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Author Archive

Old Data, New Uses

by Alex Mensing on October 28th, 02011

In the effort to understand our environment, scientists generally rely on natural observations to describe the earth’s past. They examine tree rings, oxygen isotopes, sedimentary rock, pollen, and many other physical records from which we can glean information. These methods are quite fruitful, and when combined they offer compelling evidence. But wouldn’t it. . .   Read More

A Thousand Years of Taxonomy to Go?

by Alex Mensing on October 27th, 02011

About ten years ago The Long Now Foundation initiated an effort to document every living organism on the planet within 25 years. The project was called All Species and while it did not make it through the dot com burst, it was continued by initiatives such as the Encyclopedia of Life and the Census of. . .   Read More

David Eagleman Lecture at Bay Area Science Festival

by Alex Mensing on October 26th, 02011

Long Now Board Member David Eagleman will be speaking as part of the Bay Area Science Festival presentation “Will We Ever Understand the Brain” on Wednesday, November 2, 02011. Eagleman will discuss with Henry Markram, coordinator of the Human Brain Project, whether the myriad functions of the brain will someday be clear to us, or […]

Simon vs. Ehrlich, Round 2

by Alex Mensing on October 13th, 02011

Roger Pielke Jr. made an observation on his blog recently regarding the past decade’s rapid increase in commodity prices and the classic debate between optimistic Cornucopians and pessimistic Malthusians. In 01990 ecologist Paul Ehrlich – who has spoken at The Long Now Foundation’s SALT series – lost a decade-long bet to economist Julian Simon. . .   Read More

Slow Science

by Alex Mensing on September 26th, 02011

When it comes to  society’s propensity for compromisingly short-term thinking, not even the scientific community is immune. A recent post on John Horgan‘s blog at Scientific American discussed a few of the trends responsible for the hastiness (and resulting shoddiness) of too much of our scientific activity. Among the trends is an overemphasis on ‘popular’ […]

A Sort-of-Natural History Museum

by Alex Mensing on September 13th, 02011

Brought to our attention by BoingBoing, the Center for PostNatural History specializes in specimens that are unlikely to be on display at, say, the American Museum of Natural History. As its name implies, the Center features organisms that are ‘unnatural,’ in that they were produced or altered by human activity. If we are, as some. . .   Read More

Lessons From a Trip Back in Time

by Alex Mensing on August 17th, 02011

The rapid rate of technological change is a common topic of discussion these days, but only occasionally does someone actually take the time to examine – let alone utilize – the technologies that we so readily leave behind. A great example of just such an undertaking is a project called All On Paper recently carried […]

Urban Evolution

by Alex Mensing on August 12th, 02011

Cities are often hotbeds of creativity and innovation, where the pace of life is faster and the diversity of people is greater. But humans aren’t the only things living in our cities – recent research by evolutionary biologists indicates that the processes of evolution and ecological change can also speed up in urban environments. In. . .   Read More

The First Anniversary of Neptune’s Discovery (In Neptune Years)

by Alex Mensing on August 8th, 02011

The planet Neptune was first observed by astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle in the night sky of September 23, 01846. Well, it wasn’t until recently that the large blue planet completed its first (roughly) 165-year orbit since the night when Galle first viewed it from the Berlin Observatory. Paul Gilster at Centauri Dreams wrote. . .   Read More


by Alex Mensing on July 27th, 02011

Over the course of a lifetime the human body undergoes various developments at various timescales. There are daily processes such as digestion and sleep, but also decadal processes by which infants mature into adults – undergoing puberty somewhere along the way – and gradually grow old. Biologists have fruitfully studied the mechanisms behind these daily, […]