Sunday, 16 March 2014

Ender's Game and the STEM Crisis

Ender's Game feels like a super-cut of itself - relentlessly focused on completion. I'm presuming that pace is meant to mirror the story's sleep deprived timeline. However, it may well leave the viewer unconvinced of various (particularly social) leaps in the protagonist's (arrow straight) story arc.
Harry Potter in space? I was quickly reminded far more of The Methods of Rationality. No coincidence - Orson Scott Card's novel must certainly have had huge influence on the later and my enjoyment of the zero-g training matches was largely borrowed fire from scenes in Eliezer Yudkowsky's fan-fic subversion.
Screen Grab from Ender's Game (2013)
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) was another story about a perfectly Machiavellian intellect (Cumberbatch's type-cast). Well, 'competence porn' has long had strong audience appeal: witness the popularity of detective and forensic TV drama series. But, more interestingly, this theme mirrors a very real issue in contemporary society: as our technologies advance in complexity they demand ever greater levels of abstraction.

The Social Network (2010) would be a third movie example, while The real Mark Zuckerberg can certainly feel the pinch of contemporary cognitive workplace requirements, whittling down the pool of potential employees. Hence lobbying for immigration of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Hydrogen Swan Song

This is a good novel. A good sci-fi novel by a great author. A great author who died last year, at an unfitting age, and will be fondly remembered by his body of fantastic works.
Photographed - Hydrogen Sonata. Front inset Iain M Banks. Rear inset Iain Banks.
It certainly held my attention, and looking back, the second 300 pages felt more like a last 3 chapters (in that the end of the story flew by far too soon). However, I didn't find it as exciting or stimulating as previous Culture books. Maybe I am just not as ravenously enthusiastic for this kind of material as I was previously; older and wise to these fantastic vistas. The concluding details didn't feel surprising, but it never really felt like they could have been; I was resigned to the plot arc being somewhat frustrating, inevitably stuck dancing around the familiar end of the rabbit hole (so to speak).

As I've said previously, there's no way to wrap up the Culture itself: they have been so well written as the epitome of a stable utopia: stubbornly determined to keep on partying forever, while making damn sure everyone else has as much fun as possible too! So I was hoping for a complete change of pace by having a prequel. There are teasers here, but little exploration of this direction. 

Monday, 27 January 2014

"Engineering Infinity" anthology summary/review.

I picked up this anthology of hard sci-fi (published 28 Dec 2010) from the library to see if it would inspire me to branch out to some new authors. Despite it's compact size it's taken me more than a couple months to nibble my way through at bed times, though I'm, not sure a compelling single span novel would have been consumed any quicker.

I've written a brief review of each story, marking the ones I found most notable with a *.  Those by Karl Schroeder, Hannu Rajaniemi, Charles Stross, John C. Wright and Gwyneth Jones (each for different reasons).

p13 "Malak" by Peter Watts:
From the perspective of an unmanned killer drone, "Azrael", that acquires a prosthetic conscious in the form of a collateral damage calculator. It only brings grief though, as it's aborts are always overruled by remote command. Pretty competently written, but unsurprising (with it's inevitably trite resolution); reminded me a lot of Stealth (2005), obviously. Formulaic.

p31 "Watching the Music Dance" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch:
A near future tragedy, when a family that loose everything after a mother becomes obsessed with molding her daughter into a musical prodigy. The (limited) genetic engineering, "enhancements" and "apps" (for the girl's Neuromancer style, behind-ear chip) come at great cost to the financially crippled family. Creatively constructed, from the perspective of the autistic sounding girl and the father (in the 1st and 3rd person respectively). Dealing more heavily with the personal and emotional context is a good way to avoid being too specific about future technology.

* p47 "Laika's Ghost" by Karl Schroeder:
I could have believed this was a Charles Stross near future thriller. A world-worn, free lance, nuclear decommissioning inspector, come minder, returns to his home land (Stepnogorsk, Kazakhstan - part of the setting for Stross's "Rule 34") with a young American under his wing, who's on the run from the CIA, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Online (based in Seattle) and Google. The world-wind adventure brandishes guns and hydroponics en-route to a slightly impractical conclusion that's nonetheless satisfactory, for such a short story.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

What maketh the 'game'?; problems with 'difficulty'.

This piece was instigated by Shivoa's take on this article for ARS technica (and Wired). As usual, I've tried to deconstruct the concepts involved (for the sake of: "If you can't say it clearly, you don't understand it yourself" - John Searle).

