Thursday, December 27, 2007

Flushing Remonstrance anniversary

Today is the 350th anniversary of the Flushing Remonstrance, an important document in the history of religious tolerance and a part of local Queens history (as the existence of a modern Queens neighborhood of the same name suggests). Here is a New York Times op-ed about the document.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The meta-post for the second Carl Sagan blog-a-thon

(NOTE: I will be updating this list periodically throughout the day, as I find new posts.)

Well, today's the day. On the eleventh anniversary of Carl Sagan's passing, fans from all over the world are posting about Sagan, and this post is the portal to them.

I'll keep my remarks to a minimum, since I've said most of what needs to be said already in the announcement post and last year's original meta-post. So without further ado, the list of participating posts (organized alphabetically by URL):
  1. Look out, it’s evil!: "Carl Sagan (1934-1996), In Memoriam"
  2. Allyn Gibson: "On Carl Sagan"
  3. A New Anglican's Journey: "Carl Sagan, 1934-1996"
  4. Ann Druyan at The Observatory: "20 December 2007"
  5. Astroprof's Page: "Where is today’s Cosmos?"
  6. Noch ein Blog
  7. Atheism Central: "Second Annual Carl Sagan Blog-a-thon Meta-post"
  8. Author of Confusion: "Carl Sagan"
  9. Bad Astronomy: "Sagan blogathon"
  10. Lunar Obverse: "Carl Sagan, novelist"
  11. Reflections, Ideas, and Dreams: "Cosmic Perspective"
  12. Extended Phenotype: "Carl Sagan and the 'High-Water Mark'"
  13. Tim Rambo: "My Favorite Sagan Quote, and Commentary"
  14. Sam Harrelson’s Blog: "In Memory of Carl Sagan"
  15. BlueGlowy Records: "Carl Sagan"
  16. A Room With A View: "Carl Sagan Blog-A-Thon"
  17. Centauri Dreams: "Remembering 'The Cosmic Connection'"
  18. Charles G's Blog Space: "Carl Sagan remembered 11 years later"
  19. Wheat-dogg’s world: "My personal journey with Carl Sagan"
  20. Concomitant: "Astronomy as a Means of Exploring the Numinous"
  21. Cosmic Log: "Religion vs. Science vs. Politics"
  22. And Slaters Go Plop: "Carl Sagan Memorial"
  23. Darwin's Dagger: "Carl Sagan"
  24. Just Another Deisidaimon: "Sagan and Bronowski"
  25. Depleted Cranium: "My own experience with Carl Sagan"
  26. Divers and Sundry: "Carl Sagan"
  27. John Pieret at Thoughts in a Haystack: "Real Ghosts" / "Ex Libris Veritas"
  28. The Double Bit Axe: "The Second Annual Carl Sagan Blogathon"
  29. Inane Ramblings of a Demented Predator: "Billions and Billions"
  30. Ex Astris, Scientia: "With this tool, we vanquish the impossible."
  31. Michael Hiebert @ my new cardboard box: "Carl Sagan Blog-A-Thon"
  32. James F. McGrath @ Exploring Our Matrix: "Carl Sagan Blog-A-Thon Quotes of the Day (Ann Druyan)"
  33. The Ethical Paleontologist: "So She Developed A Physics Voice"
  34. Music of the Spheres: "Sagan: Slaying Invisible Dragons, Firmly But Gently"
  35. Friendly Atheist: "Second Annual Carl Sagan Blog-a-thon Meta-post"
  36. gee bobg: "the beginning of wisdom"
  37. The Information Paradox: "Sagan: Skeptic, Scientist and Sheer Inspiration"
  38. kali's temple of doom: "Carl as an Every Day Tool of Self-Awareness"
  39. KiwiBlogBlog: "Carl Sagan"
  40. Melissa's livejournal: "Today marks the 11th anniversary of the world’s loss of Carl Sagan"
  41. My View: "Remembering Carl Sagan"
  42. The Nervous Axon: "remembering carl sagan"
  43. Nick Sagan Online: "The Humility of Science" / "Carl Sagan Memorial Blog-a-thon 2007"
  44. Omniscopic: "What Carl Sagan gave us"
  45. Open Parachute: "Carl Sagan"
  46. The Passionate Atheist: "Thanks Carl"
  47. The Perplexed Observer: "You Are Here" / "Science as a Candle in the Dark" / "Reflections on a Mote of Dust"
  48. Podblack Blog: "A Girl Called Ellie"
  49. quennessa's livejournal: "Pale Blue Dot"
  50. schneiderism: "Carl Sagan Was Cool"
  51. Science and Religion News: "Carl Sagan on life, death, and religion"
  52. The Spherical Influence: "Second Annual Carl Sagan Blog-a-thon"
  53. "11 years without Carl Sagan"
  54. Skeptigator: "Remembering Carl Sagan"
  55. "A Couple of Anniversaries"
  56. Blake Stacey @ Science After Sunclipse: "A True Story"
  57. Gateway Skepticism: "The Weight of a Legacy"
  58. NeuroLogica Blog: "Remembering Sagan"
  59. Jon Blumenfeld @ The Rogues Gallery: "Billions"
  60. Thilina Heenatigala @ Universe Cafe: "'star stuff contemplating star stuff': Remembering Carl Sagan"
  61. it’s about time: "The brain is like…"
  62. toomanytribbles, "blogging with carl sagan (on the other side of the pale blue dot)"
  63. Tangled Up In Blue Guy: "Sagan, Miller and Velikovsky"
  64. The Uncredible Hallq: "Review: Pale Blue Dot"
  65. Witches and Scientists: "Carl's marching orders"
Posts in Dutch:
  1. de Volkskrant: "Uitspraken van Carl Sagan"
Posts in Flemish:
  1. Sereniteit: "11e verjaardag overlijden Carl Sagan"
Posts in French:
  1. Elisabeth Piotelat: "Carl Sagan"
Posts in Spanish:
  1. La Calavera: "Persona: Carl Sagan"
  2. Cuaderno de bitácora: "Recordando a Carl Sagan"

