A Science-Fictional Personal Transportation Drone Is Almost a Reality

On Twitter, CNET shared a video of test flight footage of an apparently functional, autonomous passenger drone. Take a look at it here:

The model is called Ehang 184. There’s a longer test flight video on EHANG’s YouTube channel:

EHANG 184 AAV Manned Flight Tests by EHANG on YouTube

There’s been some buzz—quite understandably, too, for the drone looks pretty neat—but the vehicle doesn’t seem to have been ready for the international market quite as soon as some western news outlets have reported. It sounds like the battery life is still rather limited, too. Fortunately the limitations of the current tech do not have to restrain a science fiction writer—just think of how much cell phone batteries have improved in the last ten years alone.

My goodness, it’s exciting to be living now! 🙂

The Visual Inspiration occasional feature pulls the unusual from our world to inspire design, story-telling, and worldbuilding. If stuff like this already exists, what else could we imagine?

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Some Interesting Early Photo Portraits

I’m not a fan of the Victorian age per se, but watching Murdoch Mysteries has piqued my interest somewhat. Here are some intriguing photographs from the later 1800s to early 1900s.

From a set of unscripted photos taken in the streets of 1890s Norway by Carl Størmer, a young woman with books:

Imgur Carl Stromer Young Woman w Books 1890s
Young woman with books, photograph by Carl Størmer via Imgur (Oslo, Norway, 1890s)

All of the subjects in this set are remarkably relaxed. Love the contrast to the stiff studio portraits of the era!

(I’ve had trouble finding a more detailed source, unfortunately. Possibly Størmer’s photos are gleaned from the 2008 book 80 millioner bilder: Norsk kulturhistorisk fotografi 1855-2005 [’80 Million Pictures: Norwegian Culture-Historical Photography 1855-2005′], edited by Jonas Ekeberg and Harald Østgaard Lund.)

Finnish ladies and gentlemen on a ski trip in the 1890s:

Helsinki City Museum N252030 Hiihtoretkelaiset
Hiihtoretkeläiset ryhmäkuvassa (‘ski trip participants in a portrait’), photograph via Helsinki City Museum (Helsinki, Finland, 1890s, image number N252030, CC BY 4.0)

Judging by their attire, they are indeed ladies and gentlemen. What struck me is that, apparently, it wasn’t at all odd for the upper class to go skiing in their regular daywear.

Speaking of sports and Victorians, from 1891, here is high school dressage equestrian Selika Lazevski by Félix Nadar:

Black Female Equestrians Felix Nadar Selika Lazevski
Selika Lazevski, photograph by Félix Nadar courtesy of Ministère de la Culture, France, via Black Female Equestrians (Paris, France, 1891)

What an arresting portait!

A Victorian couple from Leeds trying not to laugh while getting their portraits done in the 1890s:

Twitter Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies Couple Trying Not to Laugh
Victorian couple trying not to laugh while getting their portraits done, photograph via Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies on Twitter (Leeds, England, 1890s)

It’s like a photo version of a blooper reel! 🙂

Two Victorian ladies making a life-sized snow lady, also from Leeds in the 1890s:

Twitter Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies Making Snow Lady
Two Victorian ladies making a snow lady, photograph via Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies on Twitter (Leeds, England, c. 1890s)

With the correct corseted posture, dress ruffles, and hairdo. Wow, ladies, what a great job!

Nellie Franklin photographed holding a parasol in Tallahassee, Florida, between 1885 and 1910:

Florida Memory Nellie Franklin with Parasol HA00227
Nellie Franklin with parasol, photograph by Alvan S. Harper via Florida Memory (State Library & Archives of Florida) (Tallahassee, Florida, between 1885 and 1910, image number HA00227, public domain)

This photo clearly references painted portraits as ancestors of photographic ones.

A young man in a wheelchair:

Yale Robert Bogdan Disability Collection Wheelchair
Young man in a wheelchair, photograph via the Robert Bogdan Disability Collection at Yale University’s Medical Historical Library

Victorians certainly loved their wheels! I wonder exactly how one would’ve operated this chair—there’s clearly a handle bar connected to the front wheel, but if grabbing it with both hands, where does the propelling force come from?

