Sunday, July 01, 2007

Varied News From the (Onrushing) Future...

First the sublime:
After months of work, the Metaverse Roadmap Overview is now available for download. Written by Jerry Paffendorf, John Smart and Jamais Cascio, it is an attempt to synthesize current and emerging social, economic and technological trends around virtual worlds, immersive networks, and ubiquitous information. Smart stuff! (So to speak.)

To the Worrisome:
Many of you know I’ve been trying to get some large group like the AAAS to sponsor a discussion of the issue of whether humanity should “shout into the cosmos” in an attempt to draw attention toward us from “others out there”... instead of keeping to the classic SETI program of quietly listening in order to learn more about the cosmos, first. Now, in the excellent British journal THE INDEPENDENT, astronomer David Whitehouse (author of “The Sun, A Biography”) writes an excellent of why it might make sense to discuss the matter, before yelling “yoohoo!” into an unknown wilderness.

To the encouraging:
I’ve mentioned the recent flurry of attention given to SIGMA... the “think tank” of scientifically trained science fiction authors. Now listen to a short interview (on NPR naturally) with Arlan Andrews, founder of SIGMA (and mentioning yours truly.)

Speaking of which, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show interview with Greg Bear is now available.

To Free Stuff!
Download a recent Escape Pod and be patient through an amusing host editorial, to reach a podcast-reading (pretty good) of my short story “The Giving Plague.”

And now the ridiculous:
Adding insult to injury: Instead of simply letting their hold on expire gracefully, Warner Brothers re-assigned the name/URL to “Pokemon3-The Movie. “ Aren’t the names similar?

But it gets better when people start worrying about black holes (little teeny ones)falling into the Earth. (Sound familiar?)

See where your petrol dollars are going. At least this one sounds interesting and forward-looking. An "Underwater Resort" being built in Dubai? They're calling it Hydropolis. It's an interesting idea, but I wonder how feasible it is.

Another “saw it here first. Cell Phone Bomb Detectors Discussing whether the cell phone can become a biological and radiation detector.

Speaking of which, the Age of Amateurs has sprouted radiation-seeking hobbyists.

Stimulating the brain with a magnetic coil appears to promote
growth of new neurons, possibly leading to treatments for brain

Along similar lines, The LA Police Commission on Tuesday approved a proposal to buy a software program that would allow witnesses with cell phone cameras to take pictures of accident and crime scenes and transmit the images to 911 call centers.

A fascinating article about the edges of transparency, in which the professionals actually behaved with a slight tilt toward looking like adults.

Taking the “Age of Amateurs” to its next level.... Public donates to UW scientist to fund backward-in-time research. Experiment may be 'weird,' but donors think it's pretty cool. “A University of Washington scientist who could not obtain funding from traditional research agencies to test his idea that light particles act in reverse time has received more than $35,000 from folks nationwide who didn't want to see this admittedly far-fetched idea go unexplored.”

As it turns out, the researcher, Dr. John Cramer is a friend and colleague and a very “for real” physicist. Naturally, I enjoy his wild and well-founded ideas. I even stop talking for a while! Still, what’s reallky fascinating this time is the grassroots support. Almost grudgingly, the new era is grinding into being.
(See the link for “how to donate”!)

Here’s another nifty thing. Micro-sculpture! Alas, this kind of thing will soon seem less impressive as ultra-microscopic manufacturing techniques become capable of manipulating one molecule at a time. Inevitably, some techies will start to use the methods for art. For a sense of scale, imagine the figures made by Willard Wigan that stand inside the eye of a needle. Imagine one of them HOLDING a needle of his own, peering at tiny figures inside THAT eye...

...and those tiny figures hold needles with tiny figures inside them... And repeat this another couple of times. That’s our brave new world.

A breakthrough textile made from carbon nanotubes could make lighter
bullet-proof clothing, wiring for aircraft and more efficient power
transmission lines.

