athelind: (Default)
I'm not in the mood to watch TV, not in the mood to mess around on the computer, and it's too danged early to go to bed.

The box of "Feed Your Head" books hold no appeal, nor do the Lankhmar books that I put in the same box. Of course, the rest of my fiction is all tucked away in [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia's garage, awaiting the purchase of satisfactory bookshelves.

I finished the last of China MiƩville's "Bas Lag" trilogy last week, and dropped it off at the Santa Clara library. I think I need to cruise back by there and pick up a Stack of Random, just to have something to occupy my brain in these late hours.


athelind: (Default)

Yet Another Power Failure Knocks Out The Large Hadron Collider!



This makes me a little nervous; I'd joked earlier that the last few LHC glitches coincided with the escalating assaults on my late, lamented Grape.

I have a NEW car now, dagnabbit!


athelind: (Default)
Everything's better with Moar Dragons:

At a flea market months ago, a dragon toilet paper holder. on Twitpic


Found by [livejournal.com profile] andreal
athelind: (Default)
A couple of years back, I made a few posts about Louis Michard's Atmospheric Vortex Engine, a plan to use the waste heat from nuclear power plants and other industrial heat sources to produce artificial tornadoes and harness them for energy.

(I'm sorry. That's just so over-the-top that I can't type it without italics.)

Today, I found an article on Inhabitat from about the same time period. It's the only one that points out the possible flaw in this system that pushes it into True Mad Science territory:

A 200-meter wide tornado might just have enough power to start absorbing heat from the surrounding area all by itself (something which would be a problem if one is hoping to keep it contained, as once the tornado achieves enough energy, there would be very little to stop it from escaping, so says Nilton Renno a professor at the department of atmospheric, ocean and spaces sciences at the University of Michigan).


And remember, the optimal place for an AVE is right next to a nuclear reactor.

Wheeeeeeee!

The hallmark of the best mad science is when making a disaster movie about it becomes redundant, because the whole thing plays out in everyone's mind as soon as they hear about it:

Dr. Renno: "You've got to stop this project! My calculations indicate that the vortex could become self-sustaining and break free of its confinement!"

Dr. Michard: "Nonsense! You're just one man flying in the face of progress! Increase the power!!"

(Indicator lights rise on the status board. Howling winds increase outside. The technicians spout technobabble. And then... red lights flash and klaxons sound.)


athelind: (Default)

Emission of extremely strong magnetic fields from the head and whole body during oriental breathing exercises.



I have no idea what to make of this, but it's fascinating. This is mostly a reference post; this is exactly the sort of thing I like to crib for SF stories.

The abstract says that "One subject emitted a magnetic field at the level of 200-300 mT (2-3 mGauss) and the other at 0.13 mT (1.3 mGauss)."

This gives two different conversions of Tesla to Gauss -- the correct value is that one Tesla is 104 Gauss. I think the HTML converter for the site may have screwed up converting the µ symbol; I'd try and figure out what's what, but it's after midnight, and my brain's ability to slide decimal points around shut down about an hour ago.

The human nervous system normally generates 0.1 - 1.0 picoTeslas, so even if that is supposed to be in µT, we're looking at a field eight orders of magnitude more intense.

More Benchmarks.
athelind: (Default)

The Florida legislature has approved religious-themed specialty license plates.



They didn't get to see them before the vote, but here's a pic:



Tasteful, aren't they?

That big gap in the middle makes coming up with appropriate personalized plates a challenge that we rose to meet.

Cut for tasty, tasteless sacrilege! )
And now it's your turn!

That's what Comments are for!


athelind: (Default)
You know, for years, I've referred to "the inverse of Clarke's Third Law" when discussing fantasy literature, but I never really quite hit upon an elegant way to phrase it.

Thank you, Phil and Kaja Foglio:


"Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science!"


athelind: (Default)
This made me happy.

(...I also really want to play in that game setting.)

athelind: (Default)
When it comes to apocalyptic scenarios, why do I find the discovery of Xibalba more plausible than firing up the Large Hadron Collider?
athelind: (Default)

Archaeologists Find Mayan Hell; Provide Plot of Mummy IV



It's like some kind of pulp adventure tale: deep in the Yucatan jungles, there's a flooded cave complex that the Mayans believed was the entrance to the Afterlife, Xibalba. Scuba divers have, slowly and carefully, explored the caverns and found vast, air-filled chambers filled with temples.

This is right out of Call of Cthulhu -- and I don't mean that in a good way. I mean that in a "Do Not Call Up What You Cannot Put Down" way.

It's cool, yes... but pretty damned creepy. I mean, we're talkin' LifeGems level creepy. The Mayan afterlife is not a happy place; "Xibalba" means "Place of Fear".

We're talking Hell itself, people. They've found Hell. This is not the start of any happy movie; Brendan Fraser wisecracks are the best we can look forward to here.

If I were given to Omens and Revelations....

EDIT: [livejournal.com profile] halfelf reminded me that the Mayan calendar ends in 2012!

Okay, now I'm really creeped out.

