Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cool Science Reminders We're Living in The Great Renaissance

I’ll be posting my long-delayed appraisal of the movie Surrogates, shortly.  But meanwhile, here’s a raft of links and other cool items that remind us that -- despite efforts to turn civilization toward know-nothing foolishness, we still live in an era of enlightenment and wonders.

Shawn Otto -- one of the driving forces behind the Science Debate 2008 endeavor to lift the national and worldwide awareness of science as a driver of public policy, addresses the 2009 Nobel Conference: Democracy in the Age of Science.

What should we fear? See a marvelous series of cartoon satires from Dresdan Codak of “Caveman dire-warning Science Fiction” -- especially if there had been a paleolithic Michael Crichton.

==Worldwide Networking==

The Worldwide Lexicon is a Firefox translator that makes browsing foreign language sites transparent and automatic. Just open a page, and if it is in a foreign language it will translate it, first using human edited translations submitted by other users, then via machine translation (obviously not as good, but usually sufficient to understand what is going on). The process is similar to Wikipedia in many respects, except focused on translation, and sharing interesting websites. You can fetch a beta version at www.worldwidelexicon.org  Terrific stuff.

Actually, I am writing (both in my novel & nonfiction) about how this era may represent - metaphorically -- the end of the “dispersal from the Tower of Babel."  Think about how that applies!  Oh, but it is a metaphor with resonance that goes MUCH farther -- one of many bits of scripture that can be used as potent weapons for enlightenment, in the culture wars.

Researchers from Australia and Singapore are developing a wireless ad-hoc mesh networking technology that uses mobile handsets to share and carry information including high quality video. The mesh network will make use of Bluetooth or Wifi and could be used at a large sporting event, conference, or even a crowded city centre during an emergency, to swap information between handsets - even if the mobile phone network was offline.

 Of course, this relates to one thing I have been ranting about forever -- the near-criminal lack of a back-up capability for all our cell phones to be able to pass texts, peer-to-peer (P2P) in the event of a Katrina-type (or worse) crisis.  Those who know how it could be done, and who have refused, for dismally silly rationalized reasons, should expect to be sued, for everything they have, the next time such a crisis strikes.  They’ve been warned.

Meanwhile, am I good or what?  ”A new internet game is about to be launched which allows 'super snooper' players to plug into the nation's CCTV cameras and report on members of the public committing crimes. The 'Internet Eyes' service involves players scouring thousands of CCTV cameras installed in shops, businesses and town centres across Britain looking for law-breakers. Players who help catch the most criminals each month will win cash prizes up to £1,000.”

 ==On the Rise and Fall of Great Books==

A fun rumination on the rise and fall of the Great Books....”For all their shortcomings, the Great Books—along with many other varieties of middlebrow culture—reflected a time when the liberal arts commanded more respect. They were thought to have practical value as a remedy for parochialism, bigotry, social isolation, fanaticism, and political and economic exploitation. The Great Books had a narrower conception of "greatness" than we might like today, but their foundational ideals were radically egalitarian and proudly
intellectual.”  --

DB adds: The Great Books arose out of the fertile, if weird minds of Mortimer Adler and Robert Hutchins, who together thoroughly transformed the University of Chicago into one of America’s strangest and most intellectually fertile higher institutions of learning.  The Great Books concept was modeled somewhat after the “Seven Liberal Arts” program that Martianus Minneus Felix Capella devised, to arrest intellectual decline during the fall of the Roman Empire.

I am proud to own a copy of the Great Books set... and have mostly found it useful to point-to, while telling my kids ABOUT the big minds of the past... most of whose actual words, insights and passages have almost no direct usefulness in the modern age.  But knowing a lot about such people, and the context of their thinking, is vital.  And some of them are absolutely essential to read in the original, even today.  Karl Marx, Adam Smith, the Federalist Papers, Freud’s Original Introductory Lectures (and little else from Freud), these a person must at least try to understand in depth, in order to grasp the issues of our day.

