== Public protection or guild protection? ==
After its crushing defeat in the last election, Britain's Labour Party is heaping on bad ideas. The latest? To license journalists via a professional body that could ban or "strike off" those who are accused of malpractice from practicing journalism in the future.
A horrific notion. I agree with Cory Doctorow, who writes, "Given that "journalism" presently encompasses "publishing accounts of things you've seen using the Internet" and "taking pictures of stuff and tweeting them" and "blogging" and "commenting on news stories," this proposal is even more insane than the traditional "journalist licenses" practiced in totalitarian nations."
Helen Lewis-Hasteley of the New Statesman notes, “If we look at the countries around the world where the government keeps such a register, I bet they're not the ones you'd regard as shining beacons of democracy and enlightenment. Who would administer the register?”
Now, a reflex reaction to tighten media regulation in response to the Rupert Murdoch scandals is obvious. But the relevant issue is to:
(1) prosecute crimes and civil damages according to existing statutes and
(2) make damn sure these nefarious actions reflect on Mudoch & co's public image. This might mean tweaking #1 to ensure no gag orders or confidentiality can prevent #2.
In other words, no victims settling for damages from Rupert, on condition of silence. There is a compelling public interest that all such cases be transparent, so their outcomes can affect the public's trust in clear violators of that trust. Some minor law tweaks, there. But urgent.
But licensing journalists is just blatant "guild-tending"... the left wing equivalent of right-wing oligarchy. A travesty and anti-transparency. And what of bloggers...are they next?
==Society & Issues==
Studies appraise why IQ varies around the globe. Controlling for the effects of education, national wealth, temperature, and distance from sub-Saharan Africa, infectious disease emerged as the best predictor. children infected with intestinal worms have lower IQ later in life. Another study found that regions in Mexico that were the target of eradication programs had higher average IQ than those that were not. See my posting: The Flynn Effect: Are We Getting Smarter?
See a fascinating article -- Radical Thinking to Recreate and Reimagine Our Cities -- about several world cities that defied expectations and remade themselves in wonderfully positive ways.
my extensive posting-essay about “seasteading” - Jason Sussberg made a short film about the Seasteading Institute. It reveals the characters driving the effort... and shows their mix of both solid and extremely airy thinking. (Alas, without interviewing a single skeptic or question-asker.) There is a strong part of me that sympathizes and roots for them! And another, mature portion that knows what the world is about and where it’s headed. (Still, you'll see Seasteading portrayed vividly in EXISTENCE!)
Airport security may soon have a new way to check your ID: watching the way you walk. It seems footsteps are as unique as fingerprints, and can identify people with 99.8 per cent accuracy. "It probably is possible to use this in a real-world security application," says one researcher. Lesson? Hiding is futile. Our only path is sousveillance. Looking back.
After the Great San Diego Blackout, a few thoughts on potential future power failures: Everybody needs a fully corded and non-powered phone! The more old-fashioned the better. If it has a power cord, it won't do. One that plugs into just the wall jack. For more: read what I told the Defense Dept about readiness in a robust society! This from an Glenn Reynolds: “when we lost power yesterday along with the rest of San Diego County. The electric eye-activated toilets and urinals in the new buildings were all nonfunctional, whereas the older models (with actual handles) in place in the older buildings worked fine. Exclusively installing toilets or sinks that don’t function without electricity in new buildings just seems like a bad idea.”
== Engineering the Earth ==
The General Accounting Office issued a report on varied proposals for GEOENGINEERING, which, in today’s context, stands for methods that humanity might use to assertively lessen the effects of global warming. “ Climate engineering technologies do not now offer a viable response to climate change. Experts advocating research to develop and evaluate the technologies believe research might provide an insurance policy against worst case scenarios—but caution that the misuse could bring new risks.” See the report’s abstract.
I don't disagree with the GAO’s overall conclusion... No proposed geoengineering endeavor scored higher than a 3 out of 9. Research must continue, but zealots should not be empowered when potential side effects are huge. One experiment that clearly should proceed on an intermediate scale is to create “white cities”... by whitening rooftops in a few warm climate metropolitan areas and see if the effects are positive. Few conceivable downsides.
