Science & Technology

Science and Technology

Google, I forgive you

We've been waiting for it ... making phone calls from your gmail.  Google announced its release today:

If you have a Google Voice phone number, calls made from Gmail will display this number as the outbound caller ID. And if you decide to, you can receive calls made to this number right inside Gmail (see instructions).

A New Perspective On The Fermi Paradox


Ever heard of the Fermi Paradox? Essentially, it's this:

If there are intelligent civilisations elsewhere in the Universe with technologies that far surpass our own, why do we see no sign of them?

The article The Fermi Paradox, Phase Changes and Intergalactic Colonisation, posted June 26 online at the Technology Review, two gentlement from the National Technical University of Ukraine have come up with a new take that's yielding some interesting insights:

Their approach is to imagine that civilisations form at a certain rate, grow to fill a certain volume of space and then collapse and die. They even go as far as to suggest that civilisations have a characteristic life time, which limits how big they can become.

In certain circumstances, however, when civilisations are close enough together in time and space, they can come into contact and when this happens the cross-fertilisation of ideas and cultures allows them both to flourish in a way that increases their combined lifespan.

What's this mean? Well,

The result gives a new insight into the Fermi Paradox. Bezsudnov and Snarskii say that for certain values of these parameters, the universe undergoes a phase change from one in which civilisations tend not to meet and spread into one in which the entire universe tends to become civilised as different groups meet and spread.


Of course, this doesn't resolve the question definitively, but certainly provides some interesting additional sparks that could catch and burn brightly in a fertile imagination.

What do ~you~ think -- is there any intelligent life in the universe? (Outside of Earth, that is -- effectively avoiding whether or not you'd qualify humanity itself as "intelligent.")


Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Another Day, Another Spill, Oil Apocalypse Edition

From DingellDem on DailyKos, the bad news:


More than 800,000 gallons of oil spilled into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River on Sunday and Monday.  The oil is a part of the eight million gallons that traverse the area each day en route from Indiana to the major refinery town of Sarnia, Ontario.  A Canadian company, Enbridge Inc., owns the pipeline.

Battle Creek Enquirer

For those who don't know, the Kalamazoo River flows 166 miles across southern Michigan.  The river has its origins in the south-central counties of Hillsdale and Jackson.  Eventually, the river reaches Lake Michigan at Saugatuck.

Kalamazoo River: Wikipedia


More information available over there in Dingeldem's piece or in this one by Brainwrap.

As for our existing, already-unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico,


At the well site, crews working on the ruptured, but capped, oil well have once again connected through the relief well to existing underwater equipment, BP said Tuesday.

The workers had been forced to disconnect their equipment and retreat from the well site late last week, when Tropical Storm Bonnie loomed as a potential threat. But when Bonnie lost power, workers returned to the site over the weekend.

BP said it planned to test the blowout preventer on the well later Tuesday, and then run casing pipe later this week as a prelude to the final shutdown.


Let's hope things go right and the thing gets properly capped. The Gulf Spill is enough of an oil apocalypse on its own.

This is an Oil-Free Open Thread.

Open Thread - Legalized Jailbreak For iPhone

A couple of surprises from the U.S. Copyright Office:

It’s no longer illegal under the DMCA to jailbreak your iPhone or bypass a DVD’s CSS in order to obtain fair use footage for educational purposes or criticism. These are the new rules that were handed down moments ago by the U.S. Copyright Office. This is really big. Like, really big.

The office looks at copyright law every three years in order to make revisions or exemptions. The six “classes” now exempt from prosecution under the DMCA

H/T Karoli and some appropriate Thin Lizzy:

An AC/DC Jail Break below the fold...

Shine, Baby, Shine - JR goes solar

I’d put my money on solar energy. What a source of power!
I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.
I wish I had more years left.

Thomas Alva Edison
February 11, 1847 - October 18, 1931 (aged 84)

That second part, the bolded comment got me thinking that Edison, recognizing the potential of the sun to meet our energy needs and knowing that fossil fuels were a finite resource, towards the end of his life wanted very much to be around to see this remarkable resource harnessed and developed into something sustainable.

Wednesday Morning Open Thread, Smart Grid Energy Challenge Edition


From CNET News, there's this tidbit:

GE rolls out home energy monitor, EV charger

As part of a smart-grid initiative, General Electric rolls out a home energy management system that works with smart meters and an electric vehicle charging pedestal for cities and campuses.
• GE, VCs offer $200 million in smart-grid challenge

(Posted in Green Tech by Martin LaMonica)

Anyone with a good idea that could fall under the $200 million smart-grid challenge -- this might be the inspiration you've been waiting for.

