Fireflies & Laserbeams

Dark Energy? Maybe not.

Monday January 6, 2020 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | Science | Leave Comments

[caption id="attachment_1741" align="alignnone" width="778"]dark energy (Image: Volker Springle/Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics/SP)[/caption] I am feeling validated by the news that came out today regarding Dark Energy. A team of astronomers at Yonsei University (Seoul, South Korea), together with their collaborators at Lyon University and KASI (Korea Astronomy and Science Institute), showed that the key assumption in the theory is based on erroneous data. I had been saying all along that the measurements were suspect. I posted this back in February 2011: Why do I Love Science Fiction? The whole story is here: New evidence shows that the key assumption made in the discovery of dark energy is in error newevidences I have been saying this from the beginning that it seemed to break the Simplicity principle. Most philosophers believe that, other things being equal, simpler theories are better than more complex ones and the Dark Energy theory was reliant on a lot of long range measurements that were open to a wide array of issues that might interfere with them. It seemed to leap to a conclusion based on data that was not very robust and to me, on lazy science. This doesn't mean the universe isn't flying apart, or accelerating, but the idea that we couldn't detect 95% of the universe verges on the absurd on the face. It seemed to me more likely that the measurements were wrong. They made a lot of assumptions. Turns out their assumptions are likely wrong, as I surmised. I think the Webb (JWST) telescope, which  launches next year will provide scientists with better information with which to make better theories.

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Curiosity has landed!

Monday August 6, 2012 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | Blogging | Leave Comments

If you have been living in a hole somewhere and missed the news, the Mars Science Laboratory, callsign Curiosity, landed early this morning very close to the target spot in the Gale Crater.  It's this kind of stuff that really gets my juices flowing.  I really wanted to stay up and watch but I had to be at work at 0630 this morning and it didn't land until well after midnight Eastern time.  The picture here was taken from an orbiter as Curiosity was landing, pretty inspiring stuff. A lot of people were down on NASA but they proved they can still pull off the incredibly difficult and make it look easy.  My hat is off. And FYI for those people out there wondering why we spend so much money on this kind of thing, we get back $10 for every $1 we spend as an investment.  It's money extremely well spent in my opinion. The location they picked is believed to have once held water ice and they will be looking for more clues.  I can't wait to hear more from this exciting mission.  Here is a LINK to the NASA Page for more info. Clear Ether!

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Post Human Reality – Uploading Personality

Friday February 3, 2012 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | Blogging | Leave Comments

I frequently joke that I’m going to live forever, like in Futurama.  Nixon is just an immortal head in a jar.  Maybe, in another 50 years, we might have the technology to upload our personalities to the Cloud -- that nether of internet space.  I wonder what that would be like.  Tron is one of my favorite movies, but the “people” of that world seem human enough.  But is that even remotely close to what it would be like? If you change dramatically, internally, fundamentally, are you still you?  You may have a distant memory of your former self but would how would you contemplate that?  I wanted to say how would you feel about it, but that doesn’t even have the right context anymore.  Feelings are for humans. Pain would have no context, at least physical pain.  Would that impact the ability to have empathy if they even chose to emulate it? Would you have the sensation of having a body? Would your mind expand? Would you be able to divide your attention in multiple areas, potentially losing yourself in the possibilities? Would you still be you when it was all said and done? Would we be able to procreate? Greg Egan’s Diaspora delved into that idea and took it pretty far, but I wonder what the consequences would be to a post human society.   Our self is more than just memories and things we learn.  Our sensory system has a major impact on our ability to perceive the world around us.  Our eyes aren’t really windows, they take input and send it to our brain which interprets the data and presents and image in our mind.  So what would be the equivalent in cyberspace?  Don’t look at me I have no idea.  Ten years ago virtual reality was the big buzz but with no actual brain to interpret the data what will that mean?  The entire inner workings of our self would be flipped on its metaphorical head. Our hormones and endocrine system influence our mood and our ability to parse all the different data streams coming at our brain.  Sanity is balanced on a knife edge and it’s truly a wonder that any of us are sane with all that goes on in the body.  But now take all that away and how do we get input into our new self?   It boggles the mind. For those of us with already formed personalities we might be able to keep a concept of humanness, but what if you were born in that Cloud space, a baby of post human parents, with no body to provide the inputs that make us human.  Would we even resemble humans in any measurable way?  Would we have any sensibility to those that we evolved from?  I have serious doubts that a post human intelligence would have any quantifiable understanding of what it means to be human.  Oh, they could understand it from an intellectual standpoint, but they would really have no frame of reference, except maybe that first generation that would be able to look at their parents and wonder why they were so limited and constricted in their view of the universe.  Talk about a generation gap. They would likely lack emotion, since there is no endocrine system or would the new humans have a virtual endocrine system with pseudo-emotions?  Would there be any empathy in these new humans or can we even call them human anymore? I suppose it would all be in the programming.  To make a post human more humanish they would have to program in the inputs of a pseudo-sensory system.  The new human would actually be a coded into a program of sorts.  Until they figure out what comes next.  There are rules in the internet universe just like the “real” world.  I’m sure the following generations would figure out fairly quickly how to “improve” on the coding to make themselves “better”.  How many generations then before they would code themselves to be unrecognizable to us? Timescales would be different also, and potentially malleable.  Perhaps they could put themselves on a short cycle for some things, but also take a long view since they can live forever.   They would likely be immortal, as long as the system they were in was active at least.  The next challenge would be to find a bigger system, one that would allow them to spread into the greater galaxy, or would they even be interested in anything external to the cloud space? All I have are questions without answers but it does make me appreciate what it means to be human in the here and now. Clear Ether!  

