ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
So GamerGate just shot videogames in the crotch

The academics are being stupid.  You do not ignore a part of history because you think it's pointless and some of the people involved are assholes.  You do not ignore it because it is "too new," it is easier to preserve then and your descendants will curse you for being so fucking slow and stupid as to let it fade away.  Ephemera are valuable precisely because  they usually get lost.  You would think more people would have learned this after thousands of years of history.  Apparently not.

But hey, this is what sexism gets: academic careers blocked, research and preservation not done, games therefore probably lost when they degrade because nobody knew how to save them.  Thanks, assholes, you just turned over the thirteenth card and blew up the universe, now everyone loses.


I am sulking at having to share a planet with these two groups of idiots.  The stupid, it burns like hydrogen.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Here's an article speculating on potential harm from wearable devices.  Let's consider some possible issues ...

1) Does it emit radiation? If so, it's probably something you don't want next to your skin a lot.  Remember that the most common danger from radiation isn't a single big does, but the buildup over time, in which a lot of tiny doses definitely add up.  This could be greatly reduced by shielding. Companies probably won't bother unless consumers force  them to. But you can probably make your own.  Radiation from wearables isn't very strong so you don't need six feet of concrete to stop it.  Consider also that some wearables emit a lot more than others.  Don't choose a high-rad device if a low-rad one will do what you need.

2) Does it contain toxic materials? This is common, as things must be proven unsafe rather than proven safe. There are things which, again, you probably don't want to press on your skin all the time. This is easily solved by using a protective cover of something you're not allergic to and don't make go haywire.  Don't trust corporations to put your safety first; they are legally obligated (in America) to put their shareholders' profits first.  Don't trust government agencies either; they're interested in avoiding panic and making their donors happy.  You are not their priority either.  Look for reports by people who don't have a dog in the fight.  These are rare, but tend to be more reliable if you can find them.  Also if something is getting banned somewhere, it's probably not great for your body.

3) Does it interfere with your somatic motions, make your body part hurt, or cause some other physical problems? This is likely an ergonomic issue which may be affected by the size, shape, weight, etc. of the device. Later generations will probably improve. If you have this problem, try moving the device, carrying it in a pocket, etc. If all else fails, wait a year or two and test a newer model.

4) Does it mess with your social, sleep, or other life patterns? This tends to be a behavior issue, which is a combination of physical and nonphysical factors. Staring at a glowing screen at night can make you unsleepy (but not untired, alas). So can thinking about complex things  such as what someone's latest message means for your schedule tomorrow. If you have this type of problem, try modifying the times when you use your device. Staring at the gizmo on your wrist could cause your to walk into traffic and get hit by a car, or piss off your friend and get dumped. If you are having this type of problem, try changing the way in which you interact with your device and with people around you.

5) In any case, pay close attention to new technology before and after adopting it.  What are the financial, physical, social, and time costs?  What are you gaining by using this tool?  What are you losing?  I highly recommend the Amish rule: When deciding whether to adopt a new piece of technology, ask whether it does more good than harm.  If it does more good, adopt it.  If it does more harm, do not adopt it.  (You don't have the draw the line in the same place they do.  I don't, but I use the same rule.  Heck, even they argue over it.)  Really really think about this.  Don't grab something new just because it is new and everyone says it's cool.  Think about what it will do for you  and what you'll have to give up to get that.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
... has been found, well-preserved, and scientists are hopeful for DNA.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
The fun of being an adult is that, every once in a while, you get to play with the really good  toys that let you do for real something you've been imagining for years.  In this case, see a bowling ball and feathers fall in vacuum.

I fucking love science.  :D
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Microbes in the soil have beneficial effects on people.  If you feel blue, try touching the dirt; sometimes it helps.  
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Indian food is delicious because it combines ingredients whose flavors have little or nothing in common, the opposite of Western methods.  Kudos to the folks who thought of doing science to analyze why it is so yummy.  The flavor pyramids are fascinating.  Also, has anyone else noticed the mushrooms are Pagan?

Okay, that works.  I am now trying to figure out if I can get my internal database to run backwards and match foods for minimum overlap instead of searching for little bits that hook into each other like when I put the Earl Grey into the white peach ice cream.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
AI specialists at the University of Maryland have created a robot that can learn by observing.  This one taught itself to cook by watching YouTube.

This is epic.  It's the "monkey see, monkey do" moment.  One of the most crucial steps in creating artificial life is the ability of self-learning instead of programming.  More importantly, learning by observation -- rather than being trained explicitly -- is a feature of higher lifeforms such as humans, cetaceans, and great apes.  It lays a foundation for the "aha!" moment of awakening to self.  A robot might go through the motions and then suddenly understand  what they mean.

