Technology: totally terrifying and terrific in tandem

Ok…so I haven’t posted something in months. I’ve done this before, I may do it again. But I’m here to beg you to give me another chance…again.

I want to kick off these holiday posts with an update into my posting abilities. I’ve recently come into proud possession of a Samsung smart phone. I never realised how much power a person can hold in the palm of his/her hand, certainly more than enough to get one to the moon (at least in 1969).

And with my new found freedom comes the WordPress app 😀 and so I hope to post more regularly now, what with being able to post anywhere 🙂

Jeremy

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IT LIVES: Return of the sub-committee on pies chairman

Golemesque creature

This is how I feel after exams

First and foremost I’d like to apologise for my hiatus on the blog. Terribly sorry I haven’t posted in so long. Here’s a brief update into my life recently:

  • I wrote exams 😥
  • They were tough
  • I studied on campus most days, rather hard I might add
  • I celebrated my 21st birthday
  • I went on an outreach for a week and a half to an orphanage (I’ll make a dedicated post to it soon)
  • I discovered Assassin’s Creed 3
  • I passed all my exams! 😀
  • My bursary application was successful, meaning my studies are covered and I’ll have a job after I graduate
  • All the things above combine into next being year being my final year for undergrad! 😀

And those are a few of the reasons why I haven’t posted in a while. I also have tons of movies to look at, such as SkyfallCloud AtlasThe HobbitSeeking a friend for the end of the worldand whatever else I’ve watched recently. I’ll start on those ASAP (as in tomorrow), but it’s 23:55 GMT+2 right now and I’m off to bed. I just wanted to let you know I’m still alive 🙂

Jeremy

A personal post

Ok, I know I said I’d write about Dredd, but things have gotten quite hectic in my personal life in between then and now. But I must say the movie didn’t have any glaring scientific inaccuracies, and it had some pretty cool scenes, def worth checking out if you like a more grim tale.

My grandfather passed away on Sunday, hence the slight delay. He passed away in his sleep; he sat down for an afternoon nap and didn’t wake up. I really feel as if it was God calling him home, so I’m at peace with it.

Now, you don’t have to read further than here, because all I’m going to do is sing his praises. He didn’t have many friends left, so I thought that if even one of you reads further and mourns for him, then I’ll have accomplished something.

My grandfather was a hero. Literally. He served during WWII in a bomber squadron as a radar/radio operator. He flew many sorties, and didn’t once complain. He nutted up, and served his country in a time of war. Unfortunately his plane was shot down on a night raid against V2 rocket stations (the things that were hitting London like there was no tomorrow). Some of the crew went down with the plane; only my granddad and one other serviceman made it out. They landed in a field where they were picked up by the French resistance, and hidden in a school house. The school mistress was a seriously badass lady, always traveled around on her bicycle with a pistol in the basket, ready to shoot herself or the Germans, which had to be done. Eventually my granddad and his friend were betrayed by a member of the resistance (who was later shot for it), and taken to a concentration camp. Yeah, concentration camp, not POW camp. Even though they tried to tell the SS they were airmen, the SS wouldn’t listen. I won’t horrify you with the details, but my granddad survived the camp and it’s beatings and hardships until near the end of war. The Germans knew they were going to lose, so the Luftwaffe freed my granddad and his friend and put them in a POW camp to get brownie points with the Allies. My granddad and his friend were so unused to the amount of food that they were the only two in the whole POW camp to put on weight during their stay. Oh, and the POW camp? It was the one from the Great Escape, although my granddad was there after that went down. He was eventually freed, survived the war, married my grandmother, and raised my dad. He stayed in the airforce until retirement, becoming a super badass training officer and stuff. He also left me with the saying “Do not panic flight mechanic!”, which is from the fact that the flight mechanic was responsible for keeping the plane going, so if he panicked then everyone did.

My granddad may have become a bit grumpy and forgetful near the end, but when I was younger he would always be willing to wrestle with me, he always had time for me, and was generally awesome. He was, and still is, one of my heroes.

