Saturday, February 13, 2016

Space: so many milestones ahead!

Space is looking up. In that more eyes appear to be turing skyward in tentative optimism. A few days ago I participated in a pair of events in Los Angeles, hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and NASA and Fox Studios. The morning event featured Ridley Scott, Adam Savage, Bill Nye, Andy Weir and scientists and screenwriters discussing how the film The Martian may be a harbinger of much more about bold exploration.  The smaller afternoon event, at UCLA put scientists and Hollywood myth-makers together in workshops.  Maybe we'll get more hopeful tales!

== What's Just Ahead...? ==

Following up on my popular essay in Nautilus on “2015: our best year in space, ever”… here's a brief rundown of the biggest spaceflight milestones to keep an eye out for in 2016, from a NASA probe's arrival at Jupiter to the highly anticipated maiden flight of SpaceX's huge new rocket.  

See a video preview of the Juno mission to Jupiter, which will arrive and get to work just about the same time that the Saturn Cassini mission winds up. Also this year... sending a probe to sample an asteroid and returning bits to Earth!  Elon launches Falcon Heavy. Earth-sensing satellites that will nail down the climate. 

Europe's own version of the United States' Global Positioning System (GPS) should be operational by the end of the year. 

"Suborbital vehicles such as Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, XCOR Aerospace's Lynx rocket plane and Blue Origin's New Shepard system will be put through their paces, as will orbital craft such as Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser space plane, SpaceX's Dragon V2 capsule and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule.” And so on.  

2016 might (just maybe) be almost as great a year as 2015 was!

This year -end review of NASA accomplishments shows that even if we leave out the great accomplishments of European, Japanese, Chinese, Indian and other agencies -- and prodigiously impressive private ventures -- 2015 was by far our best ever at stepping forth into the cosmos. See this awesome visual timeline of space exploration, charting missions into our solar system -- from Pioneer to Mariner, Cassini to Galileo, Juno to New Horizons (created by Olaf Frohn). Scroll down to explore the entire graphic. 

How many planetary missions are currently out there exploring on our behalf... and where are they? So many that Emily Lakdawalla of The Planetary Society has made a timeline chart to track them.  She writes, "We are entering 2016 with 15 spacecraft probably actively returning science data from planets, moons, and smaller bodies in the solar system. (I say "probably" because I don't know for sure what the Chinese lunar spacecraft are doing.)"

Lakdawalla continues..."So what's the tally? Akatsuki is at Venus, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and two Chang'e missions at the Moon, two rovers and five orbiters are active at Mars, Dawn is at Ceres, Rosetta is at 67P (soon hopefully to do a soft landing), Cassini is at Saturn, and although New Horizons is far past Pluto, it'll be sending back new Pluto science data for most of the year, so I'm counting that as still doing science. Another two missions (Hayabusa2 and Juno) are in their cruise phase; Juno arrives at Jupiter in August. Two (ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and OSIRIS-Rex) or three (if you count the Schiaparelli lander separately) will launch this year, with their science starting after 2016. The Voyagers and other heliophysics missions don't show up on this chart."

You are a member of a civilization that does this -- from pennies per citizen.  We are sending out feelers.  We are growing, at last. Wake up enough to be proud!

 And let it motivate you to make others believe, this coming year.

Believe that we are a mighty folk.  Who can.

== Looking back at Earth ==

Most apropos for this time of year? I have oft marveled that the greatest gift of the Apollo Program came not from the landings but from the earlier Apollo 8 mission, the first in which humans broke the bonds of Earth.  It happened in December of 1968 - twelve crazed and frenetic months that brought most Americans -- and most of the world -- to the brink of exhaustion and despair. Yes, great music washed over us in a veritable tsunami... as did tragedies, war, invasions, assassinations, riots, betrayals, and fed-up demands for transformation.

Only then, at the very end of that awful year, a final token arrived -- like a gleam of hope shining at the bottom of Pandora’s Box...when the Apollo 8 astronauts brought home that first perfect image of the Earth, floating as a blue marble in the vast desert of space. A picture that moved all but the most cynical hearts and changed forever our outlook towards this fragile oasis world.