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Prognosticating 50 and 100 Years Ahead

Wednesday January 11, 2012 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | Blogging | Leave Comments

There seems to be a lot of people making predictions these days about the future.  I love this stuff. Always have.  I made a future timeline when I was maybe 13 that went a hundred years into the future.  It was fairly detailed, and I think I still have it somewhere.  I need to find it so see how we are doing.  I also did a self-portrait of me at 53.  That is almost dead on, except I thought I would have a little more hair on top. These things are fun to do and they help us science fiction writers have a baseline to project from in our worldbuilding.
Charlie Stross broke his down nicely into categories and I am going to follow suit.  So, here I go, putting on my thinking cap.  This is an extremely long post.  Just warning you now.
50 years from now … 2062
Climate 2062
It’s hard to refute the data that the globe is warming.  But if you go back even 35 years ago they thought the Earth was cooling.  I’m not completely convinced that man is having a significant impact on the change, but regardless, the climate is changing.  If we are to blame we certainly don’t appear to be on a path to change our ways.
There is a great deal of speculation about whether or not greenhouse gases are going to keep increasing and by how much.  An increase could trigger a cascading affect that will accelerate the effect.  Will it continue to rise or maybe only rise a little and stabilize?  The earth has sustained a great deal of change over the millennia, but a lot of these changes weren’t really compatible with human or mammalian life.  The natural system seeks balance, and does well to adjust to catastrophic events like massive volcanic eruptions.  But, if we really are to blame and continue to pump CO2 and halocarbons into the atmosphere we could push ourselves into a really desperate situation. 
My prediction is the global temperature will increase by a few degrees and stabilize.  There will be some geographic impact, like changing coastlines as a result of some glacial melting.  The climate in some areas will no longer be able to grow the same sorts of things, but it may become better suited for other things. 
Energy 2062
There is a global push to reduce the use of fossil fuels and it will continue.  Solar keeps improving and so do batteries.  I think we will see a major change in rechargeable batteries both in capacity and efficiency.  We will be getting close to commercial cold fusion but it will still not be viable.  I think nuclear will make a comeback.  It’s green and although the initial expense is high and probably going to increase to improve safety, once it is up and running it is a reliable source of relatively cheap energy. Coal is on the way out in most developed countries.
Transport 2062
No flying cars, yet.  I think airliners will still use the same sort of engines as they do now, although they will be much more fuel efficient.  FAA and global aviation authorities are moving to a more and more automated approach.  I think pilots will be there only as a safety measure for passenger hauling.  The aircraft will be automated from takeoff to landing.  Pilots will likely still be taxiing to and from the runway.  Cargo aircraft will be unmanned.
Piggy-backing on the improvement in batteries, automobiles will be all electric with solar adaptors for long hauling.   Metropolitan areas will continue to improve mass transit.  I think we will see trains and trucks still moving cargo cross country and automated cargo ships with minimal manning to move cargo across the oceans.
Population 2062
We’ve seen people move to the cities at the turn of the 20th century only to move to the suburbs midcentury and now the trend is reversing again.  Major city hubs will continue to grow, and some larger cities may combine.  Sprawls like Dallas-Ft Worth come to mind.  It’s almost one metropolitan area already.  I think the family farmer in the US will continue to dwindle.  Rural areas will still have populations, but the farming will mostly be done with automated equipment.  I’m not familiar enough with the European farming situation to comment on it. 
World population growth may stabilize somewhat.  The one trend I see is that education and industrialization appears to impact people’s decisions to have large families.  As the economies of China and India continue to grow I see those two massive populations stabilizing.  The big question for me is if Islam will continue to grow.  We have also seen every major religion have its day in the sun and then fade in power/popularity. 
