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Topsight, May 26, 2009

Because this blog isn't just links to stuff I've done elsewhere. Honest!

• The Participatory Panopticon In Action

Police Slog Through 40,000 Insipid Party Pics To Find Cause Of Dorm Fire

From The Onion, of course. As tongue-in-cheek as this video report may be, it's also very indicative of the kind of impact this kind of ubiquitous documentation technology will have on how we view the world.

Thanks, Mr Judkins.

• Misty Nano-Structured Memories... of the Way We Were: One of the big problems with digital media, in parallel to those I mentioned yesterday in my Memorial Day re-post, is that they degrade easily. Magnetic and optical media are several orders of magnitude less robust than simple paper, degrading in years or decades instead of centuries. It's not simply a case of digital formats not lasting long, the very media upon which the files are stored are ephemeral.

That may change soon, if this report from UC Berkeley bears fruit. According to Nanowerk website:

The researchers describe development of an experimental memory device consisting of an iron nanoparticle (1/50,000 the width of a human hair) enclosed in a hollow carbon nanotube. In the presence of electricity, the nanoparticle can be shuttled back and forth with great precision. This creates a programmable memory system that, like a silicon chip, can record digital information and play it back using conventional computer hardware. In lab and theoretical studies, the researchers showed that the device had a storage capacity as high as 1 terabyte per square inch (a trillion bits of information) and temperature-stability in excess of one billion years.

(Emphasis mine.) It's basically a nanomechanical memory, pushing a particle back and forth. The bit density is actually better than current magnetic media -- so it wouldn't be a step back in that regard -- and its possible lifespan is so far beyond what we would hope for that it's essentially infinite.

Now to make it cheap and ubiquitous. (Via Foresight)

• Worse Than We Thought, Faster Than We Thought: I'm talking about global warming, of course. One of the most persuasive arguments for geoengineering is that we're very likely already past the point at which catastrophic impacts become inevitable, as every time our models get better, the situation looks much more dire than we previously had thought. This observation is underscored by a new item in The Washington Post entitled "MIT Model Predicts Accelerating Warming Trends":

The MIT model is said to be the only one that incorporates among its variables possible changes in economic growth and other human activities and draws on peer-reviewed science on the climatic effects of atmospheric, oceanic and biological systems.

After running the model 400 times with slight variations in the inputs, the new predictions are for surface temperatures to warm by 6.3 to 13.3 degrees Fahrenheit. The prediction is for a 9.4-degree increase in the median temperature, more than double the 4.3 degrees predicted in a 2003 simulation.

It's hard to overstate just how disastrous that would be.

• I Sell Out: It's official, so I may as well post about it here: The Wall Street Journal asked me to contribute an essay arguing for the need for geoengineering, to be published in their June 15th special environmental report. I've been told that it's a candidate for cover story, in fact (but no way of knowing that until it hits the newsstands). I gave this one a good deal of thought, as the WSJ editorial pages have been notorious in their denial of reality, but I got a strong affirmation by the editors for the piece that I can (and do) argue forcefully that aggressive carbon reductions are an absolute necessity, regardless of the use of geoengineering. Based on what I saw today of the near-final edit of the piece, that affirmation has been upheld.

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All comments go through moderation, so if it doesn't show up immediately, I'm not available to click the "okiedoke" button. Comments telling me that global warming isn't real, that evolution isn't real, that I really need to follow [insert religion here], that the world is flat, or similar bits of inanity are more likely to be deleted than approved. Yes, it's unfair. Deal. It's my blog, I make the rules, and I really don't have time to hand-hold people unwilling to face reality.


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