How Facebook and Twitter Are Reshaping the Novel

facebook_twitter_novel“We are wary, these days, of concepts such as the essential self. We have learned to think of ourselves, perhaps not always that comfortably, as more fluid products of social and environmental construction. But we have yet to write off the idea of subjectivity, our unique way of experiencing the world and of describing it to ourselves and others. We know that our apprehension of things isn’t inherently stable – consider the way time seems to speed at some points and drag at others, for example, or how our emotions can suddenly flip-flop – but we hold to the idea that there are as many ways of processing the world as there are people in it and that our subjectivity is what separates us from one another. On one side of that subjectivity are the societal norms that we have agreed on in order to be able to live together, themselves subject to frequent dispute and recasting. On the other is the imperfect language we have at our disposal to communicate with each other about both what is inside us and what is outside.

It is foolhardy to define the purpose of the novel or the job of novelists or, more accurately, to suggest what the novel and novelists have, so far, been like. Yet a rough attempt might suggest that a novelist will try to trace the invisible threads that link these three poles – ourselves, our society, our language – and to listen to the vibrations they produce. What happens if the poles get uprooted, knocked over, repositioned…”

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NASA Discovers First Earth-Sized Planet That Could Support Life

kepler-186f-art“For the first time, scientists have discovered an Earth-size alien planet in the habitable zone of its host star, an ‘Earth cousin’ that just might have liquid water and the right conditions for life.

The newfound planet, called Kepler-186f, was first spotted by NASA’s Kepler space telescope and circles a dim red dwarf star about 490 light-years from Earth. While the host star is dimmer than Earth’s sun and the planet is slightly bigger than Earth, the positioning of the alien world coupled with its size suggests that Kepler-186f could have water on its surface, scientists say. You can learn more about the amazing alien planet find in a video produced by Space.com.

‘One of the things we’ve been looking for is maybe an Earth twin, which is an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a sunlike star,”‘Tom Barclay, Kepler scientist and co-author of the new exoplanet research, told Space.com. ‘This [Kepler-186f] is an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a cooler star. So, while it’s not an Earth twin, it is perhaps an Earth cousin. It has similar characteristics, but a different parent…’”

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The Happy, Haunted Island of Poveglia

poveglia“A quarantine station, a dumping ground for plague victims, more recently a mental hospital — the tiny island of Poveglia in the Venice Lagoon has served many unpleasant purposes over the years, but today it stands empty, a crumbling collection of abandoned buildings and weeds run riot just two miles from the glittering palaces of the Grand Canal. Legends and rumors about Poveglia are nearly as pervasive as the weeds, and they read like a horror story: that so many people were burned and buried there during the black plague that the soil is 50% human ash; that local fishermen give the island a wide berth for fear of netting the wave-polished bones of ancestors; that the psychiatrist who ran the mental hospital was a butcher and torturer who went mad from guilt and threw himself from the island’s belltower, only to survive the fall and be strangled by a ‘ghostly mist’ that emerged from the ground…”

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Explore the Deep Ocean While You Eat Lunch

okeanos“The ship Okeanos Explorer set out last Thursday across the Gulf of Mexico for a three-week, deep-sea expedition… and you can follow along! The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is livestreaming the whole trip. So far, the expedition has explored some gas seeps on the ocean floor and snapped a photo of an underwater brine pool. In the coming weeks, Okeanos’ crew will send out remotely-operated vehicles to examine coral beds, deep-sea canyons and 200-year-old shipwrecks. You can watch the expeditions three streams right here. The streams should show feed from the remotely operated vehicle’s camera when it’s underwater, views of Okeanos’ deck when the expedition is not making a dive, and one view of the real-time data scientists are seeing streamed to their command center on dry land…”

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Zaha Hadid Designs “City of Dreams” Hotel Tower in Macau

cityofdreamsZaha Hadid Architects has designed a 40-story luxury hotel for ’s premier leisure and entertainment destination known as ‘City of Dreams.’ Perceived as a single ‘sculptural element’ united by an exposed exoskeleton mesh structure, the ‘simple volume’ was extruded from its rectangular site as two towers connected at the podium and roof levels, with two organically-shaped bridges punctuating the tower’s center external void. This central void is then celebrated by a 40-meter tall, ‘grandiose atrium’ that greets visitors as they enter the hotel [...]

Once complete in early 2017, the hotel will house a retail strip, gaming area and the atrium, which includes the main reception area, lobby bar, and a flexible installation space, on the ground floor, in addition to 780 hotel units, a casino floor, specialty restaurants, a ‘super lounge,’ VIP gaming, top floor villas and a ‘sky pool.’”

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Voicemails from the Terrifying Future

ChronoFact“In 2022, fires will destroy over 2,025 acres of Texas. In 2048, the Glacier Land Resort will open for people looking to see what life was like before the glaciers melted. In 2049, the Smithsonian—no longer open to the public—will feature a preserved hummingbird in their archives, the last proof of their species ever existing.

These are all possible futures as created by the users of FutureCoast, an interactive alternate reality game that began in February and concludes its run in May. Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, the overarching story of the game is simple: Mysterious objects known as ‘chronofacts’ have begun appearing throughout the world. Once decoded—which a grassroots organization luckily takes care of for us—they’re revealed to be voicemail leaks from the future, and not necessarily all from the same one. And that’s, well, that’s pretty much it as far as the plot goes.

But while the story is simplistic, the project—produced by Ken Eklund (who previously tried to save our doomed planet with the award-winning ARG World Without Oil) and Sara Thacher (one of the main forces behind San Francisco’s Jejune Institute ARG/public art-ish thing)—is anything but. More than simply a collection of possible ‘what-ifs,’ the true goal is figuring out how to use storytelling to persuade…”

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Inside Abandoned Shopping Malls in “Black Friday”

abandonedmall“When they were built in the 1970s these two gleaming Ohio malls were symbols of the boom years in the U.S., and their wide walkways were filled with shoppers.

Now the verdant foliage that decorated them has died off and the fountains inside are dry as store after store deserted the out-of-town malls.

The demise of the Rolling Acres and and Randall Park Mall have been documented by photographer Seph Lawless, who remembers visiting them when he was a child and even had his first job at one of the them…”

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