Sunday, October 30, 2011

History Repeats Itself -- a second time?

Nancy Kress has posted an excerpt from sir John Froissart, about the Peasant's Revolt in response to the Statute of Labourers (1351). 
Occupy London, 1381

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What Hath Global Warming Wrought?

Snow near my brother's house by Philadelphia
It is snowing here in the Lehigh Valley.  Forecasts are for 4-8 inches.  It is not yet Hallow E'en.

Now, the IPCC models were always in agreement that most of the warming would take place in Northern Hemisphere winter nights (which actually doesn't sound so bad), so the trend toward colder over these past ten years or so is whiffing a lot like Popper.  But never fear: weather is not climate!  (Except when it is: cf. Katrina, Irene, Texas drought, etc.)  And it ain't global warming no more; it's climate change!  So any time the climate seems to change, it is due to climate change.  And never mind the dizzy spell from circular reasoning.  I suppose the orbits of the planets can now be explained by location change, too. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

TOF Translation Service 

Current global warming appears anomalous in relation to the climate of the last 20000 years
Svante Björck
Department of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences, 
Division of Geology, Quaternary Sciences, Lund University, Sölveg. 12,
223 62 Lund, Sweden

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Odds and Ends

Only in Pennsylvania
In New York City, when someone wants to sell you a bridge, it's a fraud.  In Pennsylvania, they actually go out and get a bridge - and it's theft. 

Does This Bother Anyone?
Should it? 
a) Lead Author on definitive paper
b) is president of a consulting firm
c) That makes its money on the fruits of such papers.

Caesar omni suspicione maiores debent esse uxorem. 

Fossil Genes, OWS, Precognition, and Intrepid Pathfinders below the cut

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Stand-Up Mathematics

  • I went to the restaurant and ordered a prime rib.  But then I discovered I could not divide it.   
  • When Heisenberg visited the Institute for Advanced Studies, a state trooper stopped him on the Jersey Turnpike.  He came up to the car and said, "Sir, do you know how fast you were going?"  Heisenberg answered, "No, but I can tell you exactly where I am." 
  • They try to tell you πr² but pie are not square.  Pie are round.  Cornbread are square. 
  • If you go on vacation, ask Erwin Schrödinger to house-sit, because he can watch your cat,. 
  • The integral ∫1/(cabin) d(cabin) equals ln(cabin)
  • The formula for the standard deviation is complex enough that many people have a deep and unreasoning fear of it.  This phobia was intensively studied by the great Viennese psychiatrist Sigma Freud. 
  • The mode is the most frequent number in a sample.  So in the sample 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, π, π, π, π, π, π, π, π, π, π, π, π, 4, 4, 5, we have π a la mode. 
  • Say...  How exactly can a deviate be standard
  • We should build a gambling oasis in the desert near Las Vegas and call it Möbius just so on the Strip we can truly say that what happens in Möbius stays in Möbius. 
  • I met a girl once who was in a complex relationship.  She gave be her imaginary number. 

A smutty mathematical story:
Once upon a time pretty little Polly Nomial was strolling across a field of vectors when she came to the edge of a singularly large matrix.
Now Polly was convergent and her mother had made it an absolute condition that she must never enter such an array without her brackets on. Poll however, who had changed her variables that morning and was feeling particularly badly behaved, ignored these conditions on the ground that they were unnecessary, and made her way amongst the complex elements.
Rows and columns enveloped her on both sides. Tangents approached her surface; she became tensor and tensor.
Sordid details here

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Best Selling SF Paperbacks

I am informed by my agent that:

Below is the Locus paperback line-up of bestsellers, in the October issue.  THE JANUARY DANCER is #6 -- and considering that the George R.R. Martin fantasy series takes up the first four slots, that makes you, #2 on the bestseller list after the HBO-related works.

1)     A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin (Bantam) 13, 2
2)     A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin (Bantam) 10, 1
3)     A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin (Bantam) 10, 2
4)     A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin (Bantam) 9, 4

5)     Heartless, Gail Carriger (Orbit US) 2, 9
6)     The January Dancer, Michael Flynn (Tor) 1, -
7)     The Fuller Memorandum, Charles Stross (Ace) 1, -
8)     Imager’s Intrigue, L.E. Modesitt Jr. (Tor) 1, -
*)     Kitty’s Big Trouble, Carrie Vaughn (Tor) 1, -
10)   Mission of Honor, David Weber (Baen) 1, -

And so it is with a hearty vote of thanks to my dedicated fan that he (or she) has ventured forth and purchased so many copies. 

The Incompleat Flynniana

For some reason, only the first 72 were published.
The remainder:

The Compleat Flynniana

I spent most of the afternoon straightening out files, in the course of which I produced a list of opi, which I thought to share with you Faithful Reader.  Each story is given an opus number when the first page is written.  These numbers do not correspond to the order in which they saw print (or not, as the case may be) and some are blank because the story never went anywhere and was either abandoned or is lying in abeyance for possible new look.  In one case, a story was substantially rewritten twice and wound up with three opus numbers, a practice which I discarded.  Also, for some novels where a self-contained chapter was sold as a stand-alone story, it has been designated with a letter suffix.  (A couple such chapters that did not sell are not listed.)

