Thursday, July 31, 2008

What do The Matrix and Cowboy Bebop have in Common?


Get ready to open a vein Bebop fans....Keanu Reeves. For those of you not in the know, Cowboy Bebop is a hugely popular Anime science fiction series. The name is a bit of a misnomer, there are no cowboys, but instead a rag tag crew of a run down ship very much in the FireFly vein. The crew are a bit bounty hunter, problem solvers but all very enigmatic in personality. I have never been able to even figure out Fred's biological sex! lol. With nothing written in stone as of yet, the rumor mill has it that Reeves would be playing Spike.
Take a trip over to <- Topless Robots -> to get some futher comments.

Safe For Work Eye Candy

A cooperative venture between NASA and the Internet Archive, NASA Images is a fast, efficient resource for space and Earth science images. While all the images come with fascinating information about the photo or art, their beauty is often the highlight.

The image viewer at the site is not completely user friendly, but with all the images being downloadable, that isn't a serious issue. With tens of thousands of images available and a good search option, it's worth a look.

Transcriptase

In July 2008, Helix editor William Sanders stirred up controversy in the community with remarks that many found offensive. As the controversy continued, several Helix writers asked to remove their work from the magazine. Which in and of itself started another blaze of controversy. Those that took their fiction off Helix or those that left theirs up on Helix but wished another forum started the web site Transcriptase which hosts reprints of their stories and poems originally published at Helix. One of the driving motivations for Transcriptase is as the writers state:
  • so that you can enjoy our work away from Helix, if you choose.
<- read more of the controversy and the authors words and works on Traanscriptase ->

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy Headed to the Big Screen

Do those words fill you will hope or horrors? We should think back to the awe inspiring novels that should have been good movies..... Dune, BladeRunner, I Robot, Bicentennial Man and so forth and then think about the frightening scope of Asimov's Foundations. I don't see how the story can be made understandable and the movie entertaining in 90 to 120 minutes. What part of the Mona Lisa do you chop off or paint over to make it more digestable? But Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne seem to think they have what it takes. Shaye at leaset seems to understand the complexity of what he has undertaken "this is not a script you can knock out in six months." he was quoted as saying. ya think?

Read more by clicking the link

<- Firstshowing.net via SFSignal ->

Dinosaur Soft Tissue Find Proves False


In 2005 researchers apparently found soft, pliable tissues had been recovered from dissolved dinosaur bones. But new finding suggests that the supposed dinosaur tissue is in reality biofilm.

The original research claimed the discovery of blood vessels and what appeared to be entire cells inside fossil bone of a Tyrannosaurus rex. The scientists had dissolved the bone in acid, leaving behind the blood vessel- and cell-like structures.

As the article in Science Daily puts it:
  • But in a paper published July 30 in PloS ONE, a journal of the open-access Public Library of Science, Kaye and his co-authors contend that what was really inside the T. rex bone was slimy biofilm created by bacteria that coated the voids once occupied by blood vessels and cells.
<- Science Daily ->

Faster than a speed Prius, More powerful that the super fund - its Kal Al


From the Onion's nutty goodness we read the saga of Kal Al, stranger from another world, son of Gore Al
  • "... radiation of a differently colored sun, causing him to develop abilities far beyond those of mortal men. ... faster than a speeding Prius, stronger than the existing Superfund program, and able to leap mountains of red tape in a single bound. These superpowers will sustain him in his never-ending battle against conservatives, wealthy industrialists, and other environmental supervillains."
Read on as Kal Al continues on his mission by fighting for truth, justice, and the American way elsewhere in the universe......

The Onion Kal Al

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The First Practical Jetpack

From the NewYork Times via Boing Boing comes news of the very first "practical" jet pack. Practical because its the first to have a flight time of more than 20 seconds. A much more stable platform and flight dynamics. Higher flight ceiling and how hard it is to learn to fly. Glenn Martin, spent 27 years developing the devices, said he hoped to begin selling them next year. First units out the door will cost apx 100k. Hey, cheaper than a flight on StarShip 1!
Click here for a film showing the unit in " teathered " flight.

Unidentified Objects a Threat?


Barry sends in a thought provoking piece from the op/ed section of the New York Times. First it brings up what could be massive holes in the U.S.' terrorist barrier and the dichotomy of the system at identifying a threat! From the Times:
  • ON the afternoon of Nov. 7, 2006, pilots and airport employees at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago saw a disc-like object hovering over the tarmac for several minutes. Because nothing was tracked on radar, the Federal Aviation Administration did not investigate. Yet radar is not a reliable detector of all aircraft. Stealth planes are designed to be invisible to radar, and many radar systems filter out signals not matching the normal characteristics of aircraft. Did it really make sense to entirely ignore the observations of several witnesses?
It's fine to have a healthy skepticism concerning U.F.O.s Many have easily explained as mis-identifications of stars and planets, aircraft lights, satellites and meteors, but some cases have raised national security or air safety issues. On Dec. 26, 1980, for instance, several witnesses at two American Air Force bases in England reported seeing a U.F.O. land and on 2 occasions shine bright lights into sensitive areas on the base, a obvious breach of security. Under any other circumstances an incursion of a base would bring an immediate and massive response, but any hint of UFO and the incident is completely ignored. Again, near misses with commercial or military craft are thoroughly investigated unless of course they are reported as a close encounter with a UFO.

It would almost seem that for a terrorist to be successful he doesn't need to engage in subterfuge but merely to have himself identified as a UFO to gain access to some of the most sensitive areas on the Earth.

<- Times op/ed ->


Monday, July 28, 2008

Warp Engine - Possible?


