Blake Butler: Is there anything you think of as unmappable?
Denis Wood: To map something meaningfully, it has to have some kind of areal expression. It can’t be uniformly dispersed in space. The USGS maps everything in the United States and it doesn’t matter. There’s a famous USGS sheet—maybe there’s more than one—devoted to the Great Salt Lake. It’s completely blue. There’s not a differentiating mark whatsoever. It’s just water, right? That’s obviously preposterous. Only somebody obsessively compiling the universe would produce a map like that. If the phenomenon is differentiated spatially, then it can be mapped. And if it can be mapped, I guess the question would be: Can you find and collect the data that would differentiate the phenomenon? And is it worth making a map of? Is it something that’s interesting? To answer your question, no, I don’t think so. I think mapping things is usually good. It lets sunshine in, though I suppose there plenty of microbes that don’t like the sun.


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September 29, 2014

Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 197, Umberto Eco

Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 197, Umberto Eco


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September 29, 2014

The list below contains 100 pieces of short fiction – short stories, novelettes and novellas – by women writers, published between 1927 and 2012. Each author appears only once. The stories are by no means the best by each writer. In most cases, I’m simply not familiar enough with an oeuvre to choose the best; in other cases, I’ve picked a story I’ve read and thought good, and yes, there are a few of my favourite stories in the list too. I’ve not read them all – some came from suggestions on Twitter or on an earlier post on this blog (many thanks to all who contributed), others I took from various award lists or Year’s Best TOCs. One or two fantasy stories might have sneaked through the net, because I couldn’t find copies to read and check. However, the list should all be science fiction – and it should also demonstrate a good spread of styles and themes and approaches across the genre.


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September 29, 2014

Introductory note: Mary Robinette Kowal’s novelette “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” was first published in 2012 as part of RIP-OFF, an original audiobook anthology from Audible.com. It was later published in text form in early 2013 on Kowal’s personal blog, along with a (few) “stage directions” the author had provided to the audio producers. In the nominating phase of the 2013 Hugo Awards, the audiobook appearance of the story received enough nominations to have been one of the finalists for Best Novelette—in fact, it received the third largest number of nominations. However, the committee overseeing this year’s Hugo process decided that it was ineligible in the “Best Novelette” category but eligible in “Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)”, where, unfortunately, it didn’t actually have enough nominations to be a finalist. It’s our understanding that, without wishing to constrain the committee that will oversee the 2014 Hugo Awards, the people who oversaw the awards in 2013 believe that the author’s 2013 self-publication of the story will make it eligible in 2014. What we think is that “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” is a fine story, and deserves not merely to be technically eligible for the 2014 Hugo ballot, but also to be read by large numbers of people. So we’re pleased to be presenting it to you here in its definitive, author-preferred text form. [—Patrick Nielsen Hayden]


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September 29, 2014

It was Huxley’s genius to present us to ourselves in all our ambiguity. Alone among the animals, we suffer from the future perfect tense. Rover the Dog cannot imagine a future world of dogs in which all fleas will have been eliminated and doghood will finally have achieved its full glorious potential. But thanks to our uniquely structured languages, human beings can imagine such enhanced states for themselves, though they can also question their own grandiose constructions. It’s these double-sided imaginative abilities that produce masterpieces of speculation such as Brave New World

Margaret Atwood on Brave New World | Books | The Guardian

I’ll be reading this soon. Ashamed to say it will be my first time, despite references to it peppered throughout my reading history.

(via notational)


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September 28, 2014

The Soft Robotics Toolkit is a collection of shared resources to support the design, fabrication, modeling, characterization, and control of soft robotic devices. The toolkit was developed as part of educational research being undertaken in the Harvard Biodesign Lab. The ultimate aim of the toolkit is to advance the field of soft robotics by allowing designers and researchers to build upon each other’s work. The toolkit includes an open source fluidic control board, detailed design documentation describing a wide range of soft robotic components (including actuators and sensors), and related files that can be downloaded and used in the design, manufacture, and operation of soft robots. In combination with low material costs and increasingly accessible rapid prototyping technologies such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC mills, the toolkit enables soft robotic components to be produced easily and affordably. Each section of the site focuses on a soft robotic device or component, and includes the following sections: Design: A description of the device and how it works, with related design files that can be downloaded and guidelines on potential modifications you could make to the design.
Fabrication: A bill of materials listing all of the parts, materials, and equipment you will need to build your own device, plus a detailed set of instructions for you to follow.
Modeling: A discussion of modeling and analysis approaches you can use to predict and understand the behavior of the device and optimize your design.
Testing: In order to validate your models and better understand your device, you will need to carry out empirical tests. This section describes the tests that other designers and researchers have carried out and that may provide inspiration for the design of your own experiments.
Case Studies: Examples of how others have used the device or component for real-world applications.
Downloads: All of the files related to the design, fabrication, modeling, testing, and control of the device. (via Soft Robotics Toolkit)


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September 28, 2014

futurescope:

Harvard Biodesign Lab: Soft Robotics Toolkit

Several Harvard University labs in collaboration with Trinity College Dublin have developed a collection of shared resources to support the design, fabrication, modeling, characterization, and control of soft robotic devices, called the Soft Robotics Toolit.