So, does a 'game' (as in, a computer game), by definition, require a level of 'difficulty'?: Obstacles to overcome...

I think successful games are those that manage to mirror the configuration of a player's mind: An artefact image refracted through the prism of human senses and perceptions. On the finest (most literal) scale this means presenting concepts that arouse the individual's attention (i.e. interesting memes). But also, from an overarching structural viewpoint, the form of the thing (this 'game') should sync with a player's reward response. Biology...

Human physiology (like most mammals) evolved to provide a stimulus reward for achieving tasks that benefit the organism (well, more accurately the transmission of their genes, but gloss over that). A similar, smaller squirt of dopamine is also released during failure, when the goal is nearly reached (so I've read). This is why many persist at gambling, and slightly unbalanced brains can become addicted. It's also why gamers so often enjoy 'difficulty'.
DOA; addictive while it lasted, Trials 2 quickly got too hard for me!
However, frustration wins out (during failure) when the end-goal appears unattainably far. Depression probably dampens down dopamine release/transmission, thus making all goals more distant, thus a depressed individual will struggle to engage in previously fun things, and struggle to persist in general.

Adaptive difficulty attempts to milk this near miss response (re-calibrating it's obstacles to make players keep reaching, just so). The such systems risk more than distracting the player, if they notice: If the pretense of the game's scenario is lost, it's like watching a badly shot fiction movie where you keep seeing accidental glimpses of the production team and their equipment. Without that invisible 4th wall, an individual will struggle not to perceive events quite literally: moving patterns on a screen, empty of meaning and/or relevance.

So, a 'game' requires:

Monday, 13 January 2014

Worst thing about "Man of Steel": perpetuates misunderstanding of depression.

Depression Comix (015)
Just from looking through a couple sites like Depression Comix (via io9) and Hyperbole and a Half (also via iO9) it should be painfully obvious that depression (like most/all mental illness) produces impediments to mental functioning that simply can NOT be willed away.

Also, personal experience has really highlighted how arbitrary mental state can be; uncorrelated to outside events that might be reasoned to induce happiness/sadness. But when I take a little tyrosine, I clearly feel the (positive) effects of dopamine and adrenaline, hours or days down the line. This supplement leads to motivation but also agitation and anxiety if not balanced with tryptophan, the essential amino acid for human synthesis of serotonin and melatonin (happy and calming modulators).

Sure, I'm only one particular case, in that I seem to be naturally short of all (essential) amino acids (probably due to maldigestion). But these same effects are widely known (1, 2, etc). This leads me to feel strongly that diet and digestive (not to mention metabolic) health interventions almost certainly have more scope to cure 'mental' maladies than the minimal prescribed doses of talking and/or mono-drug therapies...

So anyway, I watched a couple of films the other nights, while otherwise useless due to a food related fatigue reaction. I opted for entertainment to match my impaired cognition, so had low expectations. I'm not going to pick at "After Earth" (that continues Will Smith's downward trajectory in sci-fi, with a script so lazily cliché that it would insult a pre-teen demographic); I couldn't watch more than 20 minutes anyway.

Meanwhile, "The Wolverine" has almost as many gaping plot holes as the protagonist, but is only partially guilty of the sin I'm lamenting here: Doing something that's clearly supposed to be impossible, (according to the premises set up in the movie itself) just by sheer force of certitude and gritting one's teeth extra hard! (Logan does eventually hit his limitations.)
Screen Captures from Man of Steel.
To be fair, "Man of Steel" avoided dwelling too much on this, compared to the previous Superman reboot, which concluded with him lifting a mountain of kryptonite out of the sea and throwing it into space... At best this is an horrendously boring and meaningless type of plot resolution mechanism. But I'd say it's almost a little evil in it's implication that one can do anything if one simply tries hard enough, is motivated enough and has enough heart...
 Adventures in Depression Part 2
Adventures in Depression Part 2
Which is flat wrong. Especially when the foundation of the problem is an inability to try hard, itself. I guess this misconception lines up nicely with the beloved fallacy of 'The American Dream' (in the land of ever falling social mobility).

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Digital TV Series to Supersede Silver Screen? + Movie, Anime & Web Series Reviews

Full video from Telegraph.co.uk
Not so long ago (when I first tried to write this post) Kevin Spacey had just caused a bit of a media stir with his keynote speech at the Edinburgh Television Festival. He blows his own trumpet, regarding his latest, nine time Emmy nominated tv netflix series "House of Cards" (an Americanised version of the BBC show from 1990, staring Spacey), but more interestingly, he preaches to the TV industry to follow his lead: embrace digital distribution.

