Thursday, March 24, 2005

Good for a Mundane Laugh or Two

Posted by Trent Walters at 7:57 PM
If this whole interview with Kim Ogden-Avrutik, a woman who talks to dogs and who is selling an album targeting dogs for songs that they want to hear (she did an actual scientific survey of 125 dogs' opinions first), doesn't get you laughing, try her answer to what profound thoughts the dogs at the Living on Earth studio have:

Ogden, quoting the dogs: "This [album Ogden is selling] is the best thing I've ever heard."

You heard it straight from the dog's mouth. Surely, that will make you want to rush out and buy the album now!

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Mundane ideas continue to percolate

Posted by Trent Walters at 4:07 PM
Niall Harrison (and Martin Lewis at LJ's Shortform Forum) and Jeff Spock of Tangent Online suggest that the Interzone cover story, James Stoddard's "Winning Mars" may be Mundane.

"Mundane" as an adjective, spurred on by SF's ambitious linguistic inventions, may not have covered this new usage yet, but I did find an author who may have first used the term outside our cabal. On April 27, 2004, Matthew McIrvin writes (perhaps independently of the group's influence though our site went up in 2003--the author has confirmed that his use of the term matched ours):

The Hacker and the Ants is probably about the hardest and most mundane SF that Rucker ever wrote; the rest of his novels are written in a similarly breezy style, but are also more conceptually wild and loose, incorporating scientific ideas but generally completely unconcerned with how scientifically plausible they are being.

Kathryn Cramer and Gwyneth Jones express Mundane sentiments:

The real reason why sf writers "dare not tackle the near future, and have fled to exotic fantasy or military space opera" is so blindingly obvious I must be mad to go on trying, yes, the only explanation, this is really a padded cell.

Jones, however, later lopped off after "obvious" and continued:
Nah, I'm kidding myself. Thought experiments about the future have no place in science fiction, it was an aberration, normal service has been resumed. There are no Aldous Huxleys in the Gernsback Continuum.

Tongue in cheek, she have thought this to be the only obstacle in forwarding the genre in this direction. Here's another (more on this later).

Sundry Mundane Resources Available on Net

Posted by Trent Walters at 2:18 PM
Viewing Environmental Conditions in Central America from the Sky: NASA satellite view depicting of various environmental changes (amazing views to help you feel like a weatherman). If you'd like to be a weatherman, MetEd covers the bases (webcasts on climate, flooding, huricanes, fog, convection, etc.).

Aussie Fauna Biodiversity: maps, ecology, references.

Science Videos: interviews, discussions, lectures online.

The provides a number of vital global marine statistics about coral reefs, catches, biodiversity, ecosystems, and governance. Indian Ocean Sea Turtles is dedicated to preserving this species (site offers a sophisticated mapping system).

If you're looking for a name of that flower you forgot (or vice versa), try The Botany Department at the University Wisconsin would like you to view their field through images--a secondary reference after consulting a primary text.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Oceans Will Rise

Posted by Trent Walters at 9:05 AM
Even had we stopped CO2 levels in 2000, in a hundred years, the oceans would have risen four to twelve inches (11-30 cm) as temperatures would have increased up to 6.3 degrees F (3.5 C), depending on which climate model is used. Scientific American and PhysOrg both report on a Science magazine article although PhysOrg has a little more depth and photo to help you imagine the future effect (SciAm uses an unexplained colored map, which the original article uses as one of a series of maps to describe the changes in surface temperature).

Thursday, March 17, 2005

News to read

Posted by Trent Walters at 9:51 AM
I no longer have a reliable internet connection, and life has been busy, but I have saved a bundle of interesting Mundane links, which I'll try to organize in the near future. is a fascinating blog to read. They posted on Bruce Sterling's and WorldChanging editor Alex Steffen's speeches to SXSW about creating a sustainable society. goes into the side column for reading on Mundane futures.

The universal constructor is [almost] here, Physorg reports. Just add plastic and alloy. It's the size of a refrigerator but doesn't do microchips or glass (a digital camera would require you to add those yourself).