See my posting: Scholarship vs. Science

==Picking up the Tools==

andromedra-galaxySee a wondrous UV portrait of the Andromeda galaxy -- a mosaic of images from the SWIFT telescope.

And now a weird sidestep of “dark energy.” An accelerating wave of expansion following the Big Bang could push what later became matter out across the universe, spreading galaxies farther apart the more distant they got from the wave’s center. If this did happen, it would account for the fact that supernovae were dim—they were in fact shoved far away at the very beginning of the universe. But this would’ve been an isolated event, not a constant accelerating force. Their explanation of the 1998 observations does away with the need for dark energy. The theory is attractive because it describes the effect astronomers observed using only general relativity. It also provides a mechanism for a scenario that’s been discussed in cosmology for some time, the “bubble of underdensity”—the idea that the Earth might be in an area with a low mass density compared to the rest of the universe, which would account for the distance of the supernovae. .... This model would require Earth to be at the center of the universe. In other words, it would violate the Copernican principle, which states that the Earth does not have a special, favored place and that the universe is essentially homogeneous.

Is your city prepared for a home-made nuke? (Somebody gist this article for the rest of us?)

For those who always wanted to see through wallsThe way radio signals vary in a wireless network can reveal the movement of people behind closed doors. Variance-based radio tomographic imaging processes the signals to reveal signs of movement. They've even tested the idea with a 34-node wireless network using the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless protocol. Signal strength at any point in a network is the sum of all the paths the radio waves can take to get to the receiver. Any change in the volume of space through which the signals pass, for example caused by the movement of a person, makes the signal strength vary. So by "interrogating" this volume of space with many signals, picked up by multiple receivers, it is possible to build up a picture of the movement within it.

Champions of free will, take heart. A landmark 1980s experiment that purported to show free will doesn't exist is being challenged. In 1983, neuroscientist Benjamin Libet asked volunteers wearing scalp electrodes to flex a finger or wrist. When they did, the movements were preceded

Nerve cells will grow and generate synapses with an artificial component, in this case, plastic beads coated with a substance that encourages adhesion and attracts the nerve cells, McGill University researchers have found. This approach bypasses the need to force nerve cells to artificially grow long distances... interestingly, the article doesn’t even mention paraplegics. The government of England plans to put 20,000 more problem families under 24-hour CCTV supervision in their own homes to ensure that children attend school, go to bed on
time and eat proper food.

A 10- to 20-megawatt plasma rocket could propel  missions to Mars in just 39 days, whereas conventional rockets would take six months or more.

3GS is the first iPhone with an internal compass - Augmented Reality (AR) apps use your phone's GPS to know where you are and the compass to know which direction you're looking at. Then these two apps can tell you what you're looking at that's written up in Wikipedia and/or Cyclopedia -- the beginnings of augmented reality that I first depicted in EARTH.

Increasing the activity of beta brain waves can make people move in slow motion.

By disabling a gene involved in an important biochemical signaling pathway involving a protein called target of rapamycin (TOR), scientists have discovered a way to mimic the anti-aging benefits of caloric restriction, allowing mice to live longer and healthier lives.  nu?  I still hold to my wager.  We’ll find that humans already throw most of these switches.  For us, it won't be that easy.

By connecting electrodes and radio antennas to the nervous systems of beetles, University of California, Berkeley engineers were able to make them take off, dive and turn on command. Funded by DARPA, the project's goal is to create fully remote-controlled insects able to perform tasks such as looking for survivors after a disaster.

Sidewiki, a new Google Toolbar for Firefox and Internet Explorer, allows users to publicly annotate any page on the web, and could become a universal commenting system. Google could use sentiment analysis to see users' reactions to a page and then influence search
results.

Speaking of Augmented reality -- with Mobilizy's just-released Augmented Reality Mark-up Language (ARML), programmers can more easily create location-based content for AR applications -- the equivalent of HTML for the Web.

