Can Weed Help Solve the Climate Crisis?

Near the end of an article in this Sunday’s New York Times magazine, Can Weeds Help Solve the Climate Crisis?, the following paragraph jumped out at me:

Developing techniques for managing weeds in a time of global climate change will be essential to the world’s agricultural future, and the U.S.D.A. researchers, though they have been starved of essential financing, lead the world in this field. (There is one exception, Ziska admits; his Web searches have revealed that marijuana growers have an amazingly detailed knowledge of how CO2 enrichment affects their crop. But as Ziska points out, they don’t publish in scientific journals.) Possession of this expertise could be a great economic asset to the United States, both for the protection it could provide to our own harvests and as an intellectual export that is sure to be much in demand in other countries.

For me, this conjured a Bruce Sterling-like near-future scenario where uncredentialed pot growers get snapped up by big agribusiness and shadowy government research facilities, a twenty-first-century variation on the MK Ultra theme. Only, this time, it’s for a good cause. We promise.

Just one message?

A piece in Slate explains that almost everyone living today is descended from Jesus, if Jesus had any children. (I preferred Richard Dawkins’ explanation in The Ancestor’s Tale, but given the constraints of article length, it’s not really a fair comparison.)

In the article, Steve Olson writes, “The risk of today’s genetic genealogy tests is that they tend to divide people into groups, whereas the real message that emerges from genealogy is one of connections.”

It seems to me that the risk is seeing only one of these two messages, believing that they’re mutually exlusive, or seeing any situation in which there is only one “real message.”

Color-Coded IV Cables

This one comes from my Dad, who recently noticed nurses having to follow back all of the IV cables to figure out what they were, and whether they were the ones that they wanted to shut off. He doesn’t know why they can’t simply color-code the lines: green is food, clear is hydration, blue is pain medication, yellow is antibiotic, and so on. Even in the case of a color-blind nurse unable to tell the red line from the green, the situation would be no worse than it is today.

In cases where there are more than one of a given color, the situation is also simpler than it is today.

Pro-Vaccination Videos

It seems that many Americans have forgotten how deadly childhood diseases once were, since they believe that the solution — vaccination — is worse than the problem.

In order to counter this rampant foolishness, I’d like someone to produce videos of older Americans, who grew up pre-vaccination, talk to the cameras about their siblings, who died in childhood. Who spent lifetimes on the iron lung. Just straight-up medical horror stories, told straight to the camera. And mentioning the frequency of the diseases, prior to vaccination.

Would it give the anti-vaccination people a sense of scale, of proportion? Probably not, but perhaps it will keep others from joining their Quixotic crusade…

A New Color for ‘Enhanced Reality’ Displays

A staple of post-Neuromancer science fiction has been ‘enhanced reality’ displays, where some sort of data is overlaid on top of the user’s visual field.

In Richard Dawkins’ latest book, The Ancestor’s Tale, he writes:

Imagine that a neurobiologist inserts a tiny probe into, say, a green cone and stimulates it electrically. The green cell will now report ‘light’ while all other cells are silent. Will the brain ‘see’ a ‘super green’ hue such as could not possibly be achieved by any real light? Real light, no matter how pure, would always stimulate all three classes of cones to differing extents. (p. 148)

This intriguing possibility would have tremendous use for enhanced reality displays that did not simply overlay alphanumeric data but which also emphasized particular visual aspects of the user’s environment.

It occurs to me, also, that one of the big uses for implants in Neuromancer was data storage: an art dealer with catalogues and recent auction prices in his head, for example. Today, with so much information on networks, it seems as though a live network feed would be more useful.