ALERT! Elon Musk, and his great crew at Space Exploration Technologies, have succeeded in the first privately funded launch of a craft into earth orbit. This history-making effort comes as the fourth launch attempt for the new SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket; the company has launches scheduled going forward for this LEO-oriented satellite launcher, even as it continues development on two versions of the nine-engine Falcon 9.
Congratulations Elon! And to the entire enterprise.
== Also impressive...? ==
Have a glimpse of the new look at davidbrin.com! (Thanks to our wondrously skilled and creative webmaster, Beverly Price.) Comments and suggestions (and digg etc points) are welcome.
And now, I am going to race through a lot of hurriedly-typed "content." Rushed... but some of it likely of some value....
== Catch a SPORE ==
A couple of years ago, Will Wright asked world renowned tech artist and professor Sheldon Brown - and me - come up and visit Will’s shop in Berkeley, because he heard we were working on a concept somewhat similar to SPORE. He was relieved to learn we had 1/10,000th of his funding! Still, in order to grasp what had him (briefly) worried, see Exorarium Project Proposal ... (and if you hear of any big money groups that want to compete with SPORE, let us know.;-)
If ever carried to completion, the Exorarium would offer many of the same delights as SPORE -- such as building your own, evolved species and playing interactions with others. Only, with some crucial differences.
1) Wil's concept is classic-patterned game. The player has a budget and "buys" species traits, then earns a bigger budget by winning battles. Yeah, my kids enjoy it (good job Will!) But there are alternatives, and some perhaps just as fun, while being a lot more like nature.
While SPORE starts small, in a droplet of water, the Exorarium asks the player to begin by choosing a star, then a planetary system, a planet, an ecosystem... etc... and letting the chips fall where they may. As you dial in with your choices, the vast forrest of evolutionary pathway-possibilities gets chopped and winnowed, getting narrower with every decision, till you wind up with a slender tree of possible evolved outcomes. Still a matter of “choice” I guess. Only our approach emulates and incorporates and joyfully explores the range of possibilities offered by science.
Because of this (and Will got a chuckle when I said it), the Exorarium is a simulation of evolution, while SPORE is much more like "intelligent design"!
2) Because the Exorarium revolves around real science, there is obvious potential value as an education tool. In fact, the worldwide game would ideally be "anchored" with two or three or four lavish installations in some of the great science museums, like the Hayden or Griffith Planetariums. (See the gorgeous conceptual drawings, created by Sheldon Brown.) Though of course, 99.9% of the players - and revenue - would be generated by home and internet-based players. Both museum kinds of users would have the option (not required) of learning about all the different sciences that helped to make us, from astronomy to chemistry to biology.
3) At the end of the fun process of unleashing (rather than controlling) evolution, each player winds up with his or her own species, just like in SPORE. Only with a surrounding ecosystem and companion/dependent/competitor species, as well as a place on a complex food chain! These can then be played in Phase Two of the game --the "extraterrestrial terrarium" -- in First Contact scenarios that follow some of the methods used at the venerable CONTACT Conferences. Guessing the motives of other species, based on limited knowledge, would make up half the fun. And war is only one of many possible outcomes!
4) Of course, a David Brin design would have to include Uplift!
Ah, well. Of course this would take somebody with deep pockets, who either cared about mass science education or else wanted a “killer” game to compete with this year’s killer game! Ideally.... both.
= = Some interesting alerts! ==
NewsFutures is excited to announce the first Wisdom of Crowds Consulting Workshop, to be held in New York City on October 27th, 2008. It is designed especially for small and medium-size business consultancies who would like to acquire a working knowledge of how to put collective intelligence to work for their clients. A couple of days later I’ll be in Boston (MIT etc) Almost went to this. Anybody in the area, care to go attend and report?
----- Finally accepting the value of transparency and citizen action? The Pentagon this past spring launched its so-called Minerva initiative - a hunt for more information on the Chinese military, ways to marginalize al-Qaida, new anti-terror strategies. Thirty years ago, it might have been top-secret stuff. Today, the military is asking everyone for help - and will post the results in full public view. It's another example of a new world of problem-solving that seeks answers in the public square. Defense Secretary Robert Gates calculates that the transparency of Minerva is also its strength, that by looking to everyone for advice and letting the crowd weigh in on the results, the communal know-how will be that much richer.
