Subscriptions

June 23, 2007

Due to a technical error, readers were unable to subscribe to the feed for tinyplanetblog.com. If you’ve been affected by this, I’ve fixed things. The feed can also be found here.

Thanks for your patience.

David


On the move

June 15, 2007

Dear reader,

Tinyplanet has packed its bags and its moving to a new domain. Come and visit at www.tinyplanetblog.com.


They mostly come at night…

June 3, 2007

You almost have to see it to believe it.

If you have the cash, time and expertise, TK560.com has a tutorial on how to build an M41-A pulse rifle from the film Aliens. It’s such genius you have no choice but to check it out.

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The future

May 28, 2007

My colleague Gavin pointed me toward this little video tidbit — it is the future of television as well as the future of newspapers (think Minority Report).


Conquering the universe, one microbe at a time

May 9, 2007

Well it’s one way to colonise the galaxy.

According to space.com, terrestrial bacteria are being scattered to the distant stars. That’s because they are clinging to derelict rocket stages of Voyager 1, Voyager 2 and Pioneer 10. As these stages were never sterilised, the microbes — left by the hands and breath of various engineers — are now on a path out of the solar system. If we can’t get there, at least the bugs that live inside us will. An interesting take on immortality.

The bacteria is probably in a state of suspended animation, but it’s impossible to tell for sure. They may have been irradiated out of existence or still be clinging to life in some shape or fashion. However, microbes which have been dormant on Earth for years have been resurrected in the laboratory, so it’s not outside the realms of possibility that someday, somewhere, our little germs will be brought back to life (let’s hope they don’t turn on those who awaken them). There is a precedent for such life to escape our atmosphere and return intact — at least one of NASA’s moon landings brought Earth bacteria to the lunar surface and back again. Imagine their disappointment when they realised that, instead of finding life outside our world, they’d simply forgotten to sterilise the craft.

Such piggybacking is one theory for how life began on Earth; that meteors/asteroids which smacked the bejaysus out of our planet when it was naught but a nipper survived, then promptly went forth and multiplied. It feels strange to consider the possibility that we are, in essence, aliens.

Not that our distant relatives, if we have any, would even recognise us; but then we probably wouldn’t recognise them either. The universe is not going to be populated by the bipedal descendants of primates, whatever Star Trek, Star Wars and the like would have us believe. The reality is likely to be much more fantastic and at the same time much more mundane. We tend to think of life as equivalent to ourselves; this is only natural as we are the first species on Earth (that we know of) to have developed self-awareness. But “life” is an elastic term encompassing everything from monkeys such as ourselves to the intrepid microscopic explorers mentioned above.

Sentient mud, trees with a conscience and fish that could outthink Einstein are all possibilities we must be aware of.

But notice how I can’t help but compare them to what’s already found on Earth?


It was inevitable

May 5, 2007

The English Premier League is suing YouTube for alleged copyright infringement. According to the BBC, the league has filed a lawsuit in New York and is seeking unspecified damages.

The case claims the ridiculously popular website “knowingly misappropriated and exploited” league property. The soccer power group wrote to YouTube in October, asking it to take down material it said infringed the rights of its clubs. YouTube is already being sued by Viacom for $1 billion. I wonder if Google have any regrets about their purchase?

It’s been a bad week for many people’s favourite search engine, as there’s speculation Microsoft and Yahoo! are working on an alliance to tackle Google’s dominance when it comes to online advertising. Ah well, it’s about time Microsoft had to work for their market share.


Can science save us?

May 3, 2007

Although it may seem as if we’re doing our communal best to kill our planet, breakthroughs in the fight against climate change are getting closer and closer.

A team from Columbia University is developing a gadget that can strip carbon dioxide — the leading cause of atmospheric warming — from the air, trapping it. Huzzah! Study leader Klaus Lackner says the process is 1,000 times faster than that which occurs in trees. He predicts it’ll be a commercially viable technology within a few years.

The only problem is this seemingly anonymous device won’t work on the sources of carbon emissions, but rather have an impact on the CO2 that’s already in the atmosphere. Also, removing the carbon dioxide from the device’s filters is likely to be quite expensive. In all likelihood the contraption would have a permanent base combining carbon stripping and storage. Depleted oil and gas fields have long been touted as places where carbon could be pumped and kept.

But, if it works, it’ll be feckin fantastic. Not that it would solve things overnight. However, it would be a way to tackle emissions. And it’s not the only possibility.

Alongside the by now almost passé wind, wave and geothermal energies, more exotic options include trapping carbon dioxide in the oceans, running cars on vegetable oil, hydrogen power (my personal favourite, probably because of Star Trek) and introducing carbon-loving bacteria into power plants in a bid to reduce CO2 at the source. We shall, for now, leave the likes of zero-point energy, nanoscrubbers and planetary core-tapping to the realm of science fiction.

Things are going to get worse before they get better. The IPCC is predicting a 2C increase in the average global temperature, and that’s in a best case scenario. But in the 1980s it was predicted that the nightmare scenario envisaged for 20 years’ time would be happening now. We’re in trouble, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way.

I love technology. I make no apologies for that. I believe it can address many of our problems, including global warming. We haven’t even begun to fully explore the possibilities.

But I am just one technophile with faith in the future. What do you think? Are we doomed, or can we survive? Can science save us?