Tag Archives: reading

AI IS HERE

Collateral movie

If artificial intelligence in the hard sense (real thoughts) is not here yet, the soft kind (with robots) definitely is. In the new Blade Runner we see replicants acting “more human than human.” Humans have become brutal or apathetic, the result of what musician/philosophy David Byrne calls our cultural disconnection. Read THIS. Driverless cars are being created to produce more time for people to be on their screens (iPhones, tablets), allowing the big four to track people everywhere, and customize ads that categorize and target. (The opening of Blade Runner 2049 shows Ryan Gosling asleep in the driver’s seat of his flying car…which is flying.) Spying is everywhere, as today, and as revealed in the books Riveted, Weapons of Math Destruction, The Filter Bubble, Utopia is Creepy, The Four, and Future Crimes. One of the unintended results of customization (besides profits) is to polarize beliefs: you never see alternative views, because The Four only show you (in search and in ads) things you already believe, including conspiracy theories and fake news. Only by reading books can you see the whole picture, because even the networks are in the pockets of advertisers and drug companies. And literacy is slowly declining as more people turn to TV and the internet for one-liners and  “factoids,” as Ray Bradbury called them in Fahrenheit 451, about burning books. One of the lines from that movie was rendered by an Overseer: “More sports for everyone.” (He meant it as a substitute for reading, to keep people in line, as slaves to the system.) A giant Coca-Cola sign is seen in both Blade Runners, as part of the brand-washing (read Brandwashed or The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World’s Favorite Soft Drink.) The networks, or Coke itself, never mentioned these books. It is easier to double down on cute commercials for their diabetes and cancer-causing products requiring prescription drugs to treat at massive cost (while the new Drug Czar is a former Big Pharma confidant sponsoring a bill to repress prosecution of drug distributors involved in the Opioid epidemic.) Do you doubt any of this? It may be because you didn’t hear about it on the news. They have vested interests not to tell you. To keep you in the dark. You can bet that 60 MInutes is coming under fire for their report this past Sunday. Once they (and Frontline) is shut down, along with all whistleblowers, what happens then? Blade Runner 2049 happens, for real. That’s what happens. It is predicted that climate change, if ignored until 2100, will cost $600 Trillion to fix. That’s a T, in today’s dollars. Many will need to die first. But even by next year, perhaps, terrorists can sit back and watch as a Category 5 hits Miami and wipes out all those homes now shown on “Beachfront Bargain Hunt” or “My Lottery Dream Home.” In San Francisco, building codes were ignored as people watched TV, so what happens if a 10.0 quake hits the San Andreas? Most of the city (and other cities not yet burning) reduced to rubble. What happens to the economy then? Maybe Leonardo diCaprio is right. Maybe those on Instagram posting images of his satirical movie The Wolf of Wall Street should go to his actual IG account and check it out. Coffee? Time to wake up.

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Ripples in Spacetime Explained

LigoA new book Ripples in Spacetime is an engaging account of the international effort to complete Einstein’s project, capture his elusive ripples, and launch an era of gravitational-wave astronomy that promises to explain, more vividly than ever before, our universe’s structure and origin. The quest for gravitational waves involved years of risky research and many personal and professional struggles that threatened to derail one of the world’s largest scientific endeavors. Govert Schilling takes listeners to sites where these stories unfolded-including Japan’s KAGRA detector, Chile’s Atacama Cosmology Telescope, the South Pole’s BICEP detectors, and the United States’ LIGO labs. He explains the seeming impossibility of developing technologies sensitive enough to detect waves from two colliding black holes in the very distant universe, and describes the astounding precision of the LIGO detectors. Along the way Schilling clarifies concepts such as general relativity, neutron stars, and the big bang using language that listeners with little scientific background can grasp. Govert Schilling (1956) is an internationally acclaimed astronomy writer in the Netherlands. He is a contributing editor of Sky & Telescope, and his articles have appeared in Science, New Scientist and BBC Sky at Night Magazine. He wrote over fifty books (in Dutch) on a wide variety of astronomical topics, some of which have been translated into English, including Evolving Cosmos, Flash! The Hunt for the Biggest Explosions in the Universe, The Hunt for Planet X, and Atlas of Astronomical Discoveries. In 2007, the International Astronomical Union named asteroid (10986) Govert after him.

Dead Men Tell No Tales

Family Die

He died the moment he slipped down to this ledge. He hadn’t fallen yet, but time would weaken him. There was no way up, no hope of rescue. And now he was staring into the small crevice before him at something that was inexplicable. It didn’t register at first. It didn’t matter. He was a dead man now. He knew it. This was just a moment in time, his last moment, for however long it lasted. The realization of it made what he was looking at insignificant. His arms stretched into the hole, but there wasn’t room to climb in. His head would barely fit into the rock.

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The hole was deep. Maybe twenty feet, straight in. Above him, it was twenty feet to the edge of the cliff. Below, three hundred feet straight down. He had slipped, looking down. Slipped, his hands clawing the curve of sand and rock, while wondering about what appeared to be an opening. It had happened quickly. One moment safe, and the next. . .

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It was getting dark now. He was alone. He always hiked alone. People told him not to do that, but he liked being alone in nature. It was his nature.

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It was too late, now. There were no other hikers in the area. He had already yelled until his voice left him. No one had come. He thought back to other hikes. Not that he was trying to think, yet. The thoughts flashed by him, and he was observer to them, as if from a distance. Flashes of memory. Wisps. There was no self recrimination to his thoughts. He was past that, now. The moments of his explorations and meditations were behind him. This was the last such moment. This was the end.

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When acceptance finally came, he focused and considered what he was looking at. It was a stash of jewelry, covered in dust. A long string of pearls and necklaces. Gold or fool’s gold? It didn’t matter. There was no luster to it. The thought flashed by him that it must be real. No one would put costume jewelry in a tiny crevice twenty feet down a ledge no one could get to without a rope.

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The thought was distant, and he struggled to keep it. Wanted to grasp it, like a handhold that didn’t exist on the face of the rock. How much was there? Who had put it there, and why? The thoughts were smoke drifting away. He flailed at them, like he had struggled to get both hands to grip, before pulling himself up into this position. Other thoughts flashed too: memories of rock climbers he’d seen doing what seemed to be impossible. . . placing their hands into niches in the rock, using pitons, cleats, ropes. He had no such things, but even with them there would be no way to save himself.

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He stared at the stash of jewelry, the line of treasure. It was like a rope, in a way. He might grasp it in one final effort, were it connected to something, which it was not. He might hold on a bit longer, and yell again when his voice returned. He chuckled at this thought. The laugh was guttural, a rasp in his throat. He was staring at a “treasure trove,” as such hunters liked to say.

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Everyone was such a hunter, he realized, except him. Anymore.
His arms were getting weaker, now. The last sliver of the sun slipped out of sight down the horizon to his left. But there was no green flash. It was shades of gold, fading.

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Fading into shades of grey.

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© 2017 JLowe

cartoon