With the possible exceptions of some new arrivals, I tend to keep the posts in this blog categorized. I choose just one category per post. The categories can facilitate direct access to specific kinds of posts. The categories in use are as follows:

The posts sorted under those categories are available (below) by clicking on the desired category.

2120 Hindsight

  • 2120 Hindsight: A Special Person - July 18, 2120 Dear Alex, It’s been too long since I last wrote.  I’m feeling kind of blue, and I missed you and wanted to talk to you about things. I guess the big news is that Amy died today.  It was typhoid fever.  She caught it yesterday sometime — I didn’t see the instruments […]
  • 2120 Hindsight: Aneurmal Implants - Over a couple of beers last night, my friends and I decided that animal neural implants were the best invention of the 21st century.  Especially for cats.  We’ve all seen videos of what cats used to be like.  Funny beasts, but a true pain in the butt. I guess some people were dead-set against implants […]
  • 2120 Hindsight: Commencement Address by Dean Hasayna Silverstein - My fellow scholars: I greet you at a special moment in the history of Avicenna University. This year marks the centennial of the founding of this educational institution in 2020. With you, members of the class of 2120, I feel the excitement of releasing you into the world, to share with it the marvelous gifts […]
  • 2120 Hindsight: Drones - Mike Harrity wore a Drone World T-shirt to school today.  I thought the other kids were going to lynch him for sure.  I don’t know why he does this screwy stuff, stuff that he just knows will piss people off. Or, actually, I guess I probably do know what he’s thinking.  I don’t know him […]
  • 2120 Hindsight: Funky Weather - In the last five or six years, the weather has been really strange.  It used to be that a person could pretty much count on the weather to do as it pleased, depending on the current state of disputes and negotiations in the International Climate Control Conference.  Usually at least one major nation would be […]
  • 2120 Hindsight: I Love You, I Want You, There Ain’t No Way I’m Ever Gonna Need You - My girlfriend and I have been getting along really well for a long time now.  But every now and then, she still does something that makes me a little nervous about our future together.  Like last night.  We were just lying around, talking about stuff – just being two people who live together.  You know, […]
  • 2120 Hindsight: The Anzschluss - One of the world’s last great alliances of nations, the Anzschluss, formally ended 70 years ago this week.  To commemorate that famous alliance, and to give viewers an authentic sense of what the world was like when the Anzschluss was first formed more than a century ago, tonight we will provide old-style “interviews and commentary” […]
  • 2120 Hindsight: The Automotive Age - The Automotive Age lingered until about 2040 in America, and even longer in other poor countries. Historians generally agree that the era drew to a close, in the U.S., after the passage of the Rail Transportation Affordability Act (RTAA) of 2037. Until then, annual mass transit passes had been relatively unaffordable, to the point that […]
  • 2120 Hindsight: The Barren Years - My Dear Eleanor, A little while ago, I came across a silvery disc, half-buried in the hog lot.  I don’t know how it got there.  Probably a sow dug it up while she was rooting around. I picked it up and looked at it.  It was all scratched and scarred; still, I knew right away […]
  • 2120 Hindsight: The End of Slavery - One of the most firmly held beliefs of the 20th century, in the United States, was that slavery had been largely eradicated following the First Civil War (CW I). This belief was possible primarily because, at that time, slavery was defined in terms of chattel ownership of one person by another. The ascendant view, throughout […]
  • 2120 Hindsight: The Life Expectancy Gap - The exploration of paradox was an important development in philosophical logic during the 21st century. People gradually quit thinking that contradiction proves or disproves anything. This momentous change meant that, for the first time in some 2,000 years in some cultures, people began to realize that things are commonly true and false at the same […]
  • 2120 Hindsight: The Most Important Contribution by the U.S. - The United States retained its predominant role in the world for a period of about one complete lifetime — that is, from about 1945 to about 2015.  Many of the things for which its people prided itself were cultural in nature. Examples include innovative forms of music and literature.  The general themes of isolation, distrust, […]
  • 2120 Hindsight: The Road Museum - I went to the Road Museum today.  It’s Saturday, and I had some time, so why not?  I’ve been hearing about it, just never got around to checking it out. Like museums have probably always done, they used virtual enhancements for their main exhibits.  Of course, you couldn’t tell at all.  It really felt like […]
  • 2120 Hindsight: Those Sad, Confused Centuries of Critical Thought - As every child learns in school, we must love and care for the people in our lives, even when they think and speak in negative and critical terms.  To reject independent, critical thought and speech is to become independent and critical oneself.  Indeed, our acceptance of the people, and of their words and thoughts, must […]
