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View Article  Topics within "Science & Tech" Category
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View Article  Advanced Solar Panels Coming to Market
(Excerpted from an article on the MIT Technology Review website)

Nanosolar's new factory could help lower the price of solar power, if the market cooperates.

A promising type of solar-power technology has moved a step closer to mass production. Nanosolar, based in San Jose, CA, has opened an automated facility for manufacturing its solar panels, which are made by printing a semiconductor material called CIGS on aluminum foil. The manufacturing facility is located in Germany, where government incentives have created a large market for solar panels. Nanosolar has the potential to make 640 megawatts' worth of solar panels there every year.

Solar cells made of the CIGS semiconductor, which is composed of copper, indium, gallium, and selenium, have long been considered a potential challenger to conventional solar cells made of silicon. At least in the lab, CIGS cells have reached efficiencies comparable to silicon-based solar cells. And in theory, they could be made using inexpensive printing processes, leading to much less expensive solar power. But developing manufacturing processes that maintain the high efficiencies has proven difficult.

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View Article  Astronomers Plan Galaxy-Sized Observatory For Gravitational Waves
(Excerpted from an article on the MIT Technology Review website)

An array of pulsars should shimmer as gravitational waves wash over it, making a galaxy-sized observatory

Gravitational waves squash and stretch space as they travel through the universe. Current attempts to spot them involve monitoring a region of space several kilometres across on Earth for the tell tale signs of this squeezing. Although great things are expcted, these experiments have so far thrown up precisely nothing.

But there's another way. Gravitational waves should also stretch and squeeze pulsars as they pass by, subtly changing the radio pulses they produce. So by monitoring an array of pulsars throughout the galaxy, astronomers should be able to see the effects of nanohertz to microhertz gravitational waves passing by. The array of pulsars should effectively shimmer as the waves wash over it, like a grid of buoys bobbing on the ocean.

So the plan is to keep a beedy eye on an array of carefully chosen pulsars. It's called the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves or NANOGrav and it's part of an international effort to spot gravitational waves in this way. ...   more »
View Article  How to Create Quantum Superpositions of Living Things
(Excerpted from an article on the MIT Technology Review website)

First photons, atoms and molecules. Now physicists want to create a quantum superposition of a virus, which will allow them to perform Schrodinger's Cat experiment for real.

One of the great challenges for quantum physicists is to find quantum behaviour in macroscopic objects. There are obvious examples of quantum behaviour on a large scale, such as superconductivity and superfluidity, but physicists want more.

Having created quantum superpositions of photons, electrons, atoms and even molecules, one of the current obsessions is to create a quantum superposition of a living thing, such as a virus. The question is how to do this and whether it makes any sense to say these things are living at all.

This is an experiment that will be hard. But today Oriol Romero-Isart from the Max-Planck-Institut fur Quantenoptik in Germany and a few buddies suggest that it is achievable with current technology and outline the challenges that will have to be tackled to pull it off. ...   more »
View Article  'Rosetta stone' offers digital lifeline
By Michael Fitzpatrick
BBC News

Sumerian tablets

You might be familiar with the heartbreak and frustration of a failed hard disk - fretting over the loss of precious pictures, irreplaceable files squirreled away over years, often lost forever.

These are depressingly regular losses often visited on those who do not make regular back-ups. According to one report by Swedish data salvaging service Kabooza that is the majority of us.

A massive 82% of home computer users hardly bother with back-ups, says its worldwide report.

But no matter how much you back up, all that precious data could be easily wiped out or rendered unreadable in the future anyway because of out-of-date or redundant technology.

Just think of those large sized floppy disks we used only a couple of decades ago, now inaccessible to all but the early PC enthusiasts.

So imagine the headache archivists face having to figure a way to back up and preserve our digitised heritage and make it accessible for future generations - even 1,000 years into the future - and avoid what many dread: a digital Dark Age.

'Future imperative'

Researchers working in Japan say they might have the breakthrough archivists are praying for - a sealed permanent memory bank that will be easily readable now and far into the next millennium. ...

