S2.13 Donald Smith
Don’s Excellent 1990s web page
I am working with students to automate the Guilford College Cline Observatory to function as a professional and teaching laboratory. We have resurfaced the mirrors on the 16-inch telescope. We have written a pipeline to automatically process the images every morning, and we have scripts to automate the observing target list. A student is currently working to update and improve this system. We have published a paper in the Journal of the American Association of Variable Star Observers to explain how the observatory works, in the hopes of submitting more data to their databases in the future.
ChatGPT: Optimizing Language Models for Dialogue
We’ve trained a model called ChatGPT which interacts in a conversational way. The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer followup questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests. ChatGPT is a sibling model to InstructGPT, which is trained to follow an instruction in a prompt and provide a detailed response.
"I'm introducing a friend to the music of Jim's Big Ego. Where should I start?
"If you're introducing a friend to the music of Jim's Big Ego, a good place to start is with their album "Is This Thing On?" This album features some of their most popular and well-known songs, such as "My Ego Is Bigger Than Yours," "Sensitive Artist," and "The song That's Stuck in My Head." It's a great introduction to the band's unique blend of humor, wit, and catchy meolides. Other recommended albums include "What Kind of World" and "I Like It Down Here."
Don’s student goes to ChatGPT to code a mini golf game
The only thing I changed was to give the ball some non-zero initial velocity.
It won't actually go in the hole because the "if" condition is just a *little* too strict.
by Margot Lee Shetterly
The #1 New York Times Bestseller. Set amid the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program. Before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as ‘Human Computers’, calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts, these ‘coloured computers’ used pencil and paper to write the equations that would launch rockets and astronauts, into space. Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War and the women’s rights movement, ‘Hidden Figures’ interweaves a rich history of mankind’s greatest adventure with the intimate stories of five courageous women whose work forever changed the world.
Hidden Figures: MovieThe story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program.
Revelation Space by Alastair ReynoldsNine hundred thousand years ago, something annihilated the Amarantin civilization just as it was on the verge of discovering space flight. Now one scientist, Dan Sylveste, will stop at nothing to solve the Amarantin riddle before ancient history repeats itself. With no other resources at his disposal, Sylveste forges a dangerous alliance with the cyborg crew of the starship Nostalgia for Infinity. But as he closes in on the secret, a killer closes in on him. Because the Amarantin were destroyed for a reason — and if that reason is uncovered, the universe—and reality itself — could be irrecoverably altered….
The Butlerian Jihad
by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
Legends of Dune:The Butlerian Jihad It began in the Time of Tyrants, when ambitious men and women used high-powered computers to seize control of the heart of the Old Empire including Earth itself. The tyrants translated their brains into mobile mechanical bodies and created a new race, the immortal man-machine hybrids called cymeks. Then the cymeks' world-controlling planetary computers, each known as Omnius, seized control from their overlords and a thousand years of brutal rule by the thinking machines began.
Finally, we see how Serena Butler’s passionate grief ignites the struggle that will liberate humans from their machine masters; here is the amazing tale of the Zensunni Wanderers, who escape bondage to flee to the desert world where they will declare themselves the Free Men of Dune. And here is the backward, nearly forgotten planet of Arrakis, where traders have discovered the remarkable properties of the spice melange....
Vlad the Astrophysicist
One day, folk singer Peter Mulvey had a conversation with Vlad, and this is their story.
This is also our story the story of the universe, and of all of us in it. Peter Mulvey has been singing this song around the country and the world, with an audience (including YouTube) into the hundreds of thousands, including a TED stage and many hallowed concert halls and clubs.
Mulvey has teamed up with iconic woodcut artist Peter Nevins in both of their first children's book. And in one word, it's breathtaking. A large square book, with stunningly vivid prints, this is a book that children love, and parents love more.
As an important side note, Vlad the Astrophysicist is a real person: Dr. Vladimir Chaloupka, physics professor at the University of Washington. Peter Mulvey met him at the National Youth Science Camp in Bartow, West Virginia, where he has been playing every summer for sixteen years. Vlad has written a special note in the back of this book, and has made it possible for 10% of the proceeds of the book to be given to the National Youth Science Foundation.
