Antikythera mechanism

Science & Technology at Scientific Unique Marvel of Ancient Greek Technology Gives Up New Secrets — The most complex piece of machinery until medieval times ticked off the months until eclipses and might once have shown the positions of the planets.
Both in Scientific American (linked above) and in an NPR story is mentions of the recent discoveries involving a Antikythera mechanism that is 2000 years old, found at the bottom of the Mediterranean several decades ago.
It literally is a primitive calendar computer, the likes of which wasn’t reproduced after the fall of the Roman Empire for a millennium afterwards.

Deja Vu

So, I’ve been on a kick of seeing movies in the theater lately, and yesterday, I saw Deja Vu.
I was entertained, but I was annoyed that, upon reflection, the SF elements of the movie as presented made no sense whatsoever.
Until, this morning, at 5 am, I came up with a theory that explains everything we see. I wouldn’t recommend reading this until and if you see the movie, because it WILL spoil it.

Continue reading Deja Vu

Regulation of a Million Years

NPR : EPA Expected to Issue Million-Year-Long Regulation
Eschewing a 10,000 year time frame as not long enough, the EPA is expected to release regulations concerning the construction of the Yucca Mountain site for the disposal of nuclear waste that are intended to be in place for a million years.
I’m all for protecting the environment and the health of our citizenry, but I find this sort of thing silly. Even 10,000 years is ambitious, as that is 50 times the current existence of the United States. A Million Years…well, that’s the province of SF writers.

Parallels between Rome and the Modern US

NPR : Drawing Parallels Between Ancient Rome and the U.S. Today
Novelist Robert Harris draws some parallels between Ancient Rome and the modern US, with some eerie recapitulations of language in the way the pirate attack on Ostia in 68 BC was handled by those in power in Rome, as well as the reaction of its citizenry.
Harris made this point in a NY Times article that I saw back at the end of September, which will soon be going beyond the pay wall.
In the NPR segment, though, he also makes the parallel between a massive natural disaster early in the Roman Empire and a modern day natural disaster.
Katrina is our own modern rendition of the destruction of Pompeii at the hands of Vesuvius in 79 AD.
Anyway, as a fan of things Roman, I found the parallels,once highlighted, interesting.

Movie re-watching

Hacking NetFlix : Microsoft’s Moore on Xbox Movie Rentals, Netflix
Via Hacking Netflix, an interesting comment about buying movies versus renting them and why Microsoft’s Xbox only allows rentals, not purchases
Moore: We look at consumer behaviour. Of all the movies I’ve watched in my life, there are only about 20 I want to own. My wife drives me nuts. She goes to Costco and buys three movies because they’re only $16. I say, ’But we’ll only watch it once!’ For her it’s a spontaneous purchase. I have boxes of movies that we watch once and never again. We take them to Goodwill. I do Netflix. I watch it, I send it back. I don’t want it in the house.

Continue reading Movie re-watching

Words of Wisdom from LeGuin

I haven’t read as much LeGuin as I should
From a speech of hers:
There have been governments that celebrated literature, but most governments dislike it, justly suspecting that all their power and glory will soon be forgotten unless some wretched, powerless liberal in the basement is writing it down. Of course they do their best to police the basement, but it’s hard, because Government and Literature, even when they share a palace, exist on different moral planes. Each is the ghost in the other’s bedroom. A government can silence writers easily, yet Literature always escapes its control. Literature cannot control a government; poets, as poets, do not legislate. What they can do is set minds free of the control of any tyrant or demagogue and his lies and disinformation.
The Greek Socrates wrote: “The misuse of language induces evil in the soul.” Evil government relies on deliberate misuse of language. Because literary skill is the rigorous use of language in the pursuit of truth, the habit of literature, of serious reading, is the best defense against believing the half-truths of ideologues and the lies of demagogues.
The poet Shelley wrote: “The imagination is the great instrument of moral good.” Believing that, I see a public library as the toolshed, the warehouse, concert hall, temple, Capitol of imagination — of moral good. So here — right here where we are, right now — is where America stands or falls. Can we still imagine ourselves as free? If not, we have lost our freedom.