Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dustin (OddThings) weighs in on the ever-contentious "what if extraterrestrials revealed themselves?" issue.
Film news about Philip K. Dick's Radio Free Albemuth

Production has wrapped on the film adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel Radio Free Albemuth. The 10th movie adaptation of a PKD story, the indy movie was directed by John Alan Simon and stars Alanis Morisette. According to Simon, the total shoot took just 24 days and "the entire budget of the picture was less than the majors spend on catering."

I think "Radio Free Albemuth" was the third PKD novel I read. It remains one of my favorites: ferociously topical and warmly human.
Happy Halloween!

(Thanks: Beyond the Beyond.)
There are plenty of rants on the Net. But few as seductive as this condemnation of spammers by author/biologist Peter Watts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Video: Dragonfly Drones in Flight

A must-see. These things are essentially indistinguishable from insects.

On another paranoid note, my latest FedEx delivery was opened (and presumably rummaged through with bureaucratic glee) by Homeland Security. That's two in a row, so I'm dumping my "random inspection" hypothesis. Either everything coming to the U.S. from Canada is getting opened or I'm on a list.
PC stripper helps spam to spread

Spammers have created a Windows game which shows a woman in a state of undress when people correctly type in text shown in an accompanying image.

The scrambled text images come from sites which use them to stop computers automatically signing up for accounts that can be put to illegal use.

By getting people to type in the text the spammers can take over the accounts and use them to send junk mail.


Tunguska Meteoroid's Cousins Found?

Tadeusz J. Jopek and his team at the Astronomical Observatory UAM in Poland -- in collaboration with the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur in France -- looked for the possible origins of the Tunguska meteor by essentially running the explosion backwards, and mathematically simulating where the parent object of the event would have been before the impact.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Jicoo Floating Bar lets you experience spaceship life in the waters of Tokyo

The only thing cooler than traveling to Tokyo to see the futuristic sights is to do so while riding around the city in what amounts to a floating spaceship.

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)

Blog of the day: Open the Future
Man placed on sex offenders register for sex with bike

I'm trying to visualize how one would go about doing this. It sounds terrifically awkward -- not to mention dangerous. Just imagine what could happen with all those gears and spokes.

Paul Kimball and I are having a friendly blog-war over the human dimension of extraterrestrial contact.

Paul writes:

Does anybody really think that the global reaction would be one of universal joy, where people who have hated each other for centuries would suddenly toss down their weapons and embrace each other as brothers and sisters? I don't.

Neither do I. If anything, I think we'd experience a fierce (if relatively brief) upsurge of violence between and among certain cultures as the new "threat" was digested.

That said, I still advocate disseminating knowledge of an ET presence. As I comment on Paul's blog, The Other Side of Truth:

Looking at this from an existential perspective, I'm convinced that, on some deep level, we need this experience. I'm not pretending to suggest it wouldn't be destabilizing. But I think the human psyche could weather this -- and maybe even come out a bit more "cosmic" in the process.

The ecological clock is ticking. We need to mutate if we're to survive in any meaningful sense of the word. Knowledge of ET visitation could play an important role in lifting the veil of duality that we've laboriously imposed on the universe.
I finally listened to the Whitley Strieber-Daniel Pinchbeck showdown. There was no clear "winner"; Pinchbeck, while he made an important point and was justified in probing Strieber's bleak outlook, was unnecessarily shrill and chiding. Worse, Strieber forfeited an opportunity to engage in what could have been a productive dialogue by succumbing to what amounted to paralysis. I got the feeling Pinchbeck was seeking -- however testily -- for an articulate response.

For better or worse, I feel a degree of commonality with both parties. I enthusiastically embrace the kinds of nonpolluting technologies cited by Pinchbeck, but at the same time I understand Strieber's sense of caution.

"Dieback" is a scary word. None of us really want the human race's numbers radically diminished by callous environmental forces -- even though we know perfectly well that there are far too many of us. The explorer in me clings to Pinchbeck's Arthur C. Clarke-ian vision of a reformatted collective unconscious geared toward sustainability and long-term thought. There's certainly nothing wrong with hoping, provided one's hopes are couched in reason.

But, given that we've already experienced more than a mere foretaste of what an ecologically and climatologically devastated world could be like, it's difficult to avoid being at least a little seduced by statistics. The world simply feels like it could be on the cusp of destruction, whereas Pinchbeck's model requires a stubbornness less amenable to gut-level thinking. (Just witness the undiminished appeal of "end times" prophets and their effective sorcery over the masses.)

Is Pinchbeck correct about the negative role of Strieber's alleged "visitors"? That could -- and perhaps should -- have been a show in itself.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Take a look at these CGI femmes fatales. Within fifteen years (or less), interacting with avatars of comparable resolution will probably be as commonplace as Googling. I anticipate many of us opting out of "meatspace" almost entirely in order to mingle with the "beautiful people" in myriad virtual worlds.

Ultimately, will the leisure class choose the digital hedonism of Second Life circa 2020 or brave the unwelcome reality of a disintegrating environment? I can imagine visiting the "real" world becoming something of a rebel act; users will log-in after extended stays in the non-simulated world with exotic tales to tell . . . but will we bring ourselves to believe them?
Film-maker and friend Paul Kimball suggests that the human species isn't ready for irrevocable proof of ET visitation. And, to a point, I have to agree. But a large part of me is convinced that we need our paradigmatic bars rattled -- and if that means enduring the sociological sea-change likely to occur in the wake of ET "disclosure," I think it's worth the ride.

More to the point: what, exactly, do we stand to lose? We're in the midst of one of the most massive extinction events in the history of the planet. The evidence indicates an imminent plunge into ecological chaos. Ironically, while technology advances, our prospects as a species recede.

So while I obviously can't speak on behalf of the rest of the planet, I'm up for the proverbial White House lawn landing. Daniel Pinchbeck and others speak of a deep need to catalyze global consciousness. To me, irrefutable evidence that we share the Cosmos with at least one other intelligent species could be the very catalyst we're looking for -- short-term consequences be damned.

Evolution has never been easy; birth is seldom without potential dangers.
Astronauts Discover Damage to Space Station

Spacewalking astronauts yesterday found evidence of damage to a crucial part of the International Space Station's power system.

