Friday, November 22, 2013

Your next (reconfigurable/modular) Cell Phone… and other science wonders

Here is one of many reasons that I've been trying to get in touch with former DARPA Director Regina Dugan, who now heads the Advanced Technology & Projects (ATAP) group at Motorola Mobility.  One of ATAP's endeavors, called Project Ara aims to make your smartphone modular. It is described as an "open hardware platform" where developers create smartphones with interchangeable parts users can easily swap out. This could empower the user to attach a superior video module, or one equipped with heat or toxins sensors, or devices to boost range... or even the bits and pieces of a Star Trek medical tricorder.
ara1blogpostWe already have modularity in software (aps), why not in hardware? I have long awaited this design approach being taken up by some above-average company, ever since I portrayed it in fiction, way back in 1989… and especially since leading a 48 hour "CTO Challenge"  team that reached the same general design conclusion about ten years ago, at a Future In Review Conference.  The advantages to consumers of this modular approach will be tremendous, allowing us to adapt and reconfigure our phone-centered pocket assistants for a wide variety of purposes.  After all, modularity of software apps is already taken for granted.  Why not hardware?
Heck, there might even be times when you'll choose to leave out the "phone" sub module!
Indeed, this is just one of several cool avenues that I'd recommend, if I ever had access to Dr. Dugan's (fellow Caltech grad) ear.  Those other concepts (some of which I push annually at agencies in DC) include citizen communication enhancements that would make the pocket cell phone vastly more effective in disasters and emergencies, plus some possible alternative form-factor design concepts… but ah, well.  It's a familiar tragedy. I fizz with more ideas that I could ever use.
Anyway, here are a few early harbingers of this approach. Already seen widely are plug in credit card readers.  Now, with just a $10 augmentation a smart phone can become a 175x digital microscope.
How about tacking this onto our cell phones?  A small holographic projection system with a lensless zoom function offers promise of a new generation of ultra-small projectors, cheaper and smaller than other  systems. See something a lot like this in Existence.
== Science Under Siege ==
ScienceUnderSiegeScience is under threat always.  Sometimes from without (the "war on science") and sometimes within. Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times describes how the sheer volume of scientific studies in biology has overwhelmed the normal process of peer review and post-publication replication of results.
"A few years ago, scientists at the Thousand Oaks biotech firm Amgen set out to double-check the results of 53 landmark papers in their fields of cancer research and blood biology. The idea was to make sure that research on which Amgen was spending millions of development dollars still held up. They figured that a few of the studies would fail the test — that the original results couldn't be reproduced because the findings were especially novel or described fresh therapeutic approaches. But what they found was startling: Of the 53 landmark papers, only six could be proved valid."
Hiltzik goes on to offer a fascinating look at the inherent contradictions of current -- and some new -- models for publishing scientific results.  This is constructive criticism that must be heeded… just as we should reject the "aha, gotcha!" cries of left-and-right foes of science, who would interpret this as an excuse to dismiss the best and only reliable method human beings have ever found for penetrating delusions and gradually discovering what's true.
Will "open source" be part of the solution? Gapminder World Offline lets you explore the world from your own computer, comparing statistical metrics for different regions, nations, states etc with X-Y axes of your own choosing, from average income to divorce rates to agriculture, housing… pick your correlation and watch it evolve across year-by-year changes!  I saw very early versions of this fifteen years ago at the Rand Corp.  Now you can play with it yourself.  These are just the beginnings of the savvy analytics tools we'll all have at-fingertips in the coming era of agile "smart mobs."  And just in time, too!
== Science under open attack ==
Science-IsOf course, all of this feeds into (alas) the ongoing War on Science.  Take this symptom of how bad it has become, at one end of the political spectrum, where every single Republican member of the House of Representatives Science Committee seems more than eager to bray misinformed lunacy.
The “High Quality Research Act,” sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), would eliminate the peer-review requirement from the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant process, replacing it with new criteria that are significantly less transparent. Smith was a sponsor of the highly controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that threatened to fundamentally change how the Internet works. In Roll Call, Rep. Smith described his vision of science funding -- based not upon the impacts new research may have on the scientific community, but solely whether that research will "create jobs.” He boasted about how much of the House science committee’s $39 billion budget goes to nuclear, fracking and “clean coal” projects. Smith has no background in science.  But then, neither do any of the members of the majority party on the House Science Committee.
Elsewhere I talk about how federally funded scientific and technological research was already responsible for 50% of job growth across the years since 1945. How I'd love to see a second "National Debt Clock" showing where we'd be now, if we (the citizens) had charged just a 5% royalty on the fruits of U.S. federal research, from jets, satellites and telecom to pharma and… um… the Internet. We'd be in the black!
