It's mid January, and time for your vegetables. This year's first link salad is here--I hope you enjoy this sampling of my weidrness and wanderings from around the web!
For your starter today, I've recently finished Sam Harris's book The Moral Landscape. We recently had a three episode set discussing the premise and arguments Harris addresses in the book. I've also posted a review at Goodreads. It's an interesting and provocative book--if you have an interest in ethical philosophy, I highly recommend it.
This is an oldie, but goodie, video of a squid filming its own escape from a skin-diver.
Are you offended and frightened by the recent shooting? Wish you could silence people who are talking about "targeting" and "taking down" the opposition? Think that such speech is the moral equivalent of a terrorist threat? I humbly suggest that you might want to rethink your position in light of this excellent piece from Slate.
In a similar vein, the attempt to silence political speech on the Internet has been whole-heartedly embraced by the Obama administration. EFF brief here.
In the "I reserve skepticism but it's starting to look like I was wrong" department, there's encouraging news about the early effects of the new health care bill.
Business and Writing
In the "cool research for Steampunkers" department, the Guardian talks about the FEMALE criminal underworld in Victorian London.
Ever wondered what the real scoop is on the most important part of you're book's marketing (i.e. the cover)? Turns out that Laura Resnick did a very extensive series of articles a few years back that goes in depth on how the whole business of covers works. Well worth the read.
The charming Kate Elliot posts a great article at SFWA offering advice to teen writers from someone who's been there. If you're a teen writer, check it out.
Bob Mayer expresses admirably why I've not yet done a book trailer, and why it would take a special project for me even to consider it. A quick read, worth the click.
For your treadmill-listening pleasure, Gail Carriger gives a delightful and characteristically witty interview with SF Signal, discussing the impact of social media on the book industry and the author's business model.
Nathan Lowell's publisher Robin Sullivan does a guest blog for J.A. Konrath in which she busts some myths about indie publishing and talks about the sales growth curve of her authors. Interesting, useful stuff.
If you thought 2010 was tumultuous for the publishing industry, you ain't seen nothing yet. Borders is in the process of a crash-and-burn, and depending on how it goes down, it could do anything from expanding the print-book market to seriously shrinking it over the near-to-medium term (though I doubt it will actually sink any of the publishing houses along the way, it may mean a lot less cash going around to buy new titles). If you have print books on the market or on the way to market, it behooves you to read Joshua Blimes's excellent and thorough Borders post-mortem report.
Science and Technology
As an enthusiastic tender of a bacteria culture (lacto bascillus San Francisco), this kind of stuff fascinates me. An in-depth article, with sub-links, on the unique ecosystems that exist within cheeses.
Perhaps I'm showing my age--and I can't believe I just said that--but I'm still blown away by the return of lay people to the sciences. Last week, a ten-year-old girl discovered a brand-new supernova, and setting a world-record in the process.
The Singularity (in the loose sense) continues apace with the development of contact lenses that display information directly in the field of vision. This is the very epitome of "augmented reality" technology. Wonder how long it'll be until we can buy them at Walgreens.
Another nifty extra-solar planet discovery--this one very like Mercury.
It's early days yet, but there's more rumblings from legitimate autism research that might just have nailed down one of the reasons for increasing incidence and prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders in the last couple decades. Encouraging news, as this one is completely preventable. Also weird as hell, which tickles my interest-o-meter.
In archeology news, physicists seem to have cracked the secret of the Mayan ability to make dyes that last forever.
At the end of December, the BBC did a wonderful 1-hour documentary on the most world-shaking scientific and technological advantages which, thanks to the marvels of YouTube, you can now see for yourself.
Along similar lines, here's an article on 8 Science Fiction gadgets and plot devices that became a reality in 2010.
Laser weapons deployed for use on the high-seas! That's right, non-lethal stun lasers are now being tested for use against pirates. No joke!
And, for the sake of great science-fictiony fun, here's a great essay by Ronald Bailey speculating on the GOOD things that the lack of ET signals could portend.
In other news, moral crusaders continue to Bowdlerize and lie about history "for the sake of the children." If I can point to the single most harmful strand of human nature, aside perhaps from the propensity to commit genocide, this is the one I'd pick.
On the other hand, there are people of genuine moral fiber still circulating in the world. If you want something that will make you cry or stand up and cheer, check out this statement by the father of one the 9-year-old girl slain in the assassination attempt this week. Someone who takes his responsibility as a member of the body politic seriously enough that he's unwilling to call for the curtailment of the civil liberties of others as salve for his grief? Uncommon! And displays most excellent character.
Digital Life has info on an app for all you iPhone folks that will tell you when you can leave the theater to hit the bathroom without missing any plot points in currently-released movies. Behold, RunPee!
And that's it for this time. Catch you around next time the world gets weird!