For everyone else, this is an Open Thread.

Saturday Evening Open Thread: Personal Jet Packs, Flying High Edition, Part Deux

Personal jet packs have been around, theoretically, since 2007 from companies like Jetpack International and Tecnologia Aeroespacial Mexicana. (really cool product offerings and images on the landing page of the TAM site -- GH) Now, the Martin Aircraft Company has delivered a fairly inexpensive ($90,000?) solution.

Are we going to start building undersea cities and extra-terrestrial stations & colonies next? And when...? (Thursday? ...maybe a week or two beyond? 5 years...? More?)

No matter what, or when, technology is advancing. If only we could do something to ensure that our capacity for wisdom and empathy could keep pace...

Welcome to Saturday Night. This is an Open Thread.

Saturday Morning Open Thread: The Terrafugia Transition, Flying High Edition

It's finally here -- the flying car. It's been the stuff of legend and future-dreamers for decades, but now the dream has become reality. Introducing the Terrafugia Transition:

Way cool, eh?

More information is available here, here and here. Please share your thoughts about it in the comments below, and remember: this is an Open Thread.

Open Thread: Fully Charged Edition

Robert Llewellyn's "Fully Charged" show looks very promising and and informative. What's your take on alternative fuels, electric / hybrid / hydrogen vehicles and the potential future of the gas and oil industries with respect to "cleaner, greener" fuels?

Comments are open and welcome, and remember: This is an Open Thread.

A Question for Geologists (and other scientists) Regarding the Deepwater Horizon Gusher, Well Pressure and EarthQuakes

Question for folks, particularly science-types:

The pressure from the Deepwater Horizon well, which forced the blowout, and the steady stream of escaping that pressure solely from the weight of the many atmospheres of water above it? ...or could some of it be from internal pressures?

Regardless, does anyone know whether releasing all that pressure will lead to settling of the surrounding crust/mantle, leading to possible shifts in pressure in plates and affecting/effecting earthquakes?

When Google Goes Bad...

Remember years ago when the concept of "Customer Service" didn't exist and if you had a problem with a product and called the company, you got nowhere? Perhaps some of you have worked with products or services that came "as-is" and offered no additional feedback, and only token support -- no actual support, but a suggestion for "where to go" if you had a problem...and the alternate meaning for "where to go" was more likely the intent, as the actual "where to go" was nothing more than a relatively barren wasteland populated only by others searching for solutions to similar problems?

That's what I'm dealing with at this moment. The product is one that is well-known for ~not~ being officially supported. Problem is, the support forum that users are directed to appears to be wholly void of any Google-ish help beyond the basic FAQ information (at least for this problem).

The product? GMail...specifically, when a GMail account has been shut off for a "violation of TOS" when it's highly unlikely that any such violation occurred, and affected account is a one set up for a professional non-profit organization's headquarters.

Are Concurrent Disasters Fueling Debate For Safer Alternatives?

And we shouldn't forget the deja-vu inducing Ixtoc I disaster from June 3, 1979 or the Exxon Valdez incident off the coast of Alaska from March 24, 1989.

There are others, but these help illustrate some of the primary factors -- and unwelcome, unexpected and unplanned costs -- that fossil fuel dependency incurs.

There are other options. There are significant changes we can make in policies and procedures that impact energy, transportation, manufacturing and construction that would drastically alter our dependency on fossil fuels while strengthening our economy and reducing waste. Before we can make these adjustments, however, we must accept that we are accountable for the decisions that we make and the policies we pursue, not only as individuals but as a nation and as a civilization.

The question is, are we mature enough as a species to make the commitment to growing up and making the difficult adjustments required to review, alter and adjust our current consumption and utilization toward sustainable alternatives?

And if not now, then when?

How much damage do we need to do, how scared or large the negative impact must we witness before we decide that there are options we must explore, develop and adopt?

Open Thread: The Dawn of a New Era, Space Commercialization Edition

Did you see it live, or read about it? The first successful orbital flight of SpaceX's Falcon 9 occurred on Friday, 4 June 2010. Check out their updates here.

This truly marks the beginning of the commercialization of space flight.

We have witnessed a bit of history that we can be proud of.

This is an Open Thread.