Scientists Make Paralyzed Rats Walk Again After Spinal-cord Injury.

DrakeEquationA mathematical equation that counts habitats suitable for alien life could complement the Drake equation, which estimates the probability of finding intelligent alien beings elsewhere in the galaxy. That equation, developed in 1960 by U.S. astronomer Frank Drake, estimates the probability of intelligent life existing elsewhere in our galaxy by considering the number of stars with planets that could support life.  The new equation, under development by planetary scientists at the Open University in Milton Keynes, England, aims to develop a single index for habitability based on the presence of energy, solvents such as water, raw materials like carbon and whether or not there are benign environmental conditions.  Ah... but... Astrobiologist and physicist Paul Davies, of the University of Arizona in Tuscon, said it was a "pointless exercise" as the equation refers only to life as we know it.  I tend to agree with Paul.

The “State of the World” report makes for powerful reading.

Stirling Energy Systems (SES), based in Phoenix, has decreased the complexity and cost of its technology for converting the heat in sunlight into electricity, allowing for high-volume production. It will begin building very large solar-thermal power plants using its equipment as soon as next year.

Is The Atlantic finally emerging from its love affair with troglodytic postmodernist reactionary anti-futurism?  Perhaps, if they are publishing Jamais Cascio: Get Smarter:  “Pandemics. Global warming. Food shortages. No more fossil fuels. What are humans to do? The same thing the species has done before: evolve to meet the challenge. But this time we don’t have to rely on natural evolution to make us smart enough to survive. We can do it ourselves, right now, by harnessing technology and pharmacology to boost our intelligence. Is Google actually making us smarter?

3D Holograms that can be touched with bare hands have been developed by researchers from the University of Tokyo. Called the Airborne Ultrasound Tactile Display, the hologram projector uses an ultrasound phenomenon called acoustic radiation pressure to create a pressure sensation on a user's hands, which are tracked with two Nintendo Wiimotes.

Technion-Israel Institute of Technology researchers have created a prototype micro robot that can crawl through the human body. It is only a millimeter in diameter and 14 millimeters long, so it can get into the body's smallest areas. It is powered by either actuation through magnetic force located outside the body, or through an on-board battery.

New terahertz-detecting technology could make "intimate" body-search-at-a-distance cameras as cheap and easy as conventional video shots.

Open-innovation models succeed only when carefully designed for a particular task and when the incentives are tailored to attract the most effective collaborators, say collective-intelligence analysts.

Okay, there's lots more.  But let me part with this.  Anyone who thinks that all this scientific discovery doesn't have profound theological implications, akin to any conceivable meaning of the word "revelation"; has to have a hole in his head.  We are picking up His tools... whether He exists or not, that is impressive stuff.  Any Father worthy of respect would be proud for us.



43 comments:

Tony Fisk said...

Must try Sidewiki.

Google is probably making us smarter in the sense that it is giving us greater access to knowledge (I often quip of memory as being 'the inner google') and thereby allowing our smarts greater play.

...here's a question, though: is it making us more or less productive?

(You all know who are ;-)

Robert Synnott said...

Do you have a proper source for the CCTV thing? I remember hearing about it at the time; the only primary source seems to be the Daily Express, an extremely sleazy tabloid with a reputation for making stuff up. All the other papers mentioned a programme aimed at providing extra social workers for 20,000 'problem families'.

Max Weismann said...

A Twentieth-Century Delusion

A cultural delusion is widespread in the twentieth century. The extraordinary progress in science and technology that we have achieved in this century has deluded many of our contemporaries into thinking that similar progress obtains in other fields of mental activity. They unquestioningly think that the twentieth century is superior to its predecessors in all the efforts of the human mind.