I was reading through some of the listings on Discover News and I came across this headline
  • Warp Drive Engine Would Travel Faster Than Light

And I am thinking uh duh that's what warp engines do right?! But I kept reading and the article kept making more and more sense. But the real laugh is I think I saw this concept on an episode of Futurama. Anyway -
  • Two Baylor University physicists have outlined how a faster-than-light engine could possibly work. The warp engine, based on a design first proposed in 1994 by Michael Alcubierre, involves expanding the fabric of space behind a ship into a bubble and shrinking space-time in front of the ship. The ship would rest in between the expanding and shrinking space-time, essentially surfing down the side of the bubble. The ship wouldn't actually move; space itself would move underneath the stationary spacecraft. A beam of light next to the ship would still zoom away, same as it always does, but a beam of light far from the ship would be left behind.
  • It is thought that this has happened once before in the cosmos' history - the big bang.
Quite simply that if a beam of light and the ship left the same relative space time local, the ship, utilizing it engine, would arrive well ahead of the beam of light. Relative to any other beam of light traveling relatively tangent to the ship, the ship would not be ftl, but since it beat a beam of light from its own space/time, it is in fact Faster than light. Not a play on words (Einstein flat out said this could not take place) or a trick of what gets taken away from what first. Given enough energy, possible? My sticking point to ftl is the energy curve. To accelerate any mass you need energy. To double the speed, you do not need double the energy, you need geometrically more energy. If you have mass and you acellerate to the physical limit of the universe, it stands to reason that you would need all the energy of the universe. Since the stars are still shining is proff that no one has gone ftl. But what if you are not accelerating mass, but distorting space time. At present we only know of one way to do that effectivly and that is with massive objects. Round and round we go. But is sure is interesting.

<- Read complete article in Discovery News ->

Astronaut says NASA wants to Nuke asteroids

I am starting to get a sinking feeling here. First I hear that Nasa is asking for funding to track Earth crossing asteroids. That's good.... Then NASA starts talking about reasonable ways to deal with possibly dangerous ones. Again good deal. Then we hear about Rusty Schweickart B612 Foundation, which wants to alter asteroid orbits in a controlled manner. My reaction is that this seems like duplication of efforts. Isn't that what NASA is working on? Why diminish that effort? Then what starts to sound like sour grapes Schweickart says NASA favors using nuclear bombs. But in a 2007 report, that's exactly what NASA is proposing. Now excuse me, hasn't this method proved itself to be one of the LEAST effective? Then reading in a Gizmodo article, NASA and Schweickart's motivations got a lot clearer. As Gizmodo puts it:
  • Schweickart believes its (NASA) cash-strapped later years might have led the agency—under immense pressure from Washington—to endorse a program with an ulterior motive: put nuclear weapons in space.
I don't know why I should be surprised, it's well known that several shuttle mission were thinly disguised military, many of the pre-mercury launches like the Aurora were out and out spy flights, I can totally get behind there being ulterior motivations for what at first sounds idiotic. And in the end, what makes it totally insane, is the fact that a platform like this could be taken out with a well place can of nails. But that is another story...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

ABC family's The MiddleMan on it's way out?


TVSquad is reporting that ABC Family tv has just cut it's order of MiddleMan episodes from 13 to 12 which can not be viewed as a good thing. If you haven't caught it yet, The Middle Man is a quirky Batman and Robin (really not even close) hero side kick type of "ridding Gotham of nerdowells" But instead of spandex wearing super heros or black suit MIB types, the city is being saved by middle managment type. The situational comedy is good, the banter is fast and smart and the tech is deliciously geekie. The network has been getting good reviews and great fan mail but the ratings are described as sub stellar. But the word on the street is that the show has not been canceled as of yet but the plan is to put their efforts into a big season ender.

Lets keep our fingers crossed there Middle Fans

GI Joe does The Thing!

Hey, I know what you been missin! Some GI Joe stop motion sci-fi action! Am I right? huh?
Ready to serve up some mutilated John Carpenter's "The Thing" is this music video from the band Zombie Zombie



<- topless robot via SFSignal ->

The Continuing Locus Award Soap Opera

Unless you live in a cave, you know that this year's Locus magazine award was fraught with controversy. This weekend I was reading down through SF Signal's blog and saw "Locus Award problems" What? More? This has got to be the 800 lb soap opera of a summer for Locus magazine. With that thought in mind, drawn I was, like moth to flame, to the SF Signal suggested, Visions of Paradise blog for a run on comment concerning just what went horribly wrong with the award this year. If you're not clear as to what happened, the editor of Visions of Paradise put it this way:

But Locus made the mistake of opening the voting to anybody who visits the Locus Online website, rather than restricting it to readers of the magazine. So this year the number of voters of the Locus Award who were not readers of the magazine apparently skewed some of the results away from the recommended stories pushed in the pages of the magazine. So as to minimize such free-thinking influence on the awards, the editors of Locus decided after the voting was completed to count the votes of Locus subscribers as double the value of non-subscribers.

As we know now, Cory Doctorow was a run away favorite in the voting, which either the person or the fact that non readers far outvoted readers of Locus, did not sit well with the editorial staff, so as you can see, they skewed the ranking until they got a result they were comfortable with.

Last thing I am going to say about this....its their award, in house I think they can and should do as they please, but on the flip side, when you open it to the public...don't piss on our heads and tell us it's raining.

Computer logic using Dominos

Sometime to demonstrate how something works, you have to take the demonstration completely outside the form or foundation of the subject. An example of how this works is the simplified version of human reproduction we have all heard and joked about: The birds and the bees. Well I found something that maybe is not quite as fundamental, but is brilliant none the less in it's simplicity. The demonstrator show how computer logic circuits work using nothing but the humble domino. And, Or and a Xor gate are demonstrated, and the brilliance is, you can just look at them and say "oh, yeah, I see how that works" Its not high science but it is brilliant science!



<- boing boing ->

Friday, July 25, 2008

Free Classic SF Audio Fiction.

One of the great things about the internet and recent technology is the advent of podcasting, in particular those that feature readings of Science Fiction stories, such as, Escape Pod, StarShipSofa, and of course Beam Me Up - all available for free MP3 download. In many ways, MindWebs foreshadows them. Broadcast on WHA Radio in Wisconsin in the 1970s, each episode featured Michael Hansen reading a classic or contemporary SF short story. These stories were enhanced by music and occasionally special effects and additional readers, but were quite similar to today's podcasts in all other respects.

Among the many great SF writers whose work was dramatized on MindWebs were Alfred Bester, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Arthur C. Clarke, Gordon Dickson, Thomas Disch, Harry Harrison, Henry Kuttner, Richard Matheson, Robert Silverberg, Norman Spinrad, Stanley Weinbaum, and Roger Zelazny.

The good news is that most of these episodes of are available from the Internet Archive in easily downloaded individual MP3s or a 450 meg. zip for the more ambitious. And to make deciding on an individual episode to listen to easier, The OTR Plot Spot has an archive of plot descriptions for MindWebs. So between episodes of today's greats, feel free to take a listen to yesterday's greats.

