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Archive for the ‘sustainability’ category: Page 231

Feb 12, 2012

Badly designed to understand the Universe — CERN’s LHC in critical Reflection by great Philosopher H. Maturana and Astrophysicist R. Malina

Posted by in categories: complex systems, cosmology, education, engineering, ethics, existential risks, futurism, media & arts, particle physics, philosophy, physics, scientific freedom, sustainability

Famous Chilean philosopher Humberto Maturana describes “certainty” in science as subjective emotional opinion and astonishes the physicists’ prominence. French astronomer and “Leonardo” publisher Roger Malina hopes that the LHC safety issue would be discussed in a broader social context and not only in the closer scientific framework of CERN.

(Article published in “oekonews”: http://oekonews.at/index.php?mdoc_id=1067777 )

The latest renowned “Ars Electronica Festival” in Linz (Austria) was dedicated in part to an uncritical worship of the gigantic particle accelerator LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at the European Nuclear Research Center CERN located at the Franco-Swiss border. CERN in turn promoted an art prize with the idea to “cooperate closely” with the arts. This time the objections were of a philosophical nature – and they had what it takes.

In a thought provoking presentation Maturana addressed the limits of our knowledge and the intersubjective foundations of what we call “objective” and “reality.” His talk was spiked with excellent remarks and witty asides that contributed much to the accessibility of these fundamental philosophical problems: “Be realistic, be objective!” Maturana pointed out, simply means that we want others to adopt our point of view. The great constructivist and founder of the concept of autopoiesis clearly distinguished his approach from a solipsistic position.

Continue reading “Badly designed to understand the Universe — CERN's LHC in critical Reflection by great Philosopher H. Maturana and Astrophysicist R. Malina” »

Feb 10, 2012

The Greenland Ice Sheet Melt: Irreversible Implications

Posted by in categories: economics, engineering, existential risks, habitats, sustainability

It is of course widely accepted that the Greenland icesheet is melting at an alarming rate, accelerating, and is an irreversible process, and when it finally does melt will contribute to a rise in sea levels globally by 7 meters. This is discounting the contribution of any melt from the West Antarctic ice sheet which could contribute a further 5 meters, and the more long term risk of East Antarctic ice sheet melt, which is losing mass at a rate of 57 billion tonnes per year, and if melted in entirety would see sea levels rise by a further 60 meters.

In this light it is rather ‘cute’ that the site here dedicated to existential risks to society is called the Lifeboat Foundation when one of our less discussed risks is that of world-wide flooding of a massive scale to major coastal cities/ports & industries right across the world.

Why do we still continue to grow our cities below a safe limit of say 10 meters above sea level when cities are built to last thousands of years, but could now be flooded within hundreds. How many times do we have to witness disaster scenarios such as the Oklahoma City floods before we contemplate this occurring irreversibly to hundreds of cities across the world in the future. Is it feasible to take the approach of building large dams to preserve these cities, or is it a case of eventually evacuating and starting all over again? In the latter case, how do we safely contain chemical & nuclear plants that would need to be abandoned in a responsible and non-environmentally damaging procedure?

Let’s be optimistic here — the Antarctic ice sheets are unlikely to disappear in time scales we need to worry about today — but the Greenland ice sheet is topical. Can it be considered an existential risk if the process takes hundreds of years and we can slowly step out of the way though so much of the infrastructure we rely on is being relinquished? Will we just gradually abandon our cities to higher ground as insurance companies refuse to cover properties in coastal flooding areas? Or will we rise to a challenge and take first steps to create eco-bubbles & ever larger dams to protect cities?

Continue reading “The Greenland Ice Sheet Melt: Irreversible Implications” »

Jan 30, 2012

The Difference Between a Lunar Base and Colony

Posted by in categories: existential risks, habitats, lifeboat, space, sustainability

Recently, Newt Gingrich made a speech indicating that, if elected, he would want 10% of NASA’s budget ($1.7 billion per year) set aside to fund large prizes incentivizing private industry to develop a permanent lunar base, a new propulsion method, and eventually establishing a martian base.

