Tuesday, September 27, 2005

 

Carnival of Tomorrow #10

Welcome to the Carnival of Tomorrow 10.0, I’m J. Random American and I’ll be your guest host this week. In an attempt to make your Carnival experience go smoothly, I have divided the entries into categories and highlighted the blog post hyperlinks in bold text. Now let’s dip into the future…

SPACE EXPLORATION

“For I dipped into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce. Argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales”
-Alfred Lord Tennyson


Last week NASA rolled out its new moonshot plan. Space enthusiasts and sci-fi aficionados began complaining immediately that they could have done better. One of the axioms of technical work is that the less someone knows about a job the easier they think it is. So where can we go for good, informed analysis on the near future of space exploration? Rand Simberg (who knows quite a bit about the space launch business himself) of Transterrestrial Musings has the answer in his post “Apollo 2.0”.

Mark Whittington of Curmudgeon’s Corner (author of the book _Children_of_Apollo_) and Jonathon Goff (yet another space launch industry insider) of Selenian Boondocks also have been debating the merits of NASA’s latest plan in a series of posts on their respective blogs starting here.

The “Apollo 2.0” description is being thrown around a lot. Personally, I think the new plan should be called “Gemini to the Moon 2.0”, but I seem to be alone in that opinion. I had incorrectly predicted here at Ideas in Progress that NASA Administrator Mike Griffin would use the new lunar plan rollout event to promote a "Lagrange point marshalling yard" for storing supplies between the Earth and the Moon that would be partially serviced by contracts with private space launchers. I'm still expecting him to push that idea, even though it didn't show up in the latest press conference.

Semi-Random Ramblings chooses to get his analysis of aerospace engineering from a lawyer. At least it’s not kitty porn. :)

The Encyclopedia Astronautica Blog takes a light-hearted view of the new lunar program with a parody entitled Apollo 18 is GO!

If you can’t get enough of NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, Aerospace America has an in depth interview with him this month on the politics and business of space launch.

Lastly, if all this chemical propulsion stuff is too near term then the Liftport Staff Blog reports (complete with pictures and video) in the post Photos & More from 1,000-ft Robot Test that their space elevator climbing robot tests are going well. There hasn’t been any news this month on large clusters of micro-engines, skyhook tethers, or beamed propulsion to report but DARPA still seems to be funding micro-engine work and any materials developments that would allow space elevator construction would likely enable a skyhook first.

THE SINGULARITY

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there” -L. P. Hartly

Another big futurist news item is the publication of Ray Kurzweil’s new book The Singularity is Near. Fighting Aging! already has a review of it in the post Reading "The Singularity is Near" along with analysis that suggests some very interesting developments in the business of biotechnology are near at hand.

Evelyn Rodriguez of Future Salon blogs Kurzweil’s keynote speech at the Accelerating Change 2005 conference in the post Kurweil Keynote: When Humans Transcend Biology.

The usual home of the Carnival of Tomorrow, The Speculist, has more on the conference in the post Between the Lines by Phil Bowermaster. I hope they post more information from the Accelerating Change conference in the future.

There are singularity doubters, however. Al Fin at AlFin2100 points out in the post Right Ascension that the if the singularity is the moment when the future can no longer be understood by previous experience then it may be like a mathematician’s girlfriend, something that we can get arbitrarily close to but never quite reach.

Amet Patel of Amet’s Thoughts points out in his post The Singularity is Near? that describing the singularity as the “knee” in the curve of exponential technological growth where progress seems to “go vertical” doesn’t work either because exponential curves don’t actually have “knees”, they are illusions whose location keeps moving as you change the scale of the graph.

In the post “Michael Flynn does not think the singularity is near” Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolutions gives an excerpt from an email he got with an elegantly simple bit of evidence about our current lack of proximity to The Singularity.

MACHINES

"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." -Henry Ford

Of course the biggest technology news story of last week is that one of the fundamental six simple machines has finally been improved upon by the Illinois Tool Works. Geek Press has more here.

With hurricanes and flood control in the news, Future Feeder has a timely post entitled Smart Concrete for Levees.

