Researchers at the University of Queensland have made the very first execution of a quantum calculation. By manipulating entangled photons, they calculated the prime factors of the number 15.
In addition to being a major step towards building the first quantum computers, this breakthrough is of interest because it could potentially be used to break the kinds of strong encryption that elude conventional computers.
Link (via Neatorama)
A bit too late for Christmas, but if you’re looking for some geek-friendly games to play at an upcoming gathering, Wired has a pretty neat list.
Hey! That’s My Fish!
Mayfair Games, two to four players, ages 8 and up, $25
Buy it for: The geek with young geeklings
You play: Hungry penguins with an inexplicable fear of water
The object: Gorge yourself on suicidal fish more efficiently than anyone else.
I’m really quite taken with a couple of these, particularly Ra and Fiji.
Posted in Ephemera December 28th, 2007 by Chip
The Website at the End of the Universe has an interesting post about why SF isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, including links to several articles about the subject and a bonus link to a non-fan’s blog. I particularly like the non-fan’s post, which can be summed up as, “I don’t like SF ‘cuz I’m dumb.” That’s refreshingly honest.
Charles Stross talks about his new book, Saturn’s Children, on the Penguin Books blog:
I never met Mr. Heinlein, but I’ve felt his ghost breathing down my neck periodically, ever since I began writing science fiction. And I must admit, I resent it.
Link (via SF Signal)
Posted in News December 26th, 2007 by Chip
Here’s wishing you a bright and joyous holiday from the whole O*W*C gang!
What better way to celebrate an SF Christmas than with this version of “My Favorite Things?”
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion
Apollo and Starbuck each smoking a Cylon
Flash Gordon in a long swordfight with Ming
These are a few of my favorite things…
Green colored brunettes and tea, Earl Grey, hot,
Jedi and and Jawas and Rancors with snot
Shotgunning boatloads of zombies with Ving,
These are a few of my favorite things…
Go read the rest here.
Posted in Ephemera December 25th, 2007 by Chip
Sci Fi Scanner makes an interesting point about Star Wars, which I’ve never really thought much about:
The portion of “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” we often forget — even though it’s the most important—is the “long time ago” part. Star Wars, unlike most sci-fi, is not about the future: It’s about the distant past of alien species utterly unconnected to humanity.
But if we were to fly to Coruscant today, what would we find? Would the city planet be the rusting hulk of a once great capital, the inter-cosmic ruins of Rome? What would archeologists find, exploring Hoth, Degobah [sic] or Tattooine?
That was the theme of the winning entry for Starship Modeler’s recent “Wrecks” contest: A battle-damaged AT-AT, long abandoned and looking uncomfortably like a wounded animal. This is just an insanely detailed piece, and even hints at a backstory involving primitive squatters using the thing as a shelter.
Posted in Ephemera December 24th, 2007 by Chip
Esquire has an interesting article about six new technologies that have the potential to be vastly influential. Some sound like they’re right out of a Gibson novel.
But those without prostheses will benefit from Lacour’s innovation as well. She envisions T-shirts embedded with electronics that can detect if a baby has stopped breathing and a foldable GPS-enabled map. Then there are the crazier, more fun ideas Lacour dreams up on a daily basis — things like interactive tattoos that might change from a lion to a tiger to a skull, depending upon your mood or outfit.
Link (via Forever Geek)
Posted in Science December 21st, 2007 by Chip
SF Revue has a fairly lengthy interview with Tim Powers, whom I’ve discussed previously, and who was kind enough to join us in chat a few years ago.
SFRevu: We won’t try to classify exactly which genre your writing falls under, but do you find this actually helps you rather than hinders you? In other words, you’re not bound by the particulars of any one genre.
Tim: I think of the genre I write in as “that stuff that gets reviewed in Locus.” If I had to get more specific I might say I write Urban Fantasy — certainly there always seems to be some supernatural element in my stuff — but also I certainly feel free to put in scientific-sounding scaffolding! (Thank God for Asimov’s science articles!) The only thing I’d insist I’m not doing — not that anyone has said I do it — is mainstream. I can’t imagine writing a story in which somebody’s dead grandfather does not call him up on the phone at some point.
It’s fun to read about his creative process. The fact that he’s co-authored a cookbook with James Blaylock was somewhat surprising.
Link (via SF Signal)
BoingBoing has posted their yearly charitable gift-giving guide, primarily concentrating on US, UK, and Canadian nonprofits that are concerned with electronic freedom.
Electronic Frontier Foundation: EFF always gets my largest annual donation.
Last year: No organization works harder, spends smarter and gets more done for your personal long-term technological liberty than EFF. I spent years inside the org and I know for a fact that every dime donated makes a difference.
This year: Man, that goes TRIPLE this year. EFF’s major work on clobbering the NSA and AT&T for their massive, illegal wiretapping program has convinced me to give EFF more money than I’ve ever given to a charity in my life. If one organization is going to keep the Internet free and open, it’s EFF. Add to that a raft of incredibly smart hires this year, and you’ve got a powerhouse organization that deserves everything you can spare for them.
The EFF frequently gets my charitable dollar as well, but there’s lots more–Creative Commons, The Internet Archive, NO2ID, et cetera–to choose from.
(p.s. – If you want to do something a little more traditional, check out Heifer International, my favorite meatspace charity.)
Apparently it’s like Festivus, but with more squid.
This sadly-neglected holiday is coming up on December 22, so there’s still time to get something slimy for your loved ones!
Link (via Cynical-C)
Posted in Squid December 18th, 2007 by Chip