== Science & Society ==
– Identity in the modern world: India, with 1.2 billion people, is expected to surpass China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030. But how to keep track of such an immense population? The poorest of the poor typically lack legal documents or reliable identification, limiting their access to government and banking services. Now technology steps in. All across India, using fingerprint and iris scanners, workers are creating the world’s largest biometric database, a mind-boggling collection of 1.2 billion identities. The system, known as Aadhaar, or Foundation, would be able to verify the identity of any citzen in seconds, using inexpensive, hand-held devices.
One worthy goal: to reduce fraud, corruption and economic inequality. Identification will better enable the poor to obtain fair access to government services, such as welfare benefits, open a bank account or get a cellphone. Challenges include obtaining high-quality data, and avoiding duplicate registration of individuals.
These 12-digit ID numbers will help build real citizenship in a society where identity has been historically linked with caste, kin, religion and village of birth, with opportunities and benefits hindered by a complex and all-too-often corrupt bureaucracy. Ah, one can hope that it won’t just serve as a tool of top-down control.
– To resolve conflict, believe people can change. Negotiation often fails because each side believes their opponent is inflexible, according to researchers in Israel. Stand-offs, they say, can end if those involved ponder the possibility that their counterparts can adopt a flexible mindset.
– Climate Change & Civil War: Starting with data on conflicts that killed more than 25 people, as compiled by the Center for the Study of Civil War to include 175 countries and 234 civil wars in the last six decades or so, the researchers mapped out how many of these disputes occurred in years with an El Niño weather pattern. They found that the risks of civil war breaking out in a tropical country during an El Niño doubled. Then, running a comparative simulation in which such El Niño weather patterns did not occur, the researchers determined that the hotter, drier conditions helped stoke 48 civil wars that did not occur in the modeled El Nino-free world. “Even in this modern world, climate variability has an impact on the propensity of people to fight,” says climate modeler Mark Cane of Columbia University. “When people get warmer than comfortable they get irritable and they are more prone to fight.”
– Picture a world where tools improve with use. It’s the premise of my way-fun novel, The Practice Effect. Our own world may not work that way, but Tarus Balog suggests that open source software can follow that pattern. Version 1.0 may be bare bones, then users add features, erase glitches, till it becomes robust. Creative transparency. I have such a project!
== Science Snippets ==
– Gorgeous! See time-lapse videos—captured over the course of 14 years by the Hubble Space Telescope. Amazing to see vast phenomena changing across the years.
– Looking back: Jupiter-Bound Spacecraft Sees Earth and Moon from Afar.
– Vaccines are nearly entirely safe. But don’t try telling that to the cultists.
– Human Activity Is Officially Acknowledged to Cause Earthquakes.
== Miscellaneous ==
– “From The ‘London Times’ of 1904” is one of Mark Twain’s sort of halfway sojourns into science fiction. Read about an imaginary device called a “telelectroscope,” which was essentially a telephone with a “moving picture” screen that, when connected to a network of telelectroscopes all around the world, created a worldwide system of information sharing.
…and then how it inspires one sci fi reader to ponder “green SF.”
– Alyona Lompar has posted her Ukrainian translation of the first ten chapters of The Uplift War.
– A cool short video about a woman who wakes up in prison and gets ahold of the gun from PORTAL.