Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sweeps Week Miscellany!!!

Now that the Grammys are over, it’s sweeps week for bloggers (isn’t it always?) (Alas, the gowns and apres parties are nowhere near as chic.) Anyway, for the sake of ratings, let’s keep it light and entertaining, this time. No politics!

First a humorous... but practical(!) essay about how to escape killer robots... by a guy who should know:

Fascinating! Scientists Follow the Money to Predict Epidemics -- (Reuters -- January 25, 2006)

A popular U.S. Web site that tracks the geographical circulation of money could offer new insights into predicting the spread of infectious diseases like bird flu. Money, like diseases, is carried by people around the world, so what better way to plot the spread of a potential influenza pandemic than to track the circulation of dollar bills, researchers reasoned.

Last Year Was Warmest in a Century -- (Discovery -- January 26, 2006)
2005 was Earth's warmest year in a century, say NASA climatologists, with the years 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2004 following close behind. Just about every part of the Earth's surface was warmer than average last year, with the most severe temperature rises in the Arctic, according to the data and analysis of NASA climatologists at the Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York City. The study is further evidence, added to a mountain of scientific evidence, supporting that global warming is real.

Movement of Earth's North Magnetic Pole Accelerating Rapidly -- (PhysLink -- January 25, 2006)
After some 400 years of relative stability, Earth's North Magnetic Pole has moved nearly 1,100 kilometers out into the Arctic Ocean during the last century and at its present rate could move from northern Canada to Siberia within the next half-century. If that happens, Alaska may be in danger of losing one of its most stunning natural phenomena, the Northern Lights. This has scarier aspects... eg the possibility that it foreshadows a magnetic field “flip”.

ORPHEUS AS CYBERPUNK OUTLAW People interested in applying SF to study of the Orpheus myth may find this essay interesting.
 Interesting juxtaposition with what I’ve said about myth, in my various articles and the coming STAR WARS ON TRIAL book.

Missing a few brain cells? Print new ones Jan. 30, 2006 ** A printer that spits out ultra-fine droplets of cells instead of ink has been used to print live brain cells without causing them any apparent harm. The technique could open up the possibility of building replacement tissue cell by cell, giving doctors complete control over the tissue they graft. The device is a variant of a conventional...

Finally -- a self-serving piece of flum-bloggery. Just to remind you folks that you have opportunities -- if you happen to have liked my books over the years -- to drop in at places like and leave comments about various titles. The odd, statistical quirk is that, when you get persistently high rankings like I do, one or two snarling snipers can come in, trash a bunch of books, and do real damage to the average score! Always nice to have friendly folks drop in there and leave a good word. Ahem, hint.

Oh, while I'm at it. If people post anything that says "David Brin is..." something interesting happens. That "___ is" statement will be found and sifted for ... well... I forget what it's called. (Anybody?) But it is this quirky quasi-google that has gained momentum and has started defining people. (One total jerk posted an "is" slur about me and it's been kept alive for TEN years, despite the fact that I am the only guy at my level who still personally answers ALL fan mail!)

Hey, folks. Happy pre-Valentines Day weekend. Find somebody to be nice to.


jbmoore said...


The Earth's magnetic field is 200,000 years overdue to flip. Analysis of Royal Navy ship logs show that the magnetic field is weakening in places. The portents are that the magnetc field is starting to flip now. Since it has weakened locally in places, an increase in radiation will occur in those places due to loss of the magnetc shield. My guess is that magnetic field flip flop has been one way evolution has jumped by leaps and bounds periodically since the rate of mutation would increase in areas where the magnetic shield is lost due to ionizing and cosmic radiation. Then any beneficial mutations would be selected and propagated. But this is just a guess.

Anonymous said...

Wow . . . Strauss and the neoconservatives in a nutshell:

Saving America
Leo Strauss and the neoconservatives

By Shadia B. Drury

Strauss is not as obscure or as esoteric as his admirers pretend. There are certain incontestable themes in his work. The most fundamental theme is the distinction between the ancients and the moderns - a distinction that informs all his work. According to Strauss, ancient philosophers (such as Plato) were wise and wily, but modern philosophers (such as Locke and other liberals) were foolish and vulgar. The wise ancients thought that the unwashed masses were not fit for either truth or liberty; and giving them these sublime treasures was like throwing pearls before swine. Accordingly, they believed that society needs an elite of philosophers or intellectuals to manufacture "noble lies" for the consumption of the masses. Not surprisingly, the ancients had no use for democracy. Plato balked at the democratic idea that any Donald, Dick, or George was equally fit to rule.

In contrast to the ancients, the moderns were the foolish lovers of truth and liberty; they believed in the natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They believed that human beings were born free and could be legitimately ruled only by their own consent.

The ancients denied that there is any natural right to liberty. Human beings are born neither free nor equal. The natural human condition is not one of freedom, but of subordination. And in Strauss's estimation, they were right in thinking that there is only one natural right - the right of the superior to rule over the inferior - the master over the slave, the husband over the wife, and the wise few over the vulgar many. As to the pursuit of happiness - what could the vulgar do with happiness except drink, gamble, and fornicate?

