March 26, 2005

George W. Bush and Fascism?

While I regard the tendency to label the current U.S. administration as being a fascist regime (or at the very least 'fascistic') a rather rhetorical exercise, it's still interesting to review Lawrence Britt's list of fascist characteristics in the context of America today:

Fourteen Defining
Characteristics Of Fascism
By Dr. Lawrence Britt
Source Free

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread
domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

March 25, 2005

Links for March 25, 2005

In Search of the Sixth Sense (Fast Company)
In this expanded interview transcript, inventor Ray Kurzweil discusses birth, death, and the potential offered by non-biological thinking processes.

Rocket Plane Venture Star (The Space Review)
David Urie was chief engineer for VentureStar and, now, Rocketplane. In the first part of an extended interview with Sam Dinkin, Urie talks about the operational and engineering issues associated with the Rocketplane XP.

How to Talk to Aliens (ChessBase)
Teach 'em chess.

At War With Their Bodies, They Seek to Sever Limbs (NY Times)
Body integrity identity disorder.

Elephants Can Mimic Traffic, Other Noises, Study Says (Nat'l Geographic)
It isn't only children playing with toy cars who make engine noises. Elephants produce a similar roar, though in their case it's the rumble of trucks on an African highway that the animals imitate, scientists say.

Strategies In “War On Drugs” Need To Be Reassessed (RAND)
Anti-drug policies in the past two decades have not been a principal influence on illegal drug use and need to be more carefully tailored to address changing drug use trends.

Is Terri Schiavo Minimally Conscious? (Reason)
And does it matter? -- Ronald Bailey

Are We Ready for Robots? (Tech Central Stupid)
As advances in robot design continue, we'll be confronted with the same conundrum we face in biotechnology: not how far can we go but how far should we go?

Scientists May Use Mammoth Cells for Cloning (IOL)
A group of Russian and Japanese scientists hope to clone mammoths from remains by using elephant egg cells.

13 Things That Do Not Make Sense (New Scientist)
New Scientist highlights some of the great mysteries facing science.

Complex Instincts (The Engineer Online)
Roboticist Tony Prescott believes that the development of robots will play an important role in the search for answers to one of the most fundamental mysteries of life: The workings of the vertebrate brain.

Corpses Frozen for Future Rebirth by Arizona Company (Nat'l Geographic)
At the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, 67 bodies—mostly just severed heads—lay cryogenically preserved in liquid nitrogen, waiting for the day when science can reanimate them.

Forget Me Not (Slate)
The U.S. Memory Championship shows the radical potential for the capacity of human memory and the prospects for memory enhancement.

Asexual Healing (Utne)
"Baby, when I think about you, I think about l-o-o-ve." So begins the hoary ballad by Bad Company, a British band whose "Feel Like Makin' Love" has been a sleazy anthem for the horny masses since 1975. But what if you think about other people and feel like making lunch? There is a minority group out there that has absolutely no interest affirming love by exchanging bodily fluids. Coalescing on the Internet, this small but increasingly vocal faction claims to be perfectly healthy and happy not to be getting any."

Methuselah Mouse Man (Slate)
Aubrey de Grey is helping humans live forever, whether or not he's a real biologist.
By Paul Boutin

Now Here's a Foundation for Bioethics: I Saw it on Star Trek! (Bioethics Blog)

A fireball created in a particle accelerator bears a striking resemblance to a black hole - but thankfully not the sort that could consume the Earth (New Scientist)

Welcome to Doomsday (NY Books)
"There are times when what we journalists see and intend to write about dispassionately sends a shiver down the spine, shaking us from our neutrality. This has been happening to me frequently of late as one story after another drives home the fact that the delusional is no longer marginal but has come in from the fringe to influence the seats of power. We are witnessing today a coupling of ideology and theology that threatens our ability to meet the growing ecological crisis. Theology asserts propositions that need not be proven true, while ideologues hold stoutly to a world view despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. The combination can make it impossible for a democracy to fashion real-world solutions to otherwise intractable challenges." -- Bill Moyers

Italian, US cosmologists present explanation for accelerating expansion of the universe (Eurekalert)
Was Einstein right when he said he was wrong?