CONVENIENCE

“Keep on the lookout for novel ideas that others have used successfully. Your idea has to be original only in its adaptation to the problem you're working on.” - Thomas Edison

Technological development isn’t just about far out topics like visiting other planets, uploading minds electronically and threaded fasteners. Virginia Postrel covers upholstery advancements on her Dynamist Blog in the post Reinventing Upholstery Fabric. It may not seem like an interesting topic at first but give it a chance; it is exactly these sorts of “mundane” developments that add up to a better standard of living for all of us. If you have trouble accessing the NY Times link in her post, try using this service to bypass web registration.

Another example of brilliant but mundane developments that will make the world a slightly better place is the solar handbag profiled in the accurately titled Slashdot entry Solar-Powered Handbag. I can’t wait for the solar powered saddle bag.

SCIENCE

“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny...'” – Isaac Asimov

Dominic Vella and Dr. Mahadevan have released an exciting new paper on why Cheerios stick to each other in the bowl.

Hypotheses Non Fingo points out in his post Stupid "International Astronomical Union" that one of the biggest problems with discovering new things is naming them. If Kurzveil is right about the coming wave of new discoveries, we’re going to need to address this problem soon.

Meanwhile, the Make Blog introduces O'Reilly's new science and technology podcast entitled Distributing the Future.

WARFARE

“Scientists have always been pawns of the military!” -Star Trek II

While the US Army and Marines have been making headlines revolutionizing small wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the USAF has been in the news for its high-tech, big-budget efforts to maintain a credible deterrence against the People’s Republic of China, the Navy has been quietly engaged in its own revolution in military affairs. The Winds of Change post by Joe Katzman US Navy Preparing for Littoral Warfare summarizes the Navy’s developments in support of its coastal and littoral waters doctrine.

Dr. Pournelle at Chaos Manor has information and links on the state-of-the-industry Navy cargo ship the HSV-2 Swift from his son Phillip at the bottom of yesterday’s entry.

Matt at BlackbeltJones points out an Edward Castranova quote in his post Terra Castronova which suggests we wage memetic warfare on Islamic radicals by making an online video game that would let Islamic youths play at living in a democracy. That’s not unlikely, considering that we are already working a video game to teach oppressed people how to stage their own velvet revolution.

Nate at Project Nothing! points out that the United States isn’t the only nation trying to revolutionize warfare in the post Seoul to Build Combat Robot.

NANOTECH

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present. -Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

Chris Phoenix at Responsible Nanotechnology reviews an article on nanotechnology and in the process provides a good nano primer in the post Nanoparticles, Nanodevices, Nanofactories.

The Instapundit points to a promising medical use in his post on cancer seeking nanotechnology.

ENERGY

“In times of rapid change, experience is your worst enemy.” - J. Paul Getty

Capitalist economists assured the “peak oil” Chick-Littles that the invisible hand would naturally encourage alternative fuels once oil prices became high. Well, oil prices are now high and here come the alternative fuels. The Green Car Congress post Chattanooga Corp. Successfully Converts Shale to Oil with Lower Impact Process and the Montana's Energy Future Symposium scheduled for next month hint that the most economical next generation fuel might be synthetic hydrocarbons made from coal, instead of the hard-to-store hydrogen that Greens and gov’t central planners would have picked.

This may be bad news for the Future Pundit who hopes that Tony Blair might be coming around to his own position on the future of energy, productivity, technology, and carbon emissions in his post Tony Blair Wants Technological Advances To Reduce CO2 Emissions. Well, if it turns out that carbon emissions really are causing global warming then there’s always carbon sequestration.

The End.

The next Carnival of Tomorrow will be back at The Speculist. If you would like to contribute to it, email them at:

mrstg87 {@ symbol} yahoo {dot} com

or

bowermaster {@ symbol} gmail {dot} com.

Comments:
Hey guys, thanks for the include!

Nice round-up, as usual.
 
I agree, we'll have to wait and see if global warming is caused by the continued measurable increases in C02 in the atmosphere. My hunch is that its actually caused by "revolutionary" increases in prisioner abuse.
 
Hi, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!
 
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