Going for Pokémon, Fixing a Fault, and Finishing FAST in China | Vol. 3 / No. 37

Gotta Catch ‘Em All | Photo: Eduardo Woo, CC BY-SA 2.0

Gotta Catch ‘Em All

Fans of the original game and neophytes alike are swarming the streets staring at their phones this week after the release of a new augmented reality game called Pokémon Go. The game, which is free to download to your cellphone, plots your movement in the real world onto its maps, leading you around your neighbourhood and beyond in search of little creatures known as Pokémon. That is, if you can connect to the servers — it’s become such a smash hit that the players were regularly overloading the servers with traffic, but that’s slowly improving. Local public spaces are designated in the game as “gyms” where Pokemon Go players can train up and battle their digital pets against one another, and the players are at this point splitting into three teams and vying for supremacy. They’re also (following the game’s original motto “gotta catch ’em all”) gathering en masse on city street corners, meeting each other and laughing about the hilarity of going places in the real world to catch virtual things — and that’s the most interesting part, if you ask me. Yesterday on a street corner on a trip to Pittsburgh I ran into a dozen people at least, from teens to thirty-somethings like myself, all trying to catch a particular creature known as a “Seel” who happened to live on that corner. We’d all exchange glances, then laugh about how we were all strangers and yet united by this particularly odd task. There are some odd situations arising out of the game, too, like the girl who found a body instead of a pokemon, or the police station asking people to stop trying to catch a Sandshrew there. It’s an amazing example of the future — how we choose to interact with the world may be by adding things, both ephemeral and real, to it. If you haven’t played, give it a shot. You’ll feel like a bit of an idiot at first, but you might just find yourself going for a walk to see if there’s a Eevee or a Spearow nearby.

The Fault Back in 2001 | Photo: missyleone, CC BY 2.0
The Fault Back in 2001 | Photo: missyleone, CC BY 2.0

At Fault in Hayward

Much to the horror and sadness of geologists across America, a local city crew recently fixed a misaligned curb at the corner of Rose and Prospect in the city of Hayward, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. That may sound like an odd statement until you learn that the curb, seen above in 2001, lies directly atop the Hayward Fault, and that since the 1970s geologists have been visiting the otherwise unremarkable street corner to chart the sideways slippage of the two land masses which seem to go at about 4mm (roughly an eighth of an inch) a year. The city wasn’t aware of the significance of the curb, and so detroyed it while installing wheelchair-accessible ramps to make the city more friendly for people on wheels. It’s not the end of the world, and as geologist Andrew Alden told NPR, the ramp access was “undoubtedly overdue,” it’s just a little bit sad. There won’t be a lot to see there for years to come, though of course eventually the fault will win again, in time. You can read more on the story over at the LA Times.

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (in CG because it's not built yet); Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences / JPL via arxiv.org
The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (in CG); Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences / JPL via arxiv.org

Finishing FAST

China installed the final piece of the largest radio telescope on the planet on Sunday, leaving only a few calibration tests to be run before it begins operations in earnest in September. The Five-hundred metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) will (among other things) be very useful in the search for extra-terrestrial life, but although the Chinese government is maintaining that its construction is for peaceful purposes, the US military isn’t buying it. According to Al Jazeera news, the DOD says China “is pursuing activities aimed to prevent adversaries from using space-based assets in a crisis.” Check out Space.com for more about the telescope. In related news, China plans to land its Chang’e 4 rover (the no-longer-backup for its successful Chang’e 3 rover) on the far side of the moon in 2018.


In case you missed any of it, here’s what we got up to this week here at the site:

If you missed any of those, check them out!

Best of the Rest

As usual, there’s far too much to cover for any one week. Some of it I might get back to this week once the dust has settled, but in the meantime, here’s your weekly linkspam!

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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.