Friday, June 27, 2008

Relocation, Relocation

Stick a dome over this proposed design for a sustainable hotel in Shanghai and imagine it in a crater on Dione or Iapetus...

Shake And Bake

First wet chemistry results from the Phoenix Lander shows that Martian soil is highly alkaline, and definitely interacted with liquid water at some point. The water isn't a surprise, but the alkalinity is - a lot of people thought that Martian soil would be highly acidic and, without being extensively modified, inimicable to plant life. Instead, according to the lead chemist, in one of those quotes that the media loves, you might be able to grow asparagus in it. Yeah, but think of the shipping cost and the carbon footprint.

(Lunar soil, by the way, is suitable for marigolds.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lost In Space

Some saint has posted the BBC4 adaptation of Ballard's 'The Enormous Room' on YouTube. Catch it while you can!

(Link via Edward Champion's Reluctant Habits.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

With A Small Flourish Of Trumpets...

PS Publishing has just posted the table of contents for issue #15 of Postscripts magazine:

. . .the biggest issue yet of PS Publishing's award-winning short fiction magazine. Not only that, the entire issue will focus on the science fiction genre, with a positively stellar list of contributing authors and work . . .

The usual 'I'm not worthy' disclaimers apply, of course.

Evolution Now

One hundred and fifty years ago this week, public reading of short papers by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace at a meeting of the Linnean Society launched the idea of evolution by natural selection on the world.

If you want a primer on how far biology has come since then, you can do no better than read Carl Zimmer’s elegant, lucid and vividly written Microcosm, which uses a century of research on the humble bacterium Escherichia coli, found in the lower intestine of every human being, to illuminate our understanding of metabolic control, horizontal and vertical gene transference, evolution, the social life of bacteria, the origin of life, arguments against creationism, the ethical and practical problems faced by genetic engineering and synthetic biology, panspermia, and much more. One of the best and most thought-provoking science books I’ve read for a long time.

Following a discussion about the similarities between the evolution and organisation of metabolic networks of E. coli and the growth of man-made networks like the Internet, Zimmer concludes:

At the Dover intelligent design trial, creationists revealed a fondness for analogies to technology. If something in E. coli or some other organism looks like a machine, then it must have been designed intelligently. Yet the term intelligent design is ultimately an unjustified pat on the back. The fact that E. coli and a man-made network show some striking similarities does not mean that E. coli was produced by intelligent design. It actually means that human design is a lot less intelligent than we like to think. Instead of some grand, forward-thinking vision, we create some of our greatest inventions through slow, myopic tinkering.

Slow, myopic tinkering: hmmm, more or less exactly the way I work.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Proof Positive

On Friday, I received a copy of the bound proofs of The Quiet War, well on its way towards becoming an actual book. Here it is, sitting on top of the printed MSS of the first draft of the ongoing. As for that, I've read the draft and made notes on structural changes that need to be made to make the narrative coherent - moving chapters around, deleting material that doesn't move the story forward and noting where there are gaps and inconsistencies that need to be fixed. Next, I'll be working through the text line by line. Some people can do all their drafting directly on screen; I need to make marks on paper, to create a physical history of first and second thoughts which I then transfer to a new draft. Perhaps it's a hangover from my first stories and novels, which were composed on a typewriter. The fact that you had to retype a page if you had second thoughts really concentrated the mind, back then.
But before I get into all that, I'll have to deal with page proofs of The Quiet War, correcting goofs that made it through the various drafts and the editing and copy-editing process, combing out typos and making other last-chance fixes before it goes back to the printers for production in time for publication in October. As in farming, every stage of book production has its season...
Newer Posts Older Posts