Thank you! That's what I have to say. That screenshot above shows I've broken 2000 downloads in 29 episodes and since only the end of May when I started. That number doesn't include the just over 300 plays on youtube as of this writing. I know, it's a tiny drop in the podcast bucket. Some of the casts I listen to have tens of thousands of downloads a week. Still, I'm doing this show for several reasons, one being to share progressive scientific views on the world with others, and I appreciate all who've tuned in.

Blue Lava

As much as I love space, the Earth certainly can amaze and astound with it's own alien landscapes. Here a very neat place in Indonesia, photographed by Reuben Wu.

Story from Wired.com

(Reuben Wu)

No Man's Sky Is A Game For Introverts

I like this game, and I won't apologize for it.

No Man's Sky is a game for introverts.

The View

So in the past few weeks, after the official release of No Man's Sky, the gaming community has lost it's mind and threatened the game's developer with enough pitch forks and torches that refunds have been offered. I won't be asking for one, because I like this game. Maybe it's because I'm 40 and I don't care. I forget I'm 40 when reading what other gamers are saying, and I need to remind myself they might all be young angry boys.

I think some of my reasons for liking the game are because I'm not actually a hard core gamer. I didn't not get exposed to every bit on hype leading up to it's release. I did not spend days on end speculating with others about how awesome it was supposed to be. I did not anxiously await the download finishing so I could be the first in. I knew what it was in a very general way, and I never thought it would be something you could plow through. If Hello Games did oversell the game as something it's not, then shame on them, but I didn't get exposed to whatever that hype may have been. And if you played 40 hours in and then asked for a refund, shame on you.

If your favorite game is Call Of Duty, No Man's Sky is not for you. As I have played the game, I've developed the sense it's much like raking a Japanese zen garden. It is a slow game, and it's supposed to be. It is a lonely game, and it's supposed to be. No Man's Sky is a game for introverts. Maybe that's why I like it. Hours of explorations and no humans messing up my mood. I have spent a lot of my time searching for alien ruins and monoliths to expand my knowledge of the languages used in the games. Huh, imagine that, a game that allows you to make intellectual pursuit your main goal.


I've heard complaints about the graphics. I like them. They are not hyper-realistic, but then, neither is Picasso or Van Gogh. It has a style and I can appreciate that. The creatures are odd, the planets sometimes beautiful, sometimes harsh. It's a world design I can enjoy. What does a "real" alien look like anyway?

There isn't much combat in the game. I think this might also be a complaint for some. But wow, a game not based on violent conflict, how refreshing. I'll take it. And then, in those moments when conflict arises, it's all the more surprising and jolting. It can be a slog to build something, but should it be easy? And I also don't feel like this is a game you should play 8 hours at a stretch. Back to the zen garden metaphor, load up No Man's Sky and meditate for an hour or two, then get on with your life, hopefully with some lingering hope for the future and awe at the scope of the universe.

If you didn't buy it yet, I would wait. The price tag is steep, and for what the game is, I think that's a valid complaint, as I think most games are expensive these days. It isn't perfect, but it's not worthless, and in the interest of preserving civilization even if I didn't like it I would not attack the developers with the vitriol that so many have. But if you're looking for a mostly relaxing, visually interesting game that you don't have to have the reflexes of a 17 year old on six red bulls to play, get No Man's Sky. I would expect it to drop in price soon, and Steam often has holiday season sales. I like sci-fi, and as with movies and tv, sometimes any is better than none, and this game isn't awful as some would have you think. It just isn't what so many thought it would be. Blame the developer, blame your brain for buying the hype. I don't blame the game itself because I've found a purpose for it in my life. Whatever it's problems, I would still rather be out there, in No Man's Sky, than here at my desk.

In Flight

Red Desert

Book Review: Red Desert series by Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli.
(Available on Amazon)


I first discovered this book series on Twitter, and Rita kindly offered a copy of book one for free. It was a quick read, and I decided to carry on through the rest of the series. Because the books are a continuous story it didn't make sense to just review the first book, I'm reviewing the entire series.

At first, through the fairly quick read of Point Of No Return, the story (primarily following exobiologist Anna Persson) has a fairly similar feel to Andy Weir's Martian novel. Lots of science, a focus on accuracy of the science, great descriptions of what it might be like to be on Mars, to see that barren but varied landscape. Descriptions of how one might live on Mars, the difficulties, the travel from Earth to Mars, how you might handle the differences in gravity, all nicely filled out to give you a good table to set the story on. Unlike The Martian, there are multiple characters living on Mars, so the personal story told is often focused on the interactions between these people. Where The Martian is a loner, Red Desert gives us a cast of characters forced to live and work in close quarters for several years, and they must learn to deal with that reality.

