February 5th, 2010

forums, me, non blog

[PHOTO] A note on images


I'm not going to be taking nearly as many photos as I have in the past for a variety of reasons, most relating to a lack of interest in my grey cold surroundings. That doesn't mean you won't be seeing [PHOTO] pop up on your friends page or my front page or your RSS reader, however: instead of my works, I hope to introduce you to the works of other photographers who I quite like, images which interest me and may yet influence me. Full citations will be included, of course.

Waiting for spring,

[META] Blogroll Expansion

Here's three new blogs for your perusal!

  • Noted transhumanist Anders Sandberg's Andart is a cool collection of very avant-garde science, hard and soft.

  • In his post "Bark in the bread moves the percolation threshold,", Sandberg shares a series of statistical models suggesting that the more resilient a society the more flexible and substitutable its infrastructural components.

  • Mark Simpson, British journalist and inventor (somewhat to his chagrin) of the metrosexual, has his own blog.

  • Simpson's most recent post, "Oh Do Stop Nailing Blair To The Cross: He Enjoys It", argues that although Blair deserves the bad press that he has gotten, the real problem for Britons is their country's willing evolution into an American military satellite.

  • Simon Bisson's Technology, Books, and Other Neat Stuff has been viewable from my friends page for perhaps six years, but I've not given sbisson's blog a listing of its own on my blogroll. This has not changed.</l>

    This Las Vegas post is awesome. Especially the beautiful big picture.

    [LINK] Some Friday links

    • 'Aqoul's dubaiwalla writes about the challenges facing Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates as they try to increase citizen employment, as they try to improve their skills while avoiding harm to local economies.

    • At Border Thinking, Laura Agustín takes a look at how Israel is fortifying its Sinai frontier-with Egyptian help--to keep out refugees, linking it with newly imposed penalties for Israelis who help people sneak into the country.

    • Centauri Dreams reports on yet another astounding innovation in observational astronomy, this a new technique that allows ground-based telescopes to analyze the atmospheres of extrasolar planets.

    • The Dragon's Tales reports on Iran's claim to have successfully launched a live cargo into space with its new launchers.

    • Far Outliers examines how, in early modern Southeast Asia, different ethnic groups were governed by different legal systems.

    • The Grumpy Sociologist is understandably grumpy about an Australian police official's dismissal of attacks on Indian student in Melbourne by saying that they're safer than in India, anyway.

    • Murdering Mouth nails the sort of environmentalist survivalist who longs for an early 20th century (or earlier) existence and attacks the contemporary era with its complexities, all while happily taking advantage of these very useful complexities themselves.

    • Noel Maurer at the Power and the Money makes the claim that, contrary to popular mythology, the Republican and Democratic Parties in the United States actually work in ways not unlike parties in Canada, with party policy overriding individual representative's wishes.

    • Slap Upside the Head observes that, in Saskatchewan, religious denominations support measures aimed at allowing civil marriage commissioners the right to opt out of marrying same-sex couples (and who next?).

    • Towleroad carries the news that US military officials expert it could take years to integrate queers into the American military; commenters suspect that this is political.

    [LINK] "Hubble catches Pluto red-faced"

    Bad Astronomy has such great content.

    these maps are more than just eye candy. They show significant changes on Pluto’s surface since the last maps were made using Hubble 16 years ago. Pluto’s north pole is brighter and the south pole darker, implying that material has migrated from one pole to the other, or at least that the poles are changing in different ways. Pluto orbits the Sun "on its side", dramatically more tilted than Earth’s mere 23.5°. Right now, the north pole of the world is facing the Sun, meaning it’s summer on Pluto’s northern hemisphere (as it’ll remain for a long time, given Pluto’s 248 Earth-year long year).

    Not only that, these images show that Pluto has reddened quite a bit in the past few years. This is one reason it took so long to release the images; Marc Buie, the astronomer who took them, saw some things in the data that were difficult to understand, and wanted to make sure they were correct. These images are composites of pictures taken using a blue and a green filter. During the time these observations were made, in 2000 – 2002, Pluto got much darker in blue, which was unexpected. Pluto’s moon, Charon, did not get any bluer, indicating that the cause was something intrinsic to Pluto and not that something weird happened with Hubble.

    So why is Pluto redder now? That’s not clear. In general, ultraviolet light from the Sun interacts with the chemicals on Pluto, creating reddish organic molecules; this is seen on lots of distant, icy objects in the Kuiper Belt (the region past Neptune where Pluto orbits). Incredibly, even at the numbing distance of over 4
    billion kilometers (3 billion miles) from the Sun, Pluto is still strongly affected by it. But this is happening while overall the northern hemisphere got brighter and the southern darker. You’d expect Pluto to get darker if it gets redder, so clearly there’s more going on here than meets the eye.

    I'd like live streaming high-resolution video from an array of science satellites in Pluto/Charon orbit, but this will do me for a while.

