Thursday, July 22, 2010
New on Kindle...plus science and more...
Startide Rising and Sundiver (and the other Uplift books) are now out on electronic versions including Kindle, Sony Reader and Nook! Spread the word!
I ponder the political and psychological gears and wheels that churned in the mind of science fiction master Robert A. Heinlein, in a recent essay for Tor Books, focusing especially on the author’s prescriptive utopia BEYOND THIS HORIZON.
This is still one of the coolest things I have ever seen.
H+ Magazine is having a reboot. Have a look! It is worth your interest and support.
Worries about Corexit and other petroleum “dispersants” continue to grow, as BP pours thousands of gallons of these substances into the Gulf of Mexico (paling in comparison to the amount that Exxon and others use every year, in the Niger Delta.) Toxity and mutagen potential appears to have a great many people very concerned.
The same blogger has useful and interesting citations regarding the possible “tipping point” cascade that could result, if we ever see runaway release of undersea methane hydrates, or the volatiles now locked in permafrost.
When you cough into your hands, you cover your hand in virus," said study author Nick Wilson, an associate professor of public health at the Otago University campus in Wellington. "Then you touch doorknobs, furniture and other things. And other people touch those and get viruses that way," he explained. Health officials recommend that people sneeze into their elbow, in a move sometimes called 'the Dracula' for its resemblance to a vampire suddenly drawing up his cape. But only about 1 in 77 did that.
Interesting tech notions from Vinay Gupta.
The flying car proceeds apace!
Cool! Blimps in our future.
== More Science High ==
“Our own Universe may be the interior of a black hole existing in another universe." So concludes Nikodem Poplawski at Indiana University in a remarkable paper about the nature of space and the origin of time. The idea that new universes can be created inside black holes and that our own may have originated in this way has been the raw fodder of science fiction for many years. But a proper scientific derivation of the notion has never emerged. Today Poplawski provides such a derivation. He says the idea that black holes are the cosmic mothers of new universes is a natural consequence of a simple new assumption about the nature of spacetime.
The men who want to be cryonically preserved — and the women who sometimes find it hard to be married to them. (A really fascinating article focusing on my colleague Robin Hanson, who is a future-oriented extropian economist, and his wife, Peggy Jackson who works in a hospice. A philosophical conundrum.)
I don't know about this, but it shows how far government secrecy has gone Top Secret in its network of government and its contractors:
American creativity scores have been falling since 1990, College of William & Mary researchers have discovered. One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing videogames rather than engaging in creative activities. Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools. Meanwhile, other countries — in Europe and China especially — are making creativity development a national priority.
== Angel’s Flight ==
Check out the Idea lab: A predictions market in science and technology. The Woodrow Wilson Science & Technology Innovation Program has begun an online predictions market: You can sign in and place a bet with virtual dollars.Predictions markets aggregate public opinion, and have proved fairly successful in forecasting elections and business trends. You can bet on when the number of explanets discovered will reach 500. Or: Which Millennium Prize problem will be solved next?
A new role playing game: you vs. the national debt. An online game that involves players in reining in government spending
The food industry is investing heavily in nanotechnology. Possibilities: programmable nano-foods customized to individual tastes, nanosize powders to increase nutrient absorption, anitimicrobial nanofilms to prevent spoilage, nano-encapsulated flavor enhancers, self-cleaning cutting boards, nanocapsules that add omega-3 fatty acids, foods that change flavor mid-course. Yet reassuring the public is another matte.
An excellent resource is The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, a partnership with the Woodrow Wilson Intl Center. They list inventories of products on the market, and offer a primer on nanotechnology.
One example of a nano-product is Canola Active Oil, which delivers chemicals via nano-capsules that prevent cholesterol from entering the bloodstream. The promise of nanotechnology: to efficiently feed billions, meanwhile preventing food spoilage, sickness and bacterial infections – remains a distant vision. The food industry is not publicizing their investments in nanotechnology, as the public is wary of such advances; very little risk assessment has been done on how these particles enter our bodies. Another field where nano-technology is widely being used, and largely unregulated is cosmetics: sunscreen, make up, anti-wrinkle creams – which offer to penetrate more deeply into the skin. See:
Dean Kamen's low cost water purifier: The Slingshot
A company in Cleveland introduces a program to introduce 3D printers into high schools: Bits from Bytes. Teens design a product on their computer, and then get to manufacture their project…yielding something they can hold in their hand.
Frank Smith sent this link: a self-replicating machine. A desktop 3D printer capable of printing plastic objects. If you've got a RepRap you can print another RepRap for a friend…
== A CO2 based acidification crisis for plankton? ==
CO2 is the ubiquitous greenhouse gas emitted by human activity, particularly fossil-fuel and forest burning. As levels rise in the atmosphere (currently at 390 parts per million and counting), the ocean's surface waters absorb more of the molecule. This –CO2 mixture forms carbonic acid, which slightly lowers the ocean's overall pH (the lower the pH, the more acidic). More means less calcium carbonate—and less material for shell-building and of all sizes, including the nannoplankton that constitute the base of the food chain.Of course the present era is hardly the first time the planet has seen higher levels of CO2. In fact, roughly 121 million years ago—during an age known as the early Aptian—global CO2 levels were likely higher than 800 ppm (and possibly as high as 2,000 ppm) thanks to cataclysmic volcanic eruptions. Now published in Science July 23 shows how ancestors of today's nannoplankton fared in those acidic oceans of long ago.
== A FINAL NOTE ABOUT SETI ==
Here’s a cool article about “Benford Beacons”... describing how my pal (and co-author) Gregory Benford -- along with his brother and nephew -- figured out the real way that advanced aliens would be likely to use radio to contact bright newcomers (like us). It turns out they would not do it the way the SETI Institute has assumed. There is almost no way that their Allen Array would catch anything, because ET would find it up to a million times more efficient to “spot check” our solar system, with brief, occasional beams.
But a network of 5,000 cheaper dishes, scattered in back yards all over the globe, would have a very good chance of catching such brief encounters. As it happens, the Seti League, led by Dr. Paul Shuch, has pioneered the Project Argus effort to get backyard radio receivers set up and networked so that, any future "WOW" signal will be detected, located and big telescopes notified, almost instantly. While lacking the deep sensitivity of the Seti Institute's Allen Array, the Seti League's effort would do as Sagan asked and shift "the heavy lifting" to the advanced aliens. It would also mean we'd not miss blatant opportunities. Shuch says Argus seemed stalled at 150 or so out of 500 stations needed. But one millionaire's $10M gift would set the whole thing in motion, FAR cheaper than the Allen Array! If you are (or know) an amateur radio type with some computer skills, you could become an important part of the search!
Two background papers on this topic.
Off to Comicon!