Archive for the ‘Alan Dean Foster’s Perceivings’ Category

  • Perceivings: Science & silence

    Aug 31, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Alan Dean Foster The history of science is replete with examples of men and women who spent their lives searching for answers to specific questions. The Curies and radium. Goodyear and the vulcanization of rubber. Pasteur and vaccination. The Wright bros. and powered flight. But there are also marvelous examples of scientific serendipity. Times when researchers and experimenters made discoveries without fully realizing to what uses their discovery might be put. Based on pioneering theoretical work by Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow, Theodore Maiman constructed the first laser at Hughes Research Laboratories back in 1960. Think about that a moment. 1960: Not so very long ago. I doubt any of them realized their work would lead to enormous changes in the entertainment industry, or in communications, or in medicine. They probably just thought, as a surprising number of scientists do, that their work was “cool.” It’s hard to imagine how contemporary society would function without the laser. But we could manage without lasers long before we could without something that in its fashion is even more miraculous, and certainly more indispensable: the humble battery. Ponder how many devices we take for granted that use batteries. From tiny ones that power hearing aids and cell phones to now-clumsy but once ubiquitous D-cells, from squarish 12 volts to giant batteries that back up hospitals and store megawatts from enormous solar and

  • Perceivings: (He)’Art Beats’ & flowers

    Aug 3, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Alan Dean Foster The program I’m going to talk about is called “Art Beats,” and even if you’re an art lover, you probably haven’t seen it. Or heard of it. Not your fault. I only came across it because we recently purchased a 4K-capable TV. I hadn’t bought a new TV in 10 years and wanted one because as my vision gets worse, the TVs thankfully get larger. But I didn’t know much about 4K. Roughly speaking, 4K provides four times the definition of HD (high-definition) TV. For a great deal of television, that doesn’t make any difference. Talk shows don’t benefit from being shot in 4K. Neither do situational comedies or “Bob Bakes Burgers.” It makes a huge difference for a show like “Art Beats.” Not only are resolution, color, etc. astounding in 4K, but for the first time I found myself looking at images on TV of artworks I had seen in person and finding the reproduction true to life. Utilizing 4K cameras, the production team for “Art Beats” was able to take its time lingering lovingly over not just individual art works but small sections of those works, much as an art book would employ closeup shots of different parts of a painting or sculpture to emphasize specific aspects of an artist’s work. This wasn’t as important when the subject was as massive as Michelangelo’s “David,”

  • Perceivings: Excavating a drink of water

    Jun 29, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Alan Dean Foster World-famous archeological sites, especially those that have become tourist attractions, need little introduction. Macchu Picchu, the Roman Forum, the Acropolis, the Taj Mahal — mention their names and for anyone whose interest in images extends beyond family photos and possibly NFL highlights, pictures of those locations immediately flash in the mind. Lesser-known sites readily activate mental video among the more knowledgeable among those interested in the ancient world. Such folk might know that the fabulous bronze paneling that used to cover the ceiling of the Pantheon in Rome was ordered torn off by Pope Urban VIII and melted down to make cannons (sort of a reversal of the “beat swords into plowshares” meme). Or that the “simple” islanders of the Pacific raised something akin to a stone Venice on the island of Pohnpei. Or that the Chachapoyan civilization of northern Peru constructed massive stone cities like Kuelap that sometimes rivaled those of the Inca. But hardly anybody has heard of Sagalassos. Founded around 333 B.C. E., Sagalassos lies in the Taurus mountains about 100 kilometers north of the Turkish port city of Antalya. Whereas ancient peoples of the Mediterranean tended to cluster around the coast, Sagalassos lies inland at an altitude of 1500-1700 meters. Why the variation in altitude? Because it’s kinda like Prescott. Or Jerome. Built on the slope of a mountain, the old trading