My prediction is that the growth of Islam will stabilize also and as Arab cultures adopt a democratic philosophy we will see improvements in education and slowing of population growth.   Most of Africa is trailing but I see a spreading of education coming that will fundamentally change the political environment there.  South America will continue to improve economically, with Brazil becoming a major player.
Politics 2062
I see the rise of China and India continuing.  I don’t have a topic for Economics here but I think in the near term Europe and the US are going to continue to struggle.  I’m not sure we’ve seen the bottom yet.  I’m not convinced the Euro is going to survive and if the European economy tumbles further it will drag the rest of the world with it.  The market is truly global now and even though the world markets will still be there in 50 years we may be at the pinnacle of a global attempt to join together.  I don’t see global unity when I look ahead.  I think we are seeing that trying to force together populations of greater than 10 million starts to become unmanageable.
From a military standpoint, the Western powers will continue to be dominant, but China and India will join them if they aren’t already there.  There will not be one world superpower, although the US will still be the most technologically advanced and strongest from a purely military ability standpoint, but it will be much smaller than now.  Gross spending for defense will be in decline I think accept for China and possibly India.  
I think there might be at least one major world event in the next 50 years -- either an even more serious financial catastrophe or a major war.  I’m betting on the former, which may push us into the later.
Space 2062
We may have a viable commercial transport to space by 2062.  The question is to what?  I can see that at that point there may be multiple projects for orbital stations and maybe a presence planned for the Moon.  We may be on the way to Mars, but there will be no permanent station yet.
Food 2062
As the population continues to grow food production will be increasingly more important.  I think people will get over their aversion to genetically altered food.  We will start to see a proliferation of vat grown meats.  I don’t see the world going vegan.  We may see improved food production globally in places that aren’t currently doing a very good job. 
In metropolitan areas, you will be able to do all your food shopping online and have it delivered.
Technology 2062
I hear talk that Moore’s Law is going to be over by 2062.  I don’t think so.  People are already working on the next great thing for computer chips, from Graphene to Molecular Molybdenum, to Bose-Einstein condensates.  Something will work to get us to an even smaller level, perhaps even subatomic.  Quantum computing may be close.  I think Nanotechnology will have improved dramatically and we will have industrial ability with new composite materials.
It means we will have faster speeds, more memory and greater capability to mimic the real.  I see video games continuing to become more and more lifelike.  I think tablets will become pervasive along with some version of the phone/wrist computer.  Many companies are working on a holographic user interface or control mechanism.  It’s been an ongoing concern for at least seven years already.  In another 50 I think they will have solved the issues.  The Xbox 360 Kinect has already shown a lot of promise and this technology will be mastered within the decade.  It will have far reaching effects for virtual or augmented reality.
Robotics will continue to improve, with more physical capabilities to mimic human manipulation and we may see some surrogates emerge that allow people to stay at home and interact with the outside world through their robot.  I think this is likely.
Internet 2062
I see a merging in the future of cellphone companies, telcos and cable providers.   They provide the onramp.   There will be ubiquitous high speed internet and most metropolitan areas will have full-coverage wireless, with a push for global wireless started.  I think the bandwidth will evolve if everything is already connected, and I don’t see it costing more, I see it costing less to get online.   Social media will be an integral part of life for everyone across the globe (of course there may be pockets they aren’t but I see those dwindling).  With the way cameras and cell phones are proliferating I see aspects of lifelogging starting to become mandatory for safety and legal issues. 