Novels and Collections are bold faced.  Unless designated Baen or Arc Manor, these were all put out by Tor.  Stories are in normal face, with no distinction as to length.  Unless designated otherwise, these were all first published by Analog.  Non-stories: poems and fact articles are designated.

Story Mosaics are designated by color: Babbage SocietySingerLabs/Nanotech/Neighborhood, Firestar, Irish Pub, Spiral Arm.  There are a few minor tie-ins.  There is a minor connection between the Irish Pub stories and "Mammy Morgan."  Sharon Nagy from Eifelheim is mentioned in "On the High Frontier."  Sarah Beaumont and Red Malone from Country of the Blind makes a cameo in Firestar and Ned Dubois' daughter refers in passing to Sarah's dump of the Babbage Society files when she was a kid.  Jacinta Rosario from Rogue Star et seq. is mentioned in Up Jim River.  It is likely that there are enough connections between the Babbage Society, Firestar, and Spiral Arm series to make the whole thing inconsistent!! 

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Feast of Ignatius of Antioch

A pot of miscellany today. 

1. Like his good bud Polycarp of Smyrna, Ignatius of Antioch was a disciple of the Apostle John and was appointed by Simon Peter to lead the church at Antioch after Evodius, who had been one of the Seventy-Two.  Early writers stated that Iggy was the young child in Mark 9:35:
And taking a child, he set him in the midst of them. Whom when he had embraced, he says to them: Whosoever shall receive one such child as this in my name receives me. And whosoever shall receive me receives not me but him that sent me.
But their reasons for saying so (and we must suppose they had reasons) have been long lost.  Still, it's one of those things that really ought to be true, but Ignatius was probably born about 20 years too late. 

Iggy wrote several letters prior to his death ca. AD 100 that used to be read in the churches: to the Churches of Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna; and to his friend Polycarp.  These epistles have sometimes been counted as among the "lost books of the Bible," but of course they had never been lost by the traditional churches -- the Orthodox, the Catholic, et al.  (Other letters read publicly included those of Polycarp and of Clement of Rome.  The Bible, as such, had not yet settled down, and there is at least one such early compendium that includes I Clement (to the Corinthians).)

As an aside, a disciple of his buddy Polycarp was Irenaeus of Lyons, who died in the late 100's; so we see that on the eve of the third century, there was still someone kicking who was connected to the Apostles by two degrees of separation: Irenaeus ← Polycarp ← John ←Jesus. This is why one does not get too excited to learn that, say, Mark's gospel was not written until AD 60!
Below the cut: stem cells, teleology/evolution, anti-science, and Occupy Something

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Teodorq sunna Nagarajan the Ironarm

The reader of Up Jim River may recollect a wildman, Teddy Nagarajan by name, who figured in the storyline.  This eager reader may be longing for a story about the aforesaid wildman.  Well, shortly he may long no longer, or perhaps a short while longer, inasmuch as yr. obt. svt. has just finished a short story featuring an adventure of his on his home world, known in humble simplicity as "World."  Whether this story will find favor in the eyes of editors, or indeed in the eyes of the author after he pauses to regain sanity and rereads the draft, is another matter entirely. 

The story is entitled "The Journeyman: On the Shortgrass Prairie" and is, to fuel your sense of dread, the first in what I hope may become a series of stories.  "In the Houses of Stone," "On the Ocean Shore," "In the Contending States," "In the Ice Mountains," and "In the City of Fire and Steel."  Whether I can in fact deliver on this plan, who knows?

Captive Dreams

Arc Manor will be publishing a collection of my stories at some indeterminate time in the near future.  This collection will consist of three old stories and three brand new ones.  I just got word that the editor has decided that the three new stories are not so irredeemably lacking in merit as to reject them out of hand.  IOW, he is paying me good cash money for the exclusive right to publish them.

The collection will be available in both dead tree and e format.  It may even be that, as he did with The Forest of Time et al., he will make the individual stories evailable at lower prices. 

The stories are to be:
  1. Melodies of the Heart
  2. Captive Dreams
  3. Hopeful Monsters
  4. Places Where the Roads Don't Go
  5. Remember'd Kisses
  6. Buried Hopes

The stories are listed by internal logic/chronology and those in boldface are the new ones.   The ties that bind them is that the protagonists in each story live in the same neighborhood, an oval made by two roads enclosing a woodland inside the loop.  Characters in one story may make cameos in another. 

The stories are set in the world of The Nanotech Chronicles, so one cameo is Charlie Singer, who with Jessica Burton-Peeler, is the protagonist of "Soul of the City" and "The Washer at the Ford."  He appears in "Hopeful Monsters."  

Excerpts below the cut

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Arab Spring in New York

Afterward will come the attack on Coptic Churches, the burning of the Israeli embassy, and the armed attack on Egyptian soldiers.(*)
Okay, maybe not attacks on Copts:

(*)ADDENDUM: (10/11) Some commentary on the attacks on the soldiers at the Maspero state TV and radio station can be found here.  The native Egyptians have been demonstrating there on a regular basis to protest the silence in the government (i.e. "only") media regarding Arab muslim attacks on Egyptian churches.  During the 6 October demonstration, "elements" within the crowd fired on the soldiers guarding the stations.  