Now that image has been surpassed in beauty (an we can hope – effectiveness.) Even more gorgeous in contrast — and almost the final space news of a spectacular year — is the composite image that NASA released on December 19, taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, as it passed about 83 miles above a lunar crater. Same theme, but a timely reminder.

== More space updates ==

See this: the recent SpaceX feat put to music by Incubus. 

Curiosity is the first spacecraft to study active sand dunes on another planet. Amazing images of the next milestone as our robot envoy climbs the slopes of immense Mount Sharp.  Be careful in there.

A panorama taken by Curiosity Rover from atop a Martian dune, is enthralling in many ways, not least of which is the Dali-like surrealistic warping of the probe itself. 

 Cassini snapped Saturn’s moon Enceladus drift in front of the larger moon Tethys in near-perfect alignment.  See the gorgeous photos. Plus a great shot of the Hexagon at Saturn’s pole, and of Titan’s black, organic sand dunes.  Now known to contain a sub-surface ocean beneath an icy crust, the small moon is thought to possess the ingredients for life. Cassini had its last ever flyby of Enceladus on Dec 19.

NASA's New Horizons mission sends back images of icebergs on Pluto -- floating atop a sea of frozen nitrogen!

Important News.  The US Department of Energy is cautiously and carefully, for the first time in 30 years, again making Plutonium 238, the chief ingredient not of bombs, but of the best power systems for long range NASA interplanetary probes.

An ambitious future for human exploration of the solar system and beyond is explored in a new book by Louis Friedman, co-founder of The Planetary Society: Human Spaceflight: From Mars to the Stars

This should have made my list of spectacular space accomplishments in 2015.  Phil Plait waxes poetical and gushes about the way scientists have used tiny variations in ocean surface gravity to map in great detail the topography of mountains, chasms and spreading ridges along the ocean bottoms. 

And finally...

... the Hypersonic Nuclear Arms Race is on, as world powers develop boost-and-glide entry vehicles that can dodge and evade and accurately target sites across the globe.  The Cold War Era statesmen and Gorbachev gave us a breather but the doom foreseen at Trinity Site in 1945 still lurks.  We have to grow up. 

Oh, and while we're at it. The best way to build a Death Star... is to construct one out of an already-existing asteroid.

Let's keep it all in the open, boys 'n girls.  Play nice.  There's candy - and much-needed vitamin-science - for everyone.

== PS... ==

Not to jinx it... but could this be the 'fifteenth year' thing I referred to here

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Daggatt Dare: prove your pessimism!

I'll chime in - at the end - with my comments on the New Hampshire Primary. But first ... Seattle Venture Capitalist Russ Daggatt is big on competitive enterprise.  So why is he – along with nearly all of the tech mavens and moguls – a democrat?

Results. Outcomes that can be measured and compared, and under which Republican governance has proved an utter disaster for market economies and the United States, while most metrics improved markedly across both the Obama and Clinton Administrations.  

This plus the blatant truth that – were he alive today – the oligarchy-hating founder of modern market economics, Adam Smith, would be a democrat, too.

I go into comparison of outcomes in my own way elsewhere

But let’s give the floor to Russ, whose long list of statistical comparisons bears no overlap at all with my own!  And yet his scan reaches the same conclusion. If you want market economies to fail and if you are truly suicidal, for the sake of wrathful dogma, then you should vote republican. 

Now, over to Russ Daggatt’s missive:

== The Daggatt Dare ==   

What's incredible is this apparently widespread sense of dissatisfaction. I attribute it to the relentless right wing media Wurlitzer, on one side, and cowardly or cynical Democrats, on the other side.  Whatever the cause, it really is long overdue for some of to speak up and tout the extraordinary success of the Obama presidency. (The Reagan presidency was far less successful and was scandal ridden. But Republicans and their alternative media spent decades spinning it into a legendary success.)

Let me take the obverse of David Brin’s challenge to Republicans to cite any meaningful metric that improved under Bush.  Name any meaningful metric that got worse under President Obama:

When President Obama took office, the economy was declining at a 9% rate and shedding 800,000 jobs a month and we had a $1.4 trillion deficit. Since then, the U.S. has experienced the strongest recovery from the Great Recession of any major industrialized country. In fact, we are the locomotive pulling the rest of the world ahead.