My biggest complaint? There is one proposed geoengineering project that gets short-shrift in every single appraisal I have seen, and this GAO report is no different. It is the only method that would directly imitate a natural process that is already known to remove megatons of carbon from the air, every year. A natural process that has no negative side effects but dozens of positive ones -- like helping to feed the world. That process is Ocean Fertilization.
Ocean fertilization involves adding micronutrients to the oceans to stimulate biological productivity, which removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, sequestering it as sediment in the deep ocean. This could also reverse a widespread decline in phytoplankton, the basis of oceanic food chains. Preliminary trials were highly localized, but indicated that the potential for iron-induced carbon sequestration may be lower than originally hoped – but this has not been systematically pursued.
Moreover, can anyone explain to me why the only ocean fertilization experiments were crude, blunt dumpings of powdered IRON? How does that emulate nature? Sure it's a critical bottleneck nutrient. Still, I've seen other proposals. Wave power one-way siphons to raise cool, nutrient rich bottom water above the thermocline. Or using wave power to drive bottom-stirrers, sending mud plumes rising just like happens off the great fisheries of Peru. (I described them in EARTH (1989). The energy profiles may or may not be efficient... we'll see... but no one can argue that those two don't emulate precisely the most healthy, wholesome and natural way that the Earth already pulls down megatons of CO2.
One futuristic solution to our energy crisis? Shimizu, a Japanese company, proposes the LUNA RING, a belt of photovoltaic panels placed on the moon’s surface. To avoid launch costs, the solar panels would be constructed on moon, by remote-controlled robots, directly out of lunar soil (which is 23% silicon). Power will be beamed to receiving stations on Earth (220 terawatts annually). By treaty, any such project on the moon would belong to all nations. I know Dave Criswell who first offered this idea. If completed, the LUNA RING would represent the most grandiose engineering project in humanity's history. Not yet feasible, it requires some major breakthroughs. And, frankly, the math may not add up. But it's the kind of bold forward-looking thinking that at least stimulates the mind. It reminds us we're a bold race. A competing concept is Space Based Solar Power -- with panels placed in orbit around the earth.
A new version of Moore’s Law? Koomey’s Law states it’s energy efficiency of computers, not just processing power that doubles every 18 months. Particularly relevant as portable battery-powered portable devices fill our lives. (Brin's Corollary? CAMERAS get smaller/cheaper/faster/more numerous and mobile even faster than Moore's Law!) What’s not keeping up? Software. Never has. Maybe never will.
Exploiting a novel technique called phase discontinuity - etching gold nano-antennas onto silicon - researchers at Harvard have induced light rays to behave in a way that defies the centuries-old laws of reflection and refraction. Read the sci fi of Wil McCarthy about "programmable matter".... this is a subset.
You can now hold your brain in the palm of your hand, with this portable brain scanner. For the first time, a scanner powered by a smartphone will let you monitor your neural signals on the go. Quoth one bright commentator: “And, in the category of things that belong in the novel "Earth"...”
Finally got around to watching Limitless... one of the nifty crop of lower budget but highly intelligent science fiction films (e.g. Source Code) that managed to get produced in 2010, when the big studios were mostly churning out one remake and sequeal after another. I thought it was terrific! Snappy, crisply written, nicely textured and well-foreshadowed. And just a bit optimistic... I liked that. Oh, and note the hero is a sci fi author. Been several of those lately. Maybe civilization is wising up! (Oh, the screenwriter, Leslie Dixon, is a friend. Proud of her.)
Do see an animated rendition of Tim Minchin's terrific Beat poem "Storm" about reality itself... and fighting back for enlightenment. Oh... see Minchin's other performances too.
Awesome anonymous paper sculptings!
Hmmm...Space Colony Earth claims to be planning the first interstellar mission form Earth, to travel beyond our solar system and contact alien civilizations. Their ship, Starship Ark intends to depart in 2017, to seek out strange new civilizations….. Nice clean dopey-dreamy fun. Or is this a promo for a game?
More on that Climate Denialist stuff soon. Meanwhile, remember, when some fool starts making crazy attacks on science, find the most SPECIFIC of his statements and then... demand that he put money on it! Seriously. Bets. Wagers. Like that doctor who offered $10,000 if Bachmann could find ONE child made retarded by the gardasil vaccine. One.
It needn't be so grand. Any amount will do. Watch them backpedal and slide toward the door. Cowards.