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Welcome to the Orion's Arm Universe Project

Welcome to the Orion's Arm Universe Project

The myth of the starship (NB: As starships do not in fact exist, no starships were harmed in the production of this essay. Also, this is just words. If they upset you, go lie down in a dark room for half an hour then drink a glass of water; you'll feel better.) Actually, I tell a lie. We are 4.37 light years, or 140 million light-seconds, from Alpha Centauri, give or take. And that's the best we've done to date, admittedly without really trying ... This is not an essay about whether we could do better if we tried. The very word "starship" is a concatenation of two other words — star, and ship. The astute reader will have spotted the link to the Apollo Program above. But there's a more subtle difference. As I've said before, the trouble with going into space is that there's no "there" there when you get to the other end of your voyage. Which is why I was asking questions like this and this and this about a month ago. To a first approximation, the best answer I can come up with is "not very". ...

The 8 Most Common Sci-Fi Visions of the Future (And Why They'll Never Happen) The future promises to be so wonderous and terrifying that it will exceed even the furthest reaches of the human imagination. Though this is not saying much, as the human imagination has really only been able to think up eight possible futures: An Oppressive Totalitarian State Defining Features: Forcibly proscribed social roles and classes; a creepy, overbearing "beloved leader" and equally creepy propaganda posters on every wall; an ultra-brutal police force; the repression of all written communication and creativity; a huge underclass of drone-like proles paralyzed with paranoid anxiety; a moratorium on rainbows, strawberry ice cream and butterfly kisses. Basically, it's the Cold War-era Soviet Union. Origins: George Orwell's 1984 laid the macabre groundwork for the Totalitarian State future vision, and while the actual year 1984 didn't pan out quite as he thought it would, you have to admit that Michael Jackson's hair catching on fire was pretty terrifying. A Retro-Futuristic Utopia

Optimistic Visions of the World After the Oil Runs Out I am fascinated by those that romanticize about a pastoral, back-to-earth, post-industrial society as a 'better place'. Funny how the vast, vast majority of the people with that opinion have never lived nor know anybody well that does live that existence. Just like any vacation, new place, or life change, the novelty soon wears off. Truly - the ideal world is the chaos of possible choice - very similar to the now - that hyper-treadmill that pulls a lot out of you and leaves you tired and burnt out, but somehow, as with a traditional old-school Protestant who has done a hard day's work - you are satisfied, challenged, and better. So, the chaos of possible choice is born out of high tech, high commercialism, pursuit of the intensity of experience, and division of labour — and this is what will save us and push us beyond ourselves... and that means buy, consume, work, play, and go HARD.

The Day Your Car Kidnaps You On the one hand, I think these things will always need an override manual switch, both for safety and because many people would be too creeped out to buy them otherwise. On the other hand, aren't there already OnStar cars that can be stopped remotely if reported stolen and pursued by police? I imagine Google or local law enforcement or some other organization will end up having an override to that manual override... I'm not sure where this lies on the balance between convenient and creepy. Maybe we should wait for the secure, open-source self-driving car made by some collective of benevolent motorhead hackers?

The High Frontier, Redux I'm going to take it as read that the idea of space colonization isn't unfamiliar; domed cities on Mars, orbiting cylindrical space habitats a la J. D. Bernal or Gerard K. O'Neill, that sort of thing. And I don't want to spend much time talking about the unspoken ideological underpinnings of the urge to space colonization, other than to point out that they're there, that the case for space colonization isn't usually presented as an economic enterprise so much as a quasi-religious one. Historically, crossing oceans and setting up farmsteads on new lands conveniently stripped of indigenous inhabitants by disease has been a cost-effective proposition. Here's a handy metaphor: let's approximate one astronomical unit — the distance between the Earth and the sun, roughly 150 million kilometres, or 600 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon — to one centimetre. The solar system is conveniently small. Got that? Next on our tour is Proxima Centauri, our nearest star. We're human beings.

A Chart that Reveals How Science Fiction Futures Changed Over Time One thing that fascinates me about SF is what gets rejected as proper, serious science fiction over time. Up until 1980, there were dozens of short stories and novels published every year about psi powers and telepathy, some of which were nominated for or won the major awards in the field, and at least a few of which were considered the finest the genre had to offer — Sturgeon's More Than Human, Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, Silverberg's Dying Inside. In fact, John W. Campbell Jr., who was one of the genre's dominant editors from the '30s until his death in the early '70s, was a deep and sincere believer in the reality of psionics. My guess is that as time goes by, we'll see more established tropes of "serious" SF fall by the wayside.