THE FINANCIAL FEASIBILITY OF A LUNAR BASE
Commentators generally made fun of his speech with the most common phrase used being “grandiose”. Perhaps. But in 1996 the Human Lunar Return study estimated $2.5 billion from NASA to send and return a human crew to the Moon. That was before SpaceX was able to demonstrate significant reductions in launch costs. One government study indicated 1/3 of the cost compared to traditional acquisition methods. Two of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavies will be able to launch nearly as much payload as the Saturn V while doing so at 1/15th the cost of the same mass delivered by the Shuttle.

So, we may be at the place where a manned lunar base is within reach even if we were to direct only 10% of NASA’s budget to achieve it.

I’m not talking about going to Mars with the need for shielding but rather to make fast dashes to the Moon and have our astronauts live under Moon dirt (regolith) shielding while exploiting lunar ice for air, water, and hence food.

Continue reading “The Difference Between a Lunar Base and Colony” »

Jan 16, 2012

Post Einsteinian Language?

Posted by in categories: biological, complex systems, cosmology, economics, education, ethics, evolution, futurism, habitats, homo sapiens, human trajectories, humor, media & arts, philosophy, policy, rants, scientific freedom, sustainability, transparency

Twenty years ago, way back in the primordial soup of the early Network in an out of the way electromagnetic watering hole called USENET, this correspondent entered the previous millennium’s virtual nexus of survival-of-the-weirdest via an accelerated learning process calculated to evolve a cybernetic avatar from the Corpus Digitalis. Now, as columnist, sci-fi writer and independent filmmaker, [Cognition Factor — 2009], with Terence Mckenna, I have filmed rocket launches and solar eclipses for South African Astronomical Observatories, and produced educational programs for South African Large Telescope (SALT). Latest efforts include videography for the International Astronautical Congress in Cape Town October 2011, and a completed, soon-to-be-released, autobiography draft-titled “Journey to Everywhere”.

Cognition Factor attempts to be the world’s first ‘smart movie’, digitally orchestrated for the fusion of Left and Right Cerebral Hemispheres in order to decode civilization into an articulate verbal and visual language structured from sequential logical hypothesis based upon the following ‘Big Five’ questions,

1.) Evolution Or Extinction?
2.) What Is Consciousness?
3.) Is God A Myth?
4.) Fusion Of Science & Spirit?
5.) What Happens When You Die?

Even if you believe that imagination is more important than knowledge, you’ll need a full deck to solve the ‘Arab Spring’ epidemic, which may be a logical step in the ‘Global Equalisation Process as more and more of our Planet’s Alumni fling their hats in the air and emit primal screams approximating;
“we don’t need to accumulate (so much) wealth anymore”, in a language comprising of ‘post Einsteinian’ mathematics…

Continue reading “Post Einsteinian Language?” »

Jan 11, 2012

Wildlife Sanctuaries in Eco-Disaster Areas

Posted by in categories: ethics, habitats, nuclear energy, sustainability

It was with great satisfaction that I watched a recent (Horizon?) documentary on the wildlife, wolf population and introduced endangerd species flourishing in the Chernobyl district in the abandonment of the area by mankind 25 years ago — with most not willing to hunt in the area for fear of contracting radiation poisoning. One wonders if this will be the template for the future, that eco-disaster areas will be abandoned to become our new wildlife sanctuaries. Or is it morally wrong to designate such areas as wildlife sanctuaries and wilfully expose the animal kindom to such levels of radiation?

After Fukushima the world was reawakened to the real danger of fault tollerance at nuclear power plants — but as a relatively clean technology is surely here to stay. Is there a need for a more inclusive debate on the location of such reactors to areas that are a) less likey to suffer natural disasters but b) also provide a suitable follow-on purpose in the event of area abandonment due to radiation. Opinions welcome.

Nov 13, 2011

D’Nile aint just a river in Egypt…

Posted by in categories: business, complex systems, cosmology, economics, education, ethics, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, human trajectories, humor, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, neuroscience, open access, open source, philosophy, policy, rants, robotics/AI, space, sustainability

Greetings fellow travelers, please allow me to introduce myself; I’m Mike ‘Cyber Shaman’ Kawitzky, independent film maker and writer from Cape Town, South Africa, one of your media/art contributors/co-conspirators.