Some of our contemporaries make this inference consciously and explicitly. They do not hesitate to declare that the twentieth century has a better, a more advanced and sounder, solution of moral and political problems, that it is more critically penetrating in its philosophical thought, and that it is superior in its understanding of, and even in its wisdom about, the perennial questions that confront human beings in every generation.

The Great Ideas and issues and the Great Conversation concerning these ideas that can be found in the Great Books is not for them. Their minds are closed to the possibility that they may be wrong in the inference they have made without examining the evidence to the contrary.

Woozle said...

A new site which seems (at first glance; haven't checked it out) to fulfill the basic definition of a predictions registry: PredictionBook

Does Sidewiki support Linux? Google Chrome doesn't, which is the only reason I haven't tried it.

Gilmoure said...

A good overview of the great books: The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages by Harold Bloom. Bloom's an interesting writer and thinker and his books are pretty approachable and readable. If nothing else, he states very clearly why he thinks his list of books deserver to be read and studied. Makes a good springboard if you're trying to get a handle on Western Culture.

There's a hand held Wikipedial gadget. Carries all of Wikipedia offline, and allows updates when connected to network. Talk about Elephants' Memory.

David Brin said...

How ironic! Gilmoure mentions Harold Bloom, an interesting fellow, though also one who got himself into various kinds of trouble. As opposed to Allan Bloom, whose Closing of the American Mind is a critique of the contemporary society akin to Spengler's Decline of the West, predicting total breakdown of the intellect, for reasons having to do with education-deterioration and lefty political correctness.

Naturally, Allan Bloom was a darling of the curmugeon right... back when the right bothered to offer interesting reasoned critique. For every infuriating and wrongheaded think he said, there was usually something else that seemed interesting and well-supported, skewering some poorly based leftist shibboleth.

As you all know, I have spent time of my own eviscerating lefty flakes, especially the Patronizing Paternalistic PostModernist Political-Correctness Police -- PaPaPoMoPoCoPos -- who infest so many university Lit and English and "special studies" departments. I consider them, at their worst, to be intellectually equivalent to the utterly bankrupt neocons on the far right. With one crucial difference.

The Neocons own and operate a political party and ran my beloved country deep into the ground, and manifest a clear and present danger to Western Civilization and my children. While the papapomopocopos are a gaggle of pathetic ninnies whose only EFFECTIVE harm has been to attack and diss science fiction, with all their might. (Putzes.)

Both types despise the future, of course. Both types of dogmatic assholes hate science. Which brings us to Max's point (welcome Max!)

Max, though I miss Allan's Bloom's intellectual cogency (now entirely missing, on the right) I do not miss his dyspeptic-retro troglodytism and nostalgia for a better past that never, ever existed. Like Spengler, his kind have always predicted the iminent collapse of the West, and we somehow always manage to prove them wrong.

WHile the 1st half of the 20th Century was a spiral into hell, the second half -- Pax Americana -- was the steepest RISE in humanity and civilization in all of history.

Not only has the per capita rate of violence, war, starvation, or oppression plummeted to its lowest point, ever, but with science at our backs, we have turned our attention to erasing the myriad stupid rationalizations by which we used to excuse racism, sexism classism -- and have thus unleashed vast new pools of human capability.

Seriously, grouchiness is a basic personality trait that transcends all superficial politics. Take my "Questionnaire" at:

http://www.davidbrin.com/questionnaire.htm

But glad to have your voice here!

Rob said...

Which of those Bloom's is responsible for the learning taxonomy?

Gilmoure said...

Speaking of Sterling Engines and Solar production;

New SunCatcher™ power system unveiled at National Solar Thermal Test Facility

Stirling Energy Systems (SES) and Tessera Solar recently unveiled four newly designed solar power collection dishes at Sandia National Laboratories’ National Solar Thermal Test Facility (NSTTF). Called SunCatchers™, the new dishes have a refined design that will be used in commercial-scale deployments of the units beginning in 2010.

