Nota Bene #119: Think! It Ain't Illegal Yet

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” Who said it? Continue reading

Moon in the Pacific, 10000 km crater – 10 Points!

Have you ever wondered just how bad the devastation would be if the Moon (or a Moon-sized object) were to graze the Earth? How big the crater would be, how tall the tsunami if it hit the ocean, how far from the impact point you’d have to be to avoid being instantly ejected into space by the impact, whether it would cause the Earth to crack open, that sort of thing? I have, and I’ve been fascinated by these kinds of questions since I was a kid and first learned about asteroid impacts and I read “Lucifer’s Hammer” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

If you’re weird like me and enjoy celestial collision end-of-the-world fiction, have I got a site for you. Continue reading

Nota Bene #117: Wake Up!

“Hollywood is so crooked that Mafia gangsters are entirely outclassed and don’t stand a chance. People in Hollywood are smarter. They have more sophisticated knowledge of money and deals and how to steal legally rather than illegally.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #115: RIP No. 32

“If you’re really pro-life, do me a favor—don’t lock arms and block medical clinics. If you’re so pro-life, lock arms and block cemeteries.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #112: GOOOLLLLLLLL

“Freedom of any kind is the worst for creativity.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #105: The Illustrated Dick

“When all you are becomes defined as the amount of information traceable to you, what are we then? What have we become, in a world where there is no separation, no door, no filter beyond which we can say, ‘No. This is my personal space. Not yours. Here I am alone with my thoughts and free of any outside influence or control. This, you cannot have.’ I don’t know, but I don’t want to find out.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #92: Echoblowcation

A few things for you NB readers: Continue reading

Nota Bene #91: No Joke

Well I figured I’d give you all a break Continue reading

“One last fiery hurrah”: LIFE’s final issue

Final part in a series.

How appropriate that a publication whose launch was dominated by photography of the technological wonder of the day should end its run with an equally impressive tribute to mankind’s latest technological accomplishment. As noted earlier, LIFE’s final issue was released a scant three weeks after Apollo 17, NASA’s last trip to the moon, and in the magazine’s concluding essays it found a fitting kinship with that mission.

Both LIFE and the Apollo program remained physically strong to the last – many regard Apollo 17 as the most successful of all the moon landings (12/29/72), and while LIFE was awash in red ink, its failures arguably related more to mismanagement than to substantive textual issues (in 1969 the magazine had reached an all-time circulation high of 8.5 million) (van Zuilen). Both were, in the end, overcome by financial difficulties and a lack of institutional will to carry on. Continue reading

My god – it's full of stars: 2001, Frankenstein and autonomous technology

I used to work with a HAL 9000. Back when I was at US West in the late ’90s we had a voice system into which we would record the day’s company news so that employees without Internet access could dial in and keep up with the latest events. As with any such system there was a dial-in sequence, buttons that had to be pressed in a certain order, etc.

One day, as I was working through the first stage of the sequence, our phone system apparently achieved sentience. For reasons that I still can’t explain, a decade later, and that nobody at the time had any clue about, the machine sort of … intuited what I was about to do. It performed an action or two that, put simply, it could not do. Continue reading