Happy Halloween!

I love Halloween. This year I’ll be sporting a mad scientist costume. I thought it would tie in nicely to the fact that I’m a science teacher. I doubt the three-year-olds will get it. I didn’t put too much effort into it this year. There’s been so much going on. I don’t think there’s been more than usual, but it seems like it. And I never got inspired for a creative one.

I did help my best friend make a scuba diver outfit for her and her cousin, which is very cool. She’s using it to get a $2 burrito at Chipotle. (It cost her a lot more than the difference, but that’s not the point).

So have a great Halloween, whether you’re celebrating or not!

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Physics of the Future: Controversial Baby-Making

What I’ve learned from reading Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku:

When we have a baby, and by “we” I mean other people and hopefully not me, we want our baby to be as perfect as possible. We certainly don’t want them to have a genetic defect that will make their life shorter and miserable.

And someday it may be possible to use gene therapy to make several embryos, have them analyzed, and then pick which one the parents actually want to carry to term.

I can see the controversy boiling up about this one. The pro-lifers wouldn’t stand for it. Those two other cells that could become humans deserve life too, right?

I don’t know. I’m not going to argue about it. It is an interesting idea, though, and it could solve a lot of health problems. I’d be interested to hear what other people think.

War and Peace Saturday: Chapters 284-289

So you all are going to laugh at me. I was explaining to a friend why War and Peace is actually a pretty good book–that really just the length is the issue, and she asked me what war it was that’s going on. And I had no idea…

I Googled it. All I’ve come up with is “The French invasion of Russia” and what I will call, the alternate War of 1812.

I really only care to do enough research to get by. Yet I like learning things. But I only have time to learn what is most important, and war history is not one of them.

Anyway, we start with Pierre witnessing some executions. He thinks he is going to be next, but they only intend him to watch to get a lesson. Then he is sent off.

And the big part. The part I couldn’t believe.

Andrew really dies. For real. Unless this is like a soap opera where no one ever is really dead, which it kind of is in some ways, but I don’t think in this way. I till have almost 100 chapters to go, and Andrew won’t be in any of them. He was really the most interesting character. I like some of the others, but without him I have no idea what this book will even be about.

Unless this is the beginning of the winding down of the book. Over the next 76 chapters the characters will begin to wrap up their stories one by one, until every last loose end is tied up for every major and minor character? I guess we’ll just have to see.

Physics of the Future: Genetic Engineering

What I’ve learned from reading Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku:

Our genetic scientists now have the ability to map our individual human genomes. In just a few years it will be affordable for anyone to get their own genome to look for any genetic diseases and anomalies. You will be able to trace your ancestry by looking at a map. Eventually, we may be able to fix the problem genes and erase genetic diseases and problems forever.

Of course, messing around with genes is very controversial. Some current issues with this are cloning, and stem cells. In the future we could give our children “designer genes” to make them smarter and stronger, faster and better. Without limitations, messing around with genes could result in people with wings, tails, horns, or other freakish fantasy-creature mutations. People who fancy themselves as vampires could really engineer some vampiric fangs and strength.

Nature has taken millions of years to make us the way we are, and sure there’ve been some “mistakes,” like Huntington’s, which runs in parts of my family, but Kaku warns that messing around in genetics might have unforseen consequences. Like if we give ourselves a perfect memory we may be too hung up on every little thing that’s gone wrong in the past to function in the present. Maybe we forget things for a reason.

Kaku cautions that there should be limits on genetic engineering, and though giving myself a pair of wings sounds pretty cool, I have to agree.

Physics of the Future: Military Research

What I’ve learned from reading Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku:

A lot of our best research has always been pioneered by the military. The military wants driverless cars as transports, they want robot soldiers, and they want genetic engineering to both protect from and cause genetic warfare. This makes a lot of sense. This research will make it safer for our troops to operate in dangerous places. It will probably make conflicts shorter, at least until the enemy adapts its own response.

Only after the military has made use of the technology does it open up for commercial use. In fact, many of our modern conveniences resulted from both failed and successful military research. What was expensive for the military becomes affordable to us the consumers.

As technology becomes more and more advanced and does more and more of our daily operations for us, though, relying on the military to be the chief innovator can pose a potential problem. The military builds for attack and defense, neither of which could ever be considered “friendly.” As countless sci-fi books and movies have shown us, we do not want out-of-control, sentient killer robots or genetic diseases that wipe out humanity. Kaku predicts that our most-likely future will be filled with “friendly” robots that are there to happily serve us, designed to be purely friendly–and also with easy off switches when things go awry. But this may not be the case if the military is the main creator of our robotic technology.

In America we are so proud of our Capitalism–that individuals can rise up and create the next new big thing. I think we need to start looking toward these individuals for many of our new innovations, at least if we want a more peaceful and less apocalyptic future.

Stars and Why Space is Black

Unfortunately I can’t remember where I read this. I think I followed a link through Twitter. But it was very thought provoking, so I wanted to share.

A question was posed, probably by a child because who else thinks like this: If the stars are so bright and there’s so many millions/billions of them, why don’t they light up the blackness? Why don’t those lights fill in all the spaces so it’s white up there at night and not dark?

And this was the answer given: It probably would be all light up there, except that the speed of light is 299,792,458 m/s, so there are some stars that are so far away that their light hasn’t been able to travel all this way yet. If the universe was compressing, then eventually the sky would be very bright at night, but since it is expanding, it’s actually going to get darker and darker out there. Over time (lots and lots of time) there won’t be as many stars to see up there.

Though I always wonder, if the universe is supposed to be mind-blowingly, infinitely big, then how can it expand. Where is it expanding to? What other place is there for it to expand into? But I think that’s a post for another day.

War and Peace Saturday: Chapters 277-283

Okay, we’ve hopped back to one of the more interesting characters: Nicholas Rostov. And when I say “interesting” I mean that his character is still actively doing things–building his life, changing, growing, etc. Nick is still growing up and maturing, as I predicted. Instead of being excited to fight in the battle of Borodino, he is glad to be sent on a horse purchasing mission to avoid fighting. He goes to this town, has a nice relaxing time flirting with all the women, married and unmarried, until he is told that Mary is there.

He meets with Mary a couple times and is pressured into getting engaged. He wants to get engaged but doesn’t feel free to break his promise with Sonya, so instead of praying for candy to fall from the sky like when he was a kid, he uses his prayers for more useful ends and prays that Sonya will release him from his promise. Then like magic he gets a letter from her saying just that. There! Now his life will be great.

Except Sonya really doesn’t want to release him. His mom has been pressuring her to do it because Mom wants him to marry the rich girl, not the poor girl. The only reason Sonya writes the letter is because she sees that Natasha and Andrew are falling back in love, and if they get married then it will apparently be illegal for the now-legal siblings Sonya and Nicholas to get married. That rule doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but whatever. I can see this backfiring on her. I can see Mom rushing Nick’s wedding, which she heartily approves of, to come before anything can happen between Sonya and Andrew, who she never approved of. But we’ll just have to see.
And that wasn’t all–then we see Pierre on trial of sorts for beating up some soldiers that were beating up a woman and trying to take her things. Pierre really has no idea what’s happening. Nothing he says to anyone is getting him out of trouble, and by the end he’s pretty sure he’s going to be executed. But we’ll have to wait and see what happens next week!