------ First a brief political riff then science and stuff -----
As some of you know, I have given up wishing for somebody ideal and decided to choose from the menu being offered.
And while I hold some respect and hopes for Hillary Clinton, and will support her if she is the nominee of Enlightenment America (not just the Democratic Party) -- that's just the point. She won't be viewed that way. As the candidate of America vs the enemies (domestic) who have seized control of the GOP and distorted it into a tool to ruin our country from within.
Alas, Hillary's biggest negative is huge. The pure & simple fact that she'd energize a demoralized opposition and draw ten million extra Republicans to the polls. That more than decides me -- I have to back Obama.
There are other reasons, of course. Have a look at this brief interview in the Globalist. Anybody who says the following simply gets it.
"The disappointment that so many around the world feel toward America right now is only a testament to the high expectations they hold for us."
Darn tootin. He also hints, with words like “competence” at what ought to be the main - and killer - issue of this campaign. The Bushite war against the apolitical but highly skilled men and women of the civil service, the intelligence and law communities, the US Officer Corps, science and every variety of professionalism.
I retain a simmering worry about how little we know about Obama. He can reassure people like me - if he’s nominated - by showing us the calibre of folks he’ll surround himself with. Especially in choosing a running mate. My bias toward General Clarke is a small matter. Our need to see the best up there. That’s crucial.
Even his chief drawback... being so new... suggests that he may also be clean. One hopes.
Still... there’s his name ... or names... so MANY ways that his name(s) just scream no writer would dare make up this stuff!
On the Republican side? I’ll send a little $ to Ron Paul, for the sake of the 30% of him that’s right and brave and sane. Huckabee’s got about that same 30% that’s honest and personable and sincere. Too bad they are both 70% stark, jibbering crazy.
As for all the rest of em? I drowzily dream of our Governator showing up at the GOP convention dressed and equipped like in some of his movies. Well, it’s a fantasy. Like in the movie, “If.” BTW I don’t really mean that. But then there’s another dream, one in which the ghosts of Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Barry Goldwater come back and exorcise today’s infected, were-elephant, driving out the gang of demons and monsters, like Gandalf striking Saruman out of Theoden....
=== OTHER MATTERS ====
I know that some of you are deeply involved in Wikis. Blake Stacey suggested that I post a few dozen of the long- simmering chapters of my (huge) dormant nonfiction book online, as wikis. I like the idea of posting several dozen Wiki pages, each consisting of one of my proposed chapters, and letting all sorts of folks comment, suggest inserts, offer corrections. Alas, the problems are:
1) Where and who/how to set it up
2) How to limit/authorize changes
3) finding the time to manage it all and gradually take a final shape.
I have long believed that wikis are a subset of "collaborationware" which should offer a general suite of host-option tools, letting contributors append comments or post-its or actual changes, depending upon their authorization/reputation level. With all sorts
of color-coding and other options. (In fact, my Holocene patent would seem highly applicable... but enough of that.)
==== AND BACK TO MISCELLANIA ===
Bandit wrote in with ”I know a few fans/geeks who might seriously "swing" this way. I saw a picture of a Japanese Sex doll recently (doing research :^) and it took a close look to realize it was a doll.” Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships, by David Levy.
Comment: This is how aliens will eliminate humanity. First this... then holodecks. No male human will ever be seen again.
Something both cool and hot: Small, decentralized water treatment plants with an autonomous power supply transform salty seawater or brackish water into pure drinking water
Josh D sent in the wowzer of a paradigm breaker: ”A researcher in Vienna, Austria, trained dogs to sort photographs into two categories: pictures of other dogs and pictures of landscapes. This is big news because it means that dogs not only recognize what's happening in symbolic visual representations (photos) but can also figure out how to translate an abstract concept ("dog") into a category of pictures. Previously, nobody thought dogs could categorize photographs or even abstract concepts other than "food" and "enemy." (Fascinating! But note, this news is from a personal blog, unattributed and unverified. The reference to my Uplift series is appreciated. But one ponders that HG Wells and Boule and Cordwainer Smith showed uplifted creatures enslaved. Just to be different, I do not. ;-)
... Intrade is The Prediction Market where members can buy and sell "shares" in financial, political, weather and other important subjects. You can trade using real US$ and you can learn to trade using virtual Intrade I$. Intrade and the predictive information generated by our members have been featured on CNBC, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox, Fortune & others. Alas, PMs did very badly re the New Hampshire primary. A topic of much discussion. I’ve long had my own perspective on Predictions Registries.
See how the latest Mars probe lost its launch window because of bureaucratic conflict of interest. All right, part of the War on Science and the War on Competence may be due to moronic ineptitude. But please keep on your second shelf the other blatantly consistent possibility. That all of this is according to plan. ...
... In a laboratory in Switzerland, a group of neuroscientists is developing a mammalian brain - in silicon. The researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), in collaboration with IBM, have just completed the first phase of an ambitious project to reproduce a fully functioning brain on a supercomputer. By strange coincidence, their lab happens to lie on the same shores of Lake Geneva where Mary Shelley dreamt up her creation, Dr Frankenstein. The neocortical column is the most recently evolved part of our brain and is responsible for such things as reasoning and self-awareness. It was a quantum leap in evolution. The human brain contains a thousand times more neocortical columns than a rat's brain, but there is very little difference, biologically speaking, between a rat's brain and our own. Build one column, and you can effectively build the entire neocortex - if you have the computational power. Although a neocortical column is only 2 millimetres long and half a millimetre in diameter, it contains 10,000 neurons and 30m synapses. The machine that simulates this column is an IBM Blue Gene/L supercomputer is capable of speeds of 18.7 trillion calculations per second. It has 8,000 processors and is one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world.
