Category Archives: Society

Arthur C Clarke, 1917-2008, I salute you.

Arthur Charles Clarke, born December 16, 1917, passed away on March 18, 2008, in his home in Sri Lanka.

 A wonderful science fiction and science writer, he is popularly known for his film and novel “2001: A Space Odyssey” and his introduction of the concept of geosynchronous communication satellites. One of the best science fiction writers, and one of my favorites, he has left a large corpus of science fiction novels and short stories well-grounded in hard science and imaginatively written.

Clarke also introduced the three laws quoted below which are well known in the science/engineering and science  fiction communities. The third law is widely quoted, often without attribution to him.

1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
2. The limits of the possible can only be found by going beyond them into the impossible.
3. Any sufficiently advanced technology may, at first, be indistinguishable from magic.

(Note: These should not be confused with the three Laws of Robotics introduced by Clarke’s friend, the SF and science writer Isaac Asimov).

A nice obituary for Clarke has been published in the Guardian, here: http://books.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,,2266521,00.html

Sir Arthur C. Clarke (he was knighted in 1998, the award being made in 2000)  recorded a message on the occasion of his 90th birthday last December which has been published on YouTube, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qLdeEjdbWE

Arthur C Clarke, 1917-2008, I salute you.

Not quite a double helix: Watson on race and Crick on consciousness

Hi, I haven’t been posting much (too much “real” work and other activity (-:  )  but here are a few snippets that may interest you. (By the way, I post some material at Qiyas as well so you may want to drop in there too). 

You may have heard about DNA co-discoverer Jim Watson’s comments about differences in the intelligence of various races. Well, that has created quite a flap, as you can imagine. I have not followed the issue but the original remarks are reported here, and there are additional reports here, here, here, and here. In all of this brouhaha it is difficulty to tease apart science from prejudice from hype. You can listen to a discussion about this flap in the Guardian’s weekly science podcast.

Interestingly you can also listen to ideas about consciousness from Watson’s old colleague and DNA co-discoverer Francis Crick, in this podcast. Wonder what Crick thinks of Watson’s remarks.

Second Life meets MySpace

I assume you know what are Second Life, MySpace, and Facebook. Well there is new site that provides social networking in a virtual world environment. It is called Kaneva. Basically, you create a network of friends, as in a social network, and then meet them in a virtual world. Of course you also can make friends directly in the virtual world.

The Kaneva virtual world looks similar to the one in Second Life but I found that it ran a little bit more smoothly on the machine that I am using; though it seemed to take forever to load.

The reason I compared Kaneva to MySpace rather than Facebook is that its social environment seems closer to the one found in MySpace than the one found in Facebook i.e. a little more broadly distributed. Not too long ago I had read a piece about social research that compared the environments of these two sites and suggested that the sites had some partitioning along social and economic class lines. (Sadly, I cannot locate that piece right now). However, why not go and see it for yourself?

In both Second Life and Kaneva conversations can be quite dull and there is little to do till you make some friends. You can watch the videos and listen to the songs posted by other people but you can do that on YouTube and other similar sites too. However doing those things in a virtual world may add a certain pizzaz to it. I do find that the visual element added to conversations by the use of avatars increases the social feel of the interactions.

So visit Kaneva (or Second Life) and look around. If you leave your user name here I’ll look you up.

Cheers!

 (Also cross-posted to Qiyas)