room temperature fusion

with limitless power comes limitless responsibility

Back when George W. Bush was president, liberals were regularly accused of being disloyal or anti-American if they disagreed with the policies the administration was undertaking. As Bush himself said, you were either with us or with the terrorists, and as far as many of his supporters were concerned, “us” meant the Bush administration and everything they wanted to do, including invading Iraq. You may have noticed that now that there’s a Democrat in the White House, conservatives no longer find disagreeing with the government’s policies to be anti-American; in fact, the truest patriotism is now supposedly found among those whose hatred of the president, and the government more generally, burns white-hot in the core of their souls.

thalensis:

[Image description: Helen Keller sits by a radio, with her hand over it, in order to feel the vibrations of the music playing]
Helen Keller wrote the following letter to the New York Symphony Orchestra in 1924, describing listening to the “Ninth Symphony” composed by Beethoven - who was also deaf - over the radio: 

“Dear Friends:
I have the joy of being able to tell you that, though deaf and blind, I spent a glorious hour last night listening over the radio to Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony.” I do not mean to say that I “heard” the music in the sense that other people heard it; and I do not know whether I can make you understand how it was possible for me to derive pleasure from the symphony. It was a great surprise to myself. I had been reading in my magazine for the blind of the happiness that the radio was bringing to the sightless everywhere. I was delighted to know that the blind had gained a new source of enjoyment; but I did not dream that I could have any part in their joy. Last night, when the family was listening to your wonderful rendering of the immortal symphony someone suggested that I put my hand on the receiver and see if I could get any of the vibrations. He unscrewed the cap, and I lightly touched the sensitive diaphragm. What was my amazement to discover that I could feel, not only the vibration, but also the impassioned rhythm, the throb and the urge of the music! The intertwined and intermingling vibrations from different instruments enchanted me. I could actually distinguish the cornets, the roil of the drums, deep-toned violas and violins singing in exquisite unison. How the lovely speech of the violins flowed and plowed over the deepest tones of the other instruments! When the human voices leaped up thrilling from the surge of harmony, I recognized them instantly as voices more ecstatic, upcurving swift and flame-like, until my heart almost stood still. The women’s voices seemed an embodiment of all the angelic voices rushing in a harmonious flood of beautiful and inspiring sound. The great chorus throbbed against my fingers with poignant pause and flow. Then all the instruments and voices together burst forth – an ocean of heavenly vibration – and died away like winds when the atom is spent, ending in a delicate shower of sweet notes.
Of course this was not “hearing,” but I do know that the tones and harmonies conveyed to me moods of great beauty and majesty. I also sense, or thought I did, the tender sounds of nature that sing into my hand-swaying reeds and winds and the murmur of streams. I have never been so enraptured before by a multitude of tone-vibrations.
As I listened, with darkness and melody, shadow and sound filling all the room, I could not help remembering that the great composer who poured forth such a flood of sweetness into the world was deaf like myself. I marveled at the power of his quenchless spirit by which out of his pain he wrought such joy for others – and there I sat, feeling with my hand the magnificent symphony which broke like a sea upon the silent shores of his soul and mine.” 

thalensis:

[Image description: Helen Keller sits by a radio, with her hand over it, in order to feel the vibrations of the music playing]

Helen Keller wrote the following letter to the New York Symphony Orchestra in 1924, describing listening to the “Ninth Symphony” composed by Beethoven - who was also deaf - over the radio: 

“Dear Friends:

I have the joy of being able to tell you that, though deaf and blind, I spent a glorious hour last night listening over the radio to Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony.” I do not mean to say that I “heard” the music in the sense that other people heard it; and I do not know whether I can make you understand how it was possible for me to derive pleasure from the symphony. It was a great surprise to myself. I had been reading in my magazine for the blind of the happiness that the radio was bringing to the sightless everywhere. I was delighted to know that the blind had gained a new source of enjoyment; but I did not dream that I could have any part in their joy. Last night, when the family was listening to your wonderful rendering of the immortal symphony someone suggested that I put my hand on the receiver and see if I could get any of the vibrations. He unscrewed the cap, and I lightly touched the sensitive diaphragm. What was my amazement to discover that I could feel, not only the vibration, but also the impassioned rhythm, the throb and the urge of the music! The intertwined and intermingling vibrations from different instruments enchanted me. I could actually distinguish the cornets, the roil of the drums, deep-toned violas and violins singing in exquisite unison. How the lovely speech of the violins flowed and plowed over the deepest tones of the other instruments! When the human voices leaped up thrilling from the surge of harmony, I recognized them instantly as voices more ecstatic, upcurving swift and flame-like, until my heart almost stood still. The women’s voices seemed an embodiment of all the angelic voices rushing in a harmonious flood of beautiful and inspiring sound. The great chorus throbbed against my fingers with poignant pause and flow. Then all the instruments and voices together burst forth – an ocean of heavenly vibration – and died away like winds when the atom is spent, ending in a delicate shower of sweet notes.