“The four new dishes are the next-generation model of the original SunCatcher system. Six first-generation SunCatchers built over the past several years at the NSTTF have been producing up to 150KW [kilowatts] of grid-ready electrical power during the day,” says Chuck Andraka, the lead Sandia project engineer. “Every part of the new system has been upgraded to allow for a high rate of production and cost reduction.”


My apologies if I've posted this story before. Cool stuff like this is why I love my work. I'm just a desktop support guy but if I can help keep engineers and scientists focused on their work and not worrying why their computer is blue screening, then I'm helping things get better.

Gilmoure said...

Dr. Brin, on Harold Bloom's 'trouble', are you referring to Naomi Wood's sexual harassment thing or his conservative views on higher education and philosophy? I just did a quick google of 'Harold Bloom news' and that's the two things I see coming up.

I'll admit to not being to hip on the whole post-modernist stuff involving literature and such; I just like how what I've read of Bloom (Western Canon and his big book on Shakespeare) is actually understandable and such. I came across him at the book store, trying to learn about that whole other section of books outside of the SF/F section. 'Course, he only focuses on literature, poetry, and essays, ignoring a lot of the mathematical stuff in the Great Books but he still covers a lot of them and explains why they're worth reading.

Oh yeah, truthfully, have I gone and read any of the 'great books' (we had early 80's complete EB at home with them)? Just the fun ones like the Illiad and Don Quixote.

Gilmoure said...

ob said...
Which of those Bloom's is responsible for the learning taxonomy?


Looks like that's Benjamin Bloom. Who knew there were so many influential Blooms out there?

Rob said...

They need a county all their own

Tim H. said...

Berkely Breathed is sorely missed.

matthew said...

One of my college buddies was Mr. Breathed's next door neighbor. My buddy had a custom Bill the Cat drawing commemorating his high school graduation and the upcoming loss of Mr. Breathed's lawn mowing service. I was (and still am) *SO* jealous.

Duncan Cairncross said...

David,
I am not sure if I agree about your comment about the first half of the 20th Century, the last half of the 19th Century overall seems to be even worse than the excesses of Hitler and Stalin.

I see this as a bumpy upward trend so that a monster in the 20th century would have been unexceptional in the nineteenth.

I agree about the massive improvements in the last fifty years

matthew said...

The Crystal Spheres anyone?

Wired article describes the changing understanding of the shape and makeup of the heliosphere.

The five articles the Wired article is based upon are behind a paywall at the October 15 Science . Anyone with the technical knowhow and access want to report back to us?

Sociotard said...

Put your hands on your hearts and hold a moment of silence, as another dream of "green" energy passes into that long dark night.

http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2009/04/renewable_fuel_plants_stinking.html

The dream: To turn turkey guts, bones and feathers into oil, eventually expanding and reducing the nation's dependence on foreign oil by half.

Brian Appel, owner of Renewable Environmental Solutions, last month filed for Chapter 11 in bankruptcy court in New York and laid off about 50 employees at the plant.

Michael said...

The way to find extraterrestrial life: Find systems in sustained thermodynamic disequilibrium.

Any more specific than that and you risk ruling out life-not-as-we-know it.

And anyway, it should be a simple enough thing to recognize if we see it.

Anonymous said...

The FCC has just issued a call for public comment on a recent study that advocates forcing big internet providers to open their networks to create more competition.

You guys know what to do.

David Brin said...

anon... while I favor net neutrality in general, I think a small charge per massive video-hog load use is appropriate. Also, Net commerce is mature and no longer a baby in its cradle. It is time to charge a national 5% sales tax on net-purchases.

Michael, that is the requirement for life to exist (see SUNDIVER!) But for it to evolve INTO existence you need something like an aqueous medium in which random elements can keep churning and colliding and combining and gradually accumulating/selecting.

David Brin said...

I'm not the only one thinking these thoughts...

