September 28, 2008

PIE: FEDERATION ASSIMILATES BORG!

The Borg have creeped me out from day one. But it’s become more than just the creepiness of a TV show. There is a startling bit of the Borg right around some corner you’re likely to turn next week.

When someone with a Bluetooth in their ear turns toward me and sweeps me with that little blue light, I get the chills. They make me think of a proto-Borg:

http://www.ebb.org/bkuhn/random-info/locutus-of-borg.jpg

http://eyeglasses365.com/uploaded_images/bluetooth-headsets-and-eyeglasses-785764.jpg

Though I don’t remember seeing Bluetooths when STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION and the Borg premiered in 1987, they seem to be an echo of the idea of the Borg. A Bluetooth phone may not be permanently implanted like an insulin pump, artificial hip or a pacemaker – but how far away can that day be?

The Borg slogan, “Resistance is futile” – unemotional and mechanical – was chilling. The Borg seemed to tap into a deeply held fear of technophillic America – that our technology, in particular our electronics, might overwhelm us and change us into monsters. It seems that the physical integration of devices into our bodies is the next step and that resistance is futile.

Most people reading this know the ST story line: the Borg appeared, unstoppable. But through interaction with Humans who set them free to be self-determining individuals, the Borg were defeated and enabled to retake their “humanity”. Despite the technological, mental, military and organizational advantages of the Borg collective, the flesh-and-blood Federation (in the form of Admiral and Captain Janeway) defeated the Borg. Even though vastly more advanced civilizations like the one Guinan belonged to, fell before them and were assimilated, the Human-led Federation prevailed. How could that happen? What quality did Humans possess that allowed them to succeed where others had failed miserably? What was it that allowed the Federation to emerge victorious over the Borg when so many others failed? ST never tells us.

Life’s triumph over Mechanism in ST is a hopeful message. We hope that we can control our technology, to prevent it from overwhelming the “Human virtues” of love, self-determination, individuality, faith in a higher being, reproduction and the appreciation of art and beauty. Certainly, the Federation’s triumph over the Borg points to the hope that we can overcome the temptation to efficiency and remain Human still.

But is it reasonable that we will be able to prevent ourselves from becoming proto-Borg? My son is working to become a paramedic. The range of technological devices he has at his fingertips is amazing and the real – technological tools in the average 21st Century emergency room are unmatched even by the special effects glitz of a high definition doctor show. Americans have become dependent on external technology. Are we in danger of internalizing our electronics as the ultimate in efficiency? Are we on the way to becoming real-life proto-Borg? Only time will tell. It might be good to keep this clip of the Borg firmly in mind as we wend our way into the future so that we might avoid becoming Borg ourselves and make sure we find that undefined “thing” that allowed the Federation to assimilate the Borg: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZEJ4OJTgg8&feature=related

September 22, 2008

PIE: The Myth Busted...

After long consideration, reading and researching, I am retracting my previous article on the myth of global warming.

As well, I suggest all concerned Christians should visit this site and act on the advice of the Evangelical Climate Initiative:

http://christiansandclimate.org/

September 21, 2008

WRITING ADVICE: Write Like A Shark



Two years ago, stuck less than half way through a SF novel I’d started writing three years earlier than THAT, I ran across an article in the January 2006 issue of THE WRITER. Kelly James-Enger exhorted me to “Get your novel written in 3 drafts”.

Glancing at my stalled book, I read the short, sweet article.

Stunned by its three simple steps, I plunged back into INVADER’S GUILT and finished the 500 page, 150,000-word behemoth in less than six months. I wrote a couple of short stories as well and then started a YA novel sparked by an agent’s comment rejecting a MG novel: “While I really liked your informative (and flattering) query letter, I did think this project was lacking the edge and tone of YA.”

My response – not to him, but to myself – and James-Enger’s exhortation, spurred me to dive into VICTORY OF FISTS and write it through to the end without a break in twelve months. (I write mostly on weekends and during my four weeks of summer vacation. I am a teacher…and “No, I’ve never ‘taken the summer off’ – I’ve worked one or more other jobs for twenty-seven years.”) I am now working to pare INVADER’S GUILT down to a saleable 100,000 words. I will begin editing my first draft of VICTORY OF FISTS in a few weeks with the target date of submitting it to the agent whose comment sparked the book in January of 2009.

Kelly James-Enger’s advice was profound:

1) Draft 1: Write like a shark
2) Draft 2: The big cleanup
3) Draft 3: Where every word counts

I found myself a picture of a great white shark.
Why a shark? A somewhat obscure fact is that most shark species must keep moving so that oxygenated water flows over their gills. They can’t “pump water” like a goldfish does. If they don’t move forward – they die.

The analogy is clear to me: if I don’t keep writing the story…it will die. INVADER’S GUILT was dead and Kelly James-Enger saved its life. Now let’s see if I can clean it up and sell that…puppy. (Another little-known shark fact is that baby sharks are called “pups”.)

September 14, 2008

A SLICE OF PIE: SF Based On Real S

We all love them: stories celebrated as SF that aren’t based on “real science”. I realize that “real science” is a slippery concept – but I think that there are some sciences that are more…likely than others.

For example, John W. Campbell was a well-known proponent of psi powers. I avidly read the “Telzey” stories of James H. Schmitz in ANALOG in the early 70’s, when I first started reading the magazine (“The Telzey Toy” was the one I remember best). The early 21st Century has revealed true wonders of the human mind, for example, the discovery that adolescents are IN FACT crazy some of the time. (http://harvardmagazine.com/2008/09/the-teen-brain.html) But we haven’t yet been able to verify that true telekinesis or telepathy exist.