The Recovery Act, in addition to boosting aggregate demand, spurred 45 states to undertake reforms to their education systems. It prompted doctors and hospitals to shift to electronic medical records and provided $90 billion in funding for green energy sources. The portion of the stimulus that lent capital to unproven clean energy firms (which came under withering assault from Republicans, who relentlessly touted the failure of Solyndra, just one firm out of scores that received loans) is projected to earn taxpayers a net $5 billion. Thanks to public investment in the U.S. and abroad, solar energy has undergone revolutionary growth, with capacity growing 130-fold since Obama took office.

Oh, and here is some great data on the revolution in renewable energy under President Obama.

President Obama saved the U.S. auto industry (and with it, millions of jobs) which just set new sales records in 2015. At the same time, new (CAFÉ) regulations that were blocked for 25 years by the GOP are making autos cleaner and more energy efficient, saving drivers billions.

After losing 463,000 private sector jobs during eight years under Bush, we have had a record 70 consecutive months of private sector job growth (beating the old record of 51 months), adding over 14 million new jobs. (And during that time, part-time jobs and minimum wage jobs have actually declined. Which means that more than 100% of the new jobs have been full-time jobs paying more than the minimum wage – despite the minimum wage going up under President Obama.) Unemployment has fallen in half, from 10.0% to 5.0%.

Inflation over the last 12 months has been 0.6%. (The core rate, excluding food and energy, has gone up 1.4%.) Under President Obama, we’ve had the lowest inflation in 50 years. The dollar is up 15% under President Obama (after declining 20% under Bush).

The federal deficit was $1.4 trillion when President Obama took office. It was $439 billion last year – a decline of more than two-thirds. -- But the more relevant metric is the deficit as a percentage of GDP, which peaked at 9.8% as President Obama took office. Last year it was 2.4% - a decline of more than three-quarters and lower than its average over the last 50 years. It is now lower than the nominal growth of GDP, which means total federal debt is declining as a share of the economy.  In other words, much the same as happened under Bill Clinton.  So who are the responsible ones?

(Brin aside: see my own simple chart revealing the Second Derivative of Deficit Spending and how blatant it is that democrats are vastly vastly and vastly more fiscally prudent than republicans. Refute my chart if you can! )

The number of Americans without health insurance has declined by 17 million or more, and since the passage of the Affordable Care Act health care costs have increased at their slowest rate since records have been kept.  Oh, and by the way, what is your gripe again, Republicans? Obamacare started out as your own… damn… plan.

The S&P 500 has more than doubled under President Obama. (It went down 37% over eight years under Bush.) Corporate profits are at record levels.

Dodd-Frank required that banks hold more capital, derivatives must be traded openly on exchanges, large institutions must separate their riskiest forms of trading, and any too-big-to-fail institution must create an advance plan for systemic failure. The law also created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which protects customers from financial industry abuses in much the same way as the Food and Drug Administration ensures the safety of our food.  

Granted that Dodd-Frank didn’t go far enough in reducing the too-big-to-fail risk and other financial sector sins. So, replace this Congress to fix that.

Undocumented immigrants in the country have declined from 12 million to 11 million. Net migration from Mexico has actually turned negative. At the same time, in the face of Congressional inaction on comprehensive immigration reform, President Obama established enforcement priorities that would allow “Dreamers” who came to this country as young children, and who have no serious criminal record, to stay and work in the country, while focusing limited enforcement resources on criminals and recent arrivals.  Again, and your complaint is…?

(Brin aside: The immigration matter is even more skewed than this. Always (except right after 9/11), republican presidents cut the Border Patrol and dem presidents bolster it, diametrically opposite to their constituent dogmas.  Why?  Find out here.) 

Under President Obama, U.S. oil and gas production has doubled, and we have become the world's largest producer of petroleum products. That has driven down the price of oil, benefiting US consumers while crippling the economies of countries like Russia and Iran.

The cost of electricity generation using wind power fell 61 percent from 2009 to 2015, while the cost of solar power fell 82 percent. These numbers show progress at rates we normally only expect to see for information technology. And they put the cost of renewable energy into a range where it’s competitive with fossil fuels, even at low oil prices.