The discovery of what appear to be metallic shavings in one of the station's enormous rotating joint assemblies suggested problems for the orbiting space station that could affect ambitious plans to add two power-hungry laboratories.

This shit never ends, does it?
Japan: home of the world's coolest manhole covers.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Silly title notwithstanding, this is actually quite intriguing . . .

Spaced out, or switched on? Aliens blew up our fridge

"We are not saying little green men from Mars started the fires, but that unnatural forces capable of creating a large amount of electromagnetic energy were responsible. This is just one possibility. We are also looking at another one which involves the testing of top-secret weapons by an unknown power which are also capable of producing an enormous amount of energy."

This contrasts with Father Amorth's explanation. "I've seen things like this before," he said. "Demons occupy a house and appear in electrical goods. Let's not forget Satan and his followers have immense powers."
NASA to look for papers on UFO incident

NASA has agreed to search its archives once again for documents on a 1965 UFO incident in Pennsylvania, a step the space agency fought in federal court.

The government has refused to open its files about what, if anything, moved across the sky and crashed in the woods near Kecksburg, Pa., 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

My guess? Soviet space junk. But I won't be satisfied until NASA plays fair.
At least half the work in ufology is sifting through the noise. Here's researcher Larry Hatch's list of red herrings.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Great Robot Exhibition Showcases Centuries of Japanese Bots

The retrospective shows dozens of robots, with a special hall for Honda's Asimo, the world's premier humanoid. Thematically divided into karakuri (clockwork dolls), imagination (anime, manga and toys) and real machines, the show depicts robot development in Japan as a grand procession from medieval automatons to sci-fi fantasies to actual mechatronic men. There's more than a touch of national pride in robotic prowess here, even though the perfect plastic partner has yet to be made. But dreaming is part of the fun.
And while we're on the subject of bizarre sea creatures . . .

Giant sea slugs that squirt toxic ink invade Britain

A giant poisonous sea "monster" which squirts toxic ink is invading British waters - because of global warming experts say.

The extraordinary looking creatures, called sea slugs, are a foot-and-half-long and swim through the water using "wings" that make them look like an undersea bat.

I think this thing evolved solely so I could blog it.

(Hat tip: Nick Redfern.)
Blog of the Day: Ugly Overload

(Thanks, Katie!)
Man jailed for urinating on woman

A man who urinated on a woman as she lay dying and shouted "this is YouTube material" has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Anthony Anderson also covered Christine Lakinski with shaving foam after she collapsed in a Hartlepool street.

This item has a worrying counterpart:

Melborea Moronica: New 'Depraved Species of Electric Flora' Found Growing in Melbourne, Australia

A Melbourne rugby reporter, Ben Davis, presents his live-to-air TV report on the night's game. Behind him a Brisbane Broncos fan pretends to lick his ear. A few seconds later the phantom ear licker returns, grabbing Davis in a headlock and knocking him off camera. Davis recovers, attempts to restart his report and is then attacked by the ear licker and around 10 of his mates, who proceed to bash the hapless reporter -- in full view of the still-rolling TV camera.

Unsurprisingly, a few days later Davis's attackers were caught and arrested, having not bothered to hide their gurning mugs from the camera. I've watched the footage again and again, as it's absolutely boggling, the sheer, brazen willingness of these men to perform for the lens, to not even bother to cloak their random acts of violence from a watching world.

UN issues 'final wake-up call' on population and environment

You know the score: rapidly diminishing natural resources, overpopulation, massive extinction, ecological collapse, and a climate in chaos. And this is just the opening act.
Face-huggers of the deep!

I wonder if Peter Watts has discovered this yet . . .

(Thanx: BB.)
Monkeys, Apes Teetering on Brink of Extinction - Report

Mankind's closest relatives are teetering on the brink of their first extinctions in more than a century, hunted by humans for food and medicine and squeezed from forest homes, a report on endangered primates said on Friday.

[. . .]

"You could fit all the surviving members of these 25 species in a single football stadium -- that's how few of them remain on earth today," said Russell Mittermeier, president of US-based environmental group Conservation International.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

More fortean creature figurines! (The Flatwoods monster looks vaguely obscene . . .)

Researchers stumbled on a gene switching system that caused tadpoles to develop eyes on unlikely parts of their bodies.

They suspect the same biochemical pathway operates during the early development of higher animals, including humans. In decades to come it could provide the key to controlling the growth of eyes or eye structures from embryonic cells.

It's only a matter of time until a leather-jacketed Rutger Hauer shows up demanding to know his termination date . . .

(Thanks: Nick Redfern.)

Terror watch list swells to more than 755,000

The size of the list, typically used to check people entering the country through land border crossings, airports and sea ports, has been growing by 200,000 names a year since 2004. Some lawmakers, security experts and civil rights advocates warn that it will become useless if it includes too many people.

"It undermines the authority of the list," says Lisa Graves of the Center for National Security Studies. "There's just no rational, reasonable estimate that there's anywhere close to that many suspected terrorists."
First lot of cockroaches born in space

A cockroach called "Hope" has given birth to 33 baby cockroaches, the first creatures ever to conceive in space, say Russian scientists.

(Via The Anomalist.)

A cockroach called "Hope"?
Naked women fondle gutted livestock in Remco van den Bosch's "Agricult" series.

(Thanks: Aberrant News.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Solar Spheres

The Sphelar, which is the brainchild of Kyoto-based Kyosemi, is a perfectly round solar cell that can be made as small as 1mm in diameter. In serial or parallel, hundreds or thousands of the devices can be used to form a solar panel of any shape.

While it may not seem like a major difference, the practical effect of making a non-flat solar panel is that it doesn’t have to precisely face the sun to capture energy. In fact, Sphelar cells can generate electricity from both direct and indirect sunshine; effectively soaking up available light whatever direction it comes from.
Further evidence that there just might be hope for this species if we can escape the ever-dwindling confines of our home planet:

Zbigniew Oksiuta's talk at ars electronica

Oksiuta has been working for ten years on the possibility to create a new breed of biological habitat which would organically and dynamically adapt to conditions such as the absence of gravity that one might have to face both in the biosphere and in space. While architecture evokes ideas of stability and immobility, he envisions the possibility of making it living and unstable. Vegetable matter could become a live habitat, an isolated spatial entity that takes up, transforms, and synthesizes matter and energy from its surroundings by biological means.

