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February 20, 2012

I’ve never seen it quite so clear
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 01:40 PM *

I know it’s not the dark, ominous dystopian future because humans are their own masters. No one’s work is doled out automatically by a computer via synchronous API1 with SLA2, particularly not as part of a parallel processing array.

Oh, wait… 3

Still, it’s not the clean, clinical future, where meat is grown in vats of nutrient fluid.

Except…

Could be worse. Could be that downright strange future where robotic insects are mass-produced, awaiting only electricity to flap their artificial wings.

Hang on…

Right, then, do I have to bring up the damned proof by absence of jetpack again?

Oh, for crying out loud.


  1. Application Programming Interface
  2. Service Level Agreement
  3. Typical that it’s the spammers that get there first. It was always going to be either them or the pornographers.
Comments on I've never seen it quite so clear :
#1 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 02:20 PM:

Amazing jetpack landing!

Stem-cell implanted mass produced meat grown in red-tinged vats? Sounds delightful!

#2 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 02:37 PM:

No, this can't be the alternate universe future, there are no zeppelins flying overhead advertising genetic sequencing. Oh Bugger.

#3 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 03:10 PM:

Was staggered recently to learn just how small the components on microprocessors are. I mean, I knew they were small, but I didn't realise that, at least for 2-dimensional chips, we're getting close to running out of atoms. Moore's Law actually describes something miraculous that's entirely a human endeavour, not a law of nature. Miracles continue to happen.

As soon as a computer can do something, we cease to believe that the task requires actual intelligence—it was big news when Deep Blue beat Kasparov, but now my laptop is grandmaster-strength. When I was a kid, Searle's Chinese Room seemed impossible to implement (leaving aside the question of actual intelligence in the room), and now it doesn't. Dragon Dictate works. Good Old-Fashioned AI sometimes seems as retro as moon landings, but we're building silicon brains, module by module, and I kind of hope it will all suddenly fit together very quickly.

If I were an astroturf magnate I'd be doing some serious research on the side to see if trolling could be mechanized: it's a more reliable way of screwing with online debate. Bland friendly automated comments quoting the last sentence or two of the previous post, quibbling with a definition and occasionally throwing in a diverting reference to Palestine or declawing cats. I tell you, it's a goldmine.

#4 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 03:22 PM:

Kevin Marks #2:

Apropos of your zeppelin, I was moving some books yesterday preparatory to painting a wall, and a hand-written receipt fell out: "1 zeppelin $18".

Alas, not what one might hope, just noting purchase of a copy of "All-Star Zeppelin Stories".

#5 ::: MichaelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 03:23 PM:

Your dog wants vat-processed skeletal muscle tissue!

#6 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 03:32 PM:

Also on the nanotech line, you can buy machines that do single-molecule DNA sequencing -- no amplification or anything, they actually sequence a single strand.

On the other hand, kids in New Zealand are still getting rheumatic fever. I mean come on, what are reality's copy-editors doing letting that sort of anachronism get through review?

#7 ::: marc sobel ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 03:32 PM:

Boy! Wait until the wingers get a hold of using stem cells (winger code for aborted people) to make hamburger. The Church was right to try to wipe out the Netherlands.

How about a pool until the first mention of Soylent Green?

#8 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 03:44 PM:

"In time you will come to regard me not only with respect and awe, but with love."
"NEVER!"

With this words ends 1970's "Colossus: The Forbin Project".
(The complete scene can be watched
HERE)

#9 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 04:21 PM:

I noticed the other day that it's been six years since I proved the Singularity was (then) only nine years away....

#10 ::: Rick York ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 04:35 PM:

Rossy is crazy-wonderful. However, it won't be a real jetpack until he can take off as well as land.

So far, no veggie burger has really come close to a real hamburger and, don't get me started on tofu. But, if someone can make hamburger meat that passes a "Turing" taste test, I'll buy it.

Oh, if your wondering about the surveillance camera for the micro-bee, be afraid, be very afraid.

#11 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 04:35 PM:

"It's made with..."

Drat! Has the pool already started, marc?

#12 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 04:48 PM:

Targetted advertising via facial analysis. I'd be interested to know how the 10% of wrongly-classified folk splits numerically between those amused at the computer's failure and those... not amused.

