Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wearable Tech: Pattie Maes demos "the 6th sense"

Steve M. sends in a great video reminiscent of "Minority Report" that deals with wearable technology capable of interacting with the wearer in real time and imparting useful information and communications about our surroundings. The argument here is that the tech does nothing more revolutionary than your present cell-phone. However in truth, the cell is not real time. One must stop and interface with the device. But if your tech were real time, gave you functions, features and information pertinent to your environment and was interfaced with natural gestures, you start to see where these researchers are heading and what our near future tech will operate like.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Brain Music - the Composer & the Composed

Writes the publicist for the American Department of HomeLand Security:

"Every brain has a soundtrack. Its tempo and tone will vary, depending on mood, frame of mind, and other features of the brain itself. When that soundtrack is recorded and played back -- to an emergency responder, or a firefighter -- it may sharpen their reflexes during a crisis, and calm their nerves afterward." 

Robert Burns of DHS' s Science & Technology Directorate is evaluating neurotraining or "Brain Music", using music created in advance from listeners' own brain waves. The concept is to use the frequency, amplitude, and duration of musical sounds to move the brain from an anxious state to a more relaxed state (or vice versa, though Burns is not too keen to write about THAT).  Here is a sample brain music track from DHS   said by them to trigger an 'alert' feeling.

While Emergency responders and firefighters may benefit by, or at least be obligated to take part in, this sort of brain muzakery, why would it stop there?   Prisons may become oases of tranquility, if each inmate has his own personal pacifying music playing at appropriate times.

How long before arrestees must give a 'brainprint" as well as a fingerprint? You may have the right to remain silent, but your brainwaves won't.

Review: Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Altered Carbon
Richard K. Morgan
Ballantine / De Rey 7.99
pb 526pp

Taikeshi Kovacs is an X U.N. Envoy which can best be described as a mix between Batman and a T-800. In a future where RD (real death) is something only the very poor have to experience. Personality, memory, a person's very consciousness can be saved electronically and restored into a cloned body or a completely different “sleeve”.

Since humans no longer have to physically travel between the stars (one only needs to transmit themselves to their destination) they have now been able to inhabit far flung planets in the galaxy.
Earth, by contrast, has stratified and ossified along scocio-economic lines. However instead of pure wealth, the true elite of Earth (Meths short for Methuselahs) people who have, through their wealth, extended their lives by backing up then restoring themselves into newer bodies.

Kovacs, due to his previous line of work, is a pariah on many worlds and faces long term storage, finds himself given the chance to avoid hundreds of years of storage and possibly gaining a reprieve on his home planet, is called to Earth to solve a suicide, by the very Meth person who committed suicide. But within minutes of downloading and re-sleeving on Earth, Taikeshi is attacked. He soon finds that this is not an isolated instance as it would seem almost every group is bent on stopping Kovacs at any cost.

Altered Carbon is one of the rare books that starts on a high note and continues to escalate! The action starts within the first few pages and never stops. The experience is somewhat like learning to drive by being dropped into the drivers seat of an Indy racer doing 140mph! You learn the plot line and the characters while ducking punches and avoiding hails of bullets. All the while the plot continues to coil and twist . You quite literally learn nuances in the plot and characters in the final pages!

Morgan had postulated a future Earth that Robinson or Gibson would be comfortable with. The tech is well realized and the milieu is believable. I know I bandy the “couldn't put it down” a lot however you will understand after reading a few pages, when I say that you really can't easily close the book and walk away.

Altered Carbon is not for everyone. Kovacs is certainly every bit the anti hero. Not that he is written unpleasant, but Morgan made the choice to put Taikeshi Kovacs in the middle of what combat vets know as a shit storm, and has him familiar with the level of violence and able to dish it out every bit as well. If your tastes run to military / war science fiction then you will get a large uncut dose with Altered Carbon. But be forewarned, Morgan doesn't pull any punches and neither does Kovacs.

If your an action/adventure war sci-fi aficionado, I give this a recommended read.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Nebula Award winners for 2008 announced

Here are the 2008 Nebula Award Winners straight from Boing Boing

Best Novel: Powers by Ursula K. Le Guin

Best Novella: "The Spacetime Pool" by Catherine Asaro

Best Novelette: "Pride and Prometheus" by John Kessel

Best Short Story: "Trophy Wives" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

War of the Worlds Gets Zombiefied!

Crystalwizard over at Abandoned Towers always has something interesting going on. Latest news is that Eric Brown who, "writes the articles on comics for Abandoned Towers", is in fact the same Eric Brown that writes his science fiction with a healthy dose of Zombies mixed in.