    [LINK] "'Calvin and Hobbes' fans still pine 15 years after its exit"

    Thanks to Michael from Facebook for pointing me to the recent article "'Calvin and Hobbes' fans still pine 15 years after its exit,", written by John Campanelli for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Calvin and Hobbes, for those of you who don't know, is one of the best comic strips ever, "Doonesbury for children" as an interviewee put it, a well-illustrated, intelligent, and touching series centering on the rambunctious Calvin and his pet stuffed tiger Hobbes.

    Fans, who had enjoyed 10 years and more than 3,100 installments, were left without a daily face-to-face with the spiky-haired 6-year-old who had become a part of American culture. They couldn't even hug a stuffed Hobbes or watch an animated special or put on a Calvin T-shirt (an authorized one, at least) because of Watterson's stubborn refusal to license away his characters.

    It was cold turkey -- and many fans continue to feel withdrawal.

    "Still, people come up to me, and they grieve the loss of 'Calvin and Hobbes.' It's genuine," says Lucy Caswell, curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University, the renowned research facility that houses almost half a million original works of cartoon art, including all but about a hundred of Watterson's original strips.

    The reason they mourn, she says, is that they had made friends with Calvin and his tiger. When he left, there was true emptiness.

    Unlike other popular art of the era -- the films of Kevin Costner, perhaps, or the music of Bryan Adams -- "Calvin and Hobbes" has not been time-stamped and filed away. It has endured, even thrived.

    Reruns of the strip, no longer available to newspapers in North America, still appear in more than 50 countries around the world (Miss Wormwood sends Calvin to the corner in Chinese, Vietnamese and Arabic). With little or no marketing, the "Calvin and Hobbes" compilations, now numbering 18 books, still sell half a million copies a year, according to Universal Press Syndicate. Total sales are nearing 45 million.

    (Released in 2005, "The Complete Calvin and Hobbes," a three-volume collection of every C&H strip, has sold more than 500,000 copies. Perhaps not all that impressive -- until you realize the set weighs 23 pounds and retails for $150.)

    Bootlegged Calvin merchandise is still ubiquitous, from fraternity T-shirts to the back windows of pickups. Fan Web sites abound. Search "Calvin and Hobbes" on YouTube, and you'll find dozens of attempts to animate the characters, some impressive, some embarrassing.

    Best of all, there's a brief E-mail interview with Bill Watterson, the strip's sole creator and writer and artist.

    Readers became friends with your characters, so understandably, they grieved -- and are still grieving -- when the strip ended. What would you like to tell them?

    This isn't as hard to understand as people try to make it. By the end of 10 years, I'd said pretty much everything I had come there to say.

    It's always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip's popularity and repeated myself for another five, 10 or 20 years, the people now "grieving" for "Calvin and Hobbes" would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I'd be agreeing with them.

    I think some of the reason "Calvin and Hobbes" still finds an audience today is because I chose not to run the wheels off it.

    I've never regretted stopping when I did.

    Go, read them both. The official website for the strip, so far as I can tell, is here.

    [LINK] "Toward an Interstellar Archaeology"

    The always interesting Centauri Dreams has a fascinating discussion on how we 21st century humans could possibly detect vastly superior civilizations.

    Suppose a civilization somewhere in the cosmos is approaching Kardashev type III status. In other words, it is already capable of using all the power resources of its star (4*1026 W for a star like the Sun) and is on the way to exploiting the power of its galaxy (4*1037 W). Imagine it expanding out of its galactic niche, turning stars in its stellar neighborhood into a series of Dyson spheres. If we were to observe such activity in a distant galaxy, we would presumably detect a growing void in visible light from the area of the galaxy where this activity was happening, and an upturn in the infrared. Call it a ‘Fermi bubble.’

    That’s the term used by Richard Carrigan (Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory) in his latest work on what he calls ‘interstellar archaeology,’ the search for cosmic-scale artifacts like Dyson spheres or Kardashev civilizations. A Fermi bubble would grow as the civilization creating it diffused through space. Carrigan notes that, as Carl Sagan and others observed, the time to colonize an individual system is small compared to the travel time between stars. An expanding front of colonization might then move forward at a rate roughly comparable to the space travel velocity. A civilization could engulf its galaxy on a time scale comparable to the rotation period of the galaxy, and perhaps a good bit shorter.

    You might think a galaxy like the M51 Whirlpool galaxy would be ideal for such study, but Carrigan says a rough qualitative estimate shows there are no unexplained ‘bubbles’ at the level of 5 percent of the M51 galactic area. The quest is tricky because spiral galaxy structure includes natural voids — even if a void in visible light with infrared enhancement were traced, it would be hard to regard it as anything other than natural. In fact, James Annis has suggested that elliptical galaxies , which exhibit little structure, might be a better place to look for Fermi bubbles than spiral galaxies. Whatever the case, we’ve moved a long way from conventional SETI, listening for intentional transmissions from other civilizations.

    Further down, the author suggests that the discovery of unusual contaminants in the atmospheres of planets or stars, or excessive infrared radiation around stars indicative of large-scale constructions, or unusual galaxies, could be useful markers. We've not found anything. So far.