adactio / Jeremy Keith

An Irish web developer living in Brighton, England working with Clearleft.

I built Huffduffer.

There are twenty-nine people in adactio’s collective.

Huffduffed (2433) activity chart

  1. How to fly to Alpha Centauri

    Talking about building an interstellar space ship makes you sound like a sci-fi fan who’s lost touch with the real world. Unless you’re Mae Jemison, a former astronaut — the first African-American woman in space. Then you might legitimately wonder, “How in the hell do you get to another star system?”

    Jemison actually needs to answer that question; she’s the head of 100 Year Starship, an organization the home page of which boldly commands, “Let’s make human interstellar travel capabilities a reality within the next hundred years.”

    “That time frame is reasonable, why?” she asks rhetorically. “If you said ten years — ‘Nah, we know that’s not long enough.’ If you said 500 years, people would say, ‘I can kick back for another two to three hundred years because I don’t have to worry about it.’ One hundred years is close enough."

    The problem: space is big, and our current rocket technology isn’t cutting it. “If you’re travelling with technology we can already conceive, like say the Voyager spacecraft, it’s going to take about 80,000 years to travel a distance to our nearest neighboring star," says Marc Millis, the head of the Tau Zero Foundation. “And it is going 0.00006 times the speed of light.” Nuclear-powered spacecraft might go much faster, and have their proponents, but are politically and environmentally dangerous: no one wants to risk a nuclear meltdown during liftoff.

    The heads of yet another interstellar organization, Starship Century, think they are on the right track. James Benford is president of a company that does microwave research; his identical twin brother Gregory is an astrophysicist at the University of California, Irvine. The Benfords make a strong case for a technology right out of a science fiction novel. The technology is the beam sail, and the book is Rocheworld, written by Robert Forward in 1982. “[It’s] a very solid scientific concept for a starship,” James says.

    A beam sail is like a regular sail — “envision it as a giant umbrella, maybe 100 meters across,” says Gregory — pushed with microwave beams, instead of wind, to extremely high speeds. Beam sails are still in the experimental phase, and far more tests will be necessary on Earth and in space before we know if they can propel an object across the galaxy. Even Jemison admits that the hundred-year estimate is kind of a tease — it’s more about figuring out the physics than building the Enterprise.

    But Gregory Benford likes to remind us of how greatly we underestimate the pace of change. “Thomas Jefferson said in 1812 that it will take 1,000 years for the republic to reach the Pacific. He never envisioned that 57 years later, a train would run all the way to San Francisco.”

    http://www.studio360.org/story/how-to-fly-alpha-centauri/

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  2. KCRW Bookworm interview of Neal Stephenson on Some Remarks (2012)

    Neal Stephenson, a sort of contemporary Dickens (from Seattle,) talks about essays and other writing; science fiction and mainstream literature.

    http://www.kcrw.com/etc/programs/bw/bw120906neal_stephenson_some

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  3. Neal Stephenson - Turing Festival 2013 Keynote

    Science fiction master Neal Stephenson, author of Snowcrash, Cryptonomicon, The Baroque Cycle and more delivers the Keynote Conversation at Edinburgh’s Turing Festival on the 23rd August 2013.

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  4. Will sci-fi save us?

    What does today’s sci-fi mean for our real-life future? Cyberpunk author Neal Stephenson argues that it’s time to get over our love of dystopia. A class at MIT searches sci-fi classics for technologies they can invent right now, although maybe they shouldn’t. Geoengineers take a tip from Carl Sagan – who saw a green future for Mars – to see if we can save Earth. And we meet some scientists who think that if we ever want to see the stars, we’d better start building the starship.

    http://www.studio360.org/story/will-scifi-save-us/

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  5. The power of positive sci-fi

    For a couple of generations, it’s been a truism that good science fiction is grim science fiction. Technology is out of control, democracy is failing, the environment ruined. Think Hunger Games, Minority Report, The Matrix, and Blade Runner, all the way back to 1984. But science fiction writer and astrophysicist David Brin believes we’ve gotten too fond of these bummers. “It’s so easy to make money with a tale that says: ‘Civilization is garbage. Our institutions never will be helpful. Your neighbors are all useless sheep,’” he laments. “’Now enjoy a couple of characters running around shooting things and having adventures in the middle of a dystopia.’”

    Dystopias are bad? That’s heresy for science fiction. But a few people are starting to agree with him, like Neal Stephenson, the author of Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash. A few years ago, Stephenson was on a panel discussion with Arizona State University President Michael Crow, and Stephenson started complaining that there were no big scientific projects to inspire people these days. Crow shot back, “You’re the ones slacking off!” In Crow’s view, it was the writers who weren’t pulling their weight, supplying the motivating visions for science and technology.

