David Brin: Science forges on! (Now to get politics to come along, too…)

  • Published on July 24th, 2012

By David Brin

Do you wish it were possible to transform American politics enough to calm down the “war on science” and transform it – instead – into a debate about science?

That’s one goal of the good folks at Science Debate, who urge that matters of science and technology and the future be put on science debatethe agenda of candidates for high office, especially during the looming presidential debates. If we could get just one evening when the focus would be on the very forces — from energy to innovation, climate change to the internet —  that drive change and propel so many challenges? Front and center? Exposing the intelligent cogency – or lack – in the men seeking to guide us into uncharted waters?  Please visit the site. Even better, sign the petition and viral it.

Barring that brilliant – but alas, unlikely, event – the folks at ScienceDebate.org have polled dozens of top scientific groups to come up with The Top American Science Questions in 2012 — the most important science policy issues facing the United States.  Whatever your affiliation, this year do spend the time to look them over and then do send them on to your local candidates for Congress and assembly and so on.

Try it.  Then note who actually bothers to answer.

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On the Transparency Front

BikeCams: Cyclists have long had a rocky coexistence with motorists and pedestrians.  Now some cyclists are wearing helmet-mounted cameras to record their encounters, exactly as portrayed in The Transparent Society.

From baby monitors to closed circuit television, 2.4 GHz video transmitters are in many consumer products these days. And yet, most owners of these video devices don’t realize they’re transmitting an unencrypted video signal that can be picked up by anyone.

See how one activist is offering these feeds on lamp post boxes to increase public awareness… in stunning correlation with scenes in my new novel EXISTENCE.  In a project, From Surveillance to Broadcast, Benjamin Gaulon has posted boxes on street corners, recording video feed that can be accessed, to increase public awareness of the capabilities of this technology.

No more hiding behind anonymity? YouTube is fighting against idiotic and often nasty/racist/sexist commenters by calling for full names when you upload or comment on videos.  We seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place.  Anonymity protects free speech… and unleashes the most vicious instincts from truly awful people.  Is there any way we could get to hold onto some accountability and feedback loops that encourage maturity and decency… while still keeping the most important benefits of anonymity?  (As it happens, I have a way, and someone could make millions while solving the problem…)

A Miscellany of Science News

Two shock waves in space, intersecting, might create a “regularity singularity” – interesting general relativity.

The National Ignition Facility completed a 500 terrawatt laser fusion shot. Wow.

Move to Kansas City right now!  Google announced plans to build the gigabit network back in February of 2010 and thousands of municipalities competed to be the future home of the planned network. In March, it selected Kansas City as the first  test of a network running fiber-optic cables directly to homes, and delivering Internet speeds roughly 100 times faster than the national broadband average. Watch for details next week.  (In Existence I briefly describe a completely unused, potentially fecund “right of way” into nearly every home!)

Watch an impressive and inspiring film about cetaceans and research into whales – with unbelievable photography – by Fabrice Schnoller and a team of French researchers.

Yes… science marches on.  Let’s stay worthy of it,

(Originally appeared at Contrary Brin.)

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