Scifaiku: The Big Picture

This is a reprint from my scifaiku, “The Big Picture.”  In 2006 it appeared in Scifaikuest Special Edition.  It represents my attempt at dark humor.  Yes, dark humor may have a double meaning in this context.  I wrote it as a warning that — with many astronomers and other researchers looking further and further to the ends of the universe — we don’t miss the trees for the forest (I hope I got the reverse idiom right in this case).  In essence it is my thank you to those who have spent and are spending their valuable time and effort to find NEOs.

The Big Picture by Richard S. Levine

left eye, telescope, searching focusing

dark, Orion’s sword, shines

nebula, extracted, retrieved

night, endless stars, viewed

right eye, structure, searching focusing,

both eyes, binoculars, searching focusing

Orion, left eye stars, right eye meaning

searching Orion, eyes open, Orion’s soul

binoculars, truth, coming asteroid

Ancestry reduncancy

Have you ever seen one of those charts that shows how you should have more ancestors in the year 1300 than were alive in the year 1300?  Take for example 714 years divided by 23 years per generation.  That’s over 30 generations or 2^30, which is about a billion people back in 1300.  But Wikipedia shows estimates of only a few hundred million people were alive in 1300.  How is that possible?

Wikipedia discusses the topic of “Pedigree collapse,” which explains why “everyone on Earth is [probably] at most 50th cousin to everyone else.”  You might also like this short explanation of pedigree collapse at the Straight Dope.

Professor Bruce Railsback at the University of Georgia (UGA) has an interesting essay on this subject called “Redundancy in Ancestry.”

Ralph Baer, the grandfather of video games

Ralph Baer passed away recently at age 92.  Although he was responsible for the first home video game system — Magnavox Odyssey — which created an industry, he had thought about making games for tv since the 1950’s.   Wikipedia states “In 1966, while an employee at Sanders, Baer started to explore the possibility of playing games on television screens. He first got the idea while working at Loral in 1951…”  That makes him not only the father of video games, but also sort of the grandfather of video games.

I’m so glad that Baer started the video games industry in the early 1970’s.   There was no career for making video games when I was in college, but I had always loved playing board and card games.   Atari came out with their 2600 in 1977, and I started programming at Mattel Electronics in 1979.  What job would have been more fun than that?  Thanks, Ralph!

SYFY debuts Ascension on Dec. 15

I’ve enjoyed previous Canadian-filmed science fiction television, such as “Continuum.”  So I look forward to another Canadian/American television series entitled “Ascension,” about an alternate present where in 1963 the U.S. government launched a covert space mission to send hundreds of men, women, and children on a voyage to a new planet.

I haven’t written an alternate history story about the past yet, but I sometimes enjoy them — especially when they involve time travel.  On the other hand, I have written a story about an alternate history where the future is changed.  It’s called “Timer,” and you can find it in my “Science Fiction: Time Travel” anthology.

Time Travel E-book Cover


Speed reading at The Reading Game

As I said in a previous blog, I worked for a time in the 1970’s at The Reading Game, learning centers owned by American Learning Corp. that eventually was purchased by Encyclopedia Britannica.  I started in Fullerton, CA as an associate, but then opened and started the Oceanside, CA branch.  I also taught speed reading through the Oceanside and Mission Viejo offices.

So I found it interesting recently when I discovered a Los Angeles Times article about the life of the famous speed reading educator and business woman Evelyn Wood.  Her company was purchased in the 1980’s by American Learning Corp and became the standard speed reading method at The Reading Game centers — after I had become a video game developer.