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Submission + - Why Did The Stars Wars And Star Trek Worlds Turn Out So Differently? writes: In the Star Trek world there is virtual reality, personal replicators, powerful weapons, and, it seems, a very high standard of living for most of humanity while in Star Wars there is widespread slavery, lots of people seem to live at subsistence, and eventually much of the galaxy falls under the Jedi Reign of Terror. Why the difference? Tyler Cowen writes about some of the factors differentiating the world of Star Wars from that of Star Trek: 1) The armed forces in Star Trek seem broadly representative of society. Compare Uhura, Chekhov, and Sulu to the Imperial Storm troopers. 2) Captains Kirk and Picard do not descend into true power madness, unlike various Sith leaders and corrupted Jedi Knights. 3) In Star Trek, any starship can lay waste to a planet, whereas in Star Wars there is a single, centralized Death Star and no way to oppose it, implying stronger checks and balances in the world of Star Trek. 4) Star Trek embraces egalitarianism, namely that all humans consider themselves part of the same broader species. There is no special group comparable to the Jedi or the Sith, with special powers in their blood. 5) Star Trek replicators are sufficiently powerful it seems slavery is highly inefficient in that world.

Submission + - The physics and technological anatomy of fireworks

StartsWithABang writes: When gunpowder was first invented more than 1,000 years ago by mixing activated carbon (charcoal), sulfur and potassium nitrate together, its first major application was to the development of fireworks. By combining four simple elements – a launch, a fuse, a burst charge and ignitable stars – the most spectacular explosive shows could be produced. Yet the design of each stage only works with the proper understanding of the science behind it, and in particular, of the physics underlying it all. To get the right height, shape, size and color for your firework, you have to master each component of each stage. And yet, the science enables us to do exactly that!

Submission + - Stop bashing GMO food, say 109 Nobel laureates ( 3

ArmoredDragon writes: GMO has been somewhat of a controversial issue given that groups such as Greenpeace have lobbied hard against the technology. However a recent NY Times piece which details the opinion of 109 Nobel laureates who have offered their support of GMO:

“Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production,” the group of laureates wrote. “There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity.”

As an echo to that comment, one of the key benefits of GMO is increased crop yield, which means a reduced need for deforestation to make way for farmland. GMO food such as Golden Rice, which improves the micronutrient content of rice, and Low Acrylamide Spuds, which are potatoes engineered to have reduced carcinogen content compared to their natural counterparts, can possibly solve many health problems that are inherent with consuming non-GMO produce. And for those concerned about patent related issues, many of these patents have recently expired, which means anybody can freely grow them and sell the seeds without the need to pay any royalties.


Lasers Approach Their Ultimate Intensity Limit 384

Flash Modin writes "Death Star style superlasers? Don't bet on it. High-power lasers currently in development appear to be nearing the theoretical laser intensity limit, according to new research set to be published in the journal Physical Review Letters. Ultra-high-energy laser fields can actually convert their light into matter as shown in the late '90s at the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC). This process creates an 'avalanche-like electromagnetic cascade' (also known as sparking the vacuum) capable of destroying a laser field. Physicists thought it might be a problem for lasers eventually, but this work indicates the technology is much closer to its limit than researchers believed. A preprint is available here."
Social Networks

Sharing the Perseids With #Meteorwatch 55

astroengine writes "The Perseid meteor shower is just beginning as the Earth passes through the dusty trail left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle. The meteor count is set to peak on Aug. 12. In a grand social media experiment, a guy (in a shed) located in the south of the UK is restarting #Meteorwatch, a Twitter-based community of shooting star observers. Last year, during the Geminid meteor shower, thousands of 'virtual observers' participated, making this one of the largest astronomy gatherings of its kind. With some new gadgets and a Hollywood-style #Meteorwatch trailer at his disposal, Adrian West is spending many sleepless nights counting meteors with the rest of the world." It's too bad it doesn't get dark until after my kid's bed time. In another year or two, I really am looking forward to exposing him to the Perseids.

Feed Sea Snails Break The Law (

Lizards gave rise to legless snakes. Cave fishes don't have eyeballs. In evolution, complicated structures often get lost. Dollo's Law states that complicated structures can't be re-evolved because the genes that code for them were lost or have mutated. A group of sea snails breaks Dollo's law, according to scientists.

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