Praising the wisdom of the ancients and condemning the folly of the moderns was the whole point of Strauss's most famous book, Natural Right and History. The cover of the book sports the American Declaration of Independence. But the book is a celebration of nature - not the natural rights of man (as the appearance of the book would lead one to believe), but the natural order of domination and subordination.

In his book On Tyranny, Strauss referred to the right of the superior to rule as "the tyrannical teaching" of the ancients which must be kept secret. But what is the reason for secrecy? Strauss tells us that the tyrannical teaching must be kept secret for two reasons - to spare the people's feelings and to protect the elite from possible reprisals. After all, the people are not likely to be favourably disposed to the fact that they are intended for subordination.

Eric said...


The site you're looking for in the last part of your post is

Tony Fisk said...

Magnetic field flips, San Andreas fault slippage, big asteroid strikes, flu pandemics, limits to growth. The four coconut clackers of the apocalypso. All overdue. The universal state is 'late', it seems.

Money as a disease....!

The magnetic field is unlikely to 'disappear' completely. More likely it would break up into a multipolar configuration and then gradually reassert in the opposite direction. Interesting time, nonetheless.

Thankyou Stefan. Strauss in terms the 'unwashed masses' can appreciate. To put it more succinctly:

What a wanker!!!

Anonymous said...

Two more news postings

Astronomers have for the first time put some real numbers on the physical characteristics of dark matter.

A carbon-rich substance found filling tiny cracks within a Martian meteorite could boost the idea that life once existed on the Red Planet.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but I'm suprised you haven't posted stuff like this among your news updates; given that you're an Astronomer/Astrophysicist, I'd have thought this stuff the kind of thing that would have you shouting from the rooftops.

Anonymous said...

Admittedly it's not scientific, but a few of us have fun tracking our money with . It's surprising how much currency travels.

And I'm having a hard time getting worked up over the global warming thing. The available evidence seems to suggest that it's almost as warm now as it was 1000 years ago, and over longer periods of time the global temperature seems to seek means that are generally warmer than they are currently.

So many people seem to want to stick the entire Earth in a time capsule and freeze it way it is. Anyone that thinks about that idea for longer than ten seconds should realize it's futile.

Anonymous said...

Hi, David. I know you've addressed the question of hyperlinks before and why you don't create them, but since you are also a big proponent of CITOKATE, I'd like to suggest it is an error to not provide a convenient link for people to follow from your excellent posts. So here is my criticism :-)

First, it's not a huge problem to copy and paste the link, but I also don't think it should be a big problem to provide the link, either. For a scientist and science fiction writer in this day and age to not have readily available the tools to add a hyperlink in this amazing medium... It's a pity. It's the links that make the web what it is!

This probably goes to my own laziness, but I don't follow as many of your story references because I don't have something like this:

I don't see how typing and then pasting the link again and then should add significantly to your overhead in sharing the URL.

But now let me backtrack and say that I'd rather have you sharing these URLs and posting this stuff and not not do it because it's too much work. But look at me sucking up to you instead of just saying my criticism. But! I really don't want to offend -- I love your blog and I'm grateful that you spend the time on it that you do.

Anonymous said...

Gack! Hosed by the preview. I had encoded the links:

I don't see how typing <a href=" and then pasting in the link and then "> and then pasting the link again and then </a> should add significantly to your overhead in sharing the URL.

So that it would look right, and it did in the preview, but then turned in to a link. (If it does it again then I'm giving up. Oh, oh, I hope this doesn't provide amunition for your resistance to putting the html anchor reference tag!)

Anonymous said...

Orpheus and Gibson

Um...I think someone named Gibson made a guitar or two, way back when. Just saying.

Eric said...


If it bothers you so much (and frankly, it gets on my nerves at times as well) that DB doesn't make the URLs he cites clickable, there's a handy Firefox plugin that turns most of DB's text URLs into ordinary, clickable links. You want the Linkification extension.

The only URls it doesn't work on are ones that wrap multiple lines, but it allows for most of the URLs in this post to be clickable, for instance.

Rob Perkins said...

Scott, I don't think David is the only Smart Person annoyed by HTML minutae. For some reason IE on his Mac (OS 9) eats Blogger-generated links.

I have as much of a problem as Palliard getting very excited about reversing global warming.

Kagehi said...

Hmm. Just had a thought. I wonder if a magnetic flip on earth will propogate the same way as the article in American Scientist Volume 94, Number 1, pp. 19-20?

Basically, in a megnetic crystal at least, once sufficient energy is applied to cause the magnetic pattern to start reversing the way it reverses is identical to the propogation of a flame through materials, like bunring a sheet of paper, only you can do it over and over again. If the energy is not sufficient, then it sort of goes out, leaving part of the crystal aligned one way, and the rest the original, sort of like if oxygen ran out when trying to burn the paper.

In any case, another method of genetic jumping that was recently tested in a lab involved inducing environmental shifts, which trigger existing systems to produce changes through environmental factors:

Ack..! Came across this when looking for that link:

David Brin said...

