Tag Archives: science

Technology and science, with some covers mixed in

Spyware became common in schools during the first year of the pandemic. It isn’t going away now.

“The main challenge is the lack of human imagination; our inability to see a different future because we’re staring down this dystopian path of pandemic, climate change, biodiversity loss” A look at the imagineers who think they can turn deserts green. We’ll need them as North Carolina and other parts of the world may be killing off our forests.

The abandoned oil wells of Texas, and the havoc they wreak.

Abuses of Roma DNA.

And how should we research ancient DNA?

Is seagrass a potential new superfood?

Another reminder that pre-crime software isn’t free of human bias — it builds on it. See here. And here.

When we kill off a significant number of animals, species suffer from a loss of cultural knowledge.

“The world became smaller, simply because we had the horse.”

Some inner voices are more unusual than others.

Releasing millions of honeybees into the wild is not the solution to the decline in pollinators.

Climate change is real — and it’s happening in our gardens.

#SFWApro. Covers by Kelly Freas, unknown, Curt Swan and Swan again. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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Science and tech links

Is the military ignoring an easy tech solution to soldiers dying in friendly fire?

Crocodiles may look like ancient relics of the pre-mammal ages, but they’ve evolved a lot and they’re still evolving.

The challenges of telling a skeleton’s race.Hobby Lobby’s museum has had to give back most of its exhibits because of dubious provenance (in fairness, they’re hardly the only museum with that issue).

The great Cretaceous extinction is more complicated than just the legendary meteor wiping everything out.Lab grown meat is supposed to be the coming thing. But it’s nowhere near financially feasible yet.

A study finds that a single bitcoin transaction creates the equivalent electronic waste to tossing two iPhones in the trash.

#SFWApro. Covers by Ed Hannigan, Nicholas Peter Cardy and Jack Kirby

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Mostly depressing stuff about global warming, plus other science links

“At its worst, net zero by 2050 is a device for shunting responsibility across both time and space. Those in power today seek to pass their liabilities to those in power tomorrow. Every industry seeks to pass the buck to another industry. ” — a Guardian columnist on how our current goals for fighting global warming fall short.

As the world heats up, air conditioning becomes more vital, but it also makes the problems worse. What are the alternatives?

Air-travel contributes to global warming too. Here are the big problems they need to solve.

Global warming and other factors have put the Komodo dragon on the endangered list. There are dangers for vanilla and avocado crops, too.

The world’s largest carbon-capture machine has gone live.

Floating wind turbines could be a great clean energy source, but there are obstacles to overcome first.

“Black cemeteries are now at a disproportionate risk of being lost, some before they have even been officially found.”

The U.S. Army is looking to a cyborg future and worried movies will bias us against cyborgs.

To tighten its grip on the people, the Russian government is deploying its own internet.

Millionaire Julia Davies is helping acres of British farmland go back to nature.

How a rare New Zealand parrot may have removed harmful mutations from its gene pool.

Environmental activism around the world leads to activists being murdered.

“You do pi because everyone else has been doing pi.” — an article on whether there’s any point to calculating pi out to the trillions of digits.

Dogs are amazing — even as covid detectors. I’m sure Plushie could handle it.

What we’re still learning about the asteroid that ended the dinosaur age.

The technical and ethical challenges to resurrecting the woolly mammoth.

The California condor population has gone from 22 to more than 500.

#SFWApro. Comics cover by Mike Sekowsky, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Links about UFOs, nature and science

A physicist argues we shouldn’t try to contact alien life — who knows what the reaction will be (see, for example, Battleship)? And if some astrophysicist or amateur scientist makes contact, what’s to stop them presenting themselves as speaking for the human race?

A journalist argues that we should accept UFOs are real, physical things (as opposed to “real but just a trick of the light”), though not necessarily spaceships.

Here’s a lost of America’s more prominent UFO sightings. And some naval aviators say they see them every day. A fair number of officials in DC are believers, or at least interested enough to push for investigations. But a recent documentary claims the evidence for UFOs is just a government psy-op. A federal report comes to no definite conclusions about UFOs, but does suggest they are physical  objects. But both skeptics and believers agree that talking about it openly is a good thing.

Some scientists say the art of creating crop circles is worthy of serious study, but the UFO association makes that hard.

Are conflicts over “trash fish” surrogates for conflicts over Native American rights?

Speaking of right, here’s how race, oyster fishing and pollution intersect.

Argentinian developers turned wetlands into an upscale gated community. The capybara are fighting back.