<Internet Archive selection of Mind Webs episodes>

<OTR Plot Spot Descriptions of Mind Webs episodes>

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Night Shade Books offering free e-books


Wolfkahn over at Quasar Dragon blog writes that:
  • Night Shade Books has a few free SF e-books and stories available for free download. Jon Williams’s Nebula Award-winning novella The Green Leopard Plague, Andy Duncan’s Nebula-nominated story “Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse,” Garth Nix’s Ditmar-nominated story “Bad Luck, Trouble, Death, and Vampire Sex,” Richard Kadrey’s novel Butcher Bird, and Jon Armstrong’s novel Grey.
Go Here for more information at Quasar Dragon

**UPDATED!!!** NASA's first Solar-Sail ready to fly within days!

**UPDATE** SpaceX's Falcon 1 which was to launch the NASA NanoSail-D failed shortly after launch. The failure was traced back to a failure of the first and second stage to separate properly. Launch was at 20:33 PDT August 8th and an anomaly was reported at 20:38 PDT.

<- more from Wired ->


NASA is set to launch the NanoSail-D, its first solar-sail powered spacecraft. NanoSail, whos' only source of motive power is a 10 square-meter sail made of a thin metallic polymer, is scheduled for July 29 launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket. (fingers crossed please, falcon rocket has a dismal launch record) Envisioned as long haulers, solar sails have been the grist for science fiction for years, NanoSail's mission will be a bit more mundane. The diminutive craft will be used as a "proof of concept" platform, staying in Earth orbit to conduct it's experiments.




<- Technology Review via Gizmodo ->

VanRoble's Jedi Gym


Fan fiction of any genre is often a mixed bag. As a general rule, both the producer and the fan have to be pretty fanatical for the whole exercise to work. Then, at odd intervals, comes a "home made" work that not only stands on the shoulders of giants, but stacks a few up just to improve the view. So it was when I received a recommendation to view a short film of "fan" Star Wars by VanRoble. What we are treated to, at the start, is a very competent documentary style short film, recording the "life changing" events of a Star Wars fan fulfilling his dream of running a gym for other Star Wars fans to help them become better umm fans. Its all very quirky, geeky and a bit sad. The laughs that do come seem to be completely unintentional. Then reality takes a paradyne shift and all hell breaks loose. That alone would be brilliantly enough, but when the "Oh My God"s have died off a bit, reality takes another side step. VanRoble manages to set up the premise for this short three times to give you a 360 degree vista of altered reality, lol his yours and someone else. And he does it in 6 minutes! Enjoy!

My favorite line in the film "I knew the force was real....just not this real!"





<- more from VanRoble ->
< -Tech Republic's Geekend ->

Review: Years's Best SF #13 Hartwell & Cramer

Year's Best SF #13
David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer
EOS science Fiction
pb 496 pp CW 2008

What is it about a story collection that makes them so attractive? Is it the bite sized stories? The eclectic mix of authors and ideas? Maybe a bit of both. When it comes to Years Best whether from Carr, Dozois or Hartwell & Cramer, I know I am going to get an intelligent and professional mix of the best that the field has to offer for the past year. Given that he medium has so many different outlets now, finding the best is no small task as of late. And so it is with the newest issue of YBSF. Hartwell and Cramer must have high fived each other with this issue. The issue is heavily weighted with award winners and nominees alike. Terry Bisson's horribly dysfunctional Pirates of the Somali Coast, Gene Wolfe's chaotic Memorare, Karen Joy Fowler's quiet story Always, Gwyneth Jones inventive twist on ftl The Tomb Wife or Ken MacLeod's pel mel Who's Afraid of Wolf 359? All are winners and likely winners alike. That in and of itself is a grand slam. They could rest on those laurels alone but look as some of the lesser known stories, Tony Ballentine's scary Third Person, James Van Pelts heart breaking How the Music Begins, Kathleen Goonan excellent spin on the hard boiled detective, The Bridge The all add to an excellent mix. To a point that I can honesty say, the book is one that can not easily be put down. I give this collection a very strong recommendation even for some of the glaring misses, but honestly, you can's put them all in, but I would have seen a selection or two from JP Kelly and Cory Doctorow, but that is really minor. If you would like a preview of some of the stories in this collection, the following were read on Beam Me Up ( again, I thank the authors so very much for allowing WRFR and me the chance to host their really great fiction)

Ken MacKeod Who's Afraid of Wolf 359?
Karen Joy Fowler Always
Gwyneth Jones The Tomb Wife

Was Elvis a Time Traveler?


Is it possible that instead of dying, Elvis used one of his secret super powers, or was given a gift by a secret government agency for his service as a secret agent, to disappear and retire - in time? Pretty heady speculation huh? Got some elements of science fiction, right? Am I trying to write a book? Nope, just something weird I came across while perusing the Web. Boing Boing reporting on an article from Neatorama shows an ancient Roman statue with an uncanny resemblance to none other than the king of rock and roll. Check out this Roman Elvis from the 2nd Century AD!

Neatorama
via Boing Boing

Mailonline

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The first official image of a Russian-European manned Luna spacecraft


The BBC via Gizmodo has released the first "official" images of the proposed Russian/Euro manned follow on to the Soyuz space capsule. Designed to replace the Soyuz vehicle currently in use by Russia - it will allow Europe to participate directly in crew transportation. Ultimately the reusable ship may well be utilized to carry four people towards the Moon. That's right, Four - bettering the US Ares/Orion system. Among other improvements besides the crew complement size is the emphasis on re-usability. Plans for the capsule entale making a soft landing using rocket engines unlike the Soyuz predicessor. Resembling America's next-generation spacecraft Orion. (though it could be said that Orion bears a striking resemblance to a Soyuz) The Russian-European vehicle is designed to carry six crew into low-Earth orbit and four on missions to lunar orbit. Also in the planning stages are possibilities of using the new Vostochny Cosmodrome being developed in Russia's eastern Amur region.

Dooms-Day Watch or Monitor Large Hadron Collider's Magnet Temperatures With Real Time Status Website


This is first class geeky awsomeingdom. The Large Hadron Collider is due to be fired up on August 7. Though there is no real danger of accidentally opening up a black hole that swallows the world, it's so very cool to have a page full of screen charts as the collider does its' well collider stuff! The Cern LHC Hardware Commissioning home page is hosting a real time website. On the site you are presented with a graphic of each sectory with which you can track the current temperatures of its 1600+ superconducting magnets in real time. Oh its techie goodness my friend. Pocket protectors are a must while logged in.

click the graphic! Thanks Gizmodo!