See an inspiring article about Prof. George Slusser’s long, uphill struggle to turn UC Riverside's library of science fiction, fantasy and horror books into the world's largest and a necessary trek for scholars. To get there, George had to overcome sabotage and the vicious narrowmindedness of the cult of postmodernists who have taken over most English Departments, all over America.

The Google Trends home page now has a section named "Hot Trends," which
shows the hottest queries for the day. The trends history also shows
data by country, state, and city, worldwide.

This guy got his solid-state tesla coil to generate tones by pulsing its arcs at high frequencies. They're still trying to decide whether to call this a "Zeusaphone" or a "Thoramin"

Scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute have for a U.S. patent on a minimal bacterial genome that they built themselves. According to the patent application, it's "a minimal set of protein-coding genes which provides the information required for replication of a free-living organism in a rich bacterial culture medium."

Using photos of oft-snapped subjects (such as Notre Dame cathedral) scraped from around the Web, this short video demonstrates Photosynth (based on Seadragon) technology to create multidimensional spaces with zoom and navigation features that outstrip all expectation. It permits a composite visual image of something to be assembled by creating what are essentially content-based hyperlinks between all the images of the item (person/place/thing) available throughout the internet.

Hubble’s “Image Tours” show you Hubble pictures through an astronomer's eyes, pinpointing and explaining key features. Point and click through these interactive images to add understanding to the joy of cosmic sightseeing. Take an armchair tour of the Tadpole Gallaxy, the Helix Nebula, the Eagle Nebula and six others; the beauty of the universe is astonishing.

A device that specifically targets rapidly growing cancer cells with intermediate frequency electrical fields, called Tumor-Treating Fields (TTFields), has doubled the survival rates of patients with brain cancer. It uses electrical fields to disrupt tumor growth by interfering with cell division of cancerous cells, causing them to stop proliferating and die off instead of dividing and growing. Healthy brain cells rarely divide and have different electrical properties than cancerous brain cells.

The landmark U.S. law to fight water pollution will now apply only to bodies of water large enough for boats to use, and their adjacent wetlands, and will not automatically protect streams according to the U.S. government.

Scientists from Spectrolab, Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing, have recently published their research on the fabrication of solar cells that surpass the 40% efficiency milestone—the highest efficiency achieved for any photovoltaic device.

Physicists at Harvard University have found that individual carbon-13 atoms in a diamond lattice can be manipulated with extraordinary precision to create stable and a small quantum processor, also known as a quantum register, oper at room temperature.

Medium-duty work trucks powered mainly by electricity may be only five to 10 years away, with the development of more efficient and cost-effective battery storage.

And finally...

Russia has banned the shipment of medical specimens abroad, threatening hundreds of patients and complicating drug trials by major companies, the national Kommersant newspaper reported on Wednesday. kommersant attributed the ban to fears in the secret service that Russian genetic material could be used abroad to make biochemical weapons targeting russians. Yeesh, I had this idea for a thriller 20 years ago. Thought it too cheesy.


Anonymous said...

And so it begins...

Tony Fisk said...

Is that half a pardon?

Unknown said...

"If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is," Bush told reporters at an impromptu news conference during a fund-raising stop in Chicago, Illinois. "If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of."

I guess he meant it.

Anonymous said...

David Brin said:

See an inspiring article about Prof. George Slusser’s long, uphill struggle to turn UC Riverside's library of science fiction, fantasy and horror books into the world's largest and a necessary trek for scholars. To get there, George had to overcome sabotage and the vicious narrowmindedness of the cult of postmodernists who have taken over most English Departments, all over America.

But thankfully modern English departments aren't at all so anti-SF now as they once were. My English courses have included several modules on the stuff - and got a couple of classmates into it as well. I'm in Australia, but the article does mention that the tide's turned a little.

Most of the History and Philosophy professor's I've had have been science fiction fans, too. Cultural Studies is what I hope to major in, and even though there's only an occasional fan I don't think I've done a single course yet that hasn't included a mention of SF fandom.