Of course the recent government shut-down was a calamity to science -- a fact that I believe was not seen by GOP lawmakers as a "regrettable side effect" to their lemming cliff-run, but a core and desired "feature."  Scientific American put it succinctly: "In many ways the federal government shutdown was a huge, unplanned experiment in what happens when we give up on science for two weeks. The experiment is now over and the results are still incomplete. But so far, they are ugly." Have a look at the latest, disastrous blow in the War on Science. Then know that this is not about "left" or "right." It's about sanity.
== From the Climate Front ==
Climate-FrontFrom LiveScience: "Plenty of studies have shown that the Arctic is warming and that the ice caps are melting, but how does it compare to the past, and how serious is it? New research shows that average summer temperatures in the Canadian Arctic over the last century are the highest in the last 44,000 years, and perhaps the highest in 120,000 years."
Yes but can we do anything? Here's a topic we've covered before and will cover again; what if we just can't control climate change from the supply side? Can geoengineering help moderate the disruptions from wreaking havoc on our planet and civilization?  This article from NPR moves the conversation a bit and tells more about that "rogue experiment" off the west coast of Canada, last year.
== Science Wonders! ==
Elon's next project, make the James Bond's car-that-becomes-a-submarine come true!
Erik Viirre M.D. Ph.D, of the UCSD Department of Neurosciences, discusses "the Return of Virtual Reality" as the new generation of 3D immersive headsets finally deliver the real thing to gamers, this year.
Researchers have found the first solid evidence that a specific brain region is activated in everyday conversation when people use numbers (or even imprecise quantitative terms, such as “more than”).
Computer vision is the cutting edge now of the advances toward artificial intelligence and robotics.  Read the latest amazements.
collation of interesting predictions from not-the-usual-suspects… architects and social activists and so on. I wish I had more context for this isolated paragraph from Thom Mayne, Pritzker Prize-winning architect, U.C.L.A. professor of architecture and urban design. It is thought-provoking, but with a splash of deliberately obscure postmodernism that I find irksome:
"I would challenge the whole idea of the future as a topic of interest. We’re completely involved in the present. When you’re looking at cities today, at metropolises like São Paulo, Beijing, Tokyo, we can’t grasp the complexity of issues that form these huge aggregates of humanity. The notion of the future in an intellectual and philosophical way would connect to some sort of optimism; I would locate that in the 1950s and 60s, when in the United States there was enormous optimism for the future. We live at a time when, if it’s not pessimistic, it’s not optimistic. The present takes up so much space and oxygen there isn’t a lot of energy left over to deal with future or past. What next? We’re going to internalize this information technology, so we have more space, so we can control this over-investment in the present."
The European Space Agency (ESA) and the EU, together with industrial and educational partners, are developing the first large-scale production methods to 3D-print complex parts made of metal that can withstand temperatures at 1000°C — fit for space and the most demanding applications on Earth.
== And more wonders! ==
Cool. (Literally!) The WISE infrared explorer satellite has found the first confirmed "Trojan" asteroid orbiting firmly in Earth's L4 point, according to the Bad Astronomer -- Phil Plait.
Satellites Titan and Dione, with Saturn's rings in the background. This stunning photo is worth the price, alone.  But interesting facts accompany.  http://beyondearthlyskies.blogspot.com/2013/10/mountains-on-titan.html
The Walker Library of The History of Human Imagination features multilevel tiers, “floating” platforms, connecting stairways, glass-paneled bridges (inspired by MC Escher), dynamic lighting and music, and specially commissioned artworks that celebrate major achievements in the history of human invention.  The 4 minute video tour is spectacularly worthwhile.  Here's a guy who loves being human.
Does eating chocolate help you to lose weight?  I command that some of you follow this and report back here!
Remember those potato-powered clocks?  Well, they underplayed the potential. Hebrew University researchers have found that a single potato hooked up to a couple of cheap metal plates can power enough LED lamps for a room for 40 days. Apparently, it works even better if the potato is boiled -- and if potatoes are not available, boiled plantain stems work as well. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20131112-potato-power-to-light-the-world/all
A cool graphic shows how close various destinations would be to each other, if we fully bbuilt-out Elon Musk's "hyper-loop" mass transit system. Look it over.  Enjoy the dream.  Then consider, it could cost one tenth what other forms of people moving transport cost.
Astronauts return to Earth with atrophied muscles, weakened bones, cardiovascular problems, and some immune deficiencies. And it seems we also age faster in space, too.  We should be building space stations that spin!  And we would, if civilization got its priorities straight… or curved.
Uplift-ArrowAre dolphins friendly? You ask me that? Well, well. I am as openminded as anyone.  But there is this news:
Researcher asks: Is there any reason to think dolphins and humans have a special relationship? Sure, but it might not be a friendly one.
Geez how much more will it take?   "Higher global temperatures increase humidity, which makes wet areas wetter and dry ones dryer. And, increased greenhouse gases and ozone depletion affect atmospheric circulation patterns, pushing storms toward the poles," say scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Finally, the Future has arrived...Advances in materials and computer control mean that the era of the jetpack could finally be upon us. Jetpack users could soon be fighting fires, responding to emergencies, and even saving your life.

