Natural Sciences

RIP Fluff, 2011-2018

Losing a beloved animal friend is always hard, but it is even harder when they are taken from you too soon.  Last night, unexpectedly, our beloved kitty Fluff passed away at the age of 6.

Fluff in December.

He apparently passed very quickly, and without any warning signs. He had just had a vet checkup the week before, and even the morning he passed he was energetic and happy.  It seems likely that the cause of his death was a congenital heart or brain defect that caught up with him suddenly....

Arsonist falcons suggest birds discovered fire before humans did

Arsonist falcons suggest birds discovered fire before humans did:

Okay, it can be creepy enough thinking of birds of prey as flying carnivorous dinosaurs. But now you can also think of them as flying carnivorous dinosaurs that like to burn things. From New Scientist

Some birds of prey have learned to control fire, a skill previously thought to be unique to humans. The birds appear to deliberately spread wildfires in order to flush out prey. The finding suggests that birds...

Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker

They are intelligent machines the size of a small moon, packed with enough weaponry to cauterize the surface of countless planets and destroy any defenders. They bear the scars of countless battles, which they have always won.  They were built millennia ago by one alien empire to eradicate the other — the doomsday weapons followed their programming to the letter and eliminated both.  They have one purpose: the extermination of all life.

And now they have come across...

Spoiler-filled The Last Jedi thoughts and open discussion thread

When I saw The Force Awakens two years ago, I needed a place to share my thoughts without sharing Star Wars spoilers all over the internet, and my blog turned out to be the perfect place to do it. The same problem arises for The Last Jedi which, on a whim, I went and saw super-late on opening night Thursday. My only twitter comment:

This response also seemed appropriate:

mszombi: imagineham: plume: OMG everyone I know the ACTUAL...













mszombi:

imagineham:

plume:

OMG everyone I know the ACTUAL story behind the gif this time!

Yes, it’s in Australia– that’s a big angry goanna that wandered into a popular restaurant. All the Australians in the vicinity went OH FUCK NO and cleared off, because goannas are mean.

The waitress you see there is a French exchange student, who was quoted as saying something to the effect of “I thought it was a weird ugly dog” and had no idea it was a reptile that wanted to rip her...

Fred Saberhagen’s Swords Trilogy

At the end of 2017, we were treated to the news that Amazon was planning a new series based on Tolkien’s classic Lord of the Rings series. The response on the internet seemed to be a bit of a collective groan, as the last Hobbit movie just came out four years ago, and the last of the epic Lord of the Rings movies was only 15 years ago.  Many, including myself, asked: aren’t there any other epic fantasy series that could be adapted instead?

Of course there are many. One example...

Non-Stop, by Brian Aldiss

I often come across classic books to read through unexpected, even surprising, avenues. An example of this is Non-Stop (1958), by Brian Aldiss, which I just finished reading the other day and enjoyed immensely.

I only learned about Non-Stop because it ended up being the inspiration for the very first science fiction role-playing game, Metamorphosis Alpha, a classic in its own right.  (I discussed Metamorphosis Alpha in a recent blog post.)  It is a magnificent and unusual...

The Real Danger To Civilization Isn’t AI. It’s Runaway Capitalism

The Real Danger To Civilization Isn’t AI. It’s Runaway Capitalism:

I don’t include a lot of social commentary on this blog, but if you want to read an excellent, even brilliant, piece on the dangers of AI, look no further than this article written by the amazing science fiction author Ted Chiang.

Speaking to Maureen Dowd for a Vanity Fair article published in April, Musk gave an example of an artificial intelligence that’s given the task of picking strawberries. It seems...

Keepers of the Flame: The vintage RPGs that still survive and thrive

I’ve been on a bit of a nostalgia kick lately, investigating (and buying) copies and components of those classic pen-and-paper role-playing games that I played or always wanted to play. Along the way, I’ve learned that quite a few of these early RPGs still have dedicated communities and fan followings that keep them alive — “keeping the flame burning,” so to speak.  I thought it would be fun to talk about a few of these in a short post!

Dawn Patrol...

typhlonectes: Munnopsid isopods are often found walking along...



typhlonectes:

Munnopsid isopods are often found walking along the abyssal plain.

These “Daddy Long Legs” of the deep have long walking legs and antennae making them well-suited for this habitat, but they can also swim by paddling their legs.

This species, Paropsurus giganteus, can get quite large. Lasers mounted on the ROV’s camera housing (the red dots you see) measure 29 centimeters (11.4 inches). This species lives deep on the seafloor, over 3,000 meters, but there...

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