Link Salad 12/27/10

Time for your vegetables again — these are some of the highlights of my research journeys hither and yon in the great wasteland of cyberspace. Hope you enjoy!


Vanity

On the ever-so-self-indulgent subject of, well, me, there are a few items potentially of interest.

First, I released a second Clarke Lantham novel. When Clarke Lantham goes home for Christmas, the results can’t be good.

Meanwhile, the first Clarke Lantham book has been getting some attention. KindleAuthor just interviewed me about it, View from Valhalla loved it, and Seth Harwood, Gail Carriger, and Philippa Ballantine all liked it well enough to provide blurbs. If you haven’t read it yet, you can check out the first couple chapters here. For that matter, you can check out the first part of book to, A Ghostly Christmas Present, here. Enjoy!

Art and Writing
If you’re an artist, or a writer, and you live somewhere that the influence of Hollywood reaches (i.e. everywhere), it’s very easy to forget that being “in shape,” “fit,” or “athletic,” doesn’t mean the same thing as “lean,” “6-pack abs,” or “what I saw on the cover of Vogue this month.” Forgetting this basic fact of life robs stories and paintings and graphic novels of realism, even if slightly. So, for your benefit and mine, here’s a photo essay featuring over 100 Olympic atheletes in phenomenal shape, each featuring a very unique body type.

Odd how the two most “offensive” words in the English language at the moment were words that were only mildly naughty 30 years ago. While one of these will continue to be a problem for a while, the other is redeemable. Check out Hal Duncan’s brilliant linguistic history of “cunt,” and his take-down of the implicit sexism sold with the demonization of what is, after all, a very cute word for a very delightful organ. He also goes into depth in the way usage varies on either side of the Atlantic. Unusually thought-provoking, and not played for shock value. Very useful for writers who write cross-culturally.

Publishing
We all know publishing is changing — snooze, hit the alarm, pull the other one, etc. We read about it in the New York Times a hundred times, which one would expect, as publishing is a big presence in New York. But when you read about it in the LA Times you know the movement’s gone big. Of course, this is the LA Times, which isn’t exactly a bastion of non-sensationalistic accuracy. Even so, it’s a fun read full of links to authors doing innovative things. Fun stuff!

TeleRead posted an interesting overview of the history of book piracy, it’s sociodynamics, and economics, with a follow-up column speculating on what it means for the industry. Some interesting stuff here by Chris Meadows.

For those of you who, like me, have a huge library full of books by dead people that will never be released in e-book format (or, at least, not for anothe decade or two) there is an inexpensive non-destructive way to digitize your books. This method is legal and ethically benign so long as you do not share or sell the resulting digital books. As an open source advocate and DIY culture member, I am very much in favor of projects like this. As an author who makes his living off his intellectual property, I work hard to make sure my work is always available in forms that do not strip the reader of his or her fair use rights. The other side of that contract is that the reader doesn’t steal or pirate the creative work of the entertainers whose work they consume. So, with that caveat, enjoy the workshop experience 🙂 I’ll keep writing ’em if you keep reading ’em.

Speaking of piracy, Paul Cornell writes a provocative ethics article about illegal downloading filled with many good and some rather flacid points. Worth a read, nicely thought-provoking.

Got a book available on Kindle? You can now post the sample on your website with the Kindle for the Web app. This post from indieKindle gives instructions for embedding the app on your site or in a blog post.

And, speaking of e-books…solar powered e-reader, anyone?

Beauty
A really fun time-lapse of what looks like the blizzard from hell — over 3 feet in less than 24hrs. Most impressive – the best 30 seconds you’ll spend today.

Terry Gilliam, whose work has always been kinda steampunky anyway, is producing a steampunk puppet movie that looks really damn cool if this short film version of it is any indication.

Not to be out-done on the time-lapse front, NASA brings you a time-lapse of a sunset from another world. Click here to watch a Martian sunset.

And for breathtaking, how bout a collection of photos of man-made footprints on other worlds?