36 comments:

Tim H. said...

If royalties went to the nation of origin, the U.S. wouldn't be in line for much in jet engine $, the original work happened in the U.K. and Germany, who built the first axial flow engines, which most resemble what we use now. We might have a case for some automotive $, Packard & Ford largely defined automobiles.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2, at the end of the last post, I responded to you many times. I have neither energy nor inclination to re-post, so check the previous comments section if you'd like.

Caveat emptor, I did a bit of ranting, but without malice.

Robert said...

Quick political-related question: I've a friend who constantly quotes as a vote-suppression reason (ie, strict Voter ID laws) that Democrats would bus in illegal immigrants from district to district to pad the votes and illegally win elections. Has anything even remotely like this ever happened and is there any documentation that shows how this is fallacious and misinformation?

Mind you, the political situation got so bad that I've not talked to him in a couple of weeks, or his wife. And will not until I get an apology. Seeing this person was once my best friend I suspect my "no political discussion" rule should be strictly enforced if we start talking again.

But I would prefer to have a documented bitchslap handy in case it comes up so I can tell him to put up, shut up, and give up.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Robert the burden of proof is on him. But that phrase is incomprehensible in the Age of Anecdotes. It has become an art to come up with quick, one-sentence narrative-killers. The best, of course, is the dozens of copies of the 1962 November Honolulu Advertiser issue with Barack Obama's birth announcement.

I try to come up with others. Some are intellectual, like the fact that the 2nd derivative of fiscal prudence is always negative under GOP presidents (since Ike) and ALWAYS is positive under democratic ones (post Johnson). That ought to be devastating!

Alas, though.

Paul451 said...

LarryHart,
Re: EMPHASISING IN ALL CAPS

I'm with Tacitus here. I can't read all-caps without seeing shouting. And comments which ALTERNATE between regular AND all-caps come across as MAD RANTING.

That said, I do tend to overuse... structural rather than linguistic emphasis in my own comments, so I shouldn't really complain about others. But sneakily, I use a slightly subtler, less shouty way of so indulging. Italics.

Pro-tip: <i>Emphasis</i>

David has said he uses a keyboard macro shortcut program, so he could set one up to add the necessary italics markup around the first word to the left of the cursor.

Rob H,
If you missed it, in the last thread I suggested an alternative to a lunar base and a "grand unifier" for the US to get behind.

David,
Re: Apollo Prize.

I intended it as an all commercial effort, but with a government prize. Decidedly not a NASA-run or NASA-funded program. (Of course, the magic moment may have been during the "shovel ready" stimulus funding, before the austerity obsession.) My mention of NASA's "New Space" contractors is that their funding methodology (pay-on-delivery for a broadly defined goal, rather than cost-plus payments for narrow controlled contracts) seems to deliver much more hardware for much less money compared to convention NASA projects. Following that path, a general prize challenge should deliver the most space bang for fewest taxpayer bucks.

OTOH, Newt Gingrich proposed space-prizes in place of the bulk of NASA's funding, but then went full-retard with talk of moon colonies becoming US states, and so there was no real discussion of the idea. Personally I don't want NASA's R&D harmed, but I do think NASA has a tendency to reinvent the wheel (sometimes literally) at great expense for every single program, instead of developing technology incrementally.