I see television programs moving to internet fulltime. Media Stations, like NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX etc will become just another source provider for the interwebs.  
 Medicine 2062
I see a “cure” for most cancers and even HIV.  By cure I mean it will be completely manageable.  Our medical scientists have developed a hubris that they think they will get to the root cause of everything within the human body by breaking down the various systems into smaller parts.  They think by understanding a small piece will allow them to solve the root cause, but the human body is so complex and interconnected I seriously doubt we will be anywhere close to this within the next 50 years.   I worry a little about the prevalent use of antibiotics at the drop of a hat.  There needs to be a lot more research done to advance our knowledge in this field and get ahead of mutating bacteria that are resistant to almost all strains of our current stock of antibiotics.  The potential is there for a major outbreak that we will struggle to control.
Scientists have mapped the human genome and will probably have mapped most of the brain and subsystems of the human body by then.  The computing power will be there.  But simply mapping the systems doesn’t give a special insight into how they are connected necessarily.  It doesn’t answer root causes for certain diseases.  I think we will be a long way to curing a lot of things that we can’t now, like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.  Life expectancy may increase by another 20 years by then.  I expect to be around to see this.
100 years from now … 2112
First off, I don’t think we have to worry about the Temples of Syrinx running the show.  But who knows, in a hundred years a lot of things can happen.
Climate 2112
Global warming may have continued to the point where it is now creating major shifts in climate.  Some parts of the world may be too warm to live in without air conditioning or living underground perhaps.  Canada and Siberia may become the breadbasket of the world.  Lower US, much of Europe, China and India will have some problems to contend with. 
My personal feelings are that sometime in the next hundred years we will figure out how to capture the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the problem will be solved.
Energy 2112
We will have commercially viable cold fusion.  For the small stuff solar powered rechargeable batteries will run everything else.  And by everything I mean everything, from doorknobs to adjustable solar panels to cars to houses to climate controlled, green, self-aware buildings that will adjust to maximize their energy input and pollution output.
Transport 2112
Flying cars might be viable now.  We have the propulsion and automation to make them safe and reliable.  You won’t be able to fly them though.  They will be completely automated.  You will get in and tell it where to go and it will calculate the safest and fastest way to get there.   Jetsons?  Maybe.  But these aren’t really designed for long voyages.  Airliners will be around for that.  I know Boeing and the other aerospace companies are working on a highflyer that is almost leaving the atmosphere with a deltawing design that is extremely efficient.  They may even be supersonic by then.  Passenger jets will have actual pilots as a failsafe, but everything else will be via drone. 
Efficient mass transit in all cities.  But here’s the thing.  There won’t be as much need to travel.  The world can come to you “virtually”.  Have you seen the movie Surrogates? It won’t be quite like that but I don’t see anything stopping us from having Robots that can travel for you and you will be able to see and hear everything they could.  Everything else can be brought to you.
Population 2112
I’ve seen a few predictions that the future will be filled with old people living in huge cities afraid of the sky.   Perhaps, but it will be because we’ve solved a lot of aging issues that have allowed the life expectancy to go well past 100, maybe pushing 150.  The real questions are how will virtual and augmented reality, the use of surrogates and ubiquitous social media affect the psychology of our society?  We will become like Asimov predicted in his robot novels and stop having human interaction?  That will have a huge impact on population growth. 
