As I prep for a (hopefully) minor medical procedure, here's an early weekend posting, to keep y'all from going too ravenous!
Here’s an article about phosphorous recycling – including pee-recovery, in the New Yorker. "Rich Earth's Urine Nutrient Reclamation Program’s restrooms are equipped with four kinds of urine-diverting toilets." Um as I described and predicted almost two decades ago in my novel Existence. Morocco has over 70% of the world's phosphate reserves. And soon the King of Morocco will be richest person on Earth. Florida used to have the large phosphate deposits, now almost gone.
New insights into earth's structure: The predominant geological model of our planet incorporates four distinct layers: a crust and a mantle (composed largely of silicate minerals) and an outer core and inner core composed of nickel-iron. Now a team reports finding evidence for another distinct layer (a solid metal ball) in the center of Earth’s inner core – an “innermost inner core.”
Meanwhile, there is ambiguity and disagreement over seismic indications that Earth’s solid iron inner core may have slowed its spin-rotation as part of a rhythmic (70 year?) cycle. Very preliminary. Still, call Messrs Strauss & Howe of “The Fourth Turning,” which I've discussed in a past blog posting.
== “Futurism” accelerates…especially regarding AI ==
I have published Part I of my extensive essay, which explores: Essential (mostly neglected) questions and answers about Artificial Intelligence. And now, Part II is up as well.
A brief summary of my core belief about the future – backed by science – is distilled here at Imaginezine: “Imagining… and evading… the Quicksand,” where I discuss our most-human quality - "anticipatory imagination".
Can science and art overlap? 60 or so years ago, C.P. Snow wrote about the “Two Cultures” of intellect who had great difficulty communicating across a divide of preconceptions and even language. Indeed, that insight may have been valid, when Snow wrote it, provoking widespread discussion. But times change. A decade ago, I commemorated half a century since that disturbing essay, showing that almost nothing about the “Two Cultures” missive was any longer true. See my essay: The New Modernism: Blending Science, Engineering, Art and Human Imagination.
In fact, ever since my undergraduate days at Caltech, I have seen the diametric opposite! True, that was in vanguard California. But across all the years since, I have never known a top scientist who did not have some kind of artistic hobby or sideline! From Einstein's violin and Feynman's bongos and painting to Murray Gell-Mann's expertise in Finnegan's Wake. And nowadays many artists (like Sheldon Brown and Bruce Beasley) immerse themselves into sci-tech, in order to do their art. (Does my own art count? If so there are many examples. See this article on Scientists that were also novelists, which includes Carl Sagan, Gregory Benford, Robert Forward, Fred Hoyle... and David Brin.)
A recent example is Dale Stuart. Dale has an ScD from MIT in aerospace engineering. Her thesis: Guidance and control of tethered rendezvous in space at the end of long trapezes. After she left MIT, she worked in aerospace for a few years, then shifted gears. Winddance, Dale's freestyle skydiving dance project reminds me of Spider Robinson's award winning novella "Stardance" where zero g dancing impresses aliens into communicating.
Under the category of things that make me go “hmmm?” This is what happens when you swamp any field with brilliant young minds. “The number of science and technology research papers published has skyrocketed over the past few decades — but the ‘disruptiveness’ of those papers has dropped, according to an analysis of how radically papers depart from the previous literature.”
== Biotech research ==
Tissue cultured meat – long predicted in sci fi – is rapidly approaching prime time (so to speak). The planet, our health, our karma and eventually our wallets will all benefit hugely. Even if it becomes like tilapia - the healthiest and by far eco-best fish – slightly in need of extra seasoning, that’s still a wonderful prospect.
According to Peter Diamandis: "cellular agriculture or stem-cell based meat production, a field that is poised for rapid demonetization. Over time, producing a cell-based beef burger has fallen 10,000-fold from $1M/kg in 2000 to about $100/kg in 2020. This cost is expected to fall below $10/kg by 2025, thus creating a mass-market cost-equivalent way of replacing beef at minimal environmental cost and reducing animal slaughter. Similar price reduction is being seen in stem cell-based chicken and fish.
"This technology will allow the production of beef, chicken, and fish anywhere, on-demand, and will be more nutritious and environmentally friendly than traditional livestock options." Technologies first seen widely in the classic sci fi novel, The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth.
And here’s a great reason to accelerate meat alternatives: ‘Incredibly intelligent, highly elusive’: the US faces new threat from Canadian ‘super pig’ - Northern states on alert for invasion of cross-bred pig that threatens flora and fauna – and is difficult to stop. And emerging from the spreading kudzu, down south, are the feral tuskers. And when they meet and hybridize...
We warned you guys. Didn't we warn you?
== Convergence & quantum mechanics ==
Physicists use quantum mechanics to pull energy out of nothing: Some are familiar (from ‘Stargate?’) with the concept of Zero Point Energy… that the ground state in a vacuum still fizzes with quantum fluctuations which average zero… and it should be impossible to tap (usefully) any of that. Well, unless… unless you throw in entanglement, the spookiest thing in physics. Which (it seems) can let you put energy in at one place and then tell someone how to extract it from the vacuum(!) usefully, somewhere far away. In other words… teleportation. Don’t get excited now. It’s a pretty darned limited kind! But still…
Recently released: Convergence: Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Computing: Social, Economic, and Policy Impacts. Two key pieces of 21st century technology – artificial intelligence and quantum computing—will provoke watershed moments in humanity's technological and societal development. In 24 chapters, renowned experts, from Nobel laureate Roald Hoffman to technology company Chief Executive Officers to rights activists opine on whether we, as a species, are prepared to confront the challenges of this onrushing revolution. Sales of this book directly support the Museum of Science Fiction. With a foreword by Hugo and Nebula award winning author and Museum advisory board member, David Brin.
Speaking of convergence, now of the evolutionary kind, it seems like the echolocation abilities of bats and dolphins aren’t just functionally similar. They appear also to arise from very similar shifts in specific genes. Wow. Gimme dat. Also the hibernation of bears, camel kidneys and the flow through lungs of birds. And titanium-ceramic bones and smart self-repair and…
But what's keeping me swamped is all this AI stuff.Very little of it making any sense at all, alas.