Science Fiction Brewed Fresh Daily

Science Marches On

Surgery to create an artificial hymen and “restore” virginity has been around for a while now and is particularly popular in Japan. Now the Japanese have devised an even cheaper alternative: A $14.99 gadget which is inserted about 20 minutes before intercourse. It expands to create a “tight feeling” and releases a blood-like fluid.

Traditional religious sorts are extremely displeased with this idea and Egypt is considering the death penalty for anyone caught importing the product.

I sort of love that scientific advances–even silly ones like this–are slowly prying loose the stranglehold that fundamentalist religion has on human thought. Also the thought of an Egyptian hymen cartel makes me giggle.

(via Weird Universe)

Posted in Ephemera, Science September 30th, 2009 by Chip
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The Bloggage of the Beagle

The Voyage of the Beagle site takes entries from Charles Darwin’s daily journal and posts them as blog entries, including pictures and maps.

The day has passed delightfully. I have been wandering by myself in a Brazilian forest: amongst the multitude it is hard to say what set of objects is most striking; the general luxuriance of the vegetation bears the victory, the elegance of the grasses, the novelty of the parasitical plants, the beauty of the flowers. — the glossy green of the foliage, all tend to this end.

A most paradoxical mixture of sound & silence pervades the shady parts of the wood, the noise from the insects is so loud that in the evening it can be heard even in a vessel anchored several hundred yards from the shore. Yet within the recesses of the forest when in the midst of it a universal stillness appears to reign. To a person fond of natural history such a day as this brings with it pleasure more acute than he ever may again experience.

The mixture of Darwin’s observations and the immediacy of the blog format is interesting, and the bite-size entries let you follow along each day.

(via Charlie’s Playhouse)

Posted in Science September 29th, 2009 by Chip
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DNA Sequencing Made Easy

DNAGene sequencing has been in the news a lot lately (in fact, an international team has just cracked the potato genome), and Ars Technica has posted the first of what they promise will be a series of articles on the basics of DNA sequencing.


Posted in Science September 28th, 2009 by Chip
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Cosmos Remixed


If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch
You must first invent the universe

Space is filled with a network of wormholes
You might emerge somewhere else in space
Some when-else in time

The sky calls to us
If we do not destroy ourselves
We will one day venture to the stars

A still more glorious dawn awaits
Not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise
A morning filled with 400 billion suns
The rising of the milky way

The Cosmos is full beyond measure of elegant truths
Of exquisite interrelationships
Of the awesome machinery of nature

I believe our future depends powerfully
On how well we understand this cosmos
In which we float like a mote of dust
In the morning sky

But the brain does much more than just recollect
It inter-compares, it synthesizes, it analyzes
it generates abstractions

The simplest thought like the concept of the number one
Has an elaborate logical underpinning
The brain has it’s own language
For testing the structure and consistency of the world

For thousands of years
People have wondered about the universe
Did it stretch out forever
Or was there a limit

From the big bang to black holes
From dark matter to a possible big crunch
Our image of the universe today
Is full of strange sounding ideas

How lucky we are to live in this time
The first moment in human history
When we are in fact visiting other worlds

The surface of the earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean
Recently we’ve waded a little way out
And the water seems inviting

(via forgetomori)

Posted in Science September 25th, 2009 by Chip
1 comment

The Day the Death Star Went Down

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars, where many of the comments are highly entertaining)

Posted in Ephemera September 24th, 2009 by Chip
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Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager

I’m not sure how these escaped my notice until now, but there’s a whole series of short videos featuring Darth Vader’s younger brother Chad, who’s a day shift manager of a grocery store.

Episode 1 is below. The rest are available on Chad’s YouTube Channel.

(Also I’m not sure why I’ve suddenly got a Star Wars theme going on here on the blog. I’ll try to correct that.)

Posted in Humor September 23rd, 2009 by Chip
1 comment

Star Non-Violent Resistance

Star Wars as environmentalist manifesto, using eco-tourism to establish independence from the Empire.

I’m really enormously taken with the idea of Darth Vader having to file environmental impact statements.

(via BoingBoing)

Posted in Humor September 22nd, 2009 by Chip
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Leia’s Metal Bikini

LMB LogoThis site is exhaustively and entirely devoted to just exactly what you’d think it is.

It goes without saying that there are more photos than you can shake a bantha at, along with a fan art gallery. If some of the images were NSFW, I would not be particularly surprised.

There are links to tutorials for making a bikini of your very own, as well as to sites where you can purchase one ready-made. There’s a Coming Soon link for LMB “merchandise,” although I don’t know if that will be T-shirts or action figures or what.

This site is definitely a one-stop shop for all of your Leia’s metal bikini needs.


Posted in Movies & TV September 21st, 2009 by Chip
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Securing the Geek Vote

Obama Wan Kenobi

Explanation of this vision here.

(via Dave Lowe)

Posted in Ephemera September 18th, 2009 by Chip
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It’s September…

…so it’s time for my annual Worldcon/Hugo rant.