He disrespects America's wasteful insistence on pilot episode based commissioning of TV series. He claims that giving viewers the ability to "binge" on reasonably priced series can help save content distributors (and creators) from the level of internet piracy the music industry suffered last decade. He asserts that the boundaries between movies, TV and streaming content are indistinct: just "stories" on a screen. All pretty sensible stuff that most internet users have probably felt for a good 5-10 years, but coming from a big name movie star and being lapped up by the media.

There's very powerful market disruption, with the big companies of legacy media formats finally being forced to acknowledge internet distribution as a legitimate business model. But, just as "Video [didn't] kill the radio star", no old technology is ever going to go totally extinct. I think that cinema is going to suffer further ignominity, increasingly sidelined as web distribution further boosts the influence of serialised content.

For example: I really liked "Continuum", as I laid out in my previous blog post. The level of intrigue a good series like that can cultivate is utterly unattainable for feature film pieces. Also, the conclusion of "Breaking Bad" precipitated a months long media frenzy in my news feed. Great show, but a bandwagon I'm not going to jump on here.

No film can generate that kind of on-going, free publicity, let alone develop such well loved characters or cover so much ground in such detail. I've become pretty resigned to a continuing drought, as far as inspiringly novel (sci-fi) films are concerned. Neil Blomencamp made perfectly clear that his summer blockbuster was necessarily polished (away to blandness) for mass market appeal.
Three of 2013's Summer Sci-fi Film Flops:

The unredeemed, action-bling nonsense of "Star Trek Into Darkness". The second 'reboot' instalment makes it evident that cheap one liners and recycled caricatures are the main reason for the intellectual rights, since the spirit of the Star Trek universe is repeatedly discarded whenever it suits slightly slicker transitions between action sequences.

The fundamentally flawed "World War Z", or 'Brad Pitt Zombie Movie' is ostensibly an adaptation of a popular book by the same name (of which I know nothing). Maybe it never stood a chance as a film; I certainly think that fans, these days, prefer to dream of their most beloved works of fiction being picked up for a mini-series, rather than crumpled up into Cinema format.

I actually sat back and enjoyed the first half of "Oblivion"; the pristine look and feel really meshed well with the atmospheric, synth heavy (Mass Effect style), soundtrack by M83. However, it falls apart under continued scrutiny, culminating in a ridiculously cheesy (inexplicably implausible) resolution. Philosophically, it is partially redeemed by apparently embracing a patternist interpretation of personal identity (rather than some pseudo-Christian, Hollywoodism).
Oh dear, not my idea of blue sky thinking. (Enterprise plummets - Into Darkness.)

Monday, 23 September 2013

Continuum - Review (Spoiler Free!)


Knowing nothing about Continuum, beyond iO9 repeatedly name dropping it in my (Facebook) timeline, I was expecting no better than Jean Claude Van Damme, ricketing down a tunnel o'time in a two seater Sinclair C5 ("Timecop" 1994), with an irritatingly clashing flavour of causality in each successive episode.

But Continuum is far more grown up, with unexpected attention to detail. We're not talking "Primer" (2004) level mind strain, but more grounded than the "Back to the Future" (1985) style paradoxical paradox resolutions in "Looper" (2012). Of course there wasn't a blockbuster budget here, so the CGI is relatively light and tasteful, with all singing/dancing views of the future carefully rationed. Action/fight scenes aren't it's forté either, but are always passable, without any cringe-worthy flaws.

It is pretty clever at setting it's own tone in the first season, by building up towards opportunities for obvious (dramatic tension building) clichés, staring them square in the eye, then casually bypassing them with a barely glimpsed smirk.

It's fully Bechdel test compliant too (unlike "Elysium"). In fact, the central female character is of a convincingly conservative disposition, despite supermodel looks and that skin-tight, nano-weave onesie. More of a Major Kusanagi of 1995 (my personal GITS preference) than the harlot of the (still highly recommended) 2002-2005 series, or the original manga (I've not yet seen the new "Arise" reboot).
Major Kusanagi (GITS 1995) vs Kiera Cameron (Continuum)
Simon Barry (show creator) was almost certainly influence by Ghost in the Shell. One obvious similarity being the full body invisibility cloaking, despite exposed head and hair. But don't be expecting weekly servings of bad guys gratuitous beaten up by a ghost: TV budget limitations, remember. Similarly, in walking through a parade of cool, semi-magic, future-cop gear features they do risk the viewer wondering why certain toys aren't used more often. But these are clearly fallible characters, and any FPS experienced gamer will be able to empathise with the difficulty of scroll-selecting the ideal weapon in a panic!
Usually it's a compliment to be more akin to the works of Masamune Shirow than J.K. Rowling's...
The appearance of Jericho's (2006-2008) gawky-young-post-apocalyptic-small-time-commerce-king-pin of the year award winner, as another central protagonist, was slightly distracting for me at first. Erik Knudsen perhaps feels a little under-energised to be typecast as a super-geek. From their résumés, it looks like most of cast will hold similar familiarity for fans of other American/Canadian sci-fi shows. It took me a good couple of episodes of mental groping to put my finger on a Caprica (2009) actor in the second season.

