Monday, February 27, 2006

Enormous laser beam produces artificial star

Now let me get this straight: is this "artificial star" as in "we're gonna shine a laser into the sky and measure how many photons fall off the top" or is this "artifical star" as in "making a goddamn artificial star!"? If the latter, then getting all giddy about souped-up telescopes and shapeshifting mirrors is just insanely absurd.


On an entirely different note, Octavia Butler is dead.

The writer of Wild Seed is dead.





Female black scifi writer is dead. Any idea just how few of those we have left?

Goddamn it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Induced Genetic Mutation causes Chicken to Grow Teeth

Apparently, one can tweak chicken genes to resurrect traits belonging to their extinct ancestors. This raises the question: Just how far could could one take this?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Possible Fictional and/or Essay Idea (Mostly written Feb 18 2006) ...

Small individual things are radically unpredictable. Put them into a large group however and the thrashings of the group organism are eminently less so. Case in point: subatomic particles as opposed to bricks. Case in point: individual termites as opposed to colonies. Case in point: human beings as opposed to mobs.

Understanding how gnarly objects (such as German citizens, circa late 1930s) scale up to predictable (and more importantly) manipulable (see: Hitler) systems is key to our survival in the next century. Why?

We are a scarcity-evolved lifeform. I can only assume that all lifeforms are too. It’s essentially thermodynamics: energy flows from points of higher concentration to points of lower. In the process, it sometimes latches on here and there and clings for a while resulting in what we know as complexity. This can only be referred to as life.

In any case (our case specifically), scarcity leads to competition. Competition leads to conflict. Conflict leads to … well, I don’t need to point that out now do I? The trouble is this: unlike unpredictability of behavior which seems, to an extent, to be inversely proportional to population, the urge to conflict scales up and down more or less seamlessly. That’s why kids fight on the playground, that’s why countries fight wars.

So. What do we do? Can we eliminate scarcity? Perhaps. Can we eliminate the competitive drive from human beings? Again, perhaps. But if we did the former without the latter, nothing would change – we’d simply find new things to fight about. If we did the latter without the former, dieback would reduce the nearly volitionless populace to a manageable (yet unmanaged) herd of intelligent cattle. Nearly all our motivation is tied up with our competition reflexes – be it sex or the acquisition of resources.

Suppose we did both. Suppose we advanced our technology and understanding to the point where scarcity, while still extant in the cosmological paradigm, was no longer a practical problem. Suppose, with scarcity effectively gone, we decided we no longer needed to compete, so we cut out that circuitry. Result? Peace and love for all. Then what?

Suppose an external force, still bound by predatory or competitive drives, entered the equation. (Note: I am not using the word “aliens” but I’m thinking it :D ) Basically, we’d be screwed. Therefore, competition is definitely necessary for our long-term survival but the toxic aspects are too dangerous to keep. What do we do?

The solution is to found in my first paragraph; remember that? The behavior of a group can be radically different from the behavior of its constituent individuals. The way I see it, one must find a way to eradicate aggressive competitive urges within the individuals of the human race but in such a fashion that we are still capable of engaging in conflict as a group. End result is peace within, but anyone fucks with us, we band together and kick their asses.



(written two days later)
Upon further thought, it occurs to me that figuring out how to do that i.e. tweak starting conditions among individual objects so as to alter the behavior of crowds in a precise way would also allow us to do it to termite colonies, bacterial colonies and pretty much any kind of swarm/hive/mob/crowd. That, by the way, includes a)neuron analogues and b) subatomic particles. Take that as far as it can go and what do you have?

I think you have a) the ability to custom-grow artificial intelligences from seed to pre-determined mind and b) the ability to make pretty much whatever macroscale object you want by smacking a few gazillion subatomic particles together.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Design Synthetic Genes Online

As soon as I'm done reading the manual, man alive, am I gonna be on this!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Unconscious mind best for complex decisions

Complex decisions are best left to your unconscious mind to work out, according to a new study, and over-thinking a problem could lead to expensive mistakes.

The research suggests the conscious mind should be trusted only with simple decisions, such as selecting a brand of oven glove. Sleeping on a big decision, such as buying a car or house, is more likely to produce a result people remain happy with than consciously weighing up the pros and cons of the problem, the researchers say.

Thinking hard about a complex decision that rests on multiple factors appears to bamboozle the conscious mind so that people only consider a subset of information, which they weight inappropriately, resulting in an unsatisfactory choice. In contrast, the unconscious mind appears able to ponder over all the information and produce a decision that most people remain satisfied with.

Peter Watts' thesis in Blindsight may very well be completely and literally true. Consciousness is narrow. And slow too. It and intelligence are two completely seperate things that just happened to go together. The above goes to show that their doing so might not even have been ideal.

“At some point in our evolution, we started to make decisions consciously, and we’re not very good at it. We should learn to let our unconscious handle the complicated things,” Dijksterhuis says

Case in point.


Prostitutes call for ban on GTA

Joining the ranks of politicians, policemen, and attorneys in their crusade to see the game lifted from shelves are the nation's sex workers. On its Web site, the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA is asking parents to assist them in calling for a ban of Take-Two Interactive's controversial game.

Citing a 2001 document from the National Institute on Media and the Family's David Walsh, SWOP is calling "on all parents and all gamers to boycott Grand Theft Auto."

The organization quotes various points from Walsh's paper, including, "Children are more likely to imitate a character with whom they identify with. In violent video games the player is often required to take the point of view of the shooter or perpetrator."

Though the organization admits to being "adamantly opposed to any and all forms of censorship," as concerned parents themselves, they "wish to inform other parents of the potential danger extremely violent video games pose to children." Likewise, in the interest of promoting the rights of sex workers, the organization is opposed to the depiction of the rape and murder of prostitutes.

Taskmaster Incorporated has been medusaheaded. The technical aspect of the writing could use some work but it's definitely fun.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Vice President shoots person. In the face. With a shotgun!


I shouldn't be finding this funny. I really shouldn't.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Movie Of Your Life Is An Indie Flick

You do things your own way - and it's made for colorful times.
Your life hasn't turned out how anyone expected, thank goodness!

Your best movie matches: Clerks, Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite

That sounds about right.

Via Posthuman Blues

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Ok, this is too good ...

By 2010 or so, we(translation: rich people in the western world i.e. not including myself) could all have these.