Waves of Hawaii

May 17, 2010

Clark Little, a photographer in Hawaii, has some of the most incredible photographs I’ve ever seen.  He gets inside the waves – literally taking photos in the water as the waves crash over him – to shoot a perspective most people have never seen.  Check out his gallery here.  Blue Night is my favorite so far.  Sadly, I can’t copy and paste the images, else I would give you a taste to entice you.

A New Link in the Evolution Chain

October 1, 2009

Once again it has been too long since I last posted.  This real life stuff just takes so much time!  But I saw this articleon MSN.com (so probably everyone who looks at real news outlets has already seen it) about the fossil of the human ancestor believed to be 1 million years older than Lucy – she was previously the oldest human-linked fossil ever found.  The new guy is nicknamed Ardi, short for Ardipithecus ramidus, and is dated at 4.4 million years old.  He is not a human fossil of course, but he is believed to be another link in the chain back to a common ancestor of humans and apes.  He has some human type characteristics, some ape/chimp type characteristics, and some that are neither but could be from a common starting point before both human and ape/chimp characteristics evolved fully.  This explanation makes sense to me, since I never got how apes could have essentially stopped evolving when humans branched off – it seems much more logical to think that there was a common starting point but that both branches have continued growing and changing since then, than it does to think humans evolved from apes and apes haven’t changed since then.  Maybe that’s how evolutionary scientists have seen it for years, but it isn’t how it was taught in schools as recently as 15 years ago (yes, I’m dating myself here).

Mars Update

July 5, 2009

Mars has been in the news lately – and the news has been pretty darn interesting.  First, on July 2nd there was an articleabout NASA’s idea of terraforming Mars using nanobots.  Well, technically I suppose the plan is to use nanobots to first survey Mars so that the ‘unique Martian biosphere’ can be preserved when Mars is terraformed.  But it is only natural to think we would then use those same nanobots already present to do the grunt work of terraforming – you know, producing oxygen from the carbon dioxide present so that the atmosphere could be altered to support humans and all our accompanying stuff.  Also, the nanobots would likely need to be self replicating, so it would be a good opportunity to practice that technology (and see if the dreaded ‘grey goo’ develops) without risking Earth.  Actually, that doesn’t sound great for the Martian biosphere.  Maybe we should set up a preserve….

Second, on July 3rd NASA announced more Martian news of note:  NASA Mars lander Phoenix discovered snow on the north pole of Mars.  This is the first confirmation we have had of an actice water cycle on Mars.  Aside from the general excitement of the scientific community at a new discovery, NASA is super excited about their theory being confirmed – based on what the lander had seen so far they were pretty sure there was a water cycle.  There is also, of course, excitement over what this means for the future of humans on Mars.  An active water cycle could mean a lot less work making the planet habitable.  Cool, huh?

NASA plans to blow up the moon!

June 17, 2009

According to this articleon Slashdot (and there are lots more in various places – I just like Slashdot), NASA plans to set off an explosion on the moon that will create a 6 mile high debris plume so that they can look for water in the debris.

On the serious side, if they find a significant source water it would be another major step toward starting a real lunar colony, because water is one of the most important resources (right up there with air and soil – well, with hydroponics, I guess soil is less important) that are currently absent on the moon.

But, really, it’s very hard to be serious when you’re talking about NASA blowing up the moon.  I mean, have they thought about what could go wrong?  Two moons, anyone?  What would that do to our tides?  Ah, the imagination can run wild.  Thanks, NASA.

Where are we compared to Star Trek?

May 6, 2009

I love these articles.  This one from MSN sums up where our current tech is in comparison with Star Trek tech (from the original series) – we’re still way behind on some of it, but we’re actually ahead on a couple of things!

Teaching Twitter in Schools?

March 26, 2009

And other modern comminication technologies, including blogging and podcasting, according to this article in TechCrunch.  Actually, it doesn’t sound like a bad idea – as long as core subjects like reading, writing, and math don’t get shortchanged in the process.  It won’t matter how tech savvy the next generation is if they don’t know how to think and express themselves logically and coherently.

