James White Award judging panel announced

Paul Raven @ 28-07-2011

Heads up, science fiction short story writery types: the James White Award has announced its judging panel for the 2011 contest! What’s the James White Award? I’m glad you asked…

The James White Award is an annual short story competition open to non-professional writers with the winner chosen by a panel of judges made up of professional authors and editors. This year’s award will be judged by the novelists Jon Courtenay Grimwood and Juliet E McKenna and by the publisher of Interzone, Andy Cox. Stories entered into the competition must be original and previously unpublished. Entry is free.

The James White Award was instituted to honour the memory of one of Ireland’s most successful science fiction authors, James White. To learn more about James White and his writing, visit www.sectorgeneral.com.

The prize for winning this year’s James White Award 2011 is £200 plus publication in Interzone, the leading UK science fiction magazine.

The closing date for this year’s competition is midnight (GMT) 31 January 2012.

Open to any writer from any country on the planet, though your story does need to be written in English. The other competition rules (and some helpful advice for folk thinking of entering) can be found on the JWA website. So go read, and then get writing. Good luck!


Create Your Space: a competition from the ESA

Paul Raven @ 07-12-2010

In the Futurismic postbag this week was an email from one Richard Astley (who, I assume, is not that Richard Astley – I’ve checked the links, you’re safe from ‘rolling), who wants to let you know about a competition being run by the European Space Agency. Take it away, Richard:

CREATE YOUR SPACE FROM THE EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY

The sky has been an inspiration for humankind ever since the first people appeared in the Earth. Now it’s your turn.

The European Space Agency (ESA) invites you to get inspiration from our images of stars, planets, spaceflight and of our own planet Earth seen from space and to create your own work of art.

Choose your favourite image from the selection on our Facebook Wall, let your imagination run wild, create your art and share it with us. The creations that collect the most “Likes” will win the competition.

HOW TO TAKE PART

  1. Click the “Like” button on the top of our Facebook page to become a fan
  2. Choose one of the images on the wall of the Facebook page or in our Flickr gallery
  3. Create a work of art inspired by the image – you can create a story, a poem, a painting, a video, a comic strip, a recipe, a haiku, a sculpture, whatever you like. You don’t have to stick with the image topic, if the image suggests to you something completely different … why not? Feel free to express yourself in your preferred medium.
  4. Upload your creation anywhere except Facebook. You can upload your art on YouTube, Flickr, on Twitter (please include the hashtag #createyourspace), on your blog or website. Content uploaded on Facebook will not be included in the competition.
  5. Tag our content with the tag “ESA_space_inspiration”.
  6. Link your art in the comments of the post containing the image that inspired it.
  7. You can submit your art from now until 2 January 2011.
  8. People can vote for the submissions until 4 February 2011.

HOW TO VOTE

Voting for your favourite work of art is very simple: click the “Like” button placed in the comment containing the link to your favourite creation.

WINNER

There will be one winner for each image, chosen by the public, based on the number of “Likes” in the comment field.

PRIZES

Winners will receive a bag full of space goodies. The winning works of art will be published on the ESA Portal (www.esa.int)

The media-savvy among you are doubtless thinking “hmm, social media publicity drive” – but hey, why not? I’d rather publicise the ESA than male grooming products or soft drinks. We know the game and we’re gonna play it… ain’t that right, Richard? 😉

EDIT 10/12/2010: An update from Richard (who very graciously didn’t rise to my bait) informs me that “the prize for the overall winner for this competition is an iPad, with the bag of gadgets going to the best piece of art submitted for each picture.” If that don’t incentivize ya, I don’t know what will…


New Scientist announces flash fiction contest

Paul Raven @ 23-10-2010

… picks Neil Gaiman for the judge’s chair, and – as far as I can tell – puts no geographical restrictions on who can enter. In the interests of promoting one of their projects, I’m going to presume that NS won’t mind me repeating most of the announcement here verbatim:

Send us your very short stories about futures that never were. Tell us where we’d be today if the ether had turned out to exist after all, or if light really was made up of corpuscles emitted by the eyes. You don’t have to be scientifically accurate, but the more convincing your story, the more likely it is to win!

