Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The World Moves Ahead to More Cool Stuff

Time for my monthly  cornucopia of cool (and non-political) news from the exciting world around us.

Brinvolved Items:

"FiRe CTO Design Challenge": Author, physicist, and host David Brin leads the challenge of "Water Beyond Tomorrow: Using Technology and Innovation to Provide San Diego (and the World) with Adequate Safe Water for Future Decades"  at this year’s “FiRe Conference (Future in Review). 

I had the honor of hosting and stimulating and challenging some of the brightes high technology officers in modern business, including: Sophie Vandebroek, CTO, Xerox, and President, Xerox Innovation Group; Eric Openshaw, Vice Chair and U.S. Technology Leader, Deloitte; Per-Kristian (Kris) Halvorsen, SVP and Chief Innovation Officer, Intuit; Ty Carlson, Architect, SiArch Group, Microsoft; and Joe Burton, CTO, Cisco.

I was interviewed on the BBC World Service on the issue of “bombing” a lunar crater to discover whether there is ice on the moon.  The interviewers worried deeply about littering... but it turned into a delightful and fairminded treatment of the topic.  If it is no longer up, I hope to post it at

See an excellent and eye-opening article about The Participatory Panopticon, by Jamais Cascio, that includes an interview with David Brin about our ongoing rush toward a transparent society. 

Reminder that I still have one or two adult memberships to the Montreal World Science Fiction Convention "Anticipation" that I am willing to sell at a discount on the official price.

Non-Brinvolved Items:

See a new blog by the marvelous Beverly Price

See a fascinating interview with Robert Wright, one of the most important authors of our time, about his new book about the roots of religion.

  HPlus Magazine finally releases their new summer issue! It describes the already-existing brain/computer interfaces - and where they could take us - and explains Dartmouth-built robots whose artificial neurons can mimic the human learning process. There's 84 pages of online-only goodness, including laser-stimulated brain cells, artificial muscles, and an interview with NASA's director of research (who suggests robot exploration of Mars). And NPR's Moira Gunn assays the implications of the U.S.'s abrupt welcome for stem cell therapy.

Incredible!  The next game intreractive technology:

See the blog of the production company making "The People Vs George Lucas” --  a full length film, due next year, riffing off my book STAR WARS ON TRIAL.

Think Link appears to address some serious deficits in the current, sad state of "discourse" online.  I envision combining it with a good reputation system.  The result could be a real step toward the kind of "disputation arenas" I described in the American Bar Association's Journal of Dispute Resolution.

Somebody's thinking about What Comes After Email.  I have received several emails from people who think there are similarities to my Holocene Project... which I pitched at Google the same day that the patent was awarded, a while back.  Me?  At a first, hurried glance, I don’t see a whole lot of Holocene in Google Wave... but I can see that it would be vastly improved by incorporating Holocene concepts.  Alas, I have found that many bright fellows cannot see the hand in front of their face.  Ah well, I wish them well.  Opinions?

Stunning. And right now this volcano is affecting our sunsets and dipping global warming.

The issue of cyberwarfare.

A simple way has been found to convert plant cellulose into , a basic building block for fuel, polyesters, and other petroleum-based chemicals...  to extract HMF from plants by using a mixture of copper chloride and chromium chloride to break down the cellulose without creating unwanted byproducts. The chlorides didn’t degrade, which meant that the process could be repeated using the same chemicals, reducing the cost of creating HMF while yielding a product with fewer impurities.  While still a ways off from commercial applications, the process shows promise in creating an alternative to plastics.

"Near-Term Beamed Sail Propulsion Missions: Cosmos-1 and Sun-Diver", James Benford and Gregory Benford, Beamed Energy Propulsion, AIP Conf. Proc. 664, pg. 358, A. Pakhomov, ed., 2003   Um... "Sundiver?

Apropos of tweeting, I couldn't resist sharing this find of Laurie Morrow's!  Do have a look

...and finally...

=== Are We inherently Empathic? ===

New research from Vanderbilt University indicates the way our brain handles how we move through space—including being able to imagine literally stepping into someone else's shoes—may be related to how and why we experience empathy toward others.  

Empathy involves, in part, the ability to simulate the internal states of others. The authors hypothesized that our ability to manipulate, rotate and simulate mental representations of the physical world, including our own bodies, would contribute significantly to our ability to empathize.  The researchers compared performance on the test with how empathetic the subjects reported themselves to be. They found that higher self-reported empathy was associated with paying more attention to the right side of space. Previous research has found that the left side of the face is more emotionally expressive than the right side. Since the left side of the face would be on the right side of the observer, it is possible that attending more to the expressive side of people's faces would allow one to better understand and respond to their mental state. These findings could also point to a role of the left hemisphere in empathy.  (contributed by Stefan.)

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