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Posts Tagged ‘Arno Penzias

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic”*…

In the 1930s, ATT was rolling out dial phones to the American public…

This short subject newsreel was shown in movie theaters the week before a town’s or region’s telephone exchange was to be converted to dial service. It’s extremely short—a little over a minute, like a PSA. The film concisely explains how to use a dial telephone, including how to dial, how to recognize dial tone, and how to recognize a busy signal…

For a look into the then-future (the now present), fast forward just over 50 years, to the early 90s and to ATT’s predictions…

More in ATT Tech Channel.

[TotH to @BoingBoing for a pointer to the first video]

* Arthur C. Clarke (a 1976 interview with whom is in the Tech Channel trove)

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As we ponder progress, we might send , ATT-related birthday greetings to Robert Woodrow Wilson; he was born on this date in 1936.  An astronomer, he detected– with Bell Labs colleague Arno Penzias– cosmic microwave background radiation: “relic radiation”– that’s to say, the “sound “– of the Big Bang…. familiar to those of old enough to remember watching an old-fashioned television after the test pattern was gone (when there was no broadcast signal received): the “fuzz” we saw and the static-y sounds we heard, were the “relic radiation” being picked up.

Their 1964 discovery earned them the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics.

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“It is unnatural in a large field to have only one shaft of wheat, and in the infinite Universe only one living world”*…

One indication of advanced alien life could be industrial pollution. Therefore, the presence of gases such as nitrogen dioxide might serve as a technosignature that we could detect on exoplanets. (Courtesy: NASA/Jay Freidlander) [source]

NASA’s top scientists have a provocative message for the scientific community: that they need a plan in place for if — or when — we find evidence of extraterrestrial life…

James Green, the agency’s chief scientist, coauthored a new article, published in the journal Nature, urging researchers to create a framework for reporting evidence of aliens. In it, the authors stressed the importance of clearly communicating any findings of extraterrestrial life, as well as establishing clear expectations for the public for when it occurs and accurately expressing ambiguity in early evidence.

“As life-detection objectives become increasingly prominent in space sciences, it is essential to open a community dialogue about how to convey information in a subject matter that is diverse, complicated and has a high potential to be sensationalized,” read the paper.

Green and his co-authors propose a confidence of life detection (CoLD) scale to help evaluate any evidence that might be discovered. The scale itself contains seven different levels like a staircase. Each level is a benchmark that must be met before we can proceed to the next step. 

For example, level one would be discovering life signatures such as biological molecules. The second level would be ruling out that the sign of life is the result of contamination from Earth. Eventually, the CoLD scale ends with the final step: scientists declaring that they’ve confidently discovered evidence of extraterrestrial life. 

“Having a scale like this will help us understand where we are in terms of the search for life in particular locations, and in terms of the capabilities of missions and technologies that help us in that quest,” Green said in a NASA news release

The paper’s authors stress that the scale is merely a starting point for a larger conversation with scientists and science communicators about the best ways to proceed if and when we discover evidence of alien life. 

It also comes in the context of the upcoming launch of the powerful James Webb telescope, along with the Perseverance Mars rover searching for life on the Red Planet, meaning that such a finding might become a reality sooner rather than later. 

“The search for life beyond Earth requires broad participation from the scientific community and many kinds of observations and experiments,” Mary Voltek, co-author of the study and head of NASA’s Astrobiology Program, said in the release. “Together, we can be stronger in our efforts to look for hints that we are not alone.”

NASA Says We Need a Plan for When We Discover Alien Life,” from @futurism.

As to what we’ll do with that knowledge, a complicating factor: “94% of the universe’s galaxies are permanently beyond our reach” (if the speed of light remains an upper limit on travel).

Metrodorus of Chios

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As we search far and wide, we might send enduring birthday greetings to Sir Hermann Bondi; he was born on this date in 1919. A mathematician and cosmologist, he is best remembered for developing the steady state model of the universe with Fred Hoyle and Thomas Gold as an alternative to the Big Bang theory. In an attempt to explain the paradox: how can the stars continually recede, yet without disappearing, they audaciously proposed an unproven hypothesis: that the universe has an eternal existence, with no beginning and without an end. Further, they argued, the universe is continuously expanding, maintaining a constant density by continually creating new matter from energy. Their model was rendered obsolete when, in 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson detected a background microwave radiation from all directions in space, as predicted by the “Big Bang” theory of creation that is now accepted. [See here for more on Penzias’ and Wilson’s discovery.)