    From that discussion, Crow and Stephenson have collaborated on The Center for Science and the Imagination at ASU. And Stephenson founded a group called Project Hieroglyph, which recruits science fiction authors to write more optimistically about the future. “I guess I had never given science fiction writers enough credit of being leaders of innovation,” Stephenson says. The writers who contribute to Project Hieroglyph don’t have to consult with scientists or engineers, but doing so “shows they’re on the right track.” Stephenson says. Only three rules: no hyperspace, no holocausts and no hackers. Coming from Stephenson, the bard of hackers, that’s quite a challenge.

    http://www.studio360.org/story/power-of-positive-sci-fi/

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  6. At MIT, an ethics class for inventors

    MIT’s Media Lab makes a strong claim to being the place where the future is designed. A class called Science Fiction to Science Fabrication, taught by researchers Dan Novy and Sophia Brueckner, makes that connection direct by using science fiction as an inspiration for real-world inventions.

    Sci-fi is full of imagined technologies, some plausible (killer robots), some far-out (time-traveling DeLoreans). Students in this class mine the work of authors like Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, J. G. Ballard, Ray Bradbury, and William Gibson for ideas, such as an empathy testing machine like the one used to identify androids in Blade Runner.

    But most science fiction writers aren’t advocating that we build their technologies; they’re asking how we would use, or misuse, them. That’s exactly why Brueckner and Novy decided to put science fiction in front of the students at the MIT Media Lab. “Reading science fiction is kind of like ethics class for inventors,” says Brueckner. Traditionally, technology schools ask ‘how do we build it?’ This class asks a different question: ‘should we?’

    Novy adds, “With the ability of any technology or application to go viral over the planet in 24 hours, I think it is even more important to think about what you’re doing before you release it into the wild.”

    http://www.studio360.org/story/at-mit-ethics-class-for-inventors/

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  7. 99% Invisible - 114: Ten Thousand Years

    http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/ten-thousand-years/

    In 1990, the federal government invited a group of geologists, linguists, astrophysicists, architects, artists, and writers to the New Mexico desert, to visit the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. They would be there on assignment.

    The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is the nation’s only permanent underground repository for nuclear waste. Radioactive byproducts from nuclear weapons manufacturing and nuclear power plants. WIPP was designed not only to handle a waste stream of various forms of nuclear sludge, but also more mundane things that interacted with radioactive materials, such as tools and gloves.

    WIPP, which is located deep in the New Mexico desert, was designed to store all of this radioactive material and keep us all safe from it.

    Eventually, WIPP will be sealed up and left alone. Years will pass and those years will become decades. Those decades will become centuries and those centuries will roll into millennia. People above ground will come and go. Cultures will rise and fall. And all the while, below the surface, that cave full of waste will get smaller and smaller, until the salt swallows up all those oil drums and entombs them. Then, all the old radioactive gloves and tools and little bits from bombs –all still radioactive– will be solidified in the earth’s crust for more than 200,000 years. Basically forever.

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  8. To The Best of Our Knowledge: True Detective’s Nic Pizzolatto (extnded interview)

    HBO’s hit series "True Detective" is an uncanny blend of police procedural and metaphysical inquiry, set in the Louisiani bayous. In this exclusive interview, creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto tells Steve Paulson the backstory to the show, and provides a glimpse at what’s in store for season 2 (hint: it won’t take place in Louisiana).

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  9. David Chang | Heritage Radio Network

    Momofuku’s umami king, David Chang, is constantly questioning the institution of taste, and always aiming to progress in the culinary world. This week on Taste Matters, Mitchell Davis invites David into the studio to talk about his expanding restaurant empire, neglected flavors, and agriculture. Though David’s food is often described as bold, hear how David uses the subtlety of Japanese cuisine in his cooking. Find out why contemporary diners are obsessed with the idea of umami, and how David brought kimchi into the food vernacular. How do palates differ internationally? With restaurants in Australia, Canada, and beyond, David has learned the minute differences between the dining public’s tastes. Learn about Japan’s rich farming traditions, and hear how the Internet has been detrimental to food culture. You don’t want to miss this week’s edition of Taste Matters! Thanks to our sponsor, Fairway Market. Today’s break music has been provided by Jack Inslee.

    ‘Everything is fusion, and there are only two types of cuisine- good food and bad food. And we’re striving for the former.’ [4:05]

    ‘Taste matters not just in fine dining, but everywhere.’ [5:00]

    ‘If your goal is to stay the same, then you’re going to regress… Our goal is to reach a goal that we are never going to reach.’ [15:00]

    ‘The Japanese have been farming for thousands of years… They have a culture and history of food that we can’t even imagine.’ [21:20]

    — David Chang on Taste Matters

    http://www.heritageradionetwork.org/episodes/4612-Taste-Matters-Episode-97-David-Chang

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  10. Marisa McClellan | Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches All Year Long

    In conversation with Kristen Wiewora Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher better known as the personality behind the award-winning blog Food in Jars, dedicated to the joyful preservation of time in a jar, storing away the tastes of all seasons for later. Organized by season, her new cookbook Preserving by the Pint focuses on small batches of jams, jellies, pickles, and chutneys. Her unique recipes, including Blueberry Maple Jam, Mustardy Rhubarb Chutney, Sorrel Pesto, and Zucchini Bread and Butter Pickles, are perfect for small households, families who get CSA shares, and those with small backyard gardens.  (recorded 7/10/2014)

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