Category Archives: Technology and Society

Sun Outages

From the Risks forum, a submission on sun outages in satellite TV systems. When the receiving antenna, the satellite, and the sun all line up, the satellite signal is swamped by the sun. It’s obvious that this would be a problem once you think about it, but this is the first time I’ve seen consumer level consequences from it. You’d think that cable systems would make a big deal out of this (up to 8 minute outages twice a year), since obviously cable doesn’t have the same issues. As Rand has pointed out many times here and elsewhere, the key to reduced launch costs is markets. Right now satellite TV is doing quite well in competition with cable, but this is a definite competitive disadvantage, which is bad news. The good news is that it’s also a money making opportunity for whoever can figure out how to fix it.

Other items (also here) in the same digest talk about electronic voting machines. We’re entering what is certain to be a nasty campaign, and if things proceed on their current course the results of the election will be tainted by serious problems with electronic voting systems. The last thing America needs in the current global climate is still further internal polarization. Fortunately some smart and dedicated people are working to mitigate the problems, and you can help.

Cryonics Breakthrough?

I just saw a segment on Fox News (Shepherd Smith’s evening show) that said that Greg Fahy is going to announce the ability to restore animal kidneys to full function after freezing them to deep subzero temperatures. I visted Greg in his lab over a decade ago when he was doing organ preservation research for the Red Cross in Rockville, Maryland, and he was doing some breakthrough work with rabbit kidneys then. According to the report, tests with human organs may commence within two years.

The purpose of the research is to make it possible to preserve organs for transplant for longer periods of time, but the implications for making cryonics ever more viable are obvious. Of course, they had to have the usual “scientist” on as a nay sayer. However, they’re having to cling to straws more as time goes on. They used to talk about making cows out of hamburger. Now they’re reduced to saying, “Well, OK, they can do it with a mouse, but that’s a long way from doing it with a human.”

That’s how science progresses, professor.

Oh, and kudos to Fox for using the correct term “cryonics,” rather than cryogenics.

Absurd

The authorities in Lansing just figured out, after only a little over a quarter of a century, that there’s a cryonics facility in Clinton Township, Michigan.

Now, of course, they’ve decided that they have to regulate it, but they don’t know how. They think that it’s a combination mortuary and cemetery (which, for some unexplained reason, can’t both legally be done in the same place). Of course, it’s neither, but they can’t suspend any new patients until it gets sorted out.

[via Howard Lovy]

Desktop Manufacturing

…is getting closer.

Flexonics is still in its infancy, but the technology?s potential raises questions about what it will mean to be a consumer in an era of de-vices-on-demand. You?d no longer pay for a product, Canny says, you?d pay for plans. I look forward then to a generation of do-it-yourself industrial designers, tinkerers who tweak commercial product designs to improve and customize them. How will I access the fruits of their labor? Peer-to-peer plan networks, of course, where designs for blenders and mobile phones and TV remote controls are swapped like so many MP3s.

There was a lively couple of threads here on the ethical implications of this a few weeks ago.