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Tag: The Future

Hello, The Black Laser? Are you there?

How’s it going, old friend? It’s been a while.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this site recently. The Black Laser has been sitting here, untouched, for more than a year and that seems like a real shame to me. Over the years I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into this site. It’s been a repository for my rambling thoughts, a place to promote whatever random projects I’ve been working on, a place where I shared crap from the internet that I was really enjoying.

But life and work conspired to distract me from keeping the pace up here. As I moved forward in my career, the amount of headspace at the end of the day to write and be creative diminished. Then I got married and the extra hours I used to spend staring at the new post page on the WordPress backend shifted to being spent with my super rad wife. These are non-problem problems, obviously. The root of the matter is that the hours I used to spend digging around and writing here are different now. I am different now. That’s what happens. I opened The Black Laser in November 2008 and here we are in March 2015 thinking about an old friend we haven’t spoken to in a while. It doesn’t need to be that way. The Black Laser isn’t dead. It has just been sleeping for a while.

Ultimately, it feels like a true tragedy to let The Black Laser drift off into some sort of pathetic oblivion, yet another untended to blog clogging up the tubes. I don’t want to do that. I like to think you don’t want to do that. So let’s not let that happen.

Here are the things I think need to change to breathe some new life into this place.

It needs a new design.

We’ve been using TBL2.0 since 2011. That is basically forever in internet time. Forever!! The theme is old and no longer standards-compliant. In 2011 when redesigning this place I was not at all worried about whether or not the site read well on a smart phone. Who read things on smart phones? Steve fucking Jobs? Not me. Well, that has changed completely. Everybody reads everything on their smart phones and tablets and thingies and thingers. Time to get with the now.

Also this white type on black background shit has got to go. What was I thinking?

The type and quality of posts need to change.

As fun as it was to post random music videos and whatever back in the day, there are better ways to get and share that sort of content now. Those posts were easy, cheap ways to keep the post count moving upward, and it was always nice to have a backlog of cool crap I could unleash at folks. But I don’t need that. In retrospect, those posts really watered down the effectiveness of this site as a device for sharing brain pieces. They are a nice little break from things you actually have to read, but only once in a while. They were too frequent. A crutch for not thinking of real content.

Additionally I no longer take very many photos. They were a big part of this site once, but there is little reason to stay set-up to share them easily since I no longer need to share things I am not creating. I might start taking photos again one day in the future, but not soon. I’ve got a lot of feelings about the photo thing which I am happy to explore in a later post in more depth. Not here.

A refocus on the purpose for The Black Laser.

As alluded above, The Black Laser serves a few real purposes.

  1. To keep me writing.
  2. As a sort of public journal.
  3. To share the things I am working on.

These have always been the backbone of the site, even when I didn’t have much to share in any of the categories. This is the content I want to focus on. While thinking about the future of this site, I’ve been calling TBL3.0 the TL;DR version of the site: lots of text, way fewer videos and filler posts, fewer posts in general, but (hopefully) higher quality in the stuff I do post. More words! Better posts! Surprises! It is going to be super great.

The Black Laser makes me feel good. Time spent making things here never feels poorly spent. Most of the quiet times of the past 6 and a half years were spent thinking of things to share. That is a lot of time over a lot of years. And I finally feel ready to come back to it and fill your eyeballs with my words. No, that’s not quite right. “Fill” is too passive of a verb.

I am going to force my words into your brain and you are going to love it.

Quantum levitation

I know, I know. You’ve seen this. I’m slow to the party. But you know what? You can go to hell. This is too awesome not to put on The Black Laser.


It’s Okay to Be Smart has a description of how it works:

What you start with is an inert disc, in this case a crystal sapphire wafer. That wafer is then coated with a superconductor called yttrium barium copper oxide. When superconductors get very cold (like liquid nitrogen cold) they conduct electricity with no loss of energy, which normal conducting materials like copper can’t do.

Superconductors hate magnetic fields (when cold enough), and normally would just repel the magnetic force and float in a wobbly fashion. But because the superconductor is so thin in this case, tiny imperfections allow some magnetic forces through. These little magnetic channels are called flux tubes:

The flux tubes cause the magnetic field to be “locked” in all three dimensions, which is why the disk remains in whatever position it starts in, levitating around the magnets.

Drier explanations here and here.

Charles sent me this video the other day and the thing we started talking about immediately was whether or not the floating would decay over time or if the super cooled slug would just fall when it warmed up so much that it was no longer able to maintain the quantum lock. And then we recognized that we were total nerds, but you knew that already, didn’t you?

What did NASA find?!?!

