There’s a scene in Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age in which a young hat-thief is being tried in the court of Judge Fang. The judge’s assistant enters the room at the start of the trial and ceremoniously unrolls a meter-by-meter square of paper on a low black table, and it becomes the center of action in the trial. The piece of paper is actually a display device that can access government cameras, graphs, and text, and can receive input from the user via finger-touch or a stylus. It is a most remarkable device and frankly, I’ve wanted one ever since.
It’s now looking like I might get one sooner than you’d think.
We seem to be striding toward that particular future with impressive speed. One could make the case that laptops represent our first faltering steps in that direction, but I say Amazon’s Kindle represents the next leap forward. Wafer thin and with its low battery consumption and low-eye-strain reflective surface, it marks a huge leap toward blending the benefits of paper with those of computers. But that’s only the beginning of what’s happening out there in Science Land.
As reported by Technovelgy, The Atheon Temple of Science has opened in Berkeley, California. Created as an art project by Jonathan Keats, the Atheon is “a secular temple devoted to scientific worship,” reminiscent of the cloistered maths of Neal Stephen’s Anathem Even though “scientific worship” should be an oxymoron, in that the act of faith commensurate with religious worship is something very different to the skepticism that lies at the heart of the scientific method, the Atheon is an interesting experiment in just how much–or how little–meaning science can bring to our lives.
Okay, here’s the one thing that some fans of Neal Stephenson will want to know: yes, it has a ‘proper’ ending. (Although Stephenson defends his authorial choices vigorously, a criticism leveled at some of his books by some readers is that they don’t end, so much as just stop.) While there are still some interesting questions left by the end of Anathem, the characters do see resolution to their stories. (Also, the hockey jerseys now make perfect sense.)
So, that settled, what’s the beginning and middle of the book like? Awesome. Despite its length at 960 pages, the fast pacing of the book is reminiscent of Stephenson’s earlier, shorter, Snow Crash and The Diamond Age. However, he also takes the time and room to delve into subjects ranging from orbital mechanics to Plato’s Theory of Forms. The book revolves around the adventures of a young scholar called Erasmas, who has lived most of his life within the confines of a millennia-old order mostly devoted to theoretical research. When an enigmatic and unexpected arrival settles into orbit around his world, Erasmas’ life is turned upside down.
The book’s release is well timed, coinciding with the activation of the big daddy of particle accelerators, the Large Hadron Collider. The Large Hadron Collider is part of a quest to understand just how arbitrary are the laws of physics–a question that becomes significant within Anathem.
It’s not often you see a video trailer for a book, but here one is, a promo for the eagerly anticipated Anathem by Neal Stephenson. I’m not quite sure what to make of the hockey jerseys, but I’m sure it’ll all make sense once I’ve read the book.
Sci Fi Wire has an interview with Neal Stephenson, author of The Diamond Age (one of the best nanotech novels ever), Snow Crash (one of the best cyberpunk novels ever) among others. Stephenson has a new book coming out next month titled Anathem. Stephenson talks about the inspiration for Anathem, and why he’s decided to include an introduction for readers who don’t normally read science fiction that people who do regularly read science fiction are advised to skip.