Tuesday, June 22, 2010

BBC Focus: The "Would-be" Future Investigated

So, I'm back again (finally...) to writing, after another long delay which I cannot properly explain. But let's not dwell on the past, which is kind of ironic since this post will be about a magazine that was published a year ago. Whilst reading this mag again after a year, I noticed that not a single announced invention ( such as an universal charger compatible for all types of phones) was available commercially nowadays. This strikes as one more proof that after the great boom in technologies (20th century: internet, television etc.), our civilization has become stagnant, too enveloped in developing known devices instead of thinking outside the box. 

Who needs a new and revised version of an iPhone for the 4th time? (http://www.apple.com/iphone/) Who will pay the extra 200 dollars for a slightly larger screen, a better video camera and graphics? The impulsive buyer that's who. Those who spend money on the "newest" devices with only fashion in their minds who will throw these electronics away as soon as a more flashier model was available. I have tried through my whole life not to become one of these people. Never have I bought a product on its official release date. Even if a product becomes obsolete in its primary functions (which is happening quite regularly in the 21st Century), I always try to find a secondary use for it.  I admit that I did buy an iPod Touch as soon as it came out. I do however mark this as an exception. For me the iPod Touch is one of the greatest inventions in the last decade even if it is a commercialized product with a very high retail price. However it is of the utmost importance that this is regarded as an exception. Most of the laptops and hand-helds being released nowadays are almost and I stress the word almost exact copies those available a month or year ago. Large companies and multi-nationals have been quite effective for some time in promoting their products through various advertising techniques which attract the higher income consumers very easily.

Further on I read something that amazes me still : 
"Work has begun on Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport. The facility is being built in the New Mexico desert and work is due to be completed in 18 months time"
 It was hard for me to believe thiswas actually true a year ago but I accepted it blindly. And now, it's been 12 months and I have not heard, seen or read a single word about this proposed spaceport. Just to be clear, I read a lot of different news magazines so I am sure that I did not miss it.

One of my favorites however must be the solar powered airplane: 
"A team of european engineers are taking a completely different approach to aircraft pollution by designing a plane that can fly day and night using only solar power"
 The idea was very positive and full of merits. While reading I wished them all the best luck. It also said that in 2010 the first test flight would be conducted. Another bit of news that probably slipped the papers.

From where do all these projects come and to where do they go after being announced? Most likely they get cancelled because of financial problems or the magazine itself may be reporting a project that is still in its planning stages unaware that some readers such as myself will remember the edition a year later. All in all I have discovered a valuable piece of information from this magazine. Do not trust every single article in every single science review. You do however have to trust my view on science.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

BBC Focus: The World's Greatest Paradoxes

I'm all tired out from my exams. Although I had to study for 3 months straight, I am filled with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Not everyone could keep to the books throughout such a long period and then benefit from it. At least, I hope the results will be good! As much as I'd love to keep on talking about this, I have a post to do, so I'll get on with it.

What in fact is a paragraph? According to Wikipedia, my primary source of information in the Internet, a paradox is a statement or group of statements that leads to a contradiction or a situation which defies intuition. Yes, quite an adequate definition in my opinion. A paradox can be both right and wrong depending on how you look at it. A classic example is the Liar's paradox which involves the use of the statement: "This sentence is false". If this statement is considered true then it is also false. It does require a higher level of thinking, probably philosophical but the more I think about it the more it makes sense. 

Focus however, has a much less deep view of paradoxes. Most of those described affect our daily lives. The most interesting one of all is Murphy's law: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong". Haven't we all heard it's effects: if toast tumbles off a table, will it fall butter-side down? Although we can try to make an experiment out of this (not recommended during breakfast if you're hungry) the law itself cannot be proven. If the process of proving the law can go wrong then it will go wrong meaning we can never assume that it is either wrong or right. I still cannot believe that I'm able to think so philosophically. Amazing really...

Some other paradoxes are right in front of us even though we don't realize it. If for example a government builds more roads to ease traffic congestion, it will in fact increase it. As taxes increase, the less money a government receives. And most mysteriously of all less complex organisms such as the amoeba have 100 times the DNA that we humans possess!

All these and many more intricate paradoxes await us in the 21st century. As the human race grows and develops we can expect many more unanswerable questions and doubts lying in wait. Times are changing. Technology is evolving faster than ever before in human history. It is only natural that some things remain in the shadows waiting for the right moment to be discovered.

Robert Matthews