The power of seaweed to fight global warming.

Dubai promised to plan one million trees. The reality is less impressive.

Is it sustainable farming if nobody can afford the food?

San Francisco International Airport is saving a snake from extinction.

Beavers have returned to Scotland.

I’ve written before about the problems of relying on algorithms to make judgment calls (also see here). The AP says ShotSpotter software, designed to identify and locate gunshots, is another example: not always accurate, the company won’t let anyone analyze its programs and the techs are willing to rewrite reports if police say the gunshot happened somewhere else.

Well, that’s just the best new (he said sarcastically). The first responders of 9/11 may be slipping into dementia at a much accelerated rate due to the chemicals they were exposed to. But until there’s hard confirmation via research, the responders’ health fund won’t cover it.

#SFWApro. Cover by Gene Colan (t) and Curt Swan (b). All rights to images remain with current holders.

 

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Links about science and tech, plus some paperback covers

When coming up with new ideas or solutions we think of adding features and increasing complexity — not enough about simplifying.

The wheelie suitcase is such a great idea, but gender stereotypes — men don’t need no stinking wheels and women will always have a man handy to do the lifting — meant it took decades to become a thing.

I’ve never seen Yellowstone’s Old Faithful geyser, but it’s still startling to realize global warming could destroy it this century.

Last month I reviewed Weapons of Math Destruction, about how relying on AIs doesn’t make us rise above human failings. Here’s one example, how reliance on AI to parcel out funding for the sick took away needed care. This article, however, argues that broader fears of AI taking over are wildly incorrect.

In a related topic, companies and government officials say electronic visit-verification apps prevent fraud and waste in government funded homecare programs. Instead they just make it harder to get paid.

Microbes could produce 10 times the food as plants, at little environmental cost.

Anti-vxxers are continuing to spread anti-science.

Social science: why are competitors on The Price is Right game show worse than the last century’s players?

“There’s a bias in our culture towards assuming that the written word is by definition enduring. We quote remarks made centuries ago often because someone wrote them down – and kept the copies safe. But in digital form, the written word is little more than a projection of light onto a screen.” — the BBC on the problem of lost digital information.

Hospital are making increasing use of medical chatbots. The article looks at what they can and can’t do.

Anthony Bourdain wasn’t alive to participate in a new documentary about him. Bourdain’s wife isn’t happy the director’s solutin was to deepfake his voice.

As the sixth great extinction continues, a UN plan proposes to cut the extinction rate by a factor of 10.

#SFWApro. Covers top to bottom by Charles Binger, Robert Abbett, Ed Veligursky and Earle Bergey. All rights to images remain with current holder.

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Einstein’s brain (and some science links)

“I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” — Stephen Jay Gould. I don’t have anything to add to that quote, but I thought it was a good start to another post of science-related links and SF covers

Vox suggests robots taking our jobs are less of a problem than robots and AI making work worse.Plans to help the bison by building the world’s longest wildlife bridge.

The fossil fuels industry allegedly saw the problems of global warming and rising waters years ago — and lied about it.Dogs protecting penguins. I know it’s not exactly science, but it’s so cute.Jungle cities of ancient cultures were more successful than we think.

#SFWApro. Covers by Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane, Kane again and Roy Krenkel

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Science and tech links

Some of these are old, but they’re still interesting (I hope)

The Washington Post discovers Apple’s new AirTags make it easy to find things. Slipped into a car seat or a purse, they can also make it easy to stalk you.

What bacteria might be thawing out in the Arctic and how dangerous are they?

The U.S. Army is looking to a cyborg future and worried movies will bias us against cyborgs.

To tighten its grip on the people, the Russian government is deploying its own internet.

In the 1940s, city architecture decided cities should be built as if the default resident was a six-foot tall man. Female designers of the 1980s, pointed out that was bullshit.

The UK recognizes animals as sentient beings.

Remember the days of the 19th century when Baptist priests built experimental airships inspired by the Bible?

Naughty, naughty Facebook — a new lawsuit attacks the social media over censorship of anti-vaxxers.

Electric books, classes by radio and other tech that would supposedly transform education. And then there’s the dream of 50 or 60 years ago that by now Americans would be working 30 hours a week, or less.

The challenges of beating ransomware.

“Trump’s blog shows none of the technical sophistication his team would need to build a new social media site. The blog does not save one’s progress or previously read messages, and asks viewers every time they open the page whether they want alerts to their email and phone, regardless of whether they’ve already signed up.” — a look at Trump’s efforts to stay important online.