It’s a bit daunting posting to such an illustrious board, so let me try to imagine, with you; how to regard the present with nostalgia while looking look forward to the past, knowing that a millisecond away in the future exists thoughts to think; it’s the mode of neural text, reverse causality, non-locality and quantum entanglement, where the traveller is the journey into a world in transition; after 9/11, after the economic meltdown, after the oil spill, after the tsunami, after Fukushima, after 21st Century melancholia upholstered by anti-psychotic drugs help us forget ‘the good old days’; because it’s business as usual for the 1%; the rest continue downhill with no brakes. Can’t wait to see how it all works out.

Please excuse me, my time machine is waiting…
Post cyberpunk and into Transhumanism

Sep 27, 2011

Solution In Search Of A Problem — Nationalism, Environmentalism, and Space’s struggle for cultural relevance.

Posted by in categories: business, futurism, space, sustainability

Space is a hard sell these days. Aside from the persistent small community of die-hard space advocates and New Space entrepreneurs, the relevance of space to the society at large has generally declined since the grand achievements of the Space Race and even such great feats as the building of the ISS have garnered rather modest public attention. In recent years we have had more active astronauts than ever in history, yet few among the general public can name a single one. An appreciation of space science seems to have improved in recent years by virtue of the impressive visuals offered by orbital telescopes, space probes, and rovers. But the general public commitment to space development still dwindles in the face of mounting domestic issues. Most recently we have seen a drastic contraction of national space agencies in response to the current global economic turmoil. Programs are reduced, cut, or under looming threat. We hear pronouncements of deemphasis of costly manned space activity by the major national players in space development. The world leader in space, NASA, now drifts aimlessly, its premier launch system–controversial from the start, often dismissed as a boondoggle, and dragged along for far too long–finally succumbing to obsolescence without a replacement at-hand, leaving the agency dependent upon foreign nations and struggling for a semblance of direction and purpose. In this past few years, finding itself abandoned on both right and left sides of the political fence, it faced the very real possibility of being shut down altogether and now its partner DARPA talks of century-long space programs with no government involvement at all because the very idea of the US government having the coherence to accomplish anything that takes more than one electoral cycle to do has become implausible.

Overconfident to the extreme after recent very significant, yet still modest in the broad perspective, successes, the newest faction of the commercial space community, the New Space entrepreneurs, boast their readiness to pick up the slack, not quite cluing into the fact that the rope isn’t just dropped, it may be cut! Space industry has never been a very big industry despite the seemingly gigantic sticker prices of its hardware. The global space industry accounts for around 160 billion dollars annually. Soft drinks account for 350 billion. Coca Cola is bigger than NASA. Meanwhile, the lion’s share of commercial space service has always been for governments and the remaining largely telecommunications applications –after 50 years still the only proven way to make money in space- face slow decline as latency becomes increasingly critical to mainstream communications. The ‘grand convergence’ long anticipated in computing has now focused on the Internet which is steadily assimilating all forms of mainstream communication and media distribution. Despite a few service providers of last resort, satellites simply don’t work as a host for conventional Internet and physics precludes any solution to that. We owe recent surges in launch service demand more to war than anything else. Ultimately, we’re not looking at a privatization of national space systems. We’re looking at their outright obsolescence and an overall decline in the relevance of space activity of any sort short of science applications, which have no more need of astronauts than for manned submersibles and for the same reasons. The need for space services will not disappear but, as it stands now, has little likelihood of growth either–except on the back of war. Logically, what commercial space desperately needs is a program for the systematic cultivation of new applications the space agencies have never seriously pursued–new ways to make money there, particularly in an industrial context. And what do the mavericks of New Space have on offer in that context? Space tourism for the rich, during a time of global recession…

There is a great misconception today that the challenges of commercial space are merely technological problems waiting to be solved by that one new breakthrough propulsion technology that never materializes. But commercial air travel did not become ubiquitous by virtue of flight technology becoming miraculously cheap and powerful like microprocessors. It became ubiquitous by realizing markets of scale that supported aircraft of enormous size needing very large minimum operation economies of scale, where populations of millions in communities with well-heeled comfortable middle-classes are necessary to generate sufficient traffic to justify the existence of a single airport. A single A380 airliner costs almost as much as the development of a typical unmanned launch system. Air travel was never particularly successful in an industrial sense. Most stuff still moves around the world at the 20mph speed of ships. The New Deal and the remnant air support infrastructure of WWII were together probably more responsible for the modern airline industry than any engine or aircraft design–because they created the market. If it takes a population of millions to justify the existence of a single conventional airport for conventional airliners, what then a Pan-Am Orion?