Jeremy

Science Fiction follow up: Recommendations

Okay, so my previous post about science fiction sparked an interest in a multitude of the kind people who read my blog, so I thought I’d write a follow up with my recommendations 🙂

Dragon's egg cover

Dragon’s egg cover (1st UK edition)

Robert L. Forward’s Dragon’s Egg: As I mentioned previously, the late Mr Forward was an aerospace engineer, and a great science fiction writer of scientifically accurate and plausible books (no hyperspace here). The novel my dad recommended I read to get started in his work was Dragon’s Egg. It’s a story involving a human expedition to a “nearby” neutron star called Dragon’s Egg. A neutron star is a star that has collapsed upon itself, making it incredibly dense meaning it has far greater gravity than Earth (Dragon’s Egg’s gravity is 67 BILLION times greater than Earth’s). Living on this neutron star the humans encounter alien life that lives at a much greater speed than us (to them it’s normal; time is relative, as gravity affects time. Ask Mr Einstein about it). His description of how the humans survive in the greater gravity is actually extremely fascinating. So if you’re technically minded, or interested in hard science, this is for you.

Stranger in a strange lan cover

A cult classic: Stranger in a Strange Land

Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land: Now, this one’s good. And pretty controversial. Heck, it was banned in South Africa during apartheid by the small minded, bigoted government of the time. But that’s not saying much: Black Beauty was banned because of its title! Anyhoo, the story is about a child born to the first human expedition to Mars that ends up being raised there by Martians. Eventually Valentine Michael Smith is brought back to Earth by another expedition. Now, Michael (as he is called ) was raised by aliens, and so can do a great number of things impossible for humans. He can hold his breath indefinitely by slowing his body’s processes to almost nothing. He can move objects with his mind. He can cause a singularity and make objects disappear forever to outside of the existing universe…and he also has no knowledge of human behaviour. The story centres around Michael coming to grips with life on Earth. This book doesn’t have much science fiction technology per se, so if you’re interested in character development this is a good place to start getting into science fiction.

Sector General cover

A hospital in space: Sector General

James White’s Sector General series: Scrubs in space! Okay, now that I’ve got your attention with that, it’s not quite like Scrubs in space, but it’s still an entertaining series which I thoroughly enjoyed. The story is about an intergalactic hospital in space called Sector General. It treats members of all species, and it’s a blast reading about the interaction between all the different staff members and patients (some of which can be dangerous!). An amusing point is raised, as every species calls itself human in its own language, so whenever a new patient is brought in and asked what species it belongs to, it always answers and gets told off for that (translation allowing of course). Now, the series has quite of lot of sci-fi tech and scenarios, but it also makes its characters endearing. A good place to start.

Mortal Engines!!

Not a cover, but still epic: airships escape a caught Traction City

Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines quartet: One of my favourite book series ever. While not a conventional science fiction series, it still enthralls me every time I read it. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, entire towns and cities have been mobilised onto huge tracks, creating a system called Municipal Darwinism; where cities consume the smaller ones for fuel and resources. It’s almost a steam-punk vibe, but I’d still recommend the series to anyone. It may also warm you into more traditional science fiction.

Shards of honour cover

The first book in the core Vorkosigan Saga: Shards of Honor

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga: This is a very good science fiction series. It’s got all the  tech including anti-gravity, plasma weapons and gravitational imploder lances, it’s got romance (of the good sort; think entertaining chick flick, not Jane Austen), its action scenes are exciting, its main character is crazy badass (but not in a conventional sense), and it’s easily accessible. It is set in a universe where humans have colonised thousands of planets, many of them on the other side of wormholes. The “good” guys in the story, Barrayar, broke their wormhole jump connection accidentally or something (it’s never really explained), and entered a “dark age” (horseback combat etc.) before they are rediscovered. The re-discoverers try and invade but the Barrayarans are a tough bunch and using guerrilla tactics kick ass and fight off the technologically superior enemy. Barrayar then becomes a galactic super power of sorts, building up an advanced and efficient military. But being the good guys they don’t go out and conquer everyone. The main character in the story is Miles Vorkosigan, an incredibly smart but crippled member of the Barrayaran nobility who gets in all sorts of trouble. This is probably the best all round sci-fi series, and is a good place to start for people new to the genre.

