Challenges for Future Generations: space, brain preservation, and more!

Continuing in a space and science vein, let’s reprise the topic from last time… only this time with another of my rambunctious-uppity videos.

Are we ready, once again, to be a bold, dynamic people, ambitious and confident, ready to take on new challenges and new horizons? See Our Reborn Future in Space, my look at the ambitious proposal by Planetary Resources to mine asteroids for “trillions” in purported mineral wealth. How are these billionaires planning to obtain metals and fuel by mining nearby asteroids? Has the future finally arrived?

Is it B.S. or not B.S.? In Part 2: Science or Fiction? I discuss the obstacles, technical and economic, facing Planetary Resources.

And while we’re on the subject… see a brief  but philosophical view of how crucial the next few human generations may be. Part of a series produced by the European Commission’s Horizons 2020 project.

== Is your brain worth the bother? ==

Brain Preservation FoundationThe Brain Preservation Foundation is an interesting enterprise co-developed by John Smart (Acceleration Studies Foundation) that’s offering a prize for researchers who manage to preserve animal brains in ways that would be suitable for humans and that keep intact the web of physical connections – or the connectome – that some believe to contain all of the information in both memory and thoughts. Brain preservation aims at locking in these connections against post-mortem decay.

Yes, you’ve heard of Alcor which will contract to rush in the moment you are declared dead and perfuse your brain (or whole body) with chemicals so it can be cooled in liquid nitrogen. The contracts are expensive ($200,000 for whole body cryonics) and the promised event would be very gaudy. Still, it seemed the only option, for those whose aim (some might say fetish) was to have their physical organic brain itself someday brought back to life.  (I appraiseo the tradeoffs in an article: Do we really want immortality?)

Believers in the connectome don’t expect or need the organic brain to be revived, so long as all the synapses and their weightings can be preserved and later nano-traced in perfect detail. They hope memories, even personality, might be emulated – some say “revived” – in a computer setting.

Now… I have some deep reservations about this “connectome” business, suspecting that there may be a lot more at work, possibly deep within the associated cells or in highly non-linear and ephemeral standing waves. Moreover, the semantic distinction between emulation and revival is one that we could argue about for decades… and will.

But let’s run with this. Here’s the innovative idea.  If the connectome is everything, then preserve that.  No need to revive the organo-colloidal brain, so plasticize it!  Lock it in lucite.  Store it at room temperature, on your kids’ mantle or book shelf. No garish emergency room procedures or draining/perfusions around grieving relatives and no ongoing refrigeration fees. Heck, why not be decorative, till the nano-dissectors and hifalutin computers are ready…

Well, as I said, I have doubts at many levels.  Still, it has advantages over the gaudy, rather chilling image of cryo skull-dipping. To become a knick-knack. A conversational tchotchke on my descendants’ shelf… and at much lower price, with a lot less drama or dependence on fickle contracts?  Well, it grows more… hm… the word isn’t “tempting.”  But let me put it to you.

What level would the price need to reach before you shrugged and said: sure, sign me up?

==More on the flexible Human Mind==

Using brain-imaging technology for the first time with people experiencing mathematics anxiety, University of Chicago scientists have gained new insights into how some students are able to overcome their fears and succeed in math.   Teaching students to control their emotions prior to doing math may be the best way to overcome the math difficulties that often go along with math anxiety.   READ THIS.

Much discussed  at the “Transhumanism” talks at TedX DelMar where I spoke about space in our neo-human future… brain-computer interfaces, which are starting to mature…. or IMmature!  See for example Brainball!  a special table uses magnets to move a ball AWAY from you the more RELAXED you are. (You wear a brain wave monitor.) I love the image of the two competitors, each looking more unconscious or dead than the other!

On a more sober note. See the top 10 toxic chemicals suspected to cause autism and learning disabilities…No wonder certain powers want the distraction of “vaccination” fury…

And… a Real ‘Beautiful Mind’: College Dropout Became Mathematical Genius After Mugging.

== Astronomical News ==

British scientists have produced a colossal picture of our Milky Way Galaxy that reveals the detail of a billion stars, BBC News reports. “When it was first produced, I played with it for hours; it’s just stunning,”

The Pioneer Anomaly has been resolved, thanks in part to efforts of the Planetary Society to help a small team find, then translate, and finally analyze more than 30 years worth of data, recorded on archaic media.  Sorry, it wasn’t “strange physics.”  But some very good science sleuthing was required.

Astronomers are reporting the first “Earth-sized” planets orbiting within the habitable zones of their stars.  They report stellar parameters for late-K and M-type planet-candidate host stars announced by the Kepler Mission. Three of the planet-candidates are terrestrial sized with orbital semimajor axes that lie within the habitable zones of their host stars.  Note with this kind of star, there is the chance of getting tidal locked, with one face always toward the sun.

It’s  difficult to knock a star out of the galaxy.  To give a star the two-million-plus mile-per-hour kick it  involves tangling with the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s core. Astronomers have found 16 “hypervelocity” stars traveling fast enough to eventually escape galaxy’s gravitational grasp. Now, Vanderbilt astronomers report in a recent issue of the Astronomical Journal that they have identified a group of more than 675 stars on the outskirts of the Milky Way that they argue are hyper-velocity stars that have been ejected from the galactic core.

Wind At Sea Is Strangely Van Goghish, says NASA. New instruments have taken a leap. One of the most beautiful and surprising things I have ever seen!  For the first time we can see how similar our atmosphere behaves to that of Jupiter.  Stunning, beautiful and thought-provoking!

Pop-Art? Artistic geological maps of solar system bodies.

==On the Technological Front==

One of the most instantly recognizable features of glass is the way it reflects light. But a new way of creating surface textures on glass, developed by researchers at MIT, virtually eliminates reflections, producing glass that is almost unrecognizable because of its absence of glare — and whose surface causes water droplets to bounce right off, like tiny rubber balls.

Touché proposes a novel Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing technique that can not only detect a touch event, but also recognize complex configurations of the human hands and body. Tap your arm or hand for gesture commands without a lens or electrodes, and so on.

== And some lighter stuff ==

See a hilarious xkcd about picking a college major:  Why ‘Undecided’ may be the best choice.

A lovely fantasy Voyager cartoon.

Another beautiful mash-up of classical music and space imagery.  Inspiring… and a bit cautionary….

Know that reader who loves to mix both romance and adventure with unusual personalities… and a little science? Have them give a look at the newest novel by Lou Aronica (author of BLUE) and Julian Iragorri:  Differential Equations. I see another book with that same title (mathematics!) on my shelf, nearby.  Lou’s writing is much less dry… and there’s more romance!

And finally….  faux vintage travel posters for the solar system.


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