Of course this was not “hearing,” but I do know that the tones and harmonies conveyed to me moods of great beauty and majesty. I also sense, or thought I did, the tender sounds of nature that sing into my hand-swaying reeds and winds and the murmur of streams. I have never been so enraptured before by a multitude of tone-vibrations.

As I listened, with darkness and melody, shadow and sound filling all the room, I could not help remembering that the great composer who poured forth such a flood of sweetness into the world was deaf like myself. I marveled at the power of his quenchless spirit by which out of his pain he wrought such joy for others – and there I sat, feeling with my hand the magnificent symphony which broke like a sea upon the silent shores of his soul and mine.” 

(Source: afb.org, via reagan-was-a-horrible-president)

theatlantic:

Why Don’t Older Americans Want Time Machines?

You want a time machine, don’t you?
Because one in 10 Americans do — at least that’s what they said when Pew Research Center asked what futuristic technology they would like to own.
That’s a notable percentage of people, especially when you consider that survey respondents came up with “time machine,” unprompted, out of every possible future invention they could imagine. (Naturally, flying cars were popular, too.)
The curious thing is that Pew found people’s level of interest in time travel had a lot to do with how old they are. About 11 percent of 30-to-49-year-olds said a time machine was the one futuristic device they’d want to own, but only 3 percent of people older than 65 said so. 
And looking across demographics of the entire study group, people under 50 were way more into time-travel than people older than 50.
Why is that?
Read more. [Image:  Luke Hayfield, Creative Commons ]

theatlantic:

Why Don’t Older Americans Want Time Machines?

You want a time machine, don’t you?

Because one in 10 Americans do — at least that’s what they said when Pew Research Center asked what futuristic technology they would like to own.

That’s a notable percentage of people, especially when you consider that survey respondents came up with “time machine,” unprompted, out of every possible future invention they could imagine. (Naturally, flying cars were popular, too.)

The curious thing is that Pew found people’s level of interest in time travel had a lot to do with how old they are. About 11 percent of 30-to-49-year-olds said a time machine was the one futuristic device they’d want to own, but only 3 percent of people older than 65 said so. 

And looking across demographics of the entire study group, people under 50 were way more into time-travel than people older than 50.

Why is that?

Read more. [Image: Luke Hayfield, Creative Commons ]

ceruleancynic:

alberteinsteinofficial:

becomming:

xlizardx:

Apparently this is "The clearest photo of Mercury ever taken."

why isnt everyone getting so excited about this, it is literally another planet look at how beautiful it is stop what your doing and look at how alien like this planet is what is living there oh my god mercury

and guess what in space they pick categories when they have a lot of things to name like the craters on mercury. the category for naming them is after deceased artists

lookin good there, mercury

ceruleancynic:

alberteinsteinofficial:

becomming:

xlizardx:

Apparently this is "The clearest photo of Mercury ever taken."

why isnt everyone getting so excited about this, it is literally another planet look at how beautiful it is stop what your doing and look at how alien like this planet is what is living there oh my god mercury

and guess what in space they pick categories when they have a lot of things to name like the craters on mercury. the category for naming them is after deceased artists

lookin good there, mercury

(via soulsuckingisaacnewton)

cracked:

"Who watches the watchmen?" asked some faceshield-less sitting duck.
5 Recent Trends That Make It Hard to Trust Police (Part 2)

#4. They’re Using SWAT Tactics for Everything Now
Imagine the surprise and eventual horror 72-year-old Aaron Awtry of Baltimore County, Maryland, must have felt when a SWAT team started breaking down his door… Actually, the part where the police showed up wasn’t unusual at all. His home had been “raided” several times because of illegal gambling. The difference is that, in those previous public safety missions, the police just knocked on Awtry’s door, waited for an answer, and gave everyone $100 tickets.

Read More

cracked:

"Who watches the watchmen?" asked some faceshield-less sitting duck.

5 Recent Trends That Make It Hard to Trust Police (Part 2)

#4. They’re Using SWAT Tactics for Everything Now

Imagine the surprise and eventual horror 72-year-old Aaron Awtry of Baltimore County, Maryland, must have felt when a SWAT team started breaking down his door… Actually, the part where the police showed up wasn’t unusual at all. His home had been “raided” several times because of illegal gambling. The difference is that, in those previous public safety missions, the police just knocked on Awtry’s door, waited for an answer, and gave everyone $100 tickets.

