Sunday, January 31, 2016

Progress Towards Life on Mars

 A fungus from Antarctica has been proven to survive reasonably well in simulated Mars conditions.

This means that if we decide* to make Mars habitable, the technology to do so is at hand. We can send earth life that will survive and reproduce. If the photosynthetic species are also hardy enough, we can generate oxygen that would stabilize the atmosphere.

*That is to say, unless we have already sent it.

Friday, January 29, 2016

So, you're stranded on a desert island. You can find food for now. You are surviving.

It can get cold, though and you are unprotected. You'd like to make your little world better than it is. Unfortunately, you have none of the modern tools you take for granted. You need primitive technology.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Great Unlearning

Look at the picture. Consider big game hunting. Reflect upon your thoughts.

Bill Whittle pieces these notions together in "The Great Unlearning" (7-1/2 min).

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Pacific Garbage Vortex

It seemed unbelievable, but I never found a clear spot.
In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments. ...he began referring to the area as the “eastern garbage patch.” But “patch” doesn’t begin to convey the reality. Ebbesmeyer has estimated that the area, nearly covered with floating plastic debris, is roughly the size of Texas.
 The tales of Garbage Island are lurid.
Like all good stories, it grew over time...“We even came upon a floating island bolstered by dozens of plastic buoys used in oyster aquaculture that had solid areas you could walk on.” Again no photo of the floating island, let alone of him walking on it.
 If you've wondered where those tales come from, read here. If you want to see the garbage patch, read here.

(Feb'17) If I wanted a sensational claim supported by the facts of this article, I could say that in the middle of the garbage vortex there may be 2-4000 pieces of garbage floating in every square meter of ocean.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Cold-War Technology Race Continues
Reverse-swept wings have been the next big advance in fighter planes for about 30 years now. Americans built a prototype in the 80's. Russians built a prototype in the 90's. Recently Russia announced that it is moving ahead with reverse wing technology. It promises a fighter that is more agile, especially at trans-sonic and super-sonic speeds. What the disadvantages are, I don't know. Perhaps the military isn't telling.

While Americans have the best funded military and probably have among the most motivated and creative personnel, they no longer have the edge in nerve. The American military (along with the Canadian and European militaries) has become risk-adverse. When it comes to experimentation with exciting and radical technologies, it seems the edge goes to Russia.

Of course, the other possibility is that the American researchers are all over this. They just choose not to publish their military secrets. It's possible that these are lousy ideas but since they are undeniably spectacular, they make great press anyway. That does seem to be the Putin M.O.

Moving to Mars?

Updated - Jan'16: Here are more details - or at least speculation - on the Musk plan, including a Mars-Earth ferrying spaceship, deep sleep for the colonists to reduce consumption during the flight and terraforming assisted by thermonuclear detonations at the poles.

If you are 5-20 years old, in 20 years, you'll be 25-40: just about the right age to start up a new life on Mars. Elon Musk, who made a fortune on Paypal has been building SpaceX, a private space exploration agency. Now he says his goal is to start a colony on mars. He says he'll charge about $500,000. More detail here.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Students, United Won't be Divided

"College students everywhere are asking tough questions: Why is our tuition so high? Where are our jobs? Can't you see your words hurt me, you dumb piece of $^!+?"
 The cost of college rises and the benefits decline. How can this be? (plainspoken version)

A Global Warming Consensus

At last someone has done a systematic study of the opinions of meteorologists, geoscientists and engineers on the subject of climate change. One-third of the 1100 surveyed agree with the pro-Kyoto "prevailing wisdom". Of course, if 2/3 disagree, it's not exactly prevailing.

Teasing aside, the paper identifies five frameworks of opinions it calls "models". 36% are in the "Comply with Kyoto” model. and "express the strong belief that climate change is happening, that it is not a normal cycle of nature, and humans are the main or central cause.” 24% go by the“Nature Is Overwhelming” model:  “they strongly disagree that climate change poses any significant public risk and see no impact on their personal lives.” 17%, they call “Fatalists” who “consider climate change to be a smaller public risk ... are skeptical that the scientific debate is settled...” 10% are of the “Economic Responsibility” model. They “diagnose climate change as being natural or human caused. ... they point to the harm the Kyoto Protocol ... will do to the economy.”  5% are“Regulation Activists” . These scientists “diagnose climate change as being both human- and naturally caused...”  “They are also skeptical with regard to the scientific debate being settled and are the most indecisive whether IPCC modeling is accurate.”
Had you heard that 97% of scientists "agree with global warming"? Here is where that number comes from.