Category Archives: science-fiction

Cities without streets?

This is the jigsaw puzzle I completed this morning – just to see what the image was actually about:

Isn’t it amazing? A straight, boring street completely re-purposed to provide a beautiful green space for both residents and casual visitors to enjoy.

I know nothing about that street, other than the title of the jigsaw puzzle: ‘Lombard street’. If anyone knows where it is, please share in comments!

Anyway, the Lombard Street puzzle got me thinking about another place that I did know about: Havana. It’s become the urban agriculture capital of the world, with citizens and government working together to create food gardens on every available urban space. There are chickens and rabbits being ‘grown’ on roof tops, vegie plots on balconies, larger communal gardens in the middle of parks, and street markets selling the locally grown produce back to this city of two million.

The birth of Havana’s urban agriculture was painful to say the least, and driven by need. You can read the history in this great article:

https://www.dwell.com/article/havana-world-capital-of-urban-farming-659b65ad

The point though, is that it began as a grass roots movement with ordinary, hungry people taking food production into their own hands because they had to. The food they grew was organic because Cuba couldn’t afford herbicides and pesticides. The food Havana grows is still organic or semi-organic because the Cuban government recognized the value of what was happening and formalised it. Commercial pesticides are not allowed within the city limits. And the weird thing is that those organic, urban gardens really do supplement the diets of Havana’s residents.

Getting back to the jigsaw puzzle that triggered this post, I started wondering how much real estate our cities devote to roads. What if those roads could be re-purposed for parks and open spaces and communal gardens? What if we had alpacas wandering down Swanston Street, mowing the grass? [I chose alpacas coz they poop in the same spots all the time, making clean up a lot easier].

Seriously, we could go from this:

Image copyright Anthony Frey Photos – click photo to visit site

to this:

Original image by Anthony Frey Photos. Alpacas by acflory

Now I know that roads are like the veins and arteries of a city, but do they have to be so wasteful? Surely we have the technology to put them underground? Maybe not all of them, but the freeways could definitely go…

I’m sure that anyone with real engineering experience will shoot this idea down in flames, but still…it appeals to me. At some point we really will have to rethink the design of our cities. Maybe then we’ll find a way to stop wasting all that space on roads. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks


Nano 2018…it begins!

And we’re off, in eastern Australia, at least. For those who worry that we get an unfair advantage, don’t forget that our Nano ends earlier too.

So what now? Well, I’ve started my 3rd nano by writing this blog post. Some might call that procrastination. I call it clearing the decks. -smirk- I’ll be obsessed with nano for the rest of November so it behooves me to explain, right? Right.

Anyway, this post is really just to say that I won’t be posting anything of world shattering importance in November, so apologies in advance. I will post little bits of research though, if they’re interesting, and the word count, of course. If anyone wants to look me up or become a writing buddy, you’ll find me on Nano as ‘Meeka Flory’. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks

 


How to digitise real world objects for 3D printing

I’m stuck at home with a bad back and feeling rather sorry for myself, so this post by SV3DPRINTER was very welcome indeed. It not only gave me something else to focus on, it also gave me the tech that would make the world of Innerscape plausible rather than just possible.

Science fiction is always speculative fiction, so I knew that much of the ‘science’ in Innerscape was actually just magic based on tech that ‘might’ develop in the future. Nevertheless, I’ve always tried to make that speculation as close to reality as possible. That’s why I get so excited whenever something in Innerscape turns out to be ‘doable’.

Today, my discovery explains how all of Petra could be scanned and re-created inside a virtual environment. In the video clip below, the section on scanning terrain is only a small part of the presentation, but it made my day. πŸ™‚

 

And no, I didn’t know about these scanning technologies when I wrote Innerscape. I’m only an amateur techie, and I haven’t had a chance to explore the current Virtual Reality technology, so I simply assumed that a digital world would be produced the same way apps like Maya create digital models and gaming worlds now. Since watching this video clip, however, I’ve realised that re-creating the outside world for Innerscape will be a lot easier, and more accurate, than I originally thought, especially so far into the future.

Of course, the downside of each discovery is that my timescale for Innerscape becomes a little bit less likely. I mean, who would have thought ten years ago that 3D printing would become so commonplace so quickly? Or the internet. Who could have guessed that social media would become both a boon and a bane by 2018?

Honestly, the only thing any of us can say with any certainty is that the future will not be anything like what we imagine now. But that’s okay; perfect predictions would take all the excitement out of life. πŸ™‚

Anyway, time to lever myself out of this chair and walk around a bit.

cheers

Meeks


#Corel Draw 8’s Skew function and a new graphic for Twitter

…and here it is!

