Thursday, 26 February 2009

Time Traveller's Universal Translator

Not quite the usual Steampunk fair, but the implications for Time Travellers of any age are collosal.

For those who are already using the progeny of this discovery, apologies, but for those of the current continuum who are unaware of this device, I shall elucidate.

Researchers at the UK's Reading University have developed a model, based upon a lexicon of 200 words, which tracks how word usage changes over time, and when words diverge. According to Prof. Mark Pagel, "You type in a date in the past or in the future and it will give you a list of words that would have changed going back in time or will change going into the future. From that list you can derive a phrasebook of words you could use if you tried to show up and talk to, for example, William the Conqueror."

The algorithm also predicts which words are likely to become extinct in the future, negating the old problem, encountered by Time Travellers whose passion is the future, of sounding decades, even centuries, out of date when in conversation with contemporaneous denizens of, say, the year 2303AD.

More (immensely greater) detail may be found here; Prof. Pagel's research here; and more layman information here.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Extraordinary Voyages - Jules Verne and Beyond

Some time ago, I posted about the up-coming 2009 Eaton Science Fiction Conference, to be held at the University of California Riverside between 30 April and 3 May, 2009.

The keynote speaker of the conference is that scion of SF, Frederik Pohl, who is to receive the Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award. More pertinent to 'punks and 'punkettes, however, are the Steampunk sessions, Steampunk Verne and Steampunk after Verne, along with the presence of those Stempunk Leviathans Greg Bear, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Tim Powers, Rudy Rucker, Jeff VanderMeer, and Ann VanderMeer on the Steampunk and Extraordinary Voyages panel.

Whilst unfortunately unable to attend this exciting event, I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for any news, information, papers, or other media which may be forthcoming.

The programme may be found here, where you will find details of papers and presentations on topics as varied as Hollow Earth Theory and Mole Men to Michel Verne and film, Magritte and Verne to Warlords of the Air and Thomas Pynchon. Please, visit the site, and, if you are able to attend this serious but enjoyable academic conference, contact the organisers.

Jules Verne explodes

The European Space Agency's first Automated Transfer Vehicle - the most successful ever created by Europe - was, suitably, named after the most influencial author on steampunk and literary pioneer, Jules Verne.

The Jules Verne broke up on re-entry on 29 September 2008, after 6 months of missions re-supplying the International Space Station. The death of this pioneering craft was captured on video by NASA via cameras attached to their aircraft, launched from Tahiti and French Polynesia to film the event.

The Gatehouse Gazette

I am pleased to announce that the latest edition (number 5) of the excellent Gatehouse Gazette is released today!

"Commemorating the anniversary of the birthday of Jules Verne, the Gatehouse Gazette celebrates “Extraordinary Voyages” this issue!

Read an interview with the extraordinary fashion designer Miss Vecona and learn more about the adventure look from Miss Hilde Heyvaert’s “The Steampunk Wardrobe” column. She also tells you just how to be a good villain, that is, in a review of the book that does. So if you are scheming any evildoing some time soon, be sure not to miss out on it!This issue also sees the addition of two new contributors to the Gazette staff: Miss Ella Kremper with a review of Hammer Film’s 1958 film Dracula and Mr Marcius Rauchfuß who writes about all of interest to the steampunk enthusiast in the city of Munich. And this edition sees the third and final part of Mr Piecraft’s “History of Dieselpunk.” Read how dieselpunk and punk relate in his concluding installment!"

Download the Gazette in pdf here.