Say, here's the home page of the character designer for Xenogears. Neat. And here's the online portfolio of Alex Brandon, one of the musicians for Deus Ex and Unreal.
What's interesting about this article about transhumanism and the "technological singularity" is that it appeared not on a random website or in an Extropian screed but in the Washington Post. With fierce arguments underway in the United States on the morals of human cloning and stem cell research (and powerful lobbies on both sides of each question) and even a rumored government effort to take control of nanotechnology research, it's clear that the issues Vernor Vinge brought up in his famous essay back in 1993 (and explored in science fiction stories reaching back to the late 1960s) are now exploding out into the mainstream of society. If we can just hold it together for the next several years, the Earth may become quite a remarkable place to live indeed. Although after that happy day it might not be a bad idea to get away from it as quickly as possible.
I'm back. It happens that I spent yesterday afternoon in Chicago and I noticed that they're tearing down Soldier Field and putting up a new one. The scale of the construction is remarkable.
At the nearby Shedd Aquarium in Chicago (which is also being expanded -- most of Museum Campus seems to be wrapped in construction barricades right now) they have five beluga whales. Belugas are fairly small as whales go, but fairly big as things swimming around two feet in front of your face go. Belugas are chatty, playful, and intelligent animals. They "talk" through their blowholes (unlike humans, they use their mouths solely for eating) which is rather unnerving to watch but very effective.
Winston Churchill put it awfully well the last time this happened: "we have chosen shame and will get war." This sort of nonsense will not end happily for anyone involved.
This evening the Moon passed very close by Jupiter. It was actually quite striking. One of the things I'll miss... well, not miss, exactly... one of the things I won't miss the least, if you get my meaning, when I leave Monmouth is the clear and pretty skies out here. In addition to beautiful starscapes and the remarkable sight of thunderstorms sweeping across the Great Plains sixty miles away, I've also seen sundogs and lunar halos. Of course, from Philadelphia (light pollution capital of the world) I saw Comet Hale-Bopp, from Middletown, PA I saw that thing where a partial solar eclipse is projected through the trees, and from State College, PA (the name of which comes from an old Pecohoantan Indian word meaning "source of all rains") I saw a secondary rainbow at least twice. So maybe this place isn't so special after all. You just have to keep your eyes open.
If you want to see more atmospheric goofiness, dig this: a moonbow, which is nothing more or less than a rainbow created at night by moonlight instead of during the day by sunlight. You may also wish to go here for some more spectacular photographs.
Why all the gazing upwards all of a sudden? To an extent, my interest in sky phenomena has been rekindled by reading Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy: The Book, a survey of misconceptions about issues astronomical. The book is written to an entry-level audience, so lifelong astro geeks (hi, Kzin) will probably find that they already know most of the things Plait talks about. However, it's written in a charming and engaging style, and the author's affection for the subject matter comes through very clearly -- something I've noticed as a common characteristic of all the best science popularizers. Carl Sagan put it best in The Demon-Haunted World: "Not explaining science seems to me perverse. When you're in love, you want to tell the world."
Okay. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to Philadelphia for a little while. See you later.
Finally, a use for that old Commodore 64 you've got sitting in your attic. There's even a C64 RealAudio server, streaming music from the cassette player ("beware!" the site comments, "it sounds terrible.")
From the remarkable skyscrapers.com, a panoramic view from the top of the World Trade Center. I was privileged to see this view for myself once, and on a much nicer day too. Even the Sears Tower's observation deck doesn't compare. (For one thing, they don't let you go outside at the Sears Tower.)
We now have William Gibson-style network warfare going on, complete with hostile automated attack programs and intricate defensive countermeasures opposing them. However, the attackers are mostly just trying to harvest e-mail addresses to send spam to, which isn't nearly as romantic as the stuff Gibson wrote about. Though the "spambot trap" described in the article is extremely clever I can't help but think this would be a better world if heavy-handed government law enforcement took care of the spambots and the inventor was free to do other things.
Peace Is War: Bruce Sterling writes about the Pentagon's plans to use space to DOMINATE THE WORLD!!
It doesn't seem to have gotten huge publicity, but a rebuilding plan for lower Manhattan has been assembled. It looks pretty sharp, too, centering around major improvements in both automobile traffic and mass transit and sewing back together parts of Manhattan that were cut off from each other by the World Trade Center complex. If the whole plan comes together like it's envisioned, that part of New York City is going to come out of this disaster a better place. Well, in some ways, anyway.
"The gentle journey jars to stop.April 9th was Holocaust Remembrance Day. Sleep well.
Long, long ago the peace and stability of the Solar System was threatened... by the mysterious Planet V!
Extrasolar Planets Dept.: Good news for the Starlight project to launch a telescope capable of detecting terrestrial worlds around other stars -- the interferometer technology has been successfully proved in the lab. I have to say I'm pretty eager to see what Starlight finds; it's awfully hard to wait until 2006.
More demo-scene goodness. Holy cow. And here I was all smug today because I got bump mapping to work.