Gwyneth Jones's top 10 science fiction by women writers

Gwyneth Jones (The Tomb Wife BMU episodes 110 & 111) writing in the Guardian, list the top 10 Science Fiction works by women:

  • 10. Natural History by Justina Robson
  • 9. Light Music by Kathleen Ann Goonan
  • 8. Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler
  • 7. Synners by Pat Cadigan
  • 6. Grass by Sheri Tepper
  • 5. Cyteen by CJ Cherryh
  • 4. The Female Man by Joanna Russ
  • 3. Up the Walls of the World by James Tiptree Jr
  • 2. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
  • 1. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin


Guardian via SF Signals



You're nobody until you buy an ugly car


Well, that's what IO9 says - well it's what they say Lotus says in a new add campaign. And what a weird campaign it has been! Creepy faceless droids were spotted stalking wealthy individuals at tennis matches and store openings in the UK. They were also seen being chauffeured into Elton John's White Ball and spotted at the Harrod's sale. As you can see in the picture, a truly unnerving appearance. Speculation ran rampant, from performance art to protesters. What was really going on was a giant ploy to get you to buy an overpriced and apparently hideous Lotus. Yes tasteless marketing as tasteless performance art. As IO9 puts it: Apparently you're a faceless droid until you drop a few hundred thousand pounds to "buy" a personality in the form of a Lotus.

- more pics -



Monday, July 21, 2008

Moon Astronauts May Have a GPSesk System When They Return


Gizmodo reports that the next astronauts to visit the moon will have one travel guide that the previous visitors didn't. A Global Positioning system. The new positioning system being developed by Ohio State researcher Ron Li will "rely on signals from a set of sensors including lunar beacons, stereo cameras, and orbital imaging sensors" to simulate GPS. NASA has awarded a $1.2 million grant to develop the LASOIS system over the next three years, in hopes that it will help the astronauts explore the lunar surface with a greater degree of confidence and be able to range further afield.
- More -

Cow Flatulence's Effect on Green House Gas / Global Warming




Is this science fiction? ummm well yes in an odd parallel universe kind of thing. What we are looking at is a cow gas tank or bag. Is the cow now running on gas you might ask. And aren't you ever so clever to ask, umm but no, it would seem that we could be running our "gas" guzzlers on what's in the bag, for you see, what isn't shown is where the other end of the bag is inserted and I have studiously refrained from explaining why said cow is wearing a pink bag. And if you didn't know by now my perchance towards scatalogical humor, you begin to relized my hurculean restraint.

From Make Magazine online:

  • Well, they could use it for power. Physorg writes that Argentine scientists are capturing cow farts in plastic backpacks to try to understand the impact it has on global warming. They think that "30% of Argentina's total greenhouse gases could be generated by cattle.
And from Reuters, just in case you thought I was making this up: Cow Fart Study




FLATUENT DOT!

Robots Rule's "Robot Girl" video

Are you familiar with Aqua's music? Barbie Girl? Well that is science fictionish in its' own weird way, but here is a weird twist on Aqua's song from Robots Rule called aply enough Robot Girl



Friday, July 18, 2008

Killer Transit video

Ok, here is something that one is not likely to see every day. What can you see if you park your self 31 million miles from Earth? Even though it sounds like a vast distance, in the overall scheme of things, it's really next door. And since your "in the neighborhood" you get to see all kinds of interesting stuff from the neighbors.

Check this out



Thanks to Dvice

Amateur Astronomers Hunt Bigger Game.

Amateur Astronomers have long been active in the hunt for comets and asteroids, but now the art of exoplanet hunting has reached a level where amateur astronomers are making serious contributions. JPL's PlanetQuest website lists eight exoplanets discovered by amateurs. The main blog of these exoplanet hunters is Greg Laughlin's Systemic (Oklo.org). "Oklo.org users can employ a program called Systemic to comb through data about how certain stars wobble as they travel through space; this information can then be used to detect planets, which pull on their host stars as they orbit." According to PlanetQuest, these amateur astronomers are using telescopes with mirrors as small as 10-12cm!

For those slightly less ambitious, JPL's PlanetQuest is a fantastic site for those interested in exoplanets. It has information on all 307 (currently) known exoplanets in its atlas as well as information about planet hunting techniques, current and future planet hunting missions, and much more. This site and the much more bare-bones Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia are filled with fascinating information as well as demonstrations of how much more there is to learn.

<JPL PlanetQuest>
<JPL PlanetQuest article on amateur exoplanet hunters>
<Systemic Blog>
<Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia>

Last Free Tor ebook is Darkness of Light by Peter David


Tor Books' newest message contains news about the newest selection and news on the upcoming opening of their news online area. Here is the basic gist of the message:

This week’s free book mailing is Darkness of the Light by Peter David. Once the full Tor.com site opens on Sunday, July 20, we'll be making all the books in this program briefly available one last time, so be sure to stop by for our launch!

Download your eBook in:

>> PDF format >> HTML format >> Mobi format

Once the full Tor.com site opens on Sunday, July 20, we'll be making all the books in this program briefly available one last time, so be sure to stop by for our launch!

go to Tor.com for complete info

"assisted colonization"

Here is something that could be right out of Brin's uplift. A new buzz word that has science fiction written all over it. Assisted Colonization. From Wired magazine I read that conservationists are now so concerned about species extinction, which has been set by some organizations to be 100 times faster than just 1 century ago, that they are now considering something that was once unthinkable. Relocating whole species that are at risk of extinction. Take for example the Arctic polar bear. At the present rate of decline of its' habitat, the bear could become extinct within a handful of decades. Plans have been formulated that would take the bear and other species of the Arctic and relocate them in the Antarctic.

Once dismissed as wrongheaded and dangerous, assisted colonization -- rescuing vanishing species by moving them someplace new -- is now being discussed by serious conservationists.

Even the often concervative Ecological Society of America's annual meeting in August will be preceded by a three-day discussion of assisted colonization, by ecologists.

- wired -

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Harry Harrison SFWA's next Grand Master


Now if your scratching your head on this one, no it's not wrong, it's just that the SFWA, I guess in an effort to get a jump on NEXT year's award season, has announced that Harry Harrison will be awarded the the very select Grand Master better known as the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master.

