~post by Marie

I am often championing science fiction and fantasy for its amazing imaginative scope and its ability to point to touchy political, social, religious, and ethical themes in a way that would otherwise be impossible under normal fiction and literature criteria.  Phillip K. Dick’s cult classic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep explores one of the most fundamental themes of life as we know it: what makes us human, and how do we differentiate ourselves from what we have deemed to be non-human?  In his dystopian futuristic/apocalyptic society, Dick is able to explore this by introducing a variety of extremely human-seeming androids, and using them as a sounding board for how the humans of his created world differentiate themselves from their fabricated counterparts.  What is the fool-proof test?  Empathy.  Specifically, empathy towards animals, who have been all but wiped out after some nuclear fall-out obliterates the landscape, and…

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Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Hand of God?

Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations


(William Timmins’ cover for the January 1947 issue of Astounding Science Fiction)

A hand from a body off canvas enters the fray….  An alien’s hands wrap around the Earth, amused or disturbed by its creations?  A hand rises from a variety of desolate landscapes…  Is it the remnant of a robotic construct or a relics from some age old creator?

This particular theme — a powerful force depicted via an often disembodied hand — has yielded some fantastic covers.  Brian Lewis’ cover for the 1958 issue of Science Fantasy is one of my favorites.  I find the scene — a group of people discovering a robotic hand reaching from the f

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Hey skater: 4 talks for Go Skateboarding Day

TED Blog


Today, June 21, is Go Skateboarding Day, which is a perfectly good reason to celebrate this global culture of under-the-radar creativity and community. Below are four TED Talks in celebration of the innovation and flow of skating.

Rodney Mullen: Pop an ollie and innovate!
Beginning at age 10, Rodney Mullen been sharing his unique style and brand-new tricks with the SoCal skating scene. In this talk from TEDxUSC, Mullen shows how interesting public environments led to him to invent unconventional tricks, and how the open, passionate, creative community of skaters encouraged him to innovate for the love of skating.

Sanjay Dastoor: A skateboard, with a boost
Want a battery-operated vehicle that can carry you six miles without traffic or parking — and then post up under your desk ? You just might need an electric skateboard, says Sanjay Dastoor, the CEO of Boosted Boards. A Kickstarter–funded startup, Boosted…

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Golden delicious

knit the hell out

Oh, I’m in delicious golden linen yarn heaven right now. If you haven’t worked with Euroflax, it’s a lovely lovely thing and it will only get more beautiful and soft each time you wash and wear it.

euroflax-2I have a confession, though. I’m being a total copycat. I was so inspired by Angela’s impeccable taste in both pattern and color that I couldn’t help myself. She’s making a Kit Camisole. I knew I would have to make one of those as soon as I saw it. Angela is using Euroflax, which is a fantastic summer yarn. I tried to pick another color, really, I did. I have already used the aqua, brown, and willow colors for projects. I like the French blue and champagne colors, but Hand Held didn’t have enough of either of those colors. I bit the bullet and got the golden rod. Angela lives in a different country, so…

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Your weekend reading: The value of coders, a Chinese school lecture from space

TED Blog

Some staff-picked food for thought from around the interwebs this week:

It’s a coder’s world. But a web developer asks, is his high-paid job actually valuable? [Aeon magazine]

A Chinese astronaut holds a school lesson from space. [Al Jazeera]

A new report on the continuing decline of the humanities in U.S. education systems. [The New York Times]

The Bodleian Library acquires the manuscript of a classic of environmental poetry. [MHP Books]

A useful comparison of the protests in Brazil and Turkey. [The AP via NPR]

A former CIA analyst gives her take on the real problems of the Edward Snowden case. [Foreign Affairs]

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The neuroscience of sleep: Russell Foster at TEDGlobal 2013

TED Blog

Neuroscientist Russell Foster opens a session of TEDGlobal all about … us, asking the question: Why do we sleep? Thirty-six percent of our lives are spent asleep, which means, if you live to 90, you’ll have slept for 32 years. But we don’t appreciate sleep enough, says Foster. He quotes Thomas Edison — “Sleep is a criminal waste of time, inherited from our cave days” — and Margaret Thatcher — “Sleep is for wimps.” Simply put, says Foster, not only do we not appreciate sleep, but we treat it like an illness and an enemy.

Of course this simply shouldn’t be the case. In fact, some areas of the brain are more active during the sleep stage than while the body is awake. But the essential question that we — ahem — lose sleep over: Why do we sleep? There is no real consensus, but Foster gives three popular answers:

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The fiction of memory: Elizabeth Loftus at TEDGlobal 2013

TED Blog

Elizabeth Loftus begins her talk at TEDGlobal 2013 with the tragic story of Steve Titus, who was arrested in 1980 because he sort of matched the physical description of, and drove a similar car to, a man who had raped a woman in his area. Looking at a photo lineup, the victim told police that Titus looked “the closest” to the man who had raped her. But by the time the trial began, the victim had become certain that Titus was the attacker.

Memory scholar Elizabeth Loftus worked on this case, and became fascinated by the question: How did the victim’s memory go from uncertain to certain? The stakes of this shift were unbelievably high. While Titus was eventually exonerated by a journalist who tracked down the real rapist, he lost faith in the justice system, lost his job and fianceé, and became obsessed with what had happened to him. He…

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