Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book: Year Million: Science at the Far Edge of Knowledge

(2008, editor Damien Broderick)

Here are fourteen essays by leading scientists and science writers who were asked to predict the look of human existence come the year one-million. Their responses are consistent: The task is impossible but the exercise in trying provides a remarkable wealth of material to ponder for those more interested in the question, who are we, than who will win American Idol. They write with generous restraint, allowing the reader to ponder ramifications and ask the big questions for themselves.

Dougal Dixon's non-partisan perspectives on carbon dioxide cycles bring some clarity to the contentious global warming arena. Wil McCarthy's handling of matters concerning the rarity of life and of intelligent life and the scope of cosmic time and distance are of critical relevance to the alien question. Journalist Jim Holt delves into the nature of mathematics. Fundamental reality or human invention?

Amara D. Angelica explores the digital and analog natures of all things and probes the inherent compatibility of computers, human beings and galaxies while Robert Bradbury and Rudy Rucker "debate" the eventual restructuring of star systems into inhabitable super computers versus the eventual rejection of computers as humans meld with the computation of nature itself.

For those with a view to the parasitic nature of mankind's dominance over the earth, beware of Robin Hanson's treatment on the plausibility and rapidity of space colonization.

Dr. Steven B. Harris's insights into evolution leave apparent the gaping flaws in any notion of grand design theory while he, Pamela Sargent and Anne Corwin delve into biological science and technology, promoting an inevitable confrontation with polymorphability and immortality. Meanwhile Sean M. Carroll, Gregory Benford and George Zebrowski arouse the greatest life-or-death question of all, exploring the troubling matter of entropy and the fate of the universe.

A brilliant collection.

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