Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Not *exactly* random ...

While the writing biz has kept me unusually busy of late, a rather eclectic bunch of stuff  -- all somehow germane to SF and Nonsense -- has  been catching my eye. A few highlights from among those are the basis of today's post.

My writing appears often in Analog magazine: in fiction, science articles, and even guest editorials. Because my preferred sub-genre is (I hate the term, but love the concept) hard SF, Analog is my favorite among the zines. And so, I was happy to make this discovery -- Analog now has an active FB presence.

High-tech tulip bulbs?
Admittedly, the upcoming item wasn't an especially recent encounter -- but the topic remains as timely as when I bookmarked the related article in December.

As clever and useful as I find blockchain technology (in essence, a robust and distributed form of computerized record-keeping), I remain more than a little skeptical about using that tech to underpin a non-governmental currency. Bitcoin, of course, is the poster child for blockchain-based "currency" (aka, cryptocurrency). This three-month-old article remains one of the best pieces I've found on the topic: "Five myths about bitcoin: No, the currency isn’t beyond the reach of the law, and it won’t replace cash."

So what else is timely(er) and eclectic?

Reversal of Earth's magnetic poles has become another persistent -- and esoteric -- second-tier news topic. Why? Because there are signs that such a reversal might occur sometime within, say, the next few thousand years. (Best man the lifeboats!) Such reversals have happened many times over the eons, on the order of every million years or so. If such reversals endanger life (disrupted magnetic fields during the reversal = more solar and cosmic radiation reaching Earth's surface [until the field stabilizes and reasserts itself]), clearly it's not all life. Humanity's pre-technological recent ancestors lived through such a reversal.

Pretty -- and sometimes scary
If there is any cause for concern, it's precisely because we are technological. Should we care to pay attention to the much more imminent risks to our technology of dangerous solar flares (aka, geomagnetic storms) -- which also have the potential to fry satellites and power grids -- we'd automatically also be prepared for a magnetic-pole reversal. Let's keep our eyes on the more probable danger. The last/partial magnetic pole reversal was a good 40K years ago. The Carrington Event -- which produced auroras as far south as the Caribbean! (and shocked some early telegraph workers) -- was in 1859. A solar storm in 1989 crashed Hydro-Quebec's transmission system and blacked out much of Quebec province.

I thought this article put things in perspective: "Why the Earth’s magnetic poles could be about to swap places – and how it would affect us. Our planet’s history includes at least several hundred global magnetic reversals, where north and south magnetic poles swap places. So when’s the next one happening and how will it affect life on Earth?"

For today's final excursion, I'll turn to forensic science. (Why? Perhaps in part because -- somehow -- a ridiculous proportion of the television I watch ends up involving medical examiners and forensic anthropologists. Bones. iZombie. Murdoch Mysteries. The Frankenstein Chronicles. I'm sure there are others.) Today's bit of forensic anthropology? A re-look at bones found on a remote Pacific island almost eighty years ago: "Bones discovered on a Pacific island belong to Amelia Earhart, a new forensic analysis claims."

And so it goes :-)

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