When I was a boy in the late 1960s, undersea exploration was almost as exciting as space travel. The French oceanographer and film-maker Jacques Cousteau, master of the research ship Calypso, was a weekly fixture in the Swedish TV schedule (merely two channels in those days).
Innerspace was one word coined for the dark vastness of the ocean depths, which were supposed to be colonized by man in “the near future”. However, the allure of the deep seas soon faded, partially because most of those ambitions turned out to be beyond the capabilities of available technology.
But the visions have not died fully — the third generation of the Cousteau clan is nowadays at work beneath the ocean with state-of-the art tech: link >>>
A 21st-century Cousteau endeavor.
Well, winter is approaching and with it the next installment in the Hobbit saga. The marketing skills of Hollywood have been unleashed at full force. So there is yet another trailer. It looks as good as one would expect — with the unsurprising Jacksonian embellishments of the good professor’s original book: a lethal lady Elf, Legolas, a quarrel between Bard the Bowman and Thorin Oakenshield, and a lot of Bond-ish action scenes with fire and explosions. I do look forward to watching the movie together with the kids, but I expect no masterpiece, merely Mr Jackson’s regular craftsmanship.
But if this movie deals with Smaug and the Battle of Five Armies, what tales will the third (and hopefully final) movie tell?
The web comic XKCD is one of my favorite humor sites. Its dry and understated jokes are like a cup of bitter coffee for the weary mind.
Self-description by XKCD
A few weeks ago, Washington Post posted a long picture-filled article about the current and future operations of the International Space Station. The reader gets to know about the project’s challenges, triumphs, and hazards, and about a near-drowning accident (yes, it is possible drown in space). Link >>>
Anyhow, the ISS is an essential workshop for developing technology and acquiring know-how for manned missions to other parts of the solar system. The astronautical heroism of my youth has been replaced by more mundane toils on an permanent basis. I am however convinced that investments in it will pay off in ten or twenty years when the first manned spacecraft set out for the asteroid belt or Mars.
The tools of the trade
The Wired website has published a photo essay on a Japanese capsule hotel from the 1970s (link >>>). Each cuboid in the photo below forms one tiny modular apartment.
The Nakagin Capsule Hotel
This arrangement reminds me of the cyberpunk worlds created in the 1980s and 1990s by authors like William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson. Temporary dwellings for the lowlife protagonists of e.g. Mona Lisa Overdrive and Snow Crash would probably look like these.
Furthermore, in a contemporary (and quite post-cyberpunk) milieu, minimalist apartments like these have their particular appeal, at least to me. Having entered middle age, I have come to the insight that material belongings frequently become nothing but burdens (i.e. Snufkin’s wisdom in the Moomin stories). What is important instead? Family, friends and thoughts. So when I can store books electronically in the cybercloud, there will be little need for shelf space.
New York Times wrote a few years ago an article about the architects behind this particular building and its construction and current decay — link >>>.
Interior view of a capsule apartment