Saturday, May 13, 2017

Jacobsen, Annie. Phenomena. New York: Little, Brown, 2017. ISBN 978-0-316-34936-9. At the end of World War II, it was clear that science and technology would be central to competition among nations in the postwar era. The development of nuclear weapons, German deployment of the first operational ballistic missile, and the introduction of jet propelled aircraft pointed the way to a technology-driven arms race, and both the U.S. and the Soviet Union scrambled to lay hands on the secret super-weapon programs of the defeated Nazi regime. On the U.S. side, the Alsos Mission not only sought information on German nuclear and...

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Monday, May 1, 2017

In December 1996, I posted a Web edition of From the Earth to the Moon, an English translation of Jules Verne's De la Terre à la Lune. This is a rather poor English translation of Verne's novel—it reads like it was prepared by a person for whom English was not their mother tongue. It has the merit of being in the public domain, allowing it to be freely distributed without restrictions. I have just posted an update to this on-line novel. Documents have been updated to XHTML 1.0 Strict with CSS Level 3 style sheets, and Unicode typography is used...

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Houellebecq, Michel. Soumission. Paris: J'ai Lu, [2015] 2016. ISBN 978-2-290-11361-5. If you examine the Pew Research Center's table of Muslim Population by Country, giving the percent Muslim population for countries and territories, one striking thing is apparent. Here are the results, binned into quintiles. Quintile   % Muslim   Countries 1 100–80 36 2 80–60 5 3 60–40 8 4 40–20 7 5 20–0 132 The distribution in this table is strongly bimodal—instead of the Gaussian (normal, or “bell curve”) distribution one encounters so often in the natural and social sciences, the countries cluster at the extremes: 36 are 80%...

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I have always been an inveterate watcher of log files. There is no better way to gain an insight into what is going on in your computers and spotting little emerging mouselike problems before they mature into moose-sized disasters than keeping an eye on the various system log files. This is particularly the case when running public servers, where unusual activity in the log file may alert you to developing denial of service attacks or other assaults from the Internet Slum. In 1997, faced with the need to monitor several servers in a “server farm” and watch multiple log files...

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Pratchett, Terry and Stephen Baxter. The Long War. New York: HarperCollins, 2013. ISBN 978-0-06-206869-9. This is the second novel in the authors' series which began with The Long Earth (November 2012). That book, which I enjoyed immensely, created a vast new arena for storytelling: a large, perhaps infinite, number of parallel Earths, all synchronised in time, among which people can “step” with the aid of a simple electronic gizmo (incorporating a potato) whose inventor posted the plans on the Internet on what has since been called Step Day. Some small fraction of the population has always been “natural steppers”—able to move...

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Originally published in 1995, C-ship uses ray-traced images taking into account the effects of special relativity to provide an intuitive grasp of the effects of the finite speed of light and the oblique view of spacetime perceived by observers moving at a substantial fraction of that ultimate speed limit. I have just posted a complete overhaul of this Web resource, updating all documents to contemporary Web standards (XHTML and HTML5, with Unicode typography). Animations and audio which previously required readers to download and play files with other applications can now be accessed directly from within the browser. Equations have been...

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

In 1997, I posted The Analytical Engine, a Web resource devoted to Charles Babbage's 19th century invention of a mechanical computing device which embodied all of the essentials of present-day computers. Although the Analytical Engine was never built, it is a key foundation of the intellectual heritage of computing. The Web tree included on-line editions of original documents about the Engine, including Babbage's description from his 1864 autobiography, and the 1842 “Sketch of the Analytical Engine” by L. F. Menabrea, translated and extensively annotated by Ada Augusta, Countess of Lovelace, in which the first computer programs appeared. Accompanying the documents...

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Hannan, Daniel. What Next. London: Head of Zeus, 2016. ISBN 978-1-78669-193-4. On June 23rd, 2016, the people of the United Kingdom, against the advice of most politicians, big business, organised labour, corporate media, academia, and their self-styled “betters”, narrowly voted to re-assert their sovereignty and reclaim the independence of their proud nation, slowly being dissolved in an “ever closer union” with the anti-democratic, protectionist, corrupt, bankrupt, and increasingly authoritarian European Union (EU). The day of the referendum, bookmakers gave odds which implied less than a 20% chance of a Leave vote, and yet the morning after the common sense and...

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Awret, Uziel, ed. The Singularity. Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 2016. ISBN 978-1-845409-07-4. For more than half a century, the prospect of a technological singularity has been part of the intellectual landscape of those envisioning the future. In 1965, in a paper titled “Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine” statistician I. J. Good wrote, Let an ultra-intelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all of the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be...

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Zelman, Aaron and L. Neil Smith. Hope. Rockville, MD: Phoenix Pick, [2001] 2008. ISBN 978-1-60450-293-0. I post reviews of every book I read here, but this post is about a novel I read fifteen years ago, Hope, by Aaron Zelman and L. Neil Smith, which, although I considered it a thriller bordering on fantasy when I read it in 2002, I now consider prophetic and highly relevant to events now playing out in the United States. Alexander Hope, a wealthy businessman with no political experience, motivated by what he perceives as the inexorable decline of the U.S. into a land...

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Monday, February 20, 2017

The Web pages for the 2004 Transit of Venus have been updated to HTML5 with improved typography, embedded animations, and stale external links fixed. All pages and CSS style sheets have been validated for correctness....

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

I have just posted an updated version of Les Quatre Saisons, a one-year time lapse video of construction in a field adjacent to Fourmilab in 2005–2006. The new version includes embedded video using the HTML5 video facility. This provides higher resolution than the embedded YouTube video used previously. Some broken links to the tools used to produce the movie have been fixed. The YouTube version of the video and links for users who wish to download the movie in a variety of formats continue to be available....

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Pitch Drop describes the longest continuously-running scientific experiment, which demonstrates how even the most viscous fluids will eventually flow as the liquids they are. Do it yourself instructions are included for the very patient....

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Jenne, Mike. Pale Blue. New York: Yucca Publishing, 2016. ISBN 978-1-63158-084-0. This is the final novel in the trilogy which began with Blue Gemini (April 2016) and continued in Blue Darker than Black (August 2016). After the harrowing rescue mission which concluded the second book, Drew Carson and Scott Ourecky, astronauts of the U.S. Air Force's covert Blue Gemini project, a manned satellite interceptor based upon NASA's Project Gemini spacecraft, hope for a long stand-down before what is slated to be the final mission in the project, whose future is uncertain due to funding issues, inter-service rivalry, the damage to its Pacific...

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Web edition of Jules Verne's 1873 novel Le Tour du Monde en Quatre-vingts Jours was originally posted at Fourmilab in December of 1996. An updated version, with improved typography and confirming to the XHTML 1.0 and CSS 3 standards, has just been posted. All illustrations have been remade from the original scans into greyscale PNG images, adjusted for contrast. All documents have been checked with the W3C Validator....

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