Noted Inventor and Developer in the Area of Artificial Intelligence, Disputes Contentions of Celebrated Inventors Ray Kurzweil and Jeff Hawkins (Yahoo News)
During a recent invited talk at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, noted physicist, inventor and developer in the area of Artificial Intelligence, Stephen Thaler, PhD, disputed the claims of Ray Kurzweil and Jeff Hawkins that useful artificial intelligence is futuristic.

March 14, 2005

Links for March 14, 2005

Downloading Democracy (National Interest)
Robert Conquest: "Everywhere we always find the human urges to preserve at least a measure of personal autonomy, on the one hand, and to form communal relationships, on the other. It is the latter that tends to get out of hand. To form a national or other such grouping without forfeiting liberties and without generating venom against other such groupings--such is the problem before the world. To cope with it, we need careful thinking, balanced understanding, open yet unservile minds."

The Two Totalitarianisms (London Review of Books)
Slavoj Zizek: "Till now, to put it straightforwardly, Stalinism hasn’t been rejected in the same way as Nazism. We are fully aware of its monstrous aspects, but still find Ostalgie acceptable: you can make Goodbye Lenin!, but Goodbye Hitler! is unthinkable. Why?"

Oy Vitae (Slate)
Jews vs. Catholics in the stem cell debate.

Kasparov Quits Chess in Biggest Gambit Yet (Moscow Times)
I had a feeling this was going to happen: Garry Kasparov, the world's top chess player for two decades and considered by many the greatest player in history, has announced his retirement from professional chess in an ambitious gambit and vowed to devote his energy to battling what he called the "dictatorship" of President Vladimir Putin. You go, Garry!

Why it is Hard to Share the Wealth (New Scientist)
Are economic disparities a law of nature? Jenny Hogan: "In 1897, a Paris-born engineer named Vilfredo Pareto showed that the distribution of wealth in Europe followed a simple power-law pattern, which essentially meant that the extremely rich hogged most of a nation's wealth (New Scientist print edition, 19 August 2000). Economists later realised that this law applied to just the very rich, and not necessarily to how wealth was distributed among the rest. Now it seems that while the rich have Pareto's law to thank, the vast majority of people are governed by a completely different law. Physicist Victor Yakovenko of the University of Maryland in College Park, US, and his colleagues analysed income data from the US Internal Revenue Service from 1983 to 2001. They found that while the income distribution among the super-wealthy - about 3% of the population - does follow Pareto's law, incomes for the remaining 97% fitted a different curve - one that also describes the spread of energies of atoms in a gas."

Mass extinction comes every 62 million years, UC physicists discover
Uh, oh. Seeing as the last major event happend 65 million years ago, I guess that means we're living on borrowed time...

Evolution as a Team Sport (Rushkoff Blog)

Japan Embraces New Generation of Robots (MSNBC)
The Japanese are investing billions of dollars to develop humanoid robots that can take part in everyday life.

No Plan B for Outer Space (Economist)
America's plans for humans to explore space may cause it to relax its laws on weapons proliferation.

Pulling Back the Curtain on the Mercy Killing of Newborns (LA Times)
Ethics expert Peter Singer urges us to think twice before decrying Dutch doctors' report.

The Nature of Normal Human Variety
Armand Leroi discusses the science behind what makes as all so profoundly different.

Getting to know Michael Griffin (The Space Review)
Griffin’s comments to date suggest that he may want to speed up the pace of the Vision for Space Exploration, potentially at the expense of the shuttle and ISS.

UN, Jimmy Carter Say Time Is Ripe to End Hunger (National Geographic News)
The time is now for the richest nations to share their cash, food, and knowledge with the hundreds of millions of people enduring extreme poverty and hunger, according a recent UN report.

Electronic Prescribing Systems: Making It Safer to Take Your Medicine? (RAND)
Electronic prescribing systems may greatly reduce medication errors and help to maximize patient safety and health.