This is where COTS/CRS-type programs might help break the pattern, by funding the development of competing "commercial" probes/landers/rovers. These would be the core only, so power, propulsion, guidance and comms. But even standardised "plug'n'play" instruments might be able to be developed this way. Ie, putting a whole variety of spacecraft sub-types and even instruments on the shelf, in order to subsequently buy multiple low-cost missions off the shelf.

Paul451 said...

In 1918, Robert Goddard's proposed a scenario for slow interstellar colonisation.

Desiccation.

"will it be possible to reduce the protoplasm in the human body to the granular state, so that it can withstand the intense cold of interstellar space? It would probably be necessary to dessicate the body, more or less, before this state could be produced. Awakening may have to be done very slowly. It might be necessary to have people evolve, through a number of generations, for this purpose." - The Ultimate Migration, Robert Goddard, January 1918.

http://crowlspace.com/?p=1793

Something for SF fans: Adam Crowl mentions the possibility of other civilisations using the same practice and wonders how we would react if we came across a ship full of freeze-dried corpses like some kind of funerary barge. I wonder how long would it take us to realise their true nature, and how many of them would have been dissected in the meantime? "So, ahem, yes, about your royal family... Funny story..."

[Writing exercise for novices: The pilot of the dessication colony ship of a non-human (but human-like) species, newly awakened upon entering a new solar system, waiting for the rest of the in-system crew to slowly slowly slowly revive, discovering that the colony ship had already arrived in previous solar system but the crew failed to revive, and was discovered hundreds of thousand years later by natives of that system (humans). The humans left a storage device with their (our) history/science/lit/etc, along with personal accounts of those responsible for the discovery, rescue and eventual relaunch. Write a classic "reading-the-logs" type story that bounces between the viewpoints of those people (and back to the pilot) as the pilot reads about the more than a century of politics, economics and science behind his species' unexpected detour.]

LarryHart said...

Paul451:
As a liberal, I'm willing to consider the possibility that I'm wrong about something. :)

I've used italics, bolding, and all caps at various times to indicate emphasis. When I want to be absolutely certain that the emphasis is noticed, I tend to all caps because I'm not sure how the other formatting looks on various screens.

Also, I think all-caps feels more natural (to the typist) whereas the other formatting takes me out of the moment.

Still, the idea is to be correctly understood, so if writing style impedes this, I'm willing to adjust. I ask to be met half-way, though. Isolated incidents of recidivism or isolated incidents where all-caps seems particularly appropriate should not be a reason to take offense.

(And I presume that no one has a problem putting NSA or MSNBC or the like in caps.)

Tacitus2 said...

LarryHart

OK I back tracked as you suggested. Thanks for your concern. But honestly is my worry about a fusion of Party, Judiciary and Chief Executive not a bit more plausible than David's Saudi/Murdock/Blackmail notion? Although to your credit you do occasionally chide OGH on his pet demon once in a while.

My inclination to a sensible, austere single party payer system is an admitted inconsistency. But really it would just codify the status quo...people are not coughing out a lung and dying on the street corner. I know this, they are in my ER. And while my paycheck is not affected by this the rates that everyone else pays are kept artificially high to cover such care. Basic Health care is not a budget destroyer. Make me Surgeon General or something.

I don't want to bore our far flung Contrarians but I am sure you are watching the latest Wisconsin doings...another "John Doe" investigation of Governor Walker by the partisan (I think) US Attny.

Sigh.

Could be that I have had a little too much exposure to lawyers lately.

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Quick political-related question: I've a friend who constantly quotes as a vote-suppression reason (ie, strict Voter ID laws) that Democrats would bus in illegal immigrants from district to district to pad the votes and illegally win elections. Has anything even remotely like this ever happened and is there any documentation that shows how this is fallacious and misinformation?


Step back and think about what he's talking about. Even without voter-id laws, you can't just walk in with a busload of 50 or so strangers and get ballots for them. Each individual would have to identify himself by name and address as someone on that locality's roll of registered voters. The person thus-identified must not have already been crossed off the list, having voted already (or likely to come in later that day and complain loudly about already being crossed off the list).

The worst that could be hoped for with that sort of fraud would be to get a few extra votes in under the names of people who won't vote. It hardly sounds worth the (fairly high) risk of being caught at it.

Sounds like an urban legend to me.


Mind you, the political situation got so bad that I've not talked to him in a couple of weeks, or his wife. And will not until I get an apology. Seeing this person was once my best friend I suspect my "no political discussion" rule should be strictly enforced if we start talking again.