For those unfamiliar with Twitter, we’re allowed to ‘pin’ one tweet to our home page, or whatever it’s called. That tweet can be anything, including a post from another social media site such as WordPress. If there’s an attention-grabbing graphic on that pinned tweet then other people are more likely to click to see what it’s all about. Well, that’s the theory anyway. πŸ™‚

Until now, I’ve been using the awesome 3D looking graphic Chris Graham [The Story Reading Ape] created for me back in 2017. If you follow me on Twitter you’ve probably seen it a million times:

I still like the graphic, but the Innerscape episodes no longer exist so it was well and truly time for a new one. And this is where the Skew comes in.

I used Corel Draw 8 again, and I’m fairly happy with the result, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Part of that was my own fault as I underestimated the size of each book’s cover graphic. Corel can usually handle them without a hiccup, but this time it kept stalling on certain functions and flat out refused to allow me to export the finished ‘group’ of images.

I investigated the usual suspects – file size, hidden parts of images that take up a lot of resources, a bottleneck in the clipboard. Nothing. Zip. Nada.

What on earth was going on?

I’m ashamed to admit that it took me hours to finally realise that the Corel ‘Skew’ function was the problem. Basically, skewing a complex graphic or group of graphics is not like adjusting the size or any of the other, ordinary transformations. It uses resources. Lots and lots of resources. I could get away with one or two applications of the skew but after that, it was as if the whole system was seizing up.

My computer is over three years old now, and it was middle of the road even when I had it built, so my problems with skew could have been exacerbated by lack-lustre computing power. Nevertheless, skew itself must have been doing something strange as well because when I tried to export the graphic, Corel couldn’t even display it in the export screen.

Anyway, lesson learned – use Skew sparingly and preferably not at all on big images/groups.

Time now to get Twitter sorted. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks

 


Is this the precursor to Innerscape?

I know you’re not supposed to blow your own trumpet but read this:

“…a private company called Paradromics is developing a cortical interface that uses arrays of microwire electrodes to record and stimulate clusters of neurons…”

“..A Columbia University team aims to develop a non-penetrating bioelectric interface that can transmit stimuli directly into the visual cortex…”

Those are just two projects being funded by DARPA which stands for ‘The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’. DARPA is an …’agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military’.

‘DARPA-funded projects have provided significant technologies that influenced many non-military fields, such as computer networking and the basis for the modern Internet, and graphical user interfaces in information technology.’

Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARPA

You can read the complete article on New Atlas here:

https://newatlas.com/darpa-brain-computer-interface-investment/50445/

No one’s come up with Kenneth’s ’embalming fluid’ interface yet, so for once I’m ahead of the game. God I love science fiction!

cheers

Meeks


Smithing in Vokhtah – how to forge the links of a chain

The creatures of Vokhtah possess many ‘skills’ that owe more to fantasy than sci-fi, but their world is as real as I can make it, so here is some real blacksmithing that I had to research today:

Those who’ve read the first book about Vokhtah will know that the technology of the iVokh is somewhere between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age of Earth. They have Smiths who work starrock – i.e. rock that falls from the stars – in firepits. Of all the items crafted by the Smiths, two play a vital role in Vokhtan culture – timepieces and shackles.

I introduced the concept of a water-driven timepiece in book 1, and the following is a concept drawing of what such a timepiece [with extra ‘alarm bell’] might look like:

 

In book 2, however, I’ll be introducing the idea of the shackles. Think old convict shackles like these:

If you go searching for images of shackles, please be careful how you word your Google search. I learned some eye-opening things about bondage before I found the above image on Ebay. Apparently you can ‘Buy Now’ for $25.97 USD…

But after all that research, how much actually ended up in the story?

Not much. The one thing that truly hit me from the video was that without that shaped anvil, the calipers and the hammer, the blacksmith would have been struggling to make anything resembling a chain link. So how about my Smiths. Would they have possessed such specialised tools? Probably not, at least to start with. So my research boils down to half a sentence, shown in bold below:

The silence of the small chamber was broken by the clank of starrock as Tatah strained against the shackles that bound her to the cot. Held aloft by her huge, red wings, she thrashed from side to side in a vain attempt to break free, but neither the shackles nor the cot showed any signs of weakening.

Exhausted by her efforts and still not completely recovered from the Cut, she slumped back onto her belly and lay there gasping as her wings slowly deflated.

