“Bill – do not do this!”

This is a Tweet where you have to show it all or it makes no sense:

(LATER: In the first version of this posting, it said “22 people are talking about this”. And I put, at this point: “Make that 23”. Ho ho. But now I note that the above manifestation of this tweet automatically updates itself. Blog and learn.)

Maybe, to you, that tweet still makes no sense. Well, on the right there is a black-and-white fifties British film actor, saying all that stuff. And on the left, William Hartnell, about to become the very first Doctor Who.

It was surely this attitude, that television didn’t matter and would never amount to anything, which was all part of why some of those early Doctor Who episodes went missing. Shame. Selfishly, I don’t much mind, because I never got excited about Doctor Who when it first happened. But I have a friend who still does mind.

Palfinger Epsilon

Indeed:

That’s a detail in the middle of a device I spotted on a lorry in Victoria Street this afternoon. It’s a grab crane.

Here’s the lorry:

As you can perhaps see, the job of Palfinger Epsilon is to grab bags of bagged aggregate.

I have taken to always having a fictional book on the go, and currently that book is Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky. Palfinger Epsilon sounds like one of the characters in this story.

A device for measuring neutrinos being transported through Karlsruhe

Here:

It reminds me of the scene at the end of Starship Troopers (a scene which I may now be imagining (but I think it happened)) where the victorious Starship Troopers celebrate their capture of The Queen Bug.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A design success and a designfail

Again from designboom, this posting about a Ukrainian rug-maker who is souping up his designs with modern references. I particularly like this one:

This works for many reasons, one of them being that there is something very medieval and nostalgic about the whole Star Wars franchise, and lots of cinematic and other scifi in general. Faster than light travel, for instance, isn’t modern. It is a bogus technology trick for turning the future back into the Middle Ages, into a world full of faraway wonders and monsters, but not so far away that you can’t reach them soon enough to still be alive when you get there and make your visit count.

By the way, I think “designboom” postings are very badly designed. The basic problem, although not the only one, is their juvenile refusal to understand capital letters, and their determination instead only to use capital letters for acronymic organisations (like, in this case: “OLK”), but never to signal the beginning of a sentence, or the beginning of a heading. Or for something like Star Wars. This is stupid when you are simply writing a chunk of prose. But it is seriously stupid at a website, because websites are tricky to make clear at the best of time. Boom? No. Fail. Pity, because they seem to have a lot of good stuff.

This blog, the one you are reading now, is much better designed. To look at I mean. Not how it works, which is very badly.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Unfixable Twitter

This makes sense:

There are three separate things the larger Twitter user base demands from the company:

– the ability to send messages out to the entire world

– the ability to interact with fellow users

– the ability to send messages without the fear of toxic responses

The problem is it’s basically impossible to guarantee all three at once. Call it the “Twitter impossibility theorem,” to ape Kenneth Arrow. You can have an open Twitter, you can have an interactive Twitter, and you can have a troll-free Twitter, but it is basically impossible to have all three. One of the demands must be dropped.

Twitter reminds me of that fish in The Hitchhiker’s Guide, which jumps into your ear and translates all the languages of the gallaxy into your language, which started wars because it meant that everyone could understand what you had said, and hate it, and be understood by you hating it.

Twitter doesn’t translate, but it connects the hitherto unconnected.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Driverless vehicles with faces and driverless vehicles to sleep on

Driverless cars will happen, eventually. But when they do, who knows what they will be like, or look like, what they will do or not do, what other changes they will precipitate? When this finally happens, it will surely be the railways, or the internet, in the sense that it will be big, and that nobody now knows how big or what the details will consist of.

Two driverless vehicle articles came to my attention today, both of which illustrate how very different driverless vehicles could end up being to the vehicles we are now familiar with.

This Dezeen report reports on a scheme by Land Rover to put eyes on the front of driverless vehicles, to communicate with pedestrians, the way pedestrians now look at the faces of drivers to negotiate who goes where, when. Makes sense. With no driver, and the vehicle driving itself, it could use a face, or else how will the vehicle be able to participate in after-you-no-after-you-no-after-you-no-I-insist-so-do-I sessions?

So, does a robot with a working face (in due course robot faces will be a lot better than that one) count as: “Other creatures”? I say: yes (see below).

Will the Thomas the Tank Engine books prove to be a prophetic glimpse into the future of transport? Eat your hearts out, SF movies. Didn’t see that coming, did you?

And here is a posting about how people might choose to sleep in driverless vehicles on long journeys, instead of going by air. The problem with going by air being that you have to go by airport, and that sleeping in the typical airplane is for many impossibly uncomfortable. But, if we do sleep on long distance driverless vehicles, what will we do about going to the toilet? Stop at a toilet sounds like an answer. But what will the toilet be like? Might it also be a vehicle?

The point is: nobody knows how driverless vehicles will play out. Except to say that if they look like cars and vans and lorries look now, that would be an insanely improbable coincidence.

LATER: More about those eyes here.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Granny Weatherwax does not allow inequality

For years now, I’ve wanted to nail down a particularly choice Terry Pratchett quote, concerning the limits of the idea of equality, which is that for there to be equality, someone has or some people have to insist upon it, and if that insistence is to count for anything, then there goes your equality. My problem was that I didn’t have the name of the character that the quote was about.

But today, I described the quote as best I could to my friend Adriana, and she told me at once that the name of the lady in question was Granny Weatherwax. And once I had the name, the rest was easy.

The quote I was looking for is the second from the bottom of these Quotes About Granny Weatherwax:

“Mistress Weatherwax is the head witch, then, is she?’

‘Oh no!’ said Miss Level, looking shocked. ‘Witches are all equal. We don’t have things like head witches. That’s quite against the spirit of witchcraft.’

‘Oh, I see,’ said Tiffany.

‘Besides,’ Miss Level added, ‘Mistress Weatherwax would never allow that sort of thing.”

That is to be found in A Hat Full of Sky.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Droneverts

Incoming from Michael Jennings: One for you.

It certainly is. Apparently, in Mexico, Uber is using drones to advertise itself, by having them hover, with signs, over traffic jams:

Drones to carry adverts, or signs. But of course. The possibilities are endless, and the probability is: lots of complaining, drone destruction, car crashes blamed on drones carrying adverts or signs, etc.

Imagine it. You are going at a speed considered too fast by the Big Computer in the Sky, so it sends a drone out to fly out in front of you, telling you to slow down or be fined. Or more probably, just telling you that you have already have been fined. Ah, modern life. Science fiction just never sees it coming.

By the way, what is that sign saying?

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog