Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Dear Elon: We should broadcast our DNA into space

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 30, 2022 by daviddiel
Elon Musk has said that we must become an interplanetary species. This appeals to an existential motivation that should concern us all, because it is almost certain that Earth will be engulfed by our sun eventually. It would be tragic if human and animal kind were to be wiped out without having made a serious attempt to export the life and culture of our planet to other planets. So, what can we do about it?

Mars is the best alternative planet in our solar system, but it is clearly not well suited to support lifeforms from Earth. You wouldn't want to live there. Even if we were to start terraforming it by introducing carefully tailored microbes that could survive and start to produce a habitable atmosphere over time, the process could take millions of years.

If we look to the nearest potentially habitable destination planets, they are extremely far away, at least ten light years away. Even at speeds of transport at the extreme edge of today's technology, it would take around a hundred thousand years to get to the nearest one. The chances of human survival for so many generations on a self-sustaining spaceship are negligible. Though it is hard to accept, humans cannot transport physical lifeforms to other galaxies on vehicles as imagined in Star Trek or Star Wars.

Our best bet for becoming an interplanetary species is to broadcast human and animal DNA for other intelligent lifeforms to discover and assemble on their own planet. If and when we discover how to do the assembly ourselves, and to grow life in artificial wombs, then we could also broadcast detailed instructions to replicate that process.

Recently, some scientists have published an update to the Arecibo message that was broadcast in 1974. Their proposed message contains some important concepts that build up to describing the four nucleobases of DNA, but it stops short of sending a specific DNA sequence that could enable the reproduction of a human or animal on the destination planet.

Humans are much less likely to be able to travel across the galaxy in physical form than we are of being able to broadcast our DNA and a full set of instructions to grow a human in the form of a radio message. Even though we cannot replicate ourselves in this way currently, the timeline for that is on the order of a hundred years.

This plan assumes that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe to receive our message. In fact, we probably will need to target our transmission at one planetary system at a time in order to send it with enough energy to get there. These factors reduce the probability of success and extend the timeline to success, but they are still more likely to work than physical space travel.

I think that we should prioritize DNA broadcast over trips to Mars.

Algorand will be a big deal

Posted in Uncategorized on November 5, 2018 by daviddiel

Algorand is blockchain technology at its core, but without the energy-draining computation of Bitcoin. It’s going to be a big deal.

Creative Collaboration

Posted in Uncategorized on March 4, 2016 by daviddiel
I searched the web for a succinct summary of how to do creative collaboration, and many articles addressed the subject in parts. They often went in depth regarding the team, the process, or the tools. Here, I put together my notes.
No team is perfect, but here are some key characteristics of successful teams:
  • Has a history together or shared motivation that keeps them united when the going gets tough.
  • Agrees to leave personal ego at the door. Instead of “Listen to me because I make the best decisions.” try “How can we merge our ideas?”
  • Agrees to avoid personal attacks (i.e. “You’re unqualified. You’re stupid. You don’t get it.”).
  • Agrees to a structure with roles, whether hierarchical or peer to peer.
  • Chooses a process and a set of tools and agrees to use them throughout.
The process should include one or more time frames for each of the following:
  • Defining high level objectives, criteria for success, and deadlines.
  • Individual research, day dreaming and deliberation.
  • All parties are given a chance to express their ideas, which should be recorded.
  • Open critique of ideas, focusing on the promotion of ideas that achieve objectives and satisfy constraints over those that do not.
  • Practicing group synthesis (working together on an unfinished product).
  • Tests and checks, which result in either validation or contingency plans.
Some projects do not require sophisticated tools, but others do. Here are some features to think about:
  • Do you need to store text, images, structured data?
  • The simplest structure is a list, then a tree, and the most general structure is a linked network.
  • A revision or rollback feature is the key to refining and organizing intermediate results, because nothing will be lost. Google provides some of the most widely accessible free tools with this feature.
  • A system for meta comments and ratings can be helpful if there are many collaborators or customers to provide feedback.

The future of links in publications

Posted in Uncategorized on December 14, 2011 by daviddiel

It’s pretty cool that WolframAlpha can provide plots and explanations given an input in one of several formatted string notations. In the future, I hope that this concept is expanded to provide greater depth of understanding to academic publications through embedded links. Ideally, several recommendations would be auto-generated for the author, who would choose which ones to include in the paper. This could go a long way toward making academic publications easier to understand.

It’s not about money

Posted in Uncategorized on November 23, 2011 by daviddiel

In my opinion, the institution of negative externality is the root of all evil.

AT&T One Time Charge for Upgrade Fee

Posted in Money, Uncategorized on November 11, 2011 by daviddiel

If you upgrade to a new smartphone from AT&T, then an $18 One Time Charge for Upgrade Fee will magically appear on your next bill without warning or explanation. AT&T must have forgotten to advertise this, so let’s help them out by spreading the word.

Solving the current unemployment problem in the US

Posted in Uncategorized on April 14, 2011 by daviddiel

Here’s how we can solve the unemployment problem people. Everybody ask your employer for one day off from work every other week, and take 90% of your former salary and benefits.

The idea is a synthesis of Keynes, Hazlitt, and my own experience.

Keynes would observe that the US has a production glut and/or consumption deficit in most sectors except medical (in which unemployment is not a problem). However, the Keynesian solution of increasing money supply to stimulate consumption increases welfare dependency, militarism, and trade imbalances while devaluing the dollar.

Hazlitt would observe the problem of inefficient production and/or markets. His solution might be to reduce welfare and offer education and job placement programs, possibly focusing on the medical field. However, the pressure of “he who does not work, neither shall he eat” would have cruel consequences during the 5-10 year transition period.

On a microeconomic scale, I see an imbalance between the overworked and the unemployed. Due to the recession, employers are pressuring their workers to do more in less time. Some encourage unpaid vacations, which solves cash flow problems for for the individual employer, but is probably not helping the economy at large. However, when overworked employees initiate a 10% proportional reduction of hours and wages, the overall effect is an increase in job openings (or reduction of layoffs). In addition, many of the stressed out workers would be more productive during their working days, and most importantly, they would create a day for exploring alternative entrepreneurial ideas.

I am already practicing what I’m preaching, and have doubled down, taking off every Wednesday for 80% of my former salary. My employer is happy, and I am absolutely loving it.

I tried neti pot

Posted in Uncategorized on November 11, 2009 by daviddiel

No, it’s not something you smoke. A neti pot is a container with a spout used to pour salt water through your nasal passage.

I have been using one recently, and now I breathe clearly through both nostrils, and I smell all sorts of things that I had missed before. It is easy to do it improperly and cause pain or lose the benefits, so I recommend this one, both for its extensive instruction manual, and its quality of construction.

Neti pot from HealthE Goods