The first hydrogen car should be available for purchase in 2012, says Reuters at Yahoo News. "[T]echnical obstacles to overcome [include] extending fuel cells' reliability and durability; ensuring that they start at sub-freezing temperatures; reducing costs, and storing enough hydrogen in a small enough space to be workable."

One critic speaks out against using ethanol as a renewable fuel (this assumes that the corn grown has no additional use than ethanol production--an assumption I do not know where to go to investigate and an assumption which is hopefully accounted for in its publication). My favorite question of his is:

"Can engineers double the mileage of these cars?" he asks. "If so, we can cut down the petroleum consumption in the US by one-third."

This request comes none too soon as one expert in Bottomline/Personal claims that gas will be going up to $8/gallon within the next decade.

Monday, March 07, 2005


Posted by goatchurch at 6:56 AM
I was on the laptop phone to a good friend the other day. If there is there a malaise in society it affects all of us. And there is. You'd have to be a fool, or possibly paid to [be a] fool, to deny it. Never in my lifetime (and quite a few others') has our political class been so demonstrably disconnected from reality. They have not even been able to concoct a tenable Official Narrative that doesn't contradict the feelings and immediate memory of the majority of the people.

What is the Official Narrative? The Official Narrative is the current explanation of history in the present day, as stood up by the powerful: the TV presenters, newspaper reporters, the town mayor, your teachers, your boss. The Official Narrative is sometimes called "Common Knowledge". Anyone who denies it is made to feel an outcast, a fool, a bloody-minded ideologue, someone who can't be trusted to report what they see with their own senses. We are social animals. Our ability to live together comes from the fact that we can all arrive at the same reality, and go to the water hole to drink at the same time in safety.

Who controls the Official Narrative? This is a distracting question. We can be sure that technology, money, and the business of managing the vast population that we have become, has contaminated it in the same way as it has contaminated the food we eat. There is no reason to suppose that FoxNuisance TV (and all the other colourful channels) has not damaged our mass psychology as much as McDonalds has damaged our physiology. The latter pushes food that tastes great, is addictive, and kills. The former has found a way to impose an Official Narrative -- a mistaken Common Knowledge -- onto you and your neighbours so effectively you can't turn it off and discover your own collective opinion among your group of peers. There is no room for an opinion based on your own experiences, your own individual Private Narratives, that comes together into a consistent whole.

When your Private Narrative is divorced from the Official Narrative of your Human Herd, you will be sick. You will either feel that there's something wrong with you, or you will feel that there's something wrong with the whole rest of the world. Neither is true. Your mistake is in believing that what you experience as the Official Narrative is worthy of respect.

Once you have made this mistake, two things follow: you feel a malaise with all things in contact with the narrative, and you feel contempt for any alternative to the Official Narrative because it's mad, bad, radical, deranged, and sick -- as the Official Narrative and all you have invested in it has taught you.

The cure, you feel, is for the Official Narrative you believe in to be repaired back into a state which you can live with. But that's like trying to fix the whole world. You can't fix your own psychological problems by fixing the world first, obviously. In the meantime, you can get into all these imaginary narratives in SF that have no connection with reality and do not in any way challenge the contradictions in the Official Narrative. It's okay to have escapism. There's nothing wrong with escapism. But there's no progress with it either.

There is a reality out there. There is a science. There is mundane fiction based on science. This science includes the science of sociology. Science exists wherever there are propositions open to testing and refutation.

You can and should apply the experimental method to small parts of the Official Narrative, as it impinges on your life. This will make you iller at ease at first, because it proves you cannot trust it. If you are lucky it may create an openning to one of the alternative narratives to the Official Narrative. Like any scientific revolution, people had to know about the alternative theories so they could seize them when experiments finally proved the current theory false.

Maybe fixing the world is not the solution. Fixing the perception of the world is. The world remains the same throughout, even though it feels like it's shifting.

Sources: The Bounds of the Expressible, chapter 3 from Necessary Illusions.