Wow, that's exactly the situation I was describing to Tacitus concerning a formerly-sane conservative buddy of mine from years ago. We used to have intelligent political discussions, the kind that actually made the other person think about the opposite point of view! Then, Obama was elected president, and he suddently went full-FOX insane, and in a very personal manner too. He accused me of being a dupe for socialists and Muslims, aiding and abetting "my own murderers" (meaning the terrorists), and even insisting that I was a danger to my daughter for holding such anti-American political beliefs. That last was when I stopped responding.

I thought at the time this was an isolated incident. Alas, it sounds more common than that.

LarryHart said...

Me to Robert above:

Step back and think about what he's talking about. Even without voter-id laws, you can't just walk in with a busload of 50 or so strangers and get ballots for them. Each individual would have to identify himself by name and address as someone on that locality's roll of registered voters. The person thus-identified must not have already been crossed off the list, having voted already (or likely to come in later that day and complain loudly about already being crossed off the list).


I forgot to add, his signature would also have to match the registration on file. It's not the case that Dems are arguing for a system of no identity verification at all. But traditionally, signature, being known personally by the poll worker, student id cards, any number of alternatives have been sufficient. Voter-id laws are designed to give excuses NOT (I am shouting there) to permit someone to vote. In a real democracy, we should not be doing it that way.

Again, all that is accomplished with fake identification is the ability to claim plausibly that you are Mr John Doe at 1234 Whatever Street, and thus eligible to cast his vote. You can't just walk into a polling place and vote at random. And that's without any kind of voter-id law in place.

Robert said...

So. I was thinking... a number of newspapers are going subscription mode in order to read online content. The problem is, many people refuse to pay for news when they feel it should be free. The solution? Advertising Mode. If someone wants to read a pay-site news article, they can click on the Advertisement, which will then run an advertisement that will include a couple mouse-click prompts so that the person can't just let the ad run in the background.

The end result? Readers are forced to watch the advertisement, which the newspaper can charge a higher rate for because it's not just being ignored. The reader then is able to read the article "for free" having only spent a little bit of time.

Thoughts?

Rob H.

P.S. - Sadly, the idiocy of the "bussed illegal voters" theory is such that it ends up being something tossed out there to shut people up possibly due to the sheer audacity of it and not knowing how to talk down such a stupid talking point. I mean, it reminds me of a talking point I did in high school (over 25 years ago) against gun control in which I said "without guns we'd have people clubbing each other in the streets" and everyone, including the teacher, was laughing so hard the debate just ended right there.

Never underestimate the power of complete and utter stupidity in an argument to destroy any possibility of an intelligent solution. It's like the candy bar scene in Caddyshack causing everyone to flee to swimming pool.

P.P.S. - Paul, I rather liked your idea. It is quite innovative. It is even reminiscent of the X-Prize for landing on the Moon with a rover. Probably the one problem with this is international: what mining rights, if any, does such a company have? Are they able to claim ice and minerals they mine? Any ambiguities concerning this would probably keep most aerospace companies away from the Moon, sadly enough.

And Dr. Brin, you might detest the Moon as a waste of time and resources... but I counter that with the aerospace field which currently has an average age of its engineers of 47, compared to 42 for the rest of the American workforce. The Apollo Project inspired tens of thousands to become aerospace engineers. And all we did was land a tin-can spaceship on the Moon and return.

People want to go into space. They want to go to the Moon. Our science fiction is replete with stories of Moon bases and the like. And these stories are what inspire people into the sciences. But what inspired people outside of science fiction was Apollo. Do not underestimate the impact of returning and staying on the Moon would have to America... and to the world.

Jumper said...

Google just ate a longish post of mine, so I won't repeat it all.
Snopes does have a start to figuring out the 100% Obama votes deal:
http://www.snopes.com/politics/ballot/2012fraud.asp
I also wondered why Obama fell for the unquestioned use of the inflammatory word "target" regarding the IRS thing.

My favorite desirable cellphone app is its use as a universal remote control for entertainment consoles and more. It needs an IR dongle but now they have them where you don't attach it to your phone but talk to the dongle via Bluetooth.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

But honestly is my worry about a fusion of Party, Judiciary and Chief Executive not a bit more plausible than David's Saudi/Murdock/Blackmail notion? Although to your credit you do occasionally chide OGH on his pet demon once in a while.