Read More

(via reagan-was-a-horrible-president)

m1k3y:

fuckyeahdarkextropian:

A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies! A chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!

Take a flight to Titan. Take a flight on Titan. Stay forever and live as an Angel.

Lerman and two classmates factored in the density of air at the surface of Titan, gravity, and the ratio of the path of the air above the wing to that below the wing. The students calculated that a person would need to run at a speed of 36 feet per second (11 meters per second) if they wanted to take flight wearing a normal-sized wingsuit with an area of about 15 square feet (1.4 square meters).

That running speed is quite daunting considering that Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, the fastest man on Earth, achieves speeds only slightly higher (just over 40 feet per second, or 12 m/s).

To lift off by running at a more manageable speed of about 20 feet per second (6 m/s), a person would need to wear a more unwieldy wingsuit with a surface area more than three times larger than the normal size, the students said.

Their paper was published in the University of Leicester’s Journal of Physics Special Topics, which features short articles written by students to help get them acquainted with the peer-review process.

Many of the papers test bizarre or pop culture-inspired scenarios, such as an article published last year that examined what traveling through hyperspace would really look like.

For extra credit, update the terrestrial math on the required morphology here for the posthuman near future life on the Saturnian retreat.

A functional wing is, sadly, out of the question. Humans lack the shoulder joint and massive muscles that millions of years of evolution gave modern birds. Wing loading is another killer requirement. Modern birds need at least a square centimetre of wing area for every 4 grams of body mass, so an 80-kilogram human would need two square metres of wing.

But an arm might be converted to a decorative wing. Poore suggests modelling it on the wing of Archaeopteryx, the earliest bird, which had a shoulder much closer to humans than the shoulders of better-flying modern birds.

First, fuse the outer set of wrist bones and the hand bones to create a bird-like carpometacarpus, the third bone in a chicken wing. The thumb remains free, like the alula that helps guide bird flight, but other fingers would be fused together.

Next, rearrange the muscle and skin to allow articulation of the new bone arrangement.

Things get tricky when it comes to feathering the wings. Hair grows in different skin layers to feathers and the two consist of different types of keratin. No one knows how to convert one to the other.

Yet.

Kickstartering the Posthuman Futcha!
Bootstrappin’ the Galactic Adventure!!!

Selling tickets to jaded trillenials to pay your way through xenobiology school…

(Source: youtube.com)

Lessons of Immortality and Mortality From My Father, Carl Sagan

astrodidact:

BY SASHA SAGAN

image

We lived in a sandy-colored stone house with an engraved winged serpent and solar disc above the door. It seemed like something straight out of ancient Sumeria, or Indiana Jones — but it was not, in either case, something you’d expect to find in upstate New York. It overlooked a deep gorge, and beyond that the city of Ithaca. At the turn of the last century it had been the headquarters for a secret society at Cornell called the Sphinx Head Tomb, but in the second half of the century some bedrooms and a kitchen were added and, by the 1980s, it had been converted into a private home where I lived with my wonderful mother and father.

My father, the astronomer Carl Sagan, taught space sciences and critical thinking at Cornell. By that time, he had become well known and frequently appeared on television, where he inspired millions with his contagious curiosity about the universe. But inside the Sphinx Head Tomb, he and my mother, Ann Druyan, wrote books, essays, and screenplays together, working to popularize a philosophy of the scientific method in place of the superstition, mysticism, and blind faith that they felt was threatening to dominate the culture. They were deeply in love — and now, as an adult, I can see that their professional collaborations were another expression of their union, another kind of lovemaking. One such project was the 13-part PBS series Cosmos, which my parents co-wrote and my dad hosted in 1980 — a new incarnation of which my mother has just reintroduced on Sunday nights on Fox. 

After days at elementary school, I came home to immersive tutorials on skeptical thought and secular history lessons of the universe, one dinner table conversation at a time. My parents would patiently entertain an endless series of “why?” questions, never meeting a single one with a “because I said so” or “that’s just how it is.” Each query was met with a thoughtful, and honest, response — even the ones for which there are no answers.

One day when I was still very young, I asked my father about his parents. I knew my maternal grandparents intimately, but I wanted to know why I had never met his parents.

“Because they died,” he said wistfully.

“Will you ever see them again?” I asked.

He considered his answer carefully. Finally, he said that there was nothing he would like more in the world than to see his mother and father again, but that he had no reason — and no evidence — to support the idea of an afterlife, so he couldn’t give in to the temptation.

“Why?”