A Sami woman from Finland photographed at Ellis Island in the U.S., so presumably immigrating, around 1905-1914:

NYPL Digital Augustus Sherman Sami Woman 418041
Laplander / Sami woman from Finland, photograph by Augustus F. Sherman via New York Public Library digital collections (Ellis Island, New York, NY, c. 1905-1914, image ID 418041, public domain)

I wish the portrait hadn’t cut off at the waist; I would’ve liked to see the rest of the details of her dress (the belt looks especially interesting). I know that nowadays Sami outfits (gákti) are unique. Each is made for its wearer to reflect the personal / family history and area (and possibly the people as a whole?). I don’t know, however, how far back in time that practice goes.

Anyway. These old photos give fascinating glimpses of western life only about 100 years ago. So similar and yet so, so different.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

 

 

British Library’s Exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic Now Online

The British Library has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to bring online their physical exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic.

British Library Google Harry Potter A History of Magic Exhibition

Apart from various aspects of the story and the movie series, the exhibition covers for example illustrations, the history of real-world magic, and early sketches and notes by J.K. Rowling. In addition, on display are a number of items from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.

My favorite feature is perhaps the section covering the real-world history of various Hogwarts classes, closely followed by the animals and fantastical beasts section.

Found via Helsingin Sanomat.

Image: screencap from the Google Arts & Culture page for the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Texts from Shakespeare Characters: Do You Bite Your Thumb at Us, Sir?

This panel from a slew of Texts from Shakespeare Characters totally cracked me up:

Tumblr Texts from Shakespeare Characters Do You Bite Thumb

random Capulet loser: [thumbs up emoji]

phone owner, NOT a Capulet loser: “Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?”

An insightful combination of Shakespeare and modern tech and culture. Dare I say it: thumbs up!

Image: Texts from Shakespeare Characters from SparkNotes’s SparkLife, found via Abbie A. Aaronson on Tumblr

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Pacific Rim Uprising Trailers

Pacific Rim Uprising opens in four weeks (March 23, 2018) and even the second trailer has been out for a few weeks now. First things first, though:

Pacific Rim Uprising – Official Trailer (HD) by Legendary

And here’s the second trailer:

Pacific Rim Uprising – Official Trailer 2 [HD] by Legendary

Pacific Rim Uprising is directed and co-written by Steven S. DeKnight; other writers credited with the screenplay are Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, and T.S. Nowlin. I have seen some of DeKnight’s writing and directing for Dollhouse and possibly even story editing for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The rest of the writing team are entirely new to me however (apart from having at least heard of one of Snyder’s latest producing credits, The Handmaid’s Tale).

While I’m mostly not in the mood, now and then I like lots of smacking monsters around and busting buildings. But not only that—destruction without a reason gets tiresome faster than you can say marmalade sandwich. Among the falling skyscrapers and lurching jaegers in these trailers I’m left wondering about the human stories.

The features of the first Pacific Rim that most strongly attracted me to the story were specifically that—human stories. One was Learning to Work Together and the other was the respect that Raleigh Becket showed Mako Mori. I’ve seen interviews with Guillermo del Toro and the design team where everyone kept calling Mako Raleigh’s “love interest”. Come on, dudes. Reducing a character to her gender and relationship to a male character is the worst kind of dismissal. She has a name and you know it, not to mention that Mako would kick your butt eight days in a week. (It’s sad when a fictional character has to take his creators to school on how to respect women as people.)

I really hope Uprising will be a case of Never Trust a Trailer, and the movie will be at minimum tolerable. Granted, the first trailer is more people- than fight-heavy, so that’s a reason to stay positive. At the very least we’ll see more of Rinko Kikuchi, John Boyega—looking forward to seeing what kind of depth he has—and Tian Jing, whose performance in The Great Wall I enjoyed but for whose character there was pitifully little to do in Kong: Skull Island.

This post has been edited for clarity.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Computer Issues 2

For a good long while, I’ve been having unpredictable hiccups when submitting comments on other people’s blogs. It’s gotten so bad that I routinely copy & paste my comment in a text document before submitting it in case it’s eaten up by the hungry Internet Mawster.

SATW Computer Technician Snippet

Sometimes logging in and out helps, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes disabling my ad blocking software helps, sometimes it doesn’t. Et cetera, et cetera.

