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Tagged with “long now” (17)

  1. Carolyn Porco: Searching for Life in the Solar System - The Long Now

    Life nearby

    If we find, anywhere in the universe, one more instance of life besides what evolved on Earth, then we are bound to conclude that life is common throughout the vastness of this galaxy and the 200 billion other galaxies.

    The discovery would change how we think about everything.

    Most of the search for life beyond Earth, Porco explained, is the search for habitats.

    They don’t have to look comfy, since we know that our own extremophile organisms can survive temperatures up to 250°F, total desiccation, and fiercely high radiation, high pressure, high acidity, high alkalinity, and high salinity.

    In our own Solar System there are four promising candidate habitats—Mars, Europa (a moon of Jupiter), Titan (a moon of Saturn), and Enceladus (“en-SELL-ah-duss,” another moon of Saturn).

    They are the best nearby candidates because they have or have had liquids, they have bio-usable energy (solar or chemical), they have existed long enough to sustain evolution, and they are accessible for gathering samples.

    On Mars water once flowed copiously.

    It still makes frost and ice, but present conditions on Mars are so hostile to life that most of the search there now is focussed on finding signs of life far in the past.

    Europa, about the size of Earth’s Moon, has a salty ocean below an icy surface, but it is subject to intense radiation.

    Photos from the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that occasional plumes of material are ejected through Europa’s ice, so future missions to Jupiter will attempt to fly by and analyze them for possible chemical signatures of life.

    The two interesting moons of Saturn are Titan, somewhat larger and much denser than our Moon, and tiny Enceladus, one-seventh the diameter of our Moon.

    Both have been closely studied by the Cassini Mission since

    2004.

    Titan’s hazy atmosphere is full of organic methane, and its surface has features like dunes and liquid-methane lakes “that look like the coast of Maine.”

    But it is so cold, at 300°F below zero, that the chemical reactions needed for life may be too difficult.

    Enceladus looks the most promising.

    Cassini has sampled the plumes of material that keep geysering out of the south pole.

    The material apparently comes from an interior water ocean about as salty as our ocean, and silica particles may indicate hydrothermal vents like ours.

    “I hope you’re gettin excited now,” Porco told the audience, “because we were.”

    The hydrothermal vents in Earth’s oceans are rich with life.

    Enceladus has all the ingredients of a habitat for life—liquid water, organics, chemical energy, salts, and nitrogen-bearing compounds.

    We need to look closer.

    A future mission (arriving perhaps by the 2030’s) could orbit Enceladus and continually sample the plumes with instruments designed to detect signs of life such as complexity in the molecules and abundance patterns of carbon in amino acids that could indicate no biology, or Earth-like biology, or quite different biology.

    You could even look for intact organisms.

    Nearly all of the material in the plumes falls back to the surface.

    Suppose you had a lander there.

    “It’s always snowing at the south pole of Enceladus,” Porco said.

    “Could it be snowing microbes?”

    (A by-the-way from the Q&A:

    Voyager, which was launched 40 years ago in 1977, led the way to the outer planets and moons of our Solar System, and five years ago, Porco pointed out, “It went beyond the magnetic bubble of the Sun and redefined us as an interstellar species.”)

    —Stewart Brand

    http://longnow.org/seminars/02017/jul/24/searching-life-solar-system/

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  2. James Gleick: Time Travel - The Long Now

    Time travel is time research

    Gleick began with H.G. Wells’s 1895 book The Time Machine, which created the idea of time travel.

    It soon became a hugely popular genre that shows no sign of abating more than a century later.

    “Science fiction is a way of working out ideas,” Gleick said.

    Wells thought of himself as a futurist, and like many at the end of the 19th century he was riveted by the idea of progress, so his fictional traveler headed toward the far future.

    Other authors soon explored travel to the past and countless paradoxes ranging from squashed butterflies that change later elections to advising one’s younger self.

    Gleick invited audience members to query themselves: If you could travel in time, would you go to the future or to the past?

    When exactly, and where exactly?

