Perhaps We’re Not Bound to Our Solar System After All

September 21, 2012

So, Matt Peckham in Time Magazine has reported that NASA is “Actually Working on a Faster-Than-Light Warp Drive.” No, really. And it’s brilliant:

“By placing a spheroid object between two regions of space-time — one expanding, the other contracting — Alcubierre theorized you could create a “warp bubble” that moves space-time around the object, effectively re-positioning it. In essence, you’d have the end result of faster-than-light travel without the object itself having to move (with respect to its local frame of reference) at light-speed or faster.”

Basically, rather than accelerate an object, this method simply changes the very fabric space-time (wow). And it doesn’t violate Einstein’s special theory of relativity. And they’re gonna start lab experiments too. The assured extinction of the species when the Sun goes Red Giant on us, now looks less eschatological. Alpha Centauri or bust by 2100.

Also, this is weirdly reminiscent of the last few pages of Thomas Pynchon’s, Against the Day [2006], in which the Chums of Chance skyship, the Inconvenience, becomes capable of time travel:

Inconvenience herself is constantly having her engineering updated. As a result of advances in relativity theory, light is incorporated as a source of motive power–though not exactly fuel–and as a carrying medium–though not exactly a vehicle–occupying, rather, a relation to the skyship much like that of the ocean to a surfer on a surfboard–a design principle borrowed from the Æther units that carry the girls to and fro on missions whose details they do not always share fully with “High Command.” (1084)


Destroying the Entire Internet . . . ?

September 19, 2012

No. As George Dvorsky over at io9 reports in “Could Someone Really Destroy the Whole Internet,” the very things that make the Internet possible make it resistant to total destruction. Phew. (That is, unless you’re in this terrible looking new show. I watched the pilot, and its one of those: we stuck it in a post-apocalyptic future, but honestly, we will not have a single plot point that wouldn’t work just fine in another, less apocalyptic universe. But this way we get to have Wrigley Field covered in vines. And seriously, when I google, “revolution,” this is the first thing that comes up? We’re done for.)


Jimmy Carter’s Strategies for Nuclear War

September 17, 2012

At Foreign Policy, William Burr writes in “How to Fight a Nuclear War” about President Jimmy Carter’s plans for the apocalypse:

With other recently declassified material, PD-59 shows that the United States was indeed preparing to fight a nuclear war, with the hope of enduring. To do this, it sought a nuclear force posture that ensured a “high degree of flexibility, enduring survivability, and adequate performance in the face of enemy actions.” If deterrence failed, the United States “must be capable of fighting successfully so that the adversary would not achieve his war aims and would suffer costs that are unacceptable.”

Perhaps even more remarkable than this guidance is the fact that, although the Obama administration is conducting a review of U.S. nuclear targeting guidance, key concepts behind PD-59 still drive U.S. policy to this day.


Manhattan Projects Moves to USSR

September 17, 2012

I’m becoming increasingly taken w/ Hickman and Pitarra’s comic, Manhattan Projects. The most recent issue moves us to the Soviet Union, and even has a panel of Yuri Gagarin floating in space. This comic is consistently an absolute joy to read. (Image just released the first 4 or 5 issues in TPB form [or "graphic novel"]). It is smart, funny, and you get to see scientists acting like badasses or schizophrenic psychopaths.


Mark Sussman on DFW and D.T. Max’s Biography

September 12, 2012

A buddy of mine from back in my Arizona days, Mark Sussman, has an interview with D.T. Max on his new DFW biography and DFW as a “Burkean conservative,” and an article/review of the book as well. Check’em out. (There’s also a nice little nod to Prof. Charles Sherry in the interview, who was probably one of the most important teachers I’ve ever had, even if I did write a nonsensical disaster of a senior thesis on Nietzsche for him.)


Open Utopia

September 12, 2012

This just went up: Open Utopia, an open source version of Thomas More‘s famous Utopia. An email from Stephen Duncombe sums it up nicely: “It takes a bit of audacity to introduce yet another edition of More’s Utopia into the world. Yet I’ve done so because what the world does not have, and what I believe it needs, is a complete English-language translation of Utopia that honors the primary precept of Utopia itself, that is, that all property is common property. This digital edition of Utopia is open: open to read, open to downloading, open to re-thinking, and open to modification. But Open Utopia is more than a free copy of Utopia, it’s a free platform for others to comment upon More’s text and write their own, building communities of critics and creators.  Two of the more exciting features of Open Utopia are an annotatable “Social Book” edition–created in collaboration with the Institute for the Future of the Book–and Wikitopia, a wiki platform for collective authorship of a new Utopia.”


The Hyperarchivalism of Gordon Bell

September 11, 2012

I was working on something today and recalled this 2007 article from The New Yorker, Alec Wilkinson’s “Remember This?” where he talks about Gordon Bell and Microsoft’s MyLifeBits project to record and document one’s entire life. Hyperarchivalism indeed.


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