The Logic of “The Gordian Paradox”

In my recent short story, “The Gordian Paradox,” a human attempts to defeat an evil artificial intelligence with a logical paradox: “This sentence is false.” However, instead of getting the AI stuck in a loop, the evil AI and the good AI start arguing about the meaning of the paradox.

I realize this logic may not have made a whole lot of sense, especially as presented in the story, so I wanted to shed a bit more light on it.

Spoilers Below

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#23 – Overpopulation and Environmental Collapse

#23 – Overpopulation and Environmental Collapse A Reader's History of Science Fiction

In the 60s and 70s, awareness of environmental issues was rising, and that was reflected in the New Wave of science fiction. Of particular note were overpopulation and pollution (leading to widespread environmental collapse). In this episode, we explore the highlights of this subgenre. Book recommendation: Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner Other books mentioned: Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi Paolo Bacigalupi interview on The Windup Girl
  1. #23 – Overpopulation and Environmental Collapse
  2. #22 – Nuclear War
  3. #21 – Apocalypse How?
  4. Writer's History #1 – Max Hawthorne Interview
  5. #20 – Philip K. Dick

In the 60s and 70s, awareness of environmental issues was rising, and that was reflected in the New Wave of science fiction. Of particular note were overpopulation and pollution (leading to widespread environmental collapse). In this episode, we explore the highlights of this subgenre.

Book recommendation: Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner

Other books mentioned:
Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison
The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupi interview on The Windup Girl

Check out this episode!

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The Gordian Paradox

A Short Story

“Duck!” Raven yelled, and Dave dropped to the floor. Two bullets whizzed over his head before she blocked the rest of them with her improvised shield. He didn’t know how she could stay ahead of the automated defenses for this long, but if she kept it up, they might have a chance. There were several precision gunshots from over his head, and the enemy fire stopped.

“Up!” Raven told him, pulling him up by his arm. “Through the door, forward sixteen, then left nine and stop.” The numbers were counting strides. Dave didn’t know how she could compute his stride length with such perfect accuracy, but it had worked so well up till now that he could do it blind. He ran to the spot she told him while she took care of the next obstacle.

It still wasn’t going to be easy. The evil supercomputer GOLIATH was well on its way to taking over the world. It had frozen just about every device connected to the Internet and issued an ultimatum to world leaders. Many military units were sufficiently insulated to mount a counterattack, but it wasn’t looking good. Their only hope was to stop the machine at the source. Hence why Dave was here.

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The Perseverance Rover Lands on Mars Tomorrow!

https://mars.nasa.gov/system/resources/detail_files/25468_PIA24345-web.jpg

Tomorrow is a big day in the world of planetary science. NASA’s Perseverance rover (formerly Mars 2020) will be landing on Mars at 3:55 PM EST.

This is something that brings back memories for me. Eight and a half years ago–in fact only a month before I started this blog–I watched the landing of the Curiosity rover at the Planetary Society’s Planetfest event in Pasadena. It was a massive and euphoric two-day event attended by luminaries from Bill Nye (CEO of the Planetary Society) on down.

Today, of course, we’re living in a very different world, and there are no massive celebrations for Perseverance (although the Kennedy Space Center is apparently holding an in-person event), but the landing is still going forward. Also, the rover’s name feels so much more meaningful than it did a year ago when it beat out my first choice of Ingenuity, (which happily was still given to the helicopter it carries).

As an aside, I still can’t get over the fact that we’re going to fly a helicopter on Mars in harsher conditions than anyone has ever flown a helicopter on Earth!

Perseverance is basically a Curiosity chassis with better instruments on it, including ground-penetrating radar, a test oxygen production system, an ultraviolet spectrometer capable of spotting organic compounds, and a sample return system (to be picked up by a future mission). Since it’s the same design, in order to land, it will need to do a repeat of Curiosity’s “Seven Minutes of Terror,” in a Rube Goldberg-esque process where it will be lowered on a cable from a rocket-powered crane.

That still sounds like something a ten-year-old would come up with, but it’s not; they’ve already done it once!

But this time, they have to do it while carrying 14% more weight, and on much rougher terrain. To do that, this will be the first camera-controlled automated landing of a spacecraft. It’s going to be a wild ride, and it’ll be streamed on NASA Live starting at 12:30 PM EST. Or if you want to keep up the tradition, you can check out the Planetary Society’s live stream starting at 2:30.

Godspeed to Perseverance. Here’s to the next step in the Final Frontier.

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#22 – Nuclear War

#23 – Overpopulation and Environmental Collapse A Reader's History of Science Fiction

In the 60s and 70s, awareness of environmental issues was rising, and that was reflected in the New Wave of science fiction. Of particular note were overpopulation and pollution (leading to widespread environmental collapse). In this episode, we explore the highlights of this subgenre. Book recommendation: Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner Other books mentioned: Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi Paolo Bacigalupi interview on The Windup Girl
  1. #23 – Overpopulation and Environmental Collapse
  2. #22 – Nuclear War
  3. #21 – Apocalypse How?
  4. Writer's History #1 – Max Hawthorne Interview
  5. #20 – Philip K. Dick

The Cold War brought with it new tales of nuclear war in science fiction, both in the early days of the 50s and 60s, and later, when fears began to rise again. In this episode, we look at the highlights of these stories and how they vary widely in how they address the consequences of nuclear war.

Book recommendation: Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank.

The Office of Technology Assessment’s 1979 nuclear war study.