Knowing Paul Kimball's feverish poster-output prior to the 2006 New Frontier Symposium (which featured personalized designs for each of the seven speakers), I doubt this will be the last "Doing Time" promo. But I happen to like it.
A friend who's been sight-seeing in New York recently happened across a most unusual figurine in a toy store. After dropping me an excited message on my answering machine, he emailed me this photo:

The carrot-colored apparition is none other than the "wrinkled robot" described by Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker, who claimed to have been abducted by apparent alien creatures in Pascagoula, Mississippi in 1973. Needless to say, you don't see too many of these on toy shelves (although I once purchased a uniformed "Nordic" alien in a dollar-store).

Interestingly, Hickson and Parker's description isn't as rare as one might think given the media's obsession with the iconic bug-eyed "Gray" alien. I get the feeling robotic-seeming beings encountered near landed UFOs might be the alien equivalent to worker drones, an idea that enjoys a certain appeal in light of the explicitly insectile appearance of other alleged alien types.
Today's Cronenberg moment:

I suppose I'm a little startled by how readily I identify with the twin gynecologists in "Dead Ringers." Then again, are any of us really "individuals"? I think self-awareness is sufficiently plastic to encompass myriad co-existing personae; just as there's no privileged frame of reference in an Einsteinian universe, we don't "feel" the shift from one mode of consciousness to another (at least without recourse to a diary or blog).

Insert pointed observation about "channeling" here.
Self-Consciousness Among the Stars

Giancarlo Genta, who has written wisely and sanely about SETI in his new book Lonely Minds in the Universe (New York: Copernicus, 2007), would add that we don't really know whether intelligence and self-consciousness always co-exist. Just how anthropomorphic do we want to be in our definition of these things?

Of course, the book to read if you're really interested in ETI and anthropomorphism is "Blindsight" by Peter Watts.
Want to see something really fucking scary?
500,000 flee raging California wildfires

Faced with unrelenting winds whipping wildfires into a frenzy across Southern California, firefighters conceded defeat on many fronts Tuesday to an unstoppable force that has chased more than 500,000 people away.
Mac Tonnies: Author, blogger . . . and now a playwright

Doing Time will be the first production for produced by my new theatre company, Semaphore Theatre. It's set to run from November 28th to December 1st here in Halifax - I'll be in the director's chair, and Kris McBride has already been cast in one of the lead roles. Casting for the other three roles is taking place this week here in Halifax (at the same time as I'm tweaking the script).

I think Mac has done a fine job in adapting the original short story into a play. The dialogue crackles, and the sci-fi oriented plot will definitely be something new for Halifax audiences. Hopefully we'll have a successful run, and then take the show on the road next year to various fringe theatre festivals. I'll also be filming it (because that's what I do, after all).

I'm usually incredibly stingy when it comes to anything smacking of collaboration, but in the case of "Doing Time" everything came together smoothly (aside from my repeatedly delayed delivery of the actual play; I finally asked Paul to give me a deadline, which seemed to work). Even better, I'll probably be in the audience to see this project culminate on an actual stage.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Top 50 Dystopian Movies of All Time

Definitely worth a look if you haven't already seen it.
Flaming pope simulacrum!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Insectoid Aliens (Greg Bishop)

Many indigenous cultures often move with relative ease (at least in their worldview) between the areas of four-dimensional reality and the "symbolic realm," as I call it. It may be that this non-time-and-space-bound dimension is where the UFOs and their occupants reside. For us to declare that this is due to "imagination" or "delusion" is to say that our physics is the only "true" path to understanding.
Climate change blamed for fading foliage

Forested hillsides usually riotous with reds, oranges and yellows have shown their colors only grudgingly in recent years, with many trees going straight from the dull green of late summer to the rust-brown of late fall with barely a stop at a brighter hue.

"It's nothing like it used to be," said University of Vermont plant biologist Tom Vogelmann, a Vermont native.

He says autumn has become too warm to elicit New England's richest colors.

Welcome to a beige new world.

(Thanks, Nick.)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fury at DNA pioneer's theory: Africans are less intelligent than Westerners

The 79-year-old geneticist reopened the explosive debate about race and science in a newspaper interview in which he said Western policies towards African countries were wrongly based on an assumption that black people were as clever as their white counterparts when "testing" suggested the contrary.

Modolithic Studios has posted a lucid response to Watson's evident bigotry here.
Oh, if this isn't cool!

It's also more or less what I imagined when I wrote the love scene for "One Hundred Years" (available in its entirety here):

Dimly, I watched her unzip a flask of image-conductive lotion and spread it on my hands and wrists. We watched our thoughts coalesce, warped to the contours of bone and muscle: a pornography of mentation.

If we concentrated on not concentrating, the images would almost begin to make sense. We held our breath at the sight of the sun flickering in a chrome sky. Fuzzy, crooked shapes that might have been chromosomes flexed and burned endlessly at its core.

[. . .]

We listened to my collection of late 20th century music, undressing each other to the leaden beat of vintage trip-hop. The glowing fabric of Sterope's sarong gilded her waist and breasts in bloodred light. The screens on her bare arms flashed erotic poems in forgotten languages. Hieroglyphics morphed into Sanskrit; runes and mandalas blossomed like foliage in an Ernst painting.

(Video found at Ectoplasmosis.)
Science fiction movies are rife with scenes of androids with metallic "guts" poking through rubber skin (a la "The Terminator"). This video takes that image and runs with it.

Crop circles: the medium is the message?
70 punished in accidental B-52 flight

The Air Force said Friday it would punish 70 airmen involved in the accidental, cross-country flight of a nuclear-armed B-52 bomber following an investigation that found widespread disregard for the rules on handling such munitions.

"There has been an erosion of adherence to weapons-handling standards at Minot Air Force Base and Barksdale Air Force Base," said Maj. Gen. Richard Newton, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for operations.