Now if you're a zombie fan then you have got to be interested in Eric's newest venture "War of the Worlds get Zombiefied" which is part of a growing trend of retelling the classics with a twist. Brown's book is "The War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies" pretty much says it all!

World's Largest Saturn V Model's Maiden Flight Flawless!

The world's largest Saturn V "model" rocket leaped off the pad and into the record books on April 25th . The 36 foot tall model was custom built by Steve Eves. Here is an earlier Gizmodo article about Eves project

Saturn V Model Rocket from Gizmodo on Vimeo.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Crystal Wizard announcing changes at Abandoned Towers

In the ongoing effort to make Abandoned Towers easier to use and easier to find stuff on, I've added a What's New page. I update that page every time I add something to the website (which is just about every day) so check it frequently.

In case you haven't found it yet, and don't know what you've been missing this month, here's a list of new items for April, 2009:

April 22, 2009
  • "To Innocence" by Ashutosh Ghildiyal in the Poetry section
  • "To Beauty" by Ashutosh Ghildiyal in the Poetry section
  • "The Golden Treasury" by Ashutosh Ghildiyal in the Poetry section
  • "Those Hills" by Ashutosh Ghildiyal in the Poetry section
  • "Step Lightly" by Ashutosh Ghildiyal in the Poetry section
  • "Looking for the future that was" by Shaun A. Saunders in the Science Fiction section
  • Mike Grell Returns to The Warlord" by Eric S. Brown under Eric S. Brown on Comics
  • "Marvel Zombies 4" by Eric S. Brown under Eric S. Brown on Comics
April 21, 2009
  • "After October" by Apryl Fox in the Poetry section
  • "(his name is j.uan)" by Apryl Fox in the Poetry section
April 17, 2009
  • "The Biter's Bit" by Arthur Mackeown in the General Fiction section
April 15, 2009
  • Page 14 of Hannible Tesla's Adventure Magazine is now online
April 14, 2009
  • "Mirror" by Arthur Mackeown in the General Fiction section
  • "Say Goodby" by Arthur Mackeown in the General Fiction section
April 13, 2009
  • "Johnny" by Michael H. Hanson in the General Fiction section
April 8, 2009
  • "The Eternity Compact" by James Benford in the General Fiction section.
  • "In Memory of Homo Sapiens" by James Benford in the General Fiction section.
  • "Frontiers" by James Benford in the General Fiction section.
April 7, 2009
  • "It's Me" by Arthur Mackeown in the General Fiction section.
  • "Lawyer Referral Service" by Peter Lukes in the General Fiction section
  • "A Matter of Sheep" by Katherine McIntyre in the General Fiction section

New content added on a regular basis.

Visit Abandoned Towers at

Thursday, April 23, 2009

NASA's moon landing now out past 2020

Reading in the Guardian today concerning NASA's next planed Moon landing had been moved back to beyond 2020 from an internal date of 2018. Citing severe budget cutback from the previous administration for development of the Aries V heavy lifter, NASA administers say that ongoing and future research can not continue.

From my standpoint at least is is really starting to look like the next person to step on the Moon's surface will not be a NASA astronaut, but one of the other countries competing for the honor. There is every likelihood that it might even be a "private" consortium or company that might pull that hat trick. The Google Prize is still in play - so like the X prize, who is to say that the time for big government funded launches are at an end and the "for profit" business model may be heir apparent.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Polish short "The Agronaut"

Here is a funny Utube Polish animation short that I found on IO9. The animation concerns an exobiologist who just doesn't seem to "get" his work.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stephen Hawking gravely ill

Reuters reports that a gravely ill Stephen Hawing was admitted to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. A university spokesman said his condition was described as comfortable and that he would be kept in hospital overnight.

A source was quoted by Reuters that Hawking:
  • had been ill for a couple of weeks, with his condition deteriorating since he returned from a trip to the United States at the weekend......
Complete Reuters article

Could balast weights some day save the Earth?

According to a doctoral candidate in aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University. David French's novel approach to preventing an asteroid from impacting Earth is to attach a long tether and ballast to incoming objects - thereby changing the object's center of mass, effectively changing the object's orbit. Of course the tether would be astounding in length - in the order of 600 to 60 thousands miles!

Brings to mind the scale and scope of the proposed space elevator.

Read the complete Science Daily article

Model Builder Creates 3 Story Model of Saturn V - That Flies!

Here is a really interesting story in Rocketry Planet which concerns a man's fascination with the
Apollo space program. In particular the largest rocket NASA ever built - the massive Saturn lifting system commonly known as Saturn V. Steve Eves has been interested in rockets since astronauts first stepped onto the Moons surface. This lead him to experiment with model rockets and will cumulate in the near future with the launch of the largest model rocket ever built. Eves has built a 1/10 scale model of the Saturn V that stands over 3 stories in height and weighs in at almost a ton and when all the engines are installed, the model will have eight thousand pounds of static thrust. This certainly isn't the type of rocket you launched as a child.

