Blindsight

Boingboing pointed out that Peter Watts has put another novel on the web. I liked his previous two, and enjoyed his presentation on the biology of vampires.

I’ve just finished reading Blindsight. It’s a first contact novel, but ultimately the aliens are secondary to the interplay between the humans, and to the book’s take on evolution and consciousness (which, unlike the result of Strictly Come Dancing the other week, I won’t spoil for you). Readers who bought Watts’s books also liked Greg Egan, as Amazon might say (they probably liked autopope too), so it helps if you don’t mind the exposition and are conversant with your Searle, Penrose and Dawkins (or at least, not worried by having to look stuff up). At least one reviewer I’ve seen totally failed to understand what was going on, it seems: it’s the SF writing Singularity again.

The book is bleak, hard science fiction, full of ideas, and leaves you with that slightly altered-state aftertaste you get from the best science fiction. Plus, you know, vampires in space. I liked it.

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When you stop believing in it, it doesn’t go away

Over on uk.religion.gjm11 there are a couple of posters who are idealists, that is, they think that the physical world arises out of consciousness and not vice versa (and, er, therefore God exists).

The discussion of idealism has spawned some huge threads on uk.r.c, which I’ve not managed to follow completely. I think the idealists are probably wrong, so I’ve waded (or perhaps paddled) into the fray a bit, with a detour to explain bits of Buddhism (p.p. scribb1e) to Richard Corfield, who some of the ucam.geeks might remember. Even in my misspent youth, I was a fairly materialist Christian (by the way, Egan‘s expository dialogue is this one, so it looks like he convinced me in the end).

gjm11 has made an essay-length posting in response to the arguments of one of the idealists, which his legion of at least one fangirl may enjoy, so I thought I’d share it with you. (ETA: corrected description of essay and number of fangirls).

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Balls

You know it’s been a good night when your feet hurt and you go through two dress shirts. The CDC Ball was fun, as usual. The demo couple, Marco Cavallaro and Joanne Clifton, were very good. Their tango in particular stood out as a great performance as well as being technically good (how does she do those head snaps?). Definite passion there. Not sure I’ve seen hair grabbing as a move in tango before. Wise to seek partner’s consent before using, I think 🙂

unoriginal1729 has great photographs. The consensus on Facebook about this one is that I am singing, and not that lauralaitaine has just stood on my foot. I don’t remember singing during that one, although I do recall treating one fortunate lady to my rendition of “New York, New York” while carefully choreographing the fast “it’s up to you” bit to be the weave and twiddly thing (technical term) that Clive’s taught. Go me.

There are a few more of scribb1e‘s photographs here, although some of the ones that would have been good didn’t come out because of the low light and rapid motion (q.v.).

I was a bit broken for the rest of the weekend and so missed all of the possible parties on Saturday. Sorry all. Watched Strictly Come Dancing instead, and agreed with the result (Carol Smillie was the weakest dancer, I think, and I didn’t rate her samba this week as highly as the judges did). I am a bit worried that Craig Revel Horwood is mellowing in his old age, but it’s possibly just that the increasing standard of the remaining dancers is giving him less opportunity to stick the knife in and twist it in that entertaining way of his.

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