Thursday, September 22, 2005

Singularity Sky

I just finished reading Charles Stross’ Singularity Sky. I had plenty of time today as I elected to take a personal day and stay at home in shorts, hopped up on Benadryl with an ice pack on my leg, trying to finally get my yellow jacket sting to cease its fifth day of swelling (seemed to work, though I had a hard time focusing past the effects of the drugs). Singularity Sky is a good book, but a little heavy handed on the lesson that people are naturally good and when given the opportunity can govern themselves effectively without a paternalistic government, and that no government at all is preferable to one that goes overboard thinking for you and censoring dissent. If you just read page 276, you’ve pretty much got the drift of the whole novel, less the science fiction part. If you don’t think that’s a heavy handed lesson for a sci-fi novel, I will quote, just to assure you:

“…Censorship just drives problems underground.

But, terrorists!

‘Yes,’ Rachel interrupted, ‘terrorists. There are always people who think they’re doing the right thing by inflicting misery on their enemies, kid…But—‘ she shrugged.
‘We can live with a low background rate of that sort of thing more easily than we can live with total surveillance and total censorship of everyone, all the time.’ She looked grim. ‘If you think a lunatic planting a nuclear weapon in a city is bad, you’ve never seen what happens when a planet pushes the idea of ubiquitous surveillance and censorship to the limit. There are places where—' She shuddered.

Martin glanced at her, ‘You’ve got somewhere specific in mind’…

Think Stross has something to say about the current political situation in Britain and the U.S.? The writing was passable and he shows some promise, so I’ll be interested to see how his second novel (Iron Sunrise) compares to the first. He does have a habit of using one or two words I am totally unfamiliar with (except “Eschaton”, but I wanted to include that because I’m now familiar with all four of the Wiki definitions):

Aestivation: (botany) the arrangement of sepals and petals in a flower bud before it opens. (zoology) cessation or slowing of activity during the summer; especially slowing of metabolism in some animals during a hot or dry period. Aestivation in animals is a state of dormancy usually to assist in water regulation, where minimal activity results in retaining more water during the hottest parts of the day. These animals will find a shaded/underground area to do this.

Arbeiter: German for “worker”. Used in socialism to refer to one of the working class.

Charabanc: a kind of open-topped bus common in Britain during the early part of the 20th century. It was especially popular for "works outings" to the country or the seaside that businesses would hold once a year…The charabanc tour is also the (admittedly vague - see the Beatles Anthology, episode 6) premise of The Beatles' 1967 television film Magical Mystery Tour...

Eschaton can refer to:

I sort of knew this one, just not the details of the particular diameter…
Fibrils: fine fibers (e.g., approximately 1 nm in diameter)

JOL'LY-BOAT, n. A small boat belonging to a ship.

lagomorph: The Lagomorphs, order Lagomorpha, are an order of mammals of which there are two families, Leporidae (hares and rabbits), and Ochotonidae (pikas).
Lagomorphs differ from rodents in that:

  • they have four (not two as in rodents) incisors in the upper jaw;

  • they will only eat vegetation (unlike rodents, who will eat meat and vegetation)

  • the male's scrotum is in front of the penis;

  • the penis has no bone as does the rodents';

  • and they will re-digest first time feces to obtain the most from their plant diet.
They resemble rodents, however, in that their teeth grow throughout their life, thus necessitating constant chewing to keep them from growing too long.

Larmarckism: A theory of biological evolution holding that species evolve by the inheritance of traits acquired or modified through the use or disuse of body parts.

Lidar: noun: a measuring system that detects and locates objects on the same principle as radar but uses light from a laser; a potential technology for detecting air turbulence that can affect aircraft.

Loblolly boy: Obs. an assistant to the surgeon on board a ship.

Lysenkoist: from Lysenkoism. A biological doctrine developed by Trofim Lysenko that maintains the possibility of inheriting environmentally acquired characteristics.

Micturition: Urination, also called micturition, is the process of disposing urine from the urinary bladder through the urethra to the outside of the body. The process of urination is usually under voluntary control. When control over urination is lost or absent, this is called urinary incontinence.

Noosphere: The noosphere can be seen as the "sphere of human thought" being derived from the Greek νους ("nous") meaning "mind" in the style of "atmosphere" and "biosphere".

Meaning #1: (British) common sense
Meaning #2: that which is responsible for one's thoughts and feelings; the seat of the faculty of reason Synonyms: mind, head, brain, psyche

Peltier (cells): presumably spaceship/rescue craft cells powered by the Peltier-Seeback effect. The Peltier-Seebeck effect, or thermoelectric effect, is the direct conversion of heat differentials to electric voltage and vice versa.

Penaid: Penetration Aid (for missiles)

Saprophyte: A Saprotroph (or saprobe) is an organism that obtains its nutrients from non-living organic matter, usually dead and decaying plant or animal matter, by absorbing soluble organic compounds. Saprophyte is an older term that is now considered obsolete. The suffix -phyte means "plant", however, there are no truly saprotrophic organisms that are embryophytes, and fungi and bacteria are no longer placed in the Plant Kingdom. Plants that were once considered saprophytes, such as non-photosynthetic orchids and monotropes, are now known to be parasites on other plants. They are termed myco-heterotrophs because a mycorrhizal fungus connects the parasitic plant with its host plant.

Spallation: noun: (physics) a nuclear reaction in which a bombarded nucleus breaks up into many particles (Example: "Some astronomers believe that the solar system was formed by spallation when the sun was a very young star")

Syncitia: Syncytium \Syn*cy"ti*um\, n.; pl. Syncitia. [NL., from Gr. ? together + ? a hollow vessel.] 1. (Biol.) Tissue in which the cell or partition walls are wholly wanting and the cell bodies fused together, so that the tissue consists of a continuous mass of protoplasm in which nuclei are imbedded, as in ordinary striped muscle.
Thistledown Rotor: almost impossible to find an exact definition, though certain porn sites turn up in relation to the word, but probably related to the way the thistledown on a thistle helps it float. Basically a helicopter, although one whose blades are turned by the downward motion of the craft (like an oak seed), not by a motor powering the blades.

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