So, How Long Would It Take to Travel to That Exciting New Exoplanet?

Space travel is easy, right?

The planet orbits a dim red dwarf star called Gliese 581, and seems to be at the right distance from the star to maintain liquid water on its surface. That, of course, makes alien-philes wonder if Gliese 581g also hosts life. And that makes people want to go check.

Announcing the find on NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams said: "They say it's about 20 light years away, but that's practically nothing in astronomy terms." And he declared at the end of the segment: "It's just nice to know that if we screw this place up badly enough there is some place we can all go."

So they get a couple of folks to do the math, one with a sock-puppet avatar well past its sell-by date, and the answer is either 180,000 years, or three million, depending.

This should be no surprise to those who have already allowed Stross to bum them out about this with his pesky arithmetic. Only marginally related, I've been really enjoying his series on "books I will not write" because of hilarious little asides like

Writing a space opera with FTL means accepting causality violation. And accepting causality violation means computing with closed timelike curves or, in simpler terms, really strong deterministic solutions to P=NP, and then some. Procedural AI hops out of the FTL hat like a demented magician's rabbit and the singularity takes a shit all over your neatly designed Napoleonics-in-Spaaaaaace boardgame table.

Today in Squidhead news...

Natalie Shau

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"Sorry we bombed your village with huge chunks of used rocket."

Chinese Space Debris Rains Down on Chinese Villages

China has never been particularly apologetic about its contribution to the looming threat of space debris, but authorities might finally have to offer up some kind of conciliatory "sorry we nearly bombed your village with huge chunks of used rocket." Last night residents of two separate villages in Jiangxi, China, awoke to very large pieces of the lunar probe Chang'e II's launch rocket falling back to Earth around them.

Previously, previously, previously.

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Previously, previously.

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Autonymous Robots in Nuclear Wasteland

Robots Now Guarding Nevada Nuke Site

Citizens of Nevada, you can now relax. The Nevada National Security Site, home to tens of millions of cubic feet of low-level radioactive waste -- and location of over a thousand Cold War nuclear weapons tests -- is now being guarded by robots. The first of a planned trio of Mobile Detection Assessment Response Systems, or MDARS, is currently patrolling some of the more remote sections of the 1,360 square mile facility.

The camera-equipped MDARS can scoot around pre-determined paths on its own, alerting flesh-and-blood guards when it encounters an intruder or a broken lock. In development by the Navy and General Dynamics since the early 1990s, the diesel-fueled sentry bot can operate for up to 16 hours, and reach a top speed of 20 mph. The U.S. military has experimented with using the MDARS machines to patrol some of its Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada. The bots have even been tested with automatic weapons -- though I doubt that's the plan at the nuke site.

Boring video is boring:

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Tennessee County's Subscription-Based Firefighters Watch As Family Home Burns Down

The system works!

The conservative vision was on full display last week in Obion County, Tennessee. In this rural section of Tennessee, Gene Cranick's home caught on fire. As the Cranicks fled their home, their neighbors alerted the county's firefighters, who soon arrived at the scene. Yet when the firefighters arrived, they refused to put out the fire, saying that the family failed to pay the annual subscription fee to the fire department. Because the county's fire services for rural residences is based on household subscription fees, the firefighters, fully equipped to help the Cranicks, stood by and watched as the home burned to the ground.

Cranick said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late. They wouldn't do anything to stop his house from burning. Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton. But the Cranicks did not pay. The mayor said if homeowners don't pay, they're out of luck. [...] We asked the mayor of South Fulton if the chief could have made an exception. "Anybody that's not in the city of South Fulton, it's a service we offer, either they accept it or they don't," Mayor David Crocker said.

I guess it could be worse -- in Gangs of New York, the fire departments burned down and looted buildings with unpaid "subscription fees"...


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We can't rewind, we've gone too far.

It seems that a few weeks ago, The Buggles (of all people) played a reunion show. From this I have learned that the Supperclub in London looks identical to the Supperclub in SF (and appears to be equally unsuitable for live shows.)

Here they are covering a song that is itself 80% of a cover of that one song.

Opening band: OMD! Alison Moyet (Yazoo) covering Grace Jones! Apparently Claudia Brucken (Propaganda) was there too (no video evidence of this discovered yet). Youtube user Automorph has the goods.

A review: The Buggles, Supperclub, London

There was always something ghostly and out of time about "Video Killed the Radio Star", and there are multiple added layers of irony to a band whose greatest hit was a song about the poignancy of hearing a now-forgotten star from three decades earlier making his own comeback 30 years down the line.

This one-off show is sold as the Buggles' first-ever concert, even though they played a couple of songs as part of Trevor Horn's Prince's Trust tribute concert at Wembley in 2004. The Buggles disintegrated before they could do such traditional rock'n'roll things as touring. Horn and Geoff Downes briefly joined Yes, and Downes stayed on in Yes offshoot Asia, while Horn became the production genius of the age. Think that's hyperbole? Compare the versions of ABC's "Tears Are Not Enough" with and without his fairy-dust touch; cower before the 10-megaton thunder of Frankie's "Two Tribes".

(Art of Noise doesn't deserve a mention?)

Also relevant:

And just because it's awesome, here's Duran Duran covering Warm Leatherette and Showroom Dummies from a few years ago:


Still seeking a copy of The Value of Entertainment laserdisc or rip thereof...

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