Aug. 14th, 2017

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Things I attended included...

  • Appeal of the Bland Protagonist. I remember only that Robert Silverberg was fairly entertaining.
  • The Long Term Future of the Universe & How to Avoid It. I don’t think we got as far as proton decay. Entertaining but I don’t think I learned much.
  • Polyamorous Relationships in Fiction. I think a fair few examples given but I don’t really remember much about this.
  • What Science Can Tell Us About Alien Minds. This was largely a very well-pitched survey of what we know about minds and brains and their development here, with the implications for the alien underlined. Excellent.
  • New, More Diverse Superheroes. Something that’s been improving lately. Many of the examples were familiar. Slightly surprised that Vimanarama wasn’t mentioned, it can’t be that obscure?
  • How to Tell the Ducks from the Rabbits. This covered some unpublished research modelling some perceptual effects we find in human vision. Ian Stewart is a good speaker.
  • Cyberpunk and the Future. Fairly rambling but quite entertaining and IIRC avoided the trap of falling into a laundry list of recommendations which can sometimes happen.
  • New Publishing. A couple of models I didn’t know about (though ‘run publisher as a co-operative’ doesn’t seem conceptually new) but I didn’t get a sense that any particular model was about to set the world on fire. Apparently ebook sales are declining as a proportion of the total, which surprised me.
  • Supermassive Black Holes. A quick survey of how black holes work (which didn’t contain many surprises) followed by some new stuff: the GR-aware visualization of a black hole made for Interstellar, corrections to it involving red/blue shifting and the spin of the black hole, a further visualization of what you’d see as you flew into one (assuming you destroyed by any of the many hazards) and a project to radio image out galaxy’s central black hole. Another excellent science talk.
  • Hugo Awards. Very glad to see Monstress winning Best Graphic Story.
  • Beyond the Goldilocks Zone. Panel about the possibilities for exoplanets that sustain life. One point I’d not previously been aware of was that although Europa-style bodies might (hypothetically) have life in sub-ice oceans, there’s no realistic way of detecting this from a distance, meaning that more earth-like planets are a better bet for analysis. (The “goldilocks zone” is the range of distances from a given star in which planets can support liquid water on their surface, making them a good bet for life.)
  • Gender and “Realistic History”. The panel largely surveyed past examples of groups and behaviors sometimes thought to have been absent or rare in the past. Interesting listening.
  • Exoplanetary Zoo and The Search for Earth 2.0. Another excellent science talk, this time on the detection strategies for exoplanets and the results they’ve had so far. There are a lot of exoplanet discoveries awaiting confirmation.
  • Language Creation. David Peterson (famous for the conlangs from Game Of Thrones) described the basics of making a convincing sketch conlang. A very entertaining speaker.
  • The Singularity: Transhuman Intelligence in Fiction and Futurism. An opportunity for Charlie Stross to steal the show. Fun.
  • Bullets in Space. Basic orbital mechanics, done fairly well. The basic proposition is that ballistic projectiles are a terrible idea when fighting in an orbit; if they miss the target they are probably going to hit something you didn’t want them to.
  • Tomorrow’s Cool SF Physics. Enjoyed it but don’t remember anything else about it.
  • Designing Life. Fun discussion of biotechnological possibilities for modifying and creating life.
  • Ideas Crossing the World: Japanese Adaptations of Western Fantasy. In practice I think this mostly amounted to an opportunity for the panellists to entertain with their encyclopaedic knowledge of manga and anime.

...there were other things but I can’t remember enough to say anything about them.

August 2017

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