#13 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 05:11 PM:

steve with a book @ 3:

Yep, we're just about out of room. Physicists have now built a transistor using a single phosphorus atom. Of course they still have to figure out how to build wires to connect it.

#14 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 05:26 PM:

Live in the future! Live in the future! A fair for all and no fair to anybody!

#15 ::: MilesToGo ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 05:31 PM:

Bruce @12: There's a minor heat dissipation problem, too.

#16 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 06:23 PM:

Please inflate your shoes and follow the yellow rubber line.

#17 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 06:31 PM:

The stem cells used to grow meat were, as you'd expect, bovine, and not human. So no Soylent Green issue here, nor any reason to raise the ethical ire of folks who object to the use of human embryonic stem cells. (Though vegetarians might still object.)

#18 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 06:32 PM:

Steve with a book @ 11:

The development that scares me is when they hook up the facial analysis to the emotive robots that Picard (Dr. Rosalind, not Captain Jean-Luc) is designing at MIT. Then we'll have the full feedback loop: detect human's emotional state, speak and behave so as to modify it to the desired state. Remember Jack Williamson's Humanoids? Well, when they're really here they'll not only be able to run our civilization, but they can make us love them for it. Or whoever's running them.

#19 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 06:37 PM:

Bruce Cohen, STM @12: there was a science fiction story where information was stored with a single bit being a notched neutrino, so there's actually still a lot of potential room going smaller. Now if only we could get the darned things to slow down enough to hang around, or figure out how to use a memory array that moves at light-speed....

#20 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 06:50 PM:

Tom Whitmore @ 18:

We know what forces to use to manipulate electron or nucleon locations and spins to create metastable states we can read out, usually electromagnetic or plasmonic fields. We have no idea how to manipulate neutrinos, which have no charge or color force. Light-speed isn't a problem; there are computational systems that use photons for storage. That's (relatively) easy because they are electromagnetic forces (when that's what we're trying to measure).

The trick with photons is either to let them fly, but control where they go, so they bounce back and forth between mirrors a few million times, or to slow them down. The record is a few meters per second, IIRC. But there's not even a theory about how to do either of those things with neutrinos.

#21 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 06:58 PM:

And before I forget, apropos of the OP title:

On a clear disk, you can seek forever

#22 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 07:15 PM:

Here's a YouTube video of the jetpack guy in 2006. It used to have the "Greatest American Hero" theme as a soundtrack (which was absolutely perfect), but now there's a notice saying "Audio Not Available" -- I guess somebody griped.

marc, #7: I was thinking more of Clarke's "Food of the Gods"...

Steve, #11: They are careful to say that "none of the data gathered is stored", but I would frankly be amazed if something wasn't being done with it to improve the recognition process. That would just be too good an opportunity for random input processing to pass up.

JMO, #16: That won't make any difference to the people marc was talking about. "Stem cells" is a magic-word phrase; as he notes, it's one of the codes for "abortion" in batshit-crazyland, and that's all that matters.

#23 ::: marc sobel ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 08:35 PM:

re:#17 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom re my #7 you are confusing things with facts.

Watch how quickly it becomes a stem cell issue. See also the Dutch Bracelets of Death http://jonathanturley.org/2012/02/20/santorum-who-will-protect-you-from-crazed-euthanizing-dutch-doctors/

#24 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 09:35 PM:

#17 yes, this vegetarian would object strongly to test tube meat. Yuck. I will happily stick to tofu. And I hope that all derived from meat products, whether gene spliced into a papaya or grown in a vat, are clearly labeled so I can avoid.

However, I would happily buy vat grown meat for my cat. If he agreed.

#25 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 12:05 AM:

But in the future, everyone is bisexual.

Oh, wait. I'm in fandom...!

#26 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 01:22 AM:

The advantage of vat grown meat isn't that a vegetarian might eat it (though there might be people with religious issues, like Hindus, who would), because it is still meat. But it could be grown much more efficiently than an animal is, perhaps even on the photosynthesis of algae or an artificial photosynthetic system. If it were as cheap as growing soy or red beans it could be a reasonable protein source for large parts of the human population that don't get sufficient protein now.

Also note that vat-growth of fish has been demonstrated in the lab, and I don't think that growing mollusk or arthropod tissue in a vat would be difficult. I wouldn't mind a diet including lobster and squid, and I could probably get used to the occasional tarantula steak.