Many monitors maketh the 'Great Man'..?
Seemingly disposable background characters become central, which is cool. It even goes some way towards mitigating over-reliance on the Great Man theory (of innovation). There is (ab)use of the Swiss pocket-knife style, omni-scientist/technician, tome: a glaringly backwards setup, comprising 7 terrorist grunts to 1 all-purpose geek, with is toned back towards acceptability as characters are all fleshed out. Anyway, for a full memetic deconstruction of the series, you could just read the ever prescient TV Tropes.

The plot does feel a little more unfocused, midway through the second run, but never jumps the shark in terms of confusing complexity. It actually comes together very tidily, disdaining a frustrating cliff hanger, or "Hero's" (2006-2010) style hanging segue to season 3, in favour of a deliciously dark full stop.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Health Revolution - Part 1 - Diving into Intolerances

I originally intended this as an all inclusive, one parter, covering all my recent health research:
  • To explain to people, as fully as possible, where I'm at and where I've been, personally.
  • To raise awareness of my core discoveries (much of this may apply to many people).
  • Possibly help others take short-cuts (I've already spoken to a few with similar issues).
  • To review what I've looked at so far, reminding myself and reappraising with a critical eye.
The grey sections contain stand alone information, e.g.:
As usual, I became a little mired in detail. Perhaps I was guided by a previous whim to make an all-encompassing 'cheat sheet' type resource for 'histamine intolerance' (a complex issues with even greater uncertainties than other similar problems). It is almost entirely unrecognised by GPs in the UK.

+ A Poor Boy, So Sorry for Himself:

Back in 2007, with Cybernetics degree slipping my grasp, due to deteriorating mental energy and my milieu of inter-related problems (see my 'Illness CV'), I said to myself:
Out of juice crossing the room (Jan 2008), or that other frequent trap - having to
bend down for something. There happened to be a camera to hand in this instance.
...Well, come 2013 things were only looking more desolate, with NHS appointments having strung out for 4 years before commissioning authority changes abruptly halted them altogether, the best 'progress' I had managed was successfully appealing against the result of an ATOS assessment, thus gaining a modicum of financial stability from ESA payments. I was settling deeper into my strange kind of living coma.... Until an unlikely aid came to me: IBS! 

IBS-D, to be precise.

+ Food Intolerances and Testing

I had already been chatting with an interesting guy in Los Angeles (one of my alliance co-leaders in Lord of Ultima) about the naturopathic (i.e. non medical) treatments he claimed are helping his ADHD, currently treating for chronic yeast infection with traditional remedies including ACV (apple cider vinegar). I was naturally sceptical of his reasoning (with no conventional evidence in support), but the wheat and dairy exclusions were familiar, so after only 2 days of urgent WC visits I made the necessary changes and the GI problems stopped!

I previously attempted going dairy free back around the time I launched this blog (and it's two companions - short lived): "This week I shall mostly be avoiding dairy!(2006-12-05). But I barely gave it any time before: "So the cow milk related product embargo lead nowhere and I blatantly couldn't be arsed avoiding wheat! I have sent off for a £20 finger prick type testing kit,.."

Although I did try wheat free the following year (2007-05-13), but again:
"Well i started a follow up of wheat free (just in case my negative blood test for Coeliac the other month wasn't up to scratch) which lasted til after breakfast when i nearly fell asleep (and i'd only had bacon, scrambled egg, mushroom and baked beans!)."

My mistake is now obvious: I didn't give it nearly long enough to kick in! Also, the food reactions, which I've carefully observed this time, are not specific to what I have just eaten: eating seems to move digestion along causing the 'bad' food from 16-24 hours ago to reach the point where it actually causes trouble (presumably the large intestine). Delayed reaction.

