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“Climate Change and Us” Event Video Now Live

Posted on Monday, December 23rd, 02013 by Andrew Warner
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Rarely do we get to hear directly from the scientists who compile, analyze, and synthesize the most recent climate change data. On December 13th, swissnex San Francisco, in partnership with The Long Now Foundation, hosted an event that explained the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report, and what types of solutions would be needed to avoid pervasive climate shifts.

The evening started with a video highlighting the process of creating an IPCC report, and then a presentation from IPCC scientist Thomas Stocker on the conclusions of the report. The report divided the future into four possible scenarios, 2.0, 4.0, 6.0, and 8.0 degree shifts in mean global temperatures, allowing each country and policy maker to see the relative effects of each level of climate change. The news for even a 2.0 degree shift isn’t good, but the speakers did a great job of balancing the stark news with fruitful discussion of different avenues for addressing the causes.

The rest of the evening featured a diverse panel of experts on the report’s key takeaways for the scientist, the citizen, and the entrepreneur. Participants included former SALT speakers Saul Griffith and Paul Hawken, IPCC scientists Gian-Kasper Plattner and Thomas Stocker, and Susan Burns of the Global Footprint Network. After the event, swissnex hosted a reception in the venue to allow the audience to continue the conversation started on stage.

This embedded video is a 10 minute preview. The full video is available at Fora.TV

Richard Kurin Seminar Media

Posted on Thursday, December 5th, 02013 by Andrew Warner
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This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

American History in 101 Objects

Monday November 18, 02013 – San Francisco

 

Video is up on the Kurin Seminar page for Members in HD and non-Members in SD.

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Audio is up on the Kurin Seminar page, or you can subscribe to our podcast.

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American objects – a summary by Stewart Brand

Figuratively holding up one museum item after another, Kurin spun tales from them. (The Smithsonian has 137 million objects; he displayed just thirty or so.)

The Burgess Shale shows fossilized soft-tissue creatures (“very early North Americans”) from 500 million years ago. The Smithsonian’s Giant Magellan Telescope being built in Chile will, when it is completed in 2020, look farther into the universe, and thus farther into the past than any previous telescope—12.8 billion years.

Kurin showed two versions of a portrait of Pocahontas, one later than the other. “You’re always interrogating the objects,” he noted. In the early image Pocahontas looks dark and Indian; in the later one she looks white and English.

George Washington’s uniform is elegant and impressive. He designed it himself to give exactly that impression, so the British would know they were fighting equals.

Benjamin Franklin’s walking stick was given to him by the French, who adored his fur cap because it seemed to embody how Americans lived close to nature. The gold top of the stick depicted his fur cap as a “cap of liberty.” Kurin observed, “There you have the spirit of America coded in an object.”

In 1831 the first locomotive in America, the “John Bull,” was assembled from parts sent from England and took up service from New York to Philadelphia at 15 miles per hour. In 1981, the Smithsonian fired up the John Bull and ran it again along old Georgetown rails. It is viewed by 5 million visitors a year at the American History Museum on the Mall.

The Morse-Vail Telegraph from 1844 originally printed the Morse code messages on paper, but that was abandoned when operators realized they could decode the dots and dashes by ear. In the 1840s Secretary of the Smithsonian Joseph Henry collected weather data by telegraph from 600 “citizen scientists” to create: 1) the first weather maps, 2) the first storm warning system, 3) the first use of crowd-sourcing. The National Weather Service resulted.

Abraham Lincoln was 6 foot 4 inches. His stylish top hat made him a target on battlefields. It had a black band as a permanent sign of mourning for his son Willie, dead at 11. He wore the hat to Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865. When you hold the hat, Kurin said, “you feel the man.”

In 1886 the Smithsonian’s taxidermist William Temple Hornaday brought one of the few remaining American bison back from Montana to a lawn by the Mall and began a breeding program that eventually grew into The National Zoo. His book, The Extermination of the American Bison, is “considered today the first important book of the American conservation movement.”

Dorothy’s magic slippers in The Wizard of Oz are silver in the book but were ruby in the movie (and at the museum) to show off the brand-new Technicolor. The Smithsonian chronicles the advance of technology and also employs it. The next Smithsonian building to open in Washington, near the White House, will feature digital-projection walls, so that every few minutes it is a museum of something else.

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Internet Archive Fundraiser – Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 8 – 2nd Showing

Posted on Tuesday, November 26th, 02013 by Austin Brown
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TouristsGGBopening1936

Now in its eighth year, Rick Prelinger’s Lost Landscapes of San Francisco is almost always the largest of our Seminars About Long-term Thinking. Pre-sale tickets have sold out again at the Castro Theater and a few tickets will be released to the walk up line on the day of the show.

Those who didn’t get tickets to the December 17th event, though, have another chance to catch this great show. Rick is screening it again at the Internet Archive the following night, Wednesday December 18th and this show is a fundraiser for the Internet Archive.