For those who look to space as an insurance policy for life and the human civilization, this situation should be of much concern. Whether it be for averting the potential disasters of asteroid strikes or as a redoubt for some fraction of civilization in the event of any terrestrial disaster, a vast space-based infrastructure must be continually at-hand for such capability. Yet these kinds of threats do not themselves seem to have ever inspired sufficient concern in the general public or political leaders to demand such capability be established and maintained for its own sake. You cannot talk in public about such space contingencies and be taken remotely seriously. One could say we have been a bit too lucky as a civilization. There have been no small asteroid impacts in historic memory and few global existentially threatening events beyond those we human beings have created –and we’re very good at systematic denial of those. So this contingency capability relies on being incidental to other space development. That development has been inadequate for that to date, counting on future expansion that has never materialized. What then as we watch that development fizzle-out altogether? The essential cultural relevance of space development can be seen as crucial to the long-term survival of our species, and that’s in marked decline.

Continue reading “Solution In Search Of A Problem — Nationalism, Environmentalism, and Space's struggle for cultural relevance.” »

Sep 13, 2011

Economics and Survival: An In-space 2-for-1 Bargain

Posted by in categories: economics, existential risks, habitats, space, sustainability

There is growing recognition that the Moon is the logical next step for sustainably opening space to human settlement. It is now confirmed that both lunar poles contain appreciable quantities of ice containing water and also carbon and nitrogen containing compounds. Since the Moon is always only a 3-day trip away, it easily beats low-gravity asteroids as the most economic place to mine water ice. Similarly, since the Moon has only a 3-second roundtrip communications delay, teleoperated robots could mine and process the lunar ice at a fraction of what human miners would cost. That ice, brought back to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) could establish a new space economy including on-orbit refueling, boosting large communications satellites to GEO, sending tourists around or even to the Moon, and facilitating NASAs Beyond Earth Orbit activities. So the Moon is a great place to develop economic in-space resources.

But, what does all of this do with survival?

Amongst those people who understand extinction risks to humanity, it is generally recognized that an off-Earth, self-sufficient colony would go a very long ways to ensuring the survival of humanity as a species. An orbiting colony would not be a good choice because, if the Earth’s biosphere were contaminated with an ecophage, the Earth itself would not anymore be a source of supplies, and Earth orbit contains no resources except for sunlight. Mars, an asteroid, or a distant moon could be a location for an off-Earth colony, but all of these would be considerably more expensive to establish than on the Moon. For those of us who think it prudent that we should purchase “insurance” against the extinction of humanity sooner rather than later, the least expensive location makes the most sense. So the Moon is a great place to establish a colony for the purpose of survival.

Interesting, so the Moon is the best place for both economics and survival. Perhaps the two could be combined into a single program. But, in the Age of Austerity, it is unlikely that our governments are going to fund a large new space program. So how can this be done economically?

Continue reading “Economics and Survival: An In-space 2-for-1 Bargain” »

Sep 3, 2011

Space Junk! Environmental concerns!

Posted by in categories: space, sustainability

Dear Team and readers,

I am particularly concerned about the damage we cause to the environment starting with junk in space, earth, and the ocean.

As a participant of Singularity University ’11 at NASA Ames, I am very happy to share with you my video about space debris:

Continue reading “Space Junk! Environmental concerns!” »

Aug 31, 2011

Life Extension Potential

Posted by in categories: life extension, sustainability

The objective for the body and more specifically cells is to monitor its energy potential and well being just like we’d monitor anything else with a modern information system/information technology (IS/IT).

Apoptosis is an intentional death of a cell that triggers a “natural” death, Necrosis is an unintentional death of a cell due to damage. While there are some inherent dangers with existing and making it as difficult today to avoid necrosis as it was yesterday, we can aim to scientifically identify apoptosis and manage it. Most of us are familiar with apoptosis, we call it cancer…a phenomenon where cells don’t know when to call it quits and we suffer as a result of the growth.

The specific technology doesn’t exist yet, but we require a mechanism to measure and regulate mitochondrion decisions on-demand. Let’s get to work people! Is there a way that we could constantly monitor mitochondrial regulation without losing blood regularly like a the annoying finger prick monitoring that diabetics have to currently endure.

Continue reading “Life Extension Potential” »