Check out Eves story in Rocketry Planet
- it really is a fun read.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

RIP: Author JG Ballard

BBC News is reporting that science fiction author J.G. Ballard has passed away at the age of 78. Famed for novels like Crash and Empire of the Sun, Ballard had been ill for some time. Though Ballard was categorized as a science fiction author, he said his books were instead "picturing the psychology of the future".

For more on Ballard and his works, check out the BBC article here

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Innovative Solution to Reducing Space Garbage - Sails

NewScientist posts an particularly interesting way to reduce the amount of junk hardware that is left in orbit after a launch.

The plan, as purposed by NewScientist is to reduce:
  • ...the risk to spacecraft from a collision with space debris by equipping launchers with a gossamer-thin "sail". The idea is to deploy the sail after the rocket has released its payload to amplify the drag of the last vestiges of the atmosphere, and so force the rocket out of orbit.
  • engineers at the European aerospace firm EADS Astrium are devising ways to build a sail that would quickly remove a spent rocket from orbit.
As it stands right now, spent booster stages and associated junk remain in orbit upwards of 100 years. The areo-breaking sail system looks to reduce this time by three quarters or 25 years.

< Complete NewScientist article >

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ocean Impacting Asteroid Won't Kill Us - Quickly

An asteroid falling int the ocean will not wipe out life on Earth, at least not immediately. This according to a recent article in IO9 . Scientists from the University of Oslo have been running simulation of an asteroid apx. 1000 feet across hitting the ocean and the new results seem to indicate that not all is lost.

From the article:
  • The impact initially sends waves hundreds of metres high spreading from the impact site. However, the very height of the waves makes them prone to collapse even in very deep water: they start breaking immediately, like ordinary waves on a beach.
  • By the time they are 30 kilometres from the impact site, they have shrunk to a height of less than 60 metres
Of course there would be other effects, like hurricane force winds and lots of water falling.

Read complete article in IO9

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dollhouse's demise greatly exaggerated

Hey I am just as guilty as the next guy. The apparent trimming of the last Dollhouse episode led me straight down the garden path. I certainlyly was, in my mind, a clear signal that not all was happy in the "house".

But from the Airlock Alpha article:
  • Tim Minear, a consulting producer on the Fox series, said that in all 14 episodes have been shot for "Dollhouse," with the Fox network committed to airing 13 of them.

  • That doesn't mean the show's order has been cut, or that cancellation is on the horizon.
It seems the last episode was intended for the DVD release.

The article states:

Keep your fingers crossed kiddies....

Friday, April 10, 2009

Fox cutting Dollhouse season short?

I just picked this up on The Live Feed ! It seems that Fox has trimmed the final episode of Dollhouse from the schedule which was to contain 13 episodes. The show will end with episode 12 who's title is: Omega. The closer will air on May 8 and it would seem that the only way one will get to see episode 13, titled Epitaph One, will be on the DVD release. One would suspect that the network not airing the last episode would spell cancellation but it would seem that even that has not been discussed yet.

Dollhouse in fact scored higher than it's lineup partner The Sarah Connors Chronicles. If anything this starts to look pretty grim for another season of T/TSCC.

For an episode description and more on and the fate of Dollhouse, read the complete article

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Ars cracks TV Fringe code

ARS blog's Julian Sanchez has cracked a code embedded into the TV series Fringe.

Hell, shows how much I pay attention, I didn't even see a code in the weird images that would come up between segments. But there were. Warning, it might be a bit anti-climatic if you're a big fan (Remember Ralphie in A Christmas Story....yeah, that kind of disappointment...well maybe not that bad)

Click here for the details and what the codes mean

LoJack for People?! WTF!

No matter how many time you say it to yourself to help sleep at night, or how many times you have dismissed Saunders' MallCity as paranoid or simplistic, you have to look at this article he just sent with the comments "Then, they'll say that it needs to be a chip, so that it can't be lost or removed...then, we have Mallcity 14."

Because what we are raving about this evening my friends is from the company that gave us the anti theft device LoJack has ported the idea to people.

From the article in Natural News
  • ...has developed an analogous system to track patients with Alzheimer's disease or other conditions that might lead them to become easily lost.
  • LoJack SafetyNet consists of a Personal Locator Beacon wristband that gives off a radio signal capable of being detected even inside buildings, densely wooded forests or in the middle of large bodies of water. The signal can be detected by search-and-rescue teams with appropriate equipment at a range of one mile from the ground or five to seven miles from a helicopter.
Now if you will excuse me, I am going to bed and pulling the covers over my head...