Other works mentioned:
On the Beach by Nevil Shute (un-recommended)
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Dr. Strangelove
Fail Safe
The
Postman by David Brin
The Day After
WarGames

Check out this episode!

Posted in A Reader's History of Science Fiction | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

TV Review: Cosmos: Possible Worlds

Cosmos Possible Worlds title card.jpg

Last fall, I posted about the newest season of Cosmos, “Possible Worlds.” That post only covered the first two episodes, since it was the premier night (on broadcast). I was going to update every couple weeks, but with all the chaos of the election season and November being the busiest month of the year in my line of work, it just never happened. Then, I was waiting for the last episodes so I could do the whole season, but they never aired.

Except they did. I didn’t figure out until weeks after the fact that they changed up the schedule on me. (Cough. Firefly. Cough.) Episodes 10, 11, and 13 were aired on Mondays instead of the usual Tuesdays, and I never heard about the change because I rarely watch TV outside of a few specific shows. It was especially confusing because Episode 12 still aired on a Tuesday. Something about holiday scheduling, maybe?

Anyway, after having watched the remaining episodes, I can finally post my review of Cosmos: Possible Worlds.

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#21 – Apocalypse How?

#23 – Overpopulation and Environmental Collapse A Reader's History of Science Fiction

In the 60s and 70s, awareness of environmental issues was rising, and that was reflected in the New Wave of science fiction. Of particular note were overpopulation and pollution (leading to widespread environmental collapse). In this episode, we explore the highlights of this subgenre. Book recommendation: Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner Other books mentioned: Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi Paolo Bacigalupi interview on The Windup Girl
  1. #23 – Overpopulation and Environmental Collapse
  2. #22 – Nuclear War
  3. #21 – Apocalypse How?
  4. Writer's History #1 – Max Hawthorne Interview
  5. #20 – Philip K. Dick

In the 1950s and 60s, disaster and apocalyptic stories became prominent. However, the earliest ones could get pretty weird. It this episode, we take a look at the fantastic apocalypses that gave way to more realistic ones later on.

Book recommendation: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham.

Other books mentioned:
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
The Wind from Nowhere by J. G. Ballard
The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard
The Burning World by J. G. Ballard
The Crystal World by J. G. Ballard

Check out this episode!

Posted in A Reader's History of Science Fiction | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Writer’s History #1 – Max Hawthorne Interview

#23 – Overpopulation and Environmental Collapse A Reader's History of Science Fiction

In the 60s and 70s, awareness of environmental issues was rising, and that was reflected in the New Wave of science fiction. Of particular note were overpopulation and pollution (leading to widespread environmental collapse). In this episode, we explore the highlights of this subgenre. Book recommendation: Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner Other books mentioned: Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi Paolo Bacigalupi interview on The Windup Girl
  1. #23 – Overpopulation and Environmental Collapse
  2. #22 – Nuclear War
  3. #21 – Apocalypse How?
  4. Writer's History #1 – Max Hawthorne Interview
  5. #20 – Philip K. Dick

For my first interview on the show, I spoke to Max Hawthorne, author of the paleo-fiction thriller, Kronos Rising, about his writing and his experiences with science fiction as a whole.

Max’s website.
Max’s peer-reviewed scientific paper on Plesiosaurs.

Max’s book recommendations:
The Bug Wars by Robert Asprin
Hiero’s Journey by Sterling Lanier

Check out this episode!

Posted in A Reader's History of Science Fiction, Interviews | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Writer’s History #1 – Max Hawthorne Interview

New Video: The Recamán Sequence

The Recamán sequence, or more properly Recamán’s sequence, is one of the more unusual sequences to make the rounds in the internet math community. The way it works is that the first term in the sequence is 1. Then, for each term, you either add or subtract the number of that term from the previous one. There are two rules to this.

First, the numbers have be greater than 0. So for the 2nd term is 1+2=3. The 3rd term is 3+3=6. But the 4th term is 6-4=2. Second, if you subtract, the resulting number may not have appeared in the sequence before. You can include repeats when you add (otherwise, you’d get stuck), but not when you subtract. So the next term is 2+5=7. But then, you can’t subtract 7-6=1 because that there’s already a 1 in the sequence. Instead, you have to add 7+6=13.

This sequence was featured in a video by the YouTube channel Numberphile in 2018, which gave an interesting visualization of the sequence by connecting each term to the next one on the number line with a semicircle, which gave an interesting swirly pattern like the one below:

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#20 – Philip K. Dick

#23 – Overpopulation and Environmental Collapse A Reader's History of Science Fiction

In the 60s and 70s, awareness of environmental issues was rising, and that was reflected in the New Wave of science fiction. Of particular note were overpopulation and pollution (leading to widespread environmental collapse). In this episode, we explore the highlights of this subgenre. Book recommendation: Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner Other books mentioned: Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi Paolo Bacigalupi interview on The Windup Girl
  1. #23 – Overpopulation and Environmental Collapse
  2. #22 – Nuclear War
  3. #21 – Apocalypse How?
  4. Writer's History #1 – Max Hawthorne Interview
  5. #20 – Philip K. Dick

Despite his often inconsistent writing, Philip K. Dick is notable for having more film adaptations of his novels and short stories than almost every other sci-fi author, making him one of the most important writers of the New Wave. Here, we explore an overview of his work.

Book recommendation: Time Out of Joint

Ryan Britt on Dick’s writing style.

Other books mentioned:
The Man in the High Castle
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
A Scanner Darkly

Check out this episode!

Posted in A Reader's History of Science Fiction | Comments Off on #20 – Philip K. Dick