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View Article  Heidegger, Habermas and the Essence of Technology by Andrew Feenberg

Andrew Feenberg is the Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Technology at the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University. In this article he considers the specificity of our Modern Age as Technology, as identified and theorized both by Martin Heidegger and Jurgen Habermas. Both these seiminal modern/contemporary thinkers, though marked by divergence in important respects, see Technology as the determining agent for modern subjectivity as a condition of subjection, alientaion, instrumentalization, homogeniety and social fragmentation. Feenberg here analyzes primary and secondary characteristics of Technology and indicates possibilties of technological reform in a post-industrial context to reintegrate culture, community, creativity and participatory improvization into world culture. One may note that though for the purposes of his own transformative discourse, Feenberg construes Heidegger and Habermas oppositionally as essentialistic in their characterization of Technology, in fact his reformative possibiltiies return us to Heidegger's view of the essence of Techne as Poiesis.

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View Article  100 Years of Sri Aurobindo on Evolution: The dialectics of biology and culture; science, ecology & economics (part 6 of 6)

Perhaps it is best if the twain between science and religion do not meet. Trying to engage science and spirituality in a dialog has a long and troubled history. The incommensurable narratives of matter and spirit they both tell have proven time and time again troublesome for reaching any common understanding. In fact, if science and spirituality do share something in common it is that they all too often accuse the other of totalizing a universal narrative that usurps all ways of looking at the world that are inconsistent with their own.

Religion and science each have their own fundamentalist practitioners who would reduce the world solely to accounts told in their holy books or biology text books. One can not easily imagine an encounter between science and religion in which some violent reaction would not be triggered. Worse perhaps then the violent confrontation between science and religion is when either one appropriates the narratives of the other for the purpose of furthering their own ideological concerns. In the case of religion one example would be in their use of science to justify creationism, while in the case of science such appropriation usually results in one of the just-so stories of origins or cultural analogs of natural selection that Neo-Darwinism tells....

This holds true also for any dialog one would wish to begin between integral yoga and science. It would perhaps be best to begin such a dialog by first exploring Sri Aurobindo's dialectic between yoga and culture and then to look for resonances with narratives told by credible scientist regards the dialectics of science and culture. Better yet, in Sri Aurobindo's own work one finds him at times also critically exploring the dialectic between science and culture. It would therefore seem best to arrive at a dialogic platform to engage science and integral yoga using their diffusion in the semi-permeable membrane of culture, rather then by a direct confrontation as a means to begin the conversation.    more »
View Article  100 Years of Sri Aurobindo on Evolution: Anticipating Science and Society (part 3 of 6)

One thing that can be said non-metaphorically about that the way Sri Aurobindo practiced yoga was that it was scientific. The perfection of his sadhana was a feat that required experimentation and one in which he sought demonstrable results. It should reasonably follow that his perspective on science would be one in which its truth claims were open to critical interrogation, just as were his experiments in yoga.

Given his penetrating intellectual insights into cultural change, his understanding of history as both progressive and cyclic, his multivocal criticisms of society, his integrative encounter with other voices and texts, his ability to effortlessly traverse the subjectivities of Europe and India and to transit freely between both ancient and modern zeitgeists, it seems reasonable to assume that he would size up science with a critical gaze....

Sri Aurobindo's project can be said to be a valiant attempt to find ways to integrate various levels of understanding and seemingly incommensurable experiences by respecting each ones particular articulation of truth while simultaneously harmonizing their unique claims to truth. But he also seems to have anticipated several recent scientific claims on the role punctuated equilibrium, symbiosis, complexity and emergence play in evolution as well as to have held perspectives that most social theorist share today. These social theories dismiss positivist arguments for reductive epistemology and highlight how biology can be used as an ideological tool. Additionally, early on at a time it was still popular, Sri Aurobindo discounted the more extreme implications of Spencer's Social Darwinism “survival of the fittest” strategy and clearly was repelled by the social engineering program of eugenics.....    more »
This is the season for year-end lists of books in which the mainstream review media steer literate culture away from deep questions about how our world works and who we are and toward celebrations of narcissism, celebrity gossip, and literary cliques. What I wrote in 1991 in "The Emerging Third Culture", still pertains today:

A 1950s education in Freud, Marx, and modernism is not a sufficient qualification for a thinking person in the 1990s. Indeed, the traditional American intellectuals are, in a sense, increasingly reactionary, and quite often proudly (and perversely) ignorant of many of the truly significant intellectual accomplishments of our time. Their culture, which dismisses science, is often nonempirical. It uses its own jargon and washes its own laundry. It is chiefly characterized by comment on comments, the swelling spiral of commentary eventually reaching the point where the real world gets lost.