The Internet Archive recently lost a lot of equipment and many books to a fire. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the expenses incurred to replace and repair what was damaged will be significant. Rick Prelinger has generously offered this second screening of Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 8  and proceeds will go to the Internet Archive’s efforts to rebuild the scanning facility where the fire took place.

Lost Landscapes of San Francisco: Fundraiser Benefitting Internet Archive
December 18, 02013 at 6:30 PM
Detail and Tickets

Rick Prelinger Seminar Tickets

Posted on Tuesday, November 12th, 02013 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

"Rick

Rick Prelinger presents “Lost Landscapes of San Francisco, 8″

Tickets have sold out for this event

Unclaimed tickets will be released to the walk-up line the night of the event; please note that tickets are not guaranteed to those waiting in the walk-up line.

 

Tuesday December 17, 02013 at 7:30pm Castro Theater

 

About this Seminar:

For the eighth time, Rick Prelinger brings together familiar and unseen archival film clips showing San Francisco as it was and is no more. Blanketing the 20th-century city, from the Bay to Ocean Beach, this screening includes newly-discovered images of Playland and Sutro Baths; the waterfront; families living and playing in their neighborhoods; detail-rich streetscapes of the late 1960s; the 1968 San Francisco State strike; Army and family life in the Presidio; buses, planes, trolleys and trains; a selected reprise of greatest hits from years 1-7; and much, much more. As usual, you’ll be the star at the glorious Castro — audience members are asked to identify places and events, ask questions, share their thoughts, and create an unruly interactive symphony of speculation about the city we’ve lost and the city we’d like to live in.

Rick Prelinger, an archivist, writer, filmmaker and teacher, has made LOST LANDSCAPES OF SAN FRANCISCO for eight years; LOST LANDSCAPES OF DETROIT for three; and recently completed NO MORE ROAD TRIPS?, a feature-length dream ride across the U.S. made completely from home movies. He runs a large archives of amateur film and home movies in San Francisco and teaches at UC Santa Cruz. With Megan Prelinger, he co-founded Prelinger Library, an experimental library and workspace open to the public in downtown San Francisco.

The Long Now, now: Celebrate a Decade of SALT with Brian Eno & Danny Hillis

Posted on Thursday, October 31st, 02013 by Austin Brown
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EnoandHillisClockShopCropped

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking began in 02003 with a talk by one of our founding board members, Brian Eno. In that inaugural SALT talk, simply titled “The Long Now,” Eno described the way he came to the name for our organization.

Instant world news and the internet has led to increased empathy worldwide. But empathy in space has not been matched by empathy in time.

He reckoned that if we can’t help but live in the moment of the “now,” why not make that moment longer – a “Long Now.”

We’re very pleased to announce that Brian Eno will be returning to San Francisco to talk again, with Long Now co-founder and 10,000 Year Clock inventor Danny Hillis, to celebrate the beginning of the second decade of SALT talks this January 02014.  Together, they’ll present “The Long Now, now” on January 21st, 02014 at the Palace of Fine Arts.

Members of Long Now will be able to reserve one complimentary ticket for this special evening, and purchase one additional ticket for a guest.

Members will also get advance notice of ticket availability; please note that the venue holds about 900 people. This event may sell out just through member tickets, so if you are considering membership, now is a great time to join and support Long Now and our mission to foster long-term thinking.

Adam Steltzner Seminar Media

Posted on Wednesday, October 30th, 02013 by Andrew Warner
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This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

Beyond Mars, Earth

Tuesday October 15, 02013 – San Francisco

 

Video is up on the Steltzner Seminar page for Members.

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Audio is up on the Steltzner Seminar page, or you can subscribe to our podcast.

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Mighty daring on Mars
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a summary by Stewart Brand

Engineer Steltzner took his rapt audience striding with him through the wrong solutions for landing a one-ton rover on Mars that his team worked through a decade ago. Previous rovers had weighed 50 pounds, 385 pounds. This traveling “Mars Science Laboratory” would weigh 1,984 pounds. The old airbag trick wouldn’t work this time, nor would a palette, or legs.

After exhausting everything that looked reasonable but could not work, the team settled on a mini-rocket “sky crane” approach that might be able to work, but there was nothing reasonable-looking about it. Selling the concept, Steltzner invoked arguments such as: “Great works and great follies may be indistinguishable at the outset,” while reminding himself that “Sometimes what looks crazy is crazy.” To make things worse, the idea could not be tested on Earth, because our atmosphere and gravity situation is so different from Mars, “and simulations only answer things you know to worry about.”

