Getting Strossed

Almost through Charles Stross’ “Accelerando,” a fantastic singularity sci-fi novel. I’m really enjoying this book, to the point where I’ll likely start writing a slew of half-baked posts about the singularity. I guess I’ll hold back until I’m done. If you want to read along at home, which is totally in your interest, since the book is so good, find the entire thing here for free. (Open your heart to the free e-books, people.)

On Mr. Stross’s blog this week, he’s got some incredible material on the current thinking into the Fermi Paradox (i.e. we’re intelligent, and that means intelligence is possible, so how come can’t we observe evidence of alien intelligences?). Here’s one of the ideas he brings up:

But the Great Filter argument isn’t the only answer to the Fermi Paradox. More recently, Milan M. Ćirković has written a paper, Against the Empire, in which he criticizes the empire-state model of posthuman civilization that is implicit in many Fermi Paradox treatments. As he points out, for a civilization to be visible at interstellar distances it needs to be expanding and utilizing resources in certain ways. There is a widespread implicit belief among people who look at the topic [] in manifest destiny, expansion to fill all possible evolutionary niches, and the inevitability of any species that develops the technology to explore deep space using that technology to colonize it. As Ćirković points out, this model is based on a naive extrapolation of historical human models which may be utterly inapplicable to posthuman or postbiological societies.

In other words, the answer to Fermi is we don’t see evidence of other intelligences because advanced minds aren’t raw-material consumers like us primitives. When we project an idea of an advanced civilization, we make it look just like us but on space steroids. If getting advanced means using resources differently, which seems likely enough, all these projections based on human evolutionary history up to now may not be quite accurate.


10 Dimensions in 12 Minutes

I’ve not been much into string theory, outside of a stray episode of NOVA or something, so I can’t tell you if this video is good on the merits. But I confirm that this 12-minute animation, which takes you step by step through visualizations of all ten known dimensions, is a kick. My mind, after watching, is pleasingly boggled.

Has anyone else ever seen this video before or know much about how it jibes/doesn’t jibe with mainstream ideas about string theory?


Here’s the trailer for the new Joss Whedon show. Eliza Dushku stars as a programmable hottie-for-hire, but we also get Helo, cranky Zion military commander guy from the shitty Matrix films, and sexy British love-interest lady from Rushmore. I liked most of Buffy and loved Firefly, so I’ll give this show a spin, but I’m not convinced ahead of time that it’s going to be great.

Star Fish Is Superior

Believe me when I tell you to read this book. If you don’t believe me, ask Noah. You might think: But I don’t like sci-fi, and dear god look at the cover, man. Also, screw this Noah guy. Even if you don’t think you like sci-fi books per se, “Star Fish” still deserves your attention. In fact, I think it’s the perfect sort of sci-fi book to suggest to people who don’t read those books, because it doesn’t much follow the standard shapes and rhythms of the genre. Which is not to say it’s an easy read — far from it. “Star Fish” is a difficult book in a lot of ways. A hostile book, you could say. But the payoff is huge. Peter Watts’ debut novel is a fearsome thing, a really huge technical achievement. There is no skimping on science here, but it’s pretty seamless and important to the story.

This is not the first time I’ve hectored you to read “Star Fish.” It’s been free for a long while, but Tor is just hyping that fact now (on their excellent free e-book email list) presumably because the paperback reissue is due out. Hopefully, once you confirm the book’s quality, you’ll buy the other two novels in the Rifters trilogy. And “Blindsight,” which is also a killer book.

Well, That Settles It

A new version of Google Reader made specifically for the iPhone? Talk about killer app. Debate is over. Sorry, Google Phone and OpenMoko. As soon as those 3G fuckers hit the market, I’m an iPhone owner. And then I will be one step closer to completing my iLife.

It Puts the Lotion on Its Skin

Via Reihan at American Scene, the online intellectual/quasi-celebrity I’d most like to meet, here’s a “Silence of the Lambs”-themed mashup that I must have missed in its active viral phase

Catchy. I may have a thing for pop songs whose lyrics are based on film lines. Take, for instance, Aqueduct’s “As You Wish,” which is adapted from “The Princess Bride.” Also excellent.

Try Radioarchive

This torrent archive specializing in radio programs, particularly stuff from the BBC, looks incredibly promising. Now all we need is a handy best-of-the-BBC list or other such index. Anyone have any listening suggestions? (via)