Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Storyblogging Carnival Cancelled

I'm afraid I didn't get enough entries for a Storyblogging Carnival this month.  We'll try again in March.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Storyblogging Carnival delayed

I hate to do this, but I don't have enough entries to do a Storyblogging Carnival.  If I get enough within the next week, I'll post the carnival then.  If not, then I'll cancel this month's carnival and save any entries I have for next time.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Superspeed

 I've been writing a Weird Western story, and as a result, thinking a bit about superspeed (as it's an ability I want some of my characters to have).

The idea of how superspeed works, at least in my story, is not that the flow of time really changes, but that you are operating at such a high speed (including your mind and your muscles), that everything else seems to be going slower.  Now, this being the case, gravity seems to slow down.  Let's say a wagon goes off a cliff.  If you're moving at superspeed, it seems to take a long time to fall.  If you're sitting on it, it still seems to take a long time to fall.  If you and the wagon become separated, you still take a long time to fall.  So from your perspective, gravity seems to be slower.  So when you move, do you move as if you're in a low gravity environment, with long leaping strides?

Now at issue is the fact that the forces of the universe haven't really changed.  Gravity isn't any weaker.  So if you move as if you're in a low gravity environment, then you're not just faster, you're stronger too, such that your leaps carry you a great deal farther and higher.  Higher strength, however, is one of the prerequisites of superspeed in the first place.  The extreme acceleration of superspeed means you need to produce that much more force.  So if you have the strength to move at superspeed, then gravity should seem weaker.

One question is whether I should deal with speed and strength as separate powers.  Technically, my story already has a Mark of Speed and a Mark of Strength, I've just been considering superspeed as coming from the Mark of Speed, and dealing with the Mark of Strength as a separate matter, not that you need the Mark of Strength to make use of the Mark of Speed.

Now, there are some disadvantages to moving at superspeed.  First, there's a lack of control.  You've seen how people on the moon move about.  Their long leaps don't exactly give them a lot of coordination.  And when you're in the middle of a jump, you have very little control at all until you reach something, be it the ground or a wall.  Second, things don't operate how you think they should.  You pull a trigger on a gun, and it's going to take a while to fire.  Let's assume that no matter how fast you're going, you're still much slower than the speed of the bullet (and the detonation that produces it).  You still have to wait an interminable time for the hammer to fall.  And while you're proportionally stronger so you can pull the trigger and activate the mechanism faster, how well will the mechanism stand up to the wear and tear?


Thinking about these things is what I've been doing tonight instead of actually writing.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Fixing the Academic Job Market

Sometimes, you read about solution so novel, you just can't wait to see it tried.  This was presented by Jeffrey J. Williams in Inside Higher Ed (hat tip TaxProf Blog):
Academe is in crisis. Young academics have been left out in the cold: according to American Association of University Professors (AAUP) statistics, only about 25 percent of new Ph.D.s find full-time, permanent jobs. We are wasting the talent of a generation.
...
Therefore, the best recourse is to solve the problem ourselves, taking matters into our own hands, as it were. To that end, I have recently founded an organization, Academic Opportunities Unlimited (AOU). Our motto is “We can’t guarantee you’ll get the job, but we can guarantee an opening.”

AOU is elegant in its simplicity, rebalancing an artificially skewed market. One of the effects of the job crisis is an aging professoriate. Since the 1970s, the scales have tipped heavily AARP-ward: while only 17 percent of faculty were 50 or over in 1969, a bloated 52% had crossed that divide by 1998. It is no doubt worse now, and strangling the air supply of potential new professors.

AOU would work to remedy this bias against youth. It would, through a rigorous screening process, pinpoint faculty who are clogging positions and select them for hits, or “extra-academic retirement” (EAR). While this might raise qualms from the more liberal-minded among us, we would argue that it is more humane, both to potential faculty who otherwise have been shunted aside and to those languishing in the holding pattern of a withered career, than our current system. The retirement would be efficient and quick, and strictly limited to those who, as the saying goes, have their best years long behind them.
This gives whole new meaning to the term forced retirement.