Friday, 28 December 2007

The Year of the Geek

Just a top ten, from Wired magazine, naming the 10 coolest scientific breakthroughs of the year - movies have it, albums have it, what about SCIENCE?!

My faves, subjectively and not-so-much, are numbers 1, 8, 10 and probably 4 (since I'm an O-, and Rett Syndrome is something I don't have ), in that order. Go check them out, you'll be a little bit smarter by the time you're done, guaranteed. Yeah.

I love our times. Go install FoldingatHome. And may you have a happy new year.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Pump Up The Volume!

We live in wondrous times, when many of the 'important' things have already been discovered. Or invented. Or dismissed as stupid. And we've found new things that can be useful in our lives, things that the best science fiction writers of previous centuries would have to have smoked too much opium to think of. We're in a glorious age, scientifically, where most areas move too fast for us to follow.

The internet, for one. Or mobile phones - they're cool. Or even the fact that we 'wrote down' 100% of the human genome, by the start of this century, with the HGP - even if that means zilch, practically speaking, for the time being, and therefore you should install the Folding@Home app for us all to make it count for something eventually. And don't let me touch the whole 'fire - wheel - alphabet - typography - electricity' thing, or this blogpost will reach a gig in size, and that's encyclopaedia, and not blog, material anyway.

So, then, why am I still not dazzled by what we can do? Why am I still impatient, and why do I still read sci fi to get my science fix, instead of just the latest issue of SciAm or summit? So many fields are still not covered, so many discoveries still in the 'dreams' department... So many shiny new toys still in the universal chest of drawers 'till Christmas Whenever. No flying cars - 'cause how would we monitor traffic, or afford fuel, then? No teleportation - 'cause, no, we wouldn't turn into flies or anyfink, but we can barely do it with frackin' electrons for now! No time-travel, 'cause that's a bitch, and the new DeLorean just doesn't have that capability, for now, sadly.

So what have we to be awesomed by? What would make us feel like demi-gods, when we're told we're still babies, as a civilisation? Well, we have this article, which pretty much says that we can go for hardcore stem cell research now, without having to endure a bunch of women who don't shave their armpits, whining about embryonic research, albeit as fast as hair grows. And we also have Craig Venter (is it just me or does his name sound like a Sith?), who claims to have created a synthetic chromosome, i.e. artificial life. Meh.

Hence, what I was told when I was young, that the future of science is genetics, seems true. So why is it that I find this, the real-life equivalent of what is true sci fi camp, to be worthy of goggling my eyes? 'Microsoft wishing to back up our brains' seems like something that would only ever appear as a 10-year-old's speculative headline, if said 10-year-old was told to 'imagine what the future will bring'. And that is why it led Than and me, when he gave me this link [thank you, Than], to immediately make the obligatory jokes that I hereby transcribe [copy-paste from Messenger, in fact]:

Unsatisfactory Qoole says:
your life has performed an illegal operation and it must be shut down
Bunny Dee says:
'a personal computer in every brain and in every mind'

It must have something to do with the fact that Than and I have often talked - and, yes, that's more often than arguing over what size a human's wings would have to be in order for him to fly - about how cool it would be to be able to back up your whole life - memories, things you've seen yet not noticed, the works.

So, once again, scientific discoveries only really matter to real people when they have some practical use which we can sense, something that we can really experience in our everyday lives, or things that are simply cool. Which, if I were still stuck in the science crowd, would pretty much suck.

So, I'll leave you to go and go do some homework now, in the techie world we naturally live in: I have to watch La Haine for European Cinema class. Good times.