Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Labor Day

...and commiserations to schoolchildren everywhere. (I always felt I had it worse than most as pretty much every year the first day of school was my birthday).

Good luck to those starting college (or graduate school). Or, well, school.

It doesn't feel much like fall here yet, but I suppose it's coming.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Updates

I can't talk about it much yet, but keep an eye on Damien Broderick - he's up to something that might just involve some really nice short fiction.

Strange Voyages interior art is progressing really well and on schedule.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kids, Guns, Arizona

You may or may not have heard about the incident on a shooting range in Arizona. A nine-year-old girl was being allowed to fire a mini-Uzi. She lost control of the weapon and ended up shooting her instructor in the head.

Both gun control advocates and responsible gun owners have spoken out about this. (Gun rights idiots have, of course, pointed out that the range wasn't breaking any laws).

Well, no. Only the law of common sense.

A nine-year-old girl is a pretty small person, in general. Automatic weapons - and she was firing the weapon on full auto - do this thing called "climbing." where the barrel tends to drift upwards. (Another interpretation of the situation was that the stock was not secure against her shoulder, slipped, and she squeezed the trigger again trying not to drop the gun - something which has got inexperienced shooters killed before).

The range was the World Famous Arizona Last Stop, a roadside attraction on US 93 in Arizona. It offered a designer, a cafe, an RV park...and the opportunity to shoot a machine gun.

This wasn't a professional training range. It was a tourist trap where people off the street, including children as young as eight, could get the experience of playing with an automatic weapon. I attempted to load a website that might have had more information, but it appears to be down. The range itself is "closed indefinitely."

I'm not a gun control freak - it's one way in which I diverge from most liberals. I have nothing against the responsible use and ownership of firearms.

But...the gun owners I've talked to about this all unite on one point.

Nine year olds are not physically or mentally ready to shoot fully automatic weapons. To be blunt, they are simply too small to handle the recoil and may not quite understand how deadly what they have in their hands is - a lesson one little girl learned in the most traumatic way possible.

Children should not be shooting machine guns. If you want to teach your kid to shoot, give them a .22 targeting pistol or a properly designed youth gun. Not a mini-Uzi.

And in my opinion a place that bills itself as a chance for untrained people to play with machine guns was an accident waiting to happen.

The Sheriff's Office is pursuing no charges - presumably having decided that the party responsible for the accident was the dead instructor. But some responsibility has to fall on his employers. This wasn't a case where the client begged for the chance to try - it was their entire business model. And maybe even a little bit on the parents, who might have been able to see (might) that this wasn't a good idea. Legal does not mean smart or safe.

I compare this incident to putting a nine-year-old girl on a fully race-fit Thoroughbred. Adults are responsible for not letting children handle things they simply don't have the body mass or skill to control.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

So, How Many Dimensions?

...in the universe, that is. Susan Foreman in "The Unearthly Child" informs us there are five - counting space and time.

In the 1960s that was advanced physics. Today? Today we're not sure. String theory supports dozens of dimensions, but most of them are too small for us to see. And today we think space and time are basically aspects of the same thing.

But now, just to confuse the matter, physicist are thinking there may only be two.

What? Are we saying we live in Flatland now? This all, like the idea of almost infinite dimensions, goes back to string theory. String theory suggests that the entire universe is an optical illusion - a hologram created by light diffraction. Another piece of evidence - the fact that it seems you can't have anything smaller than the Planck length - is that the pixel of the universe? And the Holometer at Fermilab is supposed to find out.

I don't buy it, but then neither would the people of Flatland buy three dimensions. So... Also, the Holometer may answer other basic questions about space and time.

And if the universe really is a hologram, what does that mean for us? (Why am I suddenly flashing back to Reynolds' Terminal World? Oh, right, pixel sizes).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Welcome Our Robot Overlords?

Humans are weird.

A (small) study indicated that if you put humans working with robots on a task, the humans are not just more efficient but happier if you let the robots be the boss.

It might be that we see robots as impartial? Or maybe people just like to be ordered around. Number Five, what do you think on the matter?

(Sorry).

The study is part of efforts to design a workplace in which humans and robots are integrated. And the truth is that the study participants found it easier to trust robots that seemed to have more of a mind of their own.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hug a tree!

(For Groot, as Vin Diesel might say).

If you're a koala, hugging a tree helps cool you down on hot days. It also works for leopards...and even your own house cat (so if your cat climbs a tree and flops on a branch, they're probably feeling the heat).

And, yes, chimps do it too. Humans? With no body hair, the effect - the tree's circulation pulling heat away from the animal - might be even more pronounced. Our ancestors likely hugged trees to cool down on warm days and possibly even to warm up on cold ones (although as we originated as a tropical species...)

So, go ahead. Hug a tree on a hot day. You never know, it might help you feel better.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Updates

I have been invited back to RavenCon for 2015 - hope to see at least a few of you in Richmond.

(Only piece of news I can tell, but at least it's a good one).