The Veil War

"and then I was like, 'Holy crap, goblins!'"

Give it a name

Scalzi has a post that gives a name to the point I raised earlier about the uncanny valley in storytelling.

When my daughter was much younger, my wife was reading to her from a picture book about a snowman who came to life and befriended a young boy, and on each page they would do a particular activity: build a snow fort, slide down a hill, enjoy a bowl of soup and so on. The last three pages had the snowman walking, then running, and then flying. At which point my wife got an unhappy look on her face and said ‘A flying snowman? That’s just ridiculous!’

To which I said: ‘So you can accept a snowman eating hot soup, but not flying?’ Because, you know, if you can accept the former (not to mention the entire initial premise of a snowman coming to life), I’m not sure how the snowman flying became qualitatively more ridiculous.

‘The Flying Snowman Problem’ works as well as a label for the issue as anything, and better than most. Consider it named.

Interstellar snail mail

An update to our earlier post on the Fermi Paradox:

Charlie Stross offers some of his own thoughts about the issue.

Tanenbaum’s Law (attributed to Professor Andrew S. Tanenbaum) is flippantly expressed as, “Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway”. It’s a profound insight into the state of networking technology: our ability to move bits from a to b is very tightly constrained in comparison with our ability to move atoms, because we have lots of atoms and they take relatively little energy to set in motion.

Read the whole thing. Some of the comments are quite interesting as well:

Remembering how paranoid some of the denizens are here, can I point out the beautiful absurdity of message missiles and message laser?

“No, you idiot, I wasn’t trying to bomb your planet, I was trying to send you a copy of the Encyclopedia Galatica with instructions for planetary peace and interplanetary governance. It wasn’t supposed to take out your space station. Really. Now turn off that terawatt message laser please, before it fries our launch facility so that we can try again? Okay?”

Interstellar war or peaceful contact. What if you can’t tell the difference?

Good stuff. An essential problem in interstellar relations is the bare fact that any means of transportation or communication across light-year scale distances is, inherently, a weapon of vast destructive power.

Addendum: If you’re really interested in all of the above, you will likely want to read this and perhaps this.


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