    And why.

    And what is your second choice?

    (Try it, reader.)

    “We’re still trying to figure out what time is,” Gleick said.

    Time travel stories apparently help us.

    The inventor of the time machine in Wells’s book explains archly that time is merely a fourth dimension.

    Ten years later in 1905 Albert Einstein made that statement real.

    In 1941 Jorge Luis Borges wrote the celebrated short story, “The Garden of Forking Paths.”

    In 1955 physicist Hugh Everett introduced the quantum-based idea of forking universes, which itself has become a staple of science fiction.

    “Time,” Richard Feynman once joked, “is what happens when nothing else happens.”

    Gleick suggests, “Things change, and time is how we keep track.”

    Virginia Woolf wrote, “What more terrifying revelation can there be than that it is the present moment?

    That we survive the shock at all is only possible because the past shelters us on one side, the future on another.”

    To answer the last question of the evening, about how his views about time changed during the course of writing Time Travel, Gleick said:

    I thought I would conclude that the main thing to understand is: Enjoy the present.

    Don’t waste your brain cells agonizing about lost opportunities or worrying about what the future will bring.

    As I was working on the book I suddenly realized that that’s terrible advice.

    A potted plant lives in the now.

    The idea of the ‘long now’ embraces the past and the future and asks us to think about the whole stretch of time.

    That’s what I think time travel is good for.

    That’s what makes us human—the ability to live in the past and live in the future at the same time.

    —Stewart Brand

    http://longnow.org/seminars/02017/jun/05/time-travel/

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  3. Andy Weir: The Red Planet for Real

    Andy Weir’s self-published novel The Martian has become a New York Times bestseller and the #1 movie in America. But it began with a series of blog posts that reflected Andy’s lifelong love of space science and detailed research about traveling to and surviving on the fourth planet in our Solar System. You can see the film in theaters everywhere, but only at The Interval will you hear Andy skip the fiction and talk about the details of how a real world mission to reach and colonize Mars would work. He’ll discuss his book, too, and answer your questions at this very special event in our Interval salon series.

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  4. Neil Gaiman - How Stories Last (from the Long Now Foundation)

    Stories are alive. The ones that last, Gaiman said, outcompete other stories by changing over time. They make it from medium to medium—from oral to written to film and beyond. They lose uninteresting elements but hold on to the most compelling bits or even add some. The most popular version of the Cinderella story (which may have originated long ago in China) has kept the gloriously unlikely glass slipper introduced by a careless French telling.

    http://blog.longnow.org/02015/07/08/neil-gaiman-seminar-media/

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  5. Long Now Foundation - Steven Pinker: The Decline of Violence

    First, he presents exhaustive evidence that the tragic view of history is wrong and always has been. A close examination of the data shows that in every millennium, century, and decade, humans have been drastically reducing violence, cruelty, and injustice—-right down to the present year. A trend that consistent is not luck; it has to be structural.

    So, second, he boldly founds a discipline that might as well be called “psychohistory.” As a Harvard psychologist and public intellectual (author of The Language Instinct and The Blank Slate), he sought causes for the phenomenon he’s reporting—-why violence has declined. Real ethical progress, he found, came from a sequence of institutions, norms, cultural practices, and mental tricks employed by whole societies to change their collective mind and behavior in a peaceful direction.

    Humanity’s great project of civilizing itself is far from complete, but Pinker’s survey of how far we’ve come builds confidence that the task will be completed, and he illuminates how to get there.

    http://longnow.org/seminars/02012/oct/08/decline-violence/

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  6. Edward O. Wilson “The Social Conquest of Earth”

    Edward O. Wilson has revolutionized science and inspired the public more often than any other living biologist. Now he is blending his pioneer work on ants with a new perspective on human development to propose a radical reframing of how evolution works.

