‘Twas the week before Xmas at Seanchai Library in Second Life

Christmas is almost upon us, and so it’s a short week at Seanchai Library in the run-up to the holidays – but there is still time for some fabulous story-telling in voice, brought to our virtual lives by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s Second Life home at Bradley University, unless otherwise indicated.

Monday December 21st, 19:00: Escape Clause

Rod SterlingYou’re about to meet a hypochondriac. Witness Mr. Walter Bedeker age forty-four. Afraid of the following: death, disease, other people, germs, draft, and everything else. He has one interest in life and that’s Walter Bedeker. One preoccupation, the life and well-being of Walter Bedeker. One abiding concern about society, that if Walter Bedeker should die how will it survive without him?

So opens the 6th show in the very first series of Rod Sterling’s The Twilight Zone, one of the original three episode ideas used by Sterling to pitch the series concept in 1959.

Already labelled a hypochondriac in that opening narration, we follow the mean-spirited Walter Bedeker as he seeks to make a water-proof contract with the devil himself (appearing in human form under the disarming name of “Ted Cadwallader”) which will allow him to sell his soul in return for health and immortality. With every “t” crossed and “i” dotted, the contract seems perfect for Bedeker, wary of any conniving tricks on the part of Old Nick.

So why is the Devil so accommodating to Bedker’s demands, and why does he, in what appears to be a turn of altruism, offer Bedeker an escape clause, allowing him to choose the time of his death if he tires of being immortal?

Join Gyro Muggins as he once again takes into a journey into The Twilight Zone.

Tuesday December 22nd 19:00: A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Other Stories

Aoife Lorefield reads Dylan Thomas’ timeless classic poem, and other tales of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23rd 19:00 The Night Before the Night Before Christmas

A Seanchai Holiday Tradition  of stories and poems (some original works) with the Seanchai Staff.

Personal Note

I’d like to wish the staff and volunteers at Seanchai Library every best wish for the season and for a successful 2016. Thank you for your continued work in bringing stories and the spoken word into Second Life in the tradition of the seanchai, and raising awareness of literature as an art in-world. Looking forward to working with you throughout 2016, and to establishing Storytime at the Park with you as well!

—–

Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule.

The featured charity for October – December is Reach Out and Read, one of the most highly rated literacy charities in the USA which reaches 4.4 million children annually and distributes 1.6 million books.

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2015 viewer release summaries: week 51

Updates for the week ending Sunday, December 20th

This summary is published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog
  • By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.

Official LL Viewers

  • Current Release version: 4.0.0.309247, December 17th – formerly the Chromium Embedded Framework RC viewer download page, release notes
  • Release channel cohorts (See my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • No updates
  • Project viewers:
    • Project Bento viewer version 5.0.0.309171 released on December 17 – introduces extensions to the standard SL Avatar Skeleton with support for dozens of new bones for both rigging and animation, and accompanying new attachment points (download and release notes).

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V4-style

  • UKanDo viewer updates to version 4.0.0 on Friday, December 18th – core update: parity with the Lab’s 4.0.0 CEF code and RLV 2.9.15 (release notes)

V1-style

  • Cool VL Viewer updated as follows: Stable version to 1.26.16.4 and Experimental branch to 1.26.17.2, both on December 19th (release notes).

Mobile / Other Clients

  • Group Tools updated to version 2.2.35.0 on December 12th  – no release notes available

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Space Update: silica mysteries, Brits in space and tracking Santa

new-horizonNew Horizons is still less than half way through transmitting the data gathered during its fly-past of the Pluto-Charon system in July 2015, but the wealth of information received thus far has already revealed much about Pluto and its “twin”.

Geological evidence has been found for widespread past and present glacial activity, including the formation of networks of eroded valleys, some of which are “hanging valleys,” much like those in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. A major part of this activity is occurring in and around “Sputnik Planum”, the left half of Pluto’s “heart”, a 1,000 km (620 mile) wide basin, which is seen as key to understanding much of the current geological activity on Pluto.

Images and data gathered for this region has given rise to new numerical models of thermal convection with “Sputnik Planum”, which is formed by a deep layer of solid nitrogen and other volatile ices. These not only explain the numerous polygonal ice features seen on Sputnik Planum’s surface, but suggest the layer is likely to be a few kilometres in depth.

Evaporation of this nitrogen, together with condensation on higher surrounding terrain is believed causing a glacial flow from the higher lands back down into the basin, where the ice already there is pushed, reshaping the landscape over time.