I think that the basic family unit will still interact with each other.   I don’t think we will all be sitting in a recliner slurping our dinner through a straw like in WALL-E.  People like to go the local watering hole for a drink or out to see a sporting event.  I think stuff like this will still be a part of our culture.  People will still play sports; the internet stuff will just be another part of their life like watching TV is now for most people.  The majority of people will still go to work, because, let’s face it the employer wants to know what you’re doing.  You will be monitored also.  A lot of professions may telecommute though.  Obviously it will depend on the industry you work in.  Restaurants will still be around.  The restaurant has to have cooks and servers and a supply chain.  You get the idea.
Insurance and police/legal system will require everyone be lifelogging from birth.
Politics 2112
HellifIknow.  I imagine a few wars will have changed the face of a few areas of the world.  The only constant is change.  I still think the major players, like Britain, France, Spain, United States, Australia, Japan, China, and India will all be around in some form or fashion.
Space 2112
I hope to God we have a lunar base by then and maybe a fledgling base on Mars.  Assuming we can get stuff to orbit cheaply it will open up the entire solar system.  Time and acceleration are still the big barriers.  You can only push a human body so hard before it becomes jelly.  I think 30 Gs is about the max you could withstand for any length of time if you lay in your back in an acceleration coach.  How long though?  A few hours at best, and I honestly think that is pushing it.
Food 2112
We will get more efficient with what we have.  The world will be producing food in most areas of the globe that will support it by then.   Urban farming will become common, inside and on rooftops.  Genetically altered food will be the norm.
Technology 2112
People will be monitored either by their own equipment or by someone else’s pretty much 24/7.  Augmented Reality is pervasive.  Voice control for everything in your home.  Your couch will know how soft or hard you like it and recognize you.  Your house will know all your preferences and be completely automated, unless you just don’t like it that way.  Your “computer“ system will have a voice and  holographic interface and display, and it will cover all your multimedia needs.  You will also be able to do most of your multimedia anywhere with a portable device that will display in holographic 3D.
We will see neural interfaces starting to become common.  Basic integration with either an implant in the eye or glasses. 
We will have the technology to get personal invisibility devices, but they will be outlawed for most uses.
Nanotech is making major breakthroughs.  We will be expanding 3D printing into new areas and developing basic matter teleportation, but only inorganic material.
Internet 2112
It will be so pervasive as to be like the road in front of your house.  It’s part of the landscape.  We are connected through neural implants or our house/appliances.  It will be effectively free.  Revenue for the providers will come through advertisements and the sales generated through your preference package they have been able to build, based on everything you do or like.
Medical 2112
We will have solved a great many diseases.  People will still get the flu and common cold though.  We will have a workaround for blindness and hearing impairment.   Nanotech will have little monitors for the bloodstream and other major organs that will report to your lifelog, for preventative care.  At birth you will have monitors installed. 
We will have solved a great deal of the issues with aging.  The decline at the end will be fast.
We will have the ability to grow organs for replacement.  We have the technology to clone humans, but I seriously doubt it will be allowed.
This seems very pie in the sky to me.  I’ve left out so much.  There will be terrible things that happen along the way I’m sure.  Catastrophes of every sort -- hurricanes, floods, food shortages, wars, plagues, who knows what.  We will overcome all of these things along the way though.  Our population is so spread out now and so large that we can absorb a lot of damage and keep on truckin as a species.  None of the major events of the past century have really slowed down progress, no more than a speed bump.  Only a global disaster of unprecedented proportions will slow down our development.  I pray that doesn’t happen.
I hope you enjoyed it.  Clear Ether! 

