Monday, November 29, 2021

Just Vegging Out

There’s more than one pathway for carbon-fixation.  C3 is the old-fashioned way;  about 95 percent of all the plants in the world do it. But C4, which didn’t really start catching on until 6 or 7 million years ago, lets plants grow bigger with less water. The C4 Rice Project wants to convince rice to switch over, so we’d have more food. But as long as we’re fiddling with genetics, why not convert the human species to C4? Then we would all be a pleasant green color and spend our days lying in puddles with our faces to the sun.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Set the Controls for the Day Before Yesterday

I’m probably remembering this wrong: Somebody once asked Theodore Sturgeon to define the Golden Age of Science Fiction and he said, “Twelve.” Which, yeah, that’s the age at which you feel simultaneously possessed of infinite potential and unbearably constricted by your immediate circumstances. And here were magazines with rocketships and women in chrome bikinis on the cover. Here were names like Asimov and Zelazny which in themselves sounded exotic and extraterrestrial. Nowadays, I don’t dream so much of space travel, and believe the best use for a reliable and accurate  time machine would be to allow me to procrastinate indefinitely.

Monday, November 15, 2021

A wikiholistic view

If history teaches us anything it’s that history teaches us nothing. No. Wait. It also teaches us that Lawrence, Kansas, was founded in 1854 and that England had a king named Æthelred the Unready not once but twice, the same guy both times. He took a few months off during the winter of 1013-1014 to go into exile in Normandy but came back when Sweyn Forkbeard, whose dad was Harald Bluetooth, after whom is named a wireless technology deployed with varying degrees of success in a broad range of consumer electronics, dropped over dead. So. History teaches us nothing useful.

Monday, November 1, 2021


Nearly 500 years ago, in 1522, Ferdinand Magellan’s crew completed the first circumnavigation of the globe. It took over a thousand days, more than 25,000 hours. In 1924 the United States Army Air Service made the trip in 175 days. That’s 4,200 hours. Right this minute there are folks up in the International Space Station making the trip every hour and a half. So 16,000 times faster in 500 years. Projecting that rate of improvement forward, by 2521 we’ll have cut the travel time to reach the first exoplanet in another galaxy (Messier 51) to a mere 65 million years.