The SGU Cutting Room Floor (August 5, 2014)
SGU Episode 473 is in the archives, but getting there always means leaving “casualties” behind, and by casualties, I mean some news items which we couldn’t squeeze into our 80-minute time allotment. Here are a few of the items which hit The SGU cutting room floor.
Just what are these powerful radio wave bursts coming from space? And that more than one radio telescope has detected bursts makes it all the more intriguing. “From the article at NPR: There’s a report of a burst detected at the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. Lorimer says several more reports of detections will soon be showing up in the scientific literature. As you would imagine, there’s been lots of speculation about what’s behind these mysterious bursts. Some astronomers think they’re caused by blitzars, pulses of energy from a supermassive star collapsing into a black hole. Others think they may be caused by power solar flares coming from stars nearer by.”
We are all familiar with the famous psychological experiment about the trolley car problem (2 choices; run over 1 person or 5 people?) From the article in The Atlantic: “one group of researchers thinks it might be time to retire the trolley. In an upcoming paper that will be published in Social and Personality Psychology Compass, Christopher Bauman of the University of California, Irvine, Peter McGraw of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and others argue that the dilemma is too silly and unrealistic to be applicable to real-life moral problems. Therefore, they contend, it doesn’t tell us as much about the human condition as we might hope.”
Stand back! A new world record for electrical current was set in Japan. From the article in Science Daily: “The National Institute for Fusion Science (NIFS), of the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) in Japan, has achieved an electrical current of 100,000 amperes, which is by far the highest in the world, by using the new idea of assembling the state-of-the-art yttrium-based high-temperature superconducting tapes to fabricate a large-scale magnet conductor.”
Is there a space between life and death which scientists are able to widen? Is hypothermic suspension a means to that end? Perhaps, however, This New Republic article has some choice words to say about cryonics: “…cryogenic preservation is not cryonic preservation. Cryonics is the freezing and storing of the dead—or usually just their heads, because of the cost—in the hope that future breakthroughs will make resurrection possible. People who buy and sell cryonic services traffic in magical thinking, not science. In all probability, cryonically pickled brains have already turned to mush.”