turing’s cathedral

Here’s the official synopsis of historian of science ↑George Dyson‘s latest book ‘Turing’s Cathedral’ (2012): “It is possible to invent a single machine which can be used to compute any computable sequence,” twenty-four-year-old Alan Turing announced in 1936. In Turing’s Cathedral, George Dyson focuses on a small group of men and women, led by John von Neumann at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, who built one of the first computers to realize Alan Turing’s vision of a Universal Machine. Their work would break the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things—and our … Continue reading

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pfaffenberger on society

Today, most sociologists accept that communities arise, not necessarily from face-to-face interaction, but rather from shared meanings. Because they are capable of promulgating shared meanings on an unprecedented scale, new communication and media technologies (including newspapers, motion pictures, radio, television, and computer-based communications) are capable of creating communities that vastly transcend the limits of face-to-face interaction. (Pfaffenberger 2008: 651) Durkheim’s understanding of society was informed by likening its constituent elements to an advanced, highly differentiated organism. Scientific and technological advances in the twentieth century made new metaphors available to sociological theorists. Drawing on the emerging fields of cybernetics and systems … Continue reading

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astronaut mike mullane

He promised it ↵in a comment here, and made it true: The podcast ↑JetHead live with astronaut Mike Mullane is online. ↑Mike Mullane is a former NASA astronaut and author of the book ↑Riding rockets: The outrageous tales of a space shuttle astronaut (2006). The tagline of JetHead’s interview with Mullane reads: ‘What’s it like to ride over 4 million pounds of explosive thrust into earth orbit? Three times?’ This gives an overall impression, but there’s more in the book and the podcast, e.g. Mullane’s evolution from a ‘male sexist pig’ [his own words] towards a human being ;-) Much … Continue reading

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churchill on cyberpunk

Paul Kent Alkon, professor emeritus of English and American literature, author of ‘Origins of futuristic fiction’ (1987), and ‘Science fiction before 1900’ (1994), in 1997 has published a ↓wonderful article on ↑Winston Churchill‘s relation to the writing and thought of ↑H. G. Wells, science fiction and dystopia in general. More recently Alkon covered the issue even more in-depth in his chapter ‘Imagining science: Churchill and science fiction’ (2006: 155-176). What struck Bruce Sterling the most is Churchill’s premonition of drone warfare: Have we reached the end? Has Science turned its last page on them? May there not be methods of … Continue reading

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the simple art of murder

There are things which are interesting again and again, forever. ↑Raymond Chandler‘s essay ‘↑The Simple Art of Murder‘ (1950 [1944]) I already have read multiple times, quoted from it in ‘↑Cyberanthropology,’ and so on. Now I just stumbled over it again, via the ↵cyberpunk reading list, where the essay is commented like this: When reading it, replace ‘mystery novel’ with ‘sci-fi novel’ and its amazing. Every complaint the Cyberpunk authors had about ‘classic sci-fi’ is there as a complaint about ‘classic detective stories.’ – Logan Joshua Ratner We ↵just had it that William Gibson prefers Dashiell Hammett and is not … Continue reading

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lolspeak thesis

That’s just wonderful and remembers me of ye ole days when I was still compiling a ↑dictionary of online lingo … ABSTRACT: Lolspeak, which I characterize as an internet dialect of English that is used in conjunction with images of cats, exhibits distinctive variations and patterns which differ from those of standard English. Lolspeak has influenced other language use and may have a significant impact on the English language, due in part to the internet’s role in the evolution of English (Crystal “Language and the Internet,” 2006:26-27). To approach this data, I created a multi-modal discourse transcription technique for analyzing … Continue reading

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hello matakichi

A picture book entitled Namennayo! (Don’t Mess Around with Me!) and commercial goods modeled on those in the book are caricatures of ↑bosozoku symbolism and display a crucial aspect of such symbols and the commercial exploitation of them. This work, which was published in 1981, and had a sales of about 335,000 copies by the summer of 1983, features a cat called ↑Matakichi. Throughout the book there are numerous pictures of cats who stand upright wearing human clothes. miniature props (auch as motorcycles, cars, and buildings) are also provided. The plot concerns Matakichi’s youthful experimentation with several expressive styles including … Continue reading

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distrust that particular flavor

The first anthology of essays by ↑William Gibson is out: ‘↑Distrust that particular flavor.’ GIBSON, WILLIAM FORD. 2012. Distrust that particular flavor. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. via ↑entry at ↑boingboing … Continue reading

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riding rockets

Tom Wolfe’s book on the history of the U.S. Space program reads like a novel, and the film has that same fictional quality. It covers the breaking of the sound barrier by Chuck Yeager to the Mercury 7 astronauts, showing that no one had a clue how to run a space program or how to select people to be in it. Thrilling, funny, charming and electrifying all at once. Thus wrote ↑Tom Vogel at IMDb on the novel ‘↑The Right Stuff‘ (Wolfe 1979) and the ↑movie of the same name (Kaufman 1983). It couldn’t be summed up better, and I … Continue reading

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