  • 2120 Hindsight: A Knowledge Consolidation Timeline - Here are some key dates in the late 20th and early 21st century’s processes of knowledge consolidation: 1968: Approximate low point of centuries of knowledge individualism. Widespread extreme acceptance of knowledge as an entitlement, for purposes deemed worthy by the person in his/her sole discretion, without regard to usefulness, employability, or appearances. Example: students take over U.S. […]


A Clear Mind

  • A Clear Mind: Finding Beauty in Life - As previously observed, life is a fundamentally harsh, ugly affair.  Survival — continued participation in life — tends to be awarded to those living creatures that prove most adept at eating other creatures and/or seizing, for themselves, the resources that other creatures need. And yet, despite the ugliness of life’s mandate to promote one’s self, […]
  • A Clear Mind: Gods - For most people, spirituality seems to be linked with a belief in divinity.  This link is not always obvious.  As an example, a person who rejects the possibility of any conscious, personal gods that transcend nature is not necessarily an atheist.  If s/he believes that s/he has a spiritual connection or oneness with the universe, […]
  • A Clear Mind: Perpetuating Life - Almost everyone decides to perpetuate life.  They don’t necessarily decide this consciously.  They find themselves alive, and it seems natural to continue in that state.  In fact, it is pretty hard to stop.  They may have never even thought about it.  If you ask them why they continue to live, they may wonder what’s wrong with […]
  • A Clear Mind: Science - Many people attribute some human experiences to the realm of the paranormal.  They feel, in other words, that a particular experience — déjà vu, for example, or an instance of unusual psychic ability, or a seeming miracle, or some other exceptional event — is not very well explained by science. Scientists do not typically favor paranormal beliefs.  […]
  • A Clear Mind: Scriptures - Many religious beliefs — notably, beliefs about various gods — arise from the words of written scriptures. In religion, as in politics and other areas of life, interpretation of texts can be difficult. These difficulties can lead to disagreements about what the texts mean. Historically, in religion as in politics, disagreements about texts have often […]
  • A Clear Mind: Spirituality - Many people see the world as a mix of the natural and the supernatural.  Science studies the natural parts — the things that can be studied in the physical universe.  In doing so, science has explained many things that were previously considered supernatural, eliminating much absurdity and damage caused by superstition.  But there are, and […]
  • A Clear Mind: The Beauty of Life - In seeking to perpetuate itself, life becomes an ugly affair.  Living creatures deceive, steal from, hurt, and kill one another, in countless ways, in order to survive. But not everything about life is ugly.  It is great to be alive, in many times and places, for many people and other creatures.  You can see them […]
  • A Clear Mind: The Paranormal - Speculations about nonlife are completely beyond our experience.  We simply do not, and apparently will not, know much (if anything at all) about prelife or post-death phenomena.  A few individuals have had experiences that convince them personally.  But for humanity as a whole, we are very far from having solid knowledge that there even is […]
  • A Clear Mind: The Starting Point - Many people treat their religion’s scriptures as their starting point in life.  But why do people differ on their views toward a religion’s scriptures?  Likewise, for nonbelievers, which book should one read, or which question should one ask first?  For believers and nonbelievers alike, these sorts of questions come before a person adopts a viewpoint. It […]
  • A Clear Mind: The Supernatural - Science tends to deny paranormal phenomena, searching instead for testable explanations of mysterious events.  Many nonscientists find some scientific accounts unsatisfactory, and instead rely on traditional explanations.  Traditional explanations often have a supernatural component.  For instance, a bad event is often attributed to the Devil, or bad karma, or angry gods. Science has rendered many […]
  • A Clear Mind: Whistling in the Dark - The purpose of life is to perpetuate life.  In its pursuit of that objective, life is a fundamentally ugly enterprise.  Yet living creatures have no appealing alternative; it looks like death brings an end to everything, and there is the possibility of an even worse situation after death. In this sense, the pursuit of beauty […]


Contrarian Position




Goals for 2100

  • Goal for 2100: Distributed Justice - The Protestant Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries introduced the idea that people do not need an intermediary between themselves and God — that they have, and are responsible for, their own relationship with the divine.  Similarly, democratic principles give people the responsibility for their own form of government, just as people are responsible […]
  • Goals for 2100: A Return to Medieval Social Interactions - According to Barbara Tuchman (A Distant Mirror, 1978, p. 39), [M]uch of medieval life was supportive because it was lived collectively in infinite numbers of groups, orders, associations, brotherhoods.  Never was man less alone.  Even in bedrooms married couples often slept in company with their servants and children.  Except for hermits and recluses, privacy was […]
