“A philosopher/mathematician named Bertrand Russell, who lived and died in the same century as Gass, once wrote: ‘Language serves not only to express thought but to make possible thoughts which could not exist without it.’ Here is the essence of mankind’s creative genius: not the edifices of civilization nor the bang-flash weapons which can end it, but the words which fertilize new concepts like spermatozoa attacking an ovum. It might be argued that the Siamese-twin infants of word/idea are the only contribution the human species can, will, or should make to the reveling cosmos. (Yes, our DNA is unique but so is a salamander’s. Yes, we construct artifacts but so have species ranging from beavers to the architect ants whose crenellated towers are visible right now off the port bow. Yes, we weave real-fabric things from the dreamstuff of mathematics, but the universe is hardwired with arithmetic. Scratch a circle and π peeps out. Enter a new solar system and Tycho Brahe’s formulae lie waiting under the black velvet cloak of space/time. But where has the universe hidden a word under its outer layer of biology, geometry, or insensate rock?) Even the traces of other intelligent life we have found – the blimps on Jove II, the Labyrinth Builders, the Seneschai empaths on Hebron, the Stick People of Durulis, the architects of the Time Tombs, the Shrike itself – have left us mysteries and obscure artifacts but no language. No words.”—Dan Simmons, ‘Hyperion’ (via maybeandroid)
“For several years I had tried to write about my father, but had gotten nowhere, probably because the subject was too close to my life, and thus not so easy to force into another form, which of course is a prerequisite for literature. That is its sole law: everything had to submit to form. If any of literature’s other elements are stronger than form, such as style, plot, theme, if any of these overtake form, the result suffers. That is why writers with a strong style often write bad books. That is also why writers with strong themes so often write bad books. Strong themes and styles have to be broken down before literature can come into being. It is this breaking down that is called ‘writing.’ Writing is more about destroying than creating.”
Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle
"Fiction about the near future, as many people have noted, is most often like a funhouse mirror of the present. It distorts and exaggerates our current fears and preoccupations; it takes current trends and pushes them as far as they’ll go without breaking down into incoherence. It’s science fiction in its most purely satirical mode. Like costume drama films, it contains the fingerprints of the time in which it was composed. It doesn’t go out of date; it loses context. It’s also becoming more and more difficult to do, as the present increasingly becomes its own self-engulfing parody.
"Fiction about the far future, on the other hand, digs deep into the past. Given all the problems of attempting to predict the near-future - black swans, non-linear dynamics, the law of unintended consequences - it certainly makes no sense in consciously trying to project any part of the present on to the far future. Instead, writers suggest that archetypal human narratives and historical principles will survive every kind of technological change, and reappear in different forms. James Blish’s Cities in Flight series, for instance, is underpinned by the theories of Otto Spengler. Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series was inspired by Gibbons’ The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Frank Herbert’s Dune and Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun are different takes on Messianic figures. Old-school space opera, with its palaces and empires, its sword-wielding heroes and princesses, echo Hollywood’s romance with medieval history. And so on, and so forth. Like fantasy, the narratives of far-future science fiction are shaped by patterns of Story. Unless you believe, like those who champion the technological Singularity (aka Rise of the Machines, or the Rapture of the Nerds), that the far future lies on the other side of an intellectual event horizon. That the far future will not only be impossible to predict, but also impossible to comprehend. That it is an end to Story and the heat death of science fiction, and we cannot utter a single syllable about what follows. But where’s the fun in that?"
“If you think that it would be impossible to improve upon the Ten Commandments as a statement of morality, you really owe it to yourself to read some other scriptures. Once again, we need look no further than the Jains: Mahavira, the Jain patriarch, surpassed the morality of the Bible with a single sentence: “Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being.” Imagine how different our world might be if the Bible contained this as its central precept. Christians have abused, oppressed, enslaved, insulted, tormented, tortured, and killed people in the name of God for centuries, on the basis of a theologically defensible reading of the Bible. (23)”—
“Even if it means oblivion, friends, I’ll welcome it, because it won’t be nothing. We’ll be alive again in a thousand blades of grass, and a million leaves; we’ll be falling in the raindrops and blowing in the fresh breeze; we’ll be glittering in the dew under the stars and the moon out there in the physical world, which is our true home and always was.” — Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass
“Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.” ― Christopher Hitchens
It may be possible to travel to space in an elevator as early as 2050, a major construction company has announced.
Obayashi Corp., headquartered in Tokyo, on Monday unveiled a project to build a gigantic elevator that would transport passengers to a station 36,000 kilometers above the Earth.
For the envisaged project, the company would utilize carbon nanotubes, which are 20 times stronger than steel, to produce cables for the space elevator.
The idea of space elevators has been described in several science-fiction novels. Obayashi, however, believes it is possible to construct one in the real world thanks to carbon nanotubes, which were invented in the 1990s, the company said.
Some other organizations have also been studying the development of space elevators, such as the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
In Obayashi’s project, a cable would be stretched up to 96,000 kilometers, or about one-fourth of the distance between the Earth and the moon. One end of the cable would be anchored at a spaceport on the ground, while the other would be fitted with a counterweight.
The terminal station would house laboratories and living space. The car could carry up to 30 people to the station at 200 kilometers per hour, which would mean a 7-1/2 day trip to reach the station. Magnetic linear motors are one possible means of propulsion for the car, according to Obayashi.
Solar power generation facilities would also be set up around the terminal station to transmit power to the ground, the company added.
Whether carbon nanotubes can be mass-produced economically enough and whether various organizations from around the world can work together are two key issues facing the development of the space elevator, according to the company.
“At this moment, we cannot estimate the cost for the project,” an Obayashi official said. “However, we’ll try to make steady progress so that it won’t end just up as simply a dream.”
Clarke’s The Fountains of Paradise getting a real-world treatment.
The French city of Urville exists in two places: in the mind of Gilles Trehin and in the elaborate drawings Trehin created. But what’s incredible isn’t just the detailed designs he created for the city’s architecture and layout, but the entirely plausible history for his fictional city. When Trehin…
When you’re scientifically literate, the world looks different to you. It’s a particular way of questioning what you see and hear. When empowered by this state of mind, objective realities matter. These are the truths of the world that exist outside of whatever your belief system tells you.
One objective reality is that our government doesn’t work, not because we have dysfunctional politicians, but because we have dysfunctional voters. As a scientist and educator, my goal, then, is not to become President and lead a dysfunctional electorate, but to enlighten the electorate so they might choose the right leaders in the first place.
The crucial new idea is that there are two different neural and psychological systems that interact to turn children into adults. Over the past two centuries, and even more over the past generation, the developmental timing of these two systems has changed. That, in turn, has profoundly changed adolescence and produced new kinds of adolescent woe. The big question for anyone who deals with young people today is how we can go about bringing these cogs of the teenage mind into sync once again.
This might be a more important question for the future than we think. When children reach puberty earlier and adulthood later the number of people behaving in a way we used to ascribe to teenagers increase dramatically we are increasingly living in a world where those who shape it are behaving like teenagers… Can this effect have even more impact than e g an aging Western society will? Meaning more teenage logic??
Oddly reminiscent of Bruce Sterling’s “Holy Fire.”