I actually do credit Dr Brin's Saudi theory, not so much as something I believe to be fact, but as a theory that would actually explain a lot of observed reality. And I think Dr Brin presents it that way as well.

Fusion of party, exectuive and judiciary: You still haven't shown me that the theoretical threat of Democrats doing this is worse than the actuality that we've lived through of Republicans doing so. Again, if your concern is partisan, I'd say "Don't worry; you're winning." Otherwise, I'd say not to worry (too much anyway) if Democrats are the ones actually doing the takeover because they tend to be timid of change, they're only slightly-less corporatist than the GOP, and they tend to in-fighting over specifics. Democrats are not likely to implement drastic changes to the status quo in a short period of time. The ones you should worry about doing that are Republicans.


My inclination to a sensible, austere single party payer system is an admitted inconsistency. But really it would just codify the status quo...people are not coughing out a lung and dying on the street corner. I know this, they are in my ER.


The ones who reach your ER in time are, yes. And I'm not trying to talk you out of your position here, because I think I agree with it. I'm just saying, Obama was not able (politically) to implement single-payer, so he got something that kinda/sorta does the same thing: insures everybody at an affordable cost. I accept your dislike of the actuality of the ACA, but it's a million times better than the ridiculous employer/insurance company-based system he's trying to replace, and he used a Heritage Foundation model in the vain hope that Republicans would be on board with their own alternative to Hillarycare. Everything you are upset with Obamacare for seems to be in the realm of "It doesn't go far enough to fix the problem", rather than "It's too much of a government power-grab."


I don't want to bore our far flung Contrarians but I am sure you are watching the latest Wisconsin doings...another "John Doe" investigation of Governor Walker by the partisan (I think) US Attny.


I'm embarrassed to admit that I've kind of tuned out anything about Walker since the failed recall. But if you say there's stuff going on, I'll try to pay attention again. Certainly, Wisconsin politics will be heating up in 2014.

Jumper said...

Because Tacitus is often worth listening to, my interest was piqued I found this:
http://host.madison.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/russ-feingold-group-starts-pac-to-defeat-scott-walker/article_0844a4d2-52d7-11e3-8249-001a4bcf887a.html

locumranch said...

The fact that Science is under attack from WITHIN -- by its own hierarchy -- has been well-established for centuries. The formula is quite simple really.

First, there is the establishment of an unquestionable Expert Class, much like the Caltech Caste with which David self-identifies (mentioned in the modular cellphone part of David's post), that sets itself up as the sole arbiter of scientific purity.

Second, there is the establishment of Peer Review, a process thoroughly debunked by the above-mentioned Amgen report, wherein the expert class judges the scientific merit of new argument in advance** according to predetermined intellectual hygiene criteria, accepting ideas supportive to the established hierarchy (while rejecting the contradictory) in an automatic fashion.

Third, there is the Call to Arms, the cry that this Bastion of Pure *whatever* (as defined by the established expert caste) is under ATTACK by infidels from without & within that threatens the very future of *whatever* in general, maintain the current 'status quo' and, of course, the established expert caste in specific.

It is laughable (sardonically ironic, actually) how common this (reactionary) pattern has become in all established hierarchies, which include but are not limited to Academia, all established industries, the Republican Party, the Christian Right, the ecological movement, climate change & the scientific hierarchy that Dr. Brin believes he represents.

"Oh, Help Us, please", they whine, "We are under attack by godless infidels who wish to destroy all that is pure & sacred", all in order to justify some new oppression, pass the Kyota Accords, enact some punitive tax, dismiss the Voting Rights Act & build the Keystone XL pipeline, all to consolidate their waning authority & weaken their socio-political opposition.

Rather than the dawn of a new scientific era, we are all invited to its 'auto de fe'.


Best.
______

**Peer Review was never designed to act in advance, a prospective fashion ... which is the main reason we demand that scientific studies be published in their entirety, so we may check them in after the fact, retrospectively.

David Brin said...

As the parent of snarky teenagers… and recalling having been one myself… all I can say in response to Locum's adolescent screech is --

-- "Good boy, son. You are what we designed you to be, with endless Question-Authority propaganda. In time, you'll develop knowledge and skills and a little calm, but retain that questioning nature.

"Then you'll become an actually USEFUL critic, ferreting out abuses and pouncing on mistakes as part of our unique society's immune-system against error."

Till then, we'll put up with your screeching wails and volcanic jeremiads, with a smile. You are the T-Cell we designed you to be."