Found via BoingBoing.
Coincidentally, I spent the morning reading pages at http://www.xibalba.demon.co.uk/ -- also found via BoingBoing.

athelind: (Default)
Since it's Friday the 13th, it seems an appropriate time to explain a phrase that I use with great frequency:

"Coyote Loves Me."



I often utter it in situations where other folks might invoke "Murphy's Law" or "Finagle's Law", which leads many people to assume that it's entirely about, well, bad luck.

That's not it at all -- or not the important part.

It's a philosophy -- and one that requires a backstory.

Though I didn't coin the phrase until many years after this incident, the definition comes from my mother: "For all the bad luck we have, we have a lot of good luck."

She said this around 1980 or so, after my stepdad -- who had been working long hours with a long commute -- fell asleep driving home on the twisting, turning country road in the backwoods of Northern San Diego County. He veered out of his lane, and had a head-on collision with another vehicle -- kind of.

The glancing impact peeled all the bodywork off the driver's side of his little blue Toyota -- and that's it. The Toy was still drivable after the panels and windows were replaced.

Nobody in either car was injured at all -- except for little cubes of safety glass in Papa's hair.

His tight, curly black man's hair.

So... a potentially fatal tragedy turned into a comically annoying nuisance.

Coyote, you see, loves us.

God is a prankster with a slapstick sense of humor, desperately trying to get a laugh... and the harder it is to get you to laugh, the harder he tries.

If you see the joke, and laugh... well, he might not go easy on you, exactly, but he might not try so hard to get a reaction.

And all the random, wonderful, serendipitous good things that happen? Those are part of the joke, too.

(For the record, my relationship with Coyote made the transition from "catch phrase" to "something akin to religious faith" after the 2004 "re"-election of George Dubya Bush.)


For further reading:
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein ("Man is the animal who laughs... we laugh because it hurts, because it's the only way to make it stop hurting.")
  • Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons ("Hey... I never said it was a good joke! I'm just playin' along with the gag...")

athelind: (Default)
This is easily the most surreal thing I've read today.

Mark Evanier, writer of screen, cel, and comic book panel, tells the tale of the comic book based on The Dick Van Dyke Show, way back in the '60s... and the art director's breakdown.

It starts getting surreal around issue 8, but read the whole thing, just for the encroaching emergence of Teh Weird.

UPDATE: Alas, it's all a joke on Mr. Evanier's part. I'm disappointed. As Pyat says below, it SHOULD be real.
athelind: (Default)
Follow-Up to the Tornado Master post of 23 July 2007:

Louis Michard has his own website, where he explains the Vortex Engine without all the fluff of the new article.

Found at FUTURISMIC.
athelind: (Default)
I pointed the Vortex Engine out to Technovelgy.com, a blog that looks at ideas and inventions from science fiction that come true in today's world. They very kindly looked up the reference from The Space Merchants, along with additional material on the Vortex Engine specs that weren't in the original article.

Link here: http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1134

(I wonder if you could use a Vortex Engine to create the wind pressure you'd need to run a terraforming-level Hirsch Tube?)

I should also give credit to where I originally found the article: The usually-comics-related blog of Ami Angelwings.
athelind: (Default)
Tornado Master!

Ontario Louis Michard proposes using the waste heat from a conventional power plant to create a tamed tornado, and generating far more power using turbines that tap into the vortex's energy.

On the longer term, he proposes setting up vortex engines in the warm seas around the equator, providing not only a ready-made, inexhaustable source of heat to sustain the vortices, but also taking the waste heat building up from greenhouse impacts and channeling it into the upper atmosphere to cool off the whole damned planet.

I remember that Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth used a very similar process to both generate energy and vent massive amounts of heat to terraform Venus in The Space Merchants and The Merchant's War.

This is so utterly over the top, and fraught with so many delightfully cinematic ways to go horribly, horribly wrong, and yet it's packed full of SO CRAZY IT JUST MIGHT WORK goodness.

But, seriously, atomic-powered tormandos? Calling Doctor Neil "Storm" Cloud!

Signs!

Oct. 17th, 2002 12:47 pm
athelind: (Default)
While working on an Environmental Ethics paper just now, I went out and took a walk out into the hills to clear my mind and get some thoughts straight.

As I wandered and pondered, I found myself thinking about the whole animism thing, and how I thought the idea of whimsical, unpredictable nature spirits all with their own agendas made much more sense to me than the monotheistic concept of a single All-Wise, All-Knowning, All-Benevolent All-Father.

In the midst of this musing, I crested a hill-- and about a hundred feet or so ahead of me, a grizzled gray shape came loping and bouncing out of the woods, then arced gracefully back in. I couldn't identify it at first, but as I caught glimpses of it in the trees, I had no trouble.

Coyote, of course.

He stood in a clearing in that clump of woods, looking at me, then looking off across the trail, not quite wanting to disregard me, but not quite having the attention span to focus on me.

I waved, and called out, "Hello, Grandfather! Am I on the right track?"

And then I turned and let him be, grinning cheerfully.

Do monotheists have this kind of fun with THEIR god?

March 2010

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