futurism (4)

Tang Jet...

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Image source: Link below ("ride the lightning")

Topics: Aerodynamics, Futurism, Plasma, Propulsion, Spaceflight

Personal note: I've been offline prepping for my preliminary exam presentation, and grieving the loss of a friend I had known for 40 years since our freshman year at NC A&T. I was his best man. He did not die of COVID, but a heart attack. As such, my remarks were read at the funeral in Indiana, as the pandemic and social distancing concerns did not allow me to give my eulogy in-person. I hope you will forgive my absence.

This past autumn, a professor at Wuhan University named Jau Tang was hard at work piecing together a thruster prototype that, at first, sounds too good to be true.

The basic idea, he said in an interview, is that his device turns electricity directly into thrust — no fossil fuels required — by using microwaves to energize compressed air into a plasma state and shooting it out like a jet. Tang suggested, without a hint of self-aggrandizement, that it could likely be scaled up enough to fly large commercial passenger planes. Eventually, he says, it might even power spaceships.

Needless to say, these are grandiose claims. A thruster that doesn’t require tanks of fuel sounds suspiciously like science fiction — like the jets on Iron Man’s suit in the Marvel movies, for instance, or the thrusters that allow Doc Brown’s DeLorean to fly in “Back to the Future.”

But in Tang’s telling, his invention — let’s just call it a Tang Jet, which he worked on with Wuhan University collaborators Dan Ye and Jun Li — could have civilization-shifting potential here in the non-fictional world.

This Scientist Says He’s Built a Jet Engine That Turns Electricity Directly Into Thrust, Dan Robitzski, Futurism

 

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City-Sized, Secure Quantum Network...

Physicists Create City-Sized Ultrasecure Quantum Network

Quantum physics experiment has demonstrated an important step toward achieving quantum cryptography among many users, an essential requirement for a secure quantum Internet. Credit: ÖAW and Klaus Pichler Getty Images

Topics: Cryptography, Futurism, Internet of Things, Modern Physics, Quantum Computer, Quantum Mechanics

Quantum cryptography promises a future in which computers communicate with one another over ultrasecure links using the razzle-dazzle of quantum physics. But scaling up the breakthroughs in research labs to networks with a large number of nodes has proved difficult. Now an international team of researchers has built a scalable city-wide quantum network to share keys for encrypting messages.

The network can grow in size without incurring an unreasonable escalation in the costs of expensive quantum hardware. Also, this system does not require any node to be trustworthy, thus removing any security-sapping weak links.

“We have tested it both in the laboratory and in deployed fibers across the city of Bristol” in England, says Siddarth Koduru Joshi of the University of Bristol. He and his colleagues demonstrated their ideas using a quantum network with eight nodes in which the most distant nodes were 17 kilometers apart, as measured by the length of the optical fiber connecting them. The team’s findings appeared in Science Advances on September 2.

Physicists Create City-Sized Ultrasecure Quantum Network, Anil Ananthaswamy, Scientific American

 
 
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Color Coding...

Ruha Benjamin

Ruha Benjamin was the featured speaker on the DoSER webinar “Race to the Future? Values and Vision in the Design of Technology and Society.” | courtesy Ruha Benjamin

Topics: African Americans, African Studies, Futurism, Sociology

Technology is not unbiased, according to a scholar investigating the phenomenon of technological racism. As people recognize the embedded biases within technology, the growing and multifaceted tech justice movement is working to counter these biases, added the scholar.

Ruha Benjamin, a sociologist, and professor of African American studies at Princeton University whose work explores the social dimensions of science, technology, and medicine, spoke during the “Race to the Future? Values and Vision in the Design of Technology and Society” webinar hosted on Aug. 13 by the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion program. DoSER facilitates dialogue between scientific and religious communities by hosting symposia and lectures on topics at the interface of science, ethics, and religion; training and supporting scientists on engagement with faith communities; and helping seminaries integrate science into their core curricula.