The Rise and Fall of Star Faring Civilizations in Our Own Galaxy

J.R. Mooneyham writes about The Rise and Fall of Star Faring Civilizations in Our Own Galaxy (this is an excellent summation of the Fermi problem today):
The Fermi Paradox which contrasts the 100% probability of life and intelligence developing on Earth against the thunderous silence from the heavens so far (no alien signals) may be resolved by four things: One, gamma ray bursters which may have effectively prohibited the development of sentient races until only the last 200 million years; Two, the lengthy gestation period required for the emergence of intelligence (which almost requires the entire useful lifespan of a given planet, based on our own biography); Three, the need for an unusually high measure of stability in terms of climate over hundreds of millions of years (the 'Goldilocks' scenario, enabled by a huge natural satellite like our Moon moderating the tilt of a planet's axis, as well as gas giants parked in proper orbits to mop up excess comets and asteroids to reduce impact frequencies for a living world); and Four, an extremely dangerous 600 year or so 'gauntlet' of challenges and risks most any technological society must survive to become a viable long term resident of the galaxy (i.e. getting a critical mass of population and technology off their home world, among other things). That 600 year period may be equivalent to our own span between 1900 AD and 2500 AD, wherein we'll have to somehow dodge the bullets of cosmic impacts, nuclear, biological, and nanotechnological war, terrorism, mistakes, and accidents, as well as food or energy starvation, economic collapse, and many other threats, both natural and unnatural. So far it appears (according to SETI results and other scientific discoveries) extremely few races likely survive all these. So why haven't we heard from those which have? What are they like? And how far away might they be? Details of all the above and more (along with references) may be found on this and its succeeding pages.
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March 10, 2005

E.T., don't phone home--we'll call you

A new service launched this past February allows users to transmit their telephone conversations into space in the hopes of reaching extraterrestrial civilizations.

At a cost of $3.99 per minute, users can dial a premium rate US number and have their call routed through a transmitter and sent into space through a 3.2-metre-wide dish in central Connecticut.

Eric Knight, the president of the company, believes that a large radio receiver - like the Arecibo dish in Puerto Rico - situated on a distant planet might be large enough for an alien civilisation to receive the calls. Go to for more information.

For those of you who don't like your money, I can't endorse this service enough.


Links for March 10, 2005

Breaking news: Kasparov retires from professional chess
The winner of Linares and the world's strongest chessplayer, Garry Kasparov, has just announced his retirement from professional chess. His games in Linares are the last in his professional career, that has spanned thirty years, with twenty on the top of the ratings list.

The Kass Agenda: "Bioethics for the Second Term" (American Journal of Bioethics blog)
Oh, oh.

The Last of the Utopian Projects (Guardian)
Perestroika plunged Russia into social ruin - and the world into an unprecedented superpower bid for global domination.

Are We in World War IV? (Mother Jones)
It's become a (wishful) commonplace of the imperial right that we are.

History Is Going, Going, Gone (MSNBC)
We risk losing the thrill of viewing and touching the actual papers handled by geniuses.

Why Is Captive Breeding So Hard? (Slate)
Don't animals like to breed?

Does Gödel Matter? (Slate)
The romantic's favorite mathematician didn't prove what you think he did.

Marxism of the Right? (Tech Central Stupid)
Until this article by Robert Locke appeared in The American Conservative, conservatives and libertarians have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship. After all, there is so much on which they agree. But can it last? Distortions like this one should make us wonder: "Free spirits, the ambitious, ex-socialists, drug users, and sexual eccentrics often find an attractive political philosophy in libertarianism, the idea that individual freedom should be the sole rule of ethics and government."

The Science Behind Common Sense (Tech Central Stupid)
We should always have respect for propositions that prove true even though we aren't quite sure why.

Neandertal Advance: First Fully Jointed Skeleton Built (Nat'l Geographic)
Scientists have for the first time constructed a fully articulated, or jointed, Neandertal skeleton using castings from real Neandertal bones.

Thinking Robots – Not Quite Yet (Yorkshire Today)
Professor Noel Sharkey left school at the age of 15 but is now a leading robotics expert. Chris Bond talks to him about the future of robots and the potential for artificial intelligence.

Helping the Poor: The Real Challenge of Nanotech (
Those concerned about the potential side effects of nanotechnology should spend more time worrying about ways of ensuring that it meets the needs of the poor.

