Of rocketry and runners-up

Paul Raven @ 08-07-2011

Well, there you go: remember yesterday when I said that the trailing pack were snatching for the space-race torch? The nice folks at Foreign Policy have put together a list of the major players, ranked by budget size; only the B of the BRIC is missing, and I wouldn’t want to bet on that still being the case in another decade or so.


Mass Effect II and Racial Essentialism

Jonathan McCalmont @ 03-03-2010

Blasphemous Geometries by Jonathan McCalmont

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Genre is, to one extent or another, all about re-using old ideas. Ideas shared. Ideas reclaimed. Ideas reinvented. Ideas lost. Ideas rediscovered. Encounter enough works of genre over a long enough time period and you will see ideas rise and fall like the tides. You will also see patterns emerging in the way that certain ideas are used. For example, it is no accident that the rain slicked streets of 1930s noir fiction would pop up in the works of Raymond Chandler before re-appearing in the films of the 1960s French Nouvelle Vague, and appearing again in the novels and stories of Cyberpunk in the 1980s. The long shadows and bad weather of noir were an expressionistic manifestation of a sense of unease, a feeling that society was somehow broken. That same intuition has stayed with us over time, summoning noir’s set dressing again and again as new generations of authors deploy the same ideas and techniques to express ideas of their own time and place.

Genres are collections of these kinds of ideas. Ideas that form a shared vocabulary that gets used and re-used to tell new stories. But sometimes a good genre idea or trope will become detached from its metaphorical roots and take on a substance and a physicality of its own. The idea will develop freely as generations of authors engage with it but, because the idea has been separated from its original metaphorical purpose, the idea will forever remain wedded to the time and place in which it was forged. Like mitochondrial DNA, or a forgotten time capsule. A window into a different time and a different place. Continue reading “Mass Effect II and Racial Essentialism”


DARPA Urban Challenge

Jeremy Eades @ 03-11-2007

Well, by now the DARPA Urban Challenge should be underway.  As of Nov. 2nd, 24 teams had been eliminated, leaving just 11 participants to make the 6-hour, 60-mile (that’s 96km for you metric-lovers out there).  The challenges:  navigating an urban setting without running over any humans (yes, that’s a rough summary, but the rules on the DARPA site are in pdf form, which locks up my computer – thanks, Adobe!)

The ultimate goal is to have a computer system that can run a supply convoy autonomously, merging in and out of traffic and navigating intersections.  Last year, Stanford U.’s team took home the first prize.

(via DailyTech) (image from DARPA website)