== Transmissions from tomorrow? ==
It can be fun to toy with the idea of transmissions through time. Gregory Benford’s TIMESCAPE take the concept literally. Most serious science fiction can be taken as warnings from alternate potential tomorrows.
This Cli Fi game sends clues from the future… Chronofacts brings messages from a variety of possible futures—some pleasant, others apocalyptic. These clues make up the basis of FutureCoast, a collaborative storytelling game that explores what people in the present think about how climate change will affect their future.
Speaking of messages from the beyond… here’s an uber-cool animation of what will happen in 4 billion years, when the Andromeda Galaxy collides with ours. Plus some highly evocative artist conceptions of what the sky might look like from the surface of Earth about that time. Of course, it takes our solar system over 200 million years to orbit the center of the Milky Way, so these scenes would be give or take a hundred million or so!
Ever want to send helpful messages back in time? How about this one that should have been invented 4000 years ago. Eccentric axe uses physics to make splitting firewood easier.
Or let the past come alive? Should scientists bring extinct species back from oblivion? The mighty Stewart Brand and his wife the equally mighty Ryan Phelan ponder a question I also mused in EXISTENCE. “…It isn’t possible to bring dinosaurs back to life, scientists say, because their DNA is too degraded after millions of years. But work is now under way to bring back more recently extinct species. This includes research at the University of California-Santa Cruz aimed at restoring passenger pigeons, and Harvard scientists’ attempts to bring back the woolly mammoth…. There are significant practical, ethical, and legal questions yet to be worked out.”
Or messages ABOUT the future? Transhumanists have a new tome! Ben Goertzel and Natasha Vita-More have brought forth a fascinating collection of contributions (from Aubrey De Gray, Paul Werbos, Giulio Prisco and yours truly) about potential accelerating change: Between Ape and Artilect: Conversations with Pioneers of General Artificial Intelligence and Other Transformative Technologies.
Or just improve our ability to be intelligent about tomorrow? A four percent improvement in learning performance was induced via cranial electrical stimulation. The process may also have clinical benefits in the treatment of conditions like schizophrenia and ADHD. Man. We could use that four percent.
== Looking toward the facts on climate change ==
Is it time to actually study climate change… instead of basing our “sides” on snarks and silly facebook jpegs? Or loyalty to a particular television nuremberg rally network?
My graduate school alma mater, UCSD, is offering a free on-line course on climate change. If you foist your opinion about, how about knowing more science than you’re gleaning from hypnotic media ranters and jpegs and your Uncle Ralph?
The methane revolution may lead to U.S. energy independence even before solar and wind fully kick in. With less of our money going to coal barons and petro sheiks, we can hope for a better economy and less meddling in our politics. Lower energy prices will create jobs and could also undermine Russian Revanchism.
But if there were ever a “revolution” that merits close watchfulness and regulation, this is it. Fracking — which shatters the very rocks beneath out feet — is a process that should be intensely supervised and shut down whenever and wherever it threatens water supplies. And all the methane drawn from the ground should all be used, never let into the air, where it is a greenhouse gas more powerful than CO2. Fracking sites should not be visible from space because lazy companies flare off natural gas instead of shipping it to market. Here’s an article describing recent moves in these directions — which should accelerate.
There was never a clearer topic area in which moderate pragmatists should be more fierce than this one, in taking the debate away from fanatics of both left and right. Fools who would ignore a great opportunity out of reflex-simplistic prudery… and greater fools who would look at this inherently danger and side-effect-ridden process and blithely shrug away our need to watch it and regulate vey closely. And let’s start by stopping it in heavily populated areas that have rich farmland, like Pennsylvania.
Followup: here’s confirmation of fracking contamination of aquifers. Sorry, I must hammer this point. Fools take extreme positions, when clearly this is a case where we can get vast benefits from a new industry that also needs very close scrutiny, supervision and regulation. Duh? Airline regulation led to the safest mode of transport on Earth. Again, Duh?
== Science Miscellany!==
It’s worth subscribing to this video blog on the Economist magazine – pertinent video following up some news items we’ve raised here.
Researchers at UNSW Science have found that the genetic makeup of the sponge-using dolphins is significantly different than other populations. This means the behavior must be shaping these clever dolphins’ genes. Knew about the sponge-using. Had no idea there was a genetic component!
Meanwhile — a dolphin-to-human language translator… is it finally here? Separate from the question of how intelligent they are, this is an essential and beautiful step… and one for the predictions registry!
While we’re “braining”… “The Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas provides an initial road-map of the brain, at the level of interstate highways and the major cities that they link,” says David Anderson of Caltech. It isn’t as precise as the perfect synapse map of the nematode c. elegans that was revealed last year. But C. elegans has just 302 neurons and mice have 75 million! This is definitely an advance.
I’ve seen a couple of episodes of this thing. Richard Hammond Builds A Universe. With his trademark wit, Richard Hammond takes on the ultimate engineering project: to build a planet piece by piece, from the top of a two-mile high ‘tower’ in the Californian desert.
=== And… ===
Joyful or mirthful laughter produces brain wave frequencies similar to those seen among people who reach what is considered the desired “true state of meditation,” according to a new study from Loma Linda University.
One aspect of the insane War on Science has been the ironic attempts to enlist scientifically respectable voices to support loony “rebel” beliefs. Now we hear that eminences like Laurence Krauss, Michio Kaku and Star Trek actress Kate Mulgrew have been either tricked or deceptively clipped in order to appear in a “film” promoting Geocentrism… the notion that the universe revolves around the Earth. Say what? Does anyone actually think that, let alone spend big money and cheat and steal FaceTime from genuine sages to promote it? This article probes into the matter a bit. But I’m sure the surface has only been scratched.
MIT engineers have coaxed bacterial cells to produce biofilms that can incorporate nonliving materials, such as gold nanoparticles and quantum dots.
A consortium of researchers has produced the first comprehensive, detailed map of the way genes work across the major cells and tissues of the human body.
Touring the Milky Way now is as easy as clicking a button with NASA’s new zoomable, 360-degree mosaic based on Spitzer Infrared images.
== … and to help you sleep well… ==
Since 2001, 26 atomic-bomb-scale explosions have occurred in remote locations around the world, far from populated areas. A list of these impacts can be found on the B6-12 website. New evidence indicates that our planet has experienced many more large-scale asteroid impacts over the past decade than previously thought… three to ten times more, according to a new visualization of data from a nuclear weapons warning network, the B6-12 Foundation.