Over a beer, Peter really did ask Vlad, 'Are there intelligent civilizations out there other than ours, and if so why haven t they contacted us?'
Why intelligent life hasn't contacted us: Peter Mulvey at TEDxKC
Peter Mulvey has been a touring singer/songwriter for twenty years, releasing well over a dozen records during that span. In addition to playing shows from Anchorage to the Hague, from Santa Monica to Belfast, he has kept a hand in various far-flung imaginative pursuits, playing each year in a cave underneath West Virginia for the National Youth Science Camp, and arranging tours every Autumn traveling by bicycle instead of by car. His most recent record of original material, "Letters from a Flying Machine", weaves song and spoken word together to address mortality, Bach sonatas, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, baseball, and the thoughts of children on what DNA might mean.
Giordano Bruno was an Italian philosopher, mathematician, poet, cosmological theorist, and Hermetic occultist. He is known for his cosmological theories, which conceptually extended the then novel Copernican model. He proposed that the stars were distant suns surrounded by their own planets, and he raised the possibility that these planets might foster life of their own, a cosmological position known as cosmic pluralism. He also insisted that the universe is infinite and could have no "center".
1899Multinational immigrants traveling from the old continent to the new encounter a nightmarish riddle aboard a second ship adrift on the open sea.
A family saga with a supernatural twist, set in a German town where the disappearance of two young children exposes the relationships among four families.
Don wrote to me
One more follow up thought about Dark: I actually started watching it dubbed in English, because I didn’t know I could switch soundtracks on Netflix. It was awful. I barely got ten minutes into it before giving up and shutting it off. Later, I figured out how to switch tracks, and I came back to it, and ended up really liking it. If the translation was that bad all the way through, that would certainly make an already rather opaque plot even more incomprehensible.
A hapless UN employee discovers that the agency he works for is hiding a gateway to a parallel dimension that's in a cold war with our own, and where his other self is a top spy. The war slowly heats up thanks to spies from both sides.
Don wrote to me:
I’m sorry we didn’t get to talk more about Counterpart. What a tour de force. It managed to explore interesting themes about identity and choice, while still being essentially a Cold War spy thriller. And I loved seeing Christine Paul as a villain! She’s usually in romantic comedies. James Cromwell‘s German accent was hysterical. :-). It was also fascinating how big a role a global pandemic played, just before one actually happened. And what an ending!!!
Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is
I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word “privilege,” to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon. It’s not that the word “privilege” is incorrect, it’s that it’s not their word. When confronted with “privilege,” they fiddle with the word itself, and haul out the dictionaries and find every possible way to talk about the word but not any of the things the word signifies.
Gideon the Ninth
by Tamsyn Muir
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won't set her free without a service.
Light from Uncommon Stars
by Ryka Aoki
Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six. When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka's ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She's found her final candidate.
Recommended highly by Sarah Elkins (not Julia Tenney) and Donald Smith
Our Opinions Are Correct: Books to Devour This Winter
Explore the meaning of science fiction, and how it's relevant to real-life science and society. Your hosts are Annalee Newitz, a science journalist who writes science fiction, and Charlie Jane Anders, a science fiction writer who is obsessed with science. Every two weeks, we take deep dives into science fiction books, movies, television, and comics that will expand your mind -- and maybe change your life.
The City in the Middle of the Night
by Charlie Jane Anders
Two cities, built long ago in the meager temperate zone, serve as the last bastions of civilization--but life inside them is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.
Sophie, a young student from the wrong side of Xiosphant city, is exiled into the dark after being part of a failed revolution. But she survives--with the help of a mysterious savior from beneath the ice.
Burdened with a dangerous, painful secret, Sophie and her ragtag group of exiles face the ultimate challenge--and they are running out of time.
Trail of Lightning
Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.
by Rebecca Roanhorse
In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.