Palliard, the essence is not that the Earth is automatically heading for hell because of global warming. The whole thing may be overstated (or not). None of that it central to the key point, which is common sense prudence.

We are performing a vast experiment with the complex synergistic machine that is our only capsule-vehicle for traveling through stark and lethal space. We are ignorant children, overloading the CO2 scrubbers while some folks peer into the ships logs and say “See? It was just as warm as this 1,000 years ago!”

It would be one thing if there were a simple either-or. In order to cease the global climate change thing, STOP our rush toward high-tech and an economy that may end poverty. Yes, fanatics at both wings want to pose it this way, and it’s utter nonsense. We should be able to reduce carbon emissions with an eclectic mix of measures that should have very little economic impact, if we start right away.

Only venal monsters would subsidize misinformation campaigns, crying “we need more research!” ... while savagely cutting the research! This should anger you. Or are you so comfortable with “having a hard time getting worked up” that you are unable to ponder the possibility (backed by most of the world’s climatologists) that maybe there IS something to get worked up about?

The great phrase of science is "I might be wrong." If we do what either type of fanatics wants... and they prove wrong, we are screwed. If we take sensible precautions and make sensible investments, then we stay agile and win either way! Moreover, ALL OF THE INVESTMENTS THAT MIGHT EASE GLOBAL WARMING WILL HELP US ANYWAY!

Maybe a little prudent hedge-betting, in more than one basket?

Aw... I explained that blogger html functions blow up my mac. But here goes.

Agh. You mean I would have to type that href stuff every single time? No, I do not plan to do that on a regular basis. You guys simply do not know how much pressure I am under, from my family, to drop this entire blog and go back to writing things that earn an income.

Anonymous said...

Time to start posting a blog tip jar.

Anonymous said...

No. Time to write a novel.

Anonymous said...

We should be able to reduce carbon emissions with an eclectic mix of measures that should have very little economic impact, if we start right away.

Well, I'll give you that one. Many of the things we do, we do horribly inefficiently.

Or are you so comfortable with “having a hard time getting worked up” that you are unable to ponder the possibility (backed by most of the world’s climatologists) that maybe there IS something to get worked up about?

Every place I've worked has had the same motto: "Nothing's important until it's a crisis." Interpreted another way, "it's not a problem until the boss has a problem."

Given the way our culture currently cleaves, this will be when most of our country has sunk into poverty and our outsourced labor force dies en masse.

Call me jaded if you will, but I don't see trying to prevent global warming as a viable strategy.

You guys simply do not know how much pressure I am under, from my family, to drop this entire blog and go back to writing things that earn an income.

You should listen to them, until "Bloggies" come with cheques. I enjoy your blog as much as anyone, but you've got to sort your priorities.

Oh, and D'oh, my last post looked fine in the preview. C'est la vie.

David Brin said...

Hey, one "tip jar" is to buy the short pieces I post at! And better yet, get a dozen others to do it!

Hey, I tested crude versions here. Don't you want to see if I listen to suggestions?


Palliard, you REALLY need to read the one that Amazon will post in 2 weeks about "cynicism"... and the next one, about the coming singularity.

Anonymous said...

A look at Senator Sam Brownback, the religious right's new Golden Boy:

Tony Fisk said...

When it comes to global warming, it's not just the US administration who are trying to get reality to conform to policy. Three CSIRO scientists have reported similar tactics being applied to them by the Australian government:

This excerpt from :
The Age
...Dr Pearman is one of three leading climate experts quoted on the ABC's Four Corners tonight who say they have been repeatedly gagged in the public debate on greenhouse gas cuts.

Dr Barrie Pittock, who was awarded a Public Service Medal for his climate work, has told Four Corners he was instructed to remove politically sensitive material from a government publication on climate change.

And Barney Foran, a 30-year CSIRO veteran, cited a case in August when CSIRO managers told him they had fielded a call from the Prime Minister's Department suggesting he should say nothing critical about ethanol as an alternative fuel.

So, to any other Australians out there: 'Four Corners: The Greenhouse Mafia' might be interesting viewing tonight ! Others will have to be content with the program summary at the given link.

(For the record, Howard has been trying to starve the ABC to death for years. The day the government is not worried about its broadcaster will be a very worrying day for the rest of us!)

Tony Fisk said...

...whistleblower included!

reason said...

unfortunately a lot of the discussion of global warming is badly phrased.
It is clear that the global effect of global warming may not be clearly catastrophic, but local affects will be catestrophic. Sea level will rise, not just from melting ice, but also from warming seas. Vast numbers of people living in low lying areas will be displaced. This is the big issue, how will a very full world cope with massive migrations. You personally may live in Montana, and think I actually would like it to be a bit warmer. But would you want a million desperate Bangladeshies moving in with you?

Anonymous said...

Has anyone read anything about the idea that changes to the magnetic field of the planet may itself be helping to increase the average temperature in the Earth's atmosphere? How much does weakening field contribute to Global Warming (if at all)?