The Arab conspiracy machine went into high gear, and muslim mobs across Cairo rallied to the cry that "the Copts are killing muslims."  (One thing an Egyptian must never do is to kill an Arab.  Well, that and look funny at an Arab woman.)  The body count is thus primarily Copt.  
(Note: the term copt is the arabic word for "egyptian."  Soften the c to a g and "copt" is (E)gypt.)  

Speculation may now commence as to the "elements" responsible.  
1. Coptic demonstrators gratuitously fired on the only force within Egyptian state society that stands between them and the muslims.  
2. Brotherhood provocateurs infiltrated the demonstration in order to provoke fighting between the Copts and the military.  
3. The military's image in Egypt has been tarnished by the tardy arrival of Heaven-on-Earth that was supposed to follow the ouster of the appeaser-of-Israel, Mubarak.  Hence, the military staged the events in order to appear as the protectors of order.  
(These are small potato conspiracy theories for a region where that is a growth industry.  The military has cited "foreign elements" as responsible.  This may refer to Israeli, American, European, or even Chinese agents.)  

SECOND ADDENDUM: Regarding the You-Tube clip above.  Unrelatedly, David Brooks in the NYTimes notes that "the Occupy Wall Street movement... was sparked by the magazine Adbusters, previously best known for the 2004 essay, “Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish?” — an investigative report that identified some of the most influential Jews in America and their nefarious grip on policy."  After all, the demonization of "international bankers," "plutocrats" and "the 1%" is familiar to anyone recalling the anti-Semitic images of Europe.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

De evolutione evolutionis

Contents: A Ramble Inspired by a Passing Remark
  • Peas Be With You
  • Evolution Without Mendel
  • Darwin without Evolution
  • Natural Selection vs. Evolution
  • Origin Without Species
  • Species Without Origin
  • The End of Evolution
  • The Principle of Proportionate Causation
  • Where Has All the Telos Gone?  
  • Efficient Causes Without Telos 
  • That Which Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stronger
  • Revenge of the Stagerite

Mendel, monk-eying with peas
In the December issue of ANALOG Science Fiction/Science Fact, Dr. Stanley Schmidt, in the course of addressing a broader issue, quotes one E.W.Howe as saying, "one of the great discoveries in science was made by a man cultivating the ordinary garden pea."  This makes it sound like the discovery was a backyard happenstance by an amateur.  But it was not an ordinary pea garden, nor even ordinary garden peas.  It was a set of greenhouses specially constructed to carry out a series of carefully planned scientific experiments, and pea strains carefully cultivated to breed true.  (Howe also fails to mention that Gregor Mendel, O.S.A., was an Augustinian monk.)   

Peas Be With You

Mendel chose pea plants partly because they i) had easily identifiable features, ii) could self-fertilize, and iii) were easy to protect from cross-fertilization.  But before he could even start, he needed true-breeding plants; that is, plants that when self-crossed would always produce the same phenotype. This took two years of preliminary work.  Mendel then spent years making thousands of crosses, discovering that
  • traits were inherited whole and
  • traits that seemed to disappear in one generation could reappear in another generation
He described these observations in a set of mathematical relationships (laws) regarding the inheritance of dominant and recessive traits.  (These were similar to Darwin's mathematical laws of natural selection setting out the relationship between fitness and reproductive success...  Oh, wait.  Never mind.) 

People sometimes wonder where Mendel found the time to do all this, considering his monastic responsiblities.  I have even seen it alleged that the abbot shut him down, a nice example of "model-based history"*.  But the answer is easy.  His research was one of his monastic responsibilities.  The monastery had been conducting hybridization research even before Mendel arrived.  The Augustinians freed up his time for the research, allocated large plots of land for his research, and built a greenhouse where he could establish a control group for his studies.  The Order did not sorta kinda "give Mendel a research grant" to pursue his personal hobby as some historically ill-informed have grudgingly allowed: The research was part and parcel of the Order's program.  Mendel himself had trained as a physicist, not a biologist, so this would not likely have been his own personal choice.  Mendel was simply doing the scientific research that his Order asked him to do.**

Mendel's results were published in the Proceedings of the Natural History Society of Brünn in 1866. No-one noticed.  Over the next 35 years, his work was cited... three times!  Oh well.  In the early 1900s, Mendel's work was rediscovered by Correns, deVries, and others, and developed into an entirely new discipline within biology -- genetics.

*model-based history.  This is where one starts with an idee fixe and deduces "what must have happened" in the light of that prior assumption.  This dispenses with the laborious requirement for actual empirical evidence. 

** Oddly, Mendel's work and the support from his Order are seldom mentioned during debates about church-science relationships.   See first note (*).

Wonder and Anticipation, the Likes of Which We Have Never Seen

  Hello family, friends and fans of Michael F. Flynn.   It is with sorrow and regret that I inform you that my father passed away yesterday,...