The B-52 in question actually flew right over my hometown of Kansas City, MO. Which is either sort of ominous or sort of hilarious; I still haven't determined which.
Daniel Pinchbeck on the "window of opportunity" leading to 2012:

Since starting this blog I've become a design enthusiast. Here's a chair I'd be proud to have in my living room:

Bone Chair

Joris Laarman's Bone chair takes its inspiration from the efficient way that bones grow (adding material where strength is needed and taking away material where it's unnecessary). Made using a digital tool developed by GM that copies these methods of construction, Laarman says the ironic result of his biomimetic technique is "an almost historic elegancy" that is "far more efficient compared to modern geometric shapes."
Sex every day is prescription for improving sperm quality

Men who suffer fertility problems because of low sperm quality may be able to improve their chances of fatherhood by having sex every day, research has suggested.

(Via Aberrant News.)

In that case, I suppose it's good news I have zero interest in becoming a parent.
I recently did an interview for a radio program called "The Edge." If so inclined, you can now download the MP3.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I'm not into guns; I find them narcissistic and creepy. But if someone gave me this I'd probably keep it.

(Hats off to Boing Boing!)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Did the guys who put together this trailer for David Cronenberg's "Naked Lunch" really think anyone would fall for that phony Burroughs voice-over?

A choice scene from the movie in which Peter Weller delivers Burroughs' "talking asshole" routine:

Here's a riotously funny clip from "The Future is Now," a 1955 documentary that introduced the masses to such cutting-edge concepts as camcorders, electronic music and, of course, video-phones.

I like the way the video-phone just happens to resemble a pane of glass with a guy standing behind it. And the actors' pained smiles are priceless.

(Gracias, Paleo-Future!)
A Living Game Computer as Social Structure

Inspired by the case modding scene, a custom computer is built as a form of expanded sculpture. Inside the case, excess heat of over-clocked processors is recycled by an elaborate living ecosystem. The computer hardware is used as server for a new computer game. The objective of this game is to bring some of the main themes of Biomodd into an imaginative multiplayer game experience.

Both the computer structure and the game are developed with a group of biology, game and art enthusiasts. Exhibition visitors can also modify the piece: through playing they generate heat and hence influence the interior ecosystem.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Europe set for major space campaign

Europe is on the cusp of a renaissance in space, with its first permanently tended orbital laboratory, a cargo transporter and other gear about to make their debuts.

After more than a decade of preparation, 45 tonnes of European hardware is heading into space over the next four months, including the crown jewel of European space efforts, the Columbus laboratory, which is to become part of the International Space Station (ISS).

I just started "Sun of Suns" by Karl Schroeder. What a fascinating far-future milieu: it's conceptually daring and vertiginous, so I'm letting its "steampunk" trappings slide.
Worsening Global Warming Catastrophe suggests intrusion from Manipulative Extraterrestrials

If one acknowledges that the elites who prevail over worsening climate change, as intelligent sentient beings, are also survival-seekers, only an "off-world" context can explain the apparent illogical course of elites who are perpetrating the destruction of our planet Earth.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Oh. I should have known.
One I missed:

Advanced Civilizations in the Universe - A Galaxy Insight

If extraterrestrial intelligence exists, Stephen Dick concludes in an article in the International Journal of Astrobiology, it has probably evolved beyond biology to an advanced form of artificial intelligence that is the product of million or billions of years of technological and cultural evolution similar to the civilizations Arthur C Clarke envisioned that created the Tycho Monoliths in 2001 - A Space Odyssey. In a post-biological universe machines are the dominant form of intelligence.

(Via Sentient Developments.)
Eye Tattooing

Shannon says they adopted "a really simple, lo-tech approach" to the procedure. His eye was held open, using a forefinger and thumb, as the pigment, which is the exact same type you would use in a regular tattoo, was injected into his eyeball.

"We injected pigment under the top layer of the eye using a syringe, which, to the best of my knowledge, has never been done before, either medically or cosmetically."

(Via Aberrant News.)

Can ink-black "Communion"-style eyes be far behind?
Car-crushing, fire-breathing robot for sale

The Robosaurus, created 17 years ago by Monster Robots in Southern California, will be sold with no minimum price during the auction, which takes place January 12 to 20. The machine, which is controlled by a pilot who sits in a cockpit inside the dinosaur's head, comes complete with stainless steel teeth that can rip into and twist metal with 20,000 pounds of crushing force.

(Via Ectoplasmosis.)

Oh, how I'd like to tool around in one of these for a day or two of raw, unrepentant recreational fury. ("Hey! You in the Hummer! You're next, fucker!")
Blog of the day: Forgetomori
Cyberpunk Rudy Rucker is in Kyoto and, as usual, taking great pictures.
The Theremin has long been my favorite musical instrument; it's tempting to wonder what might happen if Johnny Marr got his hands on one. Here, beach-goers experiment with a massive version of the device with results both unreservedly playful and eerie . . .

(Cribbed from none other than Beyond the Beyond.)
Death special: The plan for eternal life

To many, these ideas sound seriously scary, and transhumanists have been attacked for jeopardising the future of humanity. What if they ended up creating a race of elite superhumans bent on enslaving the unmodified masses, or unwittingly programmed an army of self-replicating nanobots that would turn us all into grey goo? In 2004, political scientist Francis Fukuyama singled out transhumanism as the world's "most dangerous idea".

It may well be "dangerous" -- but it's also our single-best strategy for escaping our planetary cradle.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Our Drinkable Water Supply Is Vanishing

We are faced with thoughtless development that paves flood plains and destroys wetlands; dams that displace native people and scar watersheds; unchecked industrial growth that pollutes water sources; and rising rates of consumption that nature can't match. Increasingly, we are also threatened by the wave of privatization that is sweeping across the world, turning water from a precious public resource into a commodity for economic gain.

(Via PAG E-News.)
Two books I frankly can't believe I haven't read:

U-Tsu-Shi-O-Mi virtual humanoid

U-Tsu-Shi-O-Mi is an interactive "mixed reality" humanoid robot that appears as a computer-animated character when viewed through a special head-mounted display. A virtual 3D avatar that moves in sync with the robot's actions is mapped onto the machine's green cloth skin (the skin functions as a green screen), and the sensor-equipped head-mounted display tracks the angle and position of the viewer's head and constantly adjusts the angle at which the avatar is displayed.