On the most important long-term issue facing the planet, climate change, President Obama reached a major climate agreement with China, which resulted in the first-ever international agreement by industrialized and developing countries alike to curtail their emissions (an agreement made easier by the revolutionary improvements in green energy, which could allow developing economies to leapfrog straight past the dirty energy stage). The success of this agreement will take decades to measure, but it could well go down in history as Obama’s most significant legacy. He helped jumpstart this historic agreement by enacting new Clean Power Rules that will reduce greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

Under Obama, the U.S. resumed launching climate study satellites that were canceled or sabotaged by the previous administration. You are free to proclaim that his support of scientists is wrong and the House “Science” Committee’s seething hatred of science is appropriate.  But you’d be very wrong.

President Obama took office with almost 200,000 troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, as the U.S. was bogged down in the two longest wars in its history. Multiple tours of duty of not only active duty soldiers, but also reserves and national guard troops, left our state of military readiness the worst it’s been in our lifetime. Today we have about 10,000 troops in those countries and our military readiness is nearly restored to the 100% level at the end of the Clinton administration. (Does anyone really wish we had still had hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers mired down in the midst of a regional Shia-Sunni intra-religious war?)

In 2008, before President Obama took office, Cheney insisted that we had to attack Iran with Iran only a few months away from a bomb. President Obama & Secretary of State Clinton got pretty much everyone in the world that mattered (including the EU, Russia, China, India, Japan, etc.) to impose crippling sanctions on Iran, which eventually brought them to the table. Not only will we have gone eight years with no Iranian nuclear weapons, but President Obama will leave office with Iran’s nuclear program out of commission for many years into the future. 

(Brin aside: Twenty five tons of enriched Uranium eliminated and Iran’s plutonium reactor filled with cement. Attacking Iran wouldn’t have come close to achieving that.  Moreover even a little rapprochement with Iran let’s us do what Nixon did, by going to China… play Iran and Saudi Arabia off each other, instead of being played.)

President Obama did what Bush only promised but failed to do in seven years: He got Bin Laden. Please repeat that sentence as many times as it takes to sink in. And we have had no major act of foreign terrorism on U.S. soil during his presidency.

He finally ended our pointless 55 year Cold War diplomatic freeze with Cuba. And the Florida Cuban-expat community is gearing up to start businesses that will undermine communism the smart way.

He added over two million acres of Wilderness Area and over 1000 river miles to the protections of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

He reformed the student loan program, cutting out redundant middle men and using the billions of dollars in savings to increase Pell grants. Granted, it will take a new Congress to end the nasty provision that declares student loans to be the only kind that cannot be refinanced.

Oh, and despite 24/7 right wing media hyperventilation for weeks, not a single American died of Ebola contracted in the U.S.

The national abortion rate declined roughly 15% under President Obama. And it wasn't because of increased restrictions in some states - in those states, abortions actually went up (they are the same states that make family planning, women's health services and contraception more difficult to access). If it was just due to restrictions, then you would expect teenage pregnancies and births to increase. Instead, they went down, as well. 

And there is much, much more.

If he was a Republican they would be naming airports after him. An aircraft carrier. But listening to Republicans, you’d think he has been a disaster. It is the centerpiece of every GOP candidate’s campaign rant that President Obama has been a disaster!  Only note the lack of actual statistics. Outcomes. Comparison of results.

== A Brin remise ==

Me again, in awe of how well Russ makes this crucial point, how for your own pragmatic self interest, you should never again allow this generation/type of republicans anywhere near a burnt match, let alone a modern, entrepreneurial economy.  

(There used to be grownup republicans who liked science and facts – I even know some of these relics!  May they be seeds for a restored, mature conservatism, out of the coming ashes.)

I will only add this.  If you look at the zillionaires who are democrats… or else libertarians who avoid the GOP like the plague … you’ll see that these are the tech guys who have actually invested in new products, services, and productive capacity.

How ironic! The ones who are enhancing our economy on the supply side are the ones who despise the tax-tomfoolery-voodoo called “Supply Side Economics” – a GOP religious dogma that never had one successful prediction or positive outcome to its credit.  Ever.