[…]

Your story should be no more than 350 words long, including the title – do watch your word count, we hate having to disqualify good competition entries because they’re just a bit too long – and should not have previously been published anywhere else. Only one entry per person, please.

Here’s the small print: the upshot is that by submitting your story you give us non-exclusive rights to publish it now or at any future date, in whatever medium we choose. The closing date is 19 November 2010.

So no prize beyond the glory itself, but even so, I think I might just have a crack at this myself. 🙂


The Processor Wars

Paul Raven @ 12-07-2010

There are many ways to make a profit; one of them is to make a better product than the competition, but sometimes that alone is not enough, especially when you make the components of complex devices like computers. So maybe you could think about building loopholes into your product that make the competition’s product look inferior when used in the same system? There are suggestions that’s what nVidia has been doing:

PhysX is designed to make it easy for developers to add high-quality physics simulation to their games, so that cloth drapes the way it should, balls bounce realistically, and smoke and fragments (mostly from exploding barrels) fly apart in a lifelike manner. In recognition of the fact that game developers, by and large, don’t bother to release PC-only titles anymore, NVIDIA also wisely ported PhysX to the leading game consoles, where it runs quite well on console hardware.

If there’s no NVIDIA GPU in a gamer’s system, PhysX will default to running on the CPU, but it doesn’t run very well there. You might think that the CPU’s performance deficit is due simply to the fact that GPUs are far superior at physics emulation, and that the CPU’s poor showing on PhysX is just more evidence that the GPU is really the component best-equipped to give gamers realism.

Some early investigations into PhysX performance showed that the library uses only a single thread when it runs on a CPU. This is a shocker for two reasons. First, the workload is highly parallelizable, so there’s no technical reason for it not to use as many threads as possible; and second, it uses hundreds of threads when it runs on an NVIDIA GPU. So the fact that it runs single-threaded on the CPU is evidence of neglect on NVIDIA’s part at the very least, and possibly malign neglect at that.

Whether it is malign remains to be seen (the use of Occam’s Razor may well apply here, but then again it may not), but this is still an interesting development: in a world where most new inventions are part of larger systems, the battle for sales isn’t simply a matter of making your own product better. Granted, talking down the value of a competitor’s product has been a core strategy of public relations for years, but actually attenuating that value in deployment strikes me as being something pretty new, if only because it wasn’t really possible before. Unless anyone can suggest a situation where this has happened before?


Rodent dilemmas and simian doubts

Paul Raven @ 19-04-2010

These just in from the Animal Psychology Department; first up, rats are surprisingly good at the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma [via BoingBoing]:

It may not be entirely surprising that rats cooperated in the Prisoner’s Dilemma.  After all, animals often cooperate in nature to altruistically serve the group, whether that means hunting in packs to get more meat, or a surrogate mother animal adopting an abandoned baby to boost the pack’s numbers.  Still, there’s no direct evidence that shows rats grasp the concept of direct reciprocity.  Given that the rats in this study changed their strategy based on the game their opponent was playing, and cooperation rates were only high when the rats played against a tit-for-tat opponent, the authors showed, perhaps for the first time, that rats directly reciprocate. But an even more surprising finding was how well the rats played the game.  They plotted and schemed.  They manipulated their opponents by taking calculated strategic risks for the high payout reward. In essence, these rodents challenged our perception of animal intelligence and proved that they, too, can master both the game, and the psychological component of competition.

Furthermore, apes have been discovered to have the capacity to doubt their own decisions [via George Dvorsky].

Josep Call […] put food in one of two opaque plastic pipes and had watching bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans pick the one with the food. If they were made to wait, the apes sometimes forgot where the food was, but by and large they did well on the task.

To test if the apes doubted their own decisions, Call gave them the option to peek into the end of the pipes before they chose one. He found that the apes were more likely to check the pipes if they had to wait before picking one. Call says this suggests that the apes had begun to doubt their memory.

That consensus definition of “human” is starting to look a lot less exclusive than it used to, no?


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