This time around the threat of IBS was sufficient to continue exclusions for a couple of weeks. Soon after this point I was scrabbling around the loft (a long crawl space under the sloped roof, waist high at it's tallest, stuffed with heavy boxes), looking through everything (twice) to find old school reports ready for my upcoming ADHD assessment (2013-04-05)... and I realised how much better I was!: previous attempts at such confined exertions quickly transitioned into laying down, on the job, for a couple dozen minutes until I could summon the strength for a gruelling tactical retreat. What's more, I actually found what I was looking for, eventually, inefficiently, but triumphantly!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Elysium Dreams Unrealised

Quick Review

The story was straight forward, vanilla but never unbearably dull. Exactly as advertised on the tin; the trailer can be taken as complete crib notes. The special reserve was Sharlto Copley's maniacal "Kruger", also the only enjoyable character, demanding stage presence.

It felt horribly under-ambitious, especially compared to the inspired District 9. I think Neil Blomkamp was aiming for the kind of perfectly well rounded movie that translates very well into international sales. Blomkamp openly admits that this film was supposed to be his great big Hollywood blockbuster, like he's collecting a set. I guess that's a little like Stross's tendency toward a different pastiche for each book, particularly in styling his Laundry novel's. In the process Blomkamp has shaved so many edges smooth that the kernel of all his ideas barely remained...
  • There were zero laughs, perhaps occasional snorts of acknowledgement. The most amusing part, for me, was that the Elysium leadership seemed to be named after Harry Potter characters: (Fleur) Delacourt, (Padma and Parvati) Patil/Patel.
  • It was not nearly as bloody/gory/ugly as expected; virtually sterile, even for a 15 certificate, certainly compared to some of the gut wrenching, watching-between-fingers, type scenes in which Copley previously stared. I guess I just take exploding people for granted...
  • No full-on action-gasm; no pig gun equivalent. There was a bit of an OooOOoh, here we go! moment in the middle, during the (abduction) action sequence, but it felt like a bit of an aborted fumble in comparison.
  • Totally non-sexual, unless you count the CGI porn of the perfectly manicured orbital habitat. Which is fine; interesting purely for *not* ticking that box. The romantic connection was underplayed too, though. Perhaps it was just a little too unsubtle. That does fit with the earthy, realistic aesthetic though; not at all the quick fling, fantasy Hollywood romance.
  • The film does do pretty well (for an American blockbuster) at including an international flavour, with a Brazilian love interest, strong hispanic (Mexican) presence, and French, South African (and British?) villains. Bechdel test was "squarely fail[ed]", however, but then it wasn't exactly a very talky movie.
  • Emotionally un-engaging, with no real personal journey for Max, played by Matt Damon, who I've decided I like, but here he felt like a laminated cardboard cut-out.
As Wired reported: "...Blomkamp is a longtime [Michael] Bay fanboy..." due to his "inspiring" action composition. Despite deriding contemporary sci-fi's "...exploding and spaceships and stuff", he also claims "Elysium doesn’t have a message either,". This is more that he personally has no political agenda; supposedly he just genuinely revels in the dystopian slums of present day Johannesburg and LA. They hold an enthusiastic fascination for him. Certainly it's best for sales to avoid shoving political/humanitarian agendas at potential customers, but a brutally neutral take on these topics is also going to be the best way to bypass people's mental defences and get them actually thinking about our world's flaws.

Orbital Speed?
Discussion of Topics Raised and Avoided

The Elysium space habitat seems to exist in a total vacuum, in more than the literal sense; the setting is starkly prosaic, with a straight up, straight down world. Deliberately so, I think, going for symbolism. 'Elysium' (the Greek/Roman afterlife for the relatives and friends of gods and the most virtuous) perched there above the clouds, so those below (in Hades) can look up at it's glowing halo, as one might do in prayer today. Witness, too, the religious orphanage the protagonist grows up in, etc.

My point is also that the film very carefully avoids mention of anywhere else on earth besides the LA sprawl, which seems more a quaint, contemporary, shanty-town in comparison to the Neuromancer (1984) style sprawl (seen breifly in the opening exposition: right).

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The non-paradox of "The non-paradox of choice".

About this article: "More Is More: Why the Paradox of Choice Might Be a Myth" on The Atlantic.

I don't see the contradiction here between:
  • Too many choices being bad - overwhelming customers.
  • And too few choices being bad - choice always needs to be discernibly relative. 
Most of the time, those doing the 'choosing' are actually just searching for what they already had in mind: there's not time in the world to analyse the relative merits of each type of milk, butter, bread, jam, etc, for each range of items in your grocery shop, every time you shop (even if you could erase your memories and start from scratch each time). There seems to have been a pretty strong evolutionary bias against such strategies, hinting at the expense of this type of critical thinking.