  • Goals for 2100: Accurate Valuation - The prices of goods and services should more accurately reflect their true costs. Presently, for example, the price for a quart of oil is set by a merchant who, in turn, has paid a stated price to an oil company. Both the merchant and the oil company set their prices based upon relatively immediate inputs. […]
  • Goals for 2100: An Experimental Society - The U.S. was poorly served by the constitutional arrangements that kept George W. Bush in power long after he should have departed.  The U.S. has been poorly served by its health care and educational systems.  Despite its wealth and power, the U.S. often proves strangely incapable of running its affairs competently. To learn what approaches […]
  • Goals for 2100: Calibration of Decisionmaking Power to Knowledge - It is important to give everyone a chance to be heard, to provide input into how s/he is governed.  Good government cannot ensue, however, when the person providing that input lacks time or knowledge to understand the issues on which s/he would opine. That principle applies at all levels.  Some may consider it most applicable […]
  • Goals for 2100: Free Education - Education is in chains. Hopefully, by 2100, it will be freed. People love to learn. Not everyone, not every subject, and not always. But in general, if people are given an opportunity to learn something, and if they see it as useful or interesting, and believe that they can indeed learn it, they will. That […]
  • Goals for 2100: Home Ownership - By the year 2100, people should own their homes.  Not a mortgage; not a promise.  They should have complete and sole ownership of the place where they live, as soon as they move in.  Not just “homeowners” as distinct from renters.  Everyone.  They may or may not be entitled to lose it by bad luck […]
  • Goals for 2100: Loyalty to Fashion Heritage - The accepted idea, from time immemorial, seems to have been that you should not dress like you want to dress; you should dress like everyone else wants you to dress.  So if, for example, you were raised in a time and place where it was normal to wear a double-breasted suit or a rope tie, […]
  • Goals for 2100: More Efficient Use of Educated People’s Time - Society invests a fortune in the training of doctors, Ph.Ds, and other sorts of specialists and experts.  Then society requires these people to spend hundreds of hours of their time, each year, dealing with trivial stuff that could be done just as well, if not better, by others. Example:  filling out forms.  There are rental […]
  • Goals for 2100: Reduced Emphasis on Sex - The 20th century, especially but not only in its second half, was a time of great liberalization of sexual practices. This liberalization had some benefits. It also brought some undesirable side effects. A reasonable goal for the year 2100 will be to achieve more balanced and constructive outcomes in this area. One step in that […]
  • Goals for 2100: Reduced Public Lying - Maybe there are times when it is important to deceive the public.  For that matter, maybe there are times when it is important, or appropriate, to lie in private.  This post is not about those cases. This post is about the fact that, except possibly in exceptional cases, the public should not be lied to.  […]
  • Goals for 2100: Top Governmental Officials Get Day Jobs - It is possible for a person to become wrapped up in his/her day-to-day activities and grow out of touch with the larger world.  This can happen to a president, Supreme Court justice, or member of Congress, just as it can happen to anyone else. True, elected officials are supposedly in touch with what their constituents […]


Letters to the CEO

  • A Suggestion to the Internet Archive (WaybackMachine) - Dear Internet Archive: I suggest you offer three free and/or paid services to bloggers and other content creators: 1. Automated archiving. On a designated schedule (e.g., every Tuesday, or on the third day of each month), you archive every webpage (e.g., every post) in a website or blog. Such archiving would preserve the contents for […]
  • Advice for the MacArthur Genius Grants - I had heard of the MacArthur Foundation and its Fellows Program, where they give grants of $500,000 (turns out it has gone up to $625,000) to people who are doing work that they want to encourage.  A bit of reading on the matter yielded the dismaying impression that, to a considerable extent, the Program functions as […]
  • Advice to China: Experiment with Qualified Voting - There is a widespread perception that China’s leaders are on the wrong side of history.  They are often portrayed as clinging to an outmoded, authoritarian concept of government that must someday, inevitably, become transformed into a more enlightened and democratic arrangement.  This post suggests a perspective that may be compatible with those leaders’ record of […]
  • Advice to Obama: Antitrust - We have AIG, an insurance company that’s said to be too big to fail.  We have Citigroup and Bank of America, ditto.  We did let Lehman Brothers fail, and there have been recriminations about that decision ever since.  We are shoveling money to the automakers — “only” tens of billions, to be sure, but that […]