March 9, 2005

More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement

Fellow transhumanist and friend Ramez Naam has released his first book.

With the title of More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement, Naam argues in his new book that the power to alter ourselves--provided that it's in the hands of millions of individuals and families--stands to benefit society more than to harm it. Here's the Amazon link.

Blurbage from Naam's Website:
More Than Human is about our growing power to alter our minds, bodies, and lifespans through technology - the power to redefine our species - a power we can choose to fear, or to embrace.

In 1990, a professor at the University of Colorado discovered that changing a single gene doubles the lifespan of tiny nematode worms.

In 1999, researchers searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease genetically engineered a strain of mice that can learn things five times as quickly as their normal kin – super-intelligent mice.

In 2002, scientists looking for ways to help paralyzed patients implanted electrodes into the brain of an owl monkey and trained it to move a robot arm 600 miles away just by thinking about it.

Over the last decade researchers looking for ways to help the sick and injured have stumbled onto techniques that enhance healthy animals – making them stronger, faster, smarter, longer-lived, even connecting their minds to robots and computers. Now science is on the verge of applying this knowledge to healthy men and women. The same research that could cure Alzheimer’s is leading to drugs and genetic techniques that could boost human intelligence. The techniques being developed to stave off heart disease and cancer have the potential to halt or even reverse human aging.

More Than Human takes the reader into the labs where this is happening to understand the science of human enhancement. It also steps back to look at the big picture. How will these technologies affect society? What will they do to the economy, to politics, and to human identity? What social policies should we enact to regulate, restrict, or encourage the use of these technologies?

Ultimately More Than Human concludes that we should embrace, rather than fear, the power to alter ourselves - that in the hands of millions of individuals and families, it stands to benefit society more than to harm it.

Links for March 9, 2005

Life Is a Game (Technology Review)
Sims creator Will Wright faces his next challenge: Everything.

Risky Business (Tech Central Stupid)
Ban the precautionary principle, just to be safe.

Remembering Francis Crick (NY Books)
By Oliver Sacks

Among the Unbelievers (Utne)
"A revival of atheism is a curious by-product of the 9/11 attacks," writes the British thinker John Gray. In Europe at least, "unbelief has been given a new lease of life by a savage reminder of the persistent intensity of faith." But atheism is no cure for mass violence, he suggests. Nazism, Maoism, and Soviet communism were as deadly as the most primitive religions, perhaps because that's what they quickly became. Indeed, militant atheism may hold clues to "the enduring urgency of the human need for religion."

That being said: What Jesus Wouldn't Do (AlterNet)
Much of the religious right's agenda is in direct contradiction to Christ's own teachings – and most devout Christians know it.

The Poor May Not Be Getting Richer (Reason)
But they are living longer, eating better, and learning to read, by Ronald Bailey.

Leon Kass, Citizen (American Journal of Bioethics blog)
On Leon Kass's declaration of being a "private citizen."

Wearable Computers You Can Slip Into (Business Week)
The latest generation of these ever-smarter garments look like ordinary clothes and not something only a cyborg would wear.

How Much Can Your Mind Keep Track Of? (Psychological Science)
Apparently not very much. About 4 variables, maximum.

March 7, 2005

Links for March 7, 2005

Fast Track to Longevity (The Scientist, registration)
Mouse study shows molecular connections between caloric restriction and lifespan extension.

Is the Capacity for Spirituality Determined by Brain Chemistry? (Washington Post)
Geneticist Dean H. Hamer's book 'The God Gene' is being disputed by scientists and embraced by some religious leaders.

Committee Wants Tighter Controls on Gene Therapy (Science Now, registration)
Third leukemia case in French trial renews.

'Saviour Sibling' Embryo Battle (Scotsman, registration)
A couple who tried to create a "designer baby" to help cure their sick son should never have been allowed to do so, the House of Lords was told yesterday.

Time Bandits (New Yorker)
What were Einstein and Gödel talking about?

Can Sci-Fi Fans Face the Future? (TO Star)
From mailing bras to starting malicious Internet rumours, devoted viewers try all sorts of things to protect what they love.

Sim Outbreak (WorldChanging)
How do you handle the outbreak of a highly infectious disease? Use powerful simulations, that's how.

