A week ago, Randall Munroe finished "Time", XKCD's long, running, slow-updating, 3,000+ frame comic telling the story of two people who discover an impending superflood that would destroy their society. Randall's explained in detail what was going on there, from the geology of the thing (it's set millennia in the future, amid a civilization denied the ability to jumpstart itself by the paucity of remaining fossil fuels, and the flood is modelled on a real event that sealed off the Mediterranean Sea five million years ago) to the fictional language the upland culture speaks (designed by a linguist, and still mysterious).
More clues lay not only within the world, but above it. Astronomically-savvy readers finally got a chance to nail down the time period of the comic during a striking sequence later in the series where the night sky slowly rotated over the characters, revealing a distinctly different configuration of stars than our present sky.
“The Earth’s axis wobbles over the millennia, and some individual stars move visibly, so I used a few different pieces of astronomy software–with a lot of hand correction and tweaking–to render the future night sky,” said Munroe. He also consulted with astronomer and science blogger Phil Plait and learned that while most visible stars would still be around 11,000 years in the future, the red supergiant star Antares could go supernova and vanish from the starfield.
“When the Sun sets in the night sequence, one of the first things you see is the gap where Antares should be, which was the first clue that this is taking place in the far future,” said Munroe. “Later in the night–which lasted for several days of real time–more astronomical details let readers pin down the date more precisely.”
Creator of xkcd Reveals Secret Backstory of His Epic 3,099-Panel Comic [Laura Hudson/Wired]
Scott Edelman writes, “I interviewed George R. R. Martin at a Thai restaurant on Episode 42 of my Eating the Fantastic podcast (MP3), and after I returned home, remembered I’d also interviewed him back in 1993. After digging out the tape, I couldn’t resist incorporating his amusing admission about ‘a fantasy novel I’ve been working […]
Zero-knowledge proofs are one of the most important concepts in cryptography: they’re a way to “validate a computation on private data by allowing a prover to generate a cryptographic proof that asserts to the correctness of the computed output” — in other words, a way to prove that something is true without learning the details.
Retroworks’ $18 decoder rings don’t have much by way of cryptographic robustness (they compare disfavorably to the cipher-wheel wedding rings my wife and I wear!), but they’re not a bad way to introduce the littlies in your life to the idea of habitual secrecy. (via Red Ferret)
The current web development landscape is rife with buzzwords and technology that gets abandoned almost as soon as it’s made. If you’ve never written a line of code before, it can be hard to figure out what’s coming, what’s here to stay, or how to get ahead.This Beginner Web Development Bundle is a great place […]
The Fader Stealth Quadcopter from TRNDlabs packs incredible flight performance into a package small enough to land on your phone screen, and it’s available now in the Boing Boing Store.The Fader’s six-axis gyroscope module gives it perfect balance in the air. This makes the onboard 720p HD camera all the better for shooting amazing flight […]
Although fully autonomous vehicles aren’t yet allowed on public streets, they are poised to dominate the roads in the not-too-distant future. But before that happens, Apple, Google, Uber, and other companies now investing in self-driving tech are going to need talented developers that can account for the dizzying array of factors at play when a […]