Here’s a quick photo bit of my work in progress. I’ve learned that I have much to learn when it comes to 3D artwork and rendering. My favorite hangout is scifi-meshes.com, and I realized I can do a lot better than I have been.
My cover art has never needed to be incredibly detailed; there just isn’t enough room on a cover for all the little tidbits and greebles to show on the ship’s I’ve made, but I try anyway.
Here is my latest; I’m retexturing the hull of Avenger to make it look more real. When you get up close to something, you will notice that everything has a texture to it, and it’s rarely uniform and even. So, the silver hulled ship is my original, and the one with the paneled looking hull (aztec pattern to you 3D artists) is my work in progress. Still have a ways to go, but I’ve done enough to show it off.
Any thoughts? Too dark, too square, etc?
I am a techno nerd. No, I’m not an early adopter of every blinky-light-adorned object out there, but I love knowing about them. I’ve as a result followed the 3D printing movement, founded on affordable machines like the Makerbot that allow people to print objects out of plastics and other composite materials from printers in their own home. It costs around $2000 and prints objects in various types of plastic. There are other machines you can build yourself which are cheaper. Point is, it’s out there and one day will probably be ready for prime time.
Most people in this field can foresee the day when this tech is ordinary enough to have in your own home. It will cost little enough that an average household could afford one if so inclined. Imagine going to the computer, firing up your CAD software, Blender, etc, and designing your own dinnerware, then printing out a set for your cupboard. Cool? Yes! But what else could we do with this technology?
One guy has already gone there, seeking to push the boundaries. He’s founded a company called DefCAD and is printing out gun parts on his machine. Yes, that’s right. First, let me say this: this is not a Second Amendment gun-rights post. The gun rights issue has no bearing on the point I’m trying to make, so don’t read on in trepidation wondering what I’m going to tell you to do about it. I’m not going to tell you what to think about it, so don’t worry! My opinion is no more valid than yours, so I’ll never push my own beliefs on you, I promise! In any case, this guy was featured on the video here, where he’s printed out the lower receiver for the most popular style of military-looking rifle, the AR-15. The lower receiver contains the grip, trigger, and the magazine well where the ammo goes. He’s also producing high capacity magazines from CAD drawings as well.
Here’s the point he’s trying to make: if it’s illegal to buy these items, is it illegal for him to make them himself for personal use? He designed and printed these objects himself, with collaboration from others on the website he hosts. He’s looking for attention, obviously, but he’s also opened up a vision of the world we will see soon.
My point is this: it looks to me like the future will be crowdsourced. Imagine a world where you want new rims for your car. You go to a website that hosts designs. You look at the designs people have made and uploaded for sale or free download. You grab the file, toss it into your 3D printer (that can’t do advanced materials or metal yet, but it’s only a matter of time), and the next morning you have a new set of rims for your car.
What about cars? There is a strong kit-car market today, but take that to the next level. Imagine a company that would furnish a rolling chassis, with attachment points for structures, optional arrangements for seats, doors and a safety cage, etc. You then go to the car-building website. You can design your own front end, bumper, hood, etc. It’s all being done today, just by high end specialty shops. Someday it will be affordable enough that anyone could buy a rolling chassis and then print out the parts in whatever style and color they want and build a completely custom, self-designed car. Would that not be the coolest thing since Henry Ford’s Model T?
There are entire industries that might go out of business, because while things will need to be designed and tested, the manufacturing and sale is where companies make the cash. I could see a sales structure in which companies like Ford, Kitchenaid, Hoover, Lego, etc, will sell the rights to a certain product, enabling you to print them on your own machine at home. It’s like pay-per-view movies. Plenty of people never go to a video store; they just pay for the right to watch the movie at home.
Maybe that’s what will happen. You want a new car, and don’t want to go through the trouble or uncertainty of building your own, so you go to Ford’s website. You select your model, pay the licensing fee, and download a one-time-use file that allows you to print out your own brand new Mustang GT500. People will establish self-design websites where crowdsourced designs would be downloaded and printed for everything from cellphones to new computers. Everyone with an eye for design and talent would have the chance to show off their stuff, not just a few players in each market segment. Manufacturing wouldn’t all be done overseas, and an entirely new industry would emerge to supply these printers with all the raw materials they’d need. Yes, it’s a stretch, but as I said, the tech is here; we’re on the very leading edge of a technology that will take years and years to reach maturity.