Furthermore, the landing had to occur within a tiny target ellipse only 4 by 12 miles in the Gale Crater at the base of Mount Sharp, which stands 15,000 feet about the crater floor. To “kiss the Martian surface” at that spot, the landing system had to go through multiple stages (the “seven minutes of terror”) totally on its own, decelerating violently from 10,000 miles per hour to a gentle 0 mph without a single flaw at any stage. On August 6, 2012, with the whole world watching, the system performed perfectly, and Steltzner’s team at JPL exploded with high-fives and tears on the world’s screens.

After showing the video, Steltzner asked, “Why do it, why spend the $2.5 billion the mission cost?” One eternal question about Mars is whether life is there, or was there. This rover has already determined that Mars once had sufficient amounts of the right kind of water that life could have managed there. “It would have been something bacterial, pond-scummy.” He is now at work on a conjectural series of three missions to bring samples of Martian material back to Earth. The first mission would collect and cache the samples; the second would launch the cache to Mars orbit; the third would return it to Earth. Later projects should explore the ice-covered ocean of Jupiter’s moon Europa and the methane lakes of Saturn’s moon Titan.

“With this kind of exploration,“ Steltzner said, “we’re really asking questions about ourselves. How great is our reach? How grand are we? Exploration of this kind is not practical, but it is essential.” He quoted Theodore Roosevelt: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Steltzner reminded the audience of the relative inhospitability of Mars and the intense inhospitability of space. “Outside of the magnetic field of this planet that shelters us from the streaming radiation of the Sun, it’s a really nasty place. It’s inconceivably cold or indescribably hot, bathed in radiation.” To contemplate terraforming Mars or building colonies in space, he said, makes solving the problems here on Earth of maintaining this planet’s exquisite balance for life seem so obvious and doable.

In the harsh lifelessness of space we discover how precious is life on Earth.

Subscribe to our Seminar email list for updates and summaries.

Richard Kurin Seminar Tickets

Posted on Tuesday, October 22nd, 02013 by Austin Brown
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Richard Kurin on American History in 101 Objects

Richard Kurin on “American History in 101 Objects”

TICKETS

Monday November 18, 02013 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

Long Now Members can reserve 2 seats, join today! General Tickets $15

 

About this Seminar:

Relics grip us. They anchor stories that matter by giving a visceral sense that they really happened. Look, here is the actual chain used on an American slave. What ended its use? Abraham Lincoln was tall in so many ways, and he stood even taller in his top hat—this hat right here. He wore it. We wear it. The hat and the chain abide at The Smithsonian Institution to help an important story in American history retain its force. This is what museums do.

Richard Kurin, the author of a new book, The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects, is the Institution’s Under Secretary for Art, History, and Culture, responsible for most of the Institution’s many museums and for many of its research and outreach programs.

In his beautifully illustrated talk, Kurin uses treasures of The Smithsonian—some celebrated, some unknown—to tell America’s story so far. It starts long before there was a nation here.

PanLex hits a billion translations

Posted on Wednesday, October 2nd, 02013 by Jonathan Pool
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The PanLex project of The Long Now Foundation, which is building a database of words and phrases in the world’s languages, has recently passed the one-billion-translation mark. That means there are now over a billion pairs of words or phrases, such as “clock” in English and “ঘড়ী” in Assamese, that PanLex records as attested translations of each other. The translations are derived from publications collected from around the world.

Beyond these billion attested translations, it is possible to infer others from longer paths of translations. For example, the number of pairs shoots up from 1 billion to 30 billion if we include translations at distance 2, namely translations of translations.  The longer the path, the greater the number, and the lower the reliability, of translations.

Because counting up these totals would overload the PanLex servers, we have estimated them using a random sample of 3,000 words and phrases.  The figures below show that as more words and phrases are added to the sample the estimates of distance­ 1 and distance­ 2 translations become more stable.

distance1

 

 


distance2

 

The main goal of the PanLex database is to make it possible ultimately to translate any word or phrase in any language into any other language on Earth. With about 7,000 languages, and assuming an average of 100,000 words and phrases per language, there should eventually be about 2.5 trillion translation pairs available from PanLex. Project participants don’t hope to reach this total on their own. Instead, they plan to provide their data to researchers who will develop increasingly effective methods of automatically inferring unattested translations from networks of attested ones.

Peter Schwartz Seminar Media

Posted on Wednesday, October 2nd, 02013 by Austin Brown
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This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

The Starships ARE Coming

Tuesday September 17, 02013 – San Francisco

 

Video is up on the Schwartz Seminar page for Members.

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Audio is up on the Schwartz Seminar page, or you can subscribe to our podcast.

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Starship destiny – a summary by Stewart Brand

We now know, Schwartz began, that nearly all of the billions of stars in our galaxy have planets. If we can master interstellar travel, “there’s someplace to go.” Our own solar system is pretty boring—one planet is habitable, the rest are “like Antarctica without ice” or worse.

