Friday, May 29, 2015

Is Nature indifferent to us? And is that a good part of why it can be so frightening?

I am currently reading one of Michael Crichton's more recent books, "Micro." It's a decent read and I do recommend it.

This is a story about nano tech taken to an astonishing extreme; the shrinking of not only machines, but people, down to very small sizes. The purpose here is so that a given section of Hawaiian rain forest can be cataloged to the minutest level of soil and plant biota. Every creature down to the very microbes in precisely collected trays of soil.

The why of course is that nature has already spent millions of years cooking up drugs we haven't even imagined yet. If you could sift out a comprehensive database of what was there, as well as what each living thing could synthesize naturally, you would undoubtedly be sitting on a gold mine.

Which is also why the usual greed, and cast of psychopathic, sociopathic, and just plain evil, characters come into play so as to fulfill their dreams of power, and ego gratification.

The story does present, though, an interesting juxtaposition of minute mechanization, the vast array of living activity at small scales, and the contrast of how small we are in comparison to nature, even when we aren't shrunk down to the size of a thumb nail.

There is, in particular, one paragraph of dialogue spoken by one of the male characters that really got me to thinking:

"...What is it about nature that is so terrifying to the modern mind? Why is it so intolerable? Because nature is fundamentally indifferent. It’s unforgiving, uninterested. If you live or die, succeed or fail, feel pleasure or pain, it doesn’t care. That’s intolerable to us. How can we live in a world so indifferent to us. So we redefine nature. We call it  Mother Nature when it’s not a parent in any real sense of the term. We put gods in trees and air and the ocean, we put them in our households to protect us. We need these human gods for many things, luck, health, freedom, but one thing above all—one reason stands out—we need the gods to protect us from loneliness..."

Certainly nature is a process after all. And it stands to reason that a process can't have any real inclinations as we might consider them. Any proclivity towards hope, or favoritism towards one species or another, let alone one individual or another within a species.

It is a process that simply works to create ever more complex arrangements of interaction. Interaction whose flows can become self sustaining so that information can be retained, built upon, and, through experience association, have ever greater layers of abstracted meaning that can be accumulated.

That this ultimately results in something that can not only contemplate the factors for future choices, but the implications of its own existence, as well as the wonder of awareness, imagination, or intuition in the first place, ought to make us pause for a moment.

This gets especially more important when you start considering that a meaning processor (as singular meaning reference point), such as any sentient being is, might be quite fundamental to the ability to have a reality (the arrow of sequence and arbitrary moment where anything can interact and associate to begin with) at all.

This sort of thing is why I wonder if realities are the strings in string theory; only experienced from a different dimentional scale. They say that one of the main characteristics of such strings is that they vibrate, to provide a host of quantum fundamentals. You have to wonder then at what form of harmonic modulation would be at work to make this vibration go. Could it perhaps be the sum total of all of the life interaction energies, and all of the celestial bodies moving, as well as the collective thoughts and emotions of those sentients living inside? Could there be a tone there, or perhaps even a melody, that is meant to resonate with a good deal more than mere indifference? I, for one, would like to think so. It is certainly why I ponder things under the heading of a philosophy.

Micro: A Novel

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The fate of the universe?

Not even "pray all you want, but just keep on rowing" will save us from this monster.

Talk about creative thinking!

The following post was prompted by the YouTube video linked below.

There should be a new Nobel prize for the artistic expression of works that utilize knowledge spanning  across more than one discipline. and Gilberto Esparza should be on the short list for the first recipient of this prize.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I love this kind of creative thinking

The following post was prompted by the Motherboard article linked below.

Inflatable aircraft delivered to Venus as an upper atmospheric probe. What a cool idea, and wouldn't you just love to have an airship big enough to live in while you floated around in that environment. One wonders if something similar will be done with Jupiter as well. I certainly hope so.

The Inflatable Plane That Would Float Like a Leaf Through Venus’s Atmosphere

Monday, May 25, 2015

Another Comic Genius passing

Anne Meara, in combination with her husband Jerry Stiller, were, in their own way, the equal of George Burns and Gracie Allen. Different time periods, and different approaches, but the same caliber of genius.

My heart goes out to the Stiller family. This lovely, funny lady will be missed.

