CONTRARY BRIN: Science and problem-solving

Time for more science! Or what passes close to it…

Another one for the predictions registry? In Existence, I posited that by 2040 human urine would be the next resource desperately recycled, as the great phosphate deposits provided by nature get used up. Now, from Ars Technica: Should we be trying to create a circular urine economy? “According to a Vermont-based company focused on using human waste as a resource, most of the nitrogen and phosphorus in wastewater comes from human urine, even though it makes up only 1 percent of wastewater. Removing urine could remove 75 percent of the nitrogen and 55 percent of the phosphorus from municipal wastewater treatment plants. And those nutrients could then be recycled for use as fertilizer.”

In Existence, I portrayed males required by law to either pee in a ‘phos-urinal’ or else… anywhere they liked, outside, like in a flower bed. This company takes a different approach that seems less sexist, if more complicated… a toilet divided fore and aft because… well… that’s how both sexes deliver… um… one and two… when seated. Ahem. “Separate pipes divert the urine to a collection tank.”

 Um, kinda skeptical, here. My approach – while less complete – does have advantages, especially for the roses! But at least there are some innovators out there looking… a-head.

Oh, yeah. Hot flash! Currently, Saturn is at it’s closest point to Earth.

== bio news! ==

This is a big deal:  The entire protein universe: AI predicts the shape of nearly every known protein: “Researchers have used AlphaFold — the revolutionary artificial-intelligence (AI) network — to predict the structures of some 200 million proteins from 1 million species, covering nearly every known protein on the planet. The data dump will be freely available on a database set up by DeepMind.”

Climate Change is supercharging infectious diseases: A first-of-its-kind paper combed through more than 70,000 scientific studies to pinpoint how an array of climate hazards have impacted 375 pathogenic diseases known to have affected humans. Apparently, more than half of all human infectious diseases in recorded history — Lyme, West Nile, hantavirus, typhoid, HIV and influenza, to name a few — have been exacerbated by the mounting impacts of greenhouse gas-driven climate change.

“De-Extinctify”?  I know some of the folks, like Frank Church and Ryan Phelan, who want to bring back Mammoths and passenger pigeons. And in Existence I explore consequences of creating a Neanderthal child. Now, before any of those projects even gain momentum, a group wants to perform a different resurrection, this time the thylacine! The last big marsupial predator called the Tasmanian Tiger. It sounds like much more of a reach! But there are reasons marsupials may be much easier… and the genetics stored from the last thylacines is pretty good. 


Elsewhere I talk about the theological implications of how quickly we are picking up the very tools of Creation.

Evolutionary loss of complexity as an adaptation for speech: Researchers found that instead of the human larynx having increased complexity, it has actually simplified relative to other primates, allowing for clearer sound production with less aural chaos.  Interesting. Especially coupled with the fact that humans can be more accurate in tonal perception and production than the best songbirds or whales.

== Izzit physics? ==

Might some alien Newton or Einstein have done this? Shown videos of physical phenomena on Earth, an AI was asked to evolve theorize ‘laws’ to explain the motions. It didn’t rediscover the current variables we use; instead, it came up with new variables to explain what it saw. This new AI only looked at videos of a handful of physical phenomena. Still, what grist for stories and speculation!

“What other laws are we missing simply because we don’t have the variables?” says mathematician Qiang Du from Columbia University. What’s weird… if typical of black box learning systems… is that the creators don’t know what two of the successful variables are!

And then there is our scientific heritage. My friend and dazzling experimental physicist Brian Keating (author of Losing the Nobel Prize) has a terrific audio reading of Galileo’s Dialogue on Two World Systems. A classic, interpreted by one of the top science podcasters.

Another Keating podcast reprises one of the best physics shows you ever saw (or didn’t see)! About theories of multiverses. A presentation of “The Three Astrophysicists.”

== New in Tech ==

A new superconducting component called a Josephson Diode might help bring about superconducting electronic circuits. It’s superconducting when current flows through it in one direction and provides resistance when it flows in the other, making it (theoretically)  possible to create processors that run at terahertz speeds, 300 to 400 times faster than today’s chips. Alas, these diodes must be cryo-cooled. And yet…

Gains in the race for room-temperature superconductivity: “Less than two years after shocking the science world with the discovery of a material capable of room-temperature superconductivity, a team of UNLV physicists has upped the ante once again by reproducing the feat at the lowest pressure ever recorded.” Reducing the threshold from 267 gigapascals to a mere 97 GPa.  Still quite some distance from the hi-pressure/hi-temperature perovskites I depict achieving this feat in our planet’s mantle… in Earth.

At last, a project to shade two miles of aqueduct in California will test assertions that  solar panels would reduce water evaporation as the result of midday shade and wind mitigation; create improvements to water quality through reduced vegetative growth; reduce canal maintenance as a result of reduced vegetative growth; and of course, generate renewable electricity….  “covering all 4,000 miles of California’s canals with solar panels would save more than 65 billion gallons of water annually by reducing evaporation. That’s enough to irrigate 50,000 acres of farmland or meet the residential water needs of more than 2 million people. By concentrating solar installations on land that is already being used, instead of building them on undeveloped land, this approach would help California meet its sustainable management goals for both water and land resources.”

Added benefits? Cooling the panels making them more efficient. And the access roads + grid are all in place

Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a custom-designed material called polydiketoenamine — PDK — that can be recycled efficiently and indefinitely and could be the future of plastic manufacturing.

And finally… weirdly NOT weird… These identical twins married identical twins. Now they have sons. “The Salyerses’ unusual marriages are known as quaternary marriage, and their sons are known as quaternary twins.” Fraternal, of course. Though if not, then super weird!

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