10 Futuristic Places to Shop This is why I run my own Linux on any smart phone I buy. I control what goes in and out, not some company I don't know. That's a good plan. I don't have much expertise with that sort of thing, but if I ever get a smartphone, I'll be sure to learn. Well, this raises a good point though because most people don't really have the expertise to hack their own stuff. The marketing weasels are counting on that. You're right—and I think that's probably likely, as much as I hate to think about a future like that. There's a kind of schizophrenic aspect to it all. I once wanted to be a psychologist. Why you'll never go to space prison Funny, while that may be the intent, the actual population of bored, sick, weak inmates is exceedingly low. And in fact they are not forbidden to exercise - in the systems that have adopted the bodybuilding policy, they were forced into more healthy cardiovascular exercise. Inmates have to earn access to the weight training facility by either completing good behavior milestones or through study and work release activities. The reason this was adopted was simply because the system was generating 300 pound monsters that prison guards were injuring themselves trying to control. The entire no weight training issue is actually a fallacy and in California, inmates categorically eat better and receive better medical attention than many of us have access to. There is no doubt that calorie restriction and isolation have been used to pacify high-level offenders. Quite true! It really breaks down to Federal, State and county.

The Dark Future of Phone Jamming It isn't. And anyone who has used mass transit daily knows that cell phones are actually more interesting than the crazy dude who shouts in the back of the bus. I agree. I rode a commuter bus for several years, and I could count on one hand the number of times a cell phone user was an issue. And some of them were extremely entertaining. Most people are capable of having a private conversation over the phone in a public place. Now, whenever I've been on public transportation, I always have headphones on. I get the impression from the article that the Philly Jammer doesn't immediately turn on the jamming device the instant he steps on a bus, but rather only when it becomes disruptive enough that the other bus riders are grateful when the person loses their signal. I fully admit that I enjoy eavesdropping... It's a guilty pleasure of mine. Much better than constantly listening to "They're in ya brains!

Wired 14.05: The RFID Hacking Underground They can steal your smartcard, lift your passport, jack your car, even clone the chip in your arm. And you won't feel a thing. 5 tales from the RFID-hacking underground. By Annalee Newitz Page 1 of 3 next » James Van Bokkelen is about to be robbed. Story Tools Story Images Click thumbnails for full-size image: "I just need to bump into James and get my hand within a few inches of him," Westhues says. Van Bokkelen enters the building, and Westhues returns to me. The coil in Westhues' hand is the antenna for the wallet-sized device he calls a cloner, which is currently shoved up his sleeve. "Want me to let you in?" He waves the cloner's antenna in front of a black box attached to the wall. "See? RFID chips are everywhere - companies and labs use them as access keys, Prius owners use them to start their cars, and retail giants like Wal-Mart have deployed them as inventory tracking devices. The tags work by broadcasting a few bits of information to specialized electronic readers.

The Wrong Way to Plan for the Future Interesting stuff. I still like this guy's take on it: [] starting at around 36:00. He points out that we've actually known about this idea for a very long time: There's a line in the Sermon on the Mount. "Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." —Matthew 6:34 It's a very strange piece of advice. ...And the idea behind this particular piece of advice ask yourself—and this is meditative—what is it that I need to do today so that this would be a good day? of commitments, today, and if you do them, you've fulfilled your obligations." ...And the idea behind this piece of advice is that if you fulfill your obligations every day then you won't have to worry about the future. ...And so, you see this idea in Taoism, too. I'm not talking about following a moral code, although that can come into it if you really don't know what the hell you're doing at all.

Apprehending the Future: Emerging Technologies, from Science Fiction to Campus Reality (EDUCAUSE Review ©2009 Bryan Alexander. The text of this article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License ( ). EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 44, no. 3 (May/June 2009): 12–29 Bryan Alexander Bryan Alexander ( ) is Director of Research at the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE). Comments on this article can be posted to the web via the link at the bottom of this page. How can those of us in higher education best understand new technologies? Deciding which technologies to support for teaching and learning—and how to support them—depends, first, on our ability to learn about each emerging development. But trying to grapple with what comes next is a deep problem. Keeping an Eye on What's Next: The Environmental Scan One popular method for seeing what's coming over the horizon is to repeatedly survey that horizon, looking for the leading edges of new projects and trends. Role-Playing Futures: Scenarios

The Future of Graveyards I am a taphophile, and have been one since birth. It saddens me to think that cemeteries might no longer be the places that I've come to love and the wonderful places in which I enjoy spending my time. I spent many, many hours as a teenager and in my 20's, peacefully roaming around the cemeteries of New England; often I would just find a comfortable spot and read. There's something about the tangibleness of the old tombstones and crypts that speaks to me, and that I find very personally important; I touch them and for a moment I'm connected to those people, wondering what they might have been like, wondering what their lives, their families, their deaths were like. That connection I feel to history is part and parcel of my personal makeup. And the epitaphs! And occasionally you'll find mysteries, there, too. Fortunately for me, I come from old New England stock and we have our own family burial plot out in the woods in northern New Hampshire.