links for 2010-09-01

  • "A lonely island in the middle of the South Atlantic conceals Charles Darwin's best-kept secret.

    Two hundred years ago, Ascension Island was a barren volcanic edifice.

    Today, its peaks are covered by lush tropical "cloud forest".

    What happened in the interim is the amazing story of how the architect of evolution, Kew Gardens and the Royal Navy conspired to build a fully functioning, but totally artificial ecosystem.

    By a bizarre twist, this great imperial experiment may hold the key to the future colonisation of Mars."

  • "The reader acquainted with the history of immigration will recognize this rant not as the post-9/11 script of a right-wing talk show host bashing Islam and Muslims, but as the mantra of 19th century nativists decrying the hordes of Roman Catholics invading New York, Boston, Baltimore and points west."

    "Indeed, it is their confrontation with 'modernity' that provides Catholicism and Islam with a fascinating and potentially historic conversation starter. Unlike Protestant Christians, Roman Catholics share with Muslims a historical memory of the ancient and medieval eras — and the precedents they set for themselves and others during ages of faith-driven conquest and political-cultural sovereignty."

    "Genuine hospitality to the other, while respecting differences, nonetheless entails the risk of being transformed by the encounter, even if that transformation is understood as a richer, more compassionate appropriation of one’s own deepest beliefs and convictions."

  • "Author Neal Stephenson has been credited for inspiring today’s virtual world startups with his novel Snow Crash. Now he’s launching a startup himself: Subutai, where he is co-founder and chairman.

    The company, based in Seattle and San Francisco, has developed what it calls the PULP platform for creating digital novels. The core of the experience is still a text novel, but authors can add additional material like background articles, images, music, and video. There are also social features that allow readers to create their own profiles, earn badges for activity on the site or in the application, and interact with other readers."

  • "The Mongoliad is a new kind of serialized novel, created by Neal Stephenson, and written by Neal, Greg Bear, Nicole Galland, Mark Teppo, and a number of other great authors. It will be told on the web and via custom apps on iPad, iPhone, Kindle, and Android, and will be something of an experiment in post-book publishing and storytelling."
  • "In a word, this philosopher has long been laboring under an unexamined assumption, namely, that there is such a thing as right and wrong. I now believe there isn’t."
    (tags: philosophy)
  • "Eventually, Whorf’s theory crash-landed on hard facts and solid common sense, when it transpired that there had never actually been any evidence to support his fantastic claims. The reaction was so severe that for decades, any attempts to explore the influence of the mother tongue on our thoughts were relegated to the loony fringes of disrepute. But 70 years on, it is surely time to put the trauma of Whorf behind us. And in the last few years, new research has revealed that when we learn our mother tongue, we do after all acquire certain habits of thought that shape our experience in significant and often surprising ways."
  • "Phew! I didn’t think it would be this extensive when I first imagined making a staging WordPress site."
  • "Then, like lightning or a side-swipe, I was struck by an idea: what if I set up a subdomain with which to stage my new design, complete with an autonomous, duplicate copy of my entire WordPress database? To my surprise, it turned out to be much more simple than I had assumed it would be. A couple plug-ins was all I needed to replicate my site in a snap. I was quickly able to populate the staging site with all my existing content: posts, comments, images… everything needed to make sure that the new design would work."
  • "They may be tasty when you fry them up, but evidence is mounting that cephalopods like octopuses and squid possess consciousness."
  • "A Time Lord can regenerate twelve times before dying. Thirteen incarnations in all.

    Design the thirteenth incarnation of the Doctor.

    You may additionally redesign the DOCTOR WHO logo, the TARDIS and other elements of the property should you so wish."

    (tags: art diy scifi)
  • "Actor Nathan Fillion and Castle co-star Jon Huertas flew up to our little city of Eugene early Saturday to kick the tires and take our latest prototype out on the road."