Archive for: November, 2009

Henry Kuttner's Destination Infinity

Nov 13 2009 Published by under Science fiction

Henry Kuttner is, for me, one of those authors who never disappoints, and is always thought-provoking.  He had an incredibly vivid imagination, and each of his works is absolutely unique, seamlessly blending pulp adventure with science fiction.  I've discussed a number of his stories previously on this blog, and I've loved each one of them.  Most recently, I sat down to read Destination Infinity (1956), originally published with the title Fury (1947):


(Image taken from

This novel is the first of Kuttner's that I've read that is wholeheartedly science fiction; it is also the first novel of his that features an anti-hero!  However, it still retains the flavor of Kuttner's earlier pulp adventures, and is a lot of fun.

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ResearchBlogging editor's selections: Thermodynamic CEOs, tidal landslides, alien fossils, and anime

Nov 09 2009 Published by under General science, Science news

Check back next Monday for more “miscellaneous” highlights!

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Oldest preserved spider web found in amber

Nov 07 2009 Published by under Animals, Science news

This is one of those stories that just fills one with awe about the ancientness of life on earth.  Via The Great Orange Satan, I found this article in Wired about an amazing discovery:

The world’s oldest known spider web has been discovered on a beach in Sussex, England, trapped inside an ancient chunk of amber.

Scientists found the rare amber fossil in December, and have now confirmed that it contains remnants of spider silk spun roughly 140 million years ago by an ancestor of modern orb-weaving spiders. After slicing the amber into thin sections and examining each piece under a high-powered microscope, the researchers discovered that the ancient silk threads share several features common to modern spider webs, including droplets of sticky glue used to hold the web together and capture prey.

Spiders have been doing their web-spinning thing for at least 140 million years. That's just amazing.

(More physics posts in the works, for those who are wondering what I've been up to.)

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John Grant's Bogus Science

Nov 06 2009 Published by under ... the Hell?, General science, Science news

About two years ago, I had the pleasure of happening across and reading John Grant's book Corrupted ScienceCorrupted Science deals with the systematic weakening, ignoring, and suppression of scientific reality for political purposes; examples include the disastrous Lysenkoism of Stalin's Russia and the potentially catastrophic ignoring of evidence for man-made climate change.  Corrupted Science (CS) was Grant's second book, following Discarded Science, which describes those scientific ideas that in the end turned out not to be true.

The other day, wandering through the exact same Barnes & Noble where I found CS two years ago, I found that Grant has a new book out exploring similar themes to his previous two, Bogus Science; or, Some People Really Believe These Things:

Bogus Science_fullsize

Where DS dealt with wrong science in the scientific community and CS dealt with wrong science in the political theater, BS focuses down and takes a look at individual kooks, crackpots, and frauds and their perversion of established science (and reality).

The book is very good; as a first statement I can highly recommend it.  There were also a few  aspects of it, however, that made me like it a little less than his previous book.

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Horror writers on horror films, from Focus Features

Nov 03 2009 Published by under Entertainment, Horror

A few days ago, I got a nice email from, the film culture website of film company Focus Features (A Serious Man, Brokeback Mountain, Coraline).  For Halloween, they asked five horror writers to each list their five favorite horror movies.  Some of the names I'm familiar with -- Kim Newman, Joe R. Lansdale, Tananarive Due -- and others are new to me, but their choices are all interesting, even though there are some that I wouldn't necessarily agree with (Carnival of Souls?  Really?).

You can read the list here.

Though I'm not a professional horror author (yet), I thought I'd chime in with my own set of movies that disturb me!   This list is by no means complete -- after all, it's only five -- but it is indicative of what unsettles me...

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Renaissance Mathematicus on the blogroll!

Nov 03 2009 Published by under History of science

Just a short note that I've added Renaissance Mathematicus to the blogroll, a long overdue addition!  For those readers here who like the history of science, I can highly recommend thonyc's blog, if you haven't been reading it already!  A mission statement about the scope and contents can be read here.

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12 days until The Giant's Shoulders #17!

Nov 03 2009 Published by under General science, Science news

There’s 12 days left until the deadline for The Giant’s Shoulders #17!  It will be held at The Primate Diaries, and entries can be submitted through or directly to the host blog, as usual!

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The movie 2012... stoopid before it even comes out

Nov 02 2009 Published by under ... the Hell?, Entertainment

You know, I'm not in principle against a film based on the premise that the world will end in 2012 as prophesized by the ancient Mayans, even though the idea is complete bunk.  What does bug me is that the film is by Roland Emmerich, and looks to be another noisy, incoherent mess heavy on special effects and almost bereft of plot or character development.  (See Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 BC, etc.)

I had to laugh, though, when I saw this trailer on television the other day.   The text of the trailer declares,

The Mayans warned us

We should have listened

Waitaminit -- the film is, in essence, about the end of the world, involving the destruction of pretty much everything on the planet.  How would listening to the Mayans actually help at all in such a circumstance?  How are we supposed to prepare for the end of the world, "duck and cover"?  Hide under the kitchen table?  Build enough spaceships to fly everyone to the moon?

This sort of incoherent trailer does not bode well for the film, in my opinion.  Then again, has there ever been a film about global catastrophe that has been any good?  Looking through the recent list of choices -- Armageddon, The Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact -- I can't say there are any that are particularly memorable.  Really, there have been so many movies involving mass destruction in the past few years that I'm totally desensitized to it.

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ResearchBlogging editor's selections: Replicating historical sites, dating the universe, zombies, vampires and werewolves, oh my!

Nov 02 2009 Published by under General science, Science news

  • Replication. teofilo at Gambler's House talks about an interesting proposal for preserving delicate historical sites: build exact replicas of them!  Replicas of smaller artifacts could also be used to resolve disputes of ownership amongst various countries.
  • Universe lets age clue slip. Greg Laden, at the eponymous Greg Laden's blog, describes recent astronomical observation that extends the known age of the  universe.  He manages to explain the discovery in a very terrestrial context!
  • Blood and brains -- can vampires survive a zombie apocalypse? We all know that the odds of humans surviving a zombie apocalypse are pretty bleak, but what about vampires?  Southern Fried Scientist over at Southern Fried Science describes some mathematical modeling that was done to look at the survivability of the #1 undead predator during an outbreak of the #2 predator.
  • Werewolves of London, Ontario. Neurocritic over at The Neurocritic talks a bit about another classic monster -- the werewolf -- and the psychological basis of lycanthropy.  Stories of people believing that they're animals go back a long way...

Finally, as long as we're on the subject of monsters, and Halloween is so recently behind us, let me point to my own contribution: Boo! The optics behind "ghost" imaging.

Check back next Monday for more “miscellaneous” highlights!

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