  • Perceivings: Have your cake & shoot it up, too

    Jun 1, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Alan Dean Foster Something a little different this month. Something maybe even a little more controversial than arguing about the aesthetic viability of giant balloon dogs or the presence of artificial coloring in food. A tad hard to justify as being about either science or art, although people have long spoken about the art of compromise. Understand that the following is not necessarily the preferred political position I would take were it possible for me to adjudicate on the mat. But the essence of our democracy is cooperation. This usually entails both sides giving up something they want. It’s a difficult and laudable achievement because when a politician or government entity manages to pull it off, they’re more likely to be harangued and despised by both sides rather than applauded. The more difficult the compromise, the more contentious the issue, the harder it is to persuade multiple individuals and entities in government to deal with it. It’s so much easier just to stand back and shout, “This is my stance and I’m not wavering from it!” That doesn’t solve problems. So here’s my take on a simple, uncontroversial, hardly ever discussed matter. Bear in mind I would rather be discussing favorite flavors of doughnuts. But that isn’t a matter of national concern at the moment. What to do about the private ownership of automatic and semi-automatic weapons, is. You

  • Perceivings: Your science conspiracies may be charged at a higher rate

    May 4, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Alan Dean Foster Washington D.C. councilman Trayon White recently said (on multiple occasions) that the Rothschild family controls the weather. Leaving aside the fact that councilman White’s social as well as formal education is manifestly sadly deficient, it got me to thinking yet again about the many current conspiracy theories that involve science. It’s easy to construct a conspiracy theory centered around science because so few people bother to take any time to understand it. But in this particular instance, while yet again causing me to deplore the state of the species of which I have to count myself a member, it struck me that all the propounders of these intrigues must be deeply involved in making oodles of cash off their exercises. Otherwise why bother? I therefore furrowed my brow (don’t worry, it goes away) with an eye toward unearthing the nefarious subtleties behind their global plots. Let’s start with Councilman White’s contention. How would one profit off controlling the weather? Based on Washington D.C.’s recent stormy conditions (sorry … couldn’t resist), one would expect any businesses they control to immediately stock as much bad weather gear as possible. According to my research via Cambridge Analytics (that’s Cambridge, Idaho), the most recommended stores in D.C. for such gear are Comfort One Shoes, Hudson Trail Outfitters, Simply Soles, the Smithsonian Store, and Lou Lou. Aside from the fact that

  • Perceivings: Who steals unsellable art?

    Mar 30, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Alan Dean Foster I love art, and I like to think I have reasonably wide-ranging tastes. As I’ve said before in these columns, I don’t have much use for modern art of the Koons/Johns/Lichtenstein variety because I don’t think “repurposing” another artist’s work constitutes a valid expression of originality. Or to put it another way, it’s plagiarism. The “art world” apparently thinks otherwise, and who am I to criticize when someone takes a panel of a comic strip (drawn by a real artist, who can actually like, you know … draw), blows it up to giant size, and puts a six-figure price tag on the bottom? I do confess to a certain liking for Jackson Pollock’s work, perhaps because my wife does a better Pollock than Pollock (the artist, not the fish). Notwithstanding that, I’m still waiting for someone to explain the difference to me between a Koons balloon dog and one from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Come to think of it, if Macy’s blew up a balloon dog and used it in the parade, would it count as a parade balloon or art? If I had the money (and more wall space), there is certain art I’d like to own. I’d love to have a Margaret Brundage, and a Chesley Bonestell, and a Bierstadt or a Church. But it’s not necessary, because you can now purchase reproductions

  • Perceivings: The robots are coming, and they have broccoli!

    Mar 2, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Alan Dean Foster Tesla, which is leading the way in the development of autonomous cars, is not alone in that endeavor. Over the course of the past couple of years, it seems like everyone has jumped on that bandwagon. Not only auto manufacturers but companies like Google, Waymo, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and many more are working feverishly to perfect the technology that will allow you to text freely in your car without risking a citation — not to mention watch a movie, nosh a burrito, chat with your Aunt Bernice about her latest operation, and turn around to yell at the kids without pancaking into the nearest brick wall. But the media has been so focused on the development of autonomous driving for cars that they often overlook equally if not more important applications of the same technology. Autonomous buses. Autonomous trollies. Autonomous trains. And the wholesale transformation of the trucking industry. When the media does discuss such applications, the reportage is usually slathered with a soupçon of woe lamenting the number of jobs that will be affected by such changes. Take the trucking industry. What will all those soon to be out-of-work truckers do? Truckers can make pretty good money. On the other hand, the hours are terrible, the stress is unrelenting, a normal home life is impossible, in certain states and along certain routes the attention of the