----- A fan wrote in: “Joss Whedon’s new TV show, Dollhouse, is very reminiscent of Kiln People sans the kiln. Hope you’re benefiting in some way. If not its great to see original ideas on the tube for a change, just wish the originator gets some kudos.”
----- Here are my two books available on Kindle.
== And now - surprise - a side rriff back into politics. (Can’t help it!) ==
Compare these two sets of credibility scores:
1 - “In my view, derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal.” Warren Buffet, in his 2002 report to shareholders. Buffet is now an economics advisor to Barack Obama.
Also (on the same side of credibility), there’s the tale of Freddie Mac's Chief Risk Officer, who expressed concerns in mid-2004, that the company was buying bad loans that "would likely pose an enormous financial and reputational risk to the company and the country...leading to his being fired in 2005."
...as opposed to....
2 - "Hands off hedge funds" (February 2007, by a fellow currently in McCain’s brain trust.)
Which isn’t as staggering as what the GOP platform said in 2004. “The most significant barrier to homeownership is the down payment. We support efforts to reduce that barrier, like the American Dream Downpayment Act and Zero Downpayment Mortgages.”
Or take the worst example of all -- the actions of McCain’s chief economics advisor, former Senator Phil Gramm, to forbid and remove all oversight from derivatives market! An act that today’s shame-faced SEC Chairman Christopher Cox now calls directly and clearly responsible (along with rampant greed and failure of “self-policing”) for the mess we are in.
(Note, how the right wing bloggers are desperate to shift responsibility... now they are trying to blame a Quadrillion dollars in foolish wagers _- and twenty billions in corrupt commissions -- on a few tens of millions of dollars in loans to poor hispanics... who actually happen to repay at a rate well above the national average!)
Key point: which of those two groups (above) should have higher credibility scores? Or deserve more of our trust? Group number one or group number two?
What can we conclude from all this? Other than the fact that Obama’s economics advisor has been right a lot and McCain’s have wrought only catastrophe?
Well, let me put it quite simply. Since we seem about to have a “bailout package” as a done deal, whether w like it or not. But there is still time to shout and holler and yell for one last element of sanity, to be inserted into the bill!
Let’s pray that a single senator has the guts to stand up, threaten a filibuster, and make one demand, on our behalf.
Put Warren Buffet is put in charge of picking the securities that the Treasury will buy, with all those tax dollars. That’s Buffet... and not Paulson or anyone else who helped to make this mess.
It is a simple position to take, easy to defend. And an easy modification to make. And the result will be the best possible chance we have of breaking even, instead of this becoming a socialist klepto raid to save the hash of Paulson’s rich friends.
This is an idea that is so simple, so obvious, that even we economics dunces ought to be able to insist on it. Instead of trusting the foxes to save the chicken cook THEY have demolished... let's hire the watchdog who warned us in the first place.
Give “the world's greatest investor" one more chance to buy low and sell high. For all of us.
Want a metaphor for the monomaniacal way that our beloved ostrich friends and neighbors hide from the truth? Faced with cognitive dissonance that would make lesser delusions shatter into dust and gas, these stalwarts cling to rationalizations that vector upon the hysterical. Conjuring up incredible stories like “illegal hispanics defaulting on zero-down mortgages caused the collapse of a quadrillion dollar Ponzi scheme.”(Seriously, that fantasy is hitting the rounds!) Oh, and Obama is a marxist-muslim.
Okay, I thought of just the right metaphor! They Live is a 1988 movie directed by John Carpenter, based on Ray Nelson’s Sheckleyish 1963 short story "Eight O’Clock in the Morning". Rent it! It is truly wonderful. And there's this scene that will make you laugh & cry at the same time, in which these two big, decent-but-dumb guys beat the crap out of each other over whether the black dude will simply put on a pair of special sunglasses that will let him see the aliens who are enslaving the Earth. Oh, but what a perfect metaphor! THAT is how bad it is with ostriches. There are no levels, no criteria under which anyone could rationally defend anything that has in any way been done by the Republican party since the 1995 Welfare Reform Act. Today, they are a wholly owned subsidiary of the S'udiroyal court and every path they have sent America down has led to our further ruination. It is as clear as the twin towers were, out the window of every passenger on those planes.
