As I mentioned in my March Locus column, I'm celebrating the tenth anniversary of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by m planning a prequel. volume As part of that, planning'I going to read aloud the entire text of that first book into the podcast, making notes on the book as I go. Here's part eight.
Mastering by John Taylor Williams: email@example.com
John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."
I reviewed Ronald Diebert's new book Black Code in this weekend's edition of the Globe and Mail. Diebert runs the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto and has been instrumental in several high-profile reports that outed government spying (like Chinese hackers who compromised the Dalai Lama's computer and turned it into a covert CCTV) and massive criminal hacks (like the Koobface extortion racket). His book is an amazing account of how cops, spies and crooks all treat the Internet as the same kind of thing: a tool for getting information out of people without their knowledge or consent, and how they end up in a kind of emergent conspiracy to erode the net's security to further their own ends. It's an absolutely brilliant and important book:
Ronald Deibert’s new book, Black Code, is a gripping and absolutely terrifying blow-by-blow account of the way that companies, governments, cops and crooks have entered into an accidental conspiracy to poison our collective digital water supply in ways small and large, treating the Internet as a way to make a quick and dirty buck or as a snoopy spy’s best friend. The book is so thoroughly disheartening for its first 14 chapters that I found myself growing impatient with it, worrying that it was a mere counsel of despair.
But the final chapter of Black Code is an incandescent call to arms demanding that states and their agents cease their depraved indifference to the unintended consequences of their online war games and join with civil society groups that work to make the networked society into a freer, better place than the world it has overwritten.
Deibert is the founder and director of The Citizen Lab, a unique institution at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. It is one part X-Files hacker clubhouse, one part computer science lab and one part international relations observatory. The Citizen Lab’s researchers have scored a string of international coups: Uncovering GhostNet, the group of Chinese hackers taking over sensitive diplomatic computers around the world and eavesdropping on the private lives of governments; cracking Koobface, a group of Russian petty crooks who extorted millions from random people on the Internet, a few hundred dollars at a time; exposing another Chinese attack directed at the Tibetan government in exile and the Dalai Lama. Each of these exploits is beautifully recounted in Black Code and used to frame a larger, vivid narrative of a network that is global, vital and terribly fragile.
Yes, fragile. The value of the Internet to us as a species is incalculable, but there are plenty of parties for whom the Internet’s value increases when it is selectively broken.
which discovered as many as three thousand planets beyond our solar system. (About 10% of them now confirmed.) Only two of the four gyro systems are still working, not enough for the probe to aim at more than a hundred thousand stars with uncanny accuracy, each day. While this will be a sad loss, the epoch introduced by the Kepler Mission bodes well for you understanding of the universe.
Can we agree by national consensus about just one thing? That we must follow this up with something even better and more grand? Say to yourself… aloud… the following words.
"I am a member of a civilization that does stuff like that."
If that is not a tonic against cynicism, I cannot imagine there being any hope for you, alas.
Take just one glimpse of what Kepler did for us… planets called Kepler-62e and -62f, are by far the best candidates for habitability of any found so far, and because of their sizes and orbits, the newfound planets are likely either rocky—like Earth—or watery, NASA scientists said. Also see Kepler's Greatest Hits: Water Worlds, Tatooines and Earth Twins. And an animation of the new exoplanets found by Kepler.
== The Barnstorming Era in Space Begins ==
In another posting -- and in a fascinating panel discussion for the Reinventors Network with Chris McKay, Geoffrey Landis and others -- I have described how our entry into a new "barnstorming era" will feature an exceptional number of bold private or semi-private ventures in space. I've lately posted and spoken about the Mars proposals... and next week the topic will be starships!
But let's turn back to the "middle horizon" of the moon -- not (I'll admit) may favorite destination, scientifically or economically. But still transfixing. Golden Spike is a moon-aimed venture that stands in that intermediate territory, between the hugely ambitious (and iffy) Mars One and Inspiration Mars missions and the far more near-term and already commercially viable SpaceX and Virgin Galactic concepts. (My favorite, Planetary Resources, also fits in the intermediate zone, aiming for a destination that might make us all rich.)
Golden Spike hopes to create the infrastructure for manned, round-trip jaunts to the Moon's surface, for less than a billion dollars each. Tallyho you rich dudes. I totally approve. Amateur space flight is one excellent recycling system for excess-toxic accumulations of lucre, in ways that will eventually lower the costs for everyone else. (Also illustrated in some vivid scenes from Existence. )
Now: James Fallows at The Atlantic interviewed Eric C. Anderson, a co-founder and chairman of Space Adventures, a company focused on sending people to space. Mining asteroids is seen as a key component to making such travel possible.
Why go? Well, famed physicist Stephen Hawking says: Mankind must colonize space to survive.