Bondi also contributed to the theory of general relativity; was the first to analyze the inertial and gravitational interaction of negative mass; and the first to explicate correctly the nature of gravitational waves.

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“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”*…

If you wanted to hear the future in late May, 1968, you might have gone to Abbey Road to hear the Beatles record a new song of John Lennon’s—something called “Revolution.” Or you could have gone to the decidedly less fab midtown Hilton in Manhattan, where a thousand “leaders and future leaders,” ranging from the economist John Kenneth Galbraith to the peace activist Arthur Waskow, were invited to a conference by the Foreign Policy Association. For its fiftieth anniversary, the F.P.A. scheduled a three-day gathering of experts, asking them to gaze fifty years ahead. An accompanying book shared the conference’s far-off title: “Toward the Year 2018”…

More amazing than science fiction,” proclaims the cover, with jacket copy envisioning how “on a summer day in the year 2018, the three-dimensional television screen in your living room” flashes news of “anti-gravity belts,” “a man-made hurricane, launched at an enemy fleet, [that] devastates a neutral country,” and a “citizen’s pocket computer” that averts an air crash. “Will our children in 2018 still be wrestling,” it asks, “with racial problems, economic depressions, other Vietnams?”

Much of “Toward the Year 2018” might as well be science fiction today. With fourteen contributors, ranging from the weapons theorist Herman Kahn to the I.B.M. automation director Charles DeCarlo, penning essays on everything from “Space” to “Behavioral Technologies,” it’s not hard to find wild misses. The Stanford wonk Charles Scarlott predicts, exactly incorrectly, that nuclear breeder reactors will move to the fore of U.S. energy production while natural gas fades. (He concedes that natural gas might make a comeback—through atom-bomb-powered fracking.) The M.I.T. professor Ithiel de Sola Pool foresees an era of outright control of economies by nations—“They will select their levels of employment, of industrialization, of increase in GNP”—and then, for good measure, predicts “a massive loosening of inhibitions on all human impulses save that toward violence.” From the influential meteorologist Thomas F. Malone, we get the intriguing forecast of “the suppression of lightning”—most likely, he figures, “by the late 1980s.”

But for every amusingly wrong prediction, there’s one unnervingly close to the mark…

Those uncannily-accurate predictions, and their backstories, at “The 1968 book that tried to predict the world of 2018.”

* Søren Kierkegaard

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As we ponder posterity, we might send static-y birthday greetings to Robert Woodrow Wilson; he was born on this date in 1936.  An astronomer, he detected– with Bell Labs colleague Arno Penzias– cosmic microwave background radiation: “relic radiation”– that’s to say, the “sound “– of the Big Bang.  Their 1964 discovery earned them the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 10, 2018 at 1:01 am

…It tolled for us…

From the folks at Lucent, a nostalgic music video celebrating the contributions of Bell Labs– a facility unique in America history.  The nation’s premier research facility for several decades, it was the hatching ground of radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser, information theory, the UNIX operating system, and the C programming language; work completed there earned six Nobel Prizes.

With the breakup of ATT in 1984, stewardship of the Lab passed to Lucent, and the role of Lab began to change.  By August of 2008, Alcatel-Lucent announced that it was puling out of basic research altogether, to focus exclusively on more immediately marketable applications; the Bell Labs celebrated in the video is gone.

But its gifts to knowledge and society survive.  Indeed, it’s surely fair to observe that, without work done there, it wouldn’t be possible to for your correspondent to be pelting readers with daily missives via the internet.

As we listen to the background noise of the universe (for the discovery of which, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of Bell Labs won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics), we might take a celebratory trip in honor of Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian  explorer and anthropologist who became famous for his Kon-Tiki  Expedition in 1947 (though he went on many others as well); he was born on this date in 1914…  He once responded to an interviewer, “Borders? I have never seen one. But I have heard they exist in the minds of most people.”

Thor Heyerdahl

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