What has NASA ever done for us?

January 1, 2009

Well, apparently quite a lot.  At least, that is the impression I get from the Nasa toy I found over at the Other Worlds Cafe’s Science Fiction Brewed Daily.  You open  it up and it takes you through a virtual home room by room, listing all the different that were developed as spinoffs of or impacted by Nasa research.  It is a pretty long list.  The city feature also takes you into a virtual city to different places like the hospital to give the same sort of tour there.  It’s nifty.  Check it out.

In a related note, if you are like me (and a lot of the general public) you don’t pay much attention to Nasa these days.  I mean, really, their publicists are pretty crappy.  They only seem to make the news when they screw something up.  Anyway, my point is that you may not be aware of how much they are actually doing right now.  For example, did you know there were more than 20 active missions in 2008?  They included closer looks at other planets – Mercury and Venus as well as Mars – and moons of other planets, and even a comet.  Dip on over to The Planetary Society for a full run down on what our taxpayer’s dollars have been up to in outer space this past year.


Idoru – William Gibson

January 1, 2009

Well, I’m still sick, but boredom has now begun to out weigh fatigue, and prompted me to crawl to my computer.  I have now finished Idoru, the first read from my new Christmas books.  I am a Gibson fan, but I must admit, this one took me a little while to get into it.  I had some difficulty understanding what was going on in the first quarter of the book, between the frequent scene changes and character shifts and the seemingly unrelated events.  Of course, Gibson tied everything together into a cohesive story later in the book, as he always does.  I have been reading a lot of Gibson lately, as well as Stephenson and Niven (Dream Park Niven, not Ringworld Niven…well, both really, but I digress), and for some reason those universes have all sort of blended together for me.  Also the haze of Nyquil may have affected my perception of this book.  Regardless, I enjoyed the book once I figured out what was going on.


Idoru is a sequel of sorts to Virtual Light, in that it is set in the same universe as evidenced by the presence as a mostly inconsequential character of Rydell, who was a major character in Virtual Light.  It is set in the unspecified near future at a time when the media is totally out of control and focuses on a “rock star” who wants to marry an idoru, a Japanese software construct.  The idoru was designed to be a media star with mass appeal in Japan, and is not a physical being, and may not be anything more than a collection of responses programmed into a computer.  Naturally, said rock star’s friends are concerned that he wants to marry a made up person, and they take action to find out what is really going on.  Enter Laney, who was subjected to experimental drug trials as a child which left him with an odd ability to find so called ‘nodal points’ in computer data that help him understand the person who generated the data.  I confess, I don’t really get that concept, but whatever.  I’m pretty sure it ties into the same concept Gibson tried to get across in Pattern Recognition, that some people have an innate ability to see patterns that indicate future trends.  And same as that book, I see the shape of it, but it doesn’t come into focus for me.  Fortunately, there is another idea central to the book that I won’t reveal because it would be a spoiler.  If you want a better explanation (remember, still on Nyquil), check out the wiki page for Idoru.

And apparently, this is a trilogy, called the Bridge trilogy.  I will have to hunt up the third book, All Tomorrow’s Parties.