Doomsday scenarios are a common trope in science fiction of all media types and most of us can list a few of them out of the top of our heads. Common ones are:
Global war of one sort or another (nuclear, biological, a mix of it all)
The sun goes nova prematurely
The sun turns dark prematurely
The Maya calendar malfunctions
I could go on.
Most of those scenarios are pretty localized in scope, i.e. destroying (in order of growing magnitude) human civilization, mankind as a whole, the Earth, the entire Solar System (or at least making Earth and/or the Solar System uninhabitable for humans). The Solar System, however, is where things usually end on the apocalypse scale.
Now, in comes science, painting a scenario that could possibly be the end of THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. I am not talking about the Cold Death of the universe when all the stars have vanished and the last black hole has evaporated due to Hawking radiation. This ( in about 102500 years, just think about that number. The current age is 1.4 * 1013years). The Cold Death actually means the universe still exist but the temperature would for all purposes be absolute zero (0 Kelvin, −273.15 °C, −459.67 °F ) but it would still be there.
There is another scenario, that would actually simply annihilate our universe (and could theoretically be going on right now in some distant part of it already). This scenario assumes that the vacuum state of the Higg’s Boson is a false vacuum. If this is the case, we are all doomed sooner or later.
If you are confused now, because of all these weird terms, watch this video:
Rosetta, ESA’s 12 year mission to study comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has come to an end with an epic finale. The Rosetta probe has crash-landed on the comet and thus joined the lander Philae, it successfully deployed there on November 12th 2014.
One of the most ambitious space missions in human history has come to an end and I raise my glass to taost everyone involved and especially the Philae lander and the Rosetta probe.
This is the video of the final moments of the mission, you can watch it with a heavy and a joyful heart at the same time:
A few weeks back I already hinted at me delving into the matter of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) versus STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) as an educational paradigm.
I have since done some research whcih has gone into the podcast, so please, have a listen!
Special thanks to my friend and now Patron Bonsart Bokel of Radio Retrofuture. Please consider becoming his patron, he is really putting an incredible amount of work into his channel.
This update is just a teaser to a bigger thing that is coming up. It ties in rather nicely with a point I made several blog posts ago concerning Steampunk and education.
My good friend Bonsart Bokel of Radio Retrofuture, who is providing me with a lot of input lately, has pointed my attention towards a debate that has been going on in the science/teaching world, especially in the USA for a while.
In short it is about this:
Should the focus on STEM subjects in school (i.e. Science, Technology, Enineering, Mathematics) be extended by an A for Art, thus, turning STEM into STEAM (Hurray!).
Opinions are not only devided on the matter, as is basically always the case on the ætherweb, there are some rather nasty flame wars going on.
Accusations of Patriarchical Dominace™ and Feminazi Activism™ in various stages of colourful language being flung left and right at the dark end of the conversation.
Since I am rather interested in matters of education, I decided to look into the matter and will present my findings later. As you can probably tell, I also have an opinion on the matter which is different from Bonsart’s from what I gathered but since I am still in the process of collecting material, I will not voice anything just yet.
In any case, this is a fascinating subject! Talk to you soon.
Modern education has often been criticized for being a bit out of touch with reality and every country seems to have a different kind of problem when it comes to education, pupil motivation and so on. What I hear from the United States at the moment is that everything is really focused on testing and this does not help the pupils at all because the teachers teach to the test and not for any greater benefit of the pupils.
In Germany the problem is that school curriculum is way behind the times. It takes between 5 and 10 years for a school text book in Germany from first draft to being used in the first lesson (and even longer than that in Bavaria).
British education suffers from a great divide between so called „public schools“ which are not public at all and only rich kids can go there and regular schools which offer a sinificantly lower standard or education.
Also, modern education is largely too focused on book-learning with endless regurgitation of facts and very little hands-on learning and experiences. Additionally, although it is generally accepted that there should be more cross-learning (i.e. geography lessons being tought in a foreign lannguage, IT supporting biology in a research project etc.), relatively little is happening in that direction.
This is where Steampunk comes in.
Look at this piece of art:
This keyboard requires considerabal skills in the following fields:
Engineering/Metalwork and Art. Since it is a fully functional computer keyboard,a project that aims towards creating such a keyboard could naturally cross over into IT.
So, with one fell swoop, you get pubils interested in metalwork, in art, and in IT all in one room working together. I don’t know what it was like in your stool but those three groups of people interested in those three subjects are usually at odds with one another. So this project would actually increase the harmony in a class.
Here is another example (also by Admiral Ravensdale):
This is a far simpler project but one that can be extended, let me split it up for you:
Biology: Find suitable plants via research (possibly guided by the teacher)
School outing: Go into the woods and collect those plants or their seeds
Metalwork or general crafting: Construct biotope
(optional for older pupils) Use a bigger container like a clear pickle jar for the construction of a more complex biotope
The benefit of the Steampunk mindset in education doesn’t end there.
Apart from the fascinating projects you could introduce to the classroom there’s also the philosophy. You could infect the pupils with the steampunk mindset and by that I mean a general sense of optimism and can-do mentality. From personal experience and I think most of you have had similar experiences in school you get told too often that something is not possible something cannot be done or „There is no place for this here. / You are too young.“ Instead, this should be replaced with „We see what we can do.“.