Science & Technology

Recycling. We all do it for the environment, but some kinds of recycling–like recycling plastic–are a waste of energy, resources, money, and doesn’t yeild an environemntal or economic gain. This isn’t true for everything–aluminum, scrap metal, electronics, and (thanks to a recent breakthrough in dealing with treatment of toxic de-inking chemicals) paper–all yeild tremendous benefits when properly recycled. But plastics…man, plastics are a problem. They’re all chemically different, they have to be very carefully sorted, cooked, and then are downcycled (made into things further down the supply chain) rather than recycled to the same quality. It’s a dirty secret, and it’s been a bit of a problem and embarassment for a couple decades now. That might not be true for much longer. Seems that, rather than resorting to dogmatism and moral guilting on one side, or lazy-bones naysaying on the other, one scientist has figured out a process for recycling all plastics that’s inexpensive, energy efficient, and a net environmental gain. Bravo!

In the realm of philosophy of science, Alvin Plantinga, an otherwise respected epistemologist from Harvard, is in the process of dipping his face in egg when it comes to philosphy of science. His companionable discussion with Daniel Dennet gives you the bulk of his case in his own words, and P.Z. Meyers (whom I consider entertaining but not exactly one for nuance) takes him apart very effectively here.

Research on different kinds of invisiblity continues apace. This article talks time distortion effects of certain kinds of meta-materials, and gives a roadmap for a proof-of-concept. I’ve been having a blast watching this field go from the stuff of dreams and science fiction to the stuff of serious, hard-core well-funded research in the last ten years. I can’t wait to see–or not see–some metamaterial-based invisibility prototypes in action.

In other news, 3D image editing for anaglyph is coming soon to a computer near you.

The field of linguistics has long been one of those in-between sciences–not quite a real hard science, but something more quantitative than a social science. Google Books looks to be changing that. Ronald Bailey talks about the new trend in tracking linguistic and cultural evolution using quantitative analysis of Google’s book database.

You know the insomnia you get after a traumatic experience? Turns out that trying like hell to get to sleep might not be such a good idea after all.

If you’ve heard about geopolitical unrest because of China’s attempts to lock down the rare-earth metal market, don’t worry. Turns out they’re not the only country with lots of the “rare” stuff.

Education

If you’re a strong autodidact like me, you’re always on the prowl for new educational stuff. OpenCulture just updated their list of free online courses from major universities this month, and the selection is getting really impressive. Even scarier, as one who grew up in academia, I’m starting to recognize a lot of names on that list.

Meanwhile, one of the most excellent shows on the history of technology, James Burke’s Connections, has made its way onto YouTube. Bears multiple re-watchings. Check it out.

If you’re like most people, you’ve heard about the Theory of Relativity (E=MC^2) and have a vague idea that it means all matter is energy or something like that, but you’ve never really been able to get your head around the math to understand what it really means. Well, fear not — the always-readable Bertrand Russel wrote the definitive popularization of general relativity, and Derek Jacobi read it. Now, it’s available for free to the public as an audiobook. Go grab it now, give it a listen, and prepare to have your mind turned inside-out. Fun stuff 🙂

Also in the “good clean fun” department, someone with actual sexual experience on the order of decades is now producing a sex education series on youtube. Funny, clever, and no-bullshit, he calls it the “Guide to Getting It On,” and he hits a lot of points that younger, hipper educators often miss.

Politics

This is the only political article this time, and I’m including it because of how much of a shocker it is. Francis Fukyama’s analysis of where liberal econimcs went wrong by embracing the liberalization of financial markets instead of trade-goods markets. It’s very interesting watching the Keynsians, the Monetarists, and the Hayekians all starting to converge on this point in the wake of the recent banking crisis. More interesting to me is that Adam Smith got there two hundred years ago–and that politicians and policy makers still aren’t listening.

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I got tons more in my salad bowl, but that’s already a more substantive meal than I had planned to serve up. Hope you enjoy — and have a great New Year!

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