Images I found online some time in the early 2000′s by an artist identified only as TATRO. These surreal 3D creations, described by the artist as Multireplicants, very closely approach my ideal of feral self-replicating nanotech organisms or other such forms of post-Singularity “synthetic wildlife.”
One of my favorites has to be “the Iron God” by Jack Williamson, from 1941. It’s exactly like Williamson’s other story about evil robots, “the Humanoids,” where superintelligent and superpowerful robots that can out-think humans emerge and micromanage us for our own protection. The ending of “the Iron God” is a bit of a downer. I have no idea where people got it in their heads that pulp era science fiction was all about optimistic futures.
You also have the Metal Emperor from A. Merritt’s horror/lost world story, “The Metal Monster,” about a lost city of living metal men discovered in the Himalayas.
All-American Boy inventor Tom Swift built a giant robot in his own series.
Magnus, Robot Fighter fought a giant probe robot in his comic of the same name.
Okay, I’m going to ask you something, and I would like you to think about it before giving an the immediate response: do the Martian tri-legged fighting machines from War of the Worlds count as mecha? I think they do. They’re legged machine craft with a pilot inside. This is potentially a “is a hot dog a sandwich” question, but I think the tripods count as mecha by the modern definition.
#i’ve been thinking about this a lot #we send out spacecraft and probes knowing they will eventually break down and die #mars is littered with the remains of robots #mars is a story of prematurely lost communications and orbiters that failed to orbit #just as much as it is the story of curiosity and opportunity and spirit #cassini is not the first one we knowingly guided to its death while squeezing every last bit of data out of it in the process #rosetta was set to crash into the comet it orbited and pre-programmed to shut down the moment it registered any impact #but rosetta was destroyed because it would have lost power eventually #cassini was destroyed to protect the possibility of life #tiny bacterial life that may not even exist #and like. i know these are cold calculations and we can build new and better ones #but it’s times like these i remember the original meaning of the word ‘robot’ is 'forced laborer’ #and i’m not okay #space
One day we might build robots that are conscious beings who we have no right to ask to die for us, but we’re not there yet. And we’re looking out for that moment. Hell, Very Serious People are already debating the ethics of our potential relationships with true AI.
I think that the fact we anthropomorphize our robots - imagine that they have their own agency, and feel gratitude for their accomplishments, and consider them friends - is a nice thing about humans. But it’s 'cause of a psychological blind spot that leads to stuff like this:
It’s sad to say goodbye to the idea of another plucky metal explorer. Cassini or Rosetta or the failed, silent probes. But that idea was never real. Cassini was a 4 billion dollar selfie stick.
Say you have an apple picker: you can make one yourself out of a rake and a stick and a plastic shopping bag. It’s not alive. It’s nothing.
But while you’re actually using it, something interesting happens in the human brain. As far as it’s concerned, our tools are a part of ourselves; the brain’s body “map” actually changes to include them. While you’re picking apples, you aren’t a separate body using a tool, you are a singular being who can reach out and touch the tree tops. When you put it down, you lose a piece of your self; the internal map readjusts, and you become something smaller.
Space probes and robots are tools for extending the reach of our dreams.
It hurts when they are made defunct because, in a surprisingly non-metaphorical sense, they have become a part of us. We love them because they are the embodiment of a shared dream that humanity is exploring together. And it’s beautiful. Everything I’ve seen of space is beautiful.
But we can’t carry the apple picker forever. When it has done its work, we have to let it go in order to use the apples it gathered for us. It would be a disrespect to its purpose to do otherwise.
Cassini wasn’t “forced” to die. Cassini was a dream that we allowed to end in the service of a greater one.
NASA’s scientists and engineers didn’t view the decision as a cold calculation; it was a struggle for them to talk about their plans without choking up, every time. They were adamant that Cassini’s end be seen as noble; the probe’s purpose was to collect brand new data, and squeezing out every last bit about Saturn’s atmosphere as it fell was an honour to that.
If the loss feels personal, that’s probably because it is. A tiny, stretched out part of our internal selves has been amputated, and we are no longer beings who can reach out and touch Saturn’s rings.
It’s right to mourn it, I think. But mourning Cassini’s destruction is not mourning only for the space probe itself, but for the closing of a chapter in a grand human project, and for the end of a dream, and for ourselves.
