Currently reading: N-Space by Larry Niven

I might have read this book in 2003, but I don’t remember all the pieces in it, so either didn’t read it yet, I skipped around because I had read most of the fiction already, or it’s time to read it again.

This book contains contains short stories and essays by Larry Niven:

  • “What Can You Say about Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?”–the chilling result of meeting someone who’s ‘a walking intelligence test’
  • “The Fourth Profession,” one of my favourites. A bartender gets talking to an alien… and learns that there is no repeat business when you trade between the stars. The implications are, again, chilling, yet the story is charming.
  • An essay about “Building The Mote in God’s Eye
  • “The Return of William Proxmire,” a short story featuring Robert A. Heinlein
  • An exerpt from World of Ptavvs
  • “Bordered in Black,” a warning about what we might find when we explore other worlds
  • “Convergent Series,” a short-short story and mathematical joke.
  • “All the Myriad Ways”: the psychological effects of infinite alternate universes
  • An exerpt from A Gift from Earth, set on Niven’s world Plateau
  • “For a Foggy Night” from Niven’s collection All the Myriad Wsys is one of my favourites. What if fog were a probability blur?
  • “The Meddler”–hardboiled detective meets alien
  • “Passerby”: a rammer realizes that no one else would have bothered…
  • “Down in Flames,” Niven’s alternate history of Known Space
  • An exerpt from Ringworld: Louis Wu is mistaken for a Builder
  • An essay, “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex”, about Superman’s sex life
  • “Inconstant Moon,” a love story and astronomy puzzle
  • “Cloak of Anarchy,” the nasty side of real anarchy
  • An exerpt from Protector, the novel
  • “The Hole Man,” about the first manned expedition to Mars and what was found there
  • “Night on Mispec Moor,” a modern zombie story
  • “Flare Time” describes a colony on a world with many ecosystems and frequent solar flares
  • “The Locusts” postulates a developmental effect of population density or esrthbound psychology
  • some unpublished backstory from The Mote in God’s Eye
  • “Brenda,” a story set on a colony world that occasionally repels genetically altered invaders and that has limited interstellar trade
  • “The Tale of the Jinni and the Sisters,” a new Arabian fairy tale
  • “Madness Has Its Place,” a missing tale from Known Space, in which old fogeys secretly prepare to save the world
  • “Niven’s Laws,” a collection of Larry Niven’s observations (and occasionally those of his wife, Marilyn)
  • “The Kiteman”: either an exerpt from The Integral Trees or The Smoke Ring or a new short story from the same setting
  • “The Alien in Our Midst”–why we might be able to understand extraterrestrial aliens.
  • “Space,” describing a weekend of brainstorming about planning to colonize other planets

N-Space goes with Playgrounds of the Mind and, I suppose, Scatterbrain.

What caused the I35-W bridge disaster?

Well, it was neglect of needed repairs, of course. But why did the highway department and the state neglect them?

Barking Nonsequitur has a plausible chain of events to the bridge disaster. The 2002 report said rumors of the bridge’s deterioration were exaggerated.

One of the commenters points out that reports following that report, which were issued in 2005 and 2006, used the exact same photographs instead of taking new ones. So more cracks, if present, would not be noted.

In 2007, the bridge collapsed catastrophically, dropping traffic into the river and killing several people.

I believe that this view is from a nearby university campus:

view from a distance

view from a distance

Scientific LOLcats


It’s time for another cheezeburger.

Stop torture by U.S.

Guess what? “Waterboarding” (half-drowning someone) really is torture.


(Hat tip to PZ Myers at Pharyngula for the link)
And now that we have that sorted out, what about the Geneva Convention? Or is that just a “scrap of paper” like the U.S. constitution?

Far from the Madding Gerund

December 22 is Coelacanth Day!


Palaeoblog pointed out on December 22 that it was the anniversary of Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer’s discovery of an extant coelacanth. The fish was a member of the coelacanth family but not in the same species or even genus as all other coelacanth specimens, which were known only from fossils.

See also “Latimer didn’t ‘just happen’ on coelacanth.”

Christmas story

Not many people know that until recently, there was a tribe of killer monkeys living undetected in Greenwich Village, New York City.


To some extent, it was not surprising they escaped notice for so long. They had very odd sleeping habits, hibernating for 364 days out of every year (365 in leap years) and emerging from the caverns of the Village sewers only on Christmas Day.

Even so, one might have thought they could hardly help but cause talk, since they were enormous, ferocious, carnivorous, and tended (when awake) to be extremely hungry. Yet in Greenwich Village, of all places, they remained unnoticed until last year, when they were finally destroyed. And why did their victims not attract notice?

Everyone knows that Yule gibbons ate only nuts and fruits.


(Recycled from a Spider Robinson story, in which I believe it was told by a talking dog)

Oh, goodie! Get ready for a meaner flu virus

Tara C. Smith at Aetiology has summarized a peer-reviewed research documenting that the virulent influenza strain H5N1 is spreading. It’s easy to catch and gives a worse case of the flu. However, it’s not the only strain out there. We are seeing the H2N3 strain in some American hogs. Tara points out that people born since 1968, when H3 replaced H2 in widespread circulation, have no resistance to the H2 type viruses. She points out that we need to discover whether the swine virus is making the jump to humans in the swine industry. Constant surveying and prediction are needed to keep our vaccinss current with virus evolution.

In the long term, get ready for more deaths from influenza. This is an “arms race” where viruses pick up new protein coats in swine and ducks, whence they can jump to unprepared human immune systems. And remember: diseases are Nature’s answer to overcrowding.

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