It is the other type of mogul – those rich from resource extraction subsidized off public lands, or from inheritance or rent-seeking or Wall Street manipulation, who invested almost none of their Supply Side tax cut largesse in new, productive enterprise, who spend lavishly instead on cheating, bribing officials and buying elections, with the core aim of keeping Supply Side voodoo alive.

Go figure. Only know this.  Ever more of the smart ones are seeing what’s in their own self interest.  As Joe Kennedy said – (I paraphrase) - when his fellow moguls yelled at him, for supporting FDR:

“If Roosevelt’s reforms make the working class happy and healthy and prosperous, I’ll get to keep half my wealth.  That’s better than clutching it tight, then losing it all in revolution.”


Oh, I promised to offer my comments on the New Hampshire primary... but this posting is too long.  So I will give them below, as the first comment in this thread.  Chime in with your own!  We have a great, lively blog-cummunity (blogmunity?) down there!  Maybe a bit intellectual... ah well.

Monday, February 08, 2016

A perfect storm of politics

Okay, skim down for links to weightier postings by some big thinkers about U.S. politics.  But if you have the patience for some ... er... unusual insights, start here.

First -- this piece of lovely satire by Andy Borowitz about how, completely aside from any policy or cultural issue, the victory of Ted Cruz in Iowa has given heart to America's most despised minority -- Nasty Folks who are hated by their peers:  

"In the wake of the Iowa caucuses, America’s most unlikeable people were lighting up Facebook with comments in praise of Cruz, bursting with pride that one of their own - the despicably unpleasant and deservedly friendless - had a legitimate shot at the White House."  Ha.

Turning more serious, here's a political weird-thought of the week: There has been a perfect storm striking the re-ignited Confederacy -- formerly called the Republican Party.

1- The oil price plunge has hurt the secret masters of the GOP, sapping their eagerness to spend.

2- Meanwhile the PAC putsch -- attempting to buy American democracy -- has run into a wall. Vast sums did nothing to reverse the plummet of Jeb Bush, nor has cash had much visible effect on other races.  Sure, big retail states like Florida may bring money back to the fore.  Still, what's an oligarch to do? What has come of America when elections are getting harder to buy?

3- Prediction.  We will very soon discover that much of that secret-master PAC money has shifted to social media.  For example, many of the angriest-sounding, most vehemently anti-Clinton folks on the Sanders sites - especially anon or pseudonymous folks - will be found to be agents provocateurs - (look up the term) - under pay to drive wedges through the Democratic coalition. 

What? You think there’s any way on Earth that’s not true, at least in some large fraction of cases? What would you do, if you were David Koch?

It won’t work.  Sanders himself will staunch that, knowing that “it’s the Supreme Court, stupid.” He's already made clear that he and Secretary Clinton will each come down hard on any of their supporters who don't, later, converge behind the nominee.

Still, my advice to emotional Sandersites is this: Fight for Bernie! But don't be like the irrationally sanctimonious Baby Boomers. Be logical and positive, then kiss and make up, whoever wins the nom. And if your blood is still up, then turn youthful vigor to your local state assembly race, where one more volunteer could wreak a seismically important shift! And where the candidate will know you by name.

4- Okay, okay, there are some old fart boomers doing the same damn thing. Madeleine Albright made the amazing statement that "there's a special kind of hell" for women who don't support Clinton, and Gloria Steinem managed to top that, telling the press that young women supporting Sanders where "just doing it to please the boys." Argh, such arrogance. Well, well. These are fools, part of a foolishly emotional generation. But certainly not on the payroll of any Koch PAC. 

Geez get it through your heads, boomers. This is no longer about you.

5- Wild card Donald Trump has been especially hard on the republican establishment, hammering Roger Ailes's Fox News -- the Murdoch-Saudi, Confederacy-rousing, poison machine. Their formula worked for years, stirring populist fury among lower middle class whites, using immigrants, scientists, teachers and all other "smartypants elites" as objects of ire, in order to distract from growing wealth disparity.  But working class whites can only be diverted this way for so long, without one of two things happening:

 -- The first possible outcome – that we saw tragically happen in Germany, 80 years ago, will be if this fervid, right wing populism stampedes even farther into crazy land, yanking the reins out of Roger Ailes's hands, much the way Junkers lords found the horse they had spurred into a froth running away with them, toward a cliff. You reap what you sow. 