Consider Phlebas and Look to Windward

My two favourites: Consider Phlebas and Look to Windward

Ian M. Banks’ Culture novels: I also mentioned Ian Banks (he writes normal fiction under Ian Banks, and sci-fi under Ian M. Banks) in my previous post. I’m currently reading his novels, and I find them rather entertaining. I must warn you before hand that I wouldn’t recommend his books for people starting off in science fiction, but he’s still worth a look. He has all amazing future tech, his books contain quite a bit of humour, his action scenes are well written, and  his characters are interesting. But his stories can sometimes be bit strange. Not taboo weird or anything like that, I just mean they’re not your conventional story lines. There’s also a bit of sex and swearing (nothing R18, but not family reading either). The stories generally revolve around the Culture, the dominate civilisation in the galaxy. They are generally technologically superior to the other races and cultures, and only really meet their match in the Elder Races who crop up from time to time. The Culture is run by Minds (extremely advanced beings, whose ancestors would be AI to us). The main characters in the stories are often Special Circumstances agents (the Culture’s way of keeping everything in the galaxy under control without appearing to do so), mercenaries or other more “human” (interesting) people than the Minds. I’d recommend starting with either Consider Phlebas or Look to Windward.  They’re two of his more straight forward stories, and have quite neat twists at the end.

Whew, that was a post and a half to write. The books mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg however. There is Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. But I haven’t read it so I wouldn’t be able to recommend it in good conscience (although everyone loves it, including my dad). If none of the above appeal (or you’e looking for new literature), there are loads of old school sci-fi authors out there (I’ve read quite a few, but there are always more), and of course there are always new additions. Another option, something that I do often, is just go to your local book store and browse the science fiction section for something you find interesting, and if it’s not too costly buy it. It’s always a nice surprise if it’s good 🙂

I hope you enjoyed the post, and as usual, if I forgot something please post a comment 🙂

Jeremy

Science-y stuff: Science fiction

This isn’t a scientific inaccuracy post, but it’s still about science, sort of.

Science fiction. The only genre of books worth reading (only sometimes do I think that). Ever since I saw Star Wars as a kid I’ve dreamed of going into space. Imagine seeing exotic worlds and suns in different solar systems all in the same day? I fell in love with FTL (faster than light) travel from an early age. But the top scientist chaps today reckon that any travel faster than light is impossible (I disagree, but I’m not nearly smart enough to prove them wrong). This leads me to talk about just how scientific a sci-fi novel actually is. I’m sure you’ve all heard about Ian M. Banks (if you haven’t he’s a Scottish author). He’s quite a popular author, and I quit enjoy him. He writes well, his characters are entertaining, his action scenes are actually enthralling…and his science is a bit iffy. He uses FTL travel. He uses evolving true AI (artificial intelligence). And a whole other bunch of stuff that seems impossible. Yet I thoroughly enjoy his stories. I don’t care if we think FTL is impossible now, it makes the future seem so much more interesting!

On the other side of the coin you get authors like Robert L. Forward. Don’t get me wrong. This man was a very good writer. He was incredibly smart (he was a legit aerospace engineer). His books were 100% plausible (hard science fiction it’s called). But his stories just quite aren’t as entertaining as Ian M. Banks. His character development isn’t as strong, and his action scenes are over a bit too quickly.

I read both hard and soft science fiction. If it’s in space I read it. The point I’m trying to get across is that the sci-fi snobs who think science fiction must be 100% plausible need to live a little. They need to open their minds to the wondrous imaginative journeys they can take if they ignore Albert Einstein’s rules and regs for just a while (and I like to think Al would agree. He strikes me as the kind of guy to enjoy a good soft sci-fi book).

Heck, I’m trying my hand at writing a short story, and I’m not nearly entertaining enough for soft, nor smart enough for hard. But I’m trying, just to get my imagination down on paper.

I apologise  that this post rambled a lot. It’s not my greatest, but I still hope someone will enjoy it 🙂

Jeremy

Brief update

So I thought it was about time to change the appearance of my blog (the previous theme was actually rather nice for a n00b WordPress user), give it more functionality, make it look prettier, and finally manage to figure out the whole widget thing (I can code actually quite well, but that’s on Command Line Interfaces (CLI), so please forgive my trepidation at using visual-y things).

Sorry for the not-so-great last post, I wrote it in a hurry; I hadn’t written a post in a while,  and I was tired as a rushed it out. I promise the next post will be better written, and I’ll pay more attention to the science 🙂

Jeremy