A few years ago, when I was staying with relatives in the Netherlands, we decided to spend a few days in Paris – three countries and many hundreds of kilometres away. There were all sorts of ways of doing it, including by driving. Or we could have spent a lot of time driving to Schiphol, … More Why trains are sometimes faster than air travel
There’s a common belief that the work of historians consists of collecting ‘the facts’ from documents and writing them down. And that’s it. I mean, how hard can it be? I can’t even begin to express the issues I have with such thinking. But let’s start with the obvious one – ‘the facts’. It’s something … More Figuring out the historical facts from the fakery
I am a great fan of science fiction that’s plausible enough to be ‘scientific’, but which doesn’t take the ‘science’ so far as to be boring. In the miniseries that launched the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica a decade or so ago, Galactica took a direct hit from a nuke and survived with near-undiminished fighting capacity. Is … More Sci-fi writing tricks: balancing drama with plausibility
It would be nice to think that, as humans, we have something special about us. But when I look at the mess we’ve made of the world – at the way we’re destroying the planet that sustains us, all the while fighting among ourselves, with increasing venom and intolerance, over abstractions, I have to wonder. … More Are we exceptional humans? Or just stupid apes who do stupid ape things?
I lament the way that humans have trampled through the Earth’s fragile environment. We’ve already destroyed a lot of habitats, and with it a dismaying number of species. You can be sure we’ll destroy a lot more before we fall into extinction ourselves, which is where we’re obviously heading if we carry on as we … More Can we undo the eco-damage we’ve been doing, as a species?
Humanity’s earliest ancestor was dug up a while ago. Well, when I say ‘our’ ancestor, it’s also the ancestor of fish, amphibians, reptiles and starfish among other things. It’s 540 million years old, it’s called Saccorhytus coronarius, and it’s a primitive deuterosome, a type is thought to be one of the earliest common ancestors of quite … More Our earliest ever ancestor had a big mouth and spewed – er –
The other day I stumbled across a fan-site description of the warships portrayed in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (2004-09). And something struck me. Sci-fi ships usually derive from an ocean-going ‘conceptual model’ – ‘space dreadnoughts’, ‘space battlecruisers’, ‘destroyers’ and the rest. The ‘conceptual model’ for Galactica was apparently the hybrid carrier-battleship of the kind contemplated … More The cool steampunkish bit about ‘Battlestar Galactica’