The only group who still hates SF at my university seems to be the Creative Arts faculty. At least the Literature side of it.

David Brin said...

re Scooter, yup. The Pardon Tsunami.

The democrats had a big chance... to create a "truth & reconciliation" process by which Bushites could come before a committee and blag in exchange for immunity... thus getting a bird in the hand BEFORE Bush starts the Pardon Tsunami for real, around Christmas 2008.

Competing pardon-fests? Sure. It doesn't suit the thirst that some liberals nurse, for revenge. But the TRUTH is the best revenge. And since Bush's power to pardon is Constitutionally preserved, the only way to neutralize it will be to COMPETE with in.

After all, a bird in the hand (immunity now) is better than two in the ... well... bush.

For more on how I predicted the Pardon Tsunami... and what to do about it, see:


As for English departments not despising science fiction? Look, ALL english lit depts HAVE TO offer SF courses as part of the competition to draw in nerds who must satisfy arts-breadth requirements. So the departments hire an SF instructor...

...but they almost never give him or her tenure. THAT is your litmus test. Would they ever give a non crypto marxist postmodernist VOTING RIGHTS on the committees to pick new faculty? Someone who might prefer HG Wells over Henry James?

Not a chance.

Woozle said...

Is anyone else having trouble with the Greg Bear / Jon Stewart video? If I play from the main list, it just goes to Fareed Zakaria. If I move Bear's video to the "playlist", then I get about 2 seconds of blankness over and over again. This happens in both Linux and Win98. (Anyone know where I can complain to at Comedy Central?)

Tried Google Video and YouTube; no luck, although there are certainly plenty of Daily Show clips.

Update: By twiddling with the player controls, I was able to see the first minute or two -- and then it froze, and when I got back from checking my internet connection to make sure that it wasn't the problem, the video had gone back to the two-second loop.

(But hey, it sure is a darn good thing I can't just download the clip and play it with my usual video player -- otherwise I might pirate it! People could get hurt!)

sociotard said...

Y'know, the bit about the public funding Dr. Cramer's research would be a great idea for a public charity of sorts. A way for the public to know what out-of-the-box ideas were being rejcected and to give the public a means to contribute. Lets see . . .

The "Outside the Box" foundation would be headed by a group of Scientists (and maybe Sci Fi authors). It would allow scientists whose ideas are too "out there" to petition the public for funding. They would submit a standard research proposal (they should already have one, since the foundation would only help those whose research had been stymmied at every other turn) and, most importantly, a You Tube video (because most of the public would prefer to watch a 3 minute video explaining why the research was cool than to read a technical paper).

People would donate to the project of their choice (which would feature a counter for funds needed and funds recieved). A percentage of the donations (along with advertising dollars) would go to maintaining the site and performing backround checks to make sure the scientists were legit.

Hmm. Maybe. It could work, I think. It'd help guys like Robert Bussard fund his Fusion project.

Woozle said...

Update #2 (and I know everyone has just been dying for blow-by-blow commentary on my battle with internet video technology, but here it is anyway): I tried loading the page afresh from what turned out to be the same link Dr. B. gave, and the video played all the way through. I can only hazard, therefore, that it was just a matter of being persistent. (I suppose it's only fair that I should have to do some work for my 7 minutes of content.)

Tony Fisk said...

Groklaw has just posted an interesting (and long) talk given by Eben Moglen, which resonates with many of the things discussed here. It's to do with the nature of software, the newly released GPL v3 license, and it's potential impact on civilisation.

Since the GPL v3 license has only just been released, the future is about as onrushing as it gets.

"The Global Software Industry in Transformation: After GPLv3"

An excerpt:

"Not with respect to mathematics, but with respect to its very close cousin physics, the sixteenth century European social order brought this subject very firmly to the top, and with the name Galileo Galilei, we associate two of the most important cultural responses to the quandary of possessed physics.