  • Perceivings: The Blue Raspberry of Forgetfulness

    Feb 2, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Alan Dean Foster When we think of science, our initial thoughts likely turn to physics, chemistry, geology, or biology, zoology, and the other life sciences. I doubt anyone’s first thought is of food science. But there really is such a thing, and it impacts our daily lives as profoundly if not more so than any of the others. If you live in the woods and off the land, you’re not likely to have much interaction with food science. If, on the other hand, like most of us you buy your food in a store, you’re much more likely to encounter food that has been intensively studied, dissected, modified, and very possibly enhanced. As the old adage says, “better living through chemistry.” I was reminded of this by seeing on the soft drinks shelf of a local supermarket several bottles of blue raspberry soda. I bought one, took it home, drank it. It wasn’t bad and it certainly tasted of raspberries. But it didn’t have any raspberry in it (artificial flavor) and it didn’t look like any raspberry I ever encountered in its natural state. Blue raspberry is also a popular flavor of shave ice and other “foods.” But … there is no such thing as a blue raspberry. Raspberries are red, shading decidedly to black. For the food industry, that presents a problem. Because a more popular flavor, cherry,

  • Perceivings: The tao of Pussyfoot

    Dec 29, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Alan Dean Foster Okay, let’s get the title of this column out of the way fast. Pussyfoot is the name of a small black kitten that features in five Warner Bros. cartoons directed by the great Chuck Jones. Arguably the best one, “Feed the Kitty,” features the kitten subduing an enormous, ferocious bulldog by the name of Marc Antony. Pussyfoot accomplishes this via a combination of unrestrained love, impossible cuteness, and general indifference. I am moved to mention this by way of providing proof that the Beatles’ song “All You Need is Love” may have more than a little scientific truth behind it, at least where domestic cats are concerned. I am further impelled to bring up the subject because the internet has been inundated by a flood, a veritable tsunami, of videos featuring cats. If some sources are to be believed, when ranked by subject matter cat videos draw the most views of anything on the net. In turn, this popularity has given rise to an entire subset of articles and scholarly treatises that attempt to explain the phenomena, such as “The Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism” (Ethan Zuckerman, 2008). It is worthy of note that there is no corresponding “Cute Dog Theory of Digital Activism,” or Horse Theory, or even Baby Theory. Disclaimer: Just as programs on ABC promoting Disney have to add a proviso that

  • Nostalgia or art?: A picture’s worth, revisited

    Dec 1, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Alan Dean Foster “Art is in the eye of the beholder.” The first known mention of this common aphorism is from the 3rd century Greek, and nothing much has changed regarding what is “art” since then. Opinions rage on. Is a boulder placed over a ditch “art”? The L.A. County Museum of Art seems to think so. Is a cartoon balloon animal blown up to Green Giant size art? Some believe it makes Jeff Koons — and others who execute likewise — artists. For that matter, is the rendering of the Green Giant on cans of vegetables “art”? Here’s where it gets interesting. Of the enormous, indeed unquantifiable, amount of art produced over the last few centuries originally for purposes of advertising, what can be considered art and what is simply junk? While a small quantity of such material was considered art (or at least containing some artistic merit) when it was originally produced, how does the vast volume of such endeavors hold up today? One only has to drop in on PBS’s highly entertaining and informative program “Antiques Roadshow” to find out. Substantial valuations are proposed for everything from travel posters to General Store box displays. None of this material was birthed for the purpose of creating art. Yet people will pay thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of dollars for a poster promoting ship travel to South America,

Celebrating art and science in Greater Prescott.

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