Read more here

Monday, April 06, 2009

Fox may renew Dollhouse

From SF Fy Portal Headlines and Airlock Alpha comes news that Fox is looking to shake up it's Friday schedule. It looks as though one show will be canceled and Dollhouse will be given another season in hopes that the show will find an audience.

Things may not be all that rosy for Terminator: The Sarah Connors Chronicles. The series has struggled badly through it's second season and is due to end it 22 episode run April 10th. The producers of the series, Warner Brothers Television, made some major concessions to Fox in an attempt to bolster support for the program. This, according to Airlock Alpha, may be a way to help it promote its upcoming "Terminator: Salvation,"(movie) which premieres May 21. Which leads one to wonder if there will be this much support AFTER Salvation's release.

"Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox. "Dollhouse" airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.

Read complete article here

Sunday, April 05, 2009

What would you pay for an e-book?

Oh I like this question...because to be honest there is no way I would pay almost 10 dollars for an e-book. There is no cost in transport or storage (physical...I know, web space isn't cheap) or printing. I know, the authors must be paid and the publisher and retailer must make a profit, but like extended service contracts....I am not going to buy something that is excessively over priced.

Meanwhile, according to a posting on SF Signal, new genre publisher Angry Robot Books will be producing eBook versions of every title they publish. They are trying to determine a fair price. To that end, they have posted a survey.

So if you're interested in e-books and want to have a say, possibly, on the cost of future e-books, take a jaunt over to the questionnaire at


Isaac Asimov interview on Youtube

SF Signal blog came across this really cool YouTube video of an interview of Isaac Asimov by host Harold Hudson Channer in 1986

Saturday, April 04, 2009

CyberWizard Productions website redesign

Crystalwizard writes to tell us that the CWP website has been revamped, redesigned and redecorated.

The hope is that the site will now be much easier to navigate, prettier to look at and hopefully attractive to people who want books.

Speaking of books, they have several new releases:

Michael H. Hanson's Sha'Daa: Tales of the Apocalypse.

Sarah Ashwood's A Minstrel's Musings.


Abandoned Towers 1st Annual Challenge Anthology.

Get over to the CWP home page at http://cyberwizardproductions.com and check it out!

Friday, April 03, 2009

New inductees to the SFHoF

Science Fiction Award Watch blog reports the newest inductees to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame

This year’s inductees to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame will be: Connie Willis, Michael Whelan, Frank R. Paul, and Edward L. Ferman.

Drug Free journey to a spotless mind

A new drug-free therapy could be the key to modifying or eliminating fearful memories. Shaun Sanders send in an interesting article from New Scientist. The hope is that a new and simple treatment might help patients with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Present therapy relies on drugs that block brain cells from making new proteins and this can erase fearful memories. The drugs have to be utilized during a critical phase in memory retention. Recent discoveries have found a quirky property of memories called reconsolidation. The process of jogging a memory – with an emotional or sensory jolt, for instance – seems to make it malleable for a few hours. The drugs used up to this point are highly toxic and it is felt that random wholesale erasure of memory may do more harm than good.

A far less invasive procedure is a therapy sometimes used to treat PTSD, called extinction which involves repeatedly delivering threatening cues – gun shots, for instance – in safe environments in hopes of drowning out fearful memory associations. Unfortunately this therapy only works up to a point.

Read more on this controvercial therapy here

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Sha'Daa is coming......

Crystalwizard at cyberwizard productions wrote me to give us a heads up on their newest project. Based on a story by Michael Hanson The Sha'Daa Tales of the Apocalypse are different stories by different authors based on Hanson's end of days tale.

What really caught my initial attention was the "trailer" that comes along with the book description. It is certainly an interesting way to promote the volume. Check it out, inventive.

Sha'Daa Tales is scheduled for official release on May 1, 2009

check out the complete listing here

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Book 12 of The Wheel of Time will be a trilogy

According to SFScope:
  • Tor Books has announced that the final volume of Robert Jordan's massive Wheel of Time A Memory of Light will appear as a trilogy. Volume one of the three books making up the final volume will be titled The Gathering Storm, and will be published on 3 November 2009. The second and third volumes will appear over a two-year period.
  • Harriet McDougal, Jordan's widow and editor, expanded on the announcement, saying "The scope and size of the novel was such that it could not be contained in a single volume.
Robert Jordan, was the pen name of James Oliver Rigney, Jr. died September 16, 2007, leaving The Wheel of Time fantasy series unfinished. Book 12 was to be the final volume but Jordan died before he could complete much more than a rough.