Putting the life back in science fiction


Tekelili! The Wilkes Land Gravitational Anomaly

Another little post, this one on a news item a few months old.  Whenever someone spots a gravity anomaly in Antarctica, people get silly, write things about how the tinfoil hat brigade think it’s a UFO, or an alien base, or NAZIs.   They’re so silly.  Of course it’s shoggoth (not sure what the singular or plural is.  Since shoggoth is sort of like concrete or nanotech, is it singular, plural, collective singular, collective plural, or what?).  Anything that close to the Transantarctic Mountains has to be.  it’s canon.

More seriously, there’s some potentially interesting science buried under the ice.   Continue reading



Dystopias in the time of Bannon
February 13, 2017, 12:10 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Just a quick thought and update.  There are two reasons I’m not writing much here.  One is that I’m swamped with environmental work.  With the combination of a wet spring (good for botanizing), four separate EIRs to comment on and more coming in every week, and two botanical papers to write, I haven’t been concentrating so much on climate change.  Then there’s the current political climate, which has me reading about non-violent conflict.  Yes, I’m a scholar at heart, and I respond to slow-motion crises by hitting the library first.  This second leads to my quick thought for the day:  given that we in the US have a capitol infested with wingnuts, the leader of which seems to believe in a (expletive deleted) theory of cycles of history that regenerate in cataclysms, how does one talk about the process and aftermath of severe climate change without feeding into the wingnut narrative?

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The Malthus-Boserup Ratchet
February 7, 2017, 11:05 pm
Filed under: climate change, Oceania, sustainability, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

This is an idea I picked up from Patrick Kirch.  While it is used to explain population growth by Polynesian archaeologists, I’m starting to wonder if it can be repurposed to a wider context.  The basic idea starts with the notion that, just perhaps, Malthus was wrong.

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The Way of the Island Locust

Sorry for the click-bait title, this has nothing to do with martial arts.  It’s a reference to a post I wrote in December 2015 about humans being locust-like in our ability to have mass outbreaks when and where conditions are right.  My idea was that we call these outbreaks civilization.  I came at this from the biology side, but of course the anthropologists and archaeologists have been looking at the same phenomenon in their own way for quite a long time.  Over Christmas, I ran into a highly readable version of their thinking based on archaeology and anthropology from Oceania, one of my favorite regions, and…

well, there hangs a substory.  I was originally going to post this after Christmas, but I realized I didn’t quite understand what was going on.  So I read more books by the same author (Patrick Kirch), developed some germ of understanding about what he thinks is going on, and finally looked up to realize that it’s been a long time since I posted last.  Anyway, if you want to read about my holiday reading, aka how a small group of people settled the Pacific using mostly indigenous resources and founded one and possibly two archaic, pristine states, then read more after the jump.

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2016 Predictions: The roadkill edition
December 27, 2016, 5:35 pm
Filed under: 2016, climate change, Hot Earth Dreams, Speculation, Uncategorized | Tags:

As 2016 waits for the knackers, I figured I’d go back to the predictions I made last January to see how far off I was.  While yes, I understand that I’m not supposed to look backwards, because the past is gaining on us and they’ve got the original papers on what we owe the future, well, I’m still a pessimist, so let’s see what I got wrong.  Or right.   Continue reading



Interesting Times
December 11, 2016, 1:46 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

To quote Talking Points Memo: “Trump’s administration ends up being made up of plutocrats, right wing extremists and generals. Basically, exactly what you should have expected, unless you were stupid.”  Yes, El Cheeto Grande is probably a Russian tool, yes, the electors should do their jobs and hire someone else, not that I expect them to, and yes, this looks like another coup for Big Oil, which is in bed with both Russia and many US politicians, most especially those in the Republican Party (many of the latter might be chained to the bed, but that’s a different industry).

When I wrote Hot Earth Dreams, I naively thought that our addiction to oil was self-inflicted, that it was more about us not willing or able to break the habit than about having the pushers put guns to our heads to forcibly derail any attempts to get off oil, by, say, going solar, getting an electric car, or paying attention to what the climate is doing.  That’s another thing that needs to change in the next edition of Hot Earth Dreams.  We do have solutions, but we’re being prevented from implementing them.  It’s not our own moral weakness.

I’ll also point out that there are parallels here with both what the tobacco industry did in the 20th century and what the slave industrial complex did in the 19th century.  In that latter case, remember what happened when we forced the issue?  Well, when someone launches a carbon-neutral cyberwar, that will be the 21st Century equivalent of the American Civil War, on a global scale.  However, we’re not yet so embedded in our Internet of Things that we’re sufficiently vulnerable to such attacks.  Yet.  Want to get that internet-enabled burglar alarm for Christmas?  Maybe you should buy it for those embarrassing family members who voted red in November.  Don’t tell them how to change the password, either.

Actually, I didn’t want to talk about this stuff, but reality keeps interfering with my plans to write a nice, philosophical piece about the problems with populism, isolationism, and the whole back-to-the-land meme that we all seem to turn to as the cure for all ills, right or wrong.  Oh well.  Instead, I’d rather talk about the weather.

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Chaos and the Art of the Dead Cat
November 23, 2016, 10:46 pm
Filed under: 2016, American politics, Uncategorized | Tags:

I know, I know, everybody’s getting stressed out about acting thankful tomorrow, and I’m supposed to put out a message about what I’m thankful for (which is a lot, actually.  I’m still breathing.  That counts for something).

Unfortunately, I’m just providing ammo for that Thanksgiving political argument you don’t want to get into.  So if you’re not interested in that, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and read the rest of this on Friday.

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