Entries Tagged as 'Science'

Crazy Science

introduction to terraforming
Image by zyphichore via Flickr

I’m not so sure I’d want to go down this path that Obama’s science advisor wants to take. Not that I’m a Nobel prize winner, nor is my fascination in the topic as in depth as any of these experts, but it’s based on a few common sense methodology.

Here’s the issue I see with geoengineering which is the application of planetary engineering specifically to Earth. Ever watch a lot of science fiction? Know the term terraforming? It’s basically the process of turning another planet into one suitable for living for human beings. The scale and technology that you would need to do such a maneuver is so enormous that it’s mainly theoretical and inconceivable at where are scientific research is currently. On top of that, we’re lacking in the tools and technology, but the ones we have for planetary terraforming are crude at best. Mimicking volcanoes by shooting sulfur into the atmosphere? What guarantees would you have that you wouldn’t bring the apocalypse as we know it upon ourselves because we don’t understand how the weather systems work?

I think we know too little to be delving into trying to cool the Earth outside of enforcing what it sent out into the atmosphere or perhaps create some artificial means of doing what we’re currently lacking (like reproducing the types of effects the rain forest has on the Earth by artificial means). The issue is that the delicate nature of how weather systems are make it impossible with current mathematics to understand if we’re overdoing something that might upset the balance the other way.

So terraform Mars? Sure, why not. There’s nothing to lose there. But we’d have to get there, understand how gravity functions on a human body, how to change a planet from the inside to out, understand gravity itself, how to do massive experimentation on planetary scales, and so on so forth. To try to do it on Earth, where we have issues predicting the weather a week in advance is almost absolute insanity.

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Dead Sea Scrolls to go on the Internet

The Dead Sea Scrolls are going digital according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. This is pretty interesting since they’re basically releasing to digital form, scrolls that speak of early Jewish for the entire world to see instead of just educational institutions.
What’s interesting also is that this is going to take two years to complete, but I don’t see why they can’t just make the multi-volume disc media available online. The new digitized versions will include infrared scans of the scrolls that will shed some more light on parts that cannot be seen in visible light.
Overall, this is definitely an interesting historical work that will soon be available for all.
Photo Credit:(Dale Gillard)

Using GFCI outlets where there could be water

There’s a good reason why you should use GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) outlets, and if you don’t it’s probably worthwhile to switch out the outlets with some.
Usually GFCI outlets look like the ones with three holes, with the left hole a bit bigger than the right. Usually these days, they have the little test and reset buttons in the middle of the outlets. As electricity flows from the right to left (hot to neutral), this is monitored by the GFCI outlet. If there is any changes at all, then the outlet turns off the hot. The reason is that if you happen to have a bare wire and have water leaking onto it, the reaction of the GFCI is not only much quicker but it is localized. It can prevent the flow of electricity at a faster rate since it can shut off at around 1/30 of a second.
Thus, this is great for water pumps with aquariums, or why most bathrooms in houses these days are outfitted with these particular outlets. So if you don’t have in your home, it’s probably a good idea to take a look at doing some outlet replacements just to increase a bit of safety factor.
Photo Credit: (iceplee)

WorldWide Telescope

worldwidetelescope.jpg In competition with Google Sky, this application allows you to take a look at the stars through multiple images of constellations and what not.
Pretty much think Virtual Earth, but for the sky and you basically have it figured out. It’s actually a pretty interface, and seems to work decently as long as you fulfill the Windows requirements. Bravo by Microsoft Research for this product. I’m not so sure if this product would make me cry though.
Despite Scoble push, I did find that not having any screenshots or even videos for those that are on non-Windows operating systems slightly disappointing. Outside of that, the interface itself is worthwhile as a tool to teach astronomy. Take a look if you find some time.

Midwest quake? What’s the big deal?

Quake? All over the news? Are you serious?
I was actually up this morning at 4:30ish during the quake that hit the Illinois/Indiana border. Yes, I was in the Chicagoland area. And I thought… “big deal, a quake.”
But apparently it was. At least, a whole bunch of people were emailing Robin Mead this morning on CNN and she kept talking about how people felt it far and wide. They were still talking about it when I got to O’Hare between 5 and 7. Must have been a slow news day to at that time.
Maybe it’s just growing up on the west coast, but quakes really aren’t a big deal. It shakes, and usually sounds like a train is rolling past. If you’re in a tall building, then you’ll actually feel it a lot more since top floors sway some. Otherwise, it’s like someone jumping up and down really hard in a room and you want to yell at them to stop.
In any case? Seriously. It’s just an earthquake.
Photo Credit: (Sean Claudio Mancillas)

“Minority Report” for terrorists in reality

It seems that the University of Buffalo computer scientists have been developing a system that track biometrics and behaviors and providing indicators that could detect terrorists before they commit an act.
While this system seems to make sense since human screeners are more prone to error than a system, and humans get tired while a machine does not, this system has a lot of scary things going on for it.
If you’ve seen the science fiction thriller Minority Report based on the short story by the same name by Phillip K. Dick, then you’ll know how arresting people before they commit crimes might become a true.
And that’s a scary thought.
The worst part is that the researchers have cautioned that the technology is not replacement for human judgment even though the system does learn over time based on the data given. But if there’s any people that could be less than competant and allowing the technology to take over, it would be the government. Don’t believe me? Then explain how this could have happened.
[sigh]
This is great science, but you’re almost hesitant to use it because of all the baggage it comes with. This will have advocacy groups all over it when it is tested just like the screening system that could see people naked a while back.
Scary stuff. Seriously.

3D holograms a reality

You didn’t know that we were close did ya. But with the help of a spinning mirror and some brilliant academics, it looks like we’re one step closer to seeing Princess Leia pop off of R2D2’s projector.


Did you notice that you could view it from any angle? And they could actually rotate the entire object or project a dynamic object? Woo woo. You can see limitless possibilities of communications and entertainment with this technology.
Oh, and before we forget. Yes Luke…. we’re waiting for you to save us.

Alzheimer could be a thing of the past…

University of Souther California’s Center for Neural Engineering has a team of brain hackers. Ted Berger and team are currently researching electronics implemented with brains that could turn lost memories into a thing of the past.
What’s interesting is that they’re currently determining the signal processing between the brain and how it fires off and how to recreate that with a chip and a slice of brain tissue. This leads the team to believe that they’re approximately four years away from animal testing and less than two decades from human trials.
Despite the great things that can arise from this and the no end of funding for such technology, there are some ethical bounds that this technology has and will face. What if you can implant other people’s memories as your own? Or destroy good memories with bad? Or erase someone’s identity completely with a fresh set of memories? Reminds us of Johnny Mneumonic or The Manchurian Candidate.
Either way, it’s a new age of medicine when we achieve such bionic type abilities by merging flesh with electronics.
Via PopularScience

Breathe like a fish

An Israeli inventor has come up with a brilliant way of breathing underwater without compressed air. The system itself uses the air stored within the water and will hopefully not require divers to carry the heavy tanks anymore. While this is a great breakthrough, there is yet to be a prototype and only the scientific principle has been proven to work. Yet, this is exciting since this could mean a lot in changing the world of rebreathers and diving equipment.
Via Isracast

How to turn your PC into an oscilloscope

If you have a parallel port and an ADC converter (analog to digital), then you can turn your PC into an oscilloscope. Sweet. Who needs one of those fancy schmancy Tektronix or Agilent oscilloscopes? Using ScopeOnPC, you can basically do the same stuff. And it’s free for Windows or DOS.
MAKE < ScopeOnPC