A British Spaceplane?

March 12, 2009

Ok, so the British are not who I think of when I picture the leaders in space technology – but they seem to be on the top of the heap right now in the race to develop a functional, practical spaceplane that would reduce the cost (in both time and money) of launches.  Check out this article from LiveScience that explains what they have and what they’re hoping to develop.

I don’t really care who does it (although I must admit it would be nice if it was the US), as long as someone finds a better way to get us into space.  There are so many projects and experiments that get put on hold or altogether vetoed every year because they are just too expensive.  It’s time for a change.

It’s Official – Stem Cell Research is OK

March 10, 2009

Yep, President Obama went through with it as expected.  Yesterday he reversed the ban on stem cell research put in place by former president George W. Bush.  Of course, it will still be a few years before any of the stem cell therapies we’ve been hearing about are ready for use due to the testing and safety requirements, but this is still a big step.  I have a friend with a spinal injury who may benefit from the therapy in testing right now, and I have numerous relatives with diabetes (and a high likelihood of developing Type II later in life myself), so I am all for government regulated stem cell research.  I specify that it should be government regulated because I too have heard the cautionary tales of mad scientists stealing embryos for evil plots – but really, is government regulation or even a ban going to stop a mad scientist?  I doubt it.

Anyway, now that I have returned from that rabbit trail, I’ll just conclude by saying ‘Yea!  A step forward for science in America!  It’s about time!’

Sci-fi Tech Almost a Reality

February 28, 2009

Remember the digital media format outlines in Neil Stephenson’s The Diamond Age?? There were sheets of “paper” which could wirelessly download your favorite magazine or newspaper (customized to your social status and preferences). After reading, the page could be blanked out for the next reader. Imagine a doctor’s office with up-to-date periodicals! And ones you actually wanted to read! Well thanks to the E-Ink technology behind the new Kindle 2, this sci-fi tech is almost reality. This article discusses the new push by publishing giant Hearst to market newspapers and magazines in the digital age. Can’t wait to see the new color E-Ink coming down the line! I think I’ll still keep my (ever growing) library of books though – there’s just something personally gratifying about shelves and shelves of books. Some habits die hard, I guess.

Playing God – It’s super fun!

February 28, 2009

And potentially very useful too.

This article on MSNBC says scientists in a Florida lab have created a synthetic genetic system capable of Darwinian evolution.  Translation:  a synthetic life form.  No, really.  It is not self sustaining yet, but it really is evolving on its own.  The main goal of the project is to help NASA understand what to look for as signs of alien life on other planets (one would presume it would be helpful in detecting alien life on this planet also, just in case any aliens decided to drop in unannounced), since life may develop in radically different ways in different environments.  Twelve DNA building blocks were used to create the life form instead of the usual four, which makes it hard to confuse the ‘genetic system’ with natural life, but also makes it more versatile – which is important because another goal of the project is to make biotech easier.  Here’s the money quote:

“The underlying goal of synthetic biology is to make biology easy to engineer,” said Drew Endy, a bioengineer with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  “When I want to go build some new biotechnology, whether it makes a food that I can eat or a bio-fuel that I can use in my vehicle, or I have some disease I want to try and cure, I don’t want that project to be a research project. I want it to be an engineering project,” he said.

I have said before I am all about the biotech revolution, and the Singularity, and so on.  I applaud the ideals of the scietists working on this project, and the goal of understanding how life develops, and of course curing disease and making our lives better.  But we have people creating actual life forms here, ones that evolve all by their little selves.  Doesn’t it seem the tiniest bit egotistical to think we can make them evolve only into what we want?  Sure, right now we are just talking about a puddle of goo in a beaker, but it isn’t going to stay that way, is it?  And does this remind anyone else of some pretty scary sci fi stories?


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