The religious and political objections to stem cells are another issue entirely, and if they prevent the development of vat-grown meat in the US, while not being considered valid in places like India or Africa, I don't think the human race as a whole will be seriously affected (but I surely wouldn't want to be a poor person in the US anytime in the next 50 years or so).

#27 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 01:50 AM:

"Rossy used to fly fighter jets for the Swiss air force."

The Swiss have an air force? What's next, Grand Fenwick with a nuclear weapon?

#28 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 05:14 AM:

Yes, the Swiss have an Air Force.

I don't know the current provisions, but in the Cold War they had airfields with the aircraft hangars tunnelled into mountains, and aircraft suspended by cables from the roof as a reserve. Those crazy secret bases that Bond villains had in the movies: the Swiss built them.

#29 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 05:19 AM:

I am reminded of the Swiss joke, as told to Hermann Goering, by repute.

He was trying to negotiate with the Swiss about passing munitions through their territory to Italy. The Swiss, being true neutrals, would have none of it.

"And what would happen if I march half a million men up the Brenner Pass?" asked Goering.

The Swiss Foreign Minister removed his glasses and polished them on his handkerchief. "Everyone would have to shoot twice," he replied.

#30 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 05:29 AM:

Linkmeister @27

The US military is (roughly) ten times the size of the Swiss military. The US is (actually fairly exactly) forty times the size of Switzerland. (Both comparisons by population.)

So yes, they have an air force. They're a very heavily-armed country. Evidently the Swiss Air Force keeps banker's hours, though: "A report in the Swiss news magazine FACTS reveals that the Swiss Air Force provides ready-to-takeoff aircraft only during office hours on working days. The air force staff declared that, due to financial limits, they are not operational all the time."

(It makes sense if you think about it: what, someone is going to fly across all of France without the French Air Force doing anything about it, and suddenly Switzerland will need to scramble fighters to shoot them down? Even if that happened, there's not enough of Switzerland to shoot them down between the time they enter Swiss airspace and the time they reach launch range. Hell, if they're attacking Geneva or Zurich, launch range comes before the border.)

#31 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 05:57 AM:

Tom Whitmore @ #19:

Using memory moving at lightspeed? Easy, as long as we get to make it orbit,

Average memory access is half the orbital time, reading N sequential memory positions is half-orbit plus N* orbit/capacity.

It's "just" a delay line (although neither a nickle wire nor mercury tube one).

#32 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 06:18 AM:

Linkmeister, #27: "The Swiss have an air force?"

Ha ha ha. Given that they want quite strongly (if perhaps not quite as strongly as during the Cold War) to remain neutral, they have to look to their own defence - no one else will! (Also the reason Sweden had the world's fourth largest air force for a while during the early 50s.)

#33 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 07:56 AM:

Dave Luckett #29: The Brenner Pass (Passo del Brennero) connects Austria to Italy, it doesn't connect either Austria or Germany to Switzerland. If Goering had marched half a million men over the Brenner Pass, Mussolini would have been, ahem, molto sorpresato.

#34 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 07:58 AM:

Curiously, Abi, I was lamenting the absence of jetpacks to my older son this weekend. He said I would only have crashed the jetpack anyway. Youth these days, I tell you...

#35 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 09:44 AM:

"How do I look?"
"Like a hood ornament!"

Been a long time since I've watched "The Rocketeer".

#36 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 11:01 AM:

The religious and political objections to stem cells are another issue entirely

I'm unaware of any objections to stem cells per se; all the objections I'm aware of are to human embryonic stem cells.

#37 ::: Phil Knight ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 11:04 AM:

I've heard that the Swiss Army ration pack is simply a large Toblerone, as if they get any hungrier they can always go home and make a sandwich. I'm only sorry it isn't true.

#38 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 11:18 AM:

Bruce Cohen #26: PZ Meyers was pretty down on vat-grown meat, basically arguing that you have to break down its food to basic nutrients, physically support it, manage fluids, control temperature and protect it from pathogens, and doesn't a chicken do all that "for free"?

I could see the argument going either way, but to me a key issue is that the bigger the facility, the bigger the possible problems. On the other hand, we already have agribusiness' factory farms feeding salmonella into the food supply.... Then too, I'd want to see an accounting of the respective energy and water inputs... the vat is liable to involve a lot of electrical energy, more if it cleans and recycles it's own water.