I believe that the time has come for us to consider, like it or not, the need for changing the name of the World Science Fiction Convention to something like the World Speculative Fiction Convention, the World Convention for Fantastic Literature, the (to paraphrase Locus’ cover) World Convention of Science Fiction & Fantasy, or something equally as amorphous as the recent criteria for nominating and dispensing the Hugo Awards.

First, let me say that I am not a literary bigot. I’m not claiming that fantasy is, in any way, a literary product inferior to science fiction. About 25% of my fiction reading consists of fantasy, but, when I nominate work for the Hugo Awards, or vote for a nominated work, it would never occur to me to consider fantasy as an option. There is already a World Fantasy Convention and a World Fantasy Award, and they don’t consider science fiction to be eligible. Fantasy has a palpably different internal structure and tradition than science fiction, and its increasingly common inclusion on Hugo ballots is like allowing wolves to compete in an AKC competition; it skews the judging criteria. To drag a bad analogy farther down the road, the inclusion of YA work (fantasy or SF) on Hugo ballots is like tossing puppies into that same competition; puppies are sometimes irresistibly cuter than adult dogs. Lest the dozen or so people who will read this post think I’m ranting about occasional, statistically insignificant aberrations from the putative norm, let me run some numbers here. In the years spanning 1990 -1999 there were ten Hugos for best novel awarded to 10 books that were inarguably science fiction. There were no “borderline” (slipstream, AH, etc.) novels receiving the Best Novel award; each book was straight-up SF. In the following decade, 2000-2009, the ten awards for best novel break down as follows:

Fantasy — 5
Science Fiction — 4
Difficult to categorize — 1 (Michael Chabon’s THE YIDDISH POLICEMAN’S BALL, which is probably closest in category to Alternate History, which, by association, is most often grandfathered into science fiction, so, if pressed, I’d probably allow that the ten awards split 5:5)

There are probably some people who would argue that one of the awarded fantasy novels, Susanna Clarke’s JONATHON STRANGE & DR NORRELL is also AH. To them I say — if your only reason in writing an alternate history is to introduce magic, Faerie and dragons into Dickensian England then — well, I’m just sayin’.

Additionally, two of the five fantasy books that won the best novel award during the 00s were YA works, so the nominating and voting segments of fandom announced that the most prestigious fan award for science fiction, i.e. the best the genre had to offer, would be bestowed upon a pair of fantasy novels written for adolescents.

In the September, 2009 edition of LOCUS, there are 23 novels reviewed. Seventeen are fantasy.

In the most recent SFBC mailing, fantasy titles outnumber SF titles 2:1. In some mailings, recently, the ratio has been as high as 3:1.

I’m aware of the market forces at work in the publishing industry, and I read the publishing numbers each year. I’m aware of the impact that HP had on YA and, by extension, the already burgeoning fantasy category in general. I also know that the LOTR movie franchise certainly didn’t hurt the consolatory fantasy market. Fantasy is more lucrative than SF at every level from the author up, at the moment, and publishers active in this category won’t be satisfied until every potential reader on the planet is mired, hip-deep, in at least one interminable consolatory fantasy series. I also know that the group of people who nominate and vote for the Hugos each year is probably largely static, and mostly 30-60 years old. And let’s be honest, today’s SF is not your father’s SF — or even your younger self’s SF. It’s darker, meaner, morally ambiguous, considerably more complex, (and frankly, better written), as a rule, than the more optimistic sensawunda-fests that we middle-aged fans remember from our youth. Personally, I celebrate the changes that have occurred in SF literature over the years, but I have a number of friends around my age who would rather retreat into the work of past decades, or, alternately, cross over into the relatively safe territory of fantasy, particularly high or consolatory fantasy, where the rules are fairly predictable and the hobbits usually win. This crossover has been made particularly easy by authors, largely known for writing SF, who have transitioned into writing fantasy occasionally or exclusively. Additionally, some of these same people seem to prefer the relative simplicity of YA work, which I understand is read more by adults than by its target market. I do believe that YA work should be included in consideration for Hugo awards, but I would prefer to see it have its own category.

But, getting back to the point — whether Wolrdcon needs to change its mission statement as a convention dedicated to the literature of science fiction to include fantastic fiction in general — in my opinion, this is a matter of the tail wagging the dog. SF is definitely a subset of fantasy, but it’s my particular, favorite subset. Even though the number of SF titles, as a percentage of all titles published in the U.S. and U.K. has been in a bumpy but general decline over the past few years, there remain far more SF titles published each year than any one individual could ever hope to assimilate over the same period of time. I’ve been told by several older fans and writers who attended Worldcons in the 1950s and 1960s that a dedicated reader could cover almost everything published each year before the convention, and those conventions were legendary. Today there is an exponentially larger amount of genre fiction and media for a yearly convention to draw upon.

And it should be dedicated to science fiction.

Posted in Books & Authors September 17th, 2009 by Shadow