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Michael Woods
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Really? I had no idea that antibodies could regularly target such small molecules with such great efficacy. It was remarkable to me that there was a high enough concentration of the antibodies to eliminate enough of the cocaine before it could have any measurable effect. And I hear you about the oxytocin. That's why I later suggested that it might well qualify as necessary for survival. I do wonder if there's a better example of a molecule that might be targeted that only has a psychological effect and doesn't hamper actual vital functions.
Ok, I changed the link to go straight to the .pdf file, rather than the Project Gutenberg page. That seems to work, and I added a note if you're really interested in seeing the Project Gutenberg page directly.
I seem to have lied a little, refreshing the page doesn't work, but clicking in the URL bar and hitting enter does. Still working on it.
This is extremely weird. If you refresh the page after clicking the link, it works properly. Otherwise, I'm working on the problem, and I'll comment again when the link is fixed and functioning correctly.
I actually agree with you completely. Maybe my wording wasn't the best, but I tried to highlight that the years of ponderous and slow progress don't occur publicly. For all of us, because we inevitably can't stay up to date on all of the piecemeal developments in every field, the world changes in discrete jumps when we become aware of developments. And with all of the research groups and labs out there, even though they are all working on years-long projects, the rate at which we see discrete jumps happening——the rate at which we have to modify our world views of what is and is not possible——is increasing. Frankly, though, you probably said it better than I did. I sacrificed some of the clearness and accuracy for the sake of shorter sentences and alliteration.
It's almost certainly not a net-energy producing process. But the tricky question is whether the net energy cost (energy required to turn the plastic into oil - energy returned from burning/using the oil) is less than the total cost of disposing of the plastic via landfills/etc (electricity out of power plants is cheap!). This looks like it runs a good chance at reducing the amount of plastic particulates that end up in tho oceans, and I'm pretty sure that any dent we can make in that problem will be well worth it in the end.
I think it was updated by an editor when they republished later editions.
Let me rephrase the question. Is there any scientific advancement that, if announced tomorrow, would surprise you? Barring physical impossibilities, my answer is increasingly "no".
@fnc - You bring up some great questions, and frankly, I don't know the answers to them. The question of meaning, of what makes life worthwhile, is not an easy one. It's likely that a "meaningful life" in the future will require creative endeavors, rather than just the constructive endeavors that usually qualify today. If we found a way to accommodate that—a world where every person was involved in the creative enterprise—well, I'd call that a pretty good world to live in. The tricky part is getting to there from here. @Evan - That's an interesting and clever thought. Check out today's One O'Clock Daily on IBM's Watson: . I'll bet you 2012 to your 2016.
@meri - :D @Caleb - Yeah, but then I wouldn't get as many curious comments and questions! Don't worry, Vibrams will come into fashion soon enough.
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Mar 15, 2010
@smaddox & Mdude1350 - Yesterday, I had a long conversation with a friend in which I brought up both of your ideas as a solutions to the "problem" in question. We ended up agreeing that the only things that can stand in the way of technologically-induced structural unemployment are either a demographic shift away from efficiency, or for extra jobs to be created in fields where technology has no hope of gaining a comparative advantage over people. I suspect that in the short term, we'll see a lot of independent, small-scale producers, a la Mdude1350, combined with a slow shift of increased employment in R&D. I think you guys really hit it out of the park with this one. Good thinking!
It really is. It's a good guide to an interesting way of life. Never stop studying, indeed!
@r butler - I think it's worth pointing out that I'm absolutely not condoning any actions these people may or may not have taken. In fact, I specifically pulled out the final statements, disconnected from their identities, as an exploration. In a sense, last words are the most honest ever spoken--there can be no hope of a reward on Earth--and they provide a unique view into the human psyche. And as Marie Curie once said: "Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood." I also suggest you check out this culminating post about lessons learned from the last words:
Oh, you know... interesting things always find their way to me. In all seriousness, I think I first found this one through a Marginal Revolution post.
@Caleb - I feel like there's a very particular distinction between the motivation for attending a pop music vs a classical concert. At least for me, if I go to a pop concert (and I'll include all modern music genres under that label), I've generally either already decided that I like the band/performer, or I'll have heard from people I trust that they're good. The same is not true of classical music for me. Even great pieces can be performed without energy, and concerts can always surprise you. Three years ago I saw Dudamel in the Disney concert hall when he was visiting with the Venezuelan National Youth Orchestra. I've never experienced a more lively or enjoyable performance, and I'm not normally a big fan of the latin dance forms they were performing! Would I, personally, choose to see any other concert they've ever performed above almost anything else? Sure. It's too bad that I haven't had that choice, though. Or another example, remember when we saw Das Rheingold at the LA Opera, and it was so boring that the older lady next to us apologized and asked us not to give up on opera because of that performance? Given the choice, I would rather have picked a 5-star rated, life-quality performance to watch, rather than take a chance with an unknown troupe. Maybe nobody goes to a live performance of any sort to hear a perfect version, but I do believe they go to be entertained. So replace all uses of 'the best' with 'the most entertaining' if it suits you? @Tim - New music may always, eventually, trump the old, but not ever new musician will trump all of the old. And as more and more recordings enter the realms of 'the old', it'll be harder and harder to, and thus fewer and fewer modern musicians will, trump the old. That's all. And as for feeling the timpani's thunder in your chest as you sit 50 feet away... Did you go see Avatar in 3D? In a Dolby Digital Surround Sound theater? Perhaps even in IMAX? It's not perfect yet, but I think the technology is a lot closer than you think. Alternatively, put on a pair of headphones/earphones (it won't work without them), and listen to this: . Do you still think the technology is that far away?
@Caleb - Let's consider your #2 for a moment. Imagine a system, style, that allows people to rate concerts on a scale of 0-5 stars. Would the majority of people go to see a new, unrated concert, when they could pick a 5-star one just as easily? Especially if they knew they could always catch the new concert later if it turned out to be good? I'm not arguing that nobody will want to see live musicians. Just that fewer people will. It's unclear to me just how many classical orchestras the future can support, but I feel like it must be less than today. Maybe the number decreases asymptotically towards a minimum, positive, and finite value? Curious point on found art, though. I'm not sure how that would play in.
@Evan - According to the latest statistics, the current, economical, and demonstrated world-wide uranium resources are enough to supply world consumption in conventional reactors for 80 years (details in this great website: There are two tricks to that, though. Firstly, that only counts current, economically feasible, and demonstrated uranium reserves, so advances in technology and additional prospecting will continue to stretch out that horizon for a while. Secondly, it only counts uranium reserves. Even without plutonium-producing breeder reactors, technologies like the thorium reactor that I mentioned suggest alternative (and much cheaper and more abundant) nuclear fuels. But, back to the question of solar power for a minute. Solar power is definitely advancing at a tremendous rate, but there's one big issue with solar power that hasn't yet been addressed. Solar power is not yet suitable as a base-load power generation technology, due to the lack of control over input fluctuations. If it gets cloudy, rains, or night falls, your solar power array won't be producing power anymore. Of course, there are people working on various energy storage technologies, but they haven't gotten anywhere yet, and until they do (or until someone else prototypes and perfects space-based solar power), we'll need something to complement the sun's rays, and I haven't seen anything that's a better prospect for that than fission.
@Caleb - an excellent point. I'm not very familiar with that history, so I wonder how much in the way of meaningful diplomacy occurred between those companies and the South African government as a result of their departure.