Category Archives: Blog
Fully electric, driver-optional, AI-powered, smart tractors could be coming to a farmer’s field near you.
With the challenges that modern farmers face–including climate change, consumer demands for sustainability, and labour shortages–AI-enabled tractors have the potential to cut overhead costs and emissions thanks to electrification (traditional diesel tractors produce roughly 14 times the emissions as the average car), automation, machine learning, and deep data analysis of farmers’ existing field and operations.
Autonomous AI tractors can analyze hundreds of gigabytes of data a day about the fields they work. Sensors and imaging capabilities provide critical data about crop type and health, current growth stages, long-term yield estimates, and other crop health metrics to provide long-term forecasts of field health.
Archaeologists in Pompeii, which was buried in 79 AD by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, have discovered a frescoed hot food and drinks shop that served ancient street food to Roman passersby.
Known as a termopolium, Latin for hot drinks counter, the shop was discovered in the archaeological park’s Regio V site, which is not yet open to the public.
Complete with a frescoed image of a Nereid riding a sea-horse, the termopolium includes other decorative still lifes, food residues, animal bones, and even victims of the eruption.
I think this infographic gives some perspective on the current crisis and illustrates the choice before us: we get to choose how bad this pandemic becomes.
I did a history of epidemiology course as part of my history of science MA–it was the history of how medicine has learned to track, control, and prevent the spread of disease. We talked about some of these earlier epidemics and it was scary stuff. The best that medicine had to offer in each era was essentially useless in the face of these diseases. People dropping dead in the millions and no one could explain how or why, or what to do about it.
But, unlike them, this COVID-19 outbreak is the first pandemic that we as a species have the power to control and minimize.
Think of that! No generation of humans has ever been able to say the same thing. No generation before us has had the technical and scientific knowledge to identify and combat a plague in such swift fashion, nor the instantaneous communication and coordination abilities that we have to institute meaningful quarantine and isolation on a global scale.
We were alerted to this plague early. Our experience fighting SARS, that could-have-been-pandemic, helped us. We know what it is that we’re up against. We know how it spreads and how we can avoid it. We’re already trialling vaccines and antiviral drug therapies within THREE MONTHS of this thing first appearing. No other generation before us could say any of that about the pestilences that from time to time appeared, like a rider on a pale horse, and cut down great swaths of people.
I know that being cooped up for weeks or months sucks (I’m here with three little kids, believe me, I GET IT). But you’ll notice that right now COVID-19 is a little speck on that graphic, less than a pinhead in comparison to past pandemics. The sacrifices you make now by isolating and social distancing, by working from home and following the advice of medical experts–all those little things are what will help keep that tiny speck from becoming one of those giant, catastrophic blobs we see depicted in other eras for other pandemics.
Thank you for your sacrifice.
Now, go wash your hands
My Son, and Stanley, and Me (c. 2013):
Helen Mirren Reads ‘Ulysses’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:
Here’s the neon sign that Tesla had designed in honour of Lord Kelvin (whose real name was William Thomson). Imagine it…in colour 🙂
It’s that time of year again: speculative fiction award season!
Calling all Canadians: Aurora Award nominations–the top Canadian prize in speculative fiction–are now open (until May 26), and if you’d like to support me then I hope you’ll consider nominating “The Waxing Disquiet” from me and co-author Tony Pi, eligible for Best Short Fiction. You can read it here for free until nominations close.
And if you’re not Canadian, well, feel free to read it anyway! Tony and I are quite proud of our beeswax-and-candle-punk tale 🙂
“The Waxing Disquiet” originally appeared in Deep Magic (June 2017).
Oops! For some reason this didn’t post with the latest episode of the podcast. Sorry about that…
As promised, here’s what Edison’s “longest and most splenetic howl of corporate outrage” looked like.
All caps, naturally.
For some reason, I can’t get the image of Tesla’s first AC motor (his “marvelous simplicity”) to post in the show notes for this week’s episode. So here it is in a post of its own, instead.
The Waxing Quiet, by Tony Pi & Stephen Kotowych in Deep Magic. “He retreated to the calculation antechamber, where the tallylooms worked unceasingly. Click-clack went the wooden hooks, tying knots in the coarse hemp twine, the knot-history of their answers.” Fate and faith are at the center of this story, set in a society where a complex loom is used to determine which decisions are the right ones: for the society as a whole, and for individuals. The loom itself is a breathtaking piece of imagined technology, and I love the way the organization of the society uses concepts and terminology from bees and bee-keeping. A uniquely imagined world, and I’ll be thinking about that loom for a while…
Thanks to Maria Haskins for the shout-out–we’re glad she liked the story!