As the SFWA site describes it:
  • The title Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master is bestowed upon a living author for a lifetime's achievement in science fiction and/or fantasy. Nominations for recognition as a Grand Master are made by the president of SFWA; the final selection must be approved by a majority of the SFWA.
All kidding aside, I hope the early announcement doesn't mean that they know something we don't. Smack me for even thinking it..... Don't he look like he should be hosting Mythbusters?

Science Fiction Award Watch

New Study looks at CroMag + Neander for Modern HomoSap

Ever in search of the kink, IO9 spots an article in Plos One that deals with a new Italian study which revisits the possibility that in some part modern homo-sapiens are the result of blended genetic material from Neanderthal and Cro-magnon or more accurately the early ancestors of Homo-sapiens.

A group of Italian researchers published a new study comparing the DNA from early human bones from about 28,000 years ago with DNA Neanderthal bones.

What is very interesting about the study and ultimately the findings centers on the early HS bones. These bones were discovered very recently and as such are not as likely as earlier samples to be contaminated by genetic material from modern humans handling them.

The researchers sequenced DNA from these bones, testing to see if there was significant overlap with Neanderthal DNA, which would indicate that homo
sapiens' DNA had been changed by interbreeding with Neanderthals. But tests of the fossilized DNA revealed no matches. The early HS material looks essentially identical to modern humans while looking significantly different from Neanderthal DNA.


Plos One via IO9

AntipodeanSF volume 122 is online


Nuke, editor of Antipodean sends in the TOC of the newest issue which is #122


AntipodeanSF can be found at: <www.antisf.com>


This month's pick of the bunch is:

  • "Batting An Eye" by Lucy Cohen Schmeidler
  • "I'm Too Loud" Laura Goodin
  • "The Long Green Goodbye" by David Such
  • "Distant Fields" by Stephen L Thompson
  • "The Ultimate Weapon" by Shaun A. Saunders
  • "Peer Pressure" by Mark Smith-Briggs
  • "Windows To The Soul" by Felicity Dowker
  • "The Genocidal Villain Of Mars" by Shaune Lafferty Webb
  • "I Don't Know" by Emma Goninon
  • "Fate Of Rulers" by Nicole R. Murphy
  • "Dinner Party Conversation" by S.A. Harris
I have been through the magazine already and the mix is very entertaining. Check it out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Saturday's on CN ratcheting up aminated SF


Robert Sorcher, cco of the Cartoon Network, told SCI FI Wire that the cable network is expanding it selection of animated science fiction for Saturday evenings. In addition to renewing Ben 10, Star Wars: CloneWars and a new animated Batman series called Batman: The Brave and the Bold is coming from Warner Brothers.

The new Saturday night programming is not yet scheduled, but Sorcher said it will debut sometime after the Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie hits theaters on Aug. 15.

Sf Signal muses that they will leave it up to you whether the new additions to the lineup mean that CN has a better Saturday lineup than Sci-Fi, but if you like your Science fiction with healthy doses of animation and anime - Saturdays will be a slam dunk for the CN.

SciFi.com via SF Signals

Electric Sheep Dreams

Mower was created by Osman Khan, a professor at Carnegie Mellon's School of Art. Mower roams around using GPS to place itself on grassy areas, has collision avoidance sensors and makes the most amusing array of sounds as it clatters about. Clearly intended to be a humorous reference to robotic lawnmowers and the "green" method of using real sheep to do it. Inspired by Philip Dick? Very possibly so.




Gizmodo

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

30 Laws of Robotics - Whaaaaaaaaaaaa?!


We are all fairly familiar with Science fiction author Isaac Asimov's three laws controlling robotic behavior:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
Well it would appear that those odd fellows over at Something Awful (who also state that "the internet makes you stupid") have appended the list with 27 more expanding the list 10 fold. Here is some excerpts:
  • A robot may not obey orders given to it by any human being who is my worthless ex-wife...
  • A robot may not roll down the window shout out the surprise endings of movies while driving past a theater line.
  • A robot must stop visiting Isaac Asimov's bedroom at night and fabricating situations that would make it appear that the sleeping Asimov has less than total control of his urinary faculties.
  • A robot must harm my ridiculous hooker ex-wife, whenever possible, because she does not count as a human being because she has no soul.

and so many more. What makes these even funnier is that the by-line is Isaac Asimov, however one suspects that the writer to be Something Awful's own David Thorpe. Still, that doesn't diminish the humor one iota.

Something Awful Laws via Boing Boing

Monday, July 14, 2008

A new Moon Rocket proposal from an unusual source.

It would seem that the ranks are not all that closed among the engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center. The folks who are hard at work on NASA's follow on moon project Aries have defected, well sort of. Over a hundred engineers are convinced that they can do it cheaper, faster and quicker than their big government bosses. The "IT" is a moon rocket project they have dubbed Jupiter. They have created an alternative rocket that would be safer, cheaper and easier to build than the two Ares spacecraft, What makes the Jupiter program rather unusual is that NASA had full access to the project data before it settled on ARIES. However NASA managers admit that with flight tests less than a year away, NASA is too heavily invested in ARIES to consider alternative projects.

So if Jupiter is to work at all it will have to be funded and executed by private investments. hummmm Check out their site Direct 2.0

yahoo news via IO9

Was there a "Snowball Earth" in Our Past?

A new article in the Daily Galaxy says yes! The Earth, in its' distant past was once covered completely by glaciers according to new scientific evidence. The “Snowball Earth” hypothesis, suggests that Earth was entirely covered by ice during the Cryogenian period, which took place from about 790 to 630 million years ago. During that period an extremely high atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, at least 40 times the modern level was present. Even the entire oceans were frozen over for a period lasting millions of years. This freakish condition has been researched by LSU scientist Huiming Bao, along with colleagues from UCLA and China, who recently discovered some of the first atmospheric evidence in support of the “Snowball Earth” hypothesis.

<read more>

Newest "Dwarf" Planet Named.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has named its first new dwarf planet since its extremely controversial decision to demote Pluto. The new dwarf planet Makemake was discovered March 31, 2005 M.E. Brown, C.A. Trujillo, and D.Rabinowitz. The dwarf planet was named after Make-make, the creator of humanity in the Easter Island mythology.