David Brin said...

Oh, in fact the system for developing "anti-error T cells" is horribly inefficient. Across my life, I've come to estimate that only maybe a third of the self-righteousness junkies we raise ever do gather skill, knowledge and calm determination to do actual work and discover actual errors to uncover and correct.

The other 2/3 just keep on screeching, their whole lives long. That's okay, we can afford it, in order to get the real T Cells.

Jonathan S. said...

You know you're getting closer to the desired T-cells when you tell them, "Question authority!", and they reply, "Why?"

All authority should be questioned, including the authority telling you to question. And especially including me. :-)

Robert said...

Just don't question me, because just as it's always my fault, I'm also always right. ;)

Rob H., with tongue firmly in cheek

LarryHart said...

Johnathan S:

...when you tell them, "Question authority!", and they reply, "Why?"


From Monty Python's Life of Brian:

"You are all individuals!"
"We are all individuals!"
"You are all different!"
"We are all different!"
"...er, I'm not."

LarryHart said...

Speaking of authority, questioning, and revolution, I just saw the new Hunger Games movie with my daughter. If it wasn't for her, I probably wouln't have even heard of the series, but I'm in full revolutionary mode now.

The repressive oligarchy in the movie has all the power, but that's not good enough for them. They have to shove their evil-ness in everyone's faces, to the point where eventually, even torture and death are not enough to hold back revolution from subjects who literally have nothing to lose in the attempt.

And I just keep thinking...why? You (meaning the ruling class) have everything you could possibly ask for in your wildest dreams. Is it really so important to rub everyone else's faces in it--even to the point of forcing them into some sort of reaction?

In a movie, it's fun to hate the evil-doers and watch for their comeuppance. But, why does the real-life ruling class seem bound and determined to go dowh that same road? When you watch a movie like "The Hunger Games" and think "only a little exagerated from real life," something is terribly wrong.

Tony Fisk said...

@LarryHart

This is what David means by 'insatiability'. The beast will stuff itself to perforation and beyond.

David Brin said...

LarryHart it is the theory of oppression pushed by Orwell… that it must be a demoralizing and crushing boot in the face.

Huxley showed a different face that, in an era of easy explosives and designer plagues, will be far more effective. Keep the people distracted, content and under the illusion they are still free.

It is to discuss these parameters that the Oligarch hold their grand meeting, that I portray in Existence. It is my message to the oligarchs. "Supposing you are going to win, will you plan this time so that it does not end for you riding in tumbrels?"

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin,

Huxley and Orwell portrayed two very different kinds of "villain".

Orwell's, you correctly note, sought power as an end in itself, and they were driven by a desire to employ control over others. These are the negative sum people that even Ayn Rand somewhat gets right--who are fine with everyone's standard of living (including their own) going down as long as they remained above everyone else. And while I recognize that such people exist, understanding what drives them is as impossible (for me) as understanding what drives an alien organism from another galaxy.

OTOH, Huxley's Mustapha Mond wasn't evil per se. He recognized (or believed, anyway) that the industrial revolution caused the human race to grow to a point where it could not be sustained without the machines--that the machines must be tended at all costs, or a billion people would die horribly and the remaining billion could never even bury the dead. He's one of the most three-dimensional villains I can remember (another being your Holnist General Macklin in "The Postman").

David Brin said...

What I found fascinating about Mustafa Mond was that they had made very clear that the present situation was contingent. That the Hyper alphas were unconditioned and free to debate and re-evaluate and possibly change the social order later. And that mere alphas were welcome to politely and (in low voices) suggest such re-evaluation…

…and if they grew troublesome they were not killed, but sent to experimental communities on the islands.

It reminds me of my scene in Existence where I show the new lords trying to find a way to do aristocratic rule BETTER. Huxley hated his tyrannical world, but wanted to show it at least being logical.

Paul451 said...

There's some film makers that takes Kerbal Space Program just a little too seriously...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Omm8K6fhH_A

Very well done, and quite moving.

singedrac said...

Not only do we age faster in space biologically, but also literally. Time moves a little faster because General Relativity. A little farther out of the well than down here on the surface. :D

Robert said...

Um, it's the other way around. The faster you travel, the slower time moves for you. General Relativity would have a space traveler who goes faster end up with their clocks moving slower. It's most pronounced approaching the speed of light.