#39 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 12:36 PM:

Unfortunately it appears that the things that make us weak and strange are NOT being engineered away.

Re vat-grown meat as a protein source for the poor: why is it that proposed solutions to poverty and hunger so often involve extreme high-tech that can neither be produced or maintained by those same poor hungry people? Wouldn't a combination of chicken coop and vegetable garden (waste from each serving as input for the other) be more feasible? Not to mention not leaving the poor at the mercy of, e.g., Monsanto.

#40 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 01:33 PM:

re 35: In our household, one does not bother to ask that question, as the answer always is....

#41 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 01:54 PM:

Lila @39 -- I've thought about that, too, but I see some potential problems with more people keeping animals for food. A larger proportion of the population than ever lives in urban areas, under fairly to extremely crowded conditions. Also, lots of those people have no prior experience raising animals (this goes for people at all educational and social levels), maybe for several generations. So there would be immense hygiene problems, I think, as well as the danger of some very nasty, contagious flu or something mutating and spreading due to the close proximity of humans and animals.

At the very least, some massive investment in education and space allocation would be necessary. Not saying it's not worth doing! I'm all for low-tech, creative self-sufficiency. Just that it would take careful implementation. (Maybe there are already ongoing programs like this, I'm just not aware of them.)

#42 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 02:07 PM:

Zeppelins - The Airship Ventures zeppelin's main base is at Moffett Field, across the freeway from me here in Silicon Valley, though it spends about half the year in other cities. I often see it cruising around in the evening, or as I'm driving to work. And in spite of all the economic downturn and other troubles of the last decade, it's really cheerful having something as amazingly silly as tourist zeppelins flying around, reminding us that it's really The Steampunk Retro Future. (The future's pretty cool!. Also.) And they share their building with Singularity University.

They're no longer advertising 23&Me - they've been the Farmers Insurance zeppelin for a couple of years.

#43 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 02:15 PM:

Lila #39: Other things being equal central production is likely to be more efficient, (at least before transportation), while distributed production will be more resilient. Currently, our business climate is all about efficiency....

Also, even more cynically: because then the investors couldn't make as much money off them....

#44 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 02:49 PM:

Speaking of the Bay Area and airships... HERE's a photo that Lisa Goldstein took of the Bay Bridge's new span in September 2009, while she was cruising around.

#45 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 03:07 PM:

Sam Chevre: "All the objections I'm aware of are to human embryonic stem cells."

That's what I've seen as well, including from the so-called "wingers" I've noticed. For instance, the article on Santorum linked from #23 doesn't actually mention stem cells, but in a 2005 interview, Santorum stated that he supports types of stem cell research that don't involve the destruction of human embryos. (He does somewhat bobble the distinction between embyronic and other pluripotent stem cells in the interview, but at least it's clear that he sees ethical distinctions between different types of stem cell use, as did the recent Bush administration.)

#46 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 04:11 PM:

Lila @ 39:

For the same reason that the undeveloped world needs a new design for stoves that don't kill so many people in fires or emit so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. At this point any solutions to our long-term climate, energy supply, and raw material supply problems have to be global, and they have to scale well. That doesn't necessarily mean centralizing all production (in fact, it may mean decentralizing a lot of things, like power generation), but it does mean that even completely distributed technology (and, yes, wood-burning stoves and small flock chicken ranches are technologies) need to be designed with the global issues in mind.

#47 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 06:49 PM:

David Harmon @ #43, you mean like in CAFOs? So instead of spreading small amounts of manure on your hayfields you end up with this?

Centralized food production involves a hell of a lot of input of fossil fuels, even before you get to transporting that food to the consumer. It also typically involves degradation of the soil and water over time. In order to measure efficiency, these things need to be taken into account, and too often they're not.

(Debbie @ #41, I agree there are problems with untrained people keeping animals. But bioengineering facilities?)

#48 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 08:26 PM:

PZ Meyers was pretty down on vat-grown meat, basically arguing that you have to break down its food to basic nutrients, physically support it, manage fluids, control temperature and protect it from pathogens, and doesn't a chicken do all that "for free"?

