In the latest issue of Discover Magazine, you’ll find an article - "Advice for the Next President" - that includes my own humble suggestions, alongside to those of Edward O. Wilson, Steven Weinberg, Jack Horner, C. Everett Koop, Danny Hillis, Peter Singer and other luminaries. Our combined proposals - to whoever wins the White House - are important, if we're to reclaim America's role as a dynamic leader in world science, education and technology.
Meanwhile, the ever-perspicacious Oliver Morton wrote in praise of my bro Kim Stanley Robinson, calling him one of Earth’s “Environmental Heroes,” in a special edition of Time Magazine.
And, of course, felicitations to Paul Krugman, winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics and not only a smart fellow, but also a longtime science fiction fan. If he wants signed copies of the Killer Bees’ SECOND FOUNDATION TRILOGY, that tied together Isaac Asimov’s famed universe (purportedly the inspiration for his career in economics), he has only to ask.
Regarding current events -- and bringing them close to home.
--- Let’s remember that some of our typical American attitude of total autonomy from our communities arose out of wealth and good times. Generally, humans have been far more tribal, because our ancestors’ lives depended on the goodwill and help and teamwork that we shared with others. In other words, this may be a good time to think about building up your neighborhood’s... well neighborliness... your community organization, your ad hoc street party group, your local potluck group, your nearby friends. There are many potential benefits:
* lots of ways to save money by exchanging barter services and possibly goods! Or exchange leads to good handymen etc.
* discussing how to share info on emergency readiness or neighborhood safety/resilience.
* gathering connections for mutual support.
I’ve lately helped the mighty philanthropy-thinker, Heather Wood-Ion, to come up with a list of possible things folks can do, to help enliven their neighborhoods and maybe make neighborliness a source of strength. Highly recommended! For those of you who live in neighborhoods that aren’t completely disfunctional... that is.
---> and now... science stuff!
== Potporri ==
--- Next week, industry experts will gather in London for the first Landfill Mining Conference. The idea is simple. Instead of disappearing under mountains of our own waste, while paying through the nose for diminishing commodities, why not dig up and recycle what we have already thrown away? Of course, this is a direct and explicit prediction from my novel Earth! (Somebody send them that scene?) Indeed, want irony? Who has the premium landfills? Americans, who were ridiculed as “wasteful” all those years. THAT’LL show em!
--- The Institute for the Future announces its revolutionary, new Massively Multiplayer Forcasting Game platform--a research platform that is open to the public, engages thousands of people around the globe in thinking about the future, and most importantly, helps us collectively shape a better world. the first game designed using this platform is SUPERSTRUCT, which is scheduled to launch on October 6 and runs until November 6, 2008. For a preview of the game, visit the Superstruct site today and watch videos for each of the five Superthreats or read the Global Extinction Awareness System (GEAS) report that sets the 2019 context. My friends and leading futurists Bob Johansen and Howard Rheingold are involved. Give it a try and report back! Such tools are needed.
--- Huh... fun. “Galaxiki is a wiki based online galaxy - each star, each planet and each moon is represented by one wiki page that can be edited by its site members.”
--- While I support the shift of the center-consensus toward a cautious resumption of nuclear power, I do hope the skeptics will play an important and useful role, by criticizing and applying “citokate” to the developing endeavor. Here is a great source of some educational and enlightening (if skeptical) insights, courtesy of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
--- Stefan Jones suggests you see this proof that not all aristocrats are uncool!
--- See about a very moving documentary about homeless vets, created by a neighbor of mine.
== Miscellany from Science! ==
(Some of these with thanks to Ray Kurzweil.)
Bucking the growing notion that human evolution has been accelerating, lately, a professor argues that there were three components to evolution – natural selection, mutation and random change. “Quite unexpectedly, we have dropped the human mutation rate because of a change in reproductive patterns.... Human social change often changes our genetic future,” he said, citing marriage patterns and contraception as examples. Although chemicals and radioactive pollution could alter genetics, one of the most important mutation triggers is advanced age in men....A drop in the number of older fathers will thus have a major effect on the rate of mutation.” (Okay, professor, so this is your line to use with a younger woman? “Hey, want to mate with an older guy in order to maximize mutations?”)
--- New research indicates that in situations in which a person is not in control, they're more likely to spot patterns where none exist, see illusions, and believe in conspiracy theories. This is actually kind of important!
--- UCSD researchers have designed a system to exploit that to test for any surface contamination on the surface of, well, anything. Their idea uses a thin layer of metal drilled with nanoscale holes, laid onto the surface being tested. When the perforated plate is zapped with laser light, the surface plasmons that form emit light with a frequency related to the materials touching the plate. A sensitive light detector is needed to measure the frequency of light given off. The team says devices using this approach can be small and portable, will work on very low power, and could detect everything from explosives to bacteria. Coming soon to your cell phone! And then my EARTH predictions registry wiki.
--- Earth may be trapped in an abnormal bubble of space-time that is particularly void of matter. Scientists say this condition could account for the apparent acceleration of the universe's expansion, for which “dark energy” currently is the leading explanation. (“Agh! this, from the same folks who blithely insisted there was NO external expanse of spacetime that we were “exploding into”! Has NOBODY else noticed how the physicists are sidestepping a central tenet, like republicans trying to claim they always believed the climate was changing!)
--- Could the 700,000 liters of superfluid helium bathed in the powerful magnetic fields of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) result in a major explosion by behaving as a supercold Bose Einstein Condensate (BEC), which have been found to explode when subjected to magnetic fields, resulting in a "Bose supernova"? (Calm down. They are just talking about blowing up a piece of CERN - not the planet.)
== Did I manage to stay non-political? ==
Only I am going to use the “comments section” (below) to dump a bunch of political riffs -- some of them variants on things I already already said -- different versions and drafts -- that have been clogging the pores, just to get them out there and off my desktop.
God love us.