Wandering Eye: Alien megastructures?, the lost web, and more

Here's proof everyone wants to believe: There is a star, KC 8462852, lodged between the Cygna and Swan constellations, that just might be orbited by "a swarm of megastructures" built by an alien civilization. This, at least, is the speculation of a couple of scientists in The Atlantic who are scraping together requests for big telescope time. The star's light dims by more than 20 percent at irregular intervals, which is extremely weird. One scientist says it might be due to a swarm of comets that somehow got dragged into close proximity of the star in the recent past. But this would be a very unusual situation. Another possibility is aliens, according to Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University. This, of course, would be an even more unusual situation. "Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build," Wright told the Atlantic. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


The amount of information on the internet that stands to be lost over the next couple of centuries will be not unlike the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, or so says The Atlantic. As anyone who's dealt with trying to dig up old sites and online archives (*cough* City Paper *cough*) can tell you, old pages and articles go missing. URLs die. The way information is presented changes, technology upgrades, and then the old pages are no longer compatible. Jason Scott works as an archivist and historian at the Internet Archive, a group that tries to document everything that's on the web and runs the Wayback Machine, a collection of cached pages. But people like Scott and others can only save things they know to save. "[W]hen it goes, it really goes," he said. "It's gone gone. A piece of paper can burn and you can still kind of get something from it. With a hard drive or a URL, when it's gone, there is just zero recourse." He's up against stats like these: "The life cycle of most web pages runs its course in a matter of months. In 1997, the average lifespan of a web page was 44 days; in 2003, it was 100 days. Links go bad even faster. A 2008 analysis of links in 2,700 digital resources—the majority of which had no print counterpart—found that about 8 percent of links stopped working after one year. By 2011, when three years had passed, 30 percent of links in the collection were dead." (Brandon Weigel)


Congratulations to author Marlon James. On Tuesday, it was announced that James was awarded the Man Booker Prize for his novel, "A Brief History of Seven Killings," a sprawling, character-driven, monologue-heavy novel that touches on, among other things, the assassination attempt of Bob Marley, Jamaican politics, and the New York crack epidemic. City Paper named it our fifth-best fiction book of 2014. CP contributor Bret McCabe said it was "Dickensian in scope, James Ellroy-like in brutality, and disturbingly convincing that historical fact depends on who takes control over memory." Through the book's focus on Marley's assassination attempt, the novel connects to Center Stage's spring premiere of Kwame Kwei-Armah's "Marley," a biomusical about the singer whose climax takes place just a couple of days after Marley was shot, when he performed, bandaged, at the Smile For Jamaica Peace Concert. "A Brief History of Seven Killings" is a far harsher look at Marley and Jamaica (appropriately, an HBO miniseries of the book is in the works), but combined, Kwame Kwei-Armah's play and Marlon James' novel explore a fascinating moment in history when politics and pop culture crucially intermingled. (Brandon Soderberg)

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