If true, this is big news. “The Atlanta-based independent inventor of the Super Soaker squirt gun (a true technological milestone) says he can achieve a conversion efficiency rate that tops 60 percent with a new solid-state heat engine. It represents a breakthrough new way to turn heat into power. “
==== AND MORE MISC! ===
Time gives its “Top 10 for 2007” in 50 categories.
Professor Andrew White, from UQ's Centre for Quantum Computer Technology together with colleagues from the University of Toronto in Canada, said by manipulating quantum mechanically entangled photons – the fundamental particles of light – the prime factors of the number 15 were calculated. ...
A Japanese company has unveiled a new device that will allow people "speak" through their ear so they can use their mobile telephones in noisy places. The device - named "e-Mimi-kun" (good ear boy) - doubles as an earphone and a microphone by detecting air vibrations inside the ear, developer NS-ELEX Co. said. The earpiece and an accompanying device can be connected to a mobile phone, or wirelessly to a Bluetooth handset, so that users no longer have to cover their mouths when speaking in a loud environment, the company said. ...
This is a hypothetical news clip from 2017 which suggests one of the directions in which the internet may grow – by inventing a method whereby the Internet could take advantage of the same processes that the human mind employs during sleep (and while awake) to process and organize the experiences of the day into memory hierarchies. ...
Toshiba Corp.'s Super Charge ion Battery, or SCiB, can recharge to 90 percent of its full capacity in less than five minutes and has a life cycle of more than 10 years.
“Whitehouse Sharply Criticizes Bush Administration's Assertion of Executive Power” – (Senator Whitehouse press release – December 7, Say What? Read the headline a couple of times. This senator is gonna cause a LOT of confusing moments. 2007)
"Solar minimum is upon us," says solar physicist David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center. Many forecasters believe Solar Cycle 24 will be big and intense. Peaking in 2011 or 2012, the cycle to come could have significant impacts on telecommunications, air traffic, power grids and GPS systems. Aha! Just in time for the 2012 “millennium madness” that seems to be scheduled, according to everything from Mayan calendars to Heinlein’s future history...
Someone report on this? I do not vouch for it! John Lenard Walson has discovered a new way to extend the capabilities of small telescopes and has been able to achieve optical resolutions - at almost the diffraction limit - not commonly achievable. With this new-found ability, he has proceeded to videotape, night and day, many strange and heretofore unseen objects in earth orbit. The resulting astrophotographic video footage has revealed a raft of machines, hardware, satellites, spacecraft and possibly space ships which otherwise appear as 'stars'...if they appear at all. There are, indeed, hundreds of satellites in Earth orbit. However, the images he has captured are clearly of large and sizeable machines which have not been seen before.
The Economist's food price index is higher today than at any time since it was created in 1845. Even in real terms, prices have jumped by 75% since 2005. That is because “agflation” is underpinned by long-running changes in diet that accompany the growing wealth of emerging economies. But the rise in prices is also the self-inflicted result of America's reckless ethanol subsidies. This year biofuels will take a third of America's (record) maize harvest.
Factoid: The world's longest operating ships are six "PS-Class" container ships. Built at Denmark's Odense Steel Shipyards and launched by Maersk Shipping Lines between 2006 and 2007, these are Emma Maersk and its slightly younger sisters Evelyn, Eleanora, Estelle, Ebba and Elly Maersk. Each is 397 by 56 meters, or 1302 feet long by 185 wide. For perspective, this is about twice as wide and 60 percent longer than the unlucky Titanic, and almost 200 feet longer than any supertanker, aircraft carrier, or ocean liner now on the water. They require a crew of only 13 people, and can accommodate only 30 crew and other passengers in total. The six can carry up to 14,500 TEUs of cargo. (A TEU is a "twenty-foot equivalent unit," referring to a single metal container 20 feet long, eight feet wide and 8.5 feet high.) Maersk advertises this capacity as the amount of goods that would be carried on a 71-kilometer freight train. Too wide to fit through the Panama Canal until its re-digging is complete, the six travel between Asia and Europe.
A fascinating article in the New Yorker explores what we know about bonobos:
“Where, at the end of the twentieth century, could an optimist turn for reassurance about the foundations of human nature? The sixties were over. Goodall’s chimpanzees had gone to war. Scholars such as Lawrence Keeley, the author of “War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage” (1996), were excavating the role of warfare in our prehistoric past. And, as Wrangham and Peterson noted in “Demonic Males,” various nonindustrialized societies that were once seen as intrinsically peaceful had come to disappoint. Margaret Mead’s 1928 account of a South Pacific idyll, “Coming of Age in Samoa,” had been largely debunked by Derek Freeman, in 1983. The people identified as “the Gentle Tasaday”—the Philippine forest-dwellers made famous, in part, by Charles Lindbergh—had been redrawn as a small, odd community rather than as an isolated ancient tribe whose mores were illustrative. “The Harmless People,” as Elizabeth Marshall Thomas referred to the (!Kung bushmen) hunter-gatherers she studied in southern Africa, had turned out to have a murder rate higher than any American city. Although the picture was by no means accepted universally, it had become possible to see a clear line of thuggery from ape ancestry to human prehistory and on to Srebrenica. But, if de Waal’s findings were true, there was at least a hint of respite from the idea of ineluctable human aggression. If chimpanzees are from Hobbes, bonobos must be from Rousseau.”
nuff for now.
==Reminder that my latest involvement in a TV show, a 2 hour special for The History Channel, is: LIFE AFTER PEOPLE, which premieres Monday, JAN 21st at 9pm/8pm central. http://www.history.com/minisites/life_after_people