Month: December 2008

The Future

The Future

I think we’re standing the edge of a whole new horizon, preparing for a leap greater than any we’ve had before.

In particular, we seem poised for a new leap in productivity that would have been unimaginable even ten years ago.  Not too long ago we entered the age where anyone who wanted to could make a video (and publish it to millions); now we’re about to enter the age where anyone who wants to can design a new product, test it, produce it, sell it, and market it — all from the comfort of her own computer. 

Are there no cups that fit your hand just right?  No problem, design your own and have a dozen delivered when you want.

Don’t like the color of your car?  No problem, design a whole new color, or even a whole new pattern, and have your car painted professional from your design.

(I’m waiting for nano-paint or reactive paint or whatever it is that will allow us to change colors on the fly — imagine having the walls of your room change color throughout the day — or mimic the light of the sun.)

Thought of a new gadget?  Design, test, develop, and produce it right from your home.

What will nano-tech bring to the picture?  Are we worried about energy and global warming?  Won’t they go away when our power requirements shrink to the nano-level?

Worried about old age?  It’s possible that people today could live thousands of years.  (My daughter has recently demanded that I live to 120.  Two years ago, while recovering from surgery my mother called to tell me that I should expect to live to be at least one hundred.)

I know that today (with a lot of effort), I could design, produce, and market a film completely in software — when is that going to become so easy that anyone can do it?

What will happen when we lower the bar to creativity?  What new inventions will come along from strange places to surprise us (remember Tetris?  From the Soviet Union?)?

At some point we’ll see a movement beyond today’s (very excellent) 3D design software to software that can manage the phsyics and mechanics of objects (think of designing your own engine in software, testing it to destruction, revising the materials, and then having it custom built for you).

Today’s economic downturn is merely the springboard into a tomorrow beyond our imagining.  (Any day now, I’m expecting an enterprising 10 year-old to develop a working phaser.)

Lunar Lander

Lunar Lander

Some of you may recall that I was a software engineer in a former life.  Recently, I had a chance to re-acquaint myself with Java and so, naturally, I coded my favorite learn-a-new language software program, Lunar Lander, in Java.

For those unfamiliar, the object is to land (not crash, not run out of fuel, not ram) on the Moon.  You, intrepid pilot, start up 2500 feet above the surface, with 600 pounds of fuel, and are descending at 450 feet per second (that’s -450 fps relative to the Moon).  You succeed if you land (that is, your height is 0) with a velocity between 0 and -5 feet per second and without having run out of fuel.  Your engines can only burn a maximum of 75 pounds of fuel a second.  You can specify the length of your thrust from 1 to 10 seconds (beginners are advised to stick to 1 second each burn).

To run this, you’ll need the Java runtime (you have it if you’re using Java with your browser) and you’ll need to unzip the file into a separate directory.  Switch into the “dist” directory, then, just click on lander.jar and the program should pop up.

File Attachment: (146 KB)

Happy landing!

Off to Ireland

Off to Ireland

My daughter and I will be heading off to Ireland — after Christmas for a long stay with Mum. 

We’ll probably mix business with pleasure and discuss the next two collaborations Mum and I are doing.

Best of Genre 2008

Best of Genre 2008

Library Journal has selected Dragonheart as one of its best of Science Fiction and Fantasy Genre for 2008.

You can read the full recommendation here (scroll down).

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