Tag Archives: technology

Ixnay on the iPod:

In Praise of Crap Technology

I actually did have an iPod once, a sleek 30-gig number with a brilliant video screen and space for nearly half of my comically large music collection. I watched a video on it exactly once—Breaking Bad, season one—cringed with horror every time I dropped it and felt the $400 hole in my wallet for longer than I’d owned the thing when I inevitably lost it.

[My Coby MP3 player is] worth next to nothing so I’m virtually assured never to lose it—unlike apparently every iPhone prototype ever—and I don’t cringe at all when my toddler flings it across the room. And because the next Coby is sure to be just as mediocre, I’ll never need to upgrade—I’ve stepped off the escalators of feature creep and planned obsolescence, and all the expense and toxic e-waste that come with them. Crap technology, it turns out, is green technology.

On a related note, see All aboard, and hold onto your phones.

From Bronze to Iron

The Bronze Age in the Eastern Mediterranean region ended suddenly and violently about 1200 B.C. The Hittite Empire and the Mycenaean Greek Civilization were destroyed. Most of the cities in Syria and Palestine were destroyed. Egypt was attacked and permanently weakened. The region entered a dark age that lasted for centuries.

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Searching for Extraterrestrial AI

Looking for E.T.? Try His Artificial Intelligence Instead, Astronomer Says

The suggestion that artificial ET’s might more evident than biological ones is not new. Frank Tipler (before he went off the deep end) suggested in 1981 that alien civilizations might use von Neumann probes to explore a galaxy. He concluded that since we do not see such probes,
there are no ET’s in our galaxy. In science fiction the concept goes back at least to 1963, when Fred Saberhagen’s first Berserker story appeared.

Actually, almost all suggestion for SETI come down to Searches for ExtraTerrestial Technology. It will be a long time before we can find any other sign of intelligence out there.

Bok globules are another search target for sentient machines. These dense regions of dust and gas are notorious for producing multiple-star systems. At around negative 441 degrees Fahrenheit, they are about 160 degrees F colder than most of interstellar space. [Is this correct?-GTM]

This climate could be a major draw because thermodynamics implies that machinery will be more efficient in cool regions that can function as a large “heat sink”. A Bok globule’s super-cooled environment might represent the Goldilocks Zone for the machines, says Shostak.

The idea that Bok Globules might be linked to ET’s was anticipated by Fred Hoyle in his 1957 novel The Black Cloud. Early in the book some astronomers are looking at some images of the cloud (which turns out to be an intelligent and powerful life form). One of them describes it as “a fine example of a Bok globule.”

A Laser Strike at the Galactic Center

Great picture at APOD

Why are these people shooting a powerful laser into the center of our Galaxy?

Phil Plait explains:

The laser shoots up into the sky and excites atoms in the upper atmosphere, causing them to glow. That makes an artificial and very bright star in the sky! The telescope can then use that star to track the distortions in the atmosphere and compensate for them, allowing the images it makes to be incredibly clear and sharp.

With the laser, modern computers, and adaptive optics astronomers have solved a problem with Earth-based optical telescopes that goes back to Galileo.

Note that this is a technique for visible light observations. Space-based observatories are needed for the parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that are blocked by the Earth’s atmosphere.