Or else --

-- or else many in the tea party activist wing might (just might) start to remember their parents in the Greatest Generation. Heroes who overcame the Depression and Hitler and Stalin and built those halcyon days of the 1950s and 1960s that non-college white Americans so yearn for -- days of mighty capitalist entrepreneurship that happened under high, Rooseveltean tax rates. And those working class whites may start to wonder:

"Say… did my folks know something, about class struggle, that I don't know? Like suspicion of oligarchy? And why should I keep drinking koolaid offered by oligarchs?" 

What happens to the Murdoch-Saudi game plan when white boomers ponder that Greatest Generation, and remember that their parents' favorite living human was Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

6- Hence my final weird fantasy. Only a science fiction author would or could concoct this one.  And to be clear I do not favor this weird thing!

And yet there is a scenario for some populists out there to start pushing it. A nascent, super-populist movement for TRUMP-SANDERS... or else SANDERS-TRUMP.  

Sound insane?  Of course it is! But Robert Heinlein predicted America would pass through "The Crazy Years."  Anyway, the more you ponder the wild idea, the more likely it seems that someone – somewhere on our populist-frothing internet - will raise a banner.

== Are there "cycles" to politics? ==

Jonathan Rauch notes the rule of 14 -- "No one gets elected president who needs longer than 14 years to get from his or her first gubernatorial or Senate victory to either the presidency or the vice presidency" -- may be coming to an end. Hillary Clinton was elected to the Senate 16 years ago. Jeb Bush to his governorship18 years ago. 

On the other hand, many of this year's leading candidates have little or no political or military experience. A reflection of an underlying public preference for presidents who are battle-tested but not battle-weary, experienced enough to know their way around but fresh enough to bring new energy to the job. 

See a chart from The Atlantic that shows the experience level of presidential winners and losers from 1960 to 2012. Starting in 1996, the candidate with more experience begins consistently losing. Moreover, as the trend lines show, the inexperience premium has increased over time.   

Two generations ago, James Q. Wilson wrote in The Amateur Democrat that political amateurs who were unyielding in their righteousness had begun supplanting political professionals who were willing to make deals and compromise. The ascendency of amateurism, he predicted, would cause social friction and governmental gridlock: 'Political conflict will be intensified, social cleavages will be exaggerated, party leaders will tend to be men skilled in the rhetorical arts, and the party's ability to produce agreement by trading issue-free resources will be reduced.'

Time to shrug off the boomers’ self-indulgent trips and snap out of this.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Big questions for the future

The Big Questions Contests aim to expand Quora’s already marvelous system for posing quandaries and getting fascinating answers.  

For example “How can we prevent runaway AI (Artificial Intelligence) from becoming a dystopian threat to humanity?”  Interesting discussions!  My own suggestion – unlike any other – was re-published on Forbes, in an article titled: The one thing we need to stop robots from achieving world domination.

I believe the nearest and most blatantly obvious, transformational shift will come from the micro-biome. Within two to five years there will be an end to voodoo-guesswork-yoghurt-based "probiotics." They will be replaced by far more specific and well-understood implantations we can add to our digestive tracts (from both directions), as well as skin and other crevices, with major effects on individual and mass health.

Why so quickly? Because although there is a dizzying array of these firmicutes and other bacterial genuses in our guts and skin etc... the variety is actually fairly limited and very, very linear. Various versions of Moore's Law (in computation, sensing, genetic analysis) will cross the microbiome's complexity in very rapid order. Big studies - some already underway - will nail down how these bug-zoos correlate with your genes, body type, heredity, diet......and truly useful prescriptions and lifestyle and diet recommendations will issue forth quite rapidly, enabling us to both add beneficial microbiota and target species that currently wreak harm. For example by forcing upon us low-level, erosive inflammations.

There are many other biomedical miracles on the horizon, of course. But most of those -- in the genome, proteome, regulatome, connectome and so on -- get exponentially more complex as we dive in. Hence, our tools must improve at an ever-increasing rate, just to keep stepping forward. The same appears not to be true of the microbiome, whose linearity and limited needed dataset make me certain it will se amazing developments in just 3-5 years.