Then the story takes a twist. I won't give away any spoilers, but I will say the Red Desert turns from speculative science to science fiction, with more emphasis on the fiction. It's in the early stages of book two this turn begins, and I for one enjoyed it and got hooked even deeper into the story. I'm all for realism in sci-fi (The Martian, Interstellar, The Expanse) but I'm also all for imaginative fiction that stretches the imagination. Monticelli's series adds elements that would be at home in an episode of Doctor Who, and morphs from a how-it-might-be science manual to a sci-fi thrill ride. It reminded me of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's books, giving a twist of the bizarre to otherwise normal crime stories and dramas. Red Dessert combines these elements to stay scientifically grounded in the background of the story, while taking on a more freewheeling ride for the characters.

I do have minor quibbles. On a technical level, this series was translated from Monticelli's native Italian into British English. I'm ok with the Brit part, but here and there I ran into wrong verb tenses, or wrong singular/plural nouns. A minor distraction that could be taken care of with another round of editing (and to be fair, I'm finding some of the same in John Scalzi's Ghost Brigades right now). My other quibble is that much of the foundation of the relations between characters is told in flashbacks, and I think the flashbacks were spread too far and too deep into he story. Sometimes the motivations of the characters were hard to decipher until a much later flashback filled in some critical detail. I think some of the flashbacks could have been sliced in earlier. Despite this it didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of the story and I can still recommend it to sci-fi fans looking to take an imaginative trip to the red planet. Click on the Amazon link above and take the trip yourself.

Dubai, City Of The Future

Dubai has the right idea. They do have the advantage of being an extremely wealthy nation without many of the problems, or the massive military budget, the United States has. They are preparing for a time when oil will no longer be their source of wealth. This great infographic from Futurism shows some of the coolest things they have or are studying.


A Robot Wrote My Blog Post

More AI on the show tomorrow. Here's something written by the AI at articoolo.com. Not bad, these AI's are best at summaries and press releases, but they keep getting better.

We hear a great deal about Artificial Intelligence today, but several people truly realize what artificial intelligence actually is. Even more perplexing to beginners is that many people which are in the AI field argument its definition. Still compounding the problem is when commercial endeavors start touting their technology as unnaturally intelligent driven, when really they'ren't. There are a number of different classifications that those in the arena of artificial intelligence fall into. One is people who believe that artificial intellect is computer software which imitates human decision making or appears to imitate human decision making.

Then there is the group that calls themselves purists who believe that neural network processing is accurate artificial intelligence. Today we most generally locate that such applications as search engines on the web, sovereign Procedure and interactive eLearning systems, as well as recognition software for language, facial characteristics, finger marks, spell checkers, voice, anti spam applications or calculations which scan databases to find anomalies. Clearly the more intense the application, for instance, self driving vehicles, self piloted airplanes, corporate phone systems, climate prediction, stock trading, military internet centric war, automated warehousing or computer space systems the more significant artificial intelligence becomes.


Musical Skepticism Opus 1

In addition to my interest in science and futurism, I am a skeptic. This article is intended to be educational and based on science. It might seem out of the usual purview for this show, given my discussion of fiction and speculation about the future, but being a skeptic means, to me, having a honed ability to think critically and rationally, which in turn is essential for scientific progress.


Musical skepticism No. 1

Perhaps it’s because a musician, but the woo surrounding sound and frequencies bother me more than most bs beliefs. I just found a new one, the frequency of 528 is love, repairs DNA, cures disease, and does all sorts of fabulous tricks. Setting aside that physics doesn’t work this way and there is no actual, repeatable, testable evidence this works, I don’t have the physics training to debunk that side, I’m calling bullshit on the audio aspct alone.

On the website I found promoting all this nonsense, they claim that 528hz is the MI in the solfeggio system. This is wrong in several ways. For one, solfege is not tied to any exact notes. It’s a way of vocalizing scales, and whether you start on a C or on a G changes which note is MI. Even if you use a fixed DO solfege system, MI is not 528hz. In fact, no notes are exactly 528hz. In standard A440 tuning (where A=440hz), middle C is 523.25hz. Even if you adjust your tuning to A444 tuning, which is what these people suggest, Middle C is 528.01hz. I guess that’s close enough for your vibrational whatevers. And back to solfege, the note C is always DO in a fixed system, and it varies in a non-fixed system. The only time C is MI is in the key of A flat major. So does this mean all good music can only be in A flat? What about minor keys? Can we only use the note C?

I’ve listened to music online recorded in standard, then shifted to supposedly align it’s tuning with this magic vibration. You know what I heared? A song played in two different keys. I didn’t feel universal love, didn’t get clear skin, didn’t see God. The A440 version didn’t make me into a rage monster. Just songs in different keys. On other sites I’ve seen spurious claims the Nazis changed standard tuning and out current A440 is harmful. Those claims are for another article, but for this one it is worth mentioning that ‘standard’ tuning has ranged greatly over history, largely because of the physical capabilities of the instruments being used. Standard tuning has been as low as A416. Today orchestras commonly tuning over a range of A432 to A446, and I don’t recall any stories of concert goers all getting cancer because they orchestra didn’t tune right.