The Best Thing That Has Ever Happened to Journalism (Tech Central Stupid)
Bloggers are the best thing that has ever happened to journalism.

Study: Monkeys Do Read Minds (Discovery)
Monkeys can deduce what other monkeys and humans think, want and see based on visual cues, according to a new paper in this week's Current Biology.

Hans Bethe, Father of Nuclear Astrophysics, Dies at 98 (NY Times)

Eye Contact Triggers Threat Response in Autistic Children (SciAm)
Children suffering from autism pay very little attention to faces, even those of people close to them. Indeed, this characteristic can become apparent as early as the age of one, and is often used as a developmental sign of the disease. The results of a new study provide additional insight into why autistic children avoid eye contact: they perceive faces as an uncomfortable threat, even if they are familiar.

Human Factors in Commercial Suborbital Flight: What Do I Breathe, and Why? (The Space Review)
Developers of suborbital spacecraft must strike a balance between engineering constraints and the need to give passengers the correct atmospheric pressure and mix of gases. In the latest installment of his ongoing series, Dr. John Jurist examines these atmospheric requirements.

Plants vs. Insects: An Amazon Epic for the Ages (Nat'l Geographic)
Insects are enemy number one to plants the world over: They munch leaves, suck sap, bore stems, and devour roots. To fight back, plants have evolved an army's worth of defenses that confuse, repel, deter, and sicken their attackers.

March 5, 2005

Cows are people, too

As someone concerned with and supportive of non-anthropocentric personhood ethics, I've long insisted that any agent capable of subjective and emotional experience--no matter how subtle or simple--deserves moral consideration. Consequently, even the most "lowly" non-human animals IMO qualify for personhood status of varying degrees; it's been long known that many animals have their own personalities and emotional life. Moreover, most of them are capable of suffering, so as animal rights activist Peter Singer has bravely and cogently argued, we need to look out for their welfare.

Reinforcing this notion, recent studies have shown that farm animals do in fact exhibit human-like qualities in terms of their emotional life and in their relations with other animals. Cows in particular, who are often used as an example to showcase mindless docility in animals, do in fact have a complex internal psychological life in which they bear grudges, nurture friendships and become excited over intellectual challenges. They're also capable of feeling strong emotions such as happiness, pain, fear and even anxiety.

And very importantly, it's now suspected that they are even capable of worrying about the future--a psychological attribute that is often considered a critical threshold in personhood determination (i.e. a person should be capable of making plans and having intentions over time). If cows are worrying about the future, that means that i) they have a sense of self, ii) they are concerned about their welfare (which is intention), and iii) they can imagine themselves in the future (which it can be argued is a type of planning, in that they "plan" or expect themselves to exist in the future). Sounds like a person to me.

Many of these characteristics have been observed in other farm animals, including pigs, goats, and chickens. Consequently, animal rights advocates are urging that animal welfare laws need to be significatnly rethought and reconsidered. Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare at Bristol University, believes that because remarkable cognitive abilities and cultural innovations have been revealed, "[o]ur challenge is to teach others that every animal we intend to eat or use is a complex individual, and to adjust our farming culture accordingly.” She argues that even chickens should be treated as individuals with needs and problems.

Other observations about farm animal behaviour include:

- cows within a herd form smaller friendship groups of between two and four animals with whom they spend most of their time, often grooming and licking each other
- cows will also dislike other cows and can bear grudges for months or years
- dairy cow herds have a complex and intense sex life
- cows become excited when they solve intellectual challenges; when solving problems, their heartbeats go up and some even hump into the air in excitment
- sheep can remember 50 ovine faces (even in profile) and they can recognise another sheep after as much as a year apart

John Webster, a professor of animal husbandry at Bristol, has just published a book on the topic, Animal Welfare: Limping Towards Eden. “People have assumed that intelligence is linked to the ability to suffer and that because animals have smaller brains they suffer less than humans. That is a pathetic piece of logic,” he said.

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Lins for March 5/05

Out of Balance (CSICOP)
Chris Mooney offers his perspective on the recent ABC special about UFOs and wonders what it means to listen to "both sides."