As I may have mentioned before, I kinda have this habit of constructing big, elaborate fantasy settings without any idea of what to use them for. They could make for decent novel concepts, if I had any ideas for plots or characters, or they could work well as RPG settings, just without any plans for system mechanics or anything else for that matter. There seem to be other people on this site who enjoy reading these kinds of things as much as I do, however, so I’ve written up blurbs on three of my most recently active ideas for a lark.
Some people have OCs, I suppose, while I seem to have settings instead. Either way, asking me questions about any of these concepts is a great way to get me to talk for a long-ass time about my purposeless pet fantasy worlds.
Space Fantasy: All sorts of Standard Fantasy Worlds exist on different planets but they don’t actually matter as much as the cultures and factions that live in space full-time. Fantasy Space works more or less just like real space except that stars are vast and slow-thinking gods and ships can go faster than light by riding the love poetry stars send to one another. Living in space is hard, so the cultures who do so usually don’t have any other option. Space empires are really impractical but that doesn’t stop people from trying, and battles between ships tend to be 1 on 1 rather than involving giant fleets. Also, said space battles are fought with giant magic robots, because I’m shamelessly in love with the idea.
Weird Fantasy: It’s the future, humans are all dead, and all sorts of strange creatures have inherited the earth. These include, but are not limited to: sentient beetle colonies, animated human skeletons, sentient plants (or rather, sentient non-human souls that grow plant bodies for themselves), the dreams of slumbering dragon monsters, dogs, and robot space probes returning to earth and wondering what the hell happened while they were away. Society is very cosmopolitan, with people from all the different species living together rather than in totally separate societies. A lot of the story’s focus would be on the complexities and challenges of people with such different needs and natures living together, and the different ways they all try to connect to the extinct humans whose ruins still cover the earth.
Gothic Fantasy: Once, the nobles of the great houses drank the blood of dragons to attain great power and longevity, but now that the dragons have been hunted to extinction the nobles have nothing to prey on save for each other. Both the land and its people have been twisted by centuries of rampant blood magic; ordinary people descended from living weapons of war learn to fear the monstrous strength that lies latent in their bodies, while others embrace their dark side and seek to create a world in which mere humanity has no place. I imagine lots of focus on the wars and politics of the cannibal vampire nobles who all want to drink each others’ blood. The setting stems from an idea of people finding magic, dedicating their entire society to it, and then looking at themselves in horror at what they’ve done to themselves with its power. Definitely the darkest idea on my back-burner to have started life as a concept for a Naruto spinoff in highschool.
NASA’s Cassini Mission Prepares for ‘Grand Finale’ at Saturn
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around Saturn since 2004, is about to begin the final chapter of its remarkable story. On Wednesday, April 26, the spacecraft will make the first in a series of dives through the 1,500-mile-wide (2,400-kilometer) gap between Saturn and its rings as part of the mission’s grand finale.
“No spacecraft has ever gone through the unique region that we’ll attempt to boldly cross 22 times,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
“What we learn from Cassini’s daring final orbits will further our understanding of how giant planets, and planetary systems everywhere, form and evolve. This is truly discovery in action to the very end.”
During its time at Saturn, Cassini has made numerous dramatic discoveries, including a global ocean that showed indications of hydrothermal activity within the icy moon Enceladus, and liquid methane seas on its moon Titan.
Now 20 years since launching from Earth, and after 13 years orbiting the ringed planet, Cassini is running low on fuel. In 2010, NASA decided to end the mission with a purposeful plunge into Saturn this year in order to protect and preserve the planet’s moons for future exploration – especially the potentially habitable Enceladus.
But the beginning of the end for Cassini is, in many ways, like a whole new mission. Using expertise gained over the mission’s many years, Cassini engineers designed a flight plan that will maximize the scientific value of sending the spacecraft toward its fateful plunge into the planet on Sept. 15. As it ticks off its terminal orbits during the next five months, the mission will rack up an impressive list of scientific achievements.
“This planned conclusion for Cassini’s journey was far and away the preferred choice for the mission’s scientists,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Cassini will make some of its most extraordinary observations at the end of its long life.”
The mission team hopes to gain powerful insights into the planet’s internal structure and the origins of the rings, obtain the first-ever sampling of Saturn’s atmosphere and particles coming from the main rings, and capture the closest-ever views of Saturn’s clouds and inner rings. The team currently is making final checks on the list of commands the robotic probe will follow to carry out its science observations, called a sequence, as it begins the finale. That sequence is scheduled to be uploaded to the spacecraft on Tuesday, April 11.
Cassini will transition to its grand finale orbits, with a last close flyby of Saturn’s giant moon Titan, on Saturday, April 22. As it has many times over the course of the mission, Titan’s gravity will bend Cassini’s flight path. Cassini’s orbit then will shrink so that instead of making its closest approach to Saturn just outside the rings, it will begin passing between the planet and the inner edge of its rings.
“Based on our best models, we expect the gap to be clear of particles large enough to damage the spacecraft. But we’re also being cautious by using our large antenna as a shield on the first pass, as we determine whether it’s safe to expose the science instruments to that environment on future passes,” said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL. “Certainly there are some unknowns, but that’s one of the reasons we’re doing this kind of daring exploration at the end of the mission.”
In mid-September, following a distant encounter with Titan, the spacecraft’s path will be bent so that it dives into the planet. When Cassini makes its final plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere on Sept. 15, it will send data from several instruments - most notably, data on the atmosphere’s composition – until its signal is lost.
“Cassini’s grand finale is so much more than a final plunge,” said Spilker. “It’s a thrilling final chapter for our intrepid spacecraft, and so scientifically rich that it was the clear and obvious choice for how to end the mission.”
So you heard Seven to Eternity is awesome (it is!) and you want to check out more by Rick Remender...
In his newest series, SEVEN TO ETERNITY, Rick Remender, with artist Jerome Opeña and colorist Matt Hollingsworth, tells a story about family and freedom, set in an exquisite fantasy world replete with great and terrible magic.
The God of Whispers has spread an omnipresent paranoia to every corner of the kingdom of Zhal; his spies hide in every hall spreading mistrust and fear. Adam Osidis, a dying knight from a disgraced house, must join a hopeless band of magic users in their desperate bid to free their world of the evil God, or accept the God’s promise to give Adam everything his heart desires. All men have surrendered their freedom for fear. Now, one last free man must choose.
SEVEN TO ETERNITY is one of the most beautiful and exciting new releases this week! Keep reading to find five awesome graphic novels by Rick Remender you should check out next!
A small figure gallops across the windswept ice slope. The bundled
rider is mounted on a large gray snow lizard, a Tauntaun. Curving
plumes of snow rise from beneath the speeding paws of the two-legged
The rider gallops up a slope and reins his lizard to a stop. Pulling
off his protective goggles, Luke Skywalker notices something in the
sky. He takes a pair of electrobinoculars from his utility belt and
through them sees smoke rising from where the probe robot has crashed.
Yesterday we saw how graphene can be used as a lubricant to make friction disappear. Today scientists reveal that the two-dimensional sheets of linked carbon atoms can be fashioned into hinges and springs to build microscale machines.
cornelluniversity researchers made the tiny devices using principles from kirigami, the ancient art of cutting and folding paper. Melina Blees and her colleagues decided to try the approach after early studies poking graphene sheets showed that the material behaves physically much like paper–it folds and crumples outside of the sheet’s plane but doesn’t stretch or compress within the plane. Learn more and see photos and video below.
(A large sheet of graphene can be crumpled like soft paper and returns to its original shape in a water and soap solution.)
Behind the Scenes of The Waters of Mars (Part Six)
Excerpts from Benjamin Cook’s interview with Lindsay Duncan in DWM 415:
“Where’s Gadget?” asks assistant script editor Jennie Fava. “He must be around here somewhere.”
“Probably lying in the corner, broken,” replies veteran Doctor Who director Graeme Harper. Gadget is a three foot tall, Wall-E-type robot probe on tracks. (Altogether now: “Awwww!”) He has two arms, skeletal hands, and big camera-lens eyes. “He’s not on today, is he? Hasn’t he wrapped for this episode? Thank God.”
“Very temperamental. Attention-seeking, constantly. And, of course, terribly unpredictable, says Lindsay Duncan, the Captain herself, when asked about the Doctor’s latest friendly-but-temperamental robotic ally. (See also: K9, Kamelion, and Adric.) “Every time we try to get a shot, a bit of Gadget drops off,” she laughs. “But there’s a great deal of humor focused on the Gadget robot, which is delightful and works really, really well, especially in such a dark episode. I had one of my most joyful times on set, on Gadget, tearing down this strip of corridor.”