The cashless society is approaching: Money is starting a life of it’s own. It may act as it’s own escrow, means of surveillance and control, substrate of reputation and in many other functions not yet discovered.
Why you don't want to meet him: Once he knows that you know he's a vampire, he will make it his life's goal to make yours a living hell. Either that or well, killing you. He will also turn your best friend against you by making him ...
They originally came from Slavic folklore as a scapegoat for rising anxiety over the regressing status quo of the region. Today, they are the characters of some of Hollywood's top-selling box office hits.
Dueling Vampires :: Modern Paranormal Romance. I had a great weekend, but I'll admit I'm ready for Monday. Bring it on. My asthma has been giving me fits all weekend. I partly blame the crazy shifts in weather: hot and dry ...
Economist Jeremy Rifkin is the author of "The Third Industrial Revolution". According to Rifkin, industrial revolutions occur when new energy regimes emerge and new communications systems enable them to become operational. We are now entering a third industrial revolution, one which combines renewable energy and internet technology to transform the power grid.
One of modern physics' most cherished ideas is quantum chromodynamics, the theory that describes the strong nuclear force, how it binds quarks and gluons into protons and neutrons, how these form nuclei that themselves interact. This is the universe at its most fundamental.
So an interesting pursuit is to simulate quantum chromodynamics on a computer to see what kind of complexity arises. The promise is that simulating physics on such a fundamental level is more or less equivalent to simulating the universe itself.
There are one or two challenges of course. The physics is mind-bogglingly complex and operates on a vanishingly small scale. So even using the world's most powerful supercomputers, physicists have only managed to simulate tiny corners of the cosmos just a few femtometers across. (A femtometer is 10^-15 metres.)
That may not sound like much but the significant point is that the simulation is essentially indistinguishable from the real thing (at least as far as we understand it).
It's not hard to imagine that Moore's Law-type progress will allow physicists to simulate significantly larger regions of space. A region just a few micrometres across could encapsulate the entire workings of a human cell.
Again, the behaviour of this human cell would be indistinguishable from the real thing.
It's this kind of thinking that forces physicists to consider the possibility that our entire cosmos could be running on a vastly powerful computer. If so, is there any way we could ever know?
ABC NewsSurvey: 71% of Americans Think Aliens More Likely to Exist Than Vampires or ...Daily DisruptionDespite the popularity of “Avengers” and “Twilight,” more than seven in 10 (71%) Americans think that aliens are more likely to exist than are...
Get Reel: The best vampire flicksNorwich BulletinVampires have been romanticized, eroticized, satirized and sexualized. “What lovely, long fangs you have, Drac.” And they almost always look debonair, with one notable exception.
Bringing the search for another Earth about as close as it will ever get, a team of European astronomers was scheduled to announce on Wednesday that it had found a planet the same mass as Earth’s in Alpha Centauri, a triple star system that is the Sun’s closest neighbor, only 4.4 light-years away.
The planet is the lightest one ever found orbiting another star and — in the words of its discoverer, Xavier Dumusque, a graduate student at the Geneva Observatory — “it will surely be the closest one ever.”
It is presumably a rocky ball like our own, but it is not habitable. It circles Alpha Centauri B, a reddish orb about half as luminous as the Sun, every three days at a distance of only about four million miles, resulting in hellish surface temperatures of 1,200 degrees.
So this is not “Earth 2.0.” Yet.
Astronomers said the discovery raised the possibility that there were habitable Earthlike planets right next door and that methods and instruments were now precise enough to detect them.
“Very small planets are not rare,” said Mr. Dumusque, who is the lead author of a paper being published on Wednesday in Nature. “When you find one small planet, you find others.” He and his colleagues discussed the results on Tuesday in a news conference hosted by the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany.
Astronomers were electrified by the news of the planet, but also cautioned that it needed confirmation by other astronomers, not an easy task.
Debra Fischer, a Yale astronomer who has been searching for planets in that same system for years, said: “The discovery that our nearest neighbor has rocky planets is the story of the decade. I’d bet $100 that there are other planets that are there as well.”
The discovery also underscored the allure of Alpha Centauri as a target of space and scientific exploration.
“This is close enough you can almost spit there,” said Geoffrey Marcy, an exoplanet astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley.
Sara Seager, an astronomer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in an e-mail, “I feel like we should drop everything and send a probe there to study the new planet and others that are likely in the system.”