The site also claims the John Lennon was killed because his use of 528 to spread peace and love was a threat to the ‘military/industrial complex’. Dubious medical claims combined with conspiracy theory should always be a red flag. And by the way, Imagine by Lennon, referenced by the page, is not in A flat major.

Another skeptic’s red flag is that the website I’ve referenced above is slathered in ads to buy this or that thing ‘attuned’ to 528. Book, water, toothpaste… always beware of someone selling ‘this one thing’ that can go ‘in all these things you can buy from me’ and will ‘fix all these ills’. Another flag is the fact that 528 isn’t the only frequency people make these claims about, sometimes saying it's one, not the other, sometimes it’s both, or even 3 or 4 frequencies. There are probably as many claims about various frequencies as there are frequencies. Don’t worry if your favorite songs are in standard tuning, just enjoy the music.


Laws Change, But What About People?

We can change laws. We can grow as humans and at certain tipping points we decide that what has been is no longer right, and to properly instigate widespread change, we enact laws. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves over 150 years ago. Almost 100 years ago women won the right to vote. Only recently we have legalized the rights of gay people to get married. But in this election year it is clear that while laws change, people don't always change with them.

Growing up I thought my generation would be more open than the previous one, but there is so much raw, gut-level hate flying about in our public forums this year I begin to doubt my feelings. Are less people racist, and the ones who still are, are just a lot louder than they've ever been? Or is the situation worse than it was before Obama took office? They call him muslim, foreigner, socialist, communist, dictator, liar, fascist, even anti-christ… all because they cannot openly call him nigger. His election did not end the discussion about racism, it opened the final book on the subject we were afraid to open, and 50 years after Dr. King marched on Selma, there is still a long way to go.

In 1995 Walmart pulled t-shirts from its stores that said "Someday a woman will be president" for fear of offending. A whopping ONE complaint was actually received. The store claimed the short was counter to it's family values. Mother, wife, caretaker, live giver, lover, it's all good as long as she stays in the kitchen.

It saddens me to think that 100 years from now, gay people will still be attacked for holding hands in public. I don't know what the answer is. At one time I thought hate would just die out when it was no longer codified by law, but now I think I'm wrong. For civilization to thrive and survive, we have to be better today than we were yesterday.

3d Printed Food

3d Food Printer on tour.

Well, keep an eye out for this traveling 3d printer tour.


Pasted Graphic

No Man's Sky

"I actually want people to boot up the game and just think, 'Isn't the universe huge? Who are we? What are we all doing here?'" - Game creator Sean Murray

I'm a semi-avid gamer, and I'm really looking forward to this game. 18 quintillion planets, it would take hundreds of billions of years to even briefly explore all of them. Let it be a reminder of the overwhelming vastness of the universe. You may never run into another human player, much like we may never meet another sentient species even if they are out there.

No Man's Sky

A Reminder of Change

Sometimes we don't even notice how much things have changed in a short time.

Left to right: 1gb, about $70 ten years ago or so; 16gb, $35 two years ago; 128gb, $30 two weeks ago.


Boston Dynamics SpotMini

Meet SpotMini

Another cool bot from the Boston Dynamics team. Can I have one? Way more useful than the chihuahua that lives in my house.


Business card

Hey, I guess it's really official now. If anyone wants a few to hand out let me know. I will mail them to you.


Pale Blue Dot

It's really pretty simple. Be human to each other.

There's been a lot of horrible things happening in the world lately. There have always been bad times and good. Right now it's hard to hope. The world seems ever closer to a crisis which we might not be able to turn away from. Carl Sagan said it best years ago and I'll let him say it again.

Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar", every "supreme leader", every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

- Carl Sagan


Now on iTunes

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The PanFuture Podcast on iTunes

Find the show on Stitcher


Still waiting on iTunes, but if you use Stitcher for your podcast feeds, you can find the show here now: The PanFuture Podcast on Stitcher.

Of course you can also still listen via the
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Large scale 3D printing

Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah
(Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah)

Here's something cool. An entire building manufactured using 3d printing. This 2700 square foot office building in Dubai was completed in just 17 days. The printer used, although huge, only requires one person to operate. There were 18 other people in the construction crew. While this technology is remarkable I still don't think anyone is talking about what happens when so few people are actually needed to do this kind of work. Are we ready to adjust to a world where we no longer have to work? How complex can we get with this construction method? Imagine a single complex machine that extrudes cars all by itself, with only one or two workers around to make sure it keeps running.

More at this Reuters article