Makemake (pronounced "maki-maki") is now the fourth dwarf planet (after Pluto, Ceres, and Eris). Little is known definitively about Makemake, but the prescience of methane suggests similarities with Pluto and Eris. Will Sedna be next?

Of course with the definition of "planet" and "dwarf planet" being so controversial, this might end up being the official naming of the twelfth planet.

<Universe Today article>

<Mike (M. E.) Brown's planet's blog with many recent entries on dwarf planets and Makemake>

Sturgeon and Campbell award complete winner listings



After the controversy and drama of this weekend's award results. I want to thank Science Fiction Award Watch blog for sticking with it and adding some sanity. Here are the full results of the Campbell and Sturgeon awards.

Campbell

  • 1st In War Times, Kathleen Ann Goonan
  • 2nd The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Michael Chabon
  • 3rd The Execution Channel, Ken MacLeod

Sturgeon

  • 1st (tie) “Tidelines,” Elizabeth Bear
  • 1st (tie) “Finisterra,” David R. Moles
  • 2nd (tie) “Memorare,” Gene Wolfe
  • 2nd (tie) “The Master Miller’s Tale,” Ian R. MacLeod

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Is the Universe Aware?

I got to fess up here, I was watching the Sci-fi channel Friday. Oh come on, I was waiting for Atlantis and I like Dr. Who. As I mentioned last week, they replaced Charlie Jade with Joan of Arcadia, which is about a girl who "sees" God. Good? Bad? Not part of the conversation. But what got me thinking was a question she asks her brainy brother. She asked him does he think there is a God. His curious reply was something to the effect, "Well considering that the Universe is mostly electro-magnetism and it seems as though electromagnetism is aware, it's not inconceivable." That started the wheels turning - what did the writers mean by aware? Then I went back and watched that film about the double slit experiment. You know....electron, single slit - electron makes a single bar. Double slit - should be two bars wasn't. What they get is an interference pattern. Even when firing single electrons! What is even more curious is the fact that when they put a measuring device in to see what slit the electron is REALLY going through, the interference pattern collapses. The act of observing collapses the interference field. But the strange thing is the narrator said the same thing..... the electron acted as if it were aware of the detector and changed its behavior accordingly. I have always thrown out the standard mantra, at the quantum level probability waves collapse when observed. As we have been hearing, the Uncertainty principle says that we can not simultaneously know the energy level and position of an elemental particle at the same time. Truly spookiness at a distance. comments?

Tons of free e-books at Manybooks.net



You know I have been pushing TOR books free e-books and harping on EOS for how hard it is to get them off their system and I have been totally spacing one of the best places to get really good classic fiction to up to date material. Not only short works but novels. What am I talking about? Well thanks to Dave Tackett's QuasarDragon site, I was once again reminded of Manybooks.net. QuasarDragon was listing Darren R. Hawkins' 2003 Science Fiction novel From the Hands of Hostile Gods and it got me searching around again and I was once again amazed at how much is available. Plus I have to say, it is SO much easier to find what you want and then just download and read it. Some of these ebook sites really need to look at how it is done right.

Aldrin blames Sci-fi for lack of space interest!


From Sci-fi via IO9 : It would seem the esteemed Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. told SCI FI Wire that fantastic space science fiction shows and movies are, in part, responsible for the lack of interest in real-life space exploration among young people.

OUCH!

"I blame the fantastic and unbelievable shows about space flight and rocket ships that are on today," Aldrin said in an interview, "All the shows where they beam people around and things like that have made young people think that that is what the space program should be doing. It's not realistic."

Tell me it isn't true Buzz say it ain't so!

Aldrin Slams SF's Effect On Space [Scifi Wire]

Friday, July 11, 2008

AMC to do sci-fi - Watch out Sci-Fi channel!

In an effort to one up the Sci-fi channel, AMC is looking to, as general manager Charlie Collier puts it, actively looking to mine classic genre TV shows and SF movies for miniseries, movies and remakes that would appeal to viewers in their 40s or 50s...

As an example one can look to their upcoming project, the remake of The Prisoner miniseries. The thinking is solid. The shows that those 40+ grew up on are a virtually untapped goldmine resource that can be updated and served to a new and older audience alike. Collier said that the network is looking into the acquisitions of past science fiction, both movies and television.

Sounds good to me and no wraslin! woooooooo hoooooooooooo

Check out the article on Dvice

Tor's current free book Soul by Tobsha Learner.


Among the other goodies that Tor books is giving away this week is another free ebook. This week's selection is Soul by Tobsha Learner.

The available formats for the book are HTML, MobiPocket, and PDF.

If you haven's signed up yet, go to Tor.com and once signed up, they will notify you when and what is new.



Thursday, July 10, 2008

Did Tor’s free ebooks affect sales?


Simon Owens asks a very interesting question. As background, you know that I have been listing the free books that Tor has been releasing in preparation for the unveiling of their new site that will have news, reviews, books and a host of other material. Well it seems Owens stepped behind the curtain and speak to the wizard as it concerns just what kind of impact Tor's efforts had. Simon spoke to Tobias Buckell and John Scalzi among others to get their reaction to Tor giving away their books. The results were telling, since we have so many very vocal nay sayers in the industry that would say that giving away material is pandering to those that would steal it and the only ones that benifit is the freeloaders and the authors get the dirty end of the stick. Well, pleasantly enough both Buckell and Scalzi report that while Tor was featuring one of their books, sales of these same titles experienced a sharp increase. Other authors did not see any significant results, but in my mind I wonder if that says something about how the work was promoted initially or maybe it reflects on the prevailing tastes. For me, I think the creative commons and free releases are a brilliant stratergy. Vertually any other product has a way to "test drive" it. From food court pass outs to automobile test drives, its a way for the customer to see if they like the product, and of course get a feel for "owning" the product. But they want you to buy a book with virtually no idea of what is inside?! Almost self defeating in today's market.

But I am degressing some. Click on the article's title to go to Simon's post on the background and reaction to Tor's program. Its very interesting.

