounding Joint Task Force Guantanamo. On the one hand, I have always understood the need to detain and interrogate individuals who might wish to harm the United States and our allies, however, I felt that's what we were trying to do at Joint Task Force Guantanamo. [...] However, the more I became educated on the topic, it seemed that we found ourselves holding an increasing number of individuals indefinitely that we believed or knew to be innocent, low level foot soldiers that did not have useful intelligence and would be released if they were still held in theater. [...] I also recall that in early 2009 the, then newly elected president, Barack Obama, stated that he would close Joint Task Force Guantanamo, and that the facility compromised our standing over all, and diminished our quote 'moral authority' unquote". Private Manning's Statement for the Providence Inquiry.

About the early phase of Manning's detention, here's the Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (PDF) & an article in

Footage leaked by Manning of July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike

(Redirected from Bradley Manning). Amanda Marcotte on transitioning and press pronouns ( Private Manning Support Network.

Following Snowden's leak of NSA slides, Facebook has started disclosing information about government surveillance requests. Global Government Requests Report.

"The organizations are now running into outside contractors who grew up in the globalized, liquid labor world of Generation X and Generation Y, with Generation Z fast approaching." Charles Stross on why some demographics just can't keep a secret ( See also Stross on the prospect of Western intervention in Syria., BTW, bills Charles Stross as a sci-fi visionary. Have they seen his visions?
"Brains, fresh brains for Baby Jesus," crooned the farm in a warm contralto, startling Joe half out of his skin. "Buy my brains!" Half a dozen disturbing cauliflower shapes poked suggestively out of the farm's back and then retracted again, coyly. ("Rogue Farm," 2003)
"Generally speaking, 80 percent of the information one needs to form judgments on key intelligence targets or issues is available in open media." Ray McGovern, quoted by Arthur Silber in You Too Can, & Should Be an Intelligence Analyst.

The Syrian Electronic Army has been busy.


Fans of Justin Belieber fail in their brute force attack on his Twitter account, presumably mostly because they just laughingly tweeted their password guesses to one another and didn't try inputting them.

Tim Maughan has all the latest, juiciest celebrity rumors: why just the other day Hannah Montana twerked, waggled tongue. How to Manufacture Outrage Online in 10 Easy Steps (Pop of Culture). Perhaps responding to the linkbait impasse, the fact that it's nearly impossible to quell a marketing eruption like this -- since even dismissive exposure of its mechanisms is likely to fan its flames / inflame its fans -- Maughan does the next best thing and gets a plug in for his own stuff. See also: The Onion, where Odo Meredith Artley has a similarly frank take  (rising paywall alert) on why Cyrus counts as big news; Radius of Gyration (Real World Physics Problems); Paolo Bacigalupi's short story "The Gambler," (Fast Forward 2) in which a certain kind of commodification of the news leads to a society incapable of understanding or governing itself. "Marty does a pelvic grind of victory, then waves at everyone for their attention."


Just for fun, here's some recent marketing from Paolo Bacigalupi himself:


"While supreme willpower is a common trait among ultrarunners, Karnazes first realised that he was actually biologically different when preparing to run 50 marathons in 50 days across the US back in 2006." In honour of Dean Karnazes' running factor (via @DamienGWalter), here's Rob Bricken on The 12 Most Pointless X-men. Some prudent commentary. "Let's be nerds here, okay? / Shall we be nerds? / I feel like you're arguing two points here: useless characters, and useless powers. The two are not the same" (HLHPattison). "As much as I love stories about playground brawls, and would never want superhero stories to abandon them entirely, superheroes have to be able to transcend violent fantasy-fulfillment if they want to remain relevant to people that fantasize about things other than violence" (Daybreaker).

David Langford's Ansible 314, the usual rich miscellany of genre-related events, notices, news and snippets.

One of the summer's most hotly anticipated relysiums. "It's [...] particularly impossible to name a superhero flick that wasn’t supporting what Rajan Khanna calls “the narrative of war”—our caped heroes coming to terms with their own destructive powers and doubting their own roles, even, but never coming to any conclusion apart from that defeating the enemy must be done at any cost, even if that is in the form of massive collateral computer generated damage. And, in the case of The Avengers, that it’s fine to demolish as many New York skyscrapers as you like as long as there’s someone on your team that is literally cosplaying as the American flag." Tim Maughan on Elysium (

Our Science Fiction Movies Hate Science Fiction. Ryan Britt on Elysium (The Awl). Also: Britt's 10 Funniest Lines in All of Star Wars ("We LOVE Princess Leia for so many reasons, but her ability to throw in a shitty dig right in the middle of danger is at the core of why she’s great." Laterz lazerbrainz.

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