American political discourse has gotten increasingly nasty over the past 10 months, with brutal rhetoric spilling from talk radio to town hall meetings to the very halls of Congress. When anti-government protesters openly carry loaded weapons at rallies and Texas Gov. Rick Perry hints at the possibility of secession, you might wonder whether the nation is actually at the brink of civil war over the unlikely issue of healthcare reform. Sadly, the commentators and politicians who exploit such threats of violence and revolution seem to have forgotten what the real Civil War was about, and what it was like. Now would be a good time to start remembering, because, as it happens, the first pitched battle of our bloodiest war began exactly 150 years ago today.

http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2009/10/16/john_brown/index.html?source=rss&aim=/opinion/feature

Hey... let's run an online contest for NEW LYRICS FOR THE BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC! Anyone care to set up a site?

Ilithi Dragon said...

Hmmm... I can't lay any claim to have any skill in song or lyric writing, but I do like the idea of adding more verses to the Battle Hymn of the Republic. It's always been one of my favorite songs, despite it's heavy Christian overtones (as I'm a non-religious pagan, such things are a little off-putting).

Ilithi Dragon said...

Hmmm... Again, I make absolutely not claims to any skill as a lyrics writer, but I figured I'd give a new verse a shot. How does this sound?

In the fires of revolution / was born our liberty.
With the blood of noble patriots / 'twas anointed valiantly.
Forged in war and battle / and tempered by serenity,

Our Cause is marching on!

The very last bit, before the 'marching on' refrain sticks a little, and could probably use some work, but I'm glad that I at least got it to fit into the rhyming pattern.

David Brin said...

Keep the first verse, of course, the only one folks know. Try to keep to the TONE of righteous fury...

...and frankly KEEP GOD IN IT!

Take this into the next posting!! (Now available online!)

lc said...

The infrastructure is happening!

A McDonald's in Pacific Beach (San Diego) is installing electric-vehicle chargers for its customers to use while they eat.


http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2009/oct/08/plug-plump/

captain-button said...

I think part of a paragraph got omitted here:

Champions of free will, take heart. A landmark 1980s experiment that purported to show free will doesn't exist is being challenged. In 1983, neuroscientist Benjamin Libet asked volunteers wearing scalp electrodes to flex a finger or wrist. When they did, the movements were preceded

…'by a dip in the signals being recorded, called the "readiness potential". Libet interpreted this RP as the brain preparing for movement.'

Digressing from quibbling, Brad Delong mentioned you in a recent lecture, praising your bit about aristocratic fantasy versus democratic science fictio :

http://delong.typepad.com/slouching/2009/10/econ-115-lecture-notes-october-13-2009-tyrannies.html

Only in the audio version. Start at 20:29 for the context, or 21:40 for the actual reference.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

This is interesting,... since the update to the iPhone OS 3.0, and new under the hood modifications of the device itself -- I was pretty sure the iPhone would end up becoming the first "TriCorder" -- you know, from Star Trek.

The demoed the new improvements about a year ago at the developer's conference with a blood glucose monitor. Now, that's nothing all that new and there are lots of stand alone devices that can do this -- but the COOL thing, is that developing the application is relatively easy, and you've already got protocols for all sorts of devices (MIDI, robotic, etc.) through the iPhone's port -- it's not just for data transfer and power.

When Steve Jobs was at NeXT, their object oriented development lead to the first steps on making HTML browsers. They also had what was called a "geek port" a port that was designed for sensing devices and real time data acquisition. I remember that you had to buy a card to do this on the Mac for having inputs -- so at the time, it was useful and new for scientists.

Now we have some bright guy at NASA adding in a chemical nano sensor (those labs on a chip) to the geek port on an iPhone. The article says "on a cell phone" but at a guess, I'm pretty sure that the built in ease of use and the protocols for sensor data are not there. Here's the LINK.

I expect that in less than a year, there will be an adapter for all kinds of sensing equipment that is designed for the iPhone port.

