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Author Archive

The Apollo Goodwill Disc

by Alex Mensing on August 9th, 02012

On July 20, 01969, humans landed on the surface of the moon for the first time. But since only two of us got to go, NASA sent a message “FROM PLANET EARTH” in the rest of humanity’s stead. The message wasn’t a letter written in ink and paper, though. It was a thin. . .   Read More

A Half-Century History of Nuclear Waste

by Alex Mensing on July 5th, 02012

When thinking of problems that demand long-term solutions, nuclear waste management comes to mind rather quickly. With half-lives ranging from 30 to 24,000, or even 16 million years (Strontium-90, Plutonium-239, and Iodine-129 respectively), the radioactive elements in nuclear waste defy our typical operating time frames. The question of how. . .   Read More

Spotting the Future

by Alex Mensing on May 21st, 02012

Wired’s Epicenter blog, which covers the technology business, recently asked eight visionaries about their strategies for looking at and into the future. How do they see what’s on the horizon? What distinguishes important technologies before they become important?

Among those questioned were Long Now board members Esther Dyson, Paul Saffo and Peter Schwartz. . .   Read More

Language: Speed vs. Density

by Alex Mensing on March 2nd, 02012

The September 02011 issue of the journal Language included an article entitled “A Cross-Language Perspective on Speech Information Rate,” by a team of linguists working with the University of Lyon and the French National Center for Scientific Research. Like many linguistic studies, this one investigates the parameters of human language and seeks to identify. . .   Read More

The Future of Film’s Past

by Alex Mensing on February 22nd, 02012

Science fiction author Bruce Sterling, who delivered one of our earliest SALT presentations, recently shared an article about the difficulties of film preservation on his Wired blog, beyond the beyond.

In the article, Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell describe the enormous and myriad challenges that film archivists face, from physical and digital decay, multiplicity of. . .   Read More

Envisioning the Future of Technology

by Alex Mensing on January 24th, 02012

Long Now Research Fellow Stuart Candy brought to our attention this visualization, which shows projections of what sorts of technologies will be available in the future, how soon, and how important they will be. It was created by London-based designer Michell Zappa, who leads a ‘technological trend bureau’ called Envisioning Technology. Their website explains that […]

Scanning a 3,000-Year-Old Mummy

by Alex Mensing on January 9th, 02012

Presumably the programmers at Phillips weren’t imagining this sort of patient.
Long Now Board Member David Eagleman recently had a very unusual visitor at his lab. At three thousand years of age, this is by far the oldest person Eagleman has ever put through a scanner. Neshkons is an Egyptian mummy, exhumed from Luxor. . .   Read More

The Expanding Frontiers of Computing

by Alex Mensing on January 5th, 02012

Advances in computing technology have led to increasingly powerful devices – a cell phone can now do what early desktop computers did not even approximate. But these developments have largely been in the form of devices, objects made of silicon and plastic. Stanford bioengineering professor Drew Endy imagines, in a New York Times article, another frontier. . .   Read More

The Future According to Films

by Alex Mensing on November 15th, 02011

We found this wonderful visualization of future events from the world of film on infographipedia, courtesy of Tremulant Design. Most of the occurrences on the timeline take place during this millennium, though a few producers have ventured multi-millennial forecasts.

Healthy Urbanization Requires Long-term Planning

by Alex Mensing on November 7th, 02011

Researchers at the McKinsey Global Institute have been studying the process of urbanization – what works and what doesn’t – and argue in this article that the detrimental effects of rapid city growth are not directly the result of insufficient resources. Rather, they stem from management that is neither comprehensive enough nor farsighted enough.

Does this. . .   Read More