Though I do have to wonder: does this also work when something approaches the speed of light in another media? If you travel near light-speed in a fluid where the speed of light is in fact only ten meters a second, would a particle traveling in that medium thus have its aging slow? And is that a method by which we can study particle physics?

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

What I found fascinating about Mustafa Mond was that they had made very clear that the present situation was contingent. That the Hyper alphas were unconditioned and free to debate and re-evaluate and possibly change the social order later. And that mere alphas were welcome to politely and (in low voices) suggest such re-evaluation…

…and if they grew troublesome they were not killed, but sent to experimental communities on the islands.


Which concept you made use of in your second Uplift trilogy, as foreshadowed at the end of "Sundiver", even having Jacob Demwa specifically credit Huxley.

Amazing how connected things are if one knows where to look.

Paul451 said...

Robert,
You're mixing your Special and General Relativity. Special deals with velocity, but has no preferred frame of reference. General has a preferred frame, but deals primarily with acceleration. We grounders are deeper in the gravity well, and thus experience more time dilation. We age more slowly.

LarryHart said...

On time dilation at relativistic velocities...

Unless Arthur Clarke got it wrong, I have to go with his presentation of Jan Rodricks's trip to the Overlords' planet in "Childhood's End". Jan aged several months on the round trip, but 80 years had passed on Earth in the meantime.

If he had hypotetically travelled at the speed of light, I supposed he would have not aged at all.

And yes, relativity should not imply differences based on "velocity" alone, but it's the accelleration in reaching those speeds that makes the difference between the earthbound and the space-traveller.

Rob Perkins said...

Rob H.,

The equations specify the speed of light in a vacuum. The last reading of quantum mechanics that I did gave an explanation why the speed of light is less through water at a macro level, but still c at the quantum level. Google "index of refraction."

(I think that means you're right, though, that "slowing down light" to study it is one experimental approach!)

Rob Perkins said...

"There's some film makers that takes Kerbal Space Program just a little too seriously..."

Mmmm. Kerbal. A lego set that teaches conic sections and helps people get an intuitive feel for calculus. All while blowing up rockets and sending wall-eyed minions to Other... woooooorrrrrrrrllllllds!!!!

The title should get some awards for all that.

locumranch said...

What this screechy adolescent T-Cell can tell you that the mature & senescent T-Cell David cannot, perhaps because of an authoritative immune deficiency syndrome, is that the form of the delusion trumps content.

In the case of the authoritative hierarchical form, the content, purpose or intent of the hierarchy is immaterial when it's organizational format is inherently & aggressively oppressive, a fact that cannot be wished away by blissful self-delusion.

All successful organizations (as well as all viable biological organisms) share certain aggressive attributes. They must acquire resources, preserve self-integrity, gather consensus, consolidate power, silence opposition & self-replicate.

In other words, all hierarchical organizations, no matter how seemingly benevolent, are suspect whether or not they affect jackboots & broken crosses or lab coats & sheepskin diplomas. To argue otherwise is the moral equivalent of arguing that drinking fountains were never cleaner or more plentiful than under Jim Crow, or that Mussolini made the trains run on time, or that Hitler made high quality lamp shades.

Hierarchies are Bad, okay?


Best.

David Brin said...

Blah blah rant screech, blah. Broad, sweeping generalizations. No awareness of history or practicality or how much is owed to - say - the genius radicals who in the 1770s hijacked the Nation State … which had been a tool of the oligarchy (and would continue to be, in most places)… and converted it instead into a system that enabled the people to rein in and control rampant oligarchy.

Above all, never the slightest acknowledgement that the "hierarchy is bad" motif is not his personal invention, but a meme that he suckled from every single movie he ever loved, every western-enlightenment entertainment, rock video and novel, in the biggest propaganda campaign ever known.

So we should aim for flat structures that empower individuals and small, self-formed bands might have maximum opportunities to be creative and offer new ideas? Goods and services and innovations? What a revolutionary idea! It never ever ever occurred to me!

Um… I mean that goal has occasionally slipped from my mind, for a few hours at a time and has otherwise been the central aim of my political life. But except for that I mean, congrats on inventing it!

We are competitive beasts. Our Enlightenment found ways to harness that drive while inhibiting the cheaters that always ruined it. These methods have never worked at max efficiency and often teeter on the edge of failure, which would tumble us back into feudal darkness. I respect folks who rally with militant fervor to help the process work better!

I have very little respect for yammering theoretician putzes, who can point to no practical way that they have helped at all, other than the yammering.

David Brin said...

onward