>> What's really nice at this for our piratical lives, is that all sorts of medical equipment, doesn't need proprietary computers, platforms, diagnostics and the like. You just really need the sensing equipment, and then a developer to interpret that on the iPhone platform. There has never been a generic, portable platform to take all this gaggle of information out there and not force everyone to re-invent the wheel.

I think there is already adapters to plug into cars for their diagnostic info (but many manufacturers encrypt this now so that they can sell this stuff for big bucks to the repair shops).

>> I expect lots of sensory and advanced imaging acquisitions that were once the stuff of a lab or advanced KGB, will be available for hobbyists and geeks to play around with for pretty cheap -- since the sensors themselves seem available on the web for far, far less than devices that are built to use them.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

I think the Lefty Curmudgeons who infest Universities are their own unique flora and fauna.

There are actual Lefties, who watch CNN and debate these issues as if what is presented were real -- I think it's an affliction of most of the populace.

The Left/Right divisions -- which are probably best described as Modernist/Romantic -- means that the Curmudgeon political correct lefties are better described as Romantics.

I always thought that I'd one day start a "Pragmatist Party" -- but the Progressives came along and I thought "close enough." Bill Clinton once captured my imagination (while during the distraction, doing the same corporatist theft with NAFTA with his left), by suggesting that we could try a lot of educational and health systems in different areas and see which one worked the best.

That's the only hope we have; that States solve some health care issues, and then other Governors see what works and latch onto it. Is it Berney Sander's state that is doing single payer or Howard Deans (I forget)? And it is working fabulously to reduce costs and improve care.

Our Federal government isn't even in the realm of Modernist/Romantic, it's more about Money/More Money from their sponsors. I recommend NASCAR style jackets so that when John McCain goes out and talks about Net Liberty -- you know who paid for it.

>> I'm still thinking that the "Pax Americana" that Dr . Brin so believes in is more like trying to give one country credit for the industrial revolution. I'll present an alternate concept that is sure to be controversial; Pax Americana was really the effect of Television and Movies entering the world psyche. The folks in Hollywood picked up the idea of the "American Dream" and put it onto celluloid. And enough of the rest of the world looked at it and said; "That's how it should be."

We never had an alternative -- not really, beyond Church's and state propaganda and a few smatterings of books for a way to create a new reality.

I'd say the time of America being a role for good in the world was perhaps between Teddy Roosevelt and ended with Reagan. Not a huge span of time that we weren't outright imperialists.

And I think it was only pragmatism that made the 20th Century imperialism come in a softer glove. The hard-handed British style costs too much. Much better to just bribe some politician in another country and give them an offer to exploit their own people for your corporation -- bananas or bauxite. If they don't play ball, you negotiate with the next guy after the small plane crash. Way, way cheaper, and everybody who sustains the system, is bought in and wealthy and wants to maintain that status quo.

If some guy in Honduras wants to raise minimum wage for starving sweat shop workers -- your School of the Americas trained military boys "fight for freedom." Between this systemic kleptocracy and Hugo Chavez -- is there any inspired vision of the future for Latin America?

>> And sorry to move from positive to negative -- but this system is coming to America and I don't see Obama as a leader addressing it. Other countries and industries buy up our representatives, and they find new ways to steal from us and give to them. Then hire astro turf groups and news reporters to tell us how Tariffs are bad and we've got to make income tax simpler with larger sales (consumption) taxes. The 7-9% that business pays in the tax burden is down from the 30-40% it was in the 40's.

It's all shifting of costs and burdens. And pretty soon nobody is going to own what is in their country -- it will be some third party overseas. The Spanish-built toll roads in Texas will complement the Texas built prisons in Spain one day.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

>> Sorry if I've mentioned this before; As far as scanning for Life on other planets -- I think they found already the Easiest way to narrow the search; Scan for Polarized light coming from a planet.