And special thanks to all who promoted the blog-a-thon ahead of time:
  1. hyper-textual ontology: "Tomorrow - Sagan blog-a-thon"
  2. Friendly Atheist: "Second Annual Carl Sagan Blog-a-thon"
  3. The Jaded Skeptic, Odd Jack: "2nd Annual Carl Sagan blog-a-thon is coming next month"
  4. Greg Laden: "Carl Sagan Day Coming Up"
  5. PZ Myers at Pharyngula: "Sagan-a-thon"
  6. A Whore in the Temple of Reason: "Carl Sagan Blogathon"
  7. toomanytribbles: "blog-a-thon reminder" / "the second annual carl sagan memorial blog-a-thon"
  8. Tangled Up in Blue Guy: "Carl Sagan Blog Tribute Upcoming"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

utopia in New Jersey

Today's issue of the Newark Star-Ledger has a news story about various utopian communities that have been in the state of New Jersey, including the anarchist Stelton Ferrer colony, Upton Sinclair's Helicon Hall, and the single-tax colony Free Acres: "Utopia, N.J.: Trying to create a better world in the Garden State" by Vicki Hyman. (Hyman contacted me due to my post on Stelton.) The article is based on a new book of the same name which examines the above and several other utopias, Utopia, New Jersey: Travels in the Nearest Eden by Perdita Buchan, published by Rutgers University Press. The article touches on the range of leftist ideologies behind the colonies, and about what remains of them (Free Acres is the only one that still exists, with "a lush, wooded feel and cooperative air"; remnants of some of the others survive, for example here is some information about the buildings that still remain from Stelton).

UPDATE: I found an online article by Buchan on Free Acres, from New Jersey Monthly magazine.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

new science fiction on Project Gutenberg: Stanley G. Weinbaum's A Martian Odyssey

I'm proud to announce that the science fiction short story "A Martian Odyssey" by Stanley G. Weinbaum (1934, following the version in the 1949 collection A Martian Odyssey and Others) is now available at Project Gutenberg.

It's revered as the first in a number of stories by Weinbaum that appeared in 1934-5 (followed by "Valley of Dreams", "Flight on Titan", "Parasite Planet", "The Lotus Eaters", and "The Mad Moon") that marked a milestone in the realistic depiction of alien creatures. He overcame the problem of making aliens seem like disguised humans, or being monstrous just to be scary; the aliens were meticulously logical (which was often extended to entire ecological systems), yet strange. (On the other hand, I find most of Weinbaum's non-alien stories to be decidedly lesser, and far more gimmicky and cheesy; aliens were as necessary for Weinbaum's fiction to shine as water was for Esther Williams.)

Gutenberg has a few other stories from A Martian Odyssey and Others, mostly non-alien stories, but including the sequel "Valley of Dreams", which picks up right where "A Martian Odyssey" leaves off, and manages to convincingly develop the nature of the alien creatures, and believably answers some questions raised in its predecessor, while leaving others unresolved.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Wish Arthur C. Clarke a happy 90th birthday!

We have science-fiction writers such as Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke providing cogent and brilliant summaries in nonfictional form of many aspects of science and society. — Carl Sagan, "Science Fiction — A Personal View", in Broca's Brain
The revered science fiction writer (and science popularizer/futurist, and inventor, and humanist) Arthur C. Clarke — author of 2001 (book and movie), Childhood's End, Rendezvous with Rama, "The Sentinel", "The Nine Billion Names of God", "The Star" and many others — will be turning 90 this month. To mark the occasion, Thilina Heenatigala, a friend of Clarke's and the General Secretary of the Clarke-cofounded Sri Lanka Astronomical Association has started a blog to celebrate Clarke's 90th birthday. He is sending an open invitation to all Clarke fans to post birthday wishes as blog comments for. December 16th is the special date!

Heenatigala is also a big Sagan fan: he organized a special screening of Cosmos for undergraduates last year, and was inspired by the blog-a-thon. And JHB readers will also recognize my interest in old-time science fiction as a recurring theme here — see my tribute to Jack Williamson last year — so it's a real honor to pay tribute to a living legend whose first sales, "Loophole" and "Rescue Party" (both about aliens who find the tables turned on them by clever humans) were published in 1946.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

new science fiction on Project Gutenberg: Frank Belknap Long's The Mississippi Saucer

The science fiction short story "The Mississippi Saucer" by Frank Belknap Long (from Weird Tales, 1951) is now available at Project Gutenberg. As the title implies, an early take on the flying-saucer idea, it is brief enough (ten pages) that I'll avoid spoiling it by saying more about it ... so, read and enjoy!

a detail from Jon Arfstrom's title illustration for 'The Mississippi Saucer'