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The Spark of Searching for Extraterrestrial Life

Thursday December 8, 2011 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | Blogging | Leave Comments

Charlie Stross pointed out an article and commentary that peaked my interest, dealing with SETI and the Fermi Paradox. The article was The Fermi Paradox, Self-Replicating Probes, and the Interstellar Transportation Bandwidth by Keith Wiley. Wiley's article was to do with the likelihood of Intelligent Aliens or lack thereof.   If you aren't familiar with the Fermi Paradox, it basically states that the likelihood of intelligent life in the galaxy is high, given the huge number of stars and therefore planets in our galaxy, that intelligent extraterrestrial life should have been to visit us by now or at least left their evidence and yet we haven't found clue one.  There are lots of theories as to why and these essays delve into those arguments.   The commentary was The Deepening Paradox by Karl Schroeder, a Futurist and SciFi Novelist. Great stuff! Karl just finished his Master's program in Strategic Foresight -- Futurism by another name. If I had known such a program existed when I was a kid I would have been all over that!  I was probably 13 or 14 when I did my first timeline, trying to extrapolate technology advancement. I still love it! His job is to forecast trends so that companies might adapt their technology. This also feeds his writing and I am adding all his books to my reading list, they look fascinating on first glance.  He has seven books out with a few other odds and ends.  His focus is Post Singularity, Post-humanism, fantasy and hard science all mixed together.  I can't wait to read them.   One of his cover artists also caught my eye.  Stephan Martiniere is his name and he has an amazing array of artwork spanning several different styles and genres.  He has a lot of stuff for sale and If I could afford him I would want him doing my covers.  His style is breathtaking and intricate and really stokes my imagination.  His style is way out of my reach with the meager skill set I have.  I would love to see how he does his paintings, they are so detailed and imaginative and his use of light is right on the money.  I absolutely love his artwork!   All this has got me thinking about Post Singularity ideas for stories and I have an idea or two brewing already.  I'll jot down a few ideas and let them percolate for a bit while I'm finishing the revision for Clear Ether.  I am sending my first chapters out to my alphas hopefully this week, (are you listening Stacy?)  

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Why do I love Science Fiction?

Wednesday February 23, 2011 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | Blogging | Leave Comments

Lots of reasons actually. I love being able to stretch my imagination and explore interesting and esoteric concepts. I like extrapolating political and scientific developments into the future. I like the fact that we can take things from history and manipulate them into a story idea for a different colonial world. I like the idea of starflight and starships and maybe even faster than light travel. I know that last one is a stretch, but I love the idea. I am constantly watching the scientific circles for someone to come up with an idea that will allow for faster than light travel. I like the idea of a future for mankind, spread out among the stars, not just trapped on one world. I like that some of the concepts I've seen writer's come up actually blow my mind! Don't get me wrong, I like other genres, but there is something that resonates with me in science fiction. Maybe it's the science. Cosmology has always been fascinating to me. The funny thing is I think science fiction is what fueled my interest in science which went full circle and now the science fuels my interest in science fiction. I was in junior high when Star Wars came out and it changed my view of the world. I wouldn't be in the job I am now if not for that movie. However, I have issues with the current state of affairs in the scientific community. I see all over television and the internet how man has solved the problem with explaining why our universe seems to be flying apart faster and faster. Or that they are very close to understanding most of the fundamental laws of physics. Okay, you caught me, this is actually going to be a rant on physics. I have issues specifically with Dark Matter and Dark Energy. I think it's lackadaisical physics. We can't see it or actually find any of something that makes up 70% of our universe? I honestly think there are some fundamental mistakes being made by a lot of really smart people that seem to be jumping onto a bandwagon. It couldn't be that they screwed up the way they measured the bending of light from stuff that is really, really far away. It couldn't be that they have under valuated the gravitation force. I saw someone post a list of different scientific theories that are the current hot topics a few weeks ago and ran a poll on how likely people thought each one was. The results of their unscientific poll were interesting. The views varied as much as the topics, and physicists and engineers and really smart people are far apart on their opinions. Stuff like Supersymmetry, Inflation, String Theory, Dark Matter, Higgs Bosons, and a couple of other things made the list. It just goes to show how far we are from really understanding a lot of these issues. These are hard issues that they are grappling with, no doubt, but what gets me is how they are being presented to the public as solved, when not one single thing on that list was solved to any degree of certainty. I'm going on the record to say I don't believe in Dark Matter or Dark Energy, at least not in the way it is being represented. I'm not saying we know every type of matter in the universe, but I don't think we are missing 70% of something. I think it's more likely that we are missing something in how we are measuring gravity. I think the red shifting of some of the black hole distance measurements are wrong. They are basing their entire theory off of a handful of extremely long measurements. These measurements are telling them we are missing an enormous portion of our universe somewhere. It seems much more plausible that they measurements are wrong. I've always been a science geek, and still love it, but come on folks! OK, rant over. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. We now return you to your normal blog.   Clear Ether!  

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