I participated in an episode of NPR’s show “This American Life” - the most popular radio and podcast program in the US - concerning the question of beaming out messages to aliens. If you don’t know of tis show, you should, it is entertaining and creative, every week.
Ray Bradbury turns 90 YEARS OLD on August 22, and the Planetary Society is collecting greetings from well wishers around the world to put on a giant card (and DVD). Here is the personal message that I sent Ray, as a member of the board of the Planetary Society:
“Ray, you are a marvel. In a world where cynics too-often have the upper hand, you taught so many of us to be assertive, even AGGRESSIVE champions of hope, optimism and ambition. You showed us that humanity can-do all that needs doing! We can do it all with joy and boldness and a sense of adventure. And love.
-- your fellow dreamer (and LA High School alumnus) David Brin”
=== SPEAKING OF GREAT WRITING ===
This year's winner of the annual Bulwer-Lyton (bad) writing contest: Molly Ringle of Seattle, for the following ”For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss -- a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil.” And see many others!
And from the ridiculous to the sublime -- a long list, plus testimonials, at http://www.davidbrin.com/publicappearances.html of my appearances as a public speaker.
Patrick Farley has just posted the first 4 pages of the new Spiders graphic novel.
=== MORE SCIENCE HIGH! ===
Bill Nye the Science Guy will take the helm as the new Executive Director of the Planetary Society. Louis Friedman, co-founder and Executive Director since the organization began 30 years ago, is stepping down but continuing to direct its solar sail project -- Lightsail-1 -- and other Planetary Society initiatives. Wh ich helped lead directly to the first sail ever! The wonderful IKAROS. (ALL of you should join the society, by the way. It is one of the minimal memberships that forward looking people ought to maintain. Along with at least one environmental society, one humanitarian... etc. These are proxies for saving the world, people... the cheapest/minimal investment, beyond your honest citizenship. You are members of a civilization.)
You are sure to find this TED presentation about the value of science both beautiful and inspiring.
A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate Tuesday would compel the White House to identify international cybercrime havens and establish plans for cleaning them up. The International Cybercrime Reporting and Cooperation Act takes on a growing problem for banks and U.S. businesses: the ability for cybercriminals to operate with impunity across international borders.
Are Cameras the new guns? Police in at least three states are arresting and charging people
filming/taping/photographing them. See also the comments. This trend... predicted in The Transparent Society ... is one fundamentally essential precedent that needs to be settled for the People. Forever.
How to deter a nuclear bomb by some rogue group? It is absolutely essential that we develop Nuclear Attribution -- the ability to fingerprint nukes, or trace the source of nuclear materials from their chemical and isotopic properties. This sends a message to countries - they must keep tabs on their nuclear materials & not harbor terrorists…or we will come after them if any bomb originates from their land. Obama signed a bill, the Nuclear Forensics & Attribution Act…but it fails to provide funding to train the needed experts to implement this as effective policy. We need to be acquiring a database of nuclear samples from reactors/facilities around the world. Isotopic ratios can be catalogued like a fingerprint, to enable identification of any nuclear residues. While it may be true that some rogue groups would want to claim ‘credit’ for any attack, a country would not want to be identified. For while it is hard to go after a diffuse group, we know where to find the country harboring them.
BlueView Technologies offers sonar systems -- compact enough for ROVs, AUVs or scuba diver hand-held units, allowing imaging in 3D, even when there is zero visibility.
Thorium thermal reactor: Thorium is readily available & can be turned into energy without generating transuranic wastes. Thorium's capacity as nuclear fuel was discovered during WW II, but ignored because it was unsuitable for making bombs. A liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) is the optimal approach for harvesting energy from Thorium, and has the potential to solve today's energy/climate crisis. This 16 minute video is summarizes 197 minutes worth of Google Tech Talks on the subject of Thorium & LFTR.
Terrific pictures that show how "amateur" astronomy can be way cool!
A new study concludes that mass EV adoption could lead to tremendously higher emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide due to China’s widespread use of coal as a power source.”
An overhaul of world farming and more vegetarianism should be top priorities to protect the environment, along with curbs on fossil fuel use. Agricultural production accounts for a staggering 70 percent of the global freshwater consumption, 38 percent of the total land use and 14 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Meat consumption per capita in China rose by 42 percent over eight years from 1995 to 2003. Just eating meat less often helps... also “better” farm fish like Tilapia.
See the notetaking tool of tomorrow! A bit expensive this year. But next year we should ALL get one!
=== MORE SCIENCE & COOLSTUFF ===
Enlightenment in a nutshell: Ten of the greatest theories to explain everything: The Principle of Least Action, Memetics, Quantum Field Theory, Panspermia, The Placebo Effect, Snowball Earth, The Ekpyrotic Universe, Entanglement, The Finite Universe….
An excellent idea: provide short-term credit to cover emergency expenses. Low-income families should not begin on a cycle of debt to cover a hospital stay, a broken furnace or car – turning to predatory lenders who charge outrageous interest fees. For 20 years Britain has offered publicly-funded crisis loans to help people out of a jam. The average loan is $620 and 88% of the loans have been fully repaid.
Great quote from Richard Feynman: “It doesn't seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil …The stage is too big for the drama.”
A glut of Ph.D. scientists? Five years after completion of their Ph.D.s, only 22% have a tenure track position. A single faculty opening can attract hundreds of qualified applicants. Research faculty depend upon the labor of grad students – but fewer grants and job openings leave many stranded in a series of low-paid temporary postdoctoral jobs – without channeling them into successful careers. Ah, but so what? Let PhDs be the new normal! Let em teach high school! We could use teachers who know stuff!