#SFWApro. Cover by Rafael De Latorre, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Let’s do sciencing! Science and tech links

We’ve lost so much polar ice to global warming, it’s shifting Earth’s axis of rotation.

Are unidentified drones in the midwest just a new UFO myth? It seems not.

The NYPD introduced a Robodog to fight crime. The public objected.“Do not think that thoughtful design is just for the elderly, or the sick, or the disabled. In the field of design, this is called “inclusive design” for a reason: It helps everyone. Curb cuts were meant to help people who had trouble walking, but it helps anyone wheeling things: carts, baby carriages, suitcases. Closed captions are used in noisy bars.” — from an article on why good design for the elderly can benefit everyone.

The Netherlands may have reversed the decline in its bee population.

Speaking of bees, here’s how honey can stay edible for centuries.

Florida has banned social media companies from censoring journalism or deplatforming candidates, but Disney + gets an exemption.

Three years ago, a piece of the Vesta asteroid crashed into Botswana.

There’s a global shortage of semiconductor chips — and even dog-washing is suffering from it.

Arkansas is pushing creationism back into schools.

Azimuth Security has hacked iPhones for the government. Apple does not approve.

Why does QAnon enthrall people? A game designer’s analysis says it’s beautifully designed to lead you away from reality and into a maze of mystery.

#SFWApro. Covers by Sheldon Moldoff, Murphy Anderson and Jack Kirby

 

 

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Science and SF comics covers again

Along with preserving artifacts and sights of the past some scientists want to preserve smells.

Can we make a mummy speak?

A century ago, a British barrister bought Stonehenge at auction for £6,600.

The government spent tens of millions to get a treatment for chemical weapon attacks. The maker won’t guarantee it works.

Why we have too many ventilators. Not incompetence, just changes in medical procedure.

If you think social media and disinformation are bad now, deepfakes will make things worse. Forensic science can exposes fakes, but let’s face it, most of us (myself included) aren’t likely to probe that deeply.

Some ESP research may not have proved psi exists, but it shows a boatload of problems with psychological research. Not that psychology is unique in this.

Annie Jump Cannon developed the modern system for classifying stars. Like so many women in science, she didn’t get the credit she deserved.

I’ve read speculation that AI could eventually replace writers. Here’s an example.

Experiments question the fundamentals of quantum theory.

#SFWApro. Covers top to bottom by Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane, Nick Cardy, Kane, Kane and Kane

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If she didn’t want to be naked on the Internet, why was she photographed with her clothes on?

If you thought deepfakes were bad, here’s something worse: Washington Post reports that users of a new onlne service “can anonymously submit a photo of a clothed woman and receive an altered version with the clothing removed. The AI technology, trained on large databases of actual nude photographs, can generate fakes with seemingly lifelike accuracy, matching skin tone and swapping in breasts and genitalia where clothes once were. The women’s faces remain clearly visible, and no labels are appended to the images to mark them as fake. Some of the original images show girls younger than 18.”

Before you ask no, the AI can’t do the same with men. It’s only set up to declothe women and will give male images female body parts. The article says that’s partly because AI research is male dominated so they don’t have any women working on projects like this who can say “What the hell are you thinking?” But I also think misogyny plays a part: “The bot’s administrator, speaking in Russian, told The Post in a private chat on Monday that they didn’t take responsibility for how requesters used the software, which they argued was freely available, anyway. ‘If a person wants to poison another, he’ll do this without us, and he’ll be the one responsible for his actions,’ the administrator wrote.” A)This is not poison or a gun or a car, something that’s freely available; B)what they are doing with this service is exactly what it’s designed to do — strip women naked.

The administrator also resorted to that old Undead Sexist Cliche, why was she wearing those clothes? “A girl who puts a photo in a swimsuit on the Internet for everyone to see — for what purpose does (she do) this?” Hmm, possibly because she was at the beach and she wanted to share the event with her friends? And even if she posted because she likes how sexy she looks, so what? This does not translate into “since she likes to look sexy, therefore it’s acceptable to faked naked photos of her,” any more than it’s an excuse for rape.

To their credit some AI researchers have called out this kind of shit. One developer took down an app they’d made with similar capabilities because the potential for abuse was too high. Other people, however, adopt the kind of laissez-faire attitude of the administrator — hey, this is cool tech, who cares what happens with it in the real world?

My opinion of such people is not high.

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