The Queer Quantum Dispatch
Making your world a little less straight.
Darlings, how are you? Looking fabulous, as always.
I love bringing both history and science into my work. I look back to learn. I imagine forward to inspire. So, in the spirit of looking forward, let’s geek out on a little science today. Two books that I’m reading (yes, darlings, I’m a very polyamorous reader!), both in a scientific vein, inspired awe and some deep thoughts. I’m thinking you might enjoy them, too.
Under Alien Skies
First, how about a tour of the heavens? Our guide, Philip Plait takes us on quite the journey. In each chapter, he speculates at length on what it would take to visit—and survive—a different destination in the solar system and beyond. What would the sunset look like on Mars? Why is trying to land on an asteroid a bad idea? Is Pluto still a planet, and how can it have a moon so big it would fill most of the sky?
Along the way he explains quite a bit what we do and do not know, and how we know it. We’ve been spying the heavens for quite some time and our knowledge continues to grow through the countless innovations of so many unsung heroes. Making these actual trips might not happen in our lifetimes, but it’s a pleasure to imagine being there.
Having created and absorbed so much sci-fi in my life that depends on impossibly quick travel and improbably Earth-like conditions on just about every planet, this book blows up a lot of beloved tropes. We can still cling to them, of course. We could also use this wonderful kind of “science fact” speculation to make new ones! Regardless, the truth won’t make me change my quirky and improbable ways. Rest assured, darlings. I’ll never let science get in the way of art—or a good gag!
Natural Born Cyborgs
After looking outward for a bit, how about turning the gaze more inward? Next up a look at ourselves in the not so recently published book, Natural Born Cyborgs. This one inspired a more mixed reaction.
The good. It has oodles of interesting ideas about the relationship between humans, technology and the environment—namely that there are no clear lines among the three and they are really a holistic system, each part influencing and in turn being influenced by the other. We humans always use technology and the technology becomes so much a part of us that we think of it as part of ourselves—without even realizing it. We extend ourselves with technology constantly. We don’t consider it cyborgism, he argues, merely because the tech is not attached or implanted to our “skin bags.” (I love that phrase. I can just imagine saying, in some technotopia futurama: “So, what do you think of my new skin bag?”) Though not attached, tech often becomes vital to our lives. Don’t believe me? Stop for a moment and contemplate where your phone is right now, and how it would feel to be without it. Like a piece of you is missing, perhaps?
The not so good. This is a book of technology evangelism from the early ‘aughts. Mixed in with the great ideas are parts that have not aged well. It’s illuminating to see how wrong we were 20 years ago about so many things technological. For example, he waxes eloquent about how the algorithms will save us. His examples: the then new-fangled Google and Amazon. Nope, they and their algorithms have nearly destroyed democracy and entrenched unassailable monopolies that dictate most of our choices today.
I’ll leave you with this dense but intriguing quote and a question of my own to contemplate.
If that’s that case, what are the perils, promises, and responsibilities of those of us who are the culture makers?
Continue the geekery...