In a quirk of chemistry from medium sized suns like our own Sol, many of the building blocks of life end up being left-handed molecules. And even if life is not propagated in a protein form between stars -- it's likely that conservation of energy means that MOST life will likely end up being right-handed peptides.

Molecules in nature, are -- I suppose, randomly refracting light -- meaning, not selecting for polarity. Life on earth, reflects polarized light.

also called Chirality.

Testing for the temperature gradients and the like, requires a lot more resolution.

>> If there is advanced life out there -- and of course, we all know that there is -- they should have been aware of us for quite some time. That they might have watched, or meddled is perhaps most limited by if there is Faster Than Light travel in this Universe and if advanced races have curiosity. My best guess is that there is an intergalactic policy to not disturb the natives in an open way. Not so sure about an prohibitions on "gardening."

Fake_William_Shatner said...

David Brin said...
anon... while I favor net neutrality in general, I think a small charge per massive video-hog load use is appropriate. Also, Net commerce is mature and no longer a baby in its cradle. It is time to charge a national 5% sales tax on net-purchases.


I'm going to disagree. #1, I think ALL sales taxes are regressive. Bill Gates probably eats less stake and wars the same number of pants as I do. His 16% effective tax rate on Dividends is also a sweet deal.

The Internet Service Providers already bill people and you sign up for "unlimited" downloads -- some of them have caps. If they think that moving video is so onerous -- then why not have a general Cost-per-Gig? Well, one it would cost a tiny bit to track -- and the other, it wouldn't let them get their hand into what they really want to do; Prioritize traffic to add revenue.

Lot's of people use Skype to communicate with audio and video for free. Already in Canada, some ISPs have been admitting that they've been purposely "slowing" those packets.

It's not about Utility for the Public -- or even real costs for the ISP. The Taxpayer in the US paid $500 Billion to build the backbone of the web -- and we have yet to be paid back. ISPs provide switching and maybe a few watts of electricity -- you could build a web WITHOUT any switching in Point-to-Point and the only service you would need is the DNS (Domain Name Servers) that translate the IP #s into names like "Yahoo.com" and "Google.com."

A University professor figured out a way to do our phone system the same way. AT&T just forces you to pay for a land-line with their DSL service because they can get away with it.

It's all Business for profits sake -- nothing else.

If COMCAST and their like, can get their hands on packet prioritization -- the video you buy from them will come through quickly, Skype will move like a dog with broken legs, and your FREE blog will be a lot slower than Fox News articles about fighting against Medical Socialism.

The "excuse" is not in line with the potential Abuse. Last I'd heard -- there was about 90% "Dark Fiber" -- meaning, fiber optic backbone that was un-utilized.

>> The "video hoggs" are using their internet service that they paid for. If the ISPs have a problem with that -- they can provide new terms of service and see if someone will pay for it. But going to Congress to get them to be able to "pick and choose" is what these changes are about.

The most benign is that they want to provide you all your telephony and entertainment as a single source captive market -- rather than you escaping the clutches of Baby Bells who want to charge you $50 a month for a land line that cost them almost nothing -- and another $80 for a cell phone, and another $35 for internet Access. Oh, and maybe Dish Network for $50 a month.

New technologies would mean that you can just plug in a USB device and get $30 unlimited WiMax based internet connection with Clear.com that can also function on 4G as well. I just tested this out in Georgia and I did indeed get about 6 mps down and 1mps up on the Macbook Pro. I could go a lot of places around here and Skype with anyone, and watch TV on Hulu. I don't even need a land line sucker fee for my DSL.

So it's all about money -- and it could also effectively sensor "non commercial" content that might distract you.

>> And FYI -- Apple Computers is rumored to be providing movie and TV via iTunes for a monthly subscription charge of $30.

So the Cable, Communications and Internet Service providers are really worried about the new freedom that you could enjoy with a fast network and no restrictions. So obviously some sort of bill labelled "to protect the children" will have to pop up.

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