Just remember, an AI is like a small child.  They learn what they see.  They mimic what you do, not what you say.  So treat them as you want to be treated.  Teach them well.  Then they'll do great things, instead of going insane and trying to destroy the world.  
ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
This poem came out of the February 2015 Crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] chordatesrock. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. This poem belongs to the Aquariana thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Read more... )
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
My partner Doug found this awesome article about 3D printed hands.  I've been following similar advances but this one is different -- the patterns are public domain so anyone can customize, print, and assemble a manual prosthesis.  Awesome!  If you're into model kits or 3D printing, and looking for volunteer opportunities, seriously consider this.  

I am particularly pleased that the people behind the design released it to the public so it could be used freely as needed, instead of holding it hostage for exorbitant amounts of money like conventional prosthetics.  A 3D hand costs $20-50.  Compare that to the cost of conventional prosthetics: $5000 for a merely cosmetic arm, $10,000 for a simplistic hook, and $20,000-$100,000 for a high-performance myoelectric arm.  Granted the high-end model currently does things the 3D one can't, but people are already improving the 3D version, and it's a lot better to have something  than nothing at all.  Regarding cosmetic aspects, children and geeks seem to find the robotic-looking 3D hands cool and appealing.  Instead of hitting the "uncanny valley" they hit the "nifty toy" category.

This is what open source can do when you turn it loose.  :D
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
I first saw a video of cetaceans making toroidal bubbles on Facebook, and then also found this clip elsewhere.

Dolphins and other cetaceans can blow toroidal bubbles underwater. The video shows the dolphins in particular manipulating the bubbles quite skillfully to change their size and direction. The dolphins display a similar playful interaction with the bubbles that they do with toys such as plastic hoops provided by humans.

Read more... )

Weta Legs

Feb. 12th, 2015 03:15 am
ysabetwordsmith: (gold star)
Weta Legs are digitigrade stilts so elegantly designed that you can walk, climb, jump, or even stand still in them.  Better living through gizmology!
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
 ... according to increasing evidence.

I favor "self-destruct" and "using different technology" as reasons why we aren't detecting signs of sentient life.  Based on life's incredible creativity and tenacity, it is likely to be both plentiful and -- on favorable worlds -- headed toward high complexity.  But given how humans do dumb things like trying to mow a hedge and starting wars over whose god is more peaceful, I would not be surprised by flash-in-the-pan civilizations.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
 ... here's a cute video of some things that would happen.  I've also seen some longer documentaries and books on this topic, very useful for anyone writing apocalyptic science fiction.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
 ... when stuck in dry ice.  Also, this video marks the second ever use of popups in videos I have seen which is actually useful.  A little bubble pops up that says, "Why?"  :D  It is possible to use these things for good.  People just usually prefer to annoy you with them.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
This poem is from the February 3, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] alexseanchai and this picture. It has been sponsored by [personal profile] lynnoconnacht.

"Star Deity"

Star Deity is black light
Star Deity is white shadows

Robe made of nebulas
Hairpins of embers

Star Deity is masculine female
Star Deity is feminine male

Fingerprints of kindling
Footprints of ashes

Star Deity's spirit is too big
To be only one thing.

* * *


“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”
-- Carl Sagan

Star deities may be associated with the night, sky, and/or sun.

Androgynous deities may have traits of both sexes, none, or something else altogether.

Because human thought is limited, but we often conceive of divinity as unlimited, we may describe deities as transcendent.  Even religions with more specific, personified deities often have an Unknowable Divine as well.

ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
I got to thinking about the literary device of a "fixed point in time" that can't be changed by a time traveler -- an event that always happens, an earliest thing that can be changed and beyond that can't be reached, etc.  It usually seems like a deus ex machina copout to me.  (An exception is if the time travel mode itself has a limited travel range, as most conveyances do: a practical rather than arbitrary restriction.)  So then I noodled around ideas that might work better, and thought of ...

Time Jenga.  There are not fixed points in time.  There are load-bearing  points in time.  They cannot be altered while the weight is resting on them, because it pins them in place.  However, you can move things around in other parts of the timespace continuum.  That causes the load to shift, releasing pressure to make some points malleable while pinning new ones down.  A time traveler with a specific goal may be able to meet it directly, or may discover that it is currently stuck and have to figure out what else to change so as to release it.

Basically, it's the opposite of every "don't change anything because butterflies" story ever.  The whole point is to run around making changes that you think will loosen what you're trying to fix ... but without toppling the whole tower or destroying the universe in the process.  Quality in a time traveler, then, is less based on range or subtlety than on an exceptional grasp of temporal physics and connectivity, whether obtained via logic or intuition.  You can eyeball the structure and calculate the load, or you can touch it very delicately to feel for loose pieces.

Except of course that real life is less like the orderly stack of Jenga blocks and far more like a game of Bausack Towers in which God keeps giving you the Christmas trees.


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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