September 13th, 2008

20111112, Marilee

"Less Fortunate"

When Peter Rodman died, Henry Kissinger wrote a Letter to the Editor (WashPost) about how good his service to the country was. I'm not going to get into that, but the first para of the letter is about how the WWII generation didn't have much moral ambiguity and had a sweeping consensus. The second, however:

Their children were less fortunate. They were educated by teachers who increasingly challenged hitherto accepted values amid a war that divided the nation like no event since the Civil War.

Less fortunate? I admit I didn't have many teachers and the only one that could possibly be considered as challenging values was the math teacher my sophomore year who always showed up reeking of pot after lunch, but I don't think our questioning of authority and looking at a wider set of values came from our teachers. I think it came from the newspapers, the TV, the musicians, our friends and neighbors. And I definitely don't think we're less fortunate because of it.

I woke up a little dizzy today, so I kept lying down again and getting up until I stopped being dizzy. I got money for next week, dropped a letter at the post office, and went to visit Luke. They had him using a nebulizer. I wonder if he'll need to have one for home. We discussed our experience of storms -- his in Shreveport and mine mostly on Guam -- and then it was time for his dinner and I came home. I'm still a little dizzy, so after I check ML to see how Teresa is, if she's posted, I'm going to nap. I haven't decided if I'll come back to LJ and ML later today or just catch up tomorrow.
20111112, Marilee

Deep Time: How Humanity Communicates Across Millennia by Gregory Benford

This is non-fiction and has four sections:

1. Ten Thousand Years of Solitude

This section was about the radioactive waste disposal in the Nevada salt flats. Benford was on one of the panels that gave an idea of how likely it was for people to stumble into it over a period of 10K years. He gave interesting process information and then the same for the second group (not his) that worked out what kind of marker would be used. There are many explanatory figures.

2. Vaults in Vacuum

This is about the proposed marker for the Cassini orbiter and Huygens lander. Again, he talks about the process not only in how to make a marker that could be read by far future beings, but in what would go on and how. There's a teeny bit of bitterness showing through that it never actually got on the spacecraft because the woman running the project insisted on taking all the credit and annoyed NASA. Again, lots of good figures.

3. The Library of Life

Benford talks about how we are killing species we don't even know we have on Earth and how we don't know if we can manage without all of them. He runs through a number of theories on how to save species -- both in vivo and in DNA or entire bodies. He strongly pushes a combination of in vivo sites with comprehensive frozen DNA.

4. Stewards of the Earth: The World as Message

This section is essentially about global warming. He brings up a lot of hypotheses about what could be done to stop it, to mediate it, or just letting it go. My biggest problem with this section was that the book was written 10 years ago and he was assuming the population would double in 50 years. That's possible, but the current estimate is only about 50% growth by then. So the timing and order of experiments and hypotheses wouldn't work the way he espouses. The general ideas, however, are very good.

I admit I enjoyed the two first sections more, probably because they were tech and not bio, but the book was very interesting. If you're interested in these subjects -- all how we talk to the future and in what ways -- you should read the book.