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In 2007, my friends at m ss ng peces and I started work on a new Internet-television show called RESET, for the Sundance Channel. The idea was to make a show designed for computers to watch, that could teach them what it was like to be human — a show that, while ostensibly made for…

Experiments in Art & Technology

To prepare for a “Book Sprint” I’m participating in at the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie-Mellon University next week, I’ve been doing lots of research about notable historical interactions between art, science, and technology. In suit, Universe fringe benefits! First, I’d like to tell you about “9 Evenings,” organized in 1966 by a very…

Book Review: Packing for Mars

We live in an age where truth is, if not stranger than fiction, then at least equally strange. Sometimes pop-science books illustrate this point with particular well-researched glee and Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void is such a book. Where do I begin? It’s a true nerd’s smorgasbord. It answers…

A few months ago, I attended Cyborg Camp in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. Cyborg Camp is an “unconference,” basically a room full of cyberpunks, mega-nerds, and aspirational coders that gather in an office building to talk about the “future of the relationship between humans and technology.” This event deserves a separate entry, but for…

Very Large Tourism

The author, dishing. To get to the National Radio Telescope Observatory, you have to be committed. Well, first, you have to be in New Mexico — about an hour’s drive south of Albuquerque, in the plains of San Augustin, to be precise, a Pleistocene lakebed bordered by the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert and…

Read the Internet, Speak English

In case you didn’t know, reality is science fiction. If you doubt me, read the news. Read, for example, this recent article in the New York Times about Carnegie Mellon’s “Read the Web” program, in which a computer system called NELL (Never Ending Language Learner) is systematically reading the internet and analyzing sentences for semantic…

The Shadow Biosphere

Let’s define alien. Definition number one: unfamiliar. By that description alone, a good 99% of life on this planet is alien. Breathing water, living nestled in thermal vents, stalking prey on the veldt, growing out of the Earth and eating sunlight, without eyes, without legs, with extra legs, color-blind, carapaced, marsupial, with exoskeletons, with jelly…

Greetings from the People of Earth from World Science Festival on Vimeo. I made the above video, Greetings from the People of Earth, to open the World Science Festival 2010 panel “The Search for Life in the Universe,” which featured personal hero Jill Tarter, David Charbonneau, and Steven Squyres. In 1977, taking advantage of a…

The “God” Particle

Let’s talk about the God Particle. It strikes me that people refer to the Higgs boson as the “God particle” in the same way some call the iPhone the “Jesus phone”: with an almost pointed disregard for what such a prefix actually means. Considering the intensity of the culture wars, the popularity of the moniker…

Science Poem Manifesto

Earlier this year, I received a charming email from a pair of Helsinki-based artists and designers who work under the name of OK DO. OK DO is a socially-minded design think tank and online publication; they dug Universe and wanted to know if I’d contribute to a new publication and exhibition project they were working…