Likewise, H. Beam Piper’s marvelous works enthralled me when I was young (and old) but while an interpretation of quantum mechanics might allow for his fictional “Paratime” stories to exist in alternate timelines, they are, at the heart of them, scientifically unlikely. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everett_many-worlds_interpretation)

Humaniform robots with transhuman intelligence have been a staple of SF since Karl ńĆapek introduced the word “robot” in his 1921 play, R.U.R. Isaac Asimov carried the idea to its logical conclusion creating a robot detective indistinguishable from a human in the person of R. Daneel Olivaw. Even so, practical Artificial Intelligence (AI) with a human-sized cranium and human-style mobility seems to have a number of very difficult hurdles to leap, leaving me to think that if it is not unlikely, then it is a very, very long way into the future. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_intelligence

While I won’t stop reading SF and I’ve given the “mundane SF” sub-genre a try, I’d still like to see even more SF based on “real science” and the collision of real people and their real beliefs (you know which ones) with that science in a realistic, thoughtful way with biases suppressed and imagination alive.

September 13, 2008

Sorry...Sorry...Sorry

The first week of school hit...somewhat like a hurricane.

It threw me off balance, so I missed my Thursday post. I'll do it later today as well as getting Sunday's post ready!

Guy

September 7, 2008

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: The Scientific Myth of Man As The Cause Of Global Warming And Cooling

Humans did not cause global warming (or cooling), we’re just desperately wishing that we did.

In the same way, there is nothing we can do to STOP the climate from changing. (Note: I said nothing about resource depletion, air and water pollution or overpopulation. We can and should act to increase recycling, cease and desist TOXIC emissions and reduce population before the Gang of Four pays us a visit.)

Some facts:

1) Surface of Earth is 500,000,000 square kilometers

2) 29% of Earth’s surface is land (150,000,000 square kilometers)

3) Of that 29%, humans inhabit roughly 80% (118,000,000 square kilometers) – a bit over 1/5 of the Earth’s surface

4) “83 percent of the total land surface and 98 percent of the areas where it is possible to grow the world's three main crops—rice, wheat, and maize—is directly influenced by human activities.” (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/10/1025_021025_HumanFootprint.html)
5) “A UN forecast released last week reports that half of all humans will live in urban areas by the end of the year—and 70 percent by 2050—even though cities occupy only about 3 percent of Earth's land surface.” http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/03/080313-cities.html)

6) “Some argue that human interaction poses less of a threat to our atmosphere than do natural processes, like volcanic eruptions.” (http://www.geology.sdsu.edu/how_volcanoes_work/climate_effects.html)

7) "Ignoring anthropogenic and other possible sources of variation acting at frequencies higher than one cycle per 19,000 years, this model predicts that the long-term cooling trend which began some 6,000 years ago will continue for the next 23,000 years."[9] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milankovitch_cycles)

8) “Astronaut Andy Thomas wrote about what you can see from orbit while aboard the Russian space station Mir: "Evidence of human habitation is visible from low Earth orbit. Cities can be seen, although, surprisingly, they do not stand out readily. But we can make out their grid-like patterns of streets. In remote areas, certain roads and railway lines can be seen as faint lines across the Earth, such as the road through the rain forests of Brazil, and the long straight railway line crossing south western Australia, but generally these are too small to make out clearly. The fencing off of farm land into individual fields can also be made out, particularly in the Midwest of the U.S. and Canada. There is even one area in South America where they alternate their growing cycles on adjacent fields, giving rise to a very obvious checkerboard pattern. Of course, national boundaries do not stand out by themselves as on a map, but some national boundaries can be seen where there are different land usage policies in effect on each side of a border, giving rise to different surface texture or color. In this way, the southern border of Israel can be made out, as can part of the division between the U.S. and Canada. The stories about the Great Wall of China being visible from space may be true, but I have yet to see it." But from the Moon? No. Astronaut and moonwalker Alan Bean said "The only thing you can see from the moon is a beautiful sphere, mostly white (clouds), some blue (ocean), patches of yellow (deserts), and every once in a while some green vegetation. No man-made object is visible on this scale. In fact, when first leaving earth's orbit and only a few thousand miles away, no man-made object is visible at that point either."” (http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/4411/faq-c.htm)

My thought is that rational science seeks to remove Man from a place of importance in the universe. Theologians declare that God is dead. Psychotherapists determine him to be a either a coping mechanism (aka “a crutch”) or a figment of our collective unconscious imagination. Genetics tells us that each individual is an accident. Astronomers show us pictures proving that Sol is insignificant in the universe. Cosmologists create calendars that prove that human existence is unnoticeable on an intergalactic scale. Astronauts verify that nothing of humanity is evident from the Moon. Behaviorists show that without a doubt, we are nothing more than naked apes.

As there is no more God, He cannot love us and we are no longer His special creation. Therefore, Human existence is meaningless.

I think that this inevitable conclusion bugged scientists enough that they felt it necessary to create something like God. Thus was born the Scientific Myth of Man As The Cause Of Global Warming/Cooling. I have no trouble with the measurable fact of global warming and cooling. Global warming is part of a long cyclic process that will change direction in about 15,000 years. As a cycle that spans tens of thousands of years, it has neither been helped nor hindered by Humanity. However, the devout belief of Man As The Cause Of Global Warming/Cooling and it’s corollary: Man Can Stop Global Warming/Cooling seems like it should be significant. It is not. As any scientist who has questioned Global Warming/Cooling has discovered, the belief that we can “stop” Global Warming/Cooling is as elaborate and as useless a coping mechanism (or a figment of our collective unconscious) as the former Belief In A Loving Creator Who Sent His Son To Die For Our Sins.

Succinctly: I have seen and reviewed evidence of global warming and cooling and I agree that it is taking place. I do not believe in Global Warming/Cooling.