Comedy great Anne Meara, one half of the comedy team "Stiller & Meara," died at 85 on Saturday, her family said.<br />Meara and husband, Jerry Stiller, were regulars on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Click through the gallery to see more from the comedian's long career:Anne Meara passing

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Where it takes place is not as important as the creative thinking we bring to bear on alternatives

The following post was prompted by the Atlantic article linked below.

This is an interesting take on creative alternatives to food production. It serves to suggest as well the need for more integrated control of the entire food production process.

Doing this kind of thing, however, and keeping with a profit motivated mind set won't wash at all in the long run. Which is nothing more than to say that a creative new alternative needs to be found in our economic operating system as well.

Farming in the Sky

Saturday, May 23, 2015

New magnetic material

The following post was prompted by the article linked below.

Non-Joulian magnets! Remember that designation. It refers to a new class of magnetic material that, unlike what was originally discovered by James Prescott Joule, don't change in shape, but change in volume. A feature that, apparently, makes them prone to much lower heat profiles, able to be made of non-rare earth metals, and able to provide magnetic affect at much smaller sizes. Talk about impressive!.

This sort of thing gets me to thinking again on what the possibility might be of making magnetic lattice materials, such as wire bundles, that could provide significantly magnified tensile strength with the application of a current. Perhaps such strength far surpassing what even carbon nanotubes alone might ultimately be able to provide.

A time will come when this will be important for things other than, say, space elevators. In order to delve into the world of relativistic mass we are going to have to come up with a way to create mass accelerator rings that will need to withstand quite extraordinary centrifugal forces. Perhaps this new magnetic material will provide important options in that regard.

A microscopic view of periodic magnetic cells created in iron-gallium alloy that appear to be responsible for the strange non-Joulian magnetostriction

New class of "non-Joulian magnets" have potential to revolutionize electronics

Friday, May 22, 2015

Statistical formulazation of experience association and brain plasticity

The following post was prompted by the Quanta Magazine article, reprinted by Digg, and linked below.

This is a fascinating look into the convergence of physics, neuroscience, and information systems learning. I strongly recommend that you give it a read.

It certainly reinforces why learning is so much easier when you are young and the neurons in your brain still have the ability to easily layer their firing abstractions into useful new boundary summations. Wouldn't it be something if they could figure out how to recapture some of that plasticity.

Maybe some form of the new interface between wetware and hardware that the Transhumanists are, in part, so on about, will give us a form of this plasticity via external neuron simulators. Time will tell I guess.

A Common Logic To Seeing Cats And Cosmos

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Space exploration priorities

The following post was prompted by article linked below.

The desire to put humans on Mars is certainly understandable. It is both an exciting, and audacious, challenge to human ingenuity, as well as will. It was explorers, after all, that got us going to the new world way back when.

We need space development, however, for more than just the advancement of our understanding of the universe. We need it as well for the practical, not to mention critical, realities we face dirt side presently.

In a perfect reality we would pursue both the practical and the purely exploratory, but perfect it is not. Prioritization is going to be a requirement, unfortunately, and for my own part, the more pressing priority is the practical.

And in this context I mean both the orbital insertion and transfer infrastructure, as well as the formulation of a solid production foundation off planet. This means industrial scale throughput capability in all aspects of those three categories.

This will require more than just rockets for the first aspect, more than just chemical, reactive thrust engines trans orbital, and more than factories in near earth orbit. Ultimately, in my mind, beyond the space elevators, or sea based, mass accelerators, to take the first step; beyond the ion, or negative energy drives for the second; we are going to need very large, automated production facilities on the moon.

The arguments for that last step are, of course, fairly well known (as in raw materials readily at hand, and a much lower gravity well). We need to re-emphasize this last step, however, because it will be the singular pivot point from which we can establish a vast expansion of options; whether that means the material basis for having a realistic hope of saving humanity's ass, or for a whole new range of exploratory capability, or both, doesn't really matter. The bottom line here is that more options down the road ought to be our primary concern now.


Impatience for Mars

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Amazing engineering and how we should be careful of our view of it

This post was prompted by the Tom Scott YouTube video (found through Digg) linked below.

On the one hand I really enjoy hearing, and empathizing with, the enthusiasm that Mr. Scott so effectively expresses here, as well as in his other "Things You Might Not Know" videos. The wind break construct built to protect container shipping entering the Europort docks in the Netherlands is quite a feat of both collective action, and engineering.

That being said, however, I just wish that people like Mr. Scott would chose his words a bit more carefully when expressing what we can do, and what we can conclude from a nominal perception of success. Our time reference after all, not to mention our ability to consider the full depth of complexity in any complex, natural system, is limited to say the least. What might seem like putting Mother Nature in her place can be no more than human shortsightedness in far too many instances.

We truly need to do big engineering. As a sentient species it is a part of what makes our presence validated in all aspects of being able to act and express. We need to be careful, however, in the mindset we bring to the table of change, just as we exercise care in the ways we effect change. We must strive for a balance between our pride in what we can accomplish, and a profound sense of humility for our place in the bigger picture of existence. Vast though our abilities might become to bring about change, they will always be puny in comparison to the larger fabric in which we exist in. If we don't keep that sense of awe and wonder alive and well, we are in for a never ending series of rude awakenings.

How The Netherlands Stopped The Wind

Friday, May 15, 2015

Syntactic Foam

The following post was prompted by the Gizmodo article linked below.

A metallic foam?! Are you kidding me? This is amazing!

Of course, just because its lighter than water doesn't automatically recommend it for other uses, but one can't hope to be encouraged; just think what this might mean for the space program, ordinary aircraft, not to mention air ships. Consider my mind truly boggled.

This Floating Metal Will Make Feather-Light Warships

This Floating Metal Will Make Feather-Light Warships

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Languages as different mind spaces

The following post was prompted by the BBC Future article linked below.

In the Iron Druid Chronicles written by Kevin Hearne, the main character, a druid wizard several thousand years old, maintains the notion that a successful druid must be capable of mastering several languages other than their native tongue.

The idea here is that, in addition to the development of concentration and discipline, one needs separate mind spaces that can be held simultaneously so as to hold a focus on other persons one might wish to bring across different magical dimensions.

The magic part aside, it has always been an intriguing thought for me that any given language would create its own mind space, and that this would then have profound resonance for a person's sense of themselves.

The BBC article linked here gives some significant support to this notion.

I would also like to strongly encourage you to check out Mr. Hearne's work. The Iron Druid series is wonderful reading. And let me just say that there is no way you won't enjoy his dog Oberon. What a great side kick.

(Credit: Getty Images)

The mind-bending effects of foreign accent syndrome

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Microbial participation in properly integrated living spaces

The following post was prompted by the CityLab article linked below.

Systems thinking on the big picture level. That's what we're talking about here. And lest you think this applies only to building architecture think again.

If we are ever to live properly off planet, which we absolutely must do, we better get this kind of integration down ASAP. Just as we must better understand microbial interaction in dirt so that what we can grow will do so with a minimum of our usually inefficient chemical inputs.

Image SOM

How Germs Might Shape the Future of Architecture

Monday, May 11, 2015

Getting tangled up in cause and time effect: Addendum

I have been waiting to see if anybody would play around with the thought experiment I suggested in the "Getting tangled up..." post. It doesn't take much to see where a conundrum like that might take you if you follow it through to a logical conclusion; especially as one considers things like entanglement, encapsulated meaning, synchronicity and causality.

You need only to expand the experiment a bit to see how this might be.

Suppose that, instead of one set of entangled quanta, we created two distinct groups of 128 entangled bit sets. And instead of simply changing the state of one quanta in one set on board the fast travel ship, we instructed the crew to wait one unit of time and then roll a pair of dice 128 times, writing down either a zero or one depending on whether the result was odd or even, thus giving us a particular 128 bit binary number.

Suppose further that we instruct the crew to make the state change on just one of the groups of the 128 ship side quanta bits, after the established x number of further ship side time units, to change their bit states only if the roll was even. Even further, however, suppose we also instructed them to make no change if the other group of 128 entangled bits happened to indicate the very number they were going to input before they did so.

As you might be guessing now, this scenario would also have instructions for the  earth side participants, which would be to simply match whatever change occurred in the first group of 128 bits to the second group.

The question then, of course, becomes whether or not the earth side group receives the random 128 bit number before the ship side crew actually inputs it, or that their response gets back to the ship crew before then as well, and thus, to initiate a paradox of cause and effect.

What's at stake here is the notion of synchronicity and the basis of meaning states for a given reality. Entanglement may well be the corner stone of encapsulated meaning for a given vector of interaction association, or reality if you will.
Looked at from this point of view you have to wonder how relativity itself might be dependent of relative scales of consideration.

Schrodinger's cat gets a reality check
Schrödinger's cat gets a reality check

Getting tangled up in cause and time affect