She was bitterly disappointed at not being able to free herself but was not surprised. She had commissioned the shackles at a time when she thought she could conquer the world, so her Smiths had been ordered to produce nothing but the best. They had taken her at her word, spending a year just to craft the tools they would need to forge the shackles. Then they had spent another year refining the starrock and forging it into a set of bindings strong enough to hold even the strongest Vokh.

Tatah had been delighted. But, of course, she had never dreamt that the shackles would be used against her…

Happy weekend all. πŸ™‚

Meeks

 


Neural lace – Innerscape comes one step closer!

Apologies but I’m high fiving myself like an idiot because of an article I just read in futurism.com:

https://futurism.com/within-the-next-decade-you-could-be-living-in-a-post-smartphone-world/

The whole article is interesting as it attempts to predict the near, medium and long term future of communications technology, but it was this paragraph that made me so happy:

This week, we got our first look at Neuralink, a new company cofounded by Musk with a goal of building computers into our brains by way of β€œneural lace,” a very early-stage technology that lays on your brain and bridges it to a computer. It’s the next step beyond even that blending of the digital and physical worlds, as human and machine become one.

The only thing I’m sceptical about is the time-frame. Tech that you carry and tech that you ‘wear’ is one thing, but tech that invades your brain is something else entirely. I’m sure there will be some maverick individuals who will ignore the risk and give the neural lace a try, but most of us will not jump in quite so quickly. Think desktop computers and the general public. The vast majority of people who use smartphones now either never learned to use computers properly or never felt comfortable with them – i.e. the gain did not negate the pain.

I think the concept of an in-built, brain-machine interface will be around for quite a while before some tech comes along that will make the interface, safe, painless and most of all, easy.

To me, easy is the operative word because, as a species, we always look for the line of least resistance. I just hope I’m still around when it happens as the next few decades are going to be very interesting indeed. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks

 


Pressure points – research for Episode 5

This is not my normal fare, but I had to find out if it was possible to knock someone out using only a pressure point. I found my answer, and it’s ‘yes’.

In the video clip below, the instructor is demonstrating a four-step move that leaves the boy totally out of it. If you rewind the video to 04 seconds, you will see that the move which actually knocks him out is the third one. It pushes the point of the instructor’s elbow into a pressure point on the boy’s chest. You can hear an ‘oof’ sound as it happens.

The blow to the jaw is probably not needed, at least not against an opponent who isn’t actively fighting back.

I have to say this is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. Many of the people commenting on the video try to pass the whole thing off as a fake, but if you watch only the boy’s face, you’ll see that he would have to be an Oscar winning actor to fake this reaction.

Youtube is an amazing resource. 😦

cheers

Meeks


#VR now – reality catching up to Innerscape

For those who have read the induction scenes of Episode 1 of Innerscape, the possibilities of virtual reality in health care should come as no surprise. But did you know that VR is already set to help real people with real problems, both physical and mental? Exciting times. πŸ™‚

My thanks to @VirtualRealExt for introducing me to this article:

https://appreal-vr.com/blog/virtual-reality-healthcare-future/

cheers

Meeks


Lady Margaret Cavendish – the first #scifi writer?

duchess-margaret-cavendish-scifi

As a science fiction writer myself, I couldn’t resist sharing this article about Lady Margaret Cavendish which appeared in the Atlas Obscura. [My thanks to the Passive Guy for drawing my attention to the article].

The article goes into some very interesting detail about the Duchess and the story she wrote [she may also be one of the earliest feminists], but I’ll summarise by saying she was a natural philosopher [fancy name for scientist back then] and published twenty books, plays and essays. Amongst them was The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World.

The story, published in 1666, tells the tale of a woman kidnapped by sailors who stumbles on a portal that takes her to a strange new world. There she become Empress to a world full of beast-men.

You can find the full article, which includes a lovely excerpt from The Blazing World, here:

http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/one-of-the-earliest-science-fiction-books-was-written-in-the-1600s-by-a-duchess?utm_source=Boomtrain&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20160920&bt_email=bobs92705%40aol.com&bt_ts=1474379287850

I wish I’d known about the Duchess back when I first discovered sci-fi. In those dim and distant days, it seemed as if the only people writing sci-fi were men. I’ve since learned there are some brilliant female science fiction writers, including Ursula K LeGuin, Margaret Atwood and C.J.Cherryh to mention just three. Nevertheless, I can’t help wondering how many more there might have been had we [girls] been given role models like the Duchess at school?

Another good day at Casa Meeka. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks

 


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