As Space Pope, I am privy to all that takes place in the universe. It’s my job to be aware of goings on and such like, but I have made an arrangement with your humble earth scientists at NASA (so primitive!) not to reveal what they’ve discovered until they have a chance to wow the human race on Friday afternoon (afternoon! How parochial! There’s no afternoon in space!).

They’ve sent out this press release.

Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington

Cathy Weselby
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Nov. 29, 2010


NASA Sets News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery; Science Journal Has Embargoed Details Until 2 p.m. EST On Dec. 2

WASHINGTON — NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.

The news conference will be held at the NASA Headquarters auditorium at 300 E St. SW, in Washington. It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency’s website at

Participants are:
– Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
– Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.
– Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
– Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla.
– James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe

Media representatives may attend the conference or ask questions by phone or from participating NASA locations. To obtain dial-in information, journalists must send their name, affiliation and telephone number to Steve Cole at or call 202-358-0918 by noon Dec. 2.

For NASA TV streaming video and downlink information, visit:

For more information about NASA astrobiology activities, visit:

– end –

What can it mean, humans!? What did they find out there in the dark nether regions of the void, which is, of course, not a void, but filled with dark matter and the Great Destroyer’s consciousness?

Tune in Friday at 2 (-5 GMT!) to find out! And remember, this is the year we make contact.

Has it ever occurred to you that we live in the future?

I was reading an article on Ars.Technica about some progress being made in the methods by which data are written to a hard disk. Currently, hard disk manufacturers have hit a plateau in data density on a disk. That is, because hard drives are physical objects, data require physical space on them. There’s a reason you can’t fit hundreds of billions of petabytes on the 2.5″ hard disk in your laptop: there just isn’t enough physical space. A few years ago, they developed perpendicular writing which resulted in a jump in hard drive capacities as manufacturers figured out how to work with it and to utilize it fully. But things have slowed down again, so science is looking for the next thing.

Some super smart scientists recently published a paper outlining various methods that could increase data density on a hard disk from a few hundred gigabits per inch to a terabit per inch. That’s a hell of an increase, with the assumption that “few” is more than two but less than five. And remember, bit ≠ byte. 8 bits is 1 byte. So a terabit is really only 128 gigabytes. Powers of 2 for the win.

I know this is all riveting stuff for you guys, and, really, I’m not going to spend time explaining how a hard drive works or what the methods they’ve described are. You can read the article if you want that.

No, the whole point of this arose when I read the next passage.

The next front runner in data storage density and type is far from clear—for example, a method that involved electron quantum holography was able to store 35 bits per electron, and various solid state technologies continue to vie for attention—but this combined bit-pattern and thermally-assisted magnetic recording seems sufficiently close to current hard disk drives to be viable.

What the holy hell? Electron Quantum Holography? Thermally-assisted Magnetic Recording? Storing bits of data as ELECTRONS? If you have ever wondered before, we live in the future. It is now and it is awesome! It makes me think of Clarke’s Third Law that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Gardner Goes To The Future

Gardner has been flying all over the world making quirky travel videos for the web. His most recent effort comes to the same conclusion I’ve made here on The Black Laser: JAPAN IS THE FUTURE.

Watch the video. It will make you laugh and possibly cry. I did a little of both.

One criticism though, Gardner, if you can afford to fly to Japan and make videos of it, and, indeed, intend to continue this series of short films, then surely you can afford a 150 dollar USB audio interface and a microphone for your computer? Make it happen. The record quality of your VO is atrocious. You’ve got Soundtrack on your computer. Use it. I love you.

Holy crap! This yet again proves that Japan is the future.

Scientists extract images directly from brain

Researchers from Japan’s ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories have developed new brain analysis technology that can reconstruct the images inside a person’s mind and display them on a computer monitor, it was announced on December 11. According to the researchers, further development of the technology may soon make it possible to view other people’s dreams while they sleep.

The scientists were able to reconstruct various images viewed by a person by analyzing changes in their cerebral blood flow. Using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, the researchers first mapped the blood flow changes that occurred in the cerebral visual cortex as subjects viewed various images held in front of their eyes. Subjects were shown 400 random 10 x 10 pixel black-and-white images for a period of 12 seconds each. While the fMRI machine monitored the changes in brain activity, a computer crunched the data and learned to associate the various changes in brain activity with the different image designs.

Then, when the test subjects were shown a completely new set of images, such as the letters N-E-U-R-O-N, the system was able to reconstruct and display what the test subjects were viewing based solely on their brain activity.

Seriously? That SHIT IS AWESOME. Computers used to read the visual data people’s eyes send to their brains? WHAT THE FUCK?!? Who told Japan that they could live inside a SF book? Do I actually need to say anything else? The answer is No.