  • Advice to Obama: Endorse a Constitutional Convention - I just saw an interesting quote, apparently posted by a Republican in 2008, regarding the possibility of a constitutional convention (i.e., a national assembly to discuss possible revisions to the U.S. constitution): The majority of U.S. voters just elected a dedicated leftist as President. Republicans are at their weakest right now! This is a horrible […]
  • Advice to Obama: Heads Must Roll - My first prediction of the Obama presidency was that he wouldn’t pull it off — wouldn’t take sufficiently bold action, that is, to address the present extreme circumstances. That appears to be accurate. There is no denying that, by historical standards since the Great Depression, he has taken remarkable measures. But I saw him surrounding […]
  • Advice to Obama: Save Your Legacy - Barack Obama is on track to become remembered as another Jimmy Carter. Which is OK, in a sense. I thought Jimmy Carter was a good man, and a better president than he got credit for. He was just weak. Not as weak as the contrast with Reagan made him seem, and in some ways much […]
  • Advice to Obama: Seek a Constitutional Amendment on Science (January 22, 2009) - It seems Barack Obama is now just about as popular as one can imagine him being. Given the many promises he has made and hopes he has stirred, there is a good chance he will disappoint people to some extent. He may still be a good president — he may have his highs as well […]
  • Advice to Obama: Use the Summer Well - Everything is so different when it is warm outside.  Moods improve.  People can exercise, increase their outdoors exposure, fire up the grill, and learn to love camping. These could be valuable skills and attitudes when the weather turns cooler in fall 2009.  Here’s hoping that the Commander in Chief gets ahead of events by preparing […]
  • Advice to Russia: Make Siberia Your Canada - It’s tempting to try to control everything, and to believe that empires last forever.  But that’s just not how it works. I’m reading an article on the Russian Far East, and I am again reminded of the dramatic contrast between the emptiness of Siberia and the population and resource demands of China, next door.  It […]
  • Letter to the CEO of Radio Shack: Get a Clue - Dear Radio Shack: I am looking for a gizmo.  I am not sure what to call it.  I do a search on your website, using the best name I can imagine:  “Ethernet extension adapter.”  Nothing comes up; you apparently don’t have it.  Point no. 1:  you’re the adapter store.  You should have ethernet extension adapters;  […]
  • Suggestion to Amazon: Packaging for Garage Sales Online - Dear Amazon: I have a bunch of things that I would like to sell. I’d do a yard sale, but it’s the wrong season, and anyway that’s a hassle. Here’s what I’d like for you to help me do instead. Some of these items have a UPC code. I want to enter those codes into an online form that […]



  • Needed: A Fabric of Enforced Obsolescence - They should design a fabric that holds up perfectly well for a period of, say, three years, or 35 washings — and then suddenly begins to disintegrate.  They could market it as something of a joke, but somewhat seriously too:  “Buy him a new shirt — and prevent it from becoming The Old Standby” — […]
  • Needed: A New People’s Car - For many people in the world, cars are too large and expensive to buy, repair, maintain, and operate.  The notion of one large, complicated device that is completely out of the owner’s hands — that arrives as a single package and must be replaced as such — seems terribly rigid and old-fashioned. Instead, there should […]
  • Needed: A Place for Notes on What S/he Just Said - I want to be able to append typed, dictated, image, or videotaped notes to a specific location in a typed, dictated, image, or video file.  I want to be able to pull up a list of such notes.  I want to click on a particular place in such a note and go to another place […]
  • Needed: A Single Dual Monitor - Right now, if you want to use dual monitors, you have to buy two monitors. This may seem logical. But an even more logical thing would be that, if you want to use dual monitors, you buy a dual monitor. When you must buy two monitors, you must plug dual cables into dual outlets. You […]
  • Needed: An Extended Tour for International Students - Students from other countries come to the U.S. to study and earn undergraduate or graduate degrees.  Those who come from relatively familiar (e.g., European) cultures may benefit from this experience.  Those who come from relatively unfamiliar (e.g., Asian) cultures are at greater risk of having an experience that is counterproductive in some regards for them […]
  • Needed: Audiotaped Police Reports - Written police reports frequently distort what was said at the scene of a crime or accident. Investigations would be more accurate if the original police report were made and retained in audio format. The report should be made available at a price, which could be reduced when someone (e.g., a party to the incident, or […]
  • Needed: Backup Olympics Site - My bet: we are going to need a backup Olympics site for summer 2008. Beijing is not going to be able to get its house in order, pollution-wise, in time for the Games. I read the other day that China is a (the primary?) source of particulate air pollution in — would you believe — […]
  • Needed: Bad Vision Goggles - They may already have these.  If they do, they should be used regularly in teaching in health and counseling professions (e.g., medicine, occupational therapy, social work, counseling). The basic idea is that the student should have the experience of spending a day, or at least an hour, wearing goggles that can be adjusted to simulate […]