There are three stars in that system. Alpha Centauri A, which is slightly larger and brighter than the Sun, and Alpha Centauri B, slightly smaller, are close companions, circling each other and passing as close as nine billion miles every 80 years. They in turn are being circled at a much greater distance, some one trillion miles, by a dwarf star that is known as Proxima Centauri because it is slightly closer to the Earth, due to that trillion miles, than the other two.
The so-called habitable zone of Alpha Centauri B, where temperatures would be moderate enough for water and creatures like us, is about 65 million miles from the star, where a year would take 200 days or so, about the same as the orbit of Venus in our own system.
Mr. Dumusque and his colleagues found the planet by the so-called wobble method, using a specially built spectrograph called HARPS on a 140-inch diameter telescope at the European Southern Observatory in La Silla, Chile, to track the host star as it is tugged to and fro by the planet’s gravity. After four years and 450 observations, they found that in the case of Alpha Centauri B, that tug imparts a velocity of about 20 inches a second, a leisurely walking speed.
That is the smallest wobble the Swiss team has ever observed.
A planet only four times as massive as the Earth would produce the same amount of wobble if it was out in the habitable zone and would thus be detectable by their instrument, Mr. Dumusque said. But it would take a long time. “If you want to find a planet at 200 days,” he said referring to the orbital period, “you need 8 to 10 years.”
Dr. Marcy said this was the kind of discovery that could reignite interest in other experiments like the Terrestrial Planet Finder, a space observatory for studying exoplanets that was once at the top of NASA’s wish list but is now languishing.
Two years ago, Dr. Marcy startled his colleagues at an M.I.T. symposium with a bitter criticism of NASA, the National Academy of Sciences and the planetary community itself for failing to define and sell advanced exoplanet missions. He went on to call for an international project to launch a scientific probe to Alpha Centauri.
It could take hundreds of years, but such a mission, Dr. Marcy said, could jolt NASA out of its doldrums.
The new planet, Dr. Marcy said, “fits right into that rant.” He went on, “What a great scientific educational mission to have a probe out there, making its way decade after decade.”
Wired.co.uk seeks to navigate the thorny ethical, medical and social issues associated with using technology to enhance the human body and mind through a series of features, galleries and guest posts...
I have been known to say that William Gibson is arguably the most important author of the past 30 years. That’s a mouthful of an assertion, especially since we’re talking about a genre writer, I know. But even if I’m wrong, I’m not off by much. The man who more or less invented Cyberpunk, then abandoned it as quickly as he defined it, did more than simply alter the direction of science fiction, he literally helped shape the computing and Internet landscape as we know it today. That’s pretty big doings for a guy who had never so much as played with a computer before he wrote his first novel.
This story we’ve heard before, but here’s the Reader’s Digest version for those late to the party. Gibson’s Neuromancer (the first novel to ever win the SF triple crown – the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Philip K. Dick awards) introduced us to cyberspace, a “consensual hallucination” in which humans used computers to navigate around the global online network. He imagined it as an immense, three-dimensional virtual space, and as his “Cyberspace Trilogy” (Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive) unfolded, we also encountered killer viruses, psychic online projections of humans whose flesh was being kept technically alive in protein baths out in meatspace, and even artificial life forms that had evolved from advanced artificial intelligences created by powerful corporate interests.
He used the money he made from that novel to purchase a computer, his first. He has talked about how disappointed he was in it. That’s it? That’s all it does?
There’s a profound lesson in Gibson’s experience. We live in a culture where, sadly, we too often assume that you have to have significant experience to innovate a given field. Where creativity and insight are presumed to be a function of familiarity. Well, this can be the case, certainly, but it’s also true that knowledge of a subject can be a limiter. The more we know about what can and can’t be done, the more likely we are to restrict our thinking to what is feasible, to what is “possible.”
It’s sometimes worth remembering that those who architected the earliest of Europe’s great cathedrals had never been in anything quite so grand as what they dreamed of. DaVinci designed all kinds of machinery for which the world in which he lived offered no precedent whatsoever. And while MTV has evolved into something of a disappointment, in its early days it was relentlessly innovative. How did they do it? Well, the story goes that they went out of their way to hire people with no experience because they didn’t want the channel to be defined by people who knew “how it was done.” Innovation, in their view, was boosted when people didn’t realize what wasn’t possible.
