Daily Archives: April 21st, 2007

Saturday Sci-Fi

Check out SciFi.com today for the usual science-fiction fare. Lots of goodies to scope out. SciCinema Saturday starts at 9:00 a.m. and culminates with Christina Ricci’s werewolf movie Cursed. Todays movie theme seems to be “evil things that stalk and kill young people”.

SciFi Channel’s Saturday movies always seem to have a theme to me. Maybe I’m nuts.

One of the discussions I had on one of my science posts yesterday was the idea of the space elevator. According to the Wikipedia definition:

A space elevator is a proposed structure designed to transport material from a celestial body‘s surface into space. Many different types of space elevators have been suggested. They all share the goal of replacing rocket propulsion with the traversal of a fixed structure via a mechanism not unlike an elevator in order to move material into or beyond orbit. Space elevators have also sometimes been referred to as beanstalks, space bridges, space lifts, space ladders or orbital towers.

The most common proposal is a tether, usually in the form of a cable or ribbon, spanning from the surface to a point beyond geosynchronous orbit. As the planet rotates, the inertia at the end of the tether counteracts gravity because of the centripetal force that keeps the cable taut. Vehicles can then climb the tether and escape the planet’s gravity without the use of rocket propulsion. Such a structure could theoretically permit delivery of cargo and people to orbit with transportation costs a fraction of those of more traditional methods of launching a payload into orbit.

Recent proposals for a space elevator are notable in their plans to incorporate carbon nanotubes into the tether design, thus providing a link between space exploration and nanotechnology.

I don’t use Wikipedia often because it tends to use biased information, but in this case the definition it uses is pretty accurate. I’m talking about this subject today for two reasons; an expressed interest from a frequent poster, and it brought back a memory for me an Arthur C. Clarke novel called The Fountains Of Paradise (disclaimer, Wikipedia spoilers within). This was the first introduction of the concept to me and an entertaining book. Well, to a nerdy kid like me, who happened to be in the U.S. Marines at the time (trying to hide my nerdiness) it was entertaining anyway. Clarke’s works tended to be kind of dry at times. But it spurred my nascent techno-geekiness since I was in Marine Aviation and working around alot of technology.

Here are a few places where the novel is still available:




This is the most recent review

Clarke’s later solo works never matched the quality of this one, except for The Songs of Distant Earth, written in 1986, but that’s for a later day.

Hi Tech Pencil Lead

Ok, so it’s not pencil lead, it’s called graphene and it might be the next stage in computer microchip technology. I don’t know much about microchips, but I heard about a law that goes something like “the smaller the chip gets, the greater the storage rate or computing power…” I’m paraphrasing here, but anyway, every 18 months the chips shrink in size, but double the power. But there’s a diminishing return on this, meaning even if you can cram more switches (transistors) on a chip, the heat loss from doing that is going to defeat the purpose of more computing power. Oh well, enough of me, read from people who know something.

Move Over Nanotube, Here Comes Graphene

The Last Americans

From Scientific American.com:

The gray-bearded, balding man sips coffee in the kitchen of his apartment in Brasília, Brazil. With a blank stare, he ponders the future of the three things to which he has dedicated his life: “Everything dies at its own time. The forest dies, with it die the Indians, with them die the sertanistas.” But at 67, Sydney Ferreira Possuelo acknowledges that the sertanistas, men who make a living out of protecting the isolated indigenous peoples in the Brazilian jungles, may be the first to go.

When people think about conservation, they think environment, animal or energy. But people conservation rarely comes to mind.

This little gem is about one of the last people skilled in the art of making first contact with indigenous tribes in South America and slowly introducing them to the outside world, or steering the outside world away from them.

Prime Directive for the Last Americans