  • Needed: Brighter Air - I’m wondering if they can change air so that it becomes brighter.  I guess it would contain some kind of molecule that would hold or reflect light. One application:  making the atmosphere brighter, so as (perhaps) to reflect sunlight and reduce global warming.  Another application, especially for a biodegradable, light-sensitive, or timed product:  pump it […]
  • Needed: Calibrated Wind Chimes - The basic idea with wind chimes is that you have something that sounds nice when the wind blows.  It could be helpful to choose the weights of the different chimes so that they ring on regular windspeed intervals.  When the wind is blowing 1 MPH, one little chime rings.  2 MPH, two chimes.  And so […]
  • Needed: Canned Biography Website - Suppose I can go to a website and interactively say and learn who I am.  I enter the stuff I’m pretty sure of – age, weight, birthplace, and so on, for as many details as the database is configured to accommodate.  Then the website tells me all about who I am, based on what I […]
  • Needed: Community Run Time - Exercise is healthy.  People are more likely to participate in exercise if they’ve got support and company.  5K and 10K footraces for community members typically charge $15, $25, or more.  This penalizes participation, especially among lower-income people, who apparently have the greatest need for encouragement to exercise. Fundraising 5K races might well get more participants […]
  • Needed: Compensating Bat - I need a softball or whiffleball bat that rewards gentle use but somehow becomes spongy or nearly useless when it is used with force, so that adults and children could seriously play the same game.  When you hit the ball hard, it only goes a little ways; when you hit the ball softly, it goes […]
  • Needed: Dog/Robot Teams to Teach Animals to Avoid Us - I was looking at this report about how dogs are so much better than chimpanzees at understanding humans.  It occurred to me that a well-trained dog (or maybe a superdog of the future) could use this kind of knowledge to help endangered animals survive. Granted, there would be certain operational difficulties in getting a dog […]
  • Needed: Dollar-a-Day Donation Scheme for Freeware - There are all these wonderful software gizmos in the world. So many of them are free, and so many of the free ones are so useful that it is just a shame to let their creators go without significant financial compensation. There needs to be a freeware registration scheme, available for software (including e.g., Firefox […]
  • Needed: Earthquake Bell - They should use bells after earthquakes.  They should tell everyone that they are going to strike the bell at regular intervals — every 30 minutes, say, or every hour, or perhaps as the situation requires.  That’s when they will stop all the power tools and all the rescuers will fan out and listen for noises […]
  • Needed: Easier Dual Computing - I know of a simple way to sell a lot more computers in the U.S.:  dual computing. Sometimes your computer is not available and working properly.  Its hardware is malfunctioning, or its software is screwed up, or it is preoccupied with video rendering or some other processor-intensive task, or it is going through some kind […]
  • Needed: Equal Time for University Academics - There ought to be a law, or an accreditation requirement, or an FCC regulation, or something that would require universities to spend as much time and money promoting their specific academic achievements (i.e., not their vague reputations) as they spend promoting their sports teams.  For every billboard on the highway, every highway sign, every radio […]
  • Needed: Fact-Recording Paralegals - People file lawsuits and then wait.  Their expensive attorneys burn up enormous amounts of time and money.  The legal system imposes delays lasting months and even years before there is finally a serious attempt to sort out the facts.  Often, that never happens at all; the parties simply settle the matter on terms that can […]
  • Needed: Fade-In Video Camera Date Stamp - Video cameras sometimes provide the option of adding a date to the video.  This typically means that the date is constantly shown in a bottom corner of the screen.  What would be helpful, between the extremes of having the date always shown or never shown, would be to let the user designate how often and […]
  • Needed: Firefox Archive Add-on - There should be a Firefox add-on, called Archive, that keeps a copy of an abstract for each webpage visited. Programmers could build the abstract into their HTML, or perhaps point to a thumbnail, a “table of contents” webpage, a user-generated sticky note, or some otherwise small and easily gleaned indication of what the page is […]
  • Needed: Firefox Extension: Contribution Tracker - I need more information about my Firefox add-ons.  Examples of things I would like to know:  have I installed this add-on previously?  What is its current rating (e.g., four stars)?  Is there another that meets the same need with a higher rating?  This information should be linked to an online database of my current add-on […]
  • Needed: Firefox: Control Extension Installation - This morning, I’m looking at Firefox add-ons that provide a certain function.  There are a dozen of them.  Some are experimental; some have mediocre reviews; some have unique features that, if they work well and cooperate with other add-ons, would be a real help.  How can I sort them out?  I don’t want to install […]