Well, I haven't seen PZ's post, but it seems to me that the chicken's services are far from free. The chicken will insist on growing a substantial part of its biomass into head, feathers, bones, and other inedible or nearly inedible parts. And then after all that it needs protection from pathogens too!

Whether that turns out to be more or less costly than vat growing may be questionable, but the chicken has plenty of overhead.

#49 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 09:34 PM:

31
I spent a year building solid-state microwave delay lines. Mostly for radar altimeters, but there was the batch of one-microsecond delay lines going into goose-collar radio transmitters as oscillators, 'because geese can't carry the big packages that alligators can'.

#50 ::: Springtime for Spacers ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 10:39 PM:

Even if I wanted to the 800 year lease for the land on which my small terraced house stands forbids me from doing all kinds of things that might disturb the neighbours with noise and smells. This includes the keeping of chickens and pigs and the making of tallow candles as well as rather more appealing activities like the cooking up of boiled sweets. Growing my own meat in a vat would presumably be allowed. Well not actually my own meat, I do bite my nails but one would have to draw the line somewhere.

#51 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 02:26 AM:

Also, did I follow the footnotes wrong? "Spammers get there first" should be referring to the vat-grown meat, shouldn't it?

#52 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 03:35 AM:

Lila @ 39: Why is it that proposed solutions to poverty and hunger so often involve extreme high-tech that can neither be produced or maintained by those same poor hungry people?

I think this question contains its own answer.

Also, if the high-tech could somehow be so produced or maintained, draconian IP claims or expensive operator licensing or gold-plated 'precautionary' regulations would certainly be necessary to restore the locus of agency to properly qualified persons, with properly qualified connections and properly qualified bank accounts.

#53 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 06:01 AM:

I don't think I can afford an actual jet pack yet, but in the meantime this might do.

#54 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 06:37 AM:

Pendrift @ 53... Reminds me of when the MythBusters used the same principle to get a car off the ground.

#55 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 08:07 AM:

Another one for the Department of Where's My Sodding Jetpack: Google to sell Android-based heads-up display glasses this year.

#56 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 08:08 AM:

Another one for the Department of Where's My Sodding Jetpack: Google to sell Android-based heads-up display glasses this year.

#57 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 08:10 AM:

I have no idea why that posted twice, but does this error message shed any light? "Publish failed: Renaming tempfile '/home/pnh/public_html/makinglight/archives/013610.html.new' failed: Renaming '/home/pnh/public_html/makinglight/archives/013610.html.new' to '/home/pnh/public_html/makinglight/archives/013610.html' failed: No such file or directory"

#58 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 09:21 AM:

Bill Stewart, #51: no, because it refers to the Amazon Mechanical Turk(-like)-ing of captcha breaking, which is done by spammers.

#59 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 09:37 AM:

chris @ #48:

Historically, uses have been found for pretty much every part of the chicken. The fact that we now (for certain narrow values of "we" and "now") regard so much of the chicken as waste material says more about us than it does about the chicken.

#60 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 10:07 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 46

At this point any solutions to our long-term climate, energy supply, and raw material supply problems have to be global, and they have to scale well. That doesn't necessarily mean centralizing all production (in fact, it may mean decentralizing a lot of things, like power generation), but it does mean that even completely distributed technology (and, yes, wood-burning stoves and small flock chicken ranches are technologies) need to be designed with the global issues in mind.

I am beginning to doubt there is anything that is truly "global," and while I like the idea of being able to make things better, everywhere, something in this "we'll make global, scalable solutions," sounds like another "we know best, we'll fix it for you" assumption of western cultural superiority.

I am reminded of the Kipling story "William the Conqueror," which is based in part on Kipling's experiences in India. There is a famine and the English government goes in to save the day with shipments of wheat and millet. But the natives of India, used to rice, don't know how to prepare wheat and millet and refuse "these strange hard grains that choked their throat," and the British on the ground and in the field must come up with their own solutions and adaptations to save the natives.

History seems full of disasters from misapplied "global" solutions that don't take into account global variance and conditions.

#61 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 11:39 AM:

pedantic peasant #60: Long after Kipling, there were similar incidents with powdered milk in aid shipments to Africa (where 90% of the population is lactose-intolerant).

#62 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 11:59 AM:

David Harmon @ 61:

An even bigger and better example, as the grain could possibly be overcome in time, but you can't change biology/physiology.

