The Eternity Plague tagged posts

Give It Up, Part 3

‘Way back in November I threw out this question: If you could keep only one piece of modern technology, which one would it be? As I wrote the post, though, it became clear how much of our technology today relies on a functioning electrical grid. Without the grid, it would be almost impossible to keep any one device or technology. Modern batteries need the grid to be constructed, but keeping even primitive batteries around to power something else would violate the terms of the question by adding a second retained technology.

OK, so maybe that was an interesting thought problem, but not even close to realistic. Here’s a different scenario that might even slide into the realm of realism...

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Critique Technique, part 14: Out-of-Character Behavior

Comedy has been defined as “ordinary people in extraordinary situations, or extraordinary people in ordinary situations.” But what if the piece you’re critiquing isn’t comedy—or isn’t meant to be comedy? When a character you’ve come to know suddenly acts in a way that makes you stop, scratch your head, and say “huh?”, maybe there’s a problem.

Maybe. That’s an important word. What does the story’s context tell you about this new behavior? If Alice suddenly starts screaming, which she’s never done before, but it’s because the car she’s riding in just went off a cliff, that’s reasonable...

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TusCon 45 Wrap-Up

My original plan was to give you a revised “thought experiment” this week in which I asked you what one device you would keep if you had to give up everything else, assuming that electrical power was still available. I’m going to hold that for next week, however, in favor of a quick summary of my participation in TusCon 45, the Tucson Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Convention this past weekend. (The organizers are so organized, they’ve already updated their site for next year’s event!)

TusCon is a small and friendly convention (or “con,” in the lingo). While most of the participating authors come from Arizona or adjacent states, the staff has managed to score some big-name authors as the Author Guest of Honor, including George R. R...

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Give It Up, Part 2

Last time I asked, “If you had to get rid of one piece of the technological stuff you use every day, what would it be?” This time the question is reversed and A LOT harder: you can only keep one thing.

This is a really sneaky and difficult question because technology, writ large, is so deeply embedded in our lives. Consider all of the things that are powered by electricity. The electrical grid that brings power to our homes is so critical that if you want to keep one electrically powered device, you have to either also keep the grid or replace it with some other technology that would generate electricity—and that violates the “rules” of this question.

So that means everything powered by electricity has to go: not just computers and smart phones, but refrigerators, washers and dry...

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Give It Up, Part 1

Last time I asked what your least favorite piece of technology is. That’s a nice but sneakily misleading segue into this week’s topic. Here’s the question: If you had to give up one piece of technology, and you could choose which one, what would it be?

Actually, let me make that question a bit harder. If you had to give up one piece of technology that played an important role in your everyday life, and you had to choose which one, what would it be?

Woman talking on pay phone

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

See the difference? It’s easy to give up, say, the battery-powered drill you only use once in a while, so that doesn’t count. About a year ago, I gave up the anti-lock braking system (ABS) on my car...

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What Is Your LEAST Favorite Technology?

Last time I wrote about all the technology that is part of our lives and how we’ve come not only to rely on so much of it, but to get pleasure out of some of it. But while there are some things we enjoy or at least appreciate having, there are others….

Love/Hate Relationship

I think it’s fair to say that there are at least some pieces of technology in our lives that we have a love/hate relationship with, or love/appreciate having it around when we or others can use it for our benefit, but hate it when we or others use it in ways we don’t like, or it behaves in unpredictable or even hostile ways.

Hit Any Key to ContinueA family friend used to call his computer his “disputer.” We can all relate to that...

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Last time I started what will be a series on technology in our lives. I set the stage by equating so much of the technology we use without understanding how it works, and not being much worried about that in most cases, to magic.

So all right, we have these pieces of everyday magic all around us. Which ones are your favorites? When you think about it, there are so many to choose from. Here’s a list that isn’t even close to complete.

  • Desktop computers

    © Jossdim | Stock Free Images

  • Laptop computers
  • Tablet computers
  • Productivity programs for any of these (word processing, accounting, etc.)
  • Ordinary cell phones
  • Smartphones
  • Cable TV
  • Satellite TV
  • The internet generally
  • Other TV-like services (Hulu, Roku, etc.)
  • Digital video recorders
  • GoPro cameras
  • Video games and game consoles
  • Music stream...
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It’s a Magical World

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m writing this post on a computer. No, that’s not the secret. The secret is, I really have no idea how it does what it does. I know that when I press a key on my keyboard, a letter appears on the screen. And it’s always the right letter, unless I pressed the wrong key.

Image by Monkey Business Images. Used by permission. (That’s not me, by the way.)

I roll the trackball around with my thumb and the pointer zips across the screen. I know there are sensors that detect the reflections of the laser lights shining on the trackball to reveal its movement, and somehow, what they detect gets translated into commands to move the pointer. But how?

My smartphone takes still and video pictures, helps me keep track of my expenses, tells me the time and the ...

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If Gene Therapy Could Save Your Life, Would You Take It?

Late last year, Science News magazine published an article about how scientists used genetic modification to save the life of a young boy. He had a skin condition in which the upper layer of his skin would blister and separate from the layers underneath if he was just touched or rubbed gently. Children with this condition are called “butterfly children” because their skin “is as fragile as butterfly wings.” At the time of his treatment, the boy had lost 80% of his skin and was close to death.

Replacing a gene

Photo by Andrianocz, via Dreamstime.com

People with this condition have a mutation in one of three genes. The doctors identified which one was the problem for this child, took a section of good skin, and used a retrovirus to insert good copies of the bad gene into the skin cells...

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Would You Accept a Pig-Grown Human Organ Transplant?

In Kazuo Ishiguro’s heart-breaking novel Never Let Me Go, human clones are raised so their organs can be harvested for transplantation when the clones are teenagers. The novel is set in a dystopian alternate-history version of 1990s Great Britain. Fast-forward twenty years, however, and a different scenario is edging closer to reality: human-compatible organs grown in pigs.

Human kidney

Photo by Luuuusa via Dreamstime.com

A recent Science News article reported that Americans generally support genetically engineering animals in ways that would aid human health. The article is based on a Pew Research Center study done in April and May of this year. (Pew is a highly-respected opinion research organization that conducts surveys on a wide range of topics.)

The study asked “a nationally representative samp...

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