  • Needed: Freedom to Hire and Fire Instantly - Business today changes very quickly, and so do the numbers and kinds of employees needed for a task.  To remain globally competitive, employers should have as much latitude as possible to acquire and eliminate employees on short notice.  Many problems arise when hiring or firing someone becomes a huge, time-consuming ordeal:  existing employees find themselves […]
  • Needed: Freeware Use Tracker - I would like to make contributions to some software developers. I can’t pay them all. There are freeware programs that are highly visible. Those, I know about. But there are also scripts, utilities, Firefox add-ons, and all sorts of stuff that I probably use quite frequently but take for granted — if I even remember […]
  • Needed: Freeway & City Noise Cancellation - They have noise-cancellation headphones.  They need the same thing throughout cities.  Noise polluters should be obliged to install appropriate technologies, as soon as they become available, sufficient to counteract the noise they generate.  The idea that you can burden your neighbors with your noise — whether you are a music lover or a factory — […]
  • Needed: Fully Interactive Help Pages - I am using a computer program.  It does something weird.  I want to be able to show a technician exactly what I was doing and how the program responded. Suppose the program is Microsoft Word.  I go to Microsoft’s website.  I find the Interactive Word Help page.  This page shows me a mock-up of a […]
  • Needed: Gap-Removing Audio Editing Software - I have an audio recording that contains gaps.  There is speech, then a gap, then music, then a gap, then speech, etc. I would like to close up those gaps so that the recording is easier and more interesting to listen to.  Some of the gaps last for only a few seconds; others are quite […]
  • Needed: Global Database Database - There should be a website that provides a link to each known global database.  One example of a global database would be a global listing of parts available for purchase.  Another would be a universal basic biography website.  A Google search (for e.g., “global database”) could work, if it wouldn’t also turn up so many […]
  • Needed: Google Earth with Fewer People - It would be very interesting and informative to have access to a version of Google Earth that would show what the planet would be like with fewer people. This could occur in past and/or future versions. The historical version would show how big Boston was in a certain year, for example, and where its businesses […]
  • Needed: Google Search Filter - I search in Google.  I get a list of a million webpages.  I refine my search.  Ultimately, I’m down to a few thousand.  Problem:  too many of the results are junk.  Example:  they seem to be automatically generated in response to my search.  I get pages reflecting all of my search terms but having no […]
  • Needed: Google Search Refinement Add-On - 1.  I do a Google search.  It gives too many results.  I refine it.  It gives fewer.  I want to see the cascading list of what I had before, and what I have now, and what I get when I refine it further.  Color-coding would be good, to show me (in e.g., blue) which ones […]
  • Needed: Google Unique Search - I am looking for the various kinds of multiple desktop software that might exist.  I do a search.  I do another search.  Every time I do a search, I see different products.  I step back a level and try to find reviews or comparisons that show what products are out there.   This helps, but now […]
  • Needed: Governmental Non-Governmental Organization - Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) typically function independently of governments for some specified purpose.  Examples include the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Rifle Association, and the World Council of Churches. There appears to be a need for an NGO capable of addressing the problems of failed countries reliably.  For assorted political reasons, NATO, the United Nations, […]
  • Needed: gScholar - Sent this to Google today: Could you provide a permanent location for scholarly papers? Journals are not keeping up: it can take two years to publish cutting-edge insights. Scenario: I write my manuscript; I post it on gScholar; I send the link to the editors of a journal. They vet it. If they don’t like […]
  • Needed: Hackers for Pakistan - Pakistan is going down the tubes.  Someone will get their hands on its nuclear weapons, and the world will change.  And it could change in a very bad way. Pakistan needs all the help it can get.  And once things are better in Pakistan, there will be a Georgia or a Somalia or someplace that […]
  • Needed: Head Refrigerant - I’m not sure this is an entirely great idea, but here goes. They say your brain puts out a lot of heat, uses up an inordinate share of your body’s calories, and so forth.  Apparently humans are also able to outrun faster animals (e.g., dogs, horses) over long distances in warm weather because our hairless […]
  • Needed: Hourly ETFs - There should be exchange-traded funds whose current value is posted hourly, based upon the previous hour’s transactions.  The reason behind such funds would be to allow people who want to do other things with their time to participate in ETFs by just checking in occasionally, knowing that much can change in an hour.