Webinar viewers were invited to consider which prejudices and values are incorporated into technologies such as search engines and AI algorithms and to identify methods to dismantle technological racism.

Technology is often spoken about as if it were a force separate from human influence, Benjamin said. Yet “human beings are behind the screen: our values, our ideologies, our biases, and assumptions.”

Benjamin also pointed out that the biases extend beyond individuals to the systems as a whole and the historical data inputted into the machines. Much in the way that racism exists in legal, educational, and health systems, it also becomes codified in computer systems, she said. For instance, searching for images of “professional hairstyles” and “unprofessional hairstyles” on Google brings up results that equate naturally Black hair with a lack of professionalism – search results that echo real-life biases, she said.

Technology’s Built-In Machine Bias Reflects Racism, Scholar Says, Andrea Korte, AAAS

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Relics of Entropy...

 

Topics: Biology, Entropy, Existentialism, Futurism


I've passed all my courses and now have the task of putting my Thesis together. I'm anticipating a successful completion from a good start.

My granddaughter is as well, with a good family (I'm biased) surrounded by a support system of extended friends and close relatives.

I'm understandably concerned by headlines like these:

Up to one million plant and animal species face extinction, many within decades, because of human activities, says the most comprehensive report yet on the state of global ecosystems.

Without drastic action to conserve habitats, the rate of species extinction — already tens to hundreds of times higher than the average across the past ten million years — will only increase, says the analysis. The findings come from a United Nations-backed panel called the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

According to the report, agricultural activities have had the largest impact on ecosystems that people depend on for food, clean water and a stable climate. The loss of species and habitats poses as much a danger to life on Earth as climate change does, says a summary of the work, released on 6 May. [1]

 

*****


Capitalism has generated massive wealth for some, but it’s devastated the planet and has failed to improve human well-being at scale.

Species are going extinct at a rate 1,000 times faster than that of the natural rate over the previous 65 million years (see Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School).

Since 2000, 6 million hectares of primary forest have been lost each year. That’s 14,826,322 acres, or just less than the entire state of West Virginia (see the 2010 assessment by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN).

Even in the U.S., 15% of the population lives below the poverty line. For children under the age of 18, that number increases to 20% (see U.S. Census).

 • The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 (see United Nations' projections).

By 2050, my granddaughter will be 31, and I likely a memory to her.

I came of age during the sixties when our Civil Rights leaders became Civil Rights icons and martyrs. I came of age when "duck and cover" drills were the order of the day. I came of age when post Civil Rights, we tried at least to act...civil. Forced busing gave way to De Facto desegregation in the public square in education - until the end of forced busing and re-segregation; malls, sports arenas (especially there) where some modicum of the old "control of black bodies" could be exercised with less bull whip and more paychecks and professional sports contracts.

The seventies would be the last time production kept pace with pay: we've been in a hamster wheel since then, and the gulf between the super rich and everyone else has become an un-crossable chasm. We're more oligarchy than democracy, and the owners would sooner than later transform us into a full dystopian fascistic hell scape than help solve the problems they've created.

The point is, despite all the challenges, I came of age. I lived. I loved. I laughed. I cried. I learned to drive. I married. I had children and they are starting to have children.

It would be lovely for my granddaughter to have a planet on which to have a tea.

Lovelier still for her parents (my children) to become grandparents in my absence on a planet still able to support life and a civilization that could support such an endeavor with minimal environmental impact.

Or...she and I could be relics of entropy, where our ashes will not be discernible from scientist to citizen, layman to philosopher, capitalist to socialist; black to white and prince to pauper. In a blink of an eye on the scale of cosmic time...we would all become irrelevant to an unfeeling universe.

I am again biased. I think my granddaughter (and yours), deserves a little more than that.

 

1. Humans are driving one million species to extinction, Jeff Tollefson, Nature
2. Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050, Drew Hansen, Forbes

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