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Monday, January 02, 2012

Happy National Science Fiction Day -- and, 2012!

Today, January 2, is National Science Fiction Day. It occurs on January 2, the day Isaac Asimov reported as his birthday.

What will you do to celebrate Science Fiction Day?

2011 was a year in which science fiction and science "fact" (the scientifically observable world of phenomena replete with multiple working hypotheses) seemed to converge. So, I thought I'd take a moment to contemplate a few of the more thought-provoking convergence points.

Responses to the report in September 2011 that it's possible that scientists at the CERN labs conducted experiments that allowed them to detect that subatomic particles (neutrinos, to be exact) travel faster than the speed of light as they pass through the earth.

What are the implications / ramifications? Scary and exciting -- for one, cause and effect could be potentially be reversed.

At the very least, causality is problematized and/or made much less important. For example, consider heaving a large rock into a pond. The splash happens -- ostensibly because the rock fell into the water.

If causality is problematized, it is not a given that the rock cause the splash. The reasons for the splash would/could be multiple.

Cloud computing has given rise to concerns regarding the security of information, and also the ethical use of information collected in the course of daily commerce, transportation, and communication.

An example is the new network of 250,000 surveillance cameras in Wuhan, connect to cloud computing to help control crime. Google Earth, but up close, personal, and live. I wonder if anyone can tap into all these surveillance scenes.

The world's a big "Nanny-Cam." I wonder if it will lead people to falsify their thermal / image signatures... play games with facial recognition... who knows...

Tragic Uses of the Apocalyptic Narrative: The Cases of Libya and North Korea
When the local leader starts employing the apocalyptic narrative to voice his stance about "outsiders" and the "outside world," it rarely portends happy, rosy times, at least for the leader, who is girding himself up for doomsday and close encounters with horsemen and harlots.

The late North Korean leader (may he rest in peace) was definitely willing to go to extremes to protect his hermit kingdom...

The new leader (his son) seems to be continuing the narrative by calling for "human shields" to protect him. (or at least, that's what English-speaking readers are reading) .. Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? I'm thinking of Queen Elizabeth's speech to the troops at Tilbury... this truly beautiful. I had the good fortune to work with the manuscripts at the Huntington Library (San Marino, CA) in the 1990s, and was able to work with some of the works attributed to Queen Elizabeth, as well as Wilmot, Earl of Rochester.

Dictator Fashion: To Watch and Be Watched
The surveillance society and "Newspeak" of George Orwell's 1984 have been long been surpassed by technological capabilities and the flowering of collective fictive imaginations that create spectacles of tyranny in many of the world's despotic fiefdoms. Interestingly enough, several imploded or went up in flames in 2011.

Au revoir to some amazing fashion statements (and self-fashioning)...

Love the colors!
(makes me think of an Oklahoma Sooners home game :))

Hydraulic Fracturing: Aquifers and Earthquakes

Journey to the Center of the Earth anyone? Jules Verne envisioned vast karst (underground caverns) capable of sustaining life (especially the monstrous kind) and, when disturbed, could convulse, rupture, and destroy the entire planet.

Many have looked at Verne's vision as an elaborate allegory that replicates a descent into the subconscious mind, and all the beasts and visions residing there.

Clearly hydraulic fracturing has become, in the collective consciousness, a narrative that suggests great destructive force -- one that seems to defy the laws of physics (conservation of energy, etc.). In the narrative found in most news reports, the process triggers earthquake swarms, with some earthquakes achieving surprising intensity (5.6 in Oklahoma).

Whether or not this narrative can be supported by facts is not yet determined. However, it's very difficult to fight a narrative, especially once it has embedded itself deep into the psyche of the people, and interweaves itself with beliefs, fears, and core values.

(all drawings by susan nash)

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