  • Needed: Iceberg Tugboats - There is talk of the Greenland ice cap someday disintegrating, and parts of Antarctica continue to do so. These are potential sources of fresh water for nations conveniently located. It seems that a fleet of tugboats, with specially designed barges, might provide the best devices for pushing those huge hunks of ice into places where […]
  • Needed: Individually Wrapped Aspirin - Chewing an aspirin at the onset of a heart attack is said to improve the odds of survival.  But aspirin, aspirin, who’s got the aspirin?  The aspirin bottle is safely waiting for me somewhere back home – in the bathroom, maybe, or the kitchen – and here I am on a 10K run, about two […]
  • Needed: Intelligent Representative Democracy - Democratic systems — notably but not only the American one — have been dysfunctional for a long time.  Current dissatisfaction with such systems provides an opportunity to push for reform.  This quick note suggests a few changes to improve the quality of democratic government. 1.  Prohibit ignorant voting.  If you don’t know what a person or […]
  • Needed: JokeBot - What every American household really needs is a robot pre-loaded with all sorts of puns and gags.  Maybe it would get an update every week.  It would follow us around and tell us jokes.  Like, if it saw a baseball lying on the floor, it might say, “I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. […]
  • Needed: Mass Transit Experimentation - Everybody’s worried about gas prices, about the cost of commuting and relying on cars.  People are going to be talking about improved mass transit. Which we need — desperately.  We have needed it for decades, since the 1970s and before.  I remember writing a letter, as a schoolboy, to a state governmental transportation authority in […]
  • Needed: Massive Free Internet Access Locations - High unemployment means lots of people — many of whom are highly skilled and/or educated — with not much productive work to do, other than hunt for a job.  Jobhunting can be a fulltime endeavor, but at a certain point it becomes futile for many people, and they give up.  Then, running very short of […]
  • Needed: Mechanics’ Dogs - Dogs could be trained to smell problems with cars.  Not all problems, of course, but quite a few:  brakes, fuel & exhaust systems, cooling system, electrical system components (e.g., overheating, short circuits), battery acid mix, mold or other signs of concealed water damage, etc. There are computers that can more accurately detect quite a few […]
  • Needed: MindWeb - I’m glad Google searches are so rapid and informative.  Or at least I used to be.  Now I’ve gotten used to that.  Now I think we need something that I proposed to CompuServe in 1987.  I don’t think MindWeb is necessarily the best name, but let’s go with that for the moment. Here’s a question.  […]
  • Needed: Modular Camping Cooler (Ice Chest) - People buy coolers and fill them with food, beverages, and ice.  Then they go to sporting events, fishing, or camping.  The ice melts within a day or so (unless you invest in a very expensive model), and you have to go somewhere and buy more.  The water from the melted ice makes the thing too […]
  • Needed: More Useless Projects - This post is in the process of being moved to my leisure blog.
  • Needed: Multifunction Typewriter/Printer/Scanner - I want to print an address on a size of envelope that I don’t normally use, or a design on a custom-sized piece of paper.  I don’t want to fool around with a dozen test runs to make sure the thing is configured right. What I want to do is to see the envelope or […]
  • Needed: Multipurpose Office Buildings - We have homeless people. We also have lots of people who have apartments or other dwellings that are dirty, dangerous, or otherwise undesirable, or from which those people are prone to be evicted due to upheaval or lack of reliable income. At the same time, we have clean, solid office buildings and retail and warehouse […]
  • Needed: National Life’s Story Library - Dead men tell no tales.  But that’s not true if