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  Sci-Fi Author Arthur C. Clarke Is DeadMarch 18, 2008 16:29 Science fiction impresario Arthur C. Clarke is dead, according to published news reports.

And as of 3 p.m. PDT Tuesday, the Wikipedia article on Clarke has also already been updated with a banner across the top that reads, "This article is about a person who has recently died."

Clarke was the author, or co-author, of dozens of fiction and non-fiction books. But he will likely always be best known for his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was later turned into a landmark film by Stanley Kubrick.

But Clarke also was known for works such as Rendezvous with Rama, Childhood's End and The Fountains of Paradise, according to Wikipedia.

In a 2001 interview Clarke gave to CNET News.com, he talked at length about his then-current work in Sri Lanka as a "champion for gorillas" because of what he saw as a link between global cell phone use and the plight of gorillas in Central Africa due to prospectors hunting for tantalum, a material used in making many gadgets.

On the Web site for his foundation, the Clark Foundation, he had a prominent quote, "If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run--and often in the short one--the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative."

The fact that he was known as a writer yet spent some of the later years of his life fighting for the rights of apes and warning humankind that innovation is conservative might surprise people who think of him as always forward-looking.

 
  Gary Gygax, Game Pioneer, Dies At 69March 04, 2008 22:42 Gary Gygax, a pioneer of the imagination who transported a fantasy realm of wizards, goblins and elves onto millions of kitchen tables around the world through the game he helped create, Dungeons & Dragons, died Tuesday at his home in Lake Geneva, Wis. He was 69.

His death was confirmed by his wife, Gail Gygax, who said he had been ailing and had recently suffered an abdominal aneurysm, The Associated Press reported.

As co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, the seminal role-playing game introduced in 1974, Mr. Gygax wielded a cultural influence far broader than his relatively narrow fame among hard-core game enthusiasts.

Before Dungeons & Dragons, a fantasy world was something to be merely read about in the works of authors like J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert Howard. But with Dungeons & Dragons, Mr. Gygax and his collaborator, Dave Arneson, created the first fantasy universe that could actually be inhabited. In that sense, Dungeons & Dragons formed a bridge between the noninteractive world of books and films and the exploding interactive video game industry. It also became a commercial phenomenon, selling an estimated $1 billion in books and equipment. More than 20 million people are estimated to have played the game.

While Dungeons & Dragons became famous for its voluminous rules, Mr. Gygax was always adamant that the game’s most important rule was to have fun and to enjoy the social experience of creating collaborative entertainment. In Dungeons & Dragons, players create an alternate persona, like a dwarven thief or a noble paladin, and go off on imagined adventures under the adjudication of another player called the Dungeon Master.

“The essence of a role-playing game is that it is a group, cooperative experience,” Mr. Gygax said in a telephone interview in 2006. “There is no winning or losing, but rather the value is in the experience of imagining yourself as a character in whatever genre you’re involved in, whether it’s a fantasy game, the Wild West, secret agents or whatever else. You get to sort of vicariously experience those things.”

When Mr. Gygax (pronounced GUY-gax) first published Dungeons & Dragons under the banner of his company, Tactical Studies Rules, the game appealed mostly to college-age players. But many of those early adopters continued to play into middle age, even as the game also trickled down to a younger audience.

“It initially went to the college-age group, and then it worked its way backward into the high schools and junior high schools as the college-age siblings brought the game home and the younger ones picked it up,” Mr. Gygax said.

Mr. Gygax’s company, renamed TSR, was acquired in 1997 by Wizards of the Coast, which was later acquired by Hasbro, which now publishes the game.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Gygax is survived by six children: three sons, Ernest G. Jr., Lucion Paul and Alexander; and three daughters, Mary Elise, Heidi Jo and Cindy Lee.

These days, pen-and-paper role-playing games have largely been supplanted by online computer games. Dungeons & Dragons itself has been translated into electronic games, including Dungeons & Dragons Online. Mr. Gygax recognized the shift, but he never fully approved. To him, all of the graphics of a computer dulled what he considered one of the major human faculties: the imagination.

“There is no intimacy; it’s not live,” he said of online games. “It’s being translated through a computer, and your imagination is not there the same way it is when you’re actually together with a group of people. It reminds me of one time where I saw some children talking about whether they liked radio or television, and I asked one little boy why he preferred radio, and he said, ‘Because the pictures are so much better.’ ”
  The New CartographersMarch 02, 2008 09:56 It’s flu season, and you’re feeling woozy. Have you caught that thing that’s going around?

To find out, head over to Who is Sick?, a Google map-based tool that lets users report their symptoms. Plug in your zip code to find nodes of contagion near you.

Or maybe you’re depressed. Misery loves company. Check the local emotional temperature at We Feel Fine to see data-mined sentiments from blogs, organized geographically.

Maps are everywhere these days. The ubiquity of global positioning systems (GPS) and mobile directional devices, interactive mapping tools and social networks is feeding a mapping boom. Amateur geographers are assigning coordinates to everything they can get their hands on—and many things they can’t. “Locative artists” are attaching virtual installations to specific locales, generating imaginary landscapes brought vividly to life in William Gibson’s latest novel, Spook Country. Indeed, proponents of “augmented reality” suggest that soon our current reality will be one of many “layers” of information available to us as we stroll down the street.

Like other technological innovations, this trend gives with one hand and takes with the other.

For some, mapping has become a vibrant new language—a way to interpret the world, find like-minded folks and make fresh, sometimes radical, perspectives visible. For others, maps portend threats to privacy and freedom of movement. Just see Privacy International’s Map of Surveillance Societies Around the World, which classifies the United States as an “endemic surveillance society.”

Google builds it, people come
Credit former President Bill Clinton for kicking this all off. In May 2000, he signed an executive order removing “selective availability” from the government’s GPS transmission, a protocol that introduced errors into coordinates transmitted to receivers not approved by the military. But it’s Google that has powered the amateur mapmaker craze, by allowing “mashups” between the maps it provides and other data sets.