Flames on Side of My Face

This past week takes the cake, though: now I can’t even like a post reliably anymore. Clicking on the little star just doesn’t necessarily register regardless of whether I’m logged in and browsing a blog, or reading a post through my subscription feed, or running around the house howling at the full moon.

I might be a tad bit… miffed.

alan-rickman-table-throw

Ohwell. I dare say I’ll find a workaround at some point.

Rant over.

Images: Computer Technician, detail of a Scandinavia and the World comic by Humon. Flames on the side of my face via Two Bossy Dames. Alan Rickman table flip via Natalie Luhrs at Pretty Terrible.

When the suckage just sucks too much.

Good Night, Cassini, Good Work, I’ll Most Likely Kill You in the Morning

Tomorrow, Friday September 15, 2017, the Cassini orbiter comes to the end of its mission and will be driven into the atmosphere of Saturn.

To celebrate, The Ringer asked members of the Cassini science team to pick an image that they considered the most personally or scientifically significant. Below are my favorites of those images.

A false-color image of Saturn’s rings made from uncalibrated ultraviolet data, created and selected by Joshua Colwell, UVIS co-investigator:

The Ringer NASA False Color Saturns Rings by Joshua Colwell

The colors are incredible—the red is a real stand-out.

Titan and Epimetheus, selected by Morgan Cable, Project Science and system engineering assistant:

The Ringer NASA Titan and Epimetheus

The size differences of Saturn’s moons are amazing. Moreover, this photo almost looks like it’s framed by a professional photographer when, in fact, it’s from outer space. Love it.

Enceladus’s plumes, selected by Molly Bittner, systems engineer, Cassini Spacecraft Operations:

The Ringer NASA Enceladus Plumes

Jets of water bursting from a subsurface ocean. On an icy moon. In Saturn’s orbit. And NASA got photos of it!

Check out my previous post (with more photos), or follow the grand finale milestones, read the mission-end FAQs, browse graphics, documents, videos in a dedicated grand finale gallery, or read Cassini on Twitter.

Images courtesy of NASA via The Ringer.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Cassini’s Grand Finale Begins

The Cassini spacecraft is set to make its first dive through the gap between Saturn and its rings today, April 26, 2017. This dive, first of 22, opens the last stage of the Cassini-Huygens mission before the vehicle is driven into Saturn on September 15, 2017.

To celebrate, here are a few of the amazing photos sent back from the mission.

NASA Catching Its Tail 5329_PIA12826

NASA Colorful Colossusses 5631_PIA14922

NASA Spring at the North Pole 5805_PIA14945

NASA Water World 6275_PIA18343

Incredible. At this writing, the mission’s been running for over 19 years. It’s amazing what we can do when there’s a will.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

Follow the grand finale milestones, read the mission-end FAQs, browse graphics, documents, videos in a dedicated grand finale gallery, or follow Cassini on Twitter.

Images by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI: Catching Its Tail; Colorful Colossuses and Changing Hues (Titan and Saturn); Spring at the North Pole; Water World (Enceladus and Saturn’s rings). Earth Day tweet photo with more info is available at The Day the Earth Smiled.

This post has been edited for formatting.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

A Flight Suit Resembling Iron Man’s Is in the Works

Inventor Richard Browning has bold thinking in abundance. With the company he started, Gravity Industries, he’s developed a jet-engine suit like Iron Man’s to re-imagine manned flight.

British entrepreneur invents, builds and files patent for Iron Man-like flight suit by Gravity Industries

This 3.5-minute YouTube video captures the highlights of the development during a year. It closely resembles Tony Stark’s faltering design process in Iron Man—except this time it’s real. And while Gravity’s suit isn’t streamlined nor capable of long-distance flight at this point, there seems to be a modicum of potential. Staggering!

Found via File 770.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Quotes: You Have to Let Go of the Old to Begin Something New

“You have to let go of the old to begin something new. But that does not mean it is lost forever.”

– 32nd Mother of the Red Abbey, in Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff

And the “old” is worth saving – because how else do we learn, transmit our culture, and discuss our values in a world that’s becoming more and more international?

This thought was brought to you by idle musings on various library, archives, and museum collections. Unlike early cultures in our world and peoples of various fantasy worlds, right now we have the luxury of saving unprecedented amounts of our cultures’ material production.

Turtschaninoff, Maria. Maresi. New York, NY: Abrams, 2017, p. 241.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.