All posts by James Boone Dryden

James Boone Dryden is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee campus with a degree in Creative Writing. He has had two flash fiction pieces published at and has one forthcoming in BigPulp. He is also the managing editor and founder of Sheer Speculation Press.

Innocence-Sensitive Spy Cams

security cameraSince 9/11, the government’s use of video surveillance on the public has increased dramatically (this opens a new window with a .pdf). While the vast majority of this surveillance has been implemented to “protect the country from another 9/11-style attack”, it has been used in other arenas as well, namely in attempts to catch wanted criminals. It’s effectiveness in such a capacity is questionable at times, and the effects of such surveillance on society is noteworthy [photo courtesy of kafka4prez].

However, companies like 3VR – one of the largest surveillance software and video-analysis producers in the world – have begun development of increased-privacy software that would seek to protect innocent people from being falsely targeted by authorities. Their software is hoping to visible blur every face in video surveillance unless an investigation requires that the people in the video be identified. It seems like a small step in the right direction to counter the immense violations by the NSA not too long ago, but at least it’s something.

Mars Water Fit for Pickling . . . Life

toxic waterThe scientific community eagerly watches the progress as Pheonix lander scours Mars. They are hoping that there will be signs that there was once a supply of water on the planet that would give evidence that there may have once been life on the planet. Most scientists seem to conclude, though, that data from the Opportunity indicates that the water was a toxic mix of salty water and minerals that would have been unsuitable for Earth-like lifeforms. [photo courtesy Kevin].

If this is true, then it changes a lot of our views of the Red Planet, making it a lot less viable as a possible location for colonies or population in the future. What was once seen as the new bastion of human existence when we ruin the planet we have now, may be nothing more than a dusty satellite orbiting the Sun. Who’s to say, though? We on Earth have such an egocentric view of our existence that it’s hard for us to imagine that there may be other possibilities of variant lifeforms in the universe that don’t operate as we do (i.e. – do all lifeforms really have to be carbon-based?).

Cancer-causing Concrete! Nice!

So those cancer-causing nanotubes that people are raving about (wait, are they?) might be combined with the vast supply of dust and debris on the moon to make a new kind of concrete for structures on the moon.  It seems like a workable idea, though, and the cost of structures would be very minimal.  NASA’s idea is to build telescopes, satellite arrays, and other equipment on the moon and utilize this new “concrete” for those purposes.  Considering all the material is readily available, it doesn’t really take much to conceive of a science station up there.  Or a moon colony – oh, now that’s exciting.

What Is It to Be a Human? had this article on the World Science Festival in New York City. I think all of us – at some point in our lives – questions who we are, what makes us different, or even why we’re “here”. But have you ever sat and thought to yourself, “what makes me human?”. Here’s my answer. I’m curious to know about yours.

We are unique in our ability of self-recognition. We know ourselves; we recognize ourselves as being unique; and we know that others around us are unique, too. We build upon that and communicate in a way that is different from every other creature. We look at the world in concepts and abstractions, rather than concrete “things”.

That is my answer. What’s yours?

Is Big Oil the Future of Energy?

oil barrelsHere we are in middle America paying $4.00 a gallon. Yeah, yeah, Europe, you don’t have to say it. I already know. But in a country where the idea of mass transportation is two people car-pooling to work, four dollars is a lot of money, even in a “fuel-efficient” car. [image by tvol]

So what’s the solution? Big Oil is being forced to search for new methods by which to acquire their resources, which means that the cost of extracting the oil from new places will raise the cost some more. Or, there’s the highly debated use of methane hydrates under the sea floor (also a costly means of new energy).

It’s a curious situation. In times of need, we – as humans – tend to produce something grand. But with oil companies making billions by the day, what desire do they have to rush things? Are we on the cusp of a new era of clean, efficient, and renewable energy? Or are we on the verge of personal bankruptcy because we own a garage full of H3’s?