Just imagine what you would print if you could. And, as food for thought, think about what rules the government should have regarding things you make in your own home, and what rights you’d want guaranteed if they started writing new laws.
I have to laugh sometimes when I realize how my priorities, goals, etc have changed over the years as I’ve gotten married, had kids, become domesticated, that sort of thing.
Used to be in years past, I’d spend my idle time daydreaming about all the really awesome stuff I’d collect someday: a house that looked like a castle, Vipers, Lamborghinis, jet boats, a pet velociraptor, a keggerator, my own time traveling Delorean; you know, cool stuff.
As you age and life goes on, your ideals shift. Instead of a 2 seat sports car, I found a badass 4 door with a big V8 to claim as my ‘fun’ car, a 1996 Impala SS. Instead of a missile silo for a home, we have a nice house outside of town. And instead of a raptor, we have 2 cats. Though I admit the cats are potentially just as shifty as those man-eating velociraptors.
Just a few minutes ago, I was watching TV while straightening up and saw a commercial for the Hoover MaxExtract something-or-other, one of those neat steam-vacuums that cleans everything from cat puke to kid vomit out of your poor tormented living room carpet. I watched it and thought, “that is a sweet vacuum, I need that.”
Oh damn, how the once-mighty have fallen to Earth! I’m old…
Our family went to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago recently. (Hold your applause for our academic achievements until the end, please
There was an exhibit there called Evolving Planet, which tracked everything that’s lived on the planet since the place cooled down enough for amino acids to start forming. Now, disclaimer; we consider ourselves minimally practicing Christians, and this isn’t meant to be a theological debate. I will say that I figure if God created us in His own image, He would have given us the capacity to ask questions like these and try to figure out the world around us. Where those questions take you is a matter of your own faith, which should be a private matter. I figure since I’m mentioning Evolution, I need to say something…
Anyway, the exhibit mentioned that there were four mass extinctions in our planet’s history, each time wiping out 70% or more of life on the planet. It wasn’t just that meteor that killed off the dinosaurs and gave us oil- it happened four times! It really made me think; how did that affect the life that eventually developed? It seems like every time there was a great cataclysm, the most adaptable life lived on and flourished, as you’d expect. What if the planet’s massive changes had managed to kill off everything and life had to completely start over? What if there had never been any of these events, and life never had to evolve past slimy fish-like creatures that figured dry land was for weirdos? What if life evolved, but they blew each other up, like we seem to always be on the verge of doing?
There are a lot of stars and planets in our galaxy; scientists claim at least 100 billion stars and as many as 17 billion Earth-sized planets. Whether these planets can or do support life is going to be hard to figure out. You’d have to think that the law of averages would cough up at least a few that have life, wouldn’t you? I know people who think every third planet must have life, and others that think we might just be alone. I just hope there’s no super-intelligent race monitoring Earth right now; if they catch any reruns of Jersey Shore or that show with Honey Boo Boo, they’ll probably vaporize the planet in order to spare the rest of the galaxy from us humans.
Just think about Earth’s place in the solar system. A few million miles closer, and the sun’s benevolent forms of heat and radiation would result in an irradiated and overly hot planet. Too far out, and everything ends up much like Wisconsin in the winter; too cold to support life.
Old school sci-fi writers didn’t seem to mess much with the concept of aliens as we know them today. Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, Doc Smith’s Lensman series, etc, often completely ignore the topic of alien life. Then there’s the more recent sci-fi offerings such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Farscape, Babylon 5, and more. They truly embrace the idea of abundant life.
So, where is the middle ground? Is one right over the other? As an author who writes sci-fi, I was torn between how many aliens to include in my own series. I wanted to acknowledge the concept of alien life, but frankly the story I was writing wasn’t dependent on having an ‘alien of the week’; it was a smaller scale story about the people of one little group of folks just minding their own business. My quest to balance aliens with not having to force too many of them into the story actually led to the plot of the whole series: an ancient race that had spent a hundred thousand years tweaking the genetics of primitive planets they discovered, even seeding unpopulated ones with their own chosen forms of life. This allowed me to concentrate on my story without having to think up new and weird aliens every chapter.
It also makes me think: is it possible such a thing has happened out there? Just imagine if Earth had been able to skip a few million years of stagnant evolution. There are planets and solar systems much closer to the center of our galaxy than us, which means they probably formed long before Earth and had a jump start on life anyway.
Hopefully they have better TV shows than we do…