Scheibehenne, et-al
2010
So there should be a bell curve, with an optimum number of product options peaking in the middle somewhere. Exactly where that sweet spot lies will depend on each individual: domain naive persons benefit from simplicity, while connoisseurs generally think at a finer level of specificity, dependant upon past explorations.

The meta-study (Scheibehenne, et-al - 2010), to which the article presumably refers, appears to have been rather dumb: simply averaging the outcomes of the ~60 studies done in this area, selected from the previous decade, so that the two separate effects cancel each other out. In fact, the spread of study results lean pretty equally in either direction (picture, right). So the Atlantic article misleads by pitting a single, famous (Jam) study against "...10 different experiments... finding very little evidence that variety caused any problems,..".

Of course I didn't read the whole study paper, and might well not appreciate the intricacies of statistical significance, even if I had. But then I've not read Barry Schwart's book either, so this is just the ignorant rumblings of some guy on the internet who's read an article and watched a snack-sized pop-lecture (quite a while ago):



Conclusion: there's probably no marketing research shortcut here; you need to understand your customer's motivations, and the demographics there-of, to provide the optimum dispersal of product options for their satisfaction, and your sales.

What's doesn't seem to have been studied is the cultural phenomenon of spawning entirely new product markets, by gradually expanding established ranges. I strongly suspect that new economic ecosystems will monopolise a greater percentage of customer's attention and therefore spending resources. Promoting choice inflation (via biased reporting, for example) could be seen as a kind of capitalist control conspiracy: keeping a populace busy working all hours to buy more s...stuff, they don't really need. But I'd lay the blame squarely at the door of humanities's slavery to memes.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

There's No Hyperloop in HS2. [£80Bn update]

Elon Musk played the media perfectly, with coy comments about at high speed rail alternative to the proposed LA to San Francisco project, building the intrigue with hints before finally releasing a comprehensive looking 57 page PDF with design and root schematics, costings and explanations. He certainly succeeded in grabbing my attention, and I think everyone should take his proposals very serious, however amazing they may seem; i.e. "Don't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling."

He makes his PayPal co-founder, Peter Theil (via Confinity), look like a bit of a looser (especially after those losses at Clarium Capital the other year). Musk stuck to creating companies engineering new solutions:
Musk: robot, alien or superhero?
  • SpaceX in 2002, the first private company to supply the ISS, delivering a $1.6Bn spacecraft project on time and budget. 
  • Tesla in 2003, which makes all electric, domestic use cars that accelerate faster than Ferraris, now expanding rapidly into commodity price ranges.
  • And SolarCity in 2006 (technically founded by his cousin from Musk's idea) which is "the largest provider of solar power systems in the United States", with Musk as the largest shareholder he stands to be an *extremely* rich person from this investment alone, given how solar PV is set continue growing exponentially in efficiency and scale over the next couple decades.
I mean, who IS this guy?! A visitor from some technologically advanced, alien civilisation? Or our future? Or JUST genius of a Tony Stark level competence?

So when musk says he can send millions of people per year, safely down partially evacuated tubes at 700mph, solar PV powered, electric turbine trains, riding only cushions of air, for far less than the expected budget of the unimaginatively planned rolling route... you'd best believe him!!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

A Run of Mediocre British Sci-fi?

Did I hit a somewhat unlucky run of reading or am I just bored of sci-fi?? To get these out the way, and out of mind ASAP, I'm going to try and round all 3 up together here.

I became page-jammed, with the top two books (as pictured) over a year ago, stuck mid chapter, a few dozen pages into each. With blog posts having dried up about the same time, that may have been down to a dip in cognitive function with most remaining resources sunk into co-leading an alliance to a #2 crown on World 75 of Lord of Ultima). But with miraculously improved health (more on that later), dust was blown off and determined reading resumed... and then continued on through another novel that had been entirely self-locked for years. Since I finisihed Reynolds just this morning, I'll start with him.

House of Suns (Alastair Reynolds):

By the numbers, hard sci-fi, space-opera, second star to the right and straight on until morning. That is to say, it certainly wasn't unpleasant (in the way that Divergence had me staring at the page in aggrieved disbelief, sometimes), but there was little omph. No real surprises...
[But still, spoilers after the page-break are greyed out (please highligh to read easily).]