Given technology's ability to transmute the very definitions of "real" and fantasy, I predict efforts like this will eclipse our preoccupation with "nuts and bolts" humanoid robots in the near future. We'll still rely on bots for companionship, but our interface with them is likely to escape the bounds of "meatspace." That's not to say we'll never get around to building conventional androids, but I foresee "old school" bots quickly becoming a seductive anachronism along the lines of our faddish preoccupation with "steampunk."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Insects, Yoga, and Ayahuasca

"Fold your wings like this, dear, and tuck them underneath you," said an unfamiliar, though kindly, voice that seemed to emanate from inside my head.

"My wings?" I asked aloud, confused by the instructions. "Do you mean my legs?"

"Yes, yes, bend your legs . . . and your other legs too."

And so began what can only be described as a yoga asana lesson taught to me by a startlingly large praying mantis-like creature during an ayahuasca ceremony in the Peruvian Amazon.

I'm fascinated by the recurrence of praying mantis-like beings in accounts of altered consciousness. They were mentioned by Philip K. Dick and appear with almost dreary regularity among alien abduction narratives. Sometimes I wish I had the requisite psychological stamina to explore the phenomenon firsthand; for better or worse, caffeine remains my drug of choice.

Dragonfly or Insect Spy? Scientists at Work on Robobugs.

Some suspect the insectlike drones are high-tech surveillance tools, perhaps deployed by the Department of Homeland Security.

Others think they are, well, dragonflies -- an ancient order of insects that even biologists concede look about as robotic as a living creature can look.

No agency admits to having deployed insect-size spy drones. But a number of U.S. government and private entities acknowledge they are trying.

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)

On a curiously similar note, check out Wikipedia's entry on the debunked "rods" phenomenon.

People of Massachusetts to be Having Sex With Robots by 2012

MSNBC is running a report on the impending likelihood of legalized marital relations with robots. They have word from a leading researcher at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, Dr. Levy, who seems to think peeps will be getting freaky with their robots by 2012, with marriage following by 2050.

I know I've already posted on this, but I refuse to sit idly by without milking the "sex with robots" meme for everything it's worth.

Specifically, I'm skeptical about the 2012 date cited above. I'm willing to bet there are roboticists getting amorous with their creations right now -- for research purposes, of course.

And maybe it's just me, but no one seems to have commented on the potential sexbots might have on population growth. If these things are as good as techno-pundits anticipate, they may well prove to be the ultimate contraceptive (unless we're seduced by a lusty new version of Second Life before androids have time to catch on, which is probably the more likely scenario).

Welcome to The Galaxy Garden

The Galaxy Garden is a 100-foot diameter outdoor scale model of the Milky Way, mapped in living plants and flowers and based on current astrophysical data.

Artist Jon Lomberg conceived and designed the garden to encourage scientific education about our place in the Universe.

(Via Centauri Dreams.)

Alien Dreamtime: My Fight with Whitley Strieber (Daniel Pinchbeck)

The discussion then turned in a different direction. I noted that, from my reading of Strieber's work, I suspected that Strieber was influenced by the force that the visionary philosopher Rudolf Steiner called "Ahriman," the evil spirit who pulls humanity down into minerality, materiality, sterile technology, and extinction. As I also noted in 2012, I told Strieber that I thought he had been manipulated by alien entities that do not have the best interests of the human species at heart. Communion is ultimately the story of Strieber's seduction by those entities he calls the "visitors" often known as the Grays. He notes that he was going to call the book "body terror," but changed the name to "Communion" when one of them told him to do this, speaking through his wife, while she slept. He also describes how the visitors were able to make him drink a bitter substance, by feeding it to him at different junctures over time. As anyone knows who has studied fairytales and fables, to drink the potion of the other world is to become entranced and overwhelmed by the beings that inhabit it.
Fake UFO Hobbyist Scares People for Fun

Linn Murphy has a pretty awesome hobby: he's into flying a fake UFO over public gatherings, freaking people out and causing a ruckus. The flying disc, which has a 36-inch span and lights that flash and make it look like it's spinning, looks like a gigantic spacecraft high in the air from a height of 400 feet. Murphy gets his kicks by flying it over concerts, movie lines, beaches, and other places where he can scare the crap out of people.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tomorrow night I'll be attending Kansas City's second WaterFire exhibition a block from my apartment. I took in the previous show and found it both agreeably subtle and theatric, the somber spectacle of water-borne pyres skillfully juxtaposed with ambient music and flame-breathing sidewalk performers. For Kansas Citians familiar with the glorified sewer that is Brush Creek, WaterFire's success seems at best unlikely; surprisingly, the September event managed to briefly transform the "riverwalk" into an open-air cathedral.
First Japan, now China . . .

China Moon Launch Expected from Xichang Spaceport Oct. 26

The "Chang'e One" lunar probe is now on the launch pad and is expected to make its bid for the moon before the end of October.

"Chang'e I has already reached the launch site in Xichang of Sichuan Province, and is ready for launch due before the end of the year," said Sun Laiyan, chief of the China National Space Administration in remarks to the Chinese national media.

(Via Universe Today.)
Vatican publish Knights Templar documents

The Vatican has published a slew of centuries-old documents about the Knights Templar, a Christian military order that operated in the Middle Ages and remains a source of endless fascination for conspiracy theorists, Holy Grail seekers, occultists, and Dan Brown readers. The documents are collected in a 300 page book published by Scrinium. The cover price is $8,377 and only 300 were printed.

Researcher: Humans will wed robots

Levy's conclusion was based on about 450 publications in the fields of psychology, sexology, sociology, robotics, materials science, artificial intelligence, gender studies and computer-human interaction.

The thesis examines human attitudes toward affection, love and sexuality and concluded that the findings are just as applicable to human interaction with robots of the future as they are to the relationships between humans of today.


By the time we start deciding to get hitched with bots we'll have likely become semi-artificial creatures, so there's not likely to be much of the moral uproar we might otherwise expect. To say nothing of the possibility that posthumans might eschew conventional marriage in favor of more rewarding forms of intimacy.
Microsoft's Allen Buys Alien Hunters a Bigger Radio

The hunt for ET is revving up to warp speed, thanks largely to an infusion of cash from Seattle's most famous science fiction fan.

