Twisted lights in the sky

Twisted light.  Polarized in a new and different way?  Or a way I just never heard of?  Really?  Or maybe it’s just a new application of circular polarization?  Not sure.  But anyway, 2.5 terabits of information a second would be nice to have for communicating in space, between probes and the homeworld.  Between homeworlds in the cosmic civilization-scale jetlag.

A Space Aged Hiatus

Like a lot of scientifically inclined technophillic folks, the space shuttle’s last flight makes me feel a little melancholy.  I believe there are very good reasons to send people off world.  If we are both lucky and conscientious then in the fullness of time humanity — or whatever inherits our history — will mediate the migration of the terrestrial biosphere beyond this pale blue homeworld.  In doing so, we will ensure, or at least increase the probability, of life’s persistence into deep cosmological time and space.  This goal, or something akin to it, is what has motivated a lot of people (myself included) to work on space exploration over the last half century.  It is an enduring motivation, but to the public at large and to policymakers, I think it comes off as esoteric, cultish, or at least eccentric.

Continue reading A Space Aged Hiatus

Links for the week of February 26th, 2010

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Links for the week of November 6th, 2009

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Links for the week of September 17th, 2009

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Shared Links for May 24th

  • Math and the City – The same scaling laws seem to apply to both cities and organisms: infrastructure requirements per capita (or per unit body mass) go down as population (size) go up. Not so surprising, since both cities and bodies are connected to themselves by networks of wires (neurons) and tubes (pipes, transportation, blood vessels) (tagged: urban design economics sustainability transportation infrastructure biology )
  • Sustainable Transport that Works: Lessons from Germany – A 60 page report on how Germany has transformed its urban transportation systems over the Post-War period, moving toward more public transit and bicycle infrastructure, the costs, benefits, effects, etc. What has worked, and what hasn't. (tagged: bicycle transportation policy urban design system:filetype:pdf system:media:document )
  • NASA Gets Out of Satellite Servicing Business – And good riddance. Yes, the capability was amazing, but expensive and unnecessary. For the price of *each* Hubble servicing missions, we could have launched an entirely new Hubble-class telescope on a rocket. The shuttle is a solution in search of a problem. Someday we'll have a real reason to send people into space — e.g. long term scientific exploration of Mars, or if we're lucky, the beginnings of a two-world civilization — but until then, we're just going around in circles, and forking over hundreds of billions unnecessarily to the aerospace industry. Better them than the banks… but that's really no argument to stand on. (tagged: space nasa politics policy )
  • Buying farmland abroad: Outsourcing's third wave – I don't know how anybody can think this is going to work long term. The whole point is to have food when there's a crisis, but in case of crisis, these deals are going to go down hard, unless those on the receiving end are willing to deploy their militaries on foreign soil to protect their investment. Which isn't impossible, but certainly doesn't seem like a great deal for anyone. (tagged: agriculture food china africa sustainability economics trade )
  • Crack Gardens – No, not gardens in which you grow crack, gardens growing out of cracks. A little creative jack-hammering opened up some fissures in this concrete slab, out of which a garden now grows. An homage to the tenacious plants that will take our cities apart when we leave. (tagged: gardening urban design art )

Shared Links for May 5th

  • How David Beats Goliath – When the rules are stacked against you, the intelligent thing to do is break them. (tagged: strategy law war insurgency guerilla gametheory basketball lawrenceofarabia )
  • Continuous bankruptcy – Bankruptcy as it stands now is a discontinuous process. Your legal solvency is binary: either you are bankrupt, or you are not. It doesn't have to be that way, and I think you can make a good argument that it's better if it isn't. Continuous processes work themselves out in small steps, with lots of information flow along the way. Discontinuous ones are like explosions. It's easier to muster resistance to an explosion once you see it coming, and delay it. But how much better to start getting signals early on, and avert it altogether? (tagged: finance policy economics bailout banks bankruptcy discrete continuous )
  • Digital Recovery of Moon Images – Ahh, NASA. Your data management has improved over the years, but that's not saying much. 20 tons of magnetic tape in an abandoned McDonalds houses the only extant copy of the pre-Apollo analog imaging of the Moon (still the highest resolution available in most places). It can only be read by one machine on Earth, which was recently rescued from a chicken coop, and refurbished by a man who is about to die. You can't make this stuff up. (tagged: information technology space nasa archive data moon )
  • Will the Future Be Geo-Engineered? – The future is already geo-engineered, and has been ever since we started burning coal on a large scale more than 200 years ago. The question now is whether we back off, and try to let the system return to the quasi-equilibrium that allowed our civilization to arise, or introduce new and exciting perturbations, with completely unpredictable non-linear effects. I know which one I'm hoping for. (tagged: geoengineering technology non-linear climate policy environment )
  • Hacking Scalia – Law professor gives class an assignment to dig up as much "private" info as possible on Justice Scalia, a notable anti-privacy force on the SCOTUS. This irritates Scalia. Exactly! (tagged: law privacy scalia scotus )
  • No new coal: what real direct action looks like – The $10 million spent on violently policing the "climate camp" protest outside Kingsnorth is absurd, given that a single motivated saboteur, capable of advance planning and actually willing to risk arrest and injury, can walk into the power plant and shut down 500MW of coal fired power generation. If governments fail to deal with greenhouse gas emissions effectively, and remain in thrall to the carbon lobbies, it seems likely that soon this kind of action will become more common, and truly disruptive. All it takes is a few thousand people who actually care, and our infrastructure can be brought to its knees. (tagged: energy environment green coal climate protest kingsnorth directaction )

Shared Links for Feb 28th