Given the well-documented challenges and issues we are facing as a nation, as a culture, how can it be that there are no science books (and hardly any books on ideas) on the New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year list; no science category in the Economist Books of the Year 2007; only Oliver Sacks in the New Yorker's list of Books From Our Pages? ...
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View Article  TED: Inspired talks by he world's greatest thinkers and doers
Thanks to yatanti for recommending this site:

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader. -- The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. More than 100 talks from our archive are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted...

We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other. Over time, you'll see us add talks and performances from other events, and solicit submissions from you, as well. ...
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View Article  The End Is Nearer, Say Atomic Scientists
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which 60 years ago began keeping tabs on humanity’s temporal distance from self-annihilation with the concept of a “Doomsday Clock,” apparently found things sufficiently dire to nudge the minute hand forward two clicks, indicating that we are now “five minutes to midnight” — or Doomsday.

The clock had last been adjusted in 2002, when it was moved from 9 minutes off to 7 minutes. The current position is the closest the group has put the planet to Doomsday since 1953, when the Soviets and the United States were first playing with their newfangled thermonuclear weaponry, and things looked mighty bleak indeed. ...
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View Article  Instruments of Knowledge and Post-Human Destinies
The two postings on Techno-Capitalism and Post-Human Destinies (I and II) generated a thread on the relationship between physical instruments of observation and knowledge in the scientific sense (microscopes, telescopes, nuclear accelerators), human organs of observation and knowledge (mind, intelligence, sense organs) in the cognitive / psychological sense and possible mutations of human consciousness in the ontological / phenomenological / epistemological sense (change of being, change of consciousness, change of modalities of knowledge). The last (possibilities of a change of modalities of knowledge) opened up a consideration of Sri Aurobindo’s phenomenology of supramental knowledge and its subsidiary action in human forms and instruments of knowledge – specifically sense-knowledge through the sense organs with the “sixth-sense” of the “sense mind,” manas in the Indian Sankhya formulation behind them at/as their origin and the supramental Samjnana further behind/beyond but with a concealed and subsidiary operation in/through manas. Here we are reproducing the relevant parts of this very fertile thread for focused consideration.   more »
View Article  New High Tech 3D Look at ‘Mona Lisa’ Yields Some New Secrets
The first major scientific analysis of the “Mona Lisa” in 50 years has uncovered some unexpected secrets, including signs that Leonardo da Vinci changed his mind about his composition, French and Canadian researchers said Tuesday.

An Infared photograph suggests that Leonardo originally painted the Mona Lisa with a gauzy overdress for nursing (visible, at right), and a tiny bonnet (vague outline visible about the sitter's head). ...
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View Article  The Developmental Spiral - An Unexplained Physical Phenomenon
This one's for you Rich..! :-P

What is it about the spiral shape that the human mind finds so intellectually and visually enticing? Has the universe tuned us to develop a deep intuitive understanding of its importance? ...

While my own best current intuition expects a 2060 A.D. singularity, Vernor Vinge, Ray Kurzweil, Marvin Minsky, Richard Coren, James Wesley, Damien Broderick, Robin Hansen, Eliezer Yudkowsky, Nick Bostrom, and a number of other careful thinkers have proposed a range of ETA's between 2020 and 2140, with 2020-2060 presently representing the majority of predictions, clustering around a 2040 mean. ...
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View Article  "Sri Aurobindo’s Vision and the 20th Century", a new essay by Rod Hemsell
It is perhaps inevitable, then, that we rewrite Sri Aurobindo, that we revision and rethink his vision as the background of this passing age of scientific and technological hubris, and that we narrate the necessary emergence of the trans-human. ...   more »