Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Three Ages of Mars

Scientists mapping mineral deposits have concluded that Mars went through three distinct eras: about half a billion years of being warm and wet, followed by a 600 million year period of intense vulcanism, and then three and a half billion years of dry deep-freeze. Was the first era long enough for life to have arisen?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Wild Flavour

I’ve just started in on Karl Taro Greenfield’s China Syndrome, an account of the events surrounding the SARS epidemic of 2003. Not only is it a great account of the detective work that identified the causative agent (albeit slightly wonky on a few of the technical details - he doesn’t quite get how electron microscopes work, for instance), but it’s told from the Chinese perspective, and he has an amazing range of contacts. And framing the story is a wonderful perspective on the explosive free-for-all growth of the Pearl River Delta, the first of China’s Special Economic Zones in the Era of Wild Flavour, that’s as crammed with pumped-up weirdness as any science fiction novel.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Watching You, Watching Me

Is it wrong to think that the implications of this item from The Observer:

Theme park visitors will soon be able to opt for electronic tags which let security cameras record a personalised DVD memento of their day out. Entrants to Alton Towers in Staffordshire will be offered wrist bands containing tiny Radio Frequency Identification chips that will allow them to be watched as they used the park and filmed on rides.
are more than a little sinister?
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