What if America lost its knack for making things? A disturbing thought...
Or is there a "maker culture" revival starting? See for instance the rise of Hackerspaces around the world -- machine shops where individuals can come together to build, share ideas and invent. Make Magazine offers resources for the DIY and maker movement -- which The Economist wrote could "change how science is taught and boost innovation. It may even herald a new industrial revolution."
Manufacturing is the root that all other projects sprout from... even the arts! In a new graphic novel - TINKERERS - famed author David Brin combines art with a guided tour of history and tech, exploring how to win back the knack!
I kid you not! I was asked by a major metals industry group to create a comic book set in 20 years, that discusses the many reasons for US industrial decline... and how it might come back.
A low-res preview edition is available online (if you'll spread the word!)
Set in the near future of 2024, Tinkerers portrays a small American town whose nearby river bridge -- its lifeline to the world -- collapses one day for lack of maintenance and care. Young Danny Nakamura becomes a hero, using his tinkering skills to save a busload of kids. He then goes on a quest, visiting some of the smartest people in town to ask them why and how this disaster could have happened. Did the bridge's decay and collapse illustrate a decline in citizens' ability to maintain their industry…and civilization?
Physical copies will be available soon from Amazon. Comments are welcome...
Tinkerers has its own Facebook page!
Producing Prosperity: Why America Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance, by Harvard Business School Professors Gary P. Pisano and Willy C. Shih.
And here’s a timely-related piece of news -- Manufacturing with every atom in its place: a scanning tunneling microscope can be used to remove surface atoms one at a time, and then add single atomic layers only to those cleaned areas.
=== OTHER MATTERS ===
That 90 minute audio interview I gave last month, for Jay Ackroyd’s BlogTalkRadio (in conjunction with an event on Second Life), is now available on podcast.
More specifically about the topic of Extraterrestrial life - here's a podcast and interview I gave to Tom Fudge of KPBS radio.
See a fan’s way-cool visual bibliography of my works.
=== And Science! ===
Cancer is a modern, man-made disease (?) caused by environmental factors such as pollution and diet, a study by University of Manchester scientists has strongly suggested. A study of remains and literature from ancient Egypt and Greece and earlier periods — carried out at the University of Manchester’s KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology and published in Nature — includes the first histological diagnosis of cancer in an Egyptian mummy. Ummm....
Paul Davies argues for a one-way manned mission to Mars, where astronauts plan to stay for the rest of their life, setting up a permanent colony, representing a commitment to space and a return to the can-do spirit of exploration "To Boldly Go: A One-Way Human Mission to Mars" (Appears in the often-bizarre “Journal of Cosmology.”)
A terrific cartoon exploration (in a sci-fi'ish vein) of some fun philosophical quandaries. Hilarious... and a bit of a take on the concepts in KILN PEOPLE.
“James Cameron will take moviegoers back to Pandora in a pair of Avatar sequels (actually prequels) that he promises will deliver the same visual and emotional impact as the original sci-fi smash.” Whine groan and gnashing of teeth! Not because I begrudge Cameron... he gave the world a terrific romp and unleashed new technologies that will probably get talking dolphins onto your screens (or holo tanks) within the decade!
No, what upsets me is that I have a LOT to say about Avatar, both good and bad, that I’ve been putting off. Thoughts that Mr. Cameron really ought to ponder... even if he chooses to reject my advice. (A fellow who has given us so much is entitled.) I had hoped to put it off for a while......now I dunno. The issues are pretty darn important. Cameron is trying to teach lessons that aren't getting through... and won't, so long as he makes some basic polemical mistakes.
Research at the University of Chicago indicates that a clenched fish can help deal with stress, anger -- and concentrates the mind away from negative actions.
What Kevin Kelly says about his wonderful new book, What Technology Wants. ”What I learned from writing this book is that I want to minimize the amount of technology in my own life while maximizing it for others. I want the largest pool of choices possible so that I can select a minimal set of highly-evolved tools that will optimize my gifts. At the same time I have a moral obligation to maximize the amount of technologies in the world at large so that others may also select their minimal set from this ever growing pool of possibilities.”
Gregory Benford ruminates, entertainingly, about the prospects for extended life through cryonics. He leaves out some factors, alas, like the odds that people in future generations would want to thaw you out and bring you back! They’ll be the ones with the power, right? In that case, your top priority should not be stashing “investments” to mature and make you rich in the 25th century. It should be to make a better world that will be filled with future folk who are rich and wise and generous... and who might possibly recall - with some gratitude - the efforts that you contributed. To solving problems in your own time, and making a civilization worthy of the name.
The founders of Recorded Future, a new Boston area start-up, believe there is value in applying Google-like search capabilities and a simple interface to a tightly constrained set of data: occurrences that are expected or predicted to happen tomorrow and beyond. It looks fascinating and (at last!) a fresh break away from the over-hyped realm of Prediction Markets.
Since he first heralded our era of environmental collapse in 1989's The End of Nature, Bill McKibben has raised a series of eloquent alarms. In Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, he leads readers to the devastatingly comprehensive conclusion that we no longer inhabit the world in which we've flourished for most of human history: we've passed the tipping point for dramatic climate change, and even if we could stop emissions yesterday, our world will keep warming, triggering more extreme storms, droughts, and other erratic catastrophes, for centuries to come. This is not just our grandchildren's problem, or our children's--we're living through the effects of climate change now, and it's time for us to get creative about our survival.
Bacteria R Us : Are we being manipulated by our bacteria? Ninety percent of the cells in your body are bacteria, not human cells. These bacteria appear to coordinate and even ‘communicate’ among themselves (termed quorum sensing), to manipulate the chemistry of their environment.
Half the world’s population burns biomass to cook food, contributing to deforestation & global warming. Solar cookers may be part of the solution: in Africa women & children spend 3-4 hrs gathering a day’s supply of firewood & often resort to animal dung (fumes cause respiratory problems). Solar cookers can be used to make water potable, reducing disease, improving life in refugee camps. http://www.solarcookers.org/
Dolphins uplifting themselves? In Australia, a group of river dolphins has learned to walk on water, by rapidly paddling their tail fluke. The first dolphin learned during an episode in captivity; she taught others, who passed on the technique –just for fun. An example of cultural transmission in the wild.
Why complex life probably evolved only once: the key step may be in forming complex eukaryotic cells – the more complex the cell, the more problems generating enough energy. In fact, I consider these authors to be foolish. Cells have incorporated other cells many times, not just once.
Just released: Alex Lightman’s new book, Reconciliation – offering 78 reasons why we should end the U.S. embargo of Cuba. After fifty years of a failed policy, it’s time for a fresh start. Mind you I think Fidel Castro needlessly jumbled needless autocracy with a socialist experiment that could have (alas) been tried in good faith, in the most favorable of all conditions. We (humanity) never got to see the experiment, because he gave in to human delusional temptations that any astute reader of history should have known, and avoided... but that very few powerful men ever do, on their own. Having said that... it is simply time. Open it all up. FLood that island with tourists and good and light and returning-rich-emigres. Just do it.
Vote on Andrew Burt’s ad hoc “what’s the best idea” site... and maybe win $75!
=== AM I A FRIEND OF THE SHOW? ===
A crew from the Colbert Report just spent 7 hours here in my home, asking about alien invaders! I tried to stay "calm & mature" but I'm sure they'll edit-for-humor. Heck, I love the show (and they gave me great schwag!) So I guess they can make me look dopey in a good cause.... ;-)