Today, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) cofounder Paul Allen will join scientists from SETI -- the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence -- to unveil the first major telescope devoted full time to answering the question: Is anyone out there?

I hate to be one of those reprehensibly boring people who condemns money spent on lofty, idealistic causes as wasted. But in the case of radio-based SETI, my skepticism -- and undisguised dislike for administrators Seth Shostak and Jill Tarter -- get the best of me. Is it unreasonable to hope that the next cosmically inclined philanthropist adopts paranormal research as a pet cause?

Of course, having said that, I'll be among the first to enter an ecstatic stupor if Allen's new dish bears fruit.
Slum Fights: The Pentagon Plans for a New 100 Years' War

According to journalist Rick Weiss, demonstrators at protests in Washington DC and elsewhere have been independently reporting large "dragonflies" (with a bizarre "row of spheres, the size of small berries, attached along the tails") hovering near their rallies. ("'I'd never seen anything like it in my life,' the Washington lawyer said. 'They were large for dragonflies. I thought, is that mechanical, or is that alive?'")

Speaking of paranoia, today I got a FedEx package emblazoned with yellow tape bearing the Department of Homeland Security emblem. Not only had they opened the package, they'd neatly cut into each of the envelopes inside. (The package was overnighted from Toronto and contained books.) Should I be concerned . . . ?

Friday, October 12, 2007

In Objectivity As An Enemy Of UFO Study, Greg Bishop writes:

We are both objective and subjective beings. I am suggesting a way to mine that subjective part of our minds for possible insights to what our non-human visitors may be trying to say to us, if anything. For example, if the witness says "It made me re-evaluate our place in the universe," let's take that down and remember it. If someone's life goes through a massive change (moving away from their home, changing jobs, etc.) as a result of their sighting, that's a pretty good indicator that there is much more going on in the interaction than just the sight of a light flitting through the sky or humanoids waving weird metallic objects around.

Although Greg doesn't cite any specific cases, he's probably aware of the lifestyle changes reported by some self-described "abductees," who often emerge from their experiences with a heightened sensitivity to environmental concerns. Is the UFO phenomenon's "purpose" to encourage planetary stewardship?

I'm reminded of Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis, in which the planet is effectively a single biological entity. Maybe UFOs and their "occupants" are cast members in some vast planetary drama with no actual role other than perpetuating themselves. UFOs and their accompanying entities might be subconsciously reminding us of the potentially apocalyptic burden we bear as an industrial species, all the while encouraging us (via their apparent technological prowess) that we lessen our environmental signature by migrating into space. Such a scenario compliments the "control system" proposed by Jacques Vallee and suggests a link with the collective unconscious explored by Jung (most notably in "Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Thing Seen in the Skies").

But where do they come from? If the UFO phenomenon is generated by Earth itself, perhaps it uses the human nervous system as a kind of operating system. Its enduring physicality argues that it can manipulate consciousness in such a way that individuals can function as unwitting projectors. If so, the study of UFOs might eventually lead to a new understanding of the role of awareness. One day, through careful back-engineering of our own minds, we might employ UFO-like abilities through thought alone -- in which case the UFO phenomenon risks becoming obsolete.
Personal Airship blimp is perfect for supervillains, CEOs

This Strato Cruiser Airship is a gigantic, helium-filled blimp that's got a gourmet restaurant, a spa, a swimming pool, a resident DJ, library, and private mini-offices. Yeah, it's pretty much designed for a super-villain, but I'm sure just kinda-evil rich people would enjoy it quite a bit as well. And while the design is loaded up with high-falutin' tech like carbon fiber skin, sectional helium chamber design and photovoltaic cells, it's still just a concept, and will probably stay like that for some time.

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)

Airships not your bag? How about a flying car?
Pictured here is a rejected art proposal for Whitley Strieber's 1987 best-seller "Communion." The visage on the cover is oddly familiar . . .

(Thanks, Elan!)
First Pictures From Kaguya

The Japanese space agency JAXA has confirmed that their lunar orbiter Kaguya (aka Selene) is now firmly in orbit around the Moon.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Posthuman Blues reader Michael Garrett's a skilled surrealist with a whimsical sense of humor; I can readily envision his postmodern toonscapes plastered all over my walls. Click here to browse his galleries.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

More dubious UFO footage -- this time supposedly from 1952:

As Dustin at OddThings points out, this video might effectively serve as a recreation of an authentic (if under-appreciated) UFO event.
Beautiful Elektra Mini Verticale and Micro Casa a Leva Espresso Machines

These Elektra espresso makers are actually miniature versions of grander machines used in Europe. They're far from the most practical units for the home, with no direct water line, a low capacity storage container, and hard-to-clean drip plates, but they are awful big and shiny. Why, one could almost call them steampunk.
Derinkuyu, or: the allure of the underground city

Manhattan will be gone, Los Angeles gone, Cape Canaveral flooded and covered with seaweed, London dissolving into post-Britannic muck, the Great Wall of China merely an undetectable line of minerals blowing across an abandoned landscape -- but there, beneath the porous surface of Turkey, carved directly into tuff, there will still be underground cities.

(Via Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society.)

Similar dwellings may exist on Mars, architectural fossils of an era predating some planet-wide catastrophe.
Free the Avatars

At the Virtual Worlds Conference and Expo at San Jose, Calif., the two companies are announcing plans to develop open standards that will allow avatars to roam from one virtual community to the next. The goal is let a person create a digital alter-ego that can travel to many virtual worlds, keeping the same name, look and even digital currency.


But do they get universal health care?
The View From The Left (Peter Watts)

I learned back in undergrad days that our brains see patterns even where none exist; we're pattern-matching machines, is what we are. But I hadn't realized that such functions were lateralized. This hemispheric specialization strikes me as a little reminiscent of "gene duplication": that process by which genetic replication goes occasionally off the rails and serves up two (or more) copies of a gene where only one had existed before. Which is very useful, because evolution can now play around with one of those copies to its heart's content, and as long as the other retains its original function you don't have to worry about screwing up a vital piece of a working system. (This is something the creationists hope you never learn, since it single-handedly blows their whole the-mousetrap-can't-work-unless-all-the-parts-evolve-simultaneously argument right out of the water.) Analogously, I see one hemisphere experimenting with different functions -- imagination, the search for meaning -- while the other retains the basic just-the-facts-ma'am approach that traditionally served the organism so well.