The Pancake People, or, "The Gods Are Pounding My Head" (Edge)
Playright Richard Foreman observes how how people today are self-evolving under the pressure of information overload and the technology of the "instantly available," causing individuals to be spread wide and thin.

Declaring Biowar on Cancer (Technology Review)
Viruses may be a mighty new weapon the struggle to defeat cancer.

Against Nature: Why Nature Should Have No Say on Human Sexuality (Butterflies & Wheels)
In debates about sexuality, ‘nature’ is invariably brought into the discussion, and usually all the participants involved will try to claim that nature supports their position. Why? What if nature isn’t our best guide at all? We live most of our lives in a constant process of negating the base realities of nature, yet when it comes to sex we suddenly think nature has all the answers. This is illogical and regressive. We should no longer look to nature for answers about human sexuality; in fact, it should have no say on the matter at all.

A Brave New Branding (Utne)
The emergence of neuromarketing and the resultant ethical debate.

What is Richard Posner So Afraid Of? (Reason)
Ronald Bailey discusses risks, prevention and costs and wonders if the "sky is falling" mentality is too costly.

Revenge of the Wage-Slave (Guardian)
HG Wells's funniest book, Kipps, a satire on English class, drew on his own humble background and his experience as a shop assistant, writes David Lodge. The novel, which found an unlikely champion in Henry James, also reflected Wells's flirtation with Fabian socialism

In Hunting, Tech Pushes Envelope of What's Ethical (Technology Review)
Remote controlled hunting, which allows people to shoot animals using a video camera and Internet connection, has created an uproar.

Millions of Babies' Lives Could Be Saved (Nature)
It wouldn't cost much to dramatically reduce infant deaths in poor countries. Simple, inexpensive treatments could prevent the deaths of three million babies every year, doctors and child advocates have announced.

Radio Pulses Could Signal New Class of Astronomical Object (SciAm)
A survey of our galaxy's center has turned up evidence of what may be a new class of astronomical object. According to results published in the journal Nature, scientists have detected an unusual burst of radio waves emanating from near the galactic center with characteristics that are unlike those of previously detected radio bursts.

March 2, 2005

Latest column: Cozying Up With Deep Blue

My latest column for Betterhumans has been posted:

Cozying Up with Deep Blue
"Advanced Chess" pitting computer-human teams against each other shows how humans can avoid obsolescence through symbiotic relationships with technology


Links for Mar 02/05

Are We Alone? (Universe Today)
Are we alone? Given the immensity of the Cosmos, a mathematical impossibility. Will we ever come to know we are not alone? That's a tougher question. But should first contact occur today we could be in for a shock1. So right now may be a good time to prepare. And perhaps the best way to prepare is to imagine the possibility...

2004: A Historic Year (But Only If ...) (Space)
If the processes that began in 2004 are not seized upon and followed up, argues Rick Tumlinson, private sector initiatives into space might well join the Apollo program as historical dead ends.

Penrose: The Answer's Not 42 (Wired)
One of the world's greatest physicists, Roger Penrose, takes on the grand unifying "theory of everything."

Searching for the Why of Buy (LA Times)
Researchers scan for insight into how marketing may brand the brain's preference for products and politicians.

Neal Stephenson’s Past, Present, and Future (Reason)
Mike Godwin interviews science fiction author Neal Stephenson, the author of the widely praised Baroque Cycle, discussing such topics as science, markets, and post-9/11 America.

Voltaire Feared Boredom, not Inconsistency (New Yorker)
He was like Nancy Mitford, Michael Moore, Susan Sontag, Toad of Toad Hall.

American High Schools: What's Wrong (Tom Paine)
Bill Gates says America's high schools need to be redesigned.

A Browser That Talks Back (Slate)
How to chat your way around the Web.

Female eggs have been grown in male testes; study gives clue to how genes and environment create sex. Read more here and here.

Sport of Kings (and Queens)
Why so few women chess masters? America's top female player ponders the question:
Study after study has "shown that children who are exposed to the game are ahead of their peers who are not involved with the royal game. Chess is a wonderful tool to increase concentration, self-control, patience, imagination, creativity, logical thinking and many more important and useful life skills," she says.