Jul 162018

I’ve spent a lot of time lately listening to mind-broadening podcasts. I can’t recommend highly enough checking out some of the ‘casts linked below if you like to make your brain-wiring more complex.

The most recent podcast adventure has been Rob Reid’s the After On podcast. It started as a way to visit the real-science topics in his fictional book of the same title.

There are a lot of great interviews with some try geniuses, but two struck me as oddly intertwined, despite not discussing one another. The first was Episode #8 with Stephen Webb about Fermi’s Paradox, and the second was Episode #22 with neuroscientist David Eagleman about our senses.

Stephen Webb has a great book called “Where Is Everybody?” which investigates 75 possible and plausible solutions to Fermi’s Paradox. In it, there are some hypotheses about how we’re just not looking the right way or for the right things. It outlines how we’re expecting an advanced civilization to leave some electromagnetic trace in the galaxy, and maybe we’re looking at the wrong frqeuncies. How we expect an advanced civilization to have created something like a Dyson Sphere, but we don’t see infrared radiation that we’d expect from one.

The interview with Eagleman talks about the human Umwelt and how our experiences of reality differ even from other terrestrial creatures and possibly even other humans. Even the way which we interpret the EM fields and radiation around us in often unlike other critters here on Earth do.

There’s a question often posited about something like color. We all “see” the same wavelength and call it blue. But what I see as blue may or may not actually be the same color that you see as blue. But since we’d both always label it as blue, we’d never know.

Extrapolate that to another level. Even assuming that all life experience the EM spectrum at all (which very well may not be the case), what we sense and how we sense it could be vastly different. If a civilization evolved to communicate via an organ that transmits and receives microwaves the way we transmit and receive sound, they aren’t going to use microwaves to push data around their planet; it would be tremendously noisy.

And this is even assuming that they not only sense the EM spectrum, but that their sense function remotely the same as our own. Birds and cows “feel” magnetism, some creatures “sense” electrical fields (some humans can “hear” electricity – I often have this sensation, though less so now than in the 80s when EM sources weren’t as well shielded), and some creatures develop the ability to produce visible light in biomes where visible light isn’t typically sense by other creatures which allow a sort of secret messaging. Here on Earth we all (so far as I’m aware) experience the world through EM, but even so it’s a vast array of “how”. And it’s entirely plausible that some terrestrial creatures sense things that we don’t. We know some methods of that: direct sensing pheromones and biochemical, sensing scent as a core method of building their world (ticks), et cetera. But how many don’t we know of?

In the end, we have expectations about intelligent life elsewhere in the universe that are very human centric. But just as we found that the solar system is not geocentric, and that the universe is not heliocentric, we are likely to learn that intelligent life is not homocentric.

Food for thought… we may look forever and not find our next door neighbors in the galaxy simply because our Umwelt and theirs are incompatible.

Aug 062012

I love space.  Not personal space (though I enjoy that, too, from time to time) but outer space, interstellar space, the sparkle-filled, infinite near-void that surrounds the little rock we call home.  I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi that discussed space travel, nonfiction that detailedspace exploration, and day-dreaming about what’s out there that we can’t even begin to comprehend or guess at.

Several years ago, there was talk of real, true space travel (at least in low Earth orbit) for the everyperson, coming soon to a space port near you.  This intensified my interest greatly, and I’ve been keeping track of these programs – my favorite is SpaceX – ever since.  Then there were Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity.  Rovers on Mars, collecting data that we’d never seen before.

So imagine my delight while watching NASA/JPL’s “7 Minutes of Terror” video outlining the landing of Curiosity (aka Mars Science Laboratory).  Now, about twelve hours after the fact, I am writing about the successful deployment of Curiosity on Mars’ surface – even having used all the craziness depicted in the video linked above.  A space crane?  between that and my iPad, I really feel like we’re closing in on Star Trek territory.


I am a happy and excited geek!

Jul 232012



Jack Daniels Properties is my Hero of July for such a wonderful letter.  If you read the Mashable link above, there’s a great story about JDP not only being polite to the nth degree, but explaining why they needed to send the cease-and-desist letter, and even then offering to help cover some costs for redesigning the cover.

Beats the hell out of these IP lawyers doing things by the status quo these days.