== NASA Corner ==
From my recent service as a member of the Advisory Board for NIAC (NASA Innovative and Advanced Concepts) group: A supersonic, bidirectional flying wing idea comes from a team headed by GeCheng Zha, an aerospace engineer at Florida State University. In this revolutionary (and kind of unnerving) concept, a midair transformation allows the aircraft to fly in its most fuel-efficient modes at both subsonic and supersonic speeds. Jet engines atop the aircraft would stay aimed in the travel direction. But after takeoff and subsonic cruise, the aircraft would then rotate under the engines to present its narrow cross section forward, allowing rapid and smooth acceleration to supersonic flight. A real brain twister, but intriguing!
NIAC liked the idea enough to give Zha and his colleagues a $100,000 grant (and I offered some friendly advice.) But the U.S. space agency does not expect such funded concepts to test fly for at least another 20 years or so.
Here's another. See this NASA Animation: Asteroid Retrieval & Utilization Mission aims to robotically capture a small near-Earth asteroid and direct it into a stable lunar orbit where astronauts can explore it. An excellent concept with just the right combination of plausibility and ambitious reach, that's also very compatible with the notions of Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries. An excellent mid-future goal, with some potential for unleashing a cornucopia.
Alternatively, will we mine the moon?
Meanwhile, NASA's still in the game of developing great big boosters. The agency's new Space Launch System is on track for a 2017 launch of a Mars bound rocket.
More than skin deep….NASA’s Mars Icebreaker Mission would drill about a meter below the icy surface of the northern plains of Mars, looking for organic biomarkers as evidence of life on the red planet. The mission would likely launch in 2018.
Some news for you open source nerds! NASA has switched to using Debian 6 Linux for the 80 working laptops and LAN network aboad the International Space Station (ISS.)
The guts of NASA's newest cubesat test satellite? A Nexus Android phone. Phone-sat will see how little more is needed to operate in space, take Earth pix and self-diagnose before burning up. Get familiar with Cube-Sats. They are how "barnstorming" can happen at the low-cheap end, where universities, small companies and even passionate clubs may get to try something out. If combined with cheap, easily deployed solar sails (coming at last) we could see much of the solar system opened up for the Age of Amateurs.
Aw heck, you've already seen Space Oddity, but in case you've been hiding in a closet, here's the viral video from Commander Mark Hadfield recorded aboard the ISS -- this singing astronaut gives a terrific weightless version of David Bowie. Zowee!
== More Space Miscellany ==
The age determination of a deep-drill core from the Pacific Ocean showed that the supernova explosion must have occurred about 2.2 million years ago, roughly around the time when the modern human developed. Isotopic inspection of bacterial fossils containing tiny crystals of magnetite (Fe3O4) show some iron isotopes that would have decayed by now if not caused by a very recent supernova. We know lots more about the (pre-Noah) past than some folks allow into their philosophy, alas. In this case, it makes you envision our australopithecine forebears staring up, in wonder. And changing.
Cool..Dramatic look at earth's past! Bolides -- An interactive animation showing every eye-witnessed meteorite impact thru Earth's history -- 1,107 eye-witnessed meteorites as of 2013.
Are we at a turning point in space exploration? See Neil deGrasse Tyson's latest book: Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier. No one can say it better than Tyson -- who argues that we must regain our curiosity and enthusiasm for what lies beyond.
And now, from the sublime to the ridiculous? Alien? Subhuman primate? Deformed child? Mummified fetus? The Internet is buzzing over the nature of "Ata," a bizarre 6-inch-long skeleton featured in a new documentary on UFOs. "A Stanford University scientist who boldly entered the fray has now put to rest doubts about what species Ata belongs to." The "news" is that Ata's DNA is human. Okay, no aliens. Phew. But why no provenance, peer-reviewed articles, outside validations or systematic investigations? I have to tell you, something smells fishy. I keep a "sci fi corner" of my mind ready, always, for something fantastic to come into our world. But 99% of the time, I am rewarded by my scientific side riding herd on wild enthusiasms.
There is a reason that science mostly works. It incorporates skepticism… or it ain't science. Fiction is great. It's important. But it is fiction.. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)
Hacking Politics is a new book recounting the history of the fight against SOPA, when geeks, hackers and activists turned Washington politics upside-down and changed how Congress thinks about the Internet. It collects essays by many people (including me): Aaron Swartz, Larry Lessig, Zoe Lofgren, Mike Masnick, Kim Dotcom, Nicole Powers, Tiffiny Cheng, Alexis Ohanian, and many others. It's a name-your-price ebook download.
Hacking Politics is a firsthand account of how a ragtag band of activists and technologists overcame a $90 million lobbying machine to defeat the most serious threat to Internet freedom in memory. The book is a revealing look at how Washington works today – and how citizens successfully fought back.
Written by the core Internet figures – video gamers, Tea Partiers, tech titans, lefty activists and ordinary Americans among them – who defeated a pair of special interest bills called SOPA (“Stop Online Piracy Act”) and PIPA (“Protect IP Act”), Hacking Politics provides the first detailed account of the glorious, grand chaos that led to the demise of that legislation and helped foster an Internet-based network of amateur activists.