Can We Live Life Without Fossil Fuels?

Fossil fuels are everywhere in our life, they are components of products we use everyday like plastics, they fuel our cars, trucks and other vehicles, and they provide reliable energy to many countries across our globe. But it’s no secret that fossil fuels can’t and wont last us forever, we have a finite amount left and every day it gets more and more finite. To ensure life as we know it continues to last we need to look into alternatives, other renewable sources of energy that we can depend upon. I thought about this topic more in depth after reading this article here, and in the article it describes how Germany has been able to use renewable sources of energy to reliably power their county. At some places they are able to have renewable sources of energy give power To me that only further proves that we can make the shift

Now I wouldn’t want to suggest we should do away with fossil fuels all together, currently it would be impossible it’s such a crucial part to our economy and society in general. But if we are able to shift away at least part of the energy burden fossil fuels hold we would be able to ensure our supply lasts longer, and maybe we will eventually be able to shift away from them all together, keeping them around purely for a back-up. It’s also like this is not a new issue, in the past here in the United States we have faced an oil crisis that had a devastating effect on an entire industry and led to the downward spiral of one of our major cities. This in specific being the oil crisis we faced in the 1970’s where prices went up by 400% leading to many businesses and schools unable to open due to the cost of heating these facilities being too great. As I mentioned it also led to the collapse of our auto industry due to foreign competitors being able to provide much cheaper and fuel efficient vehicles, leading to the downward spiral of Detroit, previously known as the Auto City. So this is a problem we have face before with devastating results and to simply ignore the problem and continue to ignore the opportunities presented would be ridiculous seeing as we are only getting more and more opportunities to make the jump to something new, reliable, and renewable.

NASA’s Chief Scientist Predicts Signs of Alien Life by 2025

You know I’ve talked a lot about space travel, leaving our planet and making another place for ourselves as a species out in the universe, but in all of that I have yet to cover the topic of alien life. Now I’m not talking about if aliens have visited us, as I personally believe if they had come to our planet their presence and visit would be known worldwide while their will be those who will claim the opposite and that it has been covered up but I digress. Now saying that I do personally believe that their is alien life somewhere out there in the universe, using an equation that only covers our visible universe, there is likely to be countless numbers of planets that can hold alien life, some of which may even be sentient as we are. Now I came across this article here where NASA’s chief scientist made the claim that we will discover some signs of alien life within the next 10 years, and have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years. She made this claim saying we are on the verge of discovering alien life, as we know where we need to look and we know how to look for life, adding the point that we have technology that is on the way which will help with the discovery of alien life. The article goes into further depth detailing how there are many habitable environments and how we will look for life beyond our planet.

I however would like to cover the topic of what we would do in the case of discovery of alien life, be it through our own endeavors or because alien decided to visit us first. Now the second option seems quite scary and with top scientists like Stephen Hawking saying it will be similar to what we did to Native Americans or what we do to our ape ancestors. It’s a valid concern to have as we as a species haven’t been know to make the best decision concerning something that’s foreign to us. But Niel deGrasse Tyson in his book “Space Chronicles” address the counter-argument quite well, he says we have know way of knowing how aliens would act towards us if they came to Earth and to use our own experience here doesn’t make sense, they may be completely different from us. He also has a lot of great thoughts and opinions on alien life as we currently perceive it, like how we design them to look human in our popular media, if you’re interested I’d recommend reading his book. However back on topic, there doesn’t seem to be a need for worrying over alien life. Finding it could mean great benefits for us as a species but who knows what can happen, the possibilities are endless.

Editing the Human Genome?

Last week I covered the topic of editing the human genome, and how strides were made in creating new methods of changing the human genome. As I previously stated in my previous blog post scientists have long been able to change the genome of animal embryos but faced an issue when trying to change the genome of human embryos, this issue they faced was that the components they used to change the genome was too large for human embryos, I also briefly covered what I felt the issue genome editing would face. That which is the ethical debate on whether it was right or wrong. Well now it appears we may be closer than ever to editing the human genome, as the scientific world is waiting on a Chinese study which holds the results that may be the first time that a human embryos genome has been changed. Now I found this article that takes the thoughts and opinions of leading genome specialists here in the United States. It also details some of the research and studies regarding the changing of the genome here in the United States, such as trying to make the body less susceptible to HIV and turning off a gene that leads men to be legally blind by the time they are middle aged. Now this article covered the question of ethics in much greater detail than the previous article and that’s what I would like to cover here today.