But how they’ll fight for their illusions! Oh, if only it were as easy as forcing our neighbors to put on some sunglasses.
== More Stuff ==
An extensive article about alternative energy... See the part about Masda City becoming the first carbon-neutral city...
United Solar Ovonic of Auburn Hills, MI, has teamed with Centria, a major roofing company, to create a metal roof system that integrates easy-to-install, flexible thin-film amorphous-silicon photovoltaic modules. (EnergyPeak) The partnership offers seven different prefabricated systems
Google is considering deploying the supercomputers necessary to operate its Internet search engines on barges anchored up to seven miles offshore. The "water-based data centers" would use wave energy to power and cool their computers, reducing Google's costs. Their offshore status would also mean the company would no longer have to pay property tax.
Saudi Arabia plans to build a petascale supercomputer system in two years that could rank among the 10 most powerful systems in the world, and beyond that, an exascale system (1000 times as fast as petascale). http://www.kurzweilai.net/email/newsRedirect.html?newsID=9462&m=15453
Google, celebrating its 10th birthday this month, today unveiled a $10 million effort to implement ideas that can "change the world by helping as many people as possible." As part of the Project 10^100 (pronounced Project 10 to the 100th), Google plans to ask its users to submit ideas until Oct. 20 for ways to improve people's lives. Google will choose what it feels are the 100 best ideas and then allow its users to vote on which of them should be funded. The users will narrow the results to 20 finalists, and a panel of judges will choose up to five ideas that will receive funding, Google said.
Satellite company O3b Networks has linked up with Google and other investors to bring cheaper high-speed wireless Internet access via 16 satellites to areas unlikely to see investments in fiber infrastructure. O3b stands for "other 3 billion," a reference to the world's population that still can't access the Internet.
Wikileaks has developed an uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis. Wikileaks opens leaked documents up to stronger scrutiny than any media organization or intelligence agency can offer and provides a forum for the entire global community to relentlessly examine any document for its credibility, plausibility, veracity and validity. Its primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but it also expects to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations. The interface is identical to Wikipedia and usable by all types of people. To date, it has received over 1.2 million documents so far from dissident communities and anonymous sources.
The sun has reached a milestone not seen for nearly 100 years: an entire month has passed without a single visible sunspot being noted. The event is significant as many climatologists now believe solar magnetic activity – which determines the number of sunspots -- is an influencing factor for climate on earth. In the past 1000 years, three previous such events -- the Dalton, Maunder, and Spörer Minimums, have all led to rapid cooling. One was large enough to be called a "mini ice age".
If the 100 largest cities in the world replaced their dark roofs with white shingles and their asphalt-based roads with concrete or other light-colored material, it could offset 44 metric gigatons (billion tons) of greenhouse gases.http://www.kurzweilai.net/email/newsRedirect.html?newsID=9413&m=15453
Intel has reported on "free cooling" using air-side economization. An air-side economizer can draw on outside air to cool the inside a datacenter, then push the hot air that exits the machines back outdoors allowing machines to be cooled by air temperatures as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee's new World Wide Web Foundation is looking for ways to give websites a label for trustworthiness.
Melbourne-based ExitReality (http://www.exitreality.com/) said its application allows users to turn any regular website into a 3D virtual environment, where an avatar representing them can walk around and meet other browsers viewing the same website. Founder Danny Stefanic said that previously only specialized websites such as Second Life and World of Warcraft allowed users to enter a 3D environment. "ExitReality goes far beyond that," he said. "It allows you to view not just one website but the entire World Wide Web in 3D."
