Archive for: August, 2008

Some words from Wordsworth Mystery & Supernatural

Aug 31 2008 Published by under Horror

Over the past few months, I've been throwing in a 'shout-out' to some smaller press publishers who specialize in classic and hard-to-find weird fiction; some original posts on the topic can be found here and here.  A few weeks ago the finance/marketing director of Wordsworth Editions Ltd, Derek Wright, dropped a nice comment in my original 'shout-out'; since it appeared in an old post, I thought I'd reprint the comment in its entirety here:

Thanks for the mention of our Mystery & Supernatural series, which I stumbled across purely because I was reading your other notes while I was researching for possible new titles. As a small company (there are only three of us), we welcome suggestions from readers, so if anyone would care to have a look at our list, and comes up with something that we really should be doing, drop us a line on the website. The only specific requirement is that they need to be out of copyright (70+ years after the author’s death - we can’t squeeze royalties into a £2.99 R.R.P.) Mmmm, Flaxman Low, now there’s an idea…

Wordsworth Editions is one of the two small press publishers (along with Valancourt Books) which I am particularly fond of.  They've been reprinting a number of classic tales which would otherwise be quite inaccessible.  I highly encourage people to check them out; you won't be disappointed!

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Any physics requests?

Aug 31 2008 Published by under Personal, Science news

Ugh.  I've been feeling a bit under the weather and unmotivated to blog for the past week.  I'm thinking I may have come down with some mild illness that's slowing me down (or maybe that illness is simply the start of the new academic semester).

Anyway, I'm struggling again to find some scientific topics to blog about.  If you've got any requests, feel free to drop them in the comments below.  Keep in mind, though, that I'm a theoretical physicist who specializes in classical optics: I'm not going to write a general relativity post any time soon!

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"Look, you fools. You're in danger. Can't you see? They're after you. They're after all of us. Our wives, our children, everyone. They're here already. YOU'RE NEXT!"

Aug 29 2008 Published by under Science news

This is just my way of saying Blake Stacey has been absorbed into scienceblogs.com, part of the Seed Media Group.  He is now in the distinguished company of such great science blogs as Pharyngula, A Blog Around the Clock, and erv.  I'm updating my blogroll accordingly.

Don't recognize the title quote?  I'm a little tired of the constant 'Borg' references that get passed around every time someone gets assimilated into scienceblogs, so I thought I'd try and steer the analogy in another direction.

C'mon... Seed... pods... what's the difference?  🙂  In any case, congrats to Blake!

Oh, as long as I'm updating my blogroll, I thought I should note that I'm also adding the APS 'Physics Central' blog!

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Robert R. McCammon's Boy's Life

Aug 28 2008 Published by under Horror

I read much of Robert R. McCammon's work when I was younger, but somehow I managed to read only his 'lesser' works, such as Stinger (1988), Wolf's Hour (1989), and The Night Boat (1980), and completely missed the books widely considered to be his masterpieces, namely Swan Song (1987) and Boy's Life (1991). It's possible, in the case of Boy's Life, that it was published after I had ended my initial interest in horror fiction, but I suspect that I simply wasn't mature enough to bother with a story about a boy growing up in a small Alabama town in 1960.

I recently decided to take another look at McCammon, and started with Boy's Life. I have to say: wow. Boy's Life is good, and not just 'horror novel good' -- it's 'literary novel good'.

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Another personal blogging milestone...

Aug 26 2008 Published by under Personal

My friend Personal Demon has reminded me (and belatedly congratulated me) on my one-year blogging anniversary, which I began writing on August 14th, 2007.  I had completely forgotten the date.  Thanks to everyone who has been reading my posts so far; hopefully the next year will result in even better writing!

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Fossil Hunt: FAIL!!!

Aug 26 2008 Published by under General science, Travel

Well, I'm back from Chicago, and my fossil hunting expedition!  My abilities to find fossils on this trip can be summarized by one word:  FAIL!!!

This was a field trip sponsored by the Field Museum of Chicago, a place I spent much time at in my youth.  For at least 20 years, they've sponsored fossil hunts in the Mazon Creek area.  My dad and I participated in one some twenty years ago, as mentioned in this post; in recent months, I suddenly got the urge to go back and try my luck again.

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A blogging hiatus for the weekend

Aug 22 2008 Published by under Personal

I just thought I'd mention that I probably won't be posting for a few days: I'm heading to the Chicago area to go on a fossil hunt with my Dad!  On top of that, as soon as I get back the semester starts and I have to make sure my course is in order.  I may still throw something on the 'tubes over the weekend, especially if the fossil hunting is fruitful, but no promises!

In other blog news, a flurry of interest in my short post on Leavenworth's underground city catapulted my blog views over 50,000!

Here's a few links for those who need something to read (The Linkin' Log: August 22, 2008):

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New 'cloaking' results? Not really, but interesting anyway

Aug 20 2008 Published by under Invisibility, Optics, Physics

ResearchBlogging.orgAbout a week ago, I reported on another 'teaser' in the media about 'optical cloaks', hypothetical devices which would in principle make objects contained in their core completely invisible. Such devices have gotten a lot of attention, both scientifically and in the press, since the publication of two fascinating theoretical papers in 2006. I recently wrote a post, which can be found here, summarizing those original two papers.

The press reports a week ago suggested another major breakthrough in cloaking research, with headlines such as "Science close to unveiling invisible man" and "Invisibility cloak closer than you think." They were a little confused about what exactly had been accomplished, however: had the researchers made a three-dimensional invisibility cloak, a cloak that works at visible frequencies, or both?

Well, it turns out that they've done neither! This is another example of the press hunting for the best 'hook' for the story, no matter how tangentially related to the actual research. What has been accomplished, however, is the development of low-loss, three-dimensional negative refractive index materials which work for visible wavelengths, which is an important and interesting accomplishment in and of itself. I give a brief answer to the question, "What is a metamaterial?" below the fold, followed by an explanation of the actual results of the recent Berkeley papers and an analysis of how the press got themselves confused again.

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Tim Lebbon's Mesmer

Aug 19 2008 Published by under Horror

Tim Lebbon relative newcomer as a horror fiction author. I've discussed a couple of his later novels in a previous post, and I finally got around to reading his first: Mesmer (1997).

As Lebbon himself notes in the introduction to the 2002 edition, Mesmer is "just-about-a-novel". It is only 167 pages (about 40k words), and "hovers in that grey, indistinct area between novella and a novel, a mutant child of both that sits quietly in the corner at parties nursing a glass of mudium-strength beer and saying, 'Well, believe it or not, I want to be this length.'"

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Bill Murray makes a skydive!

Aug 17 2008 Published by under Sports

(h/t my Mom)  For the opening of the 50th Chicago Air & Water show on Friday, actor Bill Murray decided to take the plunge and make a tandem skydive!  The raw footage of his skydive can be seen at the Chicago Tribune here.

The funny thing about it is, with only a few notable deviations, the video plays very much like the video anyone would get making a tandem!  There's the pre-launch interview, the look at the altimeter at altitude, the pre-jump questioning, followed by the jump and a 'debrief' immediately upon landing.

What were the deviations?  Watch the video, and then follow me below...

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