Additionally steampunk projects teach children that modern technology does not have to be all plastic and aluminum. Instead they are shown that computers, iPhones, and other devices can also have casings made out of wood that modern technology does not have to be run of the mill doesn’t have to be all cold and grey and white but that in fact all technology can be transformed into a piece of art.
Furthermore they can be introduced to the concept of upcycling, that you can go and take something that was discarded, especially technology, and from the discard pile create something new and maybe even something better. This way they may actually also learne that you do not have to throw everything away but that our wasteful society we live in now does not have to be, that everything you disard can be used to create something new, something useful, some piece of art and some piece of art which you can also use.
So, Steampunk offers a lot of potential in education, from cross-subject projects with beautiful results to teaching a mindset that is not focused on consumerism and watse of resources but rather recycling and upcycling. We need more Steampunks in education, that’s for sure!
Science is great and sometimes science discovers things, noone really expected. Case in point: Every single one of us carries some „zombie genes“. Yes, you read that correctly, and they want to do a few things after you passed on.
Welcome to the next episode of minutes at the edge Your body spawns a Zombie Baby. Yes it is more or less like I just said.
Background: Scientists from the University of Washington have conducted a study, first on dead zebrafish and later on dead mice where they found out that some genes in the zebrafish and in the mice spring into action only after the animals have died and some of those genes actually reach peak performance between 12 and 24 hours after death.
To be exact, it was 515 genes in the mice and in zebrafish it was 540 genes that retain some form of function during the entire time. Some obviously ceased functioning earlier but some reached peak performance only after 3 days. What is especially interesting is that some of those genes are dormant during most of the life cycle of the animals and also in humans because they’ve been conducting those studies on human corpses, too, and found out that humans have these for lack of a better word zombie genes because they are only active after you are already dead yet and some of those things are actually the ones that are deployed or rather, active, during the embryo stages of your development. The current working theory is that the body tries to regenerate itself during your death or just after death. Obviously the body fails but what is also interesting is that some of the genes that are active are not really benign. They are the ones that are responsible for certain types of cancer which in turn explains why your risk of certain cancers increase once you receive a donor organ, because in the donor organ, since the donor organ comes from a corpse, some of those genes have already been activated and then those genes are active in your body and you are still alive and you get cancer. So cancer , which is basically iuncontrolled cell growth, which might in this case of zombie genes also be an attempt to rapidly regenerate for the body tries to rapidly regenerate itself, very interesting.
To put it really bluntly and drastically, every one of us turns into a non-functional zombie after death because of the genes that are only active after you die. Yeah sounds weird but this is what the research says, so far. Of course I’m going to link the article in the block so you can check it out yourself. Hooray for science!
There is so much we find out right now, have found out for the past decades, that no one would have thought of inearlier days. Sometimes life really is weirder than fiction. There is zombie embryo growing inside you or your body tries to grow a zombie embryo after your death in an in an attempt to clone yourself or regenerat yourself. This obviously is an excellent plot device for some zombie horror movie or a novel or something but tlet’s stick to the science. Check out the article it, is a really fascinating and quite frightening read. On the other hand, reasearch into that direction might lead to medication or some form of therapy that might help receivers of donor organs not run the risk of developing cancer. The other implications, you can think of yourself.
Turns out, humans are no unique in the way they create cultures. Research into whales has now conclusively shown they are not only highly social and intelligent animals, but they also create their own culture and their culture has already impacted their genome.
Central Station is an upcoming novel by Lavie Tidhar and this one is hard sci-fi, very hard. Central Station is set in and around the eponymous Central Station, a space port near Tel Aviv, still running after centuries of service, inhabited by humans, robots, robotniks, children created from hacked genes, virtual entities and more.
The novel is a collection of lives at a very vibrant and strange place. A place that very well could be one day exist on earth and the lives described could very well be lived in the future. We meet a single mother, rasing a child that was hacked together from public domain and stolen genes by a former lover of hers. The boy, Kranki, himself is odd and exists both in the offline and online word at the same time, but without agmentation. A family linked together by memories stretching generations because of a modification the patriarch of the familiy made to him and the genes he passed on generations ago. A robot priest and a soldier killed in action, revived as a robotnik (cyborged soldier). Both are by now centuries ol and remember wars that no longer even have names.
Lavie Tidhar gives enormous depth to the world he creates, there are subcultures of various modified humans (as a Cthulhu fanboy I was particularly delighted by the tentacle freaks), the Conversation, which is in short a Solar-System-wide internet with sentient entities existing only in there (like Kranki’s best friend) and which holds strange dangers for many. Almost all of humanity is connected to and in this conversation and everybody is always surrounded by its buzz. Almost everybody is part of a constant flow of information.
The Solar Sytsem has been settled for centuries at this point, there is a trading language, a sort of pidgin, complet with its own poetry, and we get a few glimpses what life amomg the planets and in the asteroid belt is like.
And from the darkness between the planets a vampire of the Conversation descents down into Central Station and connects a few unlikely people and also falls in love with the one human she cannot feed on, because he only exist in Reality One, offline, with no connection to the Conversation.
But there is more, the cultures of the region come into play, new gods appear and vanish but always, life goes on.
Central Station is a fascinating glimpse into a very possible future which creates a lot of craving for a follow up.