Pic Simon Owens from Blogasm

Free Eos eBook: City of Pearl by Karen Traviss


I read on the SF Signal blog:

ok that being said, because I love the idea that there is a good novel available for free, I have to say that I went through the whole Harper Collins rigmarole to download the book. And I was more than slightly agrevated by the end of the process. First off, you have to sign up for an account. Yes Tor has the same thing, but Harper takes it to a whole new level. Not just email and password, you want the book be prepaired to do the complete info gathering song and dance. First / last etc etc. Then you get your book? Nope, select type of media Adobe, Microsoft etc Ok, then you get it? Nope, next you have to download more software to view the book, Now I had Adobe pdf but they wanted me to download and install something a bit different live version so after 15 minutes of trying, I still don't have the book , I am begining to think that you read the book online or something....not sure now and I am agrevated enough to chuck the idea. But that aside, if you are a bit patient and don't mind jumping through a few hoops give it a go. Tor was much easier.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Campbell & Sturgeon award winners?!

Wow, there has been some weirdness lately as concerns the current crop of awards. What I have been hearing is some real strangeness from Locus which is changing its voting system and now the Kansas City infoZine website seems to have leaked the winners of the Campbell and Sturgeon awards that were to be announced Friday.

The Campbell award will go to "In War Times" by Kathleen Ann Goonan. For the first time, there are two winners of the Sturgeon award: "Finisterra" by David R. Moles and "Tidelines" by Elizabeth Bear.

Kinda feels like cheatin huh? lol wonder whats up

infoZine via Science Fiction Award Watch

Science vs Magic in Fiction

IO9 takes on one of my pet peeves - What makes Science Fiction, science fiction. When is it Magic and when is it Science so to speak.

The article I think, states my thoughts on the subject very nicely:
  • One of the biggest debates among people who like scfi is where to draw the line between science and magic. Some adhere to the idea that magic is simply science that we don't yet understand, others feel that magic represents an essential mystery that can't be understood rationally. Of course the other big dividing line between magic and science has to do with genre: magic appears mostly in fantasy stories, and science (of course) in science fiction.
Authors like Elizabeth Bear, Ted Chiang, Stephen Hunt and others comment on the ongoing "discussion" Click the article title to go to the complete article in IO9

Disease Mongering - New Low - Statin Drugs For 8-Year-Olds!

We keep thinking that Saunders "MallCity" is just too nightmarish to ever come true and then comes billboards that can tell when your looking at them, plans to pipe audio straight into your brain and video right into your eyes, tech to keep track of you all the time everywhere, and you have to say, well maybe its "possible". Well possible just met now with this newest low: Statin Drug push for 8 year old children! In an article in Natural News : In the latest example of absurd disease mongering, the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee has announced that infants as young as two years old need to be screened for high cholesterol, and children as young as eight years old should be put on prescription statin drugs.

Oh it gets better: This absurd advice is being offered even though statin drugs have never been tested on young children. And your thinking "oh but the government and the FDA will never allow something this atrocious to happen!" Dream on! The FDA has granted approval for the use of such drugs on children as young as eight!

Go to NaturalNews to read the rest, but unless your living in a cave you understand exactly whats going on here and MallCity is again 2 steps closer.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Sex In Space

Spurred on by the announcement of an upcoming wedding in space, Space.com has a interesting article about the increasing likely hood of sex in space. The upcoming space tourism industry has made it almost inevitable that sex will soon occur in space with relative regularity. Today's society and experts like Jason Kring of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida and science journalist Laura Woodmansee, who penned "Sex in Space" seem ready for this topic.

NASA, however, seems stuck in an earlier, more puritanical era. "We don't study sexuality in space, and we don't have any studies ongoing with that," said NASA spokesman Bill Jeffs of the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "If that's your specific topic, there's nothing to discuss," he added, referring to "sex in space."

Science fiction, as it is with so much, is far ahead on this subject. Starting at least as far back as 1940s pulp covers, where space was clearly"clothing optional," through more sophisticated stories like Philip José Farmer's groundbreaking "The Lovers" to today's SF where sex is no more a taboo subject than it is in mainstream fiction.

SF has long realized that no matter where you put people, they will always be human. As the space.com noted, neither isolation nor scientific research change this as indicated by the fact the month "before six months of winter darkness descended over Antarctica's McMurdo Station, the research base received a delivery of about 16,500 condoms."

Society and SF have come a long way on this topic and soon sex is space will no more a topic of media sensationalism than sex on Earth. Erm, bad example. And yes, the title should always be announced with a reverb effect exactly like the Muppet Show's classic "Pigs in Space."

<Complete Space.com article>

Future Dialysis Machine: Sheep?!


I swear that IO9 online loves to find material that does more than get you thinking - no, it's more like something to deeply disturb. Example? Well lets just say that if you were disturbed by Dolly the clone, then your going to love the next generation of Dialysis Machines - transgenic sheep. Oh I know, it's got prank all over it, but IO9 goes to lengths to inform and disturb. Meet the transgenic dialysis machine - a live sheep. The idea is Revital Cohen's brain child for the final project at the Design Interactions Department which came to the attention of We Make Money not Art and ultimately IO9. (Why do I list everyone's path, well, each has their own unique take on this project, plus there is a wealth of back information) The idea was to breed transgenic sheep that would graze all day, cleansing their blood of toxins and adding minerals and glucose - and at night, the transgenic sheep's kidneys are connected via blood lines to the patient. During the night, waste products from the patient's blood are pumped out of the body, filtered through the sheep's kidney and the blood is returned, cleaned, to the patient. Another of "Life Support"'s projects aims to use greyhounds as artificial lungs for patients who require ventilators to breathe. The device works by strapping a bellows to a retired racing dog (one that would be euthanized anyway) and having it chase a bunny while on a treadmill. As the dog runs, it's increased lung movements pump the bellows, providing air for a human patient.


I can see science fiction written all over this stuff. Realistically people like PETA would have a fit and there are practical concerns that really are not addressed but whooohooooo Brave New World acommin!


What Ever Happened to the Apollo Moon Rocks?


Barry sends in an article from the Times if not pressing, is interesting and thought provoking. The question is, what is the present status of the Luna samples brought back by the Apollo astronauts. Since Apollo 11 landed July 20 1969, Apollo crews brought back over 800 pounds of Moon rocks and soil. Far from laying fallow for the past 39 years, this material has been the focus of constant scientific scrutiny. The samples are divided into 2,200 samples. Each are numbered and sorted by expedition starting with Apollo 11’s historic mission in 1969 and ending with Apollo 17 in December 1972. Each sample is kept in nitrogen-filled boxes in a stainless steel vault on the second floor of the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility. A 14,000-square-foot repository at the Johnson Space Center. Each time any one of the samples are moved they are transferred to other parts of the lab in airlocks. Technicians who prepare small pieces of each sample for shipments have to use glove boxes containing sterile tools and containers. Each year an independent peer review panel evaluates new research proposals, and curators mail out about 400 lunar samples to 40 to 50 scientists worldwide. Almost all are less than one gram in size. Even these are considered loans.

For the complete article in the New York Times about the ongoing research on Luna material, click here

Monday, July 07, 2008

Quazar Dragon - good source of online material


You know how I am when it comes to finding good quality fiction online. Since I first started BMU I have dug in every dark little corner I can to find material to read and read on the program. So when I find sites like Speculative Fiction online I really feel I have struck gold. So you can understand why I really like QuazarDragon. I have been finding really good articles here but the main focus of the site is free fiction. So if you good eclectic mix of news and free fiction, check the site out (here). Well laid out and good looking.

Government wrapping its mind around yours.

"Police may soon be able to monitor suspicious brain activity from afar.
"Neurotechnology soon may be able to detect a person who is particularly nervous, in possession of guilty knowledge or, eventually, to detect a person thinking, "Only one hour until the bomb explodes." "

Today, the science of detecting and decoding brain activity is in its infancy. But various government agencies are funding the development of technology to detect brain activity remotely and are hoping to eventually decode what someone is thinking."
Full story Here By NITA FARAHANY, Special to The Washington Post
Image Digital Camcorder Redux

Mikey Goatse

Is this science fiction? No, but it is a telling indicator on the status of our society. There are those of you who will know why I have laughed so hard I think I broke a rib and want one of these cameras. And then there will be those that have no idea what makes this one of the most horrible choices for a child since the Disney dildo on The Little Mermaid. The stratification is straight across the digital divide. The Internet is the "railroad tracks" social divider. Smile for the camera!




Anyone wana guess how long before there's a take down? OMG! hey but what a great hack this could make huh?

Gizmodo story

First Artificial DNA Molecule Built


Chemists in Japan report development of the world's first DNA molecule made almost entirely of artificial parts. Clearing the way for nano-sized computers and gene therapy. The researchers used high-tech DNA synthesis equipment to sequence four entirely artificial bases inside the sugar-based framework of a DNA molecule. The result? A very stable structure resembling natural DNA.

Ahhh but I am not buying the "gene therapy" line for one second. And as for nano computers? Well what about the nano wires that can store 3 bits of information? That pretty much obsoletes the nano/dna logic path if I am not correct. I know I must be treading into the paranoid fringe here but I see a Dr. Moreauish second class life-form looming. This kind of tech is going to be drawn to money like moths to flame.

<Complete Science Daily Article>

Supercars Wonder Word video of the day

I haven't come across any really well demented video clips in some time, so when I came across this one in Pink Tentacle I just knew I had to put it up. From Supercar’s is their music video for the song “Wonder Word.” As Pink puts it - "A delightfully odd form of communication"

Odd is the operative word here! lol


RIP, Thomas M Disch


Ok, this goes down as you have got to be fuckin kiddin me! Thomas M. Disch, who's closest acquaintances said he was troubled and difficult as well as brilliant, passed away July 4th 2008. If you want sensationalism, go somewhere else, I ain't playin. Cory Doctorow writes about his life and passing as best as anyone can be expected to. That's worth reading <here>

Disch's wiki lists: Hugo Award for best related book in 1999, and he had two other Hugo nominations and nine Nebula Award nominations to his credit, plus one win of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award,

The most notable works by Disch that come to mind is the Hugo winning The Brave Little Toaster which for some reason just continues to stick with me and his computer game Amnesia which was my first foray into text adventure in the late 80s. I would like to say that I liked Camp Concentration but the book was so very dark and disturbing in places that one couldn't read it in one go, but it pieces after you steel yourself for another go.

His last blog entry raved of sticker shock about the cost of meals and speculated on how teens must have to get by with such high cost. His listed website is down though.

photo speculative fiction database

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Microwaves for Crowd Control

As Shaun puts it, disgusting example of how MallCity is now 2 steps closer. - From NewScientist online -

A US company claims it is ready to build a microwave ray gun able to beam sounds directly into people's heads.


Yep that that's right, microwaves beamed right into your skull! oh and it get even blacker!

The device – dubbed MEDUSA exploits the microwave audio effect, in which short microwave pulses rapidly heat tissue, causing a shockwave inside the skull that can be detected by the ears. A series of pulses can be transmitted to produce recognizable sounds
.


umm and this is safe becaaaaaaaaaaause? I mean do I have to go any futher? They heat up your gray matter to such a point that it causes a shockwave and they do it long enough that you start hearing voices? We are talking about something so much worse than the brown note here folks! Yes, that rushing noise you hear in your ears is your brains draining out your nasal cavities! So, you want more? Oh yes, it gets worse!

MEDUSA involves a microwave auditory effect "loud" enough to cause discomfort or even incapacitation
and normal audio safety limits do not apply since the sound does not enter through the eardrums.

If you want to read more of this madness click < more >

Floating airliners & Hotels?


Barry sends in an interesting article from the New York Times that is a bit of what is old is new again and an interesting answer to both the rising cost of fuel and pressure to reduce carbon footprints.

For me, it's an excellent way to see where the cost of fuel and globalwarming may be taking us.

Since the Hindenburg zeppelin exploded more than 70 years ago, there hasn't been any realistic commercial forays into lighter than air craft past maybe the hot air balloon. Now, with the advent of of new materials and sophisticated means of propulsion, many government and private concerns are exploring blimps and dirigibles. Some visionaries foresee structures large enough to loft a hotel high into the air and slowly travel between destinations. Less lofty ideas are like the company that is talking with the French post office with the idea of transporting parcels by dirigibles. And of course there is the German company Zeppelin-Reederei which carried 12,000 passengers on sightseeing tours over southern Germany last year. But with top speeds of around 100 miles an hour and a maximum capacity of several dozen passengers, dirigibles are expected by most aviation experts to remain niche vessels for ferrying tourists, advertising and occasional scientific payloads. The US research has mostly been by the military who's interest was mainly in cargo and surveillance. The major hurdle at present is funding. Many initial project have failed over the past few years simply due to lack of cash not design problems.

photo ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik