Thursday, September 24, 2009

Scientific Failures and Wonders

See a well-balanced and cogent article in SEED Magazine about the “METI imbroglio”... or whether we should allow a few fervent believers shout into the cosmos on all our behalf, based upon a narrow range of highly dubious assumptions.  The fairminded essay cites yours truly, among others. 

I’m also briefly interviewed about SETI at the Science and Reigion Today site.

For those of you teaching or taking courses on “contemporary issues”...  See - hot off the presses -
Changing Minds: Arguments on Contemporary and Enduring Issues.  Jon Ford and Marjorie Ford eds., Penguin Academics Series (2009) My chapter is on the future of surveillance.

“Into God” - The Upcoming Closer To Truth Feature Film, by Robert Lawrence Kuhn - may be of great interest, featuring interviews with luminary minds.

See a nice blog interview with yours truly.
Here's a video of a discussion on the Singularity, with David Brin, Vernor Vinge, Ben Goertzel, Jamais Cascio, Frederick Turner and others...

Ahem. I had an imbroglio with a minor (and somewhat new-agey) science journal -- The “Journal of Cosmology” after they first commissioned from me, and then rejected (amid childish editorial rage), a peer review of an amateur scientist’s paper on panspermia. That is the hypothesis, most-famously put forward a century ago by Nobelist Svanta Arrhenius, suggesting that all life on Earth descends from seed/spores that crossed interstellar space to land in our planet’s early seas.  After some hours of work -- courteously decrypting, appraising and discussing this paper -- offering both compliments and refuting evidence -- I was stunned by the editor’s response of actinic, unreasoning fury, based upon grievances that were wholly hallucinatory, bearing no relation, whatsoever, to anything that I actually said in my review.  I’ll not waste any further space here in this unpleasantness, though my review is posted on George Dvorsky’s SENTIENT DEVELOPMENTS site, because of George’s intense interest in life origins.


How cool is this?  You may recall that I wrote the storyline, scenario and opening sequence to the famous Dreamcast game (now on the Playstation 2!)... ECCO THE DOLPHIN II: DEFENDER OF THE FUTURE.  Now it turns out that someone (in Germany) has posted on YouTube not only the opening sequence, but also the interlude sections, telling additional bits of storyline, after the player achieves each major goal.  Sure, the ten year old animation now looks a little crude.  But it was state-of-the art in its time and is still quite beautiful.  And the voice-over by one of the greatest of all Doctor Who actors doesn't hurt. 

See an insightful interview with Pete Garrison, strategic thinker and fiend of SIGMA (The think tank of science fiction authors) in the new Indian SF Magazine,  KALKION. 

When America expires, we probably won't agree on the cause of death. For proof that autopsies of empires are inconclusive, consider the case of Alexander Demandt, the German historian who set out in the 1980s to collect . The final tally: 210, including attacks by nomads on horseback, blood poisoning, decline of Nordic character, homosexuality, outflow of gold, and vaingloriousness."  from How Is America Going To End?  Slate's "Choose Your Own Apocalypse" lets you map out the death of the United States.By Josh Levin.  Unfortunately, it’s a bit fluffy.  I get a bit more serious in my tabulation, in the forthcoming blockbuster novel, EXISTENCE.


Hey, I’ve had my differences with the “New Atheists” like Dennett and Hitchens and Dawkins, who just don’t seem to get how immature and stunningly ironic their wrathful pulpit-pounding makes them look.  Nevertheless, a calmer and less dogmatically self righteous version of their militant confrontationalism toward fundie fanatics seems wholly appropos.  Now dig this: ”On Thursday November 19, 2009, Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort (the banana guy) will be distributing 50,000 copies of Charles Darwin's 'Origin of Species' at universities across America to students for free. BUT THERE'S A CATCH!! Each copy will have a 50 page intro about how evolution has never been proven and how Darwin helped inspire the Holocaust.” 

The noive of doze guys!  The Nazis burned Darwin’s Origin of Species!  The fundies’ insane position, that secularism leads to reduced compassion and morality and thus to increased violence runs diametrically opposite to every fact about the last 4,000 years.  And especially the last fifty.  If you rightfully classify both Communism and Nazism as quasi-religious mystical cults, then Dawkins et. al. are perfectly within their rights to claim that many parts of organized religion have been major drivers of human agression and pain.  Certainly, as we’ve seen, Red America has nothing to say to Blue America about morality, or teaching children to lead decent, responsible and ethical lives, since they fall far behind blue states and our cities in every moral category that can be measured by statistics, from divorce to domestic violence to homicide to STDs and teen pregnancy.  A certain amount of militant rejection of such BS is called for.

On the other hand, the New Atheists are self-righteousness druggies without a lick of sense among them. They need to be reminded who brought them to the Enlightenment party! Franklin and Jefferson and Washington and Madison & co. turned civilization toward this wondrous, free and scientific civilization, and those fellows were nearly all either Freemasons or dogma-hating but hyper-tolerant deists.  The original Boy Scouts.

Whatever “opiate” it was that they were taking is precisely what we all need, right now.  


I am a total sucker for bridges. Some even make me cry. Really.  Literally.  I think they rank up there, among the best things in the universe.  Now see one of the most beautiful bridges ever created.  The O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Bridge across the Colorado River 1,600 feet (490 m) downstream from the Hoover Dam. The entire project is expected to be completed by September 2010.

About $240 million.  
Having something this beautiful to show aliens, so they’ll decide we are worth something, after all? 

Oh, this, too, is Cool!

Prenatal exposure to environmental pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons can adversely affect a child's intelligence quotient or IQ, according to new research.


A (somewhat) amusing satire of cheap sci fi novel plot cheats. 

This satire represents something that (in a very different form) ought to happen.

Flying with excess baggage is a drag, but hummingbirds have mastered efficient packing. The tiny hoverers have less DNA in their cells than any other previously studied birds, reptiles or mammals, researchers report. Among hummingbird species, however, genome size doesn’t vary along with body size, suggesting that birds’ DNA was pared down before the diversification of today’s hummers. Scientists have long noted the link between small genome size and high metabolic rates — a notion first put forth in 1970 by Polish scientist Henryk Szarski. Bats and birds have the smallest genomes of backboned creatures, and flightless birds tend to have bigger genomes than fliers.

Eliezer Yudkowsky is a research fellow at the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence.  He’s also been writing some terrific think-SF.  Highly recommended mind-food.  Especially the first one. (Though, to see one place where he might have got the main idea, go to my essay on altruism in the universe, an early version, posted some years ago.  Especially the part about intelligent bears, sacralizing infanticide... hm.;-)

Science-program producer Thomas Lucas has developed a new series of shows that breaks completely away from TV, into delivery via YouTube.  Have a look at Cosmic Journeys. 

Terrrific blog on, by “Geek Dad.”

Fascinating -- why winter-born babies seem to have statistically more likelihood to have problems.  Surprising reason.

Claims of magnetic monopoles have circulated for years.  Here’s the latest.

A Durban IT company pitted an 11-month-old bird armed with a 4GB memory stick against the ADSL service from the country's biggest web firm, Telkom. Winston the pigeon took one hour and eight minutes to carry the data 60 miles - in the same time the ADSL had sent 4% of the data.

Very interesting article about memresistors.  Seriously.


More... anon....




No comments:

Post a Comment