So this last year a number of researchers and visionaries have begun formal investigation into the practicalities of getting beyond our own solar system. It is an extremely hard problem, for two primary reasons—the enormous energy required to drive far and fast, and the vast amount of time it takes to get anywhere even at high speed.

The energy required can be thought of in three ways. 1) Impossible—what most scientists think. 2) Slow. 3) Faster than light (FTL). Chemical rockets won’t do at all. Nuclear fission rockets may suffice for visiting local planets, but it would take at least fusion to get to the planets of other stars. Schwartz showed Adam Crowl’s scheme for a Bussard Ramjet using interstellar ions for a fusion drive. James Benford (co-author of the book on all this, Starship Century) makes the case for sail ships powered by lasers based in our Solar System.

As for faster-than-light, that requires “reinventing physics.” Physics does keep doing that (as with the recent discovery of “dark energy”). NASA has one researcher, John Cramer, investigating the potential of microscopic wormholes for superluminal travel.

Standard-physics travel will require extremely long voyages, much longer than a human lifetime. Schwartz suggested four options. 1) Generational ships—whole mini-societies commit to voyages that only their descendents will complete. 2) Sleep ships—like in the movie “Avatar,” travelers go into hibernation. 3) Relativistic ships—at near the speed of light, time compresses, so that travelers may experience only 10 years while 100 years pass back on Earth. 4) Download ships—”Suppose we learn how to copy human consciousness into some machine-like device. Such ‘iPersons’ would be able to control an avatar that could function in environments inhospitable to biological humans. They would not be limited to Earthlike planets.”

Freeman Dyson has added an important idea, that interstellar space may be full of objects—comets and planets and other things unattached to stars. They could be used for fuel, water, even food. “Some of the objects may be alive.” Dyson notes that, thanks to island-hopping, Polynesians explored the Pacific long before Europeans crossed the Atlantic. We might get to the stars by steps.

Futurist Schwartz laid out four scenarios of the potential for star travel in the next 300 years, building on three population scenarios. By 2300 there could be 36 billion people, if religious faith drives large families. Or, vast wealth might make small families and long life so much the norm that there are only 2.3 billion people on Earth. One harsh scenario has 9 billion people using up the Earth.

Thus his four starship scenarios… 1) “Stuck in the Mud”—we can’t or won’t muster the ability to travel far. 2) “God’s Galaxy”—the faithful deploy their discipline to mount interstellar missions to carry the Word to the stars; they could handle generational ships. 3) “Escape from a Dying Planet”—to get lots of people to new worlds and new hope would probably require sleep ships. 4) “Trillionaires in Space”—the future likes of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson will have the means and desire to push the envelope all the way, employing relativistic and download ships or even faster-than-light travel.

Schwartz concluded that there are apparently many paths that can get us to the stars. In other words, “Galactic civilization is almost inevitable.”

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Adam Steltzner Seminar Primer

Posted on Tuesday, October 1st, 02013 by Andrew Warner
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“Beyond Mars, Earth”

Tuesday October 15, 02013 at SFJAZZ Center, San Francisco

Adam Steltzner is the person responsible for putting space geeks the world over through the “seven minutes of terror” on August 6th, 02012. As the lead engineer of Curiosity rover’s “Entry, Descent, and Landing” phase, he helped create the “sky crane” and to successfully drop one of the most advanced robots in history onto another planet. The sky crane his team designed at JPL would have to perform an elaborate, impossible-seeming sequence to lower the huge Mars rover Curiosity to the planet’s surface from a hovering rocket guided totally by artificial intelligence.  Humans wouldn’t know if it worked until it was all over, hence the terror. The margin of error for this mission was 0, meaning if one element didn’t work perfectly, all of the work would have been for nothing.

PIA16239_High-Resolution_Self-Portrait_by_Curiosity_Rover_Arm_Camera

Adam Steltzner took a circuitous route to the space industry. After going through the motions of early schooling and barely passing math, Steltzner spent time as a musician in the Bay Area. It was one evening driving home from a gig when he noticed Orion had changed location, inspiring him to take an Intro to Physics class that changed his life, eventually leading him to a PhD in Engineering Mechanics.

Historically, missions to Mars have been fraught with accidents and miscalculations, leading to a dismal 42% success rate to date. After an initial rush of missions in the 70s as part of the Cold War space race, the first successful mission in 20 years took place in 01996. The Mars Global Surveyor collected more data than all the previous Mars missions combined and ushered in a new age of Mars exploration. After the Mars Global Surveyor, NASA launched the first two Mars rovers in 02007, which paved the way for the larger and more complex Curiosity rover, the payload of Steltzner’s sky crane. Potential future missions to Mars include drilling missions, a network of meteorological stations, a manned fly-by, and a no-return four human reality show colony. To learn more about Mars exploration, come see Adam Steltzner at SFJAZZ Center on October 15th.

 

Mars Rover Curiosity on Vimeo.