This one's so unabashedly good (the excerpt above is merely prelude) that I was tempted to post it in its entirety.

You mean Saturn's moon Iapetus isn't a megascale ET artifact?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I don't want to steal Paul Kimball's video-blogging thunder, but I can't help snatching this brief clip of Greg Bishop, with whom I agree 100%.

I'd like to see Bishop's sensibility go viral, at least among UFO researchers. Do your part and email this clip to at least five nuts-and-bolts Keyhoe-thumpers or impassioned "disclosure" advocates. Your call.
Somewhere in Idaho this alien head popped up on my radio which was OFF at the time. I imagine it has something to do with the screen and the CD laying on the dash, but still pretty cool.

Aeroscraft ML866: superyacht for the sky officially launched

A new category of aircraft that fits somewhere in between a blimp, airship or dirigible, the Aeroscraft ML866 project was recently presented at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) show in Atlanta, Georgia. The key factor of the ML866 design is that it offers superyacht size and comfort in a platform that can operate independently from airports, meaning that a new class of luxury conveyance is about to become available which appears to trump them all.

Heat May Kill Hundreds of New Yorkers

The number of heat-related deaths in and around New York City will nearly double by 2050 -- and could rise as high as 95 percent -- due to global warming, if no efforts are made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a new study shows.

On a comparatively friendly note, here's the scoop on a climate crisis-themed design competition:

The New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is sponsoring a design competition to enhance the City's ability to provisionally house residents after a major coastal storm.
My Book of THoTH interview with Jeremy Vaeni has been posted. Hope you enjoy it.

UK 2017: under surveillance

The academics who compiled the study based their vision of the future not on wild hypotheses but on existing technology, statements made about the intentions of government and private companies and studies by other think tanks, regulators, professional bodies and academics.

The report authors say that they believe the key theme of the future will be "pervasive surveillance" aimed at tracking and controlling people and pre-empting behaviour. The authors also say that their glimpse of the future is "fairly conservative. The future spelled out in the report is nowhere near as dystopian and authoritarian as it could be."

(Via Night of the Living Jackboots.)
Teleglass T4-N wearable monitor

Teleglass T4-N connects to any NTSC-capable video player (including iPods) and delivers images directly to the eye via a pair of tiny monitors tucked away behind the lenses. The 640 x 480 screen resolution at close proximity simulates the effect of watching a 45-inch screen from 2 meters (6 feet) away, and each monitor can be focused and adjusted for an optimal picture that reduces eye strain. Audio is delivered through a pair of frame-mounted earphones.
The Jellyfish 45 Habitat fantasy future underwater love hotel

Designed to float along under its own power, designer Giancarlo Zema's creation can comfortably house up to six (non-claustrophobic) people and contains five levels linked by a fancy spiral staircase. The top bit sticks out of the water, while the bottom bit is your observation zone, should you want to get a good look at raw sewerage and rusty cans.

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)

I fully expect craft like this to become virtually de rigueur among the leisure class once we start losing major cities to rising coastlines.
Blog of the day: The Keyhoe Report

OK, so it's not a blog in the contemporary sense, but it's updated daily, which is close enough for me.
Egypt Plan to Green Sahara Desert Stirs Controversy

With only five percent of the country habitable, almost all of Egypt's 74 million people live along the Nile River and the Mediterranean Sea. Already crowded living conditions -- Cairo is one of the most densely populated cities on earth -- will likely get worse as Egypt's population is expected to double by 2050.

I once began a short-story in which overpopulation in Cairo was so pronounced that the Egyptians had built a habitable scaffolding around the pyramids themselves. That's probably one I should have seen through to the end.
Paul Kimball and Kris Lee McBride have returned from a magical tour across the US. Get the lowdown here.

Monday, October 08, 2007

I intended to include this photo in my post congratulating Tony for his well-deserved local blogging renown but it was late and I forgot.

I can't help but like this concept car, but I can easily see myself strangling the perky robot head grafted into the dashboard.

(Thanks: Communist Robot.)
Best UFO Resources

This Website offers a collection of hand-picked UFO resources: real UFO pictures (see the "summary" and "technical overview" pages), video documentaries, video footage and testimonies, technical data and over 480 links to scientific studies, books, portals, newsfeeds, blogs and forums. In short, by combining info from many diverse sources, our goal is to share a selection of valuable and representative UFO info, as concisely as possible and some possible answers.
I am creating artificial life, declares US gene pioneer

The Guardian can reveal that a team of 20 top scientists assembled by Mr Venter, led by the Nobel laureate Hamilton Smith, has already constructed a synthetic chromosome, a feat of virtuoso bio-engineering never previously achieved. Using lab-made chemicals, they have painstakingly stitched together a chromosome that is 381 genes long and contains 580,000 base pairs of genetic code.

[. . .]

Mr Venter believes designer genomes have enormous positive potential if properly regulated. In the long-term, he hopes they could lead to alternative energy sources previously unthinkable. Bacteria could be created, he speculates, that could help mop up excessive carbon dioxide, thus contributing to the solution to global warming, or produce fuels such as butane or propane made entirely from sugar.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Strange but True: The Largest Organism on Earth Is a Fungus

The discovery of this giant Armillaria ostoyae in 1998 heralded a new record holder for the title of the world's largest known organism, believed by most to be the 110-foot- (33.5-meter-) long, 200-ton blue whale. Based on its current growth rate, the fungus is estimated to be 2,400 years old but could be as ancient as 8,650 years, which would earn it a place among the oldest living organisms as well.

Terence McKenna probably would have had something witty and thought-provoking to say about this . . .

If you live in the San Fransisco area, there's no excuse for missing this. None.

Melting ice pack displaces Alaska walrus

Thousands of walrus have appeared on Alaska's northwest coast in what conservationists are calling a dramatic consequence of global warming melting the Arctic sea ice.

Alaska's walrus, especially breeding females, in summer and fall are usually found on the Arctic ice pack. But the lowest summer ice cap on record put sea ice far north of the outer continental shelf, the shallow, life-rich shelf of ocean bottom in the Bering and Chukchi seas.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Terrestrial Planet Forming?

