Hey, everyone wear a DOUBLE TIE that day! I haven't heard anyone else pushing that meme, so pass it on starting here!
I've long opined that our next major goal in human spaceflight should not be the Moon, which I deem to be far inferior to asteroids by any near-term measure of accessibility or potential usefulness. (This controversy has been politicized, with the Republican-Murdochian party line insisting on "return to the moon," against advice from almost the entire scientific and space development community - surprised?) Only let me be clear, this is not entirely either-or! I am fine with private ventures taking their own risks to prove me and the other smartypants wrong! Hence I actually applaud news that California-based Moon Express is planning to make the first ever private moon landing by 2017.
They hope to find rare earth elements that the team believes are abundant on Luna. (I doubt it, in usable concentrations, compared to what's already pre-separated in some asteroids… but good luck guys! I'd be delighted to be proved wrong, in this case!)
Speaking of the moon and the future, here's a retro look back at the moon.... Historian Robert Godwin who is an author and editor of dozens of books on spaceflight released his findings about a Presbyterian minister named William Leitch, born in Scotland in 1814. Godwin asserts that Leitch was the first trained scientist to have correctly applied modern scientific principles to space flight in an essay which he wrote in the summer of 1861 called “A Journey Through Space”. It was published in a journal in Edinburgh that year before being included in Leitch's 1862 book “God's Glory in the Heavens" - much earlier than the Russian, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, and the American, Robert Goddard. (Though Leitch apparently concluded that hitching a ride on a comet would be preferable.) I have to wonder if it was read by E.E. Hale, whose wonderful story "The Brick Moon" was published in The Atlantic during the American Civil War.
== Signs of the Future ==
Robotic flies on the wall: Hovering, insect-sized robo-bees weighing a tenth of a gram? And the camera corollary of Moore's Law continues.
Reconfigurable rooms... built by tiny robots?
With uterus/womb transplants in the works, the "ectogenesis" dilemmas long gestated in science fiction will pour forth into the real world.
The X-Prize methodology has been really taking off. Its advantages are huge and manifold. (1) it stimulates imaginative thinking from a wide variety of outside competitors who feel incentivized to think outside the box. (2) In most such contests, the teams each spend much more than the prize purse, in (realistic) hope of followup patents, partnerships, contracts and publicity for outside customers, even for second or third placers. (3) the prize-givers do not have to spend much till they get results dropped into their laps. (4) This creativity-stimulating methodology is inherently difficult for closed or despotic societies to emulate.
Google is close to completing its Loon helium-balloon technology and plans to scale it globally to provide reliable internet connectivity worldwide. Other efforts include high end satellite systems from my friends at ViaSat, and satellite clusters from Microsoft, all of which will empower people to bypass Internet choke points… like those now used by Russia and Iran and other freedom-clamping regimes. And NASA has successfully completed the first step towards delivering 200Mbps broadband internet from space with the CubeSat Network.
Read more at: http://futurism.com/links/nasa-starts-testing-broadband-in-space-with-small-satellites/
(Next week I will be attending NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concept group symposium in Seattle, the last stop in an exhausting, monthlong speaking tour. As a member of NIAC's council of external advisers, I'm proud of the wonderful concepts that are seed-funded. The symposium is public by the way, if you register.)
== More cool News ==
Elon Musk envisions a future of electrically-powered supersonic passenger jetships, with vertical take-off, such as the designs for SonicStar by HyperMach Aerospace.
Scientists have chemically transformed human brain "support" cells, called astroglial cells, into functioning neurons, suggesting another tool for nerve and for brain repair.
Global Poverty Rate Likely to Fall Below 10 Percent For the First Time: According to the World Bank, the number of people living in extreme poverty is likely to fall for the first time below 10 percent of the world's population in 2015. Extreme poverty has long been defined as living on or below $1.25 a day, but the World Bank's adjustment now sets the poverty line at $1.90 a day. That's 702 million people or 9.6 percent of the world's population vs 2012's 902 million people or 12.8 percent. In 1990 1990, 1.9 billion people lived under $1.25 a day.
Does this news enrage you? Pause and ponder how both the right and the left have a vested interest in gloom and destruction of our confidence. Sure fight complacency! Redouble our efforts! But that does not excuse the unforgivable mental illness of reflexively rejecting good news.
87% of Americans Say Candidates Should Have Basic Understanding of Science Informing Public Policy. A new poll reveals Americans across political spectrum support presidential debate on science, of the sort they are trying to develop at http://www.ScienceDebate.org
I would go much farther. All legislators (including state) should have to say who their top five go-to fact-folks are, especially scientists, i.e. in their home districts. In fact all journalists should answer the waifling evasive "I am not a scientist.." cop-out with "Then senator please tell us who your personal science adviser is! And make HER available for questions!"
== Transparency updates ==
Only in an open society can we charge into the future… that was my message at Bard College and the Hannah Arendt Center's recent conference on Privacy. (Attended - via Skype - by Edward Snowden and by Robert Litt (in person) the government's counsel in the Snowden Case. I'll post more on this when I get a chance.) Meanwhile...
Who Watches the Watchers: "Secret-encrypted communications tools, such as Wickr, are being used by parliamentarians, officials, members of special inquiries and others who deal with information that is politically sensitive or official. Increasingly "use of private messaging systems by a digital 1% – an elite that is well connected and powerful – is eroding expectations about oversight by journalists, official monitors and ordinary people." This article then cites my worries about how a privileged “Them” will know a lot about us and increasingly “We” know less about them. The article focuses on Australia, where a super-rightwing administration has been underfunding or pressing to eliminate watchdog groups and Freedom of Information access -- as the Murdochian-Saudi-Bushites did in America and will return to doing, if one of their puppets gets back into the White House. Heck, we face grinding damage to our supervising ability under liberals, and they don't even try hard!
Maker-funding site Patreon was hacked resulting in the dump of gigabytes of code and user data. User passwords were encrypted using bcrypt which suggests they are mostly safe but some users have found their data in the trove.
Jeez how many times must this happen before folks out there realize it is going to occur over and over and over again… forever.
We will not solve the problems of this era with a reflex to keep trying to hide. It will not work. It cannot work. It never has. There is a better, more assertive and powerful and proven-successful way.