Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts

26 May 2017

Climate Change, Whirligig Icebergs

Climate change is still in the news. Don't worry, I won't rant about impending doom, or say that Earth's climate isn't changing.

This planet's climate has been changing for several billion years. I'd be astounded if it stopped changing now.

How much we know and understand about our own past, and Earth's, is also changing. I'll be talking about that, and why I'm not upset that we're learning.

I'll also take a look at (real) climate change, why I think we are not doomed, and choices we must make soon. "Soon," in this case, is somewhere in the next millennium or so. My opinion. We really do not want to make these decisions hastily....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

14 Apr 2017

Mars: Leaky Red Planet

What we're learning about Mars, and a new type of really small spacecraft, reminded me of earth, air and kilts.

Also pharaohs, Thomas Paine, and Lord Kelvin. By then I was running out of time to write something more tightly-organized.

I figured you might be interested in some of what I have written. On on the other hand, maybe not. So I added links to my ramblings before and after what I said more-or-less about the science news, and figure you can decide what's interesting and what's not.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

7 Apr 2017

Pesticides in the Water



I live on Earth, so caring about what happens here makes sense. I've talked about enlightened self-interest, Yeats, Ehrlich, and getting a grip, before. Often, actually. (February 17, 2017; January 20, 2017; September 16, 2016; August 12, 2016)

A news item about scientists finding a particular sort of pesticide in America's drinking water got my attention. So did what they said about it: which made sense.

Whether or not this becomes a hot news item, like the "Flint Water Crisis," depends partly on how badly editors need something to angst over. My opinion.

What happened in Flint, Michigan, was real enough. There's a pretty good Wikipedia page on it. Briefly, Flint's drinking water was okay until the city started drawing from the Flint River instead of Lake Huron and the Detroit River.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

19 Mar 2017

Internet Friends, Real People



Near the end of a self-help book, the author wrote that social connections we make with others online aren't "real."

The next sentence said that online communities are "pretend communities." The author explained that they don't "come close to fulfilling the legitimate needs we have."

I understand the point he was making, but don't entirely agree.

It's true that folks I know online won't notice if I left the garage door open, or lend me a few dollars until next payday. In nearly all cases, they can't. They live too far away. Some aren't even on the same continent....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

3 Mar 2017

TRAPPIST-1: Water? Life??

TRAPPIST-1's planets may support life: or not. We don't know. Not yet.

We're pretty sure that all seven are rocky worlds, like the Solar System's inner planets.

Three are in the star's habitable zone. The inner two definitely do not have one sort of atmosphere that would make life as we know it impossible.

Even if we don't find life there, we'll learn a great deal while looking.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

24 Feb 2017

Face Transplant at Mayo

Andy Sandness wasn't born looking like that. He's lived with the consequences of a "wrong choice" for more than a decade.

Agreeing to get Mayo Clinic's first face transplant won't undo his decision. But now he has a second chance for a normal life.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

17 Feb 2017

Pollution: Still Learning

Scientists found PCBs and PBDEs in deep-sea critters, armyworms are on the march in Africa, and Mexico City's air isn't as clean as we'd hoped.

Rational concern seems reasonable....

...Last week I talked about blaming our tools for our mistakes. (February 10, 2017)

This week I'll revisit Lovecraft's "placid island of ignorance,"sort of....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

3 Feb 2017

Footprints in Ancient Ash

Scientists are pretty sure that Saccorhytus coronarius is an ancestor of lancets, sea squirts, fish, amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs, and mammals: including us.

Much more recently, about 3,660,000 years back, five Australopithecus afarensis strolled across volcanic ash. One of them was "astonishingly larger" than any other A. afarensis we know of. Exactly what that means isn't, I think, clear. Not yet.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

27 Jan 2017

Gems, Metal, and Earth's Core

The Fire of Australia, a whacking great chunk of opal, isn't particularly interesting from a 'science' viewpoint.

But I'm human, which is probably why anything big and shiny gets my attention: including that rock.

Wrenching myself back on-topic, scientists found a stream of liquid metal flowing at the edge of Earth's core. Studying it may help us learn why Earth's magnetic field flip-flops at apparently-irregular intervals. What we'll learn is beyond me: we didn't know much about geomagnetic reversal when I started school.

We still don't, for that matter. As I keep saying, there is a very great deal left to learn.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

4 Nov 2016

Near-Earth Asteroids

Scientists spotted 2016 UR36 days before it passed by Earth. "Killer asteroids" headlines notwithstanding, we knew it would miss our planet by a comfortable margin.

Sooner or later, though, something big will hit Earth: again. We still can't prevent that, not yet.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

30 Oct 2016

Authority, Superstition, Progress


(From Diliff, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

Authority, superstition, and misapplied technophilia (it's a real word) rate at least one post each: but that'll wait until another day. Days.

This time I'll take a quick look at all three, and then say why I don't believe in Progress with a capital P — and don't yearn for the 'good old days.'

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

16 Oct 2016

Alchemy, Science, Life, and Health

(From BBC, via Wikipedia, used w/o permission.)
("I find that nothing's ever exactly like you expect...." (Professor Richard Lazarus))

A mad scientist's lot is not a happy one. All he wants is to redefine being human: and the next thing you know, he's eating guests at his victory celebration.

Doctor Who's The Lazarus Experiment doesn't have much to do with The Devil Bat and The Brain That Wouldn't Die, apart from featuring a mad scientist — and science gone horribly wrong.

Some movies, like Fantastic Voyage and Things to Come, present science and technology as useful.

But "tampering with thing man was not supposed to know," as Mr. Squibbs put it, keeps the plot going for quite a few; like Altered Species, They Saved Hitler's Brain, and Island of Lost Souls.

Reticence, reasonable and otherwise, regarding new ideas isn't new....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

14 Oct 2016

Elastic Brains and New Tech

Maybe 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks,' but apparently the adult brain isn't nearly as rigid as scientists thought.

I'll be looking at neuroplasticity, the idea that brains can change; research that may lead to better neural interfaces; and 'brain training' games....

...We've been learning a great deal about the human brain and how it works. That's a good thing for me, since I have maintenance issues with mine....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

30 Sep 2016

Europa, Mars, and Someday the Stars

Scientists think they've detected more plumes of water, shooting up from near Europa's south pole. It's early days, but we may have found a comparatively easy way to collect samples from the Jovian moon's subsurface ocean.

Stephen Hawking says humanity needs to keep exploring space. I agree, although not quite for the reasons he gave.

SpaceX tested an engine they plan to use on their Mars transport, and Gaia's data seems to have raised as many questions as it answers.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

22 Aug 2016

Polio, Zika, and Using Our Brains

Polio is back in Nigeria: only two cases that we know of; which isn’t particularly comforting, since most folks with polio have no symptoms.

The good news is that vaccines are available: and may get to most of those who need them before the disease does.

Zika, another viral disease, is still in the news, this time a case in Texas that affected a baby.

On a happier note, researchers are making progress on a brain-machine interface that could help folks walk again.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

22 Jul 2016

Early Agriculture, New Tech

'Genetics news' caught my eye this week.

DNA from barley that's been sitting in a cave for six millennia is helping scientists learn about agriculture's origins.

A fits-in-your-hand Biomolecule Sequencer is at the International Space Station. If it works, folks up there won't have to send samples down for analysis.

Finally, the world's first farmers were an unexpectedly diverse lot....

...Science? In a "religion" blog??...

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

29 Apr 2016

Cryonics, Smallpox, and Pope Pius VII

I remember when heart transplants were front-page international news, not local human interest stories: and when polio vaccinations were new. I really do not miss the 'good old days.' I remember them, and they weren't.

I also remember when cryonics was 'science fiction stuff,' not a highly-experimental and controversial medical procedure. I probably won't live long enough to see whether it works. But if you're young enough: you might....

...Since I'll be talking about life, death, and medical practices, I'd better start by saying that I'm a Christian: a Catholic.

Like it says in the Apostles Creed, "I believe in ... the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting." I'll be explaining why I don't see a conflict between that belief and trying to save lives....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

15 Apr 2016

Starshot, SETI, and the Universe

We may be within a generation of sending probes on flyby missions to other stars, high-energy jets from several distant galaxies all point in the same direction, and we're learning more about hot super-earths.

That sort of thing fascinates me, your experience may vary.

Meanwhile, SETI researchers will be checking out red dwarfs: which may be more promising places to look for neighbors than we thought.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

8 Apr 2016

BEAM Prototype Habitat, Bigelow's Plans

The BEAM Bigelow Aerospace habitat module, will be launched toward the International Space Station (ISS) today: if all goes well.

BEAM is packed in the Dragon spacecraft's pressurized section. This cargo run also carries supplies for the ISS crew, and for several dozen of the roughly 250 experiments planned for Expeditions 47 and 48. (SpaceX press kit)

After getting attached to the ISS and inflated, BEAM will mostly just sit there for at least two years: empty except when someone in the ISS takes samples and swaps out radiation sensors. I think that's a good idea, since BEAM is testing technology for Bigelow Aerospace rental properties in low Earth orbit.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

25 Mar 2016

Reaching for the Stars

Scientists and engineers in BAE Systems' Project Greenglow are trying to control, or sidestep, gravity.

Back on my side of the Atlantic, scientists at NASA's Eagleworks say they've successfully tested prototype RF resonant cavity thrusters and a warp field generator. Other scientists are skeptical. Very skeptical....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Climate Change, Whirligig Icebergs

Climate change is still in the news. Don't worry, I won't rant about impending doom, or say that Earth's climate isn't chan...