Are we seeing an Earth -- or at least a Mars-sized world -- in the making? Look no further than HD 113766, a binary system perhaps ten million years old some 424 light years away, for the story. One of its stars contains a warm dust belt that may be undergoing planetary formation. If that's the case, the emerging planet will orbit in the classical habitable zone, defined as that region where liquid water can exist on the surface.
Before I forget: congratulations to Tony of Tony's Kansas City, winner of The Pitch's 2007 readers' poll for best blog. (Local readers might have noticed that TKC is the only Kansas City-related blog in my sidebar. There's a reason for that.)

I might as well admit it: I actually bought a TV. Used. For $20. I don't have any reception, but that's fine as I don't intend to watch any broadcasting anyway; the next step is to pick up a cheap DVD player . . .

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Apartment at the Mall

A few artists discovered an apartment-sized vacant space under a mall in Providence, RI, and over several years proceeded to build a living space which they furnished (with things bought at the mall) as an "art piece."

Ah! Indirect support for my theory that shopping malls will serve as refugee camps for victims of future ecological crises . . .

No, this isn't "steampunk" -- this decrepit automaton harpist is the real thing. No batteries. No optical sensors or force-feedback units. Not a single chip hidden away inside the delicate porcelain skull. The irony is that its movements, limited as they are, are noticeably more "natural" than those of recent androids.

Don't believe me? Take a look:

(Both videos sighted at Beyond the Beyond.)

NASA chief: China will beat us back to the moon

"I personally believe that China will be back on the moon before we are," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said in a low-key lecture in Washington two weeks ago, marking the space agency's 50th anniversary, still a year away.

"I think when that happens, Americans will not like it. But they will just have to not like it."

Well, of course China will beat us. A space program can't sit on its hands for decades at a time and expect victory to fall into its lap. I'd like to see the US lead the way, but at the same time I'm eager to see humans of any nationality establish a meaningful presence in space. The US had its chance -- and it might still have one -- but this should hardly come as a shock.
Here's a QuickTime clip of an apparent UFO filmed from a Space Shuttle. The evidently structured object can be seen near the fuel tank about three-fourths of the way through. The UFO's "appendages," oddly enough, recall the unconventional shape of the "drones."

Click here for more NASA videos.
Animals In Formalin Preservation, a haunting gallery of specimens consigned to chemical oblivion. In dying, these creatures have transcended the boundaries of biological time and become cryptic signposts for a future inhabited solely by ghosts.

(Nick Redfern sent this my way.)
Aren't We All Just Replicants on the Inside?

"Aren't we all replicants now?" Giuliana Bruno, a professor of film and visual culture at Harvard University, asked at the panel, titled "The Future Is Now: Blade Runner at 25." In a world of rapid technological innovation that affects not only how we live but how we think and remember, "We're all suffering from 'accelerated decrepitude,'" she said, poised at obsolescence like the film's expiration-date humanoids.

In other words, we've got the posthuman blues.
Sam Harris offers a cogent reason for dispensing with the word "atheist."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Coffee needs love too.

(Thanks: Reality Carnival.)
Lunar probe shoots HDTV footage of Earth

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and public broadcaster NHK have succeeded in capturing their first high-definition video of Earth from the Kaguya lunar explorer, a.k.a. SELENE (SELenological and ENgineering Explorer), an orbiter launched in mid-September on a mission to study the moon.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Although it's no longer the principal reason for my Web presence, I haven't abandoned Mars weirdness:

Mac Tonnies illuminates MU on Mars' "Seven Sisters" caves
If, like me, you're an admirer of bulbous, industrial grade wristwatches, you won't want to miss this gallery.

(Thanks: Boing Boing.)

If the sight of "Tickle Me Elmo" writhing and kicking on the pavement while consumed in flames -- and laughing hysterically throughout -- won't elicit a feral grin from Posthuman Blues readers, I'm not sure what will.

More Elmo fun here.

(Hat tip: Beyond the Beyond.)

Monday, October 01, 2007

The notorious "drones" star in their own must-see CGI music video:

Watch those memes fly!

Q&A: Ridley Scott Has Finally Created the Blade Runner He Always Imagined
HOWTO make a robotic ElmoSapien chimera

The ElmoSapien project shows you how to eviscerate an Elmo handpuppet and stretch its skin taut over a RoboSapien robot, load an Elmo "personality" into the robot, and terrorize the neighborhood children.

Just in time for Halloween, too!
Dispatch Reports Bishop Spoke Of Little People Wearing Masks

An incident report from the McKinley Metropolitan Dispatch Authority reported that Pelotte told operators ". . . gentle little people, about 3 to 4 feet tall, and wearing Halloween masks" were in the hall. The dispatch log reported that Pelotte said he hid in a closet while the people were in his home.

Is it just me or does this read like something written by Whitley Strieber?

(Big thanks to Elan for the lead.)

This gorgeous short film is based on "Rendezvous with Rama," Arthur C. Clarke's renowned first contact novel. Sit back and enjoy!

(Thanks: Space Archaeology.)

The truth is out there: Roswell incident recalled by local vet who was there 60 years ago

Hey, I didn't write the headline.

Sprouse, however, said he recalls people speaking about "alien bodies" immediately after the debris discovery.

"They took the bodies to a hangar, and there were two guards at each door with machine guns," he said.

Sprouse said one witness, a barracksmate, was an emergency-room medic who reported seeing what he called "humanoid" bodies in the hospital.

"They went to the ER room and two doctors and two nurses were called in, and they dissected two of those humanoid bodies," he said. "Then the doctors and nurses were transferred.

"My friend said he saw the bodies, and I believed him," Sprouse said. "He said, 'We don't think the humanoid ate food.' I don't know why he said that. The digestive system wasn't designed for food or something."

True, what Sprouse recalls is second-hand and inconclusive. Maybe he's just recalling goofy stories that circulated among base personnel. But if so, the bit about an unconventional digestive system not designed for food is conspicuously prescient in light of similar descriptions that surfaced decades later.
Teemu Arina interviews Bruce Sterling:

I've been a fan of Sterling since I discovered him (belatedly) in the early 1990s. The man's got a fierce grip on what's coming down the pike and an uncanny intellectual hazard-avoidance system. Oh, and he writes science fiction.