== More opportunities on the tech horizon ==

Where should we look for the next Silicon Valley? What industries will survive -- and which are likely to perish in the near future? In his new book, Industries of the Future, Alex Ross peers ahead to the next decade to identify major global trends and technological forces driving innovation and pervasive social change. Openness and transparency will be critical requirements for success in both business and government. Ross notes, "the 21st century is a terrible time to be a control freak," for the next stage for innovation is more likely to arise in "50 different versions of Silicon Valley, all unique from each other and all focusing on different domains."

How soon will we see workable brain - computer interfaces?  The first dry-electrode, portable and commercially off the shelf 64-channel wearable brain-computer interface (BCI) has been developed by bioengineers and cognitive scientists associated with UCSD Jacobs School. Obama's Brain Mapping Project seeks to better understand and map the neural activity of the brain. Meanwhile, Harvard is trying to build an AI as fast as the human brain.

Is evolution in the natural world at all “tendentious” (directional)… or even propulsive… in directions that might be called “intelligent?  A computer scientist and a biologist propose to unify the theory of evolution with learning theories to explain the “amazing, apparently intelligent designs that evolution produces.” 

Meanwhile, human design work looks more like nature. Drone evolution moves quickly, with now an ecological niche for predatory “falcons” -- a drone catcher that can pursue and capture rogue drones that might threaten military installations, air traffic, sporting events, and even the White House.  Wow, watch it spit a net over the intruder and draw it in.  I want one!

How do parts of the brain communicate? With around 200 billion neurons in a single human brain, and the possibility of hundreds of thousands of synapse connections from a single neuron, the brain can process a vast amount of information. Yet, a hundred trillion active synapses aren’t all there is.  We now know that there is chemical information exchange between neurons and neighboring glial or astrocyte cells.  Also there is increasing evidence suggesting that intracellular computing may take place, perhaps as many as a hundred thousand transactions per synapse flash.  Is that plenty?  Well, now research suggests that we may use electrical fields to communicate information across different sections of the brain.  Well, well, some of us expected this.  Take the “standing wave” of consciousness that I speculate about, in both EARTH and KILN PEOPLE.

== And more science still! ==

How has quantum mechanics expanded our understanding of time and the cosmos? My friend and colleague John Cramer’s new book on the translational interpretation of quantum mechanics, entitled The Quantum Handshake- Entanglement, Nonlocality and Transactions has just been published by Springer (ISBN: 978-3-319-24640-6). It is available at the Springer website or on Amazon.

Researchers have developed a remarkable new injectable bone foam that not only repairs bone damage but also allows bone formation.  

Kyocera's fourth floating solar power plant in Japan will suspend modules on the surface of a reservoir. It’s the latest in a series of innovative solar plants, such as India's solar powered airport and ambitious plan to cover canals with sun-harvesting panels

Prehistoric massacres... Wow, archaeological proof of how far back go our ways of war. Of 12 relatively complete skeletons recently unearthed at the shores of Lake Turkana, in Kenya, 10 showed unmistakable signs of violent death, the scientists said. Partial remains of at least 15 other persons were found at the site and are thought to have died in the same attack.

Woven nano-materials may have a wide variety of uses that require exceptional resiliency, strength and flexibility. 

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency has awarded a $1 million grant to UCSD to develop new skin-wearable systems that can rapidly and efficiently detect chemical and biological agents.  The proposed wearable epidermal sensors will also be equipped with therapeutic agents that are released upon detection of the chemical and biological threats.

See the extent of warming of the oceans. The actual, non-fox’d science. 

But of course the real alarm bell is ocean acidification.  It is utterly demonstrable, clearly happening and no one has even proposed a reason, other than human generated CO2.  Denialist cultists hurry to change the subject, whenever the words “ocean acidification” come up. Try it and watch what happens! Sane people need to start using those words more often! 

Heck it’s getting so blatant that even Forbes is allowing articles like this one, showing that science and denialism are opposites, at least when it comes to the oceans.  When this happens on Forbes, you know that some folks in the oligarchy have started realizing, they need the planet, too.