CONTRARY BRIN: Science advances for a new year

Looking back at 2022: a roundup of scientific achievements… from asteroids to AI and (possibly) fusion. Science journal calls the initial data and images from the James Webb Space Telescope the 2022 Breakthrough of the year.

In light of my many past discussions of citizen science and the rising Age of Amateurs, here’s a list of existing citizen science programs and platforms. 

I was honored to participate in the 50th anniversary volume following up on Alvin Toffler’s classic futurist work Future Shock, with the release of: After Shock—“Future Shock at 50” project. You can view the full list of essay contributors here


“The brilliant and insight-filled Closer to Truth TV series features David Brin in a few episodes on consciousness, on alien life, new parameters constraining religion… and whether we live in a simulation.”

== Physics wow…==

Investigating the insides of a proton: Okay I may have my union card as a physicist. But the folks doing this stuff are way, way other-species-level smarter than me!  In large clouds of collaboration – and in isolated singular brilliance – particle physicists have been mapping the intricate inner complexity of the proton.

Yeah, the proton isn’t just made of three quarks (two ‘up’ and one ‘down’) but also a fantastic cloud of temporary ones popping out of and back int a gluon ‘sea.’ Plus two ephemeral ‘charmed’ quarks that each weigh more than the proton, itself.

The key concept is pair production out of stressed space from the background Dirac Sea. Almost all such pairs re-annihilate back into the sea, repaying the borrowed mass before the debt is called-in. This kind of thing is also the cause of Hawking radiation next to a black hole AND the ‘strange’ pair that flickers in and out, within the proton.

And there are those (including me in a pair of older SF stories) who claim that the entire Big Bang may have erupted when one such borrowing was never paid back (so to speak.)   Mind blown yet? See more if you dare. 

Meanwhile… Scientists simulate a black hole in the lab: Not quite the cavitron creation of actual massive micro singularities that forms the underlying premise of my novel Earth. Nor is this quite what the headline implies. This is not a ‘black hole’ but an ‘analog’ that replicates a few of the boundary conditions. Still, kinda cool results.


“A one-dimensional chain of atoms served as a path for electrons to ‘hop’ from one position to another. By tuning the ease with which this hopping can occur, the physicists could cause certain properties to vanish, effectively creating a kind of event horizon that interfered with the wave-like nature of the electrons,” reports Science Alert.

 This in turn created an analog to Hawking Radiation… sort of. The model offers a way to study the emergence of Hawking radiation in an environment that isn’t influenced by the wild dynamics of the formation of a black hole.

Well, well. Ain’t we something.

== Bio World! ==

Okay let’s start (woof!) with uplift! One team of scientists examines prospects for how humans could artificially select for canine intelligence to such a degree as to produce canines with human levels of intelligence within a relatively short amount of time—600 years.  In other words, the ‘neo-dogs’ I speak of in my Uplift Novels. Um.

Then there’s the hippo who recently half swallowed a small boy!  Reminds me of one of the dumbest (of many) parts of Jurassic Park (a movie I overall love!) It is the insane scene of the kids feeding tree branches to a harmless “veggie” apatosaurus. Dig it, herbivores will snap up meat when they can! Cows who find a wounded cricket, heck even recent roadkill. Those kids woulda been a quick snack!  

Of course Spielberg is not above using some of the tricks I expose in Vivid Tomorrows. Like in the movie “Minority Report” punishing ‘woulda’ crimes far more harshly than ‘did it’ ones! In Jurassic Park, maybe some one could suggest they create only herbivores till the security system is tested? Pay for only the elegiacal half of John Williams’s score!

A growing body of research suggesting that acetaminophen’s (Tylenol’s) effects on pain reduction also extend to various psychological processes, lowering people’s receptivity to hurt feelings, experiencing reduced empathy, and even blunting cognitive functions. And leading to increased acceptance of risky activity. While the effects might be slight, they add up, with nearly 25 percent of the population in the U.S. taking acetaminophen each week.

The latest CARTA (Center for Anthropogeny – or Human Origins) symposium was filled with incredible new insights, such as full results from comparing human to non-human primates, genome and effects.  One fascinating revelation, that certain mutations and duplication effects very clearly increased human density and distance-reach of dendrites and synapses, which (one assumes) had strong effects upon mental processing advantages.

But nothing is free! Some of those same changes are correlated or associated with developmental delay, irritability, epilepsy, schizophrenia and autism in human children.  The symposium can now be viewed by recording.

Do folks in Papua New Guinea benefit from immune system tricks in the 5% of their genomes inherited from Denisovans? “These findings dovetail with earlier work on the role of Neanderthal variants in living Europeans. Studies of both Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA in different populations are showing how mating with archaic humans—long-adapted to their regions—provided a rapid way for incoming modern humans to pick up beneficial genes.”

There’s so much more (for another time).

What an age! As Zaphod put it… we’re not just amazing. We’re amazingly amazing!

Except when (as Marvin put it) we’re just awful.

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