Sunday, March 10, 2013

Book Review: Sarcology by Steven Lyle Jordan

A scientist is being blackmailed.  Suddenly, the nature of the blackmail changes and begins to involve information about her current work on robots rather than her past indiscretions in college.  She realizes she has to seek help and goes to a private detective agency.  Naturally there is more to this blackmail than anyone realizes.  Much more.  So begins Sarcology, a novel that toes the line between science fiction, mystery, and romance.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Book Review: The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke

Dreams can have many effects on people, both good and bad.  At their worst they can cause people to waste their lives (and the lives of others) chasing a fantasy to no good end.  However, when tempered by the knowledge of science and the power of engineering dreams (and people) can be at their best.  They can produce wonderful results such as telescopes that let us see and study the universe, rockets that let us break the boundaries of earth and reach out to it, and perhaps some day an elevator that can ascend to space and make those rockets obsolete.  The latter is the subject of Clarke's book.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Some time ago I completed the first volume in a biography of Robert Heinlein.

While reading, I came across this gem, set during World War II:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Review: The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke

Once upon a time man crossed the stars and spread throughout the galaxy, leaving Earth behind.  They met other intelligent life forms and formed alliances.  Unfortunately, this took place a billion years ago.  In the interim they ran across a species that was not happy about man's success, known only as The Invaders, and by launching war they forced humanity to abandon the galaxy and retreat to Earth.  During the war that resulted large portions of the earth were subject to desertification and the surviving inhabitants were forced to flee to a lone city, Diaspar.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

New Blogger

One of my dearest friends and sharpest critics has finally made time to start a blog.  Go check out his introductory post and make sure to to follow him.  I'm sure he'll be posting many fascinating and frustrating things there in the future.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Book review: The Gap Cycle by Stephen R. Donaldson

[Please note that this is a review of the entire series rather than any individual book within the series.]

Stephen R. Donaldson is primarily known for the dark fantasy work The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, which kicked off his career.  The Gap Cycle, however, is a space opera.  The sub-genre space opera is a form of science fiction traditionally characterized by a focus on grand adventure, melodramatic romance, a war of good versus evil, and characters rather than technology.  The setting of outer space tends to be used merely as a backdrop for the action.  The Gap Cycle is a space opera in a more literal sense, too:  The last four books in the series were inspired by Wagner's Ring Cycle.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sam Harris on Self Defense

Sam Harris has an excellent post up on his blog titled "The Truth about Violence: 3 Principles of Self Defense."

I realize this is a rather difficult subject for some to deal with and can be emotionally troublesome, but I feel that reading such material is important.  It's better to be safe than sorry.  His post is a combination of myth busting and common sense and makes for excellent reading.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Why would you want to study rocks?" Part 4: History

I've long been fascinated by history.  In spite of my strong leaning toward the sciences when I was trying to find my path through life I seriously considered majoring in classical studies for a time.  I dreamt of spending my life studying Greece, Rome and other ancient civilizations in their prime, of reading and translating the great dramatists, philosophers, and poets and sharing their gifts with the world.  Given that I do not have a gift for languages my near decision to enter that career path is quite significant.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Why would you want to study rocks?" Part 3: Variety

I've always found this comic by xkcd rather amusing.  To a geologist, the whole 'purity' argument that goes on amongst certain subsets of scientists seems so...wrongheaded.  We pride ourselves on research methods and areas of study that are derived from a large number of more basic fields and don't give a damn about how 'pure' our field is.

Friday, April 6, 2012

DOI whistle-blower fired.

I normally try to avoid writing on environmental and political issues, and this isn't really my beat anyway, but this issue is too important to let go.  Scientific American has reported on a hydrologist that was fired from his position as scientific-integrity officer for the Bureau of Reclamation because he noted that some of the materials that were to be presented to the public as evidence of the need to remove four dams along the Klamath river painted an inaccurately optimistic picture of the results of removing these dams.  Let's take a look: