Taking somewhat of a break from politics... and how I wish (with all of you) that we could have just sighed relief and moved on by now. But here, as a breather, is a pile of way-cool science news!
Don't get too excited by the titles: "Room-temperature superconductivity in a carbonaceous sulfur hydride." Of course it's a version of the grail we've sought. But it only happens at incredible pressures.
NASA researchers have detected nuclear fusion in metal loaded with deuterium. And yes, it seems a kind of “cold fusion”… though requiring activation by a gamma ray beam. I’ve never been adamant about this, either way. But it has always seemed worth investingin small projects such as this one. Anything to avoid a future either without fusion power, or dependent on insane white elephant tokamaks.
A new theory of causality may be the stuff of science fiction. It suggests that time travelers can do what they want, and paradoxes are not possible, because (as portrayed in some SciFi tales) the universe will have a causal elasticity so that events will always adjust themselves to avoid any inconsistency.
Does TIME itself come in discrete quantum-sized lumps, or even a Higgs-like particle? Those lumps may be large, maybe someday within reach of our atomic clocks to measure.
== True? Or Phos! Predictions!! ==
See page 160 of The Transparent Society - where I predicted (back in 1997) that cops would wear cams... and the folks they pull over would use them, too. Everything recorded. It seems obvious now. It wasn't, then.
Any new predictions? Well, news comes from Venus, a broiling, high pressure hell, down at the ground level. But my colleague Geoff Landis and others have speculated about a shell-level of the dense atmosphere who temperature and pressure (though not gas mixture) could be pleasant to Earth-type life, encouraging thoughts of balloon beings or steam-punk dirigibles… AND NOW a stunning discovery of spectral signs of Phosphine gas - - a molecule made up of one phosphorus atom and three hydrogen atoms - which on Earth is pretty much always (outie of certain factories) a sign of life!
While I'm on a prediction-brag roll (EARTH is on several "10 best predictive novels" lists, including TIME's.) It just occurred to me that in EXISTENCE I forecast what the great resource shortage crisis of the late 2030s would be. Phosphorus. The rarest ingredient of life, a necessary fertilizer. And America's great deposits in Florida are depleting fast, leaving Morocco and Iraq and Iran as the world's richest nations - the next OPEC - in two (or less) decades.
Yes it was brought to mind by the discovery of Phosphine in the Venus atmosphere. Only what's pertinent now is how I depicted my "Michael Crichton character" in EXISTENCE railing against the emergency laws of the 2040s. Laws demanding that citizens conserve phosphorus.
In my novel Existence, this fictional author pens a book -- PHOS-SCARE CITY -- popular among the MAGAs of that decade -- which fulminates against the requirement that men pee into phos-urinals... or at least into their rose gardens outside... so the precious element doesn't just wash into sewers. Denouncing the laws for sexism(!) he calls it just a 'hoax" aimed at undermining individual freedoms...
... just like today's MAGAs howl against mask wearing in a pandemic... and they earlier screeched against seat belts, or auto mileage standards, or changing our refrigerants to save the planet, or being told to take their stinky tobacco addictions outside. Anyone see a pattern? I sure did!
== Tech Stuff ==
A 2-acre farm packs into a shipping container? Climate-related food shortages? Maybe it's time to purchase a Farm From A Box, which feeds 150 and comes with water-smart irrigation, renewable energy tech, and its own hoes and shovels.
An amazing recent physics experiment appraises what happens when (rarely) a supercooled atom approaches an impassable barrier… and quantum tunnels through it.
Speaking of cooling… India is building a lot of its solar panels atop irrigation canals, saving land costs, easing evaporation and cooling the panels to increase efficiency. Algae blooms are also lessened And cleaning the panels needn’t waste much water.
A staple of old sci fi is the nuclear battery that drives your electric stuff for years, never needing recharging. Well guess what. Here it is. Carbon 14 extracted from nuclear waste is a beta emitter, so none of the really bad radioactivity, just electrons, which of course make a batter go. The carbon14 is squished to become a diamond, sealing it tight then surrounded by more diamond and then chipped. If the processing can be made efficient and safe (and that is the one, big "if." then it can also help reduce waste. (Nevada folks are fools to reject Yucca Mountain, which would be a bank vault full of riches.)
== Tech wonders in the air? ==
Might airliners in the future fly ‘in formation’ in order to save fuel?
Paramedics with jetpacks? A rescue outfit in the UK providing helicopter emergency services, is testing a jetpack made by Gravity Industries to one day allow paramedics to fly up a mountain to provide first aid. “In a jet pack, what might have taken up to an hour to reach the patient may only take a few minutes, and that could mean the difference between life and death.”
== Simulations! Scary and … attractive? ==
Yipe! Simulation of a Three Gorges Dam collapse. I’m glad they squeaked by the recent heavy rainy season. Now to squeak by our own floods of craziness and viruses…
Robotic, animatronic dolphins? Uncanny realism! Truly amazing, just $3 million each, in prototype! Less, soon. And did I say uncannily realistic? And what does this do to the tradeoffs to doing a Startide Rising movie?
== Do some on your own! ==
Yes, all this unwanted free time opens some opportunities, like buying and reading fresh copies of favorite sci fi... or exercise or developing hobbies in what I've called the rising "Age of Amateurs." With millions of people trapped at home during the pandemic, citizen science projects are seeing a boom in engagement. While the projects generally have scientific aims, many allow people to also act as amateur sleuths. Some scour satellite images for rural houses across Africa so they can be connected to the electricity grid. Trace Labs runs competitive events in which teams of hackers gather as much information they can to solve missing persons cases, or to put names to the faces of female scientists who appear, uncredited, alongside their male colleagues in historical photographs.
== And yes, politics ==
Fooled ya? Hell yes, there's always some politics.
In my last blog I offered some ways to corner Republicans - especially the two senators in the January 6 runoff - so they'll be damned if they do or don't. I'll offer more, next time, when we discuss Mitch's nightmares. I don't expect any of these ideas to even be discussed, any more that the 100+ tactics in Polemical Judo were tried, at all, by anyone... even though some would have made last week's election a blowout.
But I'll share them with you, at least. Alack.