This article covered two of the important points in the debate of changing the human genome, at least in my opinion. The first point it covered was the general problems people had with changing the genome, such as creating “designer babies”. And the article addressed the counter-argument to that point very well and covers my view of it quite well, they first off stated that “the science is moving faster than the ethics” and that they need to wait and realize they may change humanity in a big way, but they considered it a new form of medical evolution, comparing it to vaccines and antibiotics. And I think they’re right there are so many incurable conditions out there that are directly related to our genes, if we are able to remove that from the human genome than we can erase the existence of it all together. They also addressed the problem of people in the past being forced to be sterilized because of certain views of eugenics, and they responded by saying the choice is up to the parents, they are deciding if they want to ensure their child is going to be healthy. In all while we are making major strides toward changing the human genome forever, we need to take a step back, evaluate the risks and then and only then can we proceed forward.

Taking “Steps” with Exoskeletons

Researchers improve efficiency of human walking

Once again I’d like to revisit a topic that I’ve covered many times before, one that I and likely many others personally believe will change our future as a species. From changing how we work, to how we treat physically debilitating injuries and other such medical issues we face in our current day and age. Once again I’m covering the topic of exoskeletons, this time the device that I’m talking about is much less over the top and doesn’t hold the same amazement factor as others I’ve covered. But none the less this exoskeleton is really making “strides” in the development of exoskeletons. Recently I stumbled across this article here, which discusses a device that has been worked on for many years to improve the efficiency of walking, and surprisingly this hasn’t  been the first attempt to create such a device. Now to go into a little bit of explanation here, the problem wasn’t to build any sort of exoskeleton that could help improve ones ability to walk. The problem that researchers had was to build a lightweight exoskeleton that didn’t require additional power to be put the system of walking. So essentially they wanted to build a device that uses the bodies own mechanics to make this device work and improve the action of walking. If you’re interested the article goes into more depth and even includes a video and several pictures that demonstrate how this device works. But in all it’s a very exciting development.

Now as I have most certainly said before, I’m excited to see new technology being made or worked on that centers around treatment of disease, injury, or any other sort of physical disability. While reading this article it was nice to see that these researchers are centering this device to the betterment of ones lives who now face difficulty walking because of a stroke or another condition that has impeded their ability to walk. Now there are very few technologies, especially when it comes to exoskeletons, that don’t excite me and this simple device is no exception, the simplicity is crazy and the impact this simple device has is even more amazing. I will once again reference the article but, this one pound device, essentially works to make it so while walking you feel as if you have taken ten pounds off your back. And once again the simplicity of this only makes that impact even more amazing, to me at least that signals progress because as technology gets smaller and more simplistic they are also getting better and better. I’m looking forward to seeing the “steps” this device will take us in with the development of new and just amazing exoskeletons.

Getting Closer to Changing our Genes

Our genes, they make each of us different in our own unique way, passed down through familial lines. While science has made strives in changing the genetics of some organisms (GMO’s as they are called) like our crops, such as corn, in order to make them produce more food, be more resistant to disease and pests and in general more reliable. We have yet to make the steps toward genetically modifying humans, until a recent discovery. The article here describes the problem scientists have face with being able to change the genes of humans. Currently they are able to use what they call CRISPR to insert and remove genetic defects in animal embryos but as I understand it two of the components crucial to editing the DNA of the embryos are to large for human embryos. But recently they have discovered the same components that are currently being used in a different gene that is three fourths the size of the one that’s being used. This article goes into greater detail about the problem and the discovery if you are interested, it also briefly covers a big part of the controversy genetic editing is facing regarding its use on human embryos.