A ture colour image of Pluto's surface, captures just before the point of closest approach, and created by combining black-and-while images from from the LORRI camera with data gathered by the Ralph instrument suite. The picture show the highlands to one side of "Sputnik Planum with the pockmarked ices of the basin. A combination of evaporation and condensation between the two is giving rise to sustained glaciation on Pluto, showing it to be an active world
A true colour image of Pluto’s surface, captures just before the point of closest approach, and created by combining black-and-while images from from the LORRI camera with data gathered by the Ralph instrument suite. The picture show the highlands to one side of “Sputnik Planum” with the pockmarked ices of the basin. A combination of evaporation and condensation between the two is giving rise to sustained glaciation on Pluto, showing it to be an active world (image: NASA, JHU/APL SwRI)

More data and images have also been received regarding Pluto’s atmosphere, allowing scientists start to probe precisely what processes are at work in generating and renewing the atmosphere, the upper limits of which are subject to erosion by the solar wind, which strike Pluto at some 1.4 million kilometres per hour (900,000 mph).

As well as understanding the processes which are at work renewing the atmosphere, and thus preventing it from being completely blasted away by the solar wind, science teams are hoping to better further why the haze of Pluto’s atmosphere forms a complicated set of layers – some of which are the result of the formation and descent of tholins through the atmosphere – and why it varies spatially around the planet.

The Mars Silica Mystery

In July I covered some of the work going into investigating the mystery of silica on Mars. This is a mineral of particular interest to scientists because high levels of it within rocks could indicate conditions on Mars which may have been conducive to life, or which might preserve any ancient organic material which might be present. In addition.

As I reported back in July, scientists have been particularly interested in the fact that as Curiosity has ascended “Mount Sharp”, so have the amounts of silica present in rocks increased: in some rocks it accounts for nine-tenths of their composition. Trying to work out why this should be, and identifying the nature of some of the silica deposits has given rise to a new set of mysteries.

The first mystery is trying to understand how the silica was deposited – something which could be crucial in understanding how conducive the environment on “Mount Sharp” might have been for life. Water tends to contribute to silica being deposited in rocks in one of two ways. If it is acidic in nature, it tends to leach away other minerals, leaving the silica behind. If it is more neutral or alkaline in nature, then it tends to deposit silica as it filters through rooks.

This May 22, 2015, view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) in NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the "Marias Pass" area where a lower and older geological unit of mudstone -- the pale zone in the center of the image -- lies in contact with an overlying geological unit of sandstone. This view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) in NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the "Marias Pass" area where a lower and older geological unit of mudstone -- the pale zone in the center of the image -- lies in contact with an overlying geological unit of sandstone. Just before Curiosity reached Marias Pass, the rover's laser-firing Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument examined a rock found to be rich in silica, a mineral-forming chemical. This scene combines several images taken on May 22, 2015, during the 992nd Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars. The scene is presented with a color adjustment that approximates white balancing, to resemble how the rocks and sand would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth.
This mosaic of images captures by Curiosity’s Mastcam on May 22nd 2015 (Sol 992), shows the “Marias Pass” region where mudstone (the pale rock in the centre of the image) of the kind the rover had been studying, overlaid by a geological unit of sandstone. rocks in this area should very high concentrations of silica in them, much higher than previously encountered, which the rocks above the area show strong evidence of silica deposition as a result of water action. This image has been white balanced to show the rock under Earth equivalent natural lighting conditions (image: NASA / JPL)

If the water which once flowed down / through “Mount Sharp” was acidic in nature, it would likely mean that the wet environments found on the flanks of the mound were hostile to life having ever arisen there or may have removed any evidence for life having once been present. If evidence that the water was acidic in nature, then it would also possibly point to conditions on “Mount Sharp” may have been somewhat different to those found on the crater floor, where evidence of environments formed with more alkaline water and with all the right building blocks for life to have started, have already been discovered.

The second mystery with the silica is the kind of silica which has been discovered in at least one rock.  Tridymite is a polymorph of silica which on Earth is associated with high temperatures in igneous or metamorphic rocks and volcanic activity. Until Curiosity discovered significantly high concentrations of silica in the “Marias Pass area of “Mount Sharp” some seven months ago – something which led to a four month investigation of the area – tridymite had never been found on Mars.

The region just above "Marias Pass" contained an area referred to as the "Stimson Unit" which showed fracturing rich in silica when compared to the surrounding rocks, suggesting deposition of silica / leaching of other minerals as a result of water action
The region just above “Marias Pass” contained an area referred to as the “Stimson Unit” which showed fracturing rich in silica when compared to the surrounding rocks, suggesting deposition of silica / leaching of other minerals as a result of water action (images: NASA / JPL)

“Marias Pass” and the region directly above it, called the “Stimson Unit” show some of the strongest examples of silica deposition on “Mount Sharp”, and  it was in one of the first rocks, dubbed “Buckskin”, exhibiting evidence of silica deposits in which the tridymite was found.

The question now is: how did it get there? All the evidence for the formation of “Mount Sharp” points to it being sedimentary in nature, rather than volcanic. While Mars was very volcanic early on in its history, the presence of the tridymite on “Mount Sharp” might point to volcanic /  magmatic evolution on Mars continuing for longer than might have been thought, with the mineral being deposited on the slopes of the mound as a result of wind action. Or alternatively, it might point to something else occurring on Mars.

Continue reading “Space Update: silica mysteries, Brits in space and tracking Santa”