Then he told me, very tenderly, that it can be dangerous to believe things just because you want them to be true. You can get tricked if you don’t question yourself and others, especially people in a position of authority. He told me that anything that’s truly real can stand up to scrutiny.

As far as I can remember, this is the first time I began to understand the permanence of death. As I veered into a kind of mini existential crisis, my parents comforted me without deviating from their scientific worldview.

“You are alive right this second. That is an amazing thing,” they told me. When you consider the nearly infinite number of forks in the road that lead to any single person being born, they said, you must be grateful that you’re you at this very second. Think of the enormous number of potential alternate universes where, for example, your great-great-grandparents never meet and you never come to be. Moreover, you have the pleasure of living on a planet where you have evolved to breathe the air, drink the water, and love the warmth of the closest star. You’re connected to the generations through DNA — and, even farther back, to the universe, because every cell in your body was cooked in the hearts of stars. We are star stuff, my dad famously said, and he made me feel that way.

image
Sasha and her father in his office, 1988.


My parents taught me that even though it’s not forever — becauseit’s not forever — being alive is a profoundly beautiful thing for which each of us should feel deeply grateful. If we lived forever it would not be so amazing.

When I was 7, we moved to another, larger house five minutes away in preparation for my brother, Sam. The Sphinx Head Tomb was left empty for a little while before my parents began the process of renovating it. They wanted a space to write and read and collaborate in peace. The remodeling was a long process, as it always is, but when the beautiful new incarnation was done, it didn’t get much use. Soon after, my father started looking pale and feeling a little weak. A checkup led to a blood test, which came with the news that he had a rare blood disease.

We moved to Seattle, so he could be treated by the best doctors. Remission, relapse, bone marrow transplant; relapse, bone marrow transplant number two, remission; relapse, bone marrow transplant number three. And then just at the winter solstice of 1996, he was gone. I was 14 years old.

The Sphinx Head Tomb was left unused, slowly filling up with my father’s papers, handwritten notes, photographs, to-do lists, birthday cards, childhood drawings, and report cards. Thousands of individual items, boxed away in 18-foot-high filing cabinets. My mother searched for a home for these keepsakes and manuscripts — the evidence of a great life lived by a great man — but no university or institution was willing to give them the preservative care and prominence she felt they deserved.

As the months turned into years, she devoted herself to carrying on my father’s legacy, somehow continuing their union and collaboration after his death. When my mother had the idea to do a new, updated version of Cosmos, she embarked on four years of pitches and meetings and maybes. Then she met Seth McFarlane, creator of Family Guy, who was a great fan of my dad’s work. And soon, in no small part thanks to Seth, a new Cosmos was underway. With my mother at the helm and the charming Neil deGrasse Tyson as host, tens of millions more people are now being exposed to the grandeur of science and my dad’s form of joyful skepticism.

But there is something else Seth did for my father’s legacy that has been significantly less tweeted about: He made it possible for all the contents of the Sphinx Head Tomb — all the essays on nuclear winter, the papers on the climate of Venus, the scraps of ideas, a boyhood drawing of a flyer for an imagined interstellar mission — to be preserved in the Library of Congress.

It’s an enormous honor that makes me feel that my father has, in death, achieved a kind of immortality — albeit a tiny, human, earthly immortality. But that’s the only kind a person can hope to achieve. Someday our civilization will crumble. The Library of Congress will be ruins, someone else’s Library of Alexandria. In the biggest sense, our species will eventually die out, or transform into something else, that will not revere what we revere. And then, a few billion years later, when the sun meets its own end, all life on Earth will die with it.

Growing up, I had learned all the reasons why real immortality is impossible from my father, yet I could not help but imagine 23rd or 24th century schoolchildren looking at my dad’s penmanship under glass and feel his life was really extended in some tangible way.

On the brisk, gray day this past November, during the week that would have been his 79th birthday, my family, our friends, and many of my father’s colleagues and former students gathered in Washington D.C. to celebrate the new Seth Macfarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive. But when I entered the massive cathedral to the history of the country, I was overcome not with a sense of immortality but its antithesis. In front of the famous original copies of the Gutenberg Bible and the Gettysburg Address it hit me: This was not a monument to eternal life but a mausoleum.

In the way couples sometimes renew their vows, we renewed our grief. And in that moment my father was both so alive in the minds of those who loved him and so painfully gone. The conundrum of mortality and immortality was crystallized for me in the Library of Congress that day, but it’s the same paradox of our small place in the enormous universe that my parents first taught me in the Sphinx Head Tomb.

http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/04/my-dad-and-the-cosmos.html?mid=twitter_nymag

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.

—D.H. Lawrence (via purplebuddhaproject)