Also some Fark discussion about it all here:  http://www.fark.com/comments/7227998/Jack-Daniels-shows-world-how-to-do-a-cease-desist-letter-right

Feb 092012


Double Fine Productions, spearheaded by Tim Schaefer of Day of the Tentacles and Psychonauts fame, has launched a Kickstarter funding project to produce a modern, reenvisioned point-n-click adventure game called “Double Fine Adventure“.  If you aren’t that old, are new to video games, or somehow just missed out on the trend, check out games like Monkey Island and King’s Quest from back in the day for an idea of how these games work.  There are many aspects of this that have me thrilled, and for sanity’s sake, I will list them in a list-like form – sometimes called a “list”:

  1. The people that comprise this company are sort of like famous indie developers.  I don’t know that I could comfortably say they are indie – they are all too well known and have made too many games (collectively).  But they are also not the business elite, driving after every green dollar and every red cent.  This is to say that I have a strongdesire to see them succeed.
  2. Speaking of having made games, there have been a lot of really good ones to come out of these people, currently and prior to being Double Fine.  Recently, I’ve played Stacking on the 360, and just really enjoy it.
  3. Crowd-sourced funding, in my humble view, denotes that the developers are trying to seek our money AND our input in game design – to the extent that it’s possible.  Also, this project is breaking crowd-sourcing records like so many bricks beneath a sensei’s chop.
  4. They don’t need no steenkin’ publishers!  This could, likely, mean no DRM, no BS red-tape control over development, and more freedom for the developers to do what they need/want to do.

At any rate, for the low, low price of $15, you can basically pre-order the game, and help pay for development.  Also, their goal of $400,000 was squashed in 8 hours and 11 minutes.  As of this writing, they have reached $849,160 and are rapidly closing in on the most funded project ever on Kickstarter.  Oh, and there are still 33 days left for people to back the project.


UPDATE (2/9/2012 7:53pmEDT):  The more I think about this, the more interesting it becomes.  Not only has DF hit the million dollar mark (and climbing), but this could be as big a shift in how the gaming industry works as the shift from arcades to homes.  It may not have the overt social impact of home gaming systems, but it may have a similarly-sized impact on the content, quality, and uniqueness of games.  This excites me!

Jan 212012

Zynga, the company behind the atrocity that is Farmville, is a company that most gamers despise.  Their claws latched into casual gamers around the world, the bilk people of hard-earned dollars with micropayments for silly things like orange pigs and green alien cows.

Sadly, when looking for a Scrabble-like game on my iPhone a long, long time ago, the best I could find was Words with Friends.  At that time, it was developed by Newtoy, Inc.  Eventually, though, Zynga ate them like a hearty appetizer, and spawned a whole category of “with Friends” games.  Now I own them all: Words, Hanging, Scramble, Chess.  I hate that I feed their eager maws, even without paying for microtransactional coins and bits and doodads.

HOWEVER, these games are really good.  Scramble with Friends, the newest word game (like Boggle, more or less) has been beneath my grubby fingers several times a day since it came out.  So, I recommend buying it.  It’s good.  It’s okay to hate Zynga, and still feed them.  They’re obviously hungry after all…

Jan 162012

If you have an iPhone and need a case, I recommend one of these:


I almost got one last year, but the maker got a C&D from Apple. They are back on the market now, and if I hadn’t just spent a bunch on another sweet case, I’d go for this bad boy. If you want something a little more subtle (or more expensive), I also HIGHLY recommend these:


I love mine. Peep has the Vapor Comp, which is also sweet, and slightly cheaper.

So, Steve in Carbonite – recommended on a cool factor. Element Cases – recommended from use.

May 272008

So, for those of you who are fans of Penny Arcade, and also for those of you who are not, the first Penny Arcade video game has been released on Xbox Live Arcade, Windows, Mac and Linux (and demos are available for all, AFAIK). The game, called On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode I, is a comic-style 3D/2D Adventure RPG. It takes place in a 1920-esque town, replete with nasty enemies (most Fruit Fuckers and hobos to begin with). The game itself is in 3D, with fights running akin to Final Fantasy combat… except with the required d20 roll for initiative. Weapons vary greatly, with your character beginning his adventure armed only with his trusty rake. Of course, the FF robots have attacks such as leg-humping and “juicing” on your pantleg. The humor is pretty wild, the graphics interesting and not over-done. Cutscenes take place via animated comic strips (each cell of the strip animates for a bit, then goes to the next cell for further animation). I HIGHLY recommend the game to anyone looking for something a bit different. Of course, I recommend XBLA if you have it… you know, 200 Gamer Score plus support of XBLA. But that’s just me. Anyone else play the game yet? I give it a 8.5/10. After I finish the game, I may change my score, but I doubt it’ll go down. 🙂