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What’s new in science & tech?
David Brin   May 31, 2017   Contrary Brin  

Okay, let’s turn to the side of civilization that is doing best. Doing spectacularly well in fact, despite a relentless campaign to undermine science. Just today—as I type this, in fact—I am in a conference call as a member of the advisory council of The Planetary Society, hearing reports about how TPS - under Bill Nye’s charismatic leadership - has seen a turnaround, with increasing membership and a social media following that has crested above a million! Why? Because people are noticing how many wondrous accomplishments are pouring forth from the universe.

Indeed, I urge you all to not only join the Planetary Society, but engage in Proxy Power -- joining half a dozen of the wonderful NGOs of your own choice, each dedicated to something wonderful and fitting your concerns -- from science to the environment to fighting poverty. There is progress in the world!

And now... a potpourri of science news.

== Onward ==

Good news on the health front: We appear to be winning the war against ancient diseases! The World Health Organization is on track to meet its goals to control, eliminate or eradicate sleeping sickness, Chagas and other ancient illnesses by 2020. Example: In 2016, just 25 people worldwide were infected by Guinea worm disease or dracunculiasis, a parasitic infection transmitted by contaminated drinking water. President Jimmy Carter, whose campaign against this parasite was especially effective, wants the “last Guinea worm to die before I do.”

The Berggruen Institute seeks to identify and nurture new ideas that have the potential to shape a better human future... committed to science as a source of knowledge and innovation and to philosophy as a source of critical perspective and deeper understanding of the place and role of humanity in the world.  Each year they offer the Berggruen Prize, a $1 million award that recognizes humanistic thinkers whose ideas have helped us find direction, wisdom, and improved self-understanding in a world being rapidly transformed by profound social, technological, political, cultural, and economic change. 

Is Apple dreaming of space internet?

Technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed, according to 140 years of data. This article demolishes the insane riff that technology doesn't produce jobs.

Calling the Predictions registry! Back in Earth I wrote about a time when citizens, activists and amateur scientists and sleuths would have in their pockets both vast computing power and science-ready instruments for sensing their surroundings. Now: PocketLab Voyager offers an all-in-one science lab that is "capable enough for a professional engineer and simple enough for a fourth-grade student". Voyager can measure motion, light, magnetic field, and temperature.

Shades of Glory Season: a programming challenge to build a clock that displays accurate time by having pixel elements obey the rules of Conway’s Game of Life.
 
market-ready manmade spider silk product launched at SXSW this March. Starting with ties. “At the molecular level it is spider silk made by human hands.” Competitors in the market such as Japan-based Spiber, have released concept pieces, like The Moon Parka for The North Face. Similarly Adidas recently teamed up with AMsilk to unveil a shoe made from Biosteel fiber, which it aims to both have on the market later this year
 
Airbus has revealed a concept for a self-flying car capable of operating both on the ground and in the air, and plans to test it later this year. The cool concept is to separate the three main functions.  The road-wheel-motor system, the flight system and the passenger module.

Scientists at CERN have discovered five new particle states, all at the same time. 
 
Remember the flashy-starry background behind Lady Gaga, at the start of her Superbowl show, singing from the stadium roof?  Lights that turned into a U.S. flag? They were 300+ drones supplied by Intel. 
 
A shakeup in the family tree of dinosaurs!  And another coup for the Huxleys.
 
== Health Updates ==

Yipe!  Apparently bacteria can colonize a J-sink drain, form a biofilm which can persist, climb back up, enabling bacteria to shoot up to a meter away when water runs. Has been observed in hospitals as well, spreading infections.

Can Whole Body Vibration achieve the positive effects of exercise? Not bloody likely, but mouse studies suggest it’s possible. (The mice were undoubtedly under stress.) Yet, more and more we are learning that half the things that work in mice don’t work in humans, at all…for reasons I describe here.

A Mayo Clinic study says the best training for adults is high-intensity aerobic exercise, which they believe can reverse some cellular aspects of aging.
 
Pre-order this book! Born Anxious: The Lifelong Impact of Early Life Adversity, by Professor Daniel P. Keating, offers a glimpse into a new, twilight region that yawns between Nature and Nurture, between genes and behavior, ensnaring both. It is a realm we must explore, without delay, so that our children might have confident children.
 
 
 
It sounds like science fiction, but doctors say a device worn on the head that makes electric fields improved survival for the first time in more than a decade for people with deadly brain tumors.
 
A hilarious and yet insightful riff on how one can use the placebo effect – even knowing the “medicine” is fake – to achieve positive-desired outcomes.  
 
Gorgeous photolithographic depictions of slices of human brain.
 
== On Planet Earth ==

One of the best written and most fascinating science articles I’ve read in some time, describes recent work on metamorphic rocks in Canada (one of the geologically least-altered places on Earth) where tubelike structures have many of the chemical and physical traits suggestive of primitive life forms… only these would have formed at least 3.8 billion years ago, just as the planet was finishing a pummeling under the Late Heavy Bombardment. If proved out, it would push back our knowledge of life’s history here by over 300 million years, implying that life appeared with stunning rapidity, and diversified early. Suggesting further it may be pervasive in the cosmos.  And believe it or not, I know some dour fellows who deem that to be very, very bad news.

What is the super Volcano under Naples up to? Italy has upgraded the threat level. I mentioned a Naples disaster in Existence.

The strength of Earth’s magnetic field has been decreasing for the last 160 years at an alarming rate. This collapse is centered in a huge expanse of the Southern Hemisphere, extending from Zimbabwe to Chile, known as the South Atlantic Anomaly. The magnetic field strength is so weak there that it’s a hazard for satellites that orbit above the region, potentially portending even more dramatic events, including a global reversal of the magnetic poles. The poles have reversed frequently over the history of the planet, but the last reversal is in the distant past, some 780,000 years ago. 

The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is recognized as the biggest living structure on Earth. Unfortunately, it's dying—with many portions facing no hope for recovery—thanks to back to back mass bleaching events. 

== Curiosities and worries ==

Naked mole rats are just so weird! They have a social structure like insects, they're cold-blooded like reptiles, and now scientists found that they use fructose like a plant. This enables them to replace glucose oxidation and thus survive in conditions with ZERO oxygen for up to 20 minutes.  

An inspiring and well-written story about a statistician who discovered a proof to a major mathematical problem, at age 67.

Just released: these color-changing U.S. postage stamps commemorate the upcoming August 2017 solar eclipse. Also, download a free resource guide to the eclipse.

See Flightlapse: incredible video footage of the Milky Way galaxy, shot by a pilot from his cockpit.
 
Oh, but it is easy to forget what a vibrant, brave and logical and forward-looking civilization we had, and can have, when a fraction of our fellow citizens are afroth, enforcing upon us a war on science that is now explicit and tantamount to treason against our children. Scan the wonders listed above.  They are spilling forth faster than leaks from the Trump White House!

Fight for a civilization that makes you proud. 
David Brin Ph.D. is a scientist and best-selling author whose future-oriented novels include Earth, The Postman, and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War. David's newest novel - Existence - is now available, published by Tor Books."



COMMENTS

The Google Mars mission is the most interesting development. Now you’re getting on-track. Your political articles are too Bay Area more-progressive-than-Thou (and frankly, academics are intellectual crooks; a robber steals with a gun…an attorney ‘steals’ with a briefcase…an intellectual steals with books and papers: publish [‘steal’] or perish.)

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