Retrogeekery and The News

November 25, 2007

Though it has been a slow week here at Yesterday’s Salad, because we are busy eating leftover turkey (and salads! and eyes!), the rest of the world (apparently) has kept moving.

And despite the best efforts of your “moral majority” and your “president,” it’s moving quickly. In a rare case of “intellectuals-actually-showing-smarts,” a team of scientists have given stem cell critics a sweet lil’ reach-around. Instead of waiting for this “moral issue” to work itself out in the political sphere, they’ve kept working (with science!), and have learned how to bypass the need for embryonic stem cells in…embryonic stem cell research. Science bites religion’s eyes.

While the benefits of stem cell research are not exactly as far-reaching as the theoretical benefits of nanomachines (as far as I can tell) they are pretty close. And I think the topics themselves are either closely related or overlapable. If you are a scientist, or a superior geek, tell me if I am wrong.

The point is that it’s cool to see things that you read about in science fiction books as a kid…nearing scientific fact. Hence the title of this post.

Book 1: The First Immortal. This is a science fiction novel that predominantly deals with the far-reaching implications of nanotechnology on the world and humanity at large. Cryonics, or cryogenics, also play a big role in this novel. This is kind of a weird book, and kind of a scary book, and I kind of liked it. It follows the story of a man who chooses cryogenic suspension after death (a la Ted Williams’s head) and who is later revived and repaired by nanomachines, and who later becomes the first immortal human being when scientists learn how to literally connect our minds to computers through what is best described, in current geek-terms, as incremental direct downloads. I am decently sure that after reading this book, many people decided to freeze themselves, so that they can be revived and repaired by nanomachines, and eventually become immortal. I am not one of these people (death will be a nice rest) but if that sounds like your kind of cheeseburger, you can download the entire book, for free, here. I only bring all of this up because when I think of stem cell research curing disease, I think of nanomachines curing disease, and when I think of the implications (good, and yes, bad) of cured diseases, I think of this book.

Book 2: The Truth Machine. This is the first novel of James L. Halperin, the same author who wrote The Last Immortal. It also warrants a mention, because of this article in the New York Times, which is actually about people who were convicted of crimes they did not commit but who were exonerated by DNA (and not by lie detecting equipment, which is what happens in the book). However, these are the people who are punished by an imperfect system, and whose lives are ruined not necessarily by this system (which is probably better than we think it is) but by the fact that without scores of dependable witnesses and ample concrete evidence, it’s often very difficult to know with certainty who actually committed a crime. Anyway, this article got me thinking about Halperin’s first science fiction novel, The Truth Machine, which is essentially a utopian novel about a future where the world is saved by a genius who invents a machine that can tell with one hundred percent certainty whether or not a person is lying. Apparently, this concept may be based on actual theoretical science as well. If something like this sounds like your kind of chocolate milkshake, you can download the novel for free, here.

In case you are wondering why both of those free download links come from a coin collector auction gallery web site, it’s because Halperin is a famous (infamous!) coin collector and dealer. Though Chief Daily Salad would probably call him a numismatist.

Thank you for reading Retrogeekery and The News. I am the eye biter, and I bite, freeze, repair, and re-bite your eyes.

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