In the Niger delta, according to Nigerian academics, writers and environment groups, oil companies have acted with such impunity and recklessness that much of the region has been devastated by leaks. In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta's network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico. With 606 oilfields, the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports and is the world capital of oil pollution. Life expectancy in its rural communities, half of which have no access to clean water, has fallen to little more than 40 years
The next step in hybridization? A new type of shock absorber under development by the Levant Power Corporation converts the bumps and jolts of vehicles on rough roads into usable electricity. Usually, shock absorbers dissipate the energy of bouncing vehicles as heat. But the new shocks can use the kinetic energy of bounces to generate watts.
Check out the Yike Bike!
National Chengchi University's Center for Prediction Market correctly forecast election outcomes, including the 2008 presidential election. Boasting an accuracy rate of 80 percent to 95 percent, the center is arguably the biggest on-line Chinese-language prediction market. Prediction markets are speculative exchanges, with the value of an asset meant to reflect the likelihood of a future event. Since the University of Iowa established the Iowa Electronic Markets in 1988, private companies, such as HP, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google, have set up their own prediction markets to forecast the results of new products, marketing strategies and finances.
=== SENT IN: ===
Frank Smith offered this; "Protecting Privacy: Make the Data Fade Away" Sensitive data should have a limited lifespan. An interesting take on transparency.
Josh Duberman sent: For the last three years, I.B.M. scientists have been developing what they expect will be the world’s most advanced computer “, able to understand a question posed in everyday human elocution — “natural language,” as computer scientists call it — and respond with a precise, factual answer. In other words, it must do more than what search engines like and Bing do, which is merely point to a document where you might find the answer. It has to pluck out the correct answer itself.
New research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows that astrocytes are directly involved in the regulation of signalling between neurons. Astrocytes sense activity from the synapses and respond by reducing the release of the neurotransmitter glutamate. Knew it! This is only the beginning. The brain is more complex than we thought... implicitly making AI harder!
Amazing story of a camera that traveled 1000 miles from Aruba to Key West, over 6 months. The camera was in pristine condition – housed by an Ikelite housing, which happens to be manufactured by my wife’s family! The finder processed the photos, posted them online and tracked down the owner – who lost the camera and housing when it got caught on the flipper of a sea turtle! My father-in-law, Ike, started the company in the 60s.
How will we feed 9 billion people on Earth? The limiting factor is available fertile land, particularly near urban populations. One option is to build up: vertical farms could make cities self-sustainable. Plus--we must be able to farm indoors to live on Mars or the moon. Climate can be controlled, water conserved, pests eliminated, sewage recycled, fossil fuels & pesticides reduced, and farmlands returned to nature.
Some claimed the boundary between man & machine would disappear--but outside of movies or research labs most robots do not yet look or act like humans. People will often cringe when a human-like robot is kicked or abused. Yet some feel a sense of creepiness if the robot is too close to appearing human, but not exactly so. Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori called this sense of cognitive dissonance “the uncanny valley."
There’s been little research to quantify this phenomenon of “the uncanny valley”, and it certainly over-simplifies the complexity of human-robot interaction. The degree of anthropomorphism seems to depend as much on behavior as appearance. An initial sense of alien-ness usually dissipates after the initial reaction. It’s inevitable that we will create robots in our image – and we will learn to be comfortable around them. Currently, robots are taking on tasks—manufacturing, surgery, exploring Mars or the ocean floor, cleaning up waste sites—where the humanoid form is not necessary or most efficient. But researchers are refining robot’s ability to detect/express emotions, mimicking human facial expressions to an uncanny degree. Also watch the video on ieee to gauge your reaction:
Cute speculations on "alien space artifacts." Related to my novella "Lungfish" and my coming novel EXISTENCE!
Researchers have built a machine that harnesses energy from the random motion of bouncing beads to perform work. The machine, a modified re-creation of a system dreamt up nearly a century ago in a captivating thought experiment, dances around physicist Richard Feynman’s dictum that work can’t be extracted from such a system.
Kewl astronomy: death of a planet
Currently there are 460 known exoplanets outside our solar system—mostly gas giants. That figure may double in the next year…NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has already identified over 750 possible planetary candidates—many earth sized – in the first 3 months of its mission. The next few years will be a gold rush for such earth-like planets, which appear to be quite common—altering our estimates of life in the universe.
Does religious belief boost mental health? Researchers studying the brain chemistry of believers and nonbelievers found that when religious people make a mistake, they are less stressed about it than nonbelievers. Atheists “showed a heightened neural response,” reacting more defensively to their own errors.
Twelve events that could change everything: a meltdown of polar ice, contact with aliens, nuclear war, creation of synthetic life, room temperature superconductors, machine self-awareness, cloning of humans, a major Pacific earthquake, a practical fusion reactor, collision with a NEO asteroid, the next pandemic. Some of these events likely, some improbable; you can rate them on the interactive site.
From Frank Smith: "The Mysterious Memristor:
Anyone familiar with electronics knows the trinity of fundamental components: the resistor, the capacitor, and the inductor. In 1971, a University of California, Berkeley, engineer predicted that there should be a fourth element: a memory resistor, or memristor. But no one knew how to build one. Now, 37 years later, electronics have finally gotten small enough to reveal the secrets of that fourth element. The memristor, Hewlett-Packard researchers revealed today in the journal Nature , had been hiding in plain sight all along--within the electrical characteristics of certain nanoscale devices. They think the new element could pave the way for applications both near- and far-term, from nonvolatile RAM to realistic neural networks. The reason that the memristor is radically different from the other fundamental circuit elements is that, unlike them, it carries a memory of its past. When you turn off the voltage to the circuit, the memristor still remembers how much was applied before and for how long.