Gongol.com Archives: June 2008
Brian Gongol

June 10, 2008

Water News Oil and water: Just rising at different rates

Aviation News DIA is about to start powering its trains with solar power
Colorado has a state law that will require large utility companies to come up with 20% of their power from renewable sources by 2020. It seems likely that a lot of mandates are going to be overwhelmed by market demand anyway over the next few years, as long as oil stays at its current (relatively) high price. Solar power needs to make some big strides in general if it is to really take off as a replacement source of power. As for the big picture on energy, it's all going to come back to treating energy like we'd manage a diet -- we'll have to learn to produce more while using less.

Health When will we really get to know ourselves?
A significant debate has evolved over whether we will ever be able to understand the nature of the brain and of our own consciousness. Corollary debates are taking place to evaluate how long such self-realization may take (if it ever does come about), and whether such understanding will help us evolve into a sort of post-corporal state -- that is, to an age when we can put our brains and our consciousness into something inorganic, like a computer, and still survive. Oddly, as all this is happening, people in wealthy countries keep getting fatter, which in turn appears to be leading to fatter babies, which in turn puts those babies at higher risk of infant mortality. So even as we try to figure out the big picture, we appear to be dropping the ball on the basics -- like maintaining enough wellness that we don't kill ourselves before we figure out what's going on inside our own heads.

Science and Technology Build your own...anything
Groups similar to the ones that first started building early computer technology are now working on micro-scale manufacturing. This is quite serious: They're already claiming to be able to build or duplicate any product, at practically no manufacturing cost beyond that of raw materials. For now, they're making flyswatters and coathooks, but this same technology, sometime in the future, could be developed to the point where individuals could design and fabricate their own cars, or televisions, or missiles. The future of intellectual-property rights is going to leave most people scratching their heads.

Business and Finance World Bank warns that Russia is squandering its oil boom
Report points out that even though Russia is making a fortune off oil profits, it's not doing enough to manage its infrastructure nor to build other profitable industries that can pick up the slack when the oil boom runs out. The US Midwest needs to take note: Our biofuels boom won't last forever, either. The North Sea oil boom ran out for Great Britain, too.

Science and Technology MoMA shuts down exhibit on "victimless leather"
We have, in fact, reached the point at which it is now technologically feasible to create byproducts of living organisms (like leather and meat) without taking the life of a conscious being. For now, it's mainly art and weird science. But not for long. Replacement organs, synthetic steaks, and lots of other things that would've sounded weird and scary when today's college students were born are going to sound routine to their own children.

News Steve Ballmer predicts the death of the newspaper by 2018
He's wrong: The newspaper itself -- the dead-tree edition -- still has plenty of life, so long as it's managed correctly. Witness the outrageous success of many free-circulation papers in big cities. People still want the news to be professionally designed and portable, and the notion of a product that appears at a specific time every day (morning, afternoon, overnight, whatever) still helps us mark the world in an archival sense. But to think that unremarkable mid-sized newspapers will still be publishing profitably with today's circulation figures in ten years is to be as naive as to predict that they will be dead altogether.

Science and Technology Living on the ocean: Way of the future?
A group called the Seasteading Institute wants to build permanent dwellings on the ocean...like oil rigs without the oil. They're betting that people will tire of their treatment at the hand of government and that communications technologies will enable them to work from afar without any serious disadvantages. That same kind of logic ought to be applied to some of our less-populated landlocked states; there's no reason we shouldn't be trying harder to encourage people to live in the sparsely-populated states based on the same advantages. And, for now, either plan is a lot more feasible than massive space colonies. Those, of course, will have to happen someday, too -- if homo sapiens (or, rather, our successors) are to outlive the Sun (which might someday swallow the entire Earth).

Iowa Flooding causes mandatory evacuation from Cedar Falls

Science and Technology Cost of nuclear power has risen dramatically
Raw materials have been escalating in cost, as has petroleum, which (as long as bulldozers still run on liquid fuel) remains a major component of construction costs

Health Stopping the bleeding...with nanotechnology
The FDA is reviewing the safety of a chemical that could be used to stop bleeding almost instantly. It's a liquid that turns into a gel almost instantly upon making contact with blood. The range of possible life-saving applications is enormous, from surgery to trauma.

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