May 7th, 2008

Saturn's rings

Astro-Image of the Day: big storm on Saturn

This newly released image from the Cassini mission proves that massive storms aren't just for Jupiter anymore!

Click the image to see the story.

Here we see an electrical storm that the Cassini probe has been observing for five months. Thunderstorms on Saturn appear to work much the same as such storms on Earth; however, on Saturn, the lightning bolts tearing through the cloud-tops are 10,000 times as powerful as ours.

Cool detail: Amateur astronomers have proven vital to tracking this storm: "Since Cassini's camera cannot track the storm every day, the amateur data are invaluable... [the Cassini team is] in continuous contact with astronomers from around the world, the key players being Marc Delcroix and other observers from the French Astronomical Society, Ralf Vandebergh from the Netherlands, Christopher Go from the Philippines, and Trevor Barry from Australia."


teh intarwebs - they make the world small

...and the past closer.

I just got an email from my second college room-mate at my second undergraduate college, my first in Eau Claire, Wisconsin: David Egan. That was... OMG, more than half my life ago. Two complete marriages ago. Ooof.

Proof that we were friends a long time ago is that he reminded me of some of our adventures that I'd completely forgotten. It's nice to be reminded of such things, so one's stories don't grow stale *g* Next time we're out for beers, dear reader, ask me about Acid Andy. (No, I won't disclose it here.)

The years, they keep dissolving behind us. But the people we knew, they're still around, and their lives have followed their own trajectories completely apart from ours.

computer - ENIAC

You are part of today's cultural revolution.

Clay Skirky at the Web 2.0 (yes, I also hate that label) Expo 2008 in San Francisco, gave a talk on "the cognitive surplus" that's driving the current revolution in our civilization. It's 16 minutes long, but if I sat through it from home, you can too... or just read some excerpts:

[The cognitive surplus] "is so large that even a small change could have huge ramifications. Let's say that everything stays 99% the same, that people watch 99% as much television as they used to, but 1% of that is carved out for producing and for sharing. The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That's about five times the size of the annual US consumption. One per cent of that is 100 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation. I think that's going to be a big deal. Don't you?"

"Here's what four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Media that's targeted at you but doesn't include you may not be worth sitting still for.

"Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change [like the Industrial Revolution, unlike flagpole-sitting]. Because four-year-olds, the people who are soaking most deeply in the current environment, who won't have to go through the trauma that I have to go through of trying to unpack a childhood spent watching Gilligan's Island, they just assume that media includes consuming, producing, and sharing."

"If we carve out a little bit of the cognitive surplus we now recognize we can deploy, could we make a good thing happen?"

This is what Shirky discusses in depth in his new book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. (Thanks to starstraf for the tip.)

Damn. Here we are, in the midst of a cultural revolution. Y'all out there, reading this and doing your own blogging and editing Wikipedia and sharing photos and music online? You writers, musicians, and other artists finding ways to involve your audience? You're part of this revolution.

Big Brother is Watching You

Demand that the House Stand Firm on FISA

Gee, I'm a postin' fool today, but I need to pass this one along to you. From CREDO Mobile (formerly Working Assets Long Distance, my phone company):
Our hard fought victories on the Bush administration's illegal wiretapping program are in danger once again.

Earlier this year the House of Representatives—thanks in large part to pressure from the grassroots and the netroots—stood strong and refused to pass the Senate version of "FISA reform." That legislation, you'll recall, would have granted retroactive immunity to the Bush administration and the telecom companies that reportedly helped him eavesdrop on Americans without legally-required warrants.

Now, however, comes word that parts of the Democratic leadership in the House—most notably, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland—are negotiating with Bush's allies in Congress to push through "compromise" legislation—legislation that will give the administration practically everything they've asked for.

Click here to tell Speaker Pelosi: no compromises on illegal wiretapping.

There's simply no reason to rush into passing bad legislation now. Under the existing FISA law, our nation's intelligence agencies already have the tools they need to legitimately monitor terrorist communications.

The only reason Bush is trying so hard to push this bill through Congress before he leaves office is to prevent legal discovery of prior violations of the law—disclosures which would be detrimental to the administration and any telecom companies that assisted in the lawbreaking.

After you send Speaker Pelosi your message, please be sure to pass word along to a few friends as well. Every American should be outraged by the Bush administration's violations of our privacy—and the efforts by some in Congress to excuse that behavior after the fact.

Thank you for working to build a better world.

Michael Kieschnick, President
CREDO Mobile

P.S.—Only one mobile phone company enthusiastically supports civil liberties groups like the ACLU with a portion of your monthly bills. Click here for the details of our special offer for online activists.
Galaxy magazine cover

Get a Free Copy of the July 2008 Issue of F&SF

I found this on The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction blog.
Over on the Forum, Gordon posted the following note:

We’re going to do a promotional giveaway with this issue. There’s a box of copies of this issue on its way to me and I’d like to give away the copies people who will blog about the issue. So here’s the deal:

1) Go to our "Contact Us" page.

2) Tell us where to mail your copy of the issue.

3) Receive the issue and blog about it. Naturally, we prefer if you read the issue before blogging about it, but I’m just insisting that you blog about it. (The first time we tried this promotion, people mistakenly thought they should blog about the magazine before receiving the issue. No. Get the issue first, then blog about it.)

4) Send us a link to your blog.

That’s all there is to it. I’ll post here when we run out of the giveaway copies.

Spread the word!