#63 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 01:45 PM:

pedantic peasant @ 60:

Sorry, maybe the word "global" has too many tangential connotations tacked on to it. I'm not talking about single solutions for every situation; I'm talking about solution sets that are compatible, and which are maintained by compensation schemes that aren't perverse.

For instance, in the US many western states took a simple, local solution to air polution: let the predominantly westerly winds blow it towards the eastern states. Clearly not a good global solution, though it worked as a local solution as long as the eastern states didn't impose some consequences.

The human population is high enough now that even a very small footprint per individual is multiplied to the level of affecting the global climate, and there's effectively a single (albeit very complex) airshed and watershed: it all comes back to haunt us all.

Even low-tech solutions can have large-scale effects over long periods of time1. The climate and ecosystem of the Australian continent, for instance, has probably been changed over the last 50,000 years of human habitation, especially by the practice of "fire-stick farming"2.

1. OK, we could promise not to stick around for very long. I doubt we can get the whole human race to stick to that promise, though it more and more seems to be the default outcome.
2. Yes, this is now being disputed by some scientists; I would be surprised if there had been no effect, however. As the joke goes, I think we're just negotiating the price.

#64 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 03:38 PM:

Pendrift @53: That's extremely silly. Ya gotta wonder what any nearby cetacean are thinking.

Seems like it'd be much more effective if you didn't have to haul around the hose-full of water. Definite diminishing returns problem; the higher you're flying, the more hose you have to haul. ("But how else would you get the water into the jets?" "Uh....")

Couple of interesting failure modes suggest themselves: ingestion of unsuspecting cephelapod? Flying high enough that the hose intake comes out of the water?

#65 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 04:20 PM:

#19 ::: Tom Whitmore

That would be Ms Fnd in a Lbry by Hal Draper.

I think the point of the story (aside from that cool details are cool) is "make backups!".

#66 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 09:43 PM:

The Learjet? Originally designed for the Swiss Air Force, and a failure--it crashed several times as I remember it. William Powell Lear realized that the plane design was good but the wing cross-section was probably the worst ever used for a small jet, bought the manufacturing rights, and went to work with a *lot* of Bondo on the test model before committing to the final airfoil design.

#67 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 11:24 AM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @ #66:

The other thing I always remember about William Powell Lear is that he named his second daughter Shanda, which is a depth I don't think even Serge would sink to.

#68 ::: Kieran O'Neill ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 12:07 PM:

I was actually at the meat talk at the AAAS conference in Vancouver. (I don't think the reporter mentioned it, but that's what they were covering).

It was a remarkably tense session -- I guess the prospect of reducing the amount of meat in one's diet cuts a little close to the bone for developed world people.

Anyway, it's still very far away from becoming a common instalment in people's lives, and if your goal is to reduce meat consumption, more traditional and lower tech ways are likely to remain the norm for at least some time.

#69 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 12:34 PM:

Paul A @ 67... Is that a Challenge, Sire?

#70 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 02:38 PM:

Don't worry, Serge -- no one can hold a candle to you!

#71 ::: Phil Palmer ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 03:32 PM:

And there's this, via The Code Project. Like the man says, I don't know what to believe any more.

http://carlos.bueno.org/2012/02/bots-seized-control.html

#72 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 03:40 PM:

Paul A @67: Don't know if you know this . . . .

In Yiddish, shanda (also spelled shonda and shandeh) means shame. It's a pretty awful thing to name a kid; I literally flinched when I saw your post. (got the joke, but the flinch was my first reaction.)

#73 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 04:04 PM:

Debbie @ 70... Am I that wicked?

#74 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 06:26 PM:

Serge @73.

You're a Bad Egg.

#75 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 11:31 PM:

Paul A.: Lear was somehow related to either Olson or Johnson--I can never remember which. This probably explains why he said that a second son would have been named Gonda.

#76 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 12:11 AM:

And when the family gathered, they were the Band o' Lear?

#77 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 02:08 PM:

Serge Broom @ 73:

No, it's that if anyone did hold a candle to you, you'd flinch away very fast.

#78 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 02:56 PM:

Kiernan:

Is the goal to reduce meat consumption, or reduce the externalities of meat consumption, perhaps including the suffering of animals in factory farms?

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