The Doppler technique measures the reflex radial motion of a star induced by the presence of companions and is the most successful method to detect exoplanets. If several planets are present, their signals will appear combined in the radial motion of the star, leading to potential misinterpretations of the data. Specifically, two planets in resonant orbits can mimic very efficiently the signal of a single planet in an eccentric orbit. We quantify the physical implications of this solution degeneracy using the well known harmonic expressions of keplerian motion. We find that a significant fraction of the published eccentric one-planet solutions might instead be multiple planet systems in near circular orbits, and that several planets with masses comparable to Earth could have already been detected.
In a bold move, astronomers have begun a new search to understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of intelligent life in the universe. Called which stands for Wait for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, the institute employs an entirely novel approach to achieve its goals. Instead of actively searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, the idea is to simply wait: Wait until the ETs find us. "Waiting is a notoriously under appreciated method in our efforts to search for extraterrestrial intelligence," says the "It is cheaper and less stressful than any other type of research. The WETI Institute is part of OPEU, the Organization for the Passive Exploration of the Universe.
Patches of matter in the universe seem to be moving at very high speeds and in a uniform direction that can't be explained by any of the known gravitational forces in the observable universe. Astronomers are calling the phenomenon "dark flow." The stuff that's pulling this matter must be outside the observable universe, researchers conclude. (Go ahead, read up and have your mind blown.)
Only, now consider what I can’t get anyone to talk about! Until about 5 years ago, the consensus among physicists appeared to be that our Big Bang cosmos was “all there is” and that the bag did not explode “into” anything at all. Any other universes (and they admitted that, say, black holes might either create or lead into other cosmoses) were “forever detached with different metric and no method of informational contact. In fact, so sure they were that the entire PREMISE of the Big Bang was that it arose out of a fluctuation in the Uncertainty principle... and yet would not entertain discussion of any pre-existing cosmoses within which there was an Uncertainty Principle, which could fluctuate and cause a bang!
Um... right. Only, suddenly, a few years ago, it seemed that everything changed. Suddenly, cosmologists are talking about a vast “Macros Cosmos” within which our Big Bang occurred... sharing the same essential (though vast) background context of extensive space! In other words, even though zones of this macro cosmos are supposedly forever out of contact, because of speed of light limitations, nevertheless, we share the same overall (though unbelievably vast) continuously extending metric of the same general dimensions, and pocket universes like ours exist physically side by side, boundaries touching and all that...
...which means the Bang DID “explode” INTO someplace! And... this article now implies... there are even edges that may feel an external force stronger than we do, here. ANd there may even be beings in our Bangiverse who can see what we cannot... the edge into something else. Another realm. Maybe even weird.
Oy! WHich is more boggling. These revelations? Or the blithe way the cosmologists appear to have made this change, without more than a wry shrug and a low-voiced “ooops!”
...Meanwhile -- Respected scientists have proposed a flock of theories to describe what might have happened before the birth of our familiar universe of space and time. The concepts have fanciful names such as "the big bounce," "the multiverse," "the cyclic theory," "parallel worlds," even "soap bubbles." Some propose the existence of multiple universes. Others hold that there's one universe that recycles itself endlessly, rather as Buddhists believe. Judeo-Christian theologians may have difficulty accepting any of these notions. Most of the hypotheses are variations on an older idea that the universe has no beginning and no end, contrary to the big-bang theory, which says that our universe originated at a specific point and will end sometime in the distant future. "Neither time nor the universe has a beginning or an end," two leading cosmologists, Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University and Neil Turok of Oxford University, wrote in their 2007 book, "Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang." "The evolution of the universe is cyclic, with big bangs occurring once every trillion years or so, each one accompanied by the creation of new matter and radiation that forms new galaxies, stars, planets and presumably life," they wrote. "Ours is only the most recent cycle." Some scientists contend that observational evidence may be found to back up the speculation. They say that no scientific theory can be considered valid until it's been tested. http://www.physorg.com/news141317146.html
Huhnnnnnn... is Fred Hoyle having the last laugh, after all? And is nobody noticing that all of this is TOTALLY different than just 5 years ago?
Oh, but I did hint at it in some stories!!! ;-)
Look, we’re already in the unlikely side universe in which humans were smart enough not to fry themselves with nuclear weapons. Is luck and karma balancing out now? Oh, to ride the quantum collapse wave, like a character in a Greg Egan novel!