The toolkit was developed as part of educational research being undertaken in the Harvard Biodesign Lab. The ultimate aim of the toolkit is to advance the field of soft robotics by allowing designers and researchers to build upon each other’s work. The toolkit includes an open source fluidic control board, detailed design documentation describing a wide range of soft robotic components (including actuators and sensors), and related files that can be downloaded and used in the design, manufacture, and operation of soft robots. In combination with low material costs and increasingly accessible rapid prototyping technologies such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC mills, the toolkit enables soft robotic components to be produced easily and affordably.

Each section of the site focuses on a soft robotic device or component, and includes the following sections:

  • Design: A description of the device and how it works, with related design files that can be downloaded and guidelines on potential modifications you could make to the design.
  • Fabrication: A bill of materials listing all of the parts, materials, and equipment you will need to build your own device, plus a detailed set of instructions for you to follow.
  • Modeling: A discussion of modeling and analysis approaches you can use to predict and understand the behavior of the device and optimize your design.
  • Testing: In order to validate your models and better understand your device, you will need to carry out empirical tests. This section describes the tests that other designers and researchers have carried out and that may provide inspiration for the design of your own experiments.
  • Case Studies: Examples of how others have used the device or component for real-world applications.
  • Downloads: All of the files related to the design, fabrication, modeling, testing, and control of the device.

The content on this site is drawn from projects carried out in a number of research labs. Our aim is to improve and expand the toolkit by welcoming feedback and contributions from the soft robotics community. If you have an interest in advancing the field and engaging with this community, please get in touch!

[Soft Robotics Toolkit] [paper]


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September 28, 2014

we’ve gotten too wrapped up in trying to make solar power compete with fossil fuels, distracting us from its real advantage, which is that it’s right on the roof, independent of the grid. You don’t need wires, or power plants, transformers, or dispatchers. “Doing away with high-voltage lines is not a Luddite view,” says Perlin, “It’s a futuristic one. The revolution will come as we cut down the utility lines and up with the rooftops.” We’ve put decades of effort into making solar conform to the grid—even down to converting solar panels from DC power to AC power and then turning that AC power back to DC power for our TVs, computers, and electronics. House by house, we’ve created redundant costly equipment. Perhaps what we need instead is a more contrarian viewpoint. “All our appliances are DC, trapped in an AC world,” said Perlin. “The history of technology is full of these discontinuity stories.”


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September 28, 2014

He worked with a design team that prototyped an educational television set that could be utilized in the developing countries of Africa and produced in Japan for $9.00 per set (cost in 1970 dollars). His designed products also included a remarkable transistor radio, made from ordinary metal food cans and powered by a burning candle, that was designed to actually be produced cheaply in developing countries.


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September 28, 2014

Fifty thousand Hong Kong residents (the equivalent of 3 million Americans) have taken to the streets to protest the democracy that we have too. We should stand with them. This was the focus of my Zeitgeist talk early in the month (linked above). It was the subject of the talk Time wrote about this weekend. It is the frame that the Occupy movement needed. It is the recognition that should relaunch those protest again.
But this time, please, without the self-defeating trope that somehow this is a Right/Left issue. It is not. This is a Right/Wrong issue. It is wrong to allow a democracy to be captured by a tiny fraction of cronies. It is wrong here. It is wrong in Hong Kong. It is the democracy that Boss Tweed birthed (“I don’t care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating.”) Which is to say, is the latest stage of a fundamentally corrupted democracy. We should all stand with the students who launched the Hong Kong protests. And we should pray that it doesn’t become hijacked by violence — since this is China (Tiananmen) and because it is only ever nonviolent social movements that achieve the critical mass of support needed to win (that’s the brilliant conclusion of Erica Chenoweth’s work).
If they can keep the peace, they will win this fight. And if they win the fight, that may be the inspiration that we need here. #IStandWithHK.
You should too.


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September 28, 2014