    First the social insects ruled, from 60 million years ago. Then a species of social mammals took over, from 10 thousand years ago. Both sets of “eusocial” animals mastered the supremely delicate art of encouraging altruism, so that individuals in the groups would act as if they value the goal of the group over their own goals. They would specialize for the group and die for the group. In recent decades the idea of “kin selection” seemed to explain how such an astonishing phenomenon could evolve. Wilson replaces kin selection with “multi-level selection,” which incorporates both individual selection (long well understood) and group selection (long considered taboo). Every human and every human society has to learn how to manage adroitly the perpetual ambiguity and conflict between individual needs and group needs. What I need is never the same as what we need.

    E. O. Wilson’s current book is The Social Conquest of Earth. His previous works include The Superorganism; The Future of Life; Consilience; Biophilia; Sociobiology; and The Insect Societies.

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  7. Long Now: The World’s Oldest Living Organisms

    Creative photographer Sussman showed beautiful slides of very elderly organisms. The captions were as crucial as the images—-naming the species, the place, and the approximate age. You can see many of them here: http://rachelsussman.com/portfolios/OLTW/main.html

    The series began with the only animal—-an eighteen-foot brain coral in the waters of Tobago, thought to be 2,000 years old. An enormous baobob in South Africa might be 2,000 years old. Then there is the astounding welwitschia mirabilis of the Namibian desert, a conifer that feeds on mist, with the longest leaves in the plant kingdom.

    http://www.longnow.org/seminars/02010/nov/15/worlds-oldest-living-organisms/

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  8. Jesse Schell: Visions of the Gamepocalypse

    Games perpetually revolutionize computer use toward denser interaction with the human mind. To do that, they perpetually revolutionize themselves. Understanding the next frontiers of the genre is one way to understand where society is going.

    In this talk Jesse Schell explores the social, cognitive, and technological trends in computer game design and use.

    Jesse Schell is the CEO of Schell Games, the author of the authoritative text, The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses, and a Professor of Entertainment Technology at Carnegie Mellon, specializing in Game Design. At Walt Disney, he was Creative Director of the Imagineering VR Studio. Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2010 00:00:00 -0700 Location: San Francisco, CA, Novellus Theater, Long Now Foundation Program and discussion: http://fora.tv/2010/07/27/Jesse_Schell_Visions_of_the_Gamepocalypse

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  9. Frank Gavin: Five Ways to Use History Well

    Why do policy makers and historians shun each other? Gavin observed that policy people want actionable information, certainty, and simple explanations. Meanwhile historians revel in nuance, distrust simple explanations and also distrust power and those who seek it. Thus historians keep themselves irrelevant, and policy makers keep their process ignorant.

    Gavin proposed five key concepts from history that can inform understanding and improve policy dramatically.

    http://www.longnow.org/seminars/02010/jul/12/five-ways-use-history-well/

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  10. Nils Gilman: Deviant Globalization

    Nils Gilman describes deviant globalization as "the unpleasant underside of transnational integration."

    There’s nice tourism, and then sex tourism, such as in Thailand and Switzerland. The vast pharmacology industry is matched by a vast traffic in illegal drugs. The underside of waste disposal is the criminal dumping in the developing world of toxic wastes from the developed world. Military activities worldwide are fed by a huge gray market in weapons. Internet communications are undermined by floods of malware doubling every year. Among the commodities shipped around the world are exotic hardwoods, endangered species, blood diamonds, and stolen art worth billions in ransom. Illegitimate health care includes the provision of human organs from poor people — you can get a new kidney with no waiting for $150,000 in places like Brazil, the Philippines, Istanbul, and South Africa. Far overwhelming legal immigration are torrents of illegal immigrants who pay large sums to get across borders. And money laundering accounts for 4-12% of world GDP — $1.5 to 5 trillion dollars a year.

    These are not marginal, "informal" activities. These are enormous, complex businesses straight out of the Harvard Business Review. The drug business in Mexico, for example, employs 400,000 people. A thousand-dollar kilo of cocaine grows in value by 1400-percent when it crosses into the U.S. — nice profit margin there.

    http://fora.tv/2010/05/10/Nils_Gilman_Deviant_Globalization

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

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