We now know that a generation of computer engineers and designers, the people who literally built the Internet, envisioned the Web, dreamed the future of personal computing and gaming, many of these people had read Gibson and his imagination, unencumbered by the text-based limitations of the Commodore 64, served as an important resource as they set about crafting the electronic world in which we now live.
Gibson also deserves credit for another huge achievement: he saw, early on, that science fiction was a dead genre. (Calm down, let me explain what I mean by that.)
One of his early, landmark short stories was entitled “The Gernsback Continuum.” Hugo Gernsback, publisher of Amazing Stories, is sometimes called the “father of science fiction” because of his importance in helping the genre develop in the early and mid part of the 20th century. (It is for him that the prestigious Hugo Award is named.) What Gibson is poking at, in the story, are the precepts of the golden age of SF, the era of the god-scientist, of utopian futurism where the technologist holds the key to solving society’s ills. Flying cars, food pills, interstellar travel, and alien worlds that conformed to the demands of rational thought instead of the messiness of, well, actual humans. It was nerd lit of the highest order, and it was attended by both a pronounced design ethic (think about The Jetsons here) and a slavish concern with technical plausibility. A writer could make things up, of course – there wasn’t exactly a lot of tested hard science surrounding time travel in 1950 – but he (it was nearly always a he) was obliged to hew as close to what was actually known as possible. Speculation was great, but it must proceed from actual science.
The Gernsback Continuum, then, was Gibson’s way of characterizing the age of Hard SF. And he perceived, acutely enough, that Hard SF was in trouble. In 1950, the state of science was such that it was relatively simple to distinguish between what was possible and what was impossible – that is, between the present and the future. But Gibson understood that the future was gaining, as it were. As the curve describing technological advance grew more and more vertical, the lag time between today and tomorrow was shrinking.
Gibson addressed this dynamic in a couple of ways. First off, he abandoned technical plausibility. You can read the Cyberspace Trilogy backward and forward as many times as you like and you’ll not find any of the standard trappings of Hard SF. This was most decidedly not your father’s Asimov. He described how cyberspace looked and his writing certainly put you in the cockpit as Case approached that mountain of black ice, but he didn’t much care if you understood the nuts and bolts of how it all worked. It was Internet sci-fi without any coding whatsoever.
Instead, Gibson devoted his attentions to cultural plausibility. You might not know how a cyberdeck worked, but you had a pretty clear sense of how the politics and the economy were set up. Black and gray markets and DIY economies emerging from the poverty of the streets? Check. Rampant urban sprawl? Check. Uber-powerful corporations that answered to no government? Check. Ultra-rich who weren’t quite human anymore? Check. Gibson made no secret about how he constructed his all-too-likely future world: he took what he saw around him and exaggerated a bit in the direction things seemed to be moving. In doing so, he blazed a path that every decent SF/SpecFic author today is following.
The second step: he abandoned science fiction. Sure, his second trilogy still dealt with some technology that wasn’t yet reality, but you were no longer reading about an indeterminate moment off in the future. You were reading about the day after tomorrow in ways that were grounded enough in current reality to be more familiar than you might like. Then, that series put to bed, he dove headlong into the world of … contemporary marketing. And made it fascinating, again by riffing on cultural plausibility.
Gibson seems to have been the first to understand something important about SF: it’s hard to write about the future when, no matter how hard you try, your wild-ass technological fantasies are actually on the damned shelves by the time you can get the book to market.
If you follow science fiction today, you probably realize that very little of it behaves in a way that Hugo Gernsback would recognize as SF. You get plenty of blighted post-apocalyptic future speculation, but it’s all owing to Gibson’s innovations on cultural instead of technical plausibility. It’s speculative fiction, not science fiction, for the most part. About the only exception is found with authors who are cerebral (and brave) enough to tackle quantum mechanics (people like Dan Simmons, for instance, and even Neal Stephenson dips his toes into that river in Anathem). There is certainly a new frontier there, but its inherent complexity is going to make it harder to appeal to a broad audience, I’d imagine.
So, when I say that Gibson is the most important author of the last 30 years, this is why. It’s not easy exerting such a massive influence on an established genre. It’s next to impossible for a genre novel to literally transform the course of real-world technological development. Doing both? I don’t know – has anyone besides Gibson ever come close?
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