It’s that very point in which I am going to cover here. A big part that see’s controversy in genetic editing is the ethics of modifying a embryos genes way before they will ever get a say in the matter. Personally I feel there is a lot of good that can be done with genetic modification, already there is use to further insure the safety of our food supply, with GMO’s, and we can already see that scientists are able to remove genetic defects from animal embryos. But on the other side of the argument good points are being made, with concerns over the possible downfalls of genetic editing that we haven’t seen yet, and the ethics of changing who someone is without being able to ask for their consent. With the first point at least I can agree with the most, we should be cautious and know the outcomes and the downsides of genetic editing before this becomes a readily available procedure. With the second point I see some fault, now if we are discussing parents changing the genes of the child purely so they will have a different eye color I can agree it becomes unethical at that point, but when it comes to removing a genetic defect and giving that child a normal life I personally can only see good in that. But we are still a ways off and there will be plenty of time to discuss and think about this new problem we will eventually face

Becoming the “Forgotten Century” Due to Digitization?

When we think about technology we think about all the good it has done for us, its streamlined many things in our daily lives, it allows people to be more connected to the world than ever before, its saved lives through bettering our health-care, and its made our files and history more secure and accessible than ever before. Or has it? I mean storing your files pictures, or other important information is going to last and be much more secure on a computer or some other digitized storage device right? You’re much less likely to lose it and it’ll be around for as long as you need it to right? Well as it turns out, digitization may just end up creating whats being called a “Lost Century” by making large parts of our history inaccessible because of the way the files were stored have become outdated. This article here goes into much more depth about the problems we will face with digitization and losing important files and part of our history. It does also mention some solutions that are being worked on and the problems that face those solutions, but it does still focus on the fact that if things don’t change much of our history will be lost forever in the future.

In this day and age we generally don’t think of this as a big issue, sure you may forget where you saved a certain file or what not but you know that you have it and unless you decided to delete it the file is always going to be there. And in general I would find that to be true, currently I feel my files and information are much more secure and accessible digitally than physically. While it may be a problem to some, as well as myself in the future, I personally don’t have a problem with files becoming inaccessible, by the time it would reach that point the file typically would have no more use and would likely be deleted anyway. But I do see the problem that some would have, such as companies needing to keep important documents around for a long time and other situations like that. But I find this to be the interesting situation to think about, in my experience and as I’ve said before most people feel their files and personal info is quite secure and can last forever digitally. It’s nice to get a wake up call to tell us if we want to be remembered we need to make some changes.

Is Mars One Destined for Failure?

In the past I posted a blog regarding the Mars One project and eventual mission, and like many others I was excited to see humanity branching out and attempting to make colonies on other planets, trying to preserve our future as a race, but unfortunately there has been some news to come out that the whole thing may just be an elaborate sham more or less. In a recent interview with one of the candidates who is a finalist in the selection process as well as a former NASA researcher, and holds a Ph.D in physics and astrophysics. He reviled many issues surrounding the project including; funding, a lack of a plan, not following through with the plan they do have and so on. If you’d like to read more into it you can find the interview here, and I found it to be a very interesting to learn about all the flaws in the plan, but it was quite disheartening as well. Like I said I was very excited to hear about humanity branching out into our solar system and making a place for us in our solar system, and I don’t think we should stop being excited for the prospect. Even though this project/mission, if the finalist is telling the truth, will likely fail it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t support endeavors such as these in the future, I think we just need to be more skeptical and look into these projects and make sure they are the real deal before we even begin to start supporting them. We still have a very promising future for space travel and expansion off of our planet and into the solar system, but we need to encourage and support these ideas and projects, and I think we are on our way even with projects that are likely to fail like the Mars One mission. We have seen a massive expansion in space travel, with private companies like SpaceX looking for ways to better take us into space, now I find it crazy that we can see stories about space travel that aren’t linked to government funded organizations. And to me that’s very showing of the strives we are making in pushing ourselves past Earth and into our solar system to make another place for ourselves. So while there are destined to be failures along the way, space travel will be the future for humanity and I for one am looking forward to it.