The first is an insistence upon freedom from censorship, that is "e pur si muove" -- determination to prohibit the ownership of physics by an entity rich enough and powerful enough to define its physics as the only permissible physics, the only available physics, for most ordinary people. And second, the first significant attempt in the history of the West to write scientific literature at the state of the art in a vernacular language, accessible to everyone.

Galileo Galilei's decision to publish in Italian is as important as his decision to risk confrontation with the Church, for what it says about the fundamental pillars of free science in the history of the West. Not merely, in other words, an insistence upon the freedom of ideas to work their will in skilled hands, but a determination that the ideas which motivate the world, which explain its behavior and which render it controllable, should be universally accessible to people regardless of their ability to acquire enough social surplus to have Latin.

We have come, at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries, to an equivalently important moment in the history of human civilization, a moment at which the principle of the universalization of free knowledge becomes, for technical reasons, universally fulfillable. Where it becomes, for technical reasons, possible for the first time in the history of human beings to bring all useful and beautiful knowledge to everybody without regard to the ability to pay. We are, to be sure, at a minimum a generation from the achievement of that goal, but we have never in the history of human beings been within one generation of the achievement of that goal before. "

Oh, and David? You might want to drop Stallman & co. your Holocene business card:

"Technology came to our defense. I began the process saying that we would not use any technology not off the shelf, and I was wrong. We needed, it turned out, a web tool for allowing large numbers of people to mark up a document held in common in such a way that they could see and judge the intensity of one another's comments and participate not adding one more to a thread, but by seeing in a localized way what it was that others had already said about language that concerned them, and we required those making comments to anchor themselves in the text."

David Brin said...

Tony, by hook or cook, could you get those folks this link to my Google Tech Talk:

(Yes I am an outrageoussputtering egomaniacal freak show at times, when I speak. At other times, I do pretty good futurist razzle dazzle. It varies, but I keep getting asked to give speeches for $. See On this occasion, I may have gove overboard, but the CONTENT of the talk is among the richest you'll find.)

Anonymous said...

Be sure to check out the On the Media Segment about the Sigma guys.

Dr. Brin is mentioned but not directly quoted.


P.S. Write your congress person and LET HIM OR HER KNOW YOU ARE DISGUSTED about the Libby commutation.

Unknown said...

And now this on the age of amateurs, transparency, and resilient-citizenry front:

Random people on two continents, coordinating via Internet to sting an eBay scammer. While the would-be mark in the US is sending abjectly despairing emails about the fate of the "valuable" goods he's shipped, three of his contacts are staking out the scammer's hideout in the UK, taking photographs and investigating. In the end, the scammer ends up paying $550 in shipping and duties to receive fake goods ... and can't very well complain, since they never sent the $2200 they promised for those goods! Not to mention that there's lots of documented evidence that the police would see promptly if they did issue a complaint.

Unknown said...

It looked correct when I previewed it! Your f*#!ing blog commenting system is obviously badly broken. :P

P.S. Isn't using 256-bit AES encryption on commend submissions perhaps slightly overkill? (Nevermind for simply READING the comments.)

Tony Fisk said...

Dear George may yet grant the other half of a pardon to Libby

Just testing the waters? (Remember to seek the high ground when they start receding)

Tony Fisk said...

... bad news on the open document front.

Massachusetts Lowers its Standards

"Massachusetts has added Ecma-376 Office OpenXML to the list of potentially acceptable "open formats". ... From my reading, they've lowered the bar for choosing what standards to use, rather than requiring Microsoft to rise to the open formats/open standards level the state originally set...

#1. Is the standard fully documented and publicly available?

Fully documented? Open XML? Sir, you jest. If it were, Microsoft wouldn't need to make Novell and Xandros and Linspire sign NDAs and then write translators for them, now, would they?

I always thought that open standards were meant to be, open?

Genius said...

If I wanted to target russians theres a perfectly good sample nearby. I dont need to go to Russia.
Ofr course anything that targets russians would still kill a fair percentage of almost every other group - particularly other europeans and asians.