Just a small collection of worthy links for your amusement.
A new report from the Economic Policy Institute shows rising levels of income inequality in all fifty states. From 1979 to 2011, the top 1% saw their income rise 128.9%, while the bottom 99% saw their income increase by a mere 2.3%.
Seth MacFarlane, the multitasking comedian and creator of Family Guy, and other raunchy fare, happens also to be the driving force behind the new version of Carl Sagan's classic science show COSMOS, which will appear Sunday on Fox and simultaneously on other networks, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I know a number of the writers and producers who have striven to create something stunning, vivid and updated for the 21st Century.
As if you didn't already have enough to be nervous about, here's something creepy to ponder as the year 2014 gets under way.
It looks like Mars may actually get hit by a comet in 2014. As it stands right now, the chance of a direct impact are small, but it’s likely Mars will get pelted by the debris associated with the comet. Phil Plait calculates that if (not too likely) an impact actually happens, it would have an explosive yield of roughly one billion megatons: That’s a million billion tons of TNT exploding. Or, if you prefer, an explosion about 25 million times larger than the largest nuclear weapon ever tested on Earth. There is an immature part of me that soooooo wants to see that! It could even re-awaken the red planet, a bit.
Does science fiction owe a "duty" to the past? I've long pondered: might the field better have been named Speculative History? First: SF authors read more history than science (only a few of us know very much about the latter). Second, almost everything we do is about extending, or extrapolating, or pondering alterations in the grand, sweeping epic of humanity. Even when zooming down to the private angst of one narrow life, we in this genre remain keenly aware of the context - our shared drama and the poignancy of change. I'll talk some more about this below... and in my next posting...
“Bank secrecy is essentially eroding before our eyes,” says a recent NPR article. ”I think the combination of the fear factor that has kicked in for not only Americans with money offshore, countries that don’t want to be on the wrong side of this issue and the legislative weight of FATCA means that within three to five years it will be exceptionally difficult for any American to hide money in any financial institution.”
This somewhat autobiographical missive was sparked by recent research that confirms something long suspected -- our civilization dodged a bullet a while back. A bullet made of lead. We dodged it thanks to science, open argument, and the power of dramatically-conveyed evidence...
... plus a fascinating coincidence in which I played a minor-but-interesting role.
Celebrate National Science Fiction Day (January 2, also Isaac Asimov's birthday) by re-committing yourself to live in the future. Start with this cool little spiel by Ed Finn on Slate. Then help make it a real holiday -- by celebrating the future.
And in that spirit...
One outgrowth of DARPA's 100 year Starship project has been serious attention to certain potential FTL (faster than light) drives that might open access to the galaxy.
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In Our Final Invention (St. Martin’s Press 2013), documentary filmmaker James Barrat presents three scenarios for the long-term future of Artificial Intelligence. Unfortunately, as a skeptic he provides no preferred scenarios.
One of the advantages of being around for a long time is perspective. In particular, perspective in the field in which I chose to work many years ago – organizational and social transformation. I’m not talking about transforming a company or a city; I’m talking about transforming the whole world.
The latest resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by SpaceX, Elon Musk's private company, met several milestones last week. First it delivered almost 3,500 pounds of supplies, including a space garden for growing vegetables, and legs for the on-board robot, Robonaut-2. But even more interesting was what happened at the back end of the launch.
Last night I watched an HBO documentary called "Questioning Darwin." It took an in-depth look at those who reject Darwin's theory of natural selection on grounds of faith in the words of the Judeo-Christian Bible. At the same time it presented the personal journey of Darwin from his roots to his presentation of his theories in the book, "The Origin of the Species," in which he described the mechanism of natural selection, the theory upon which our scientific understanding of how life evolves on this planet.
Google’s Director of Engineering, Ray Kurzweil, has predicted that we will reach a technological singularity by 2045, and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge is betting on 2029.
Sometimes simple ideas work, and this one is pretty simple.
There’s a new study out which, press outlets are telling me, shows that the United States is now an oligarchy, ruled by the rich and powerful, and perhaps that the US has been sliding in this direction for decades.
Which will it be? Will we regenerate organs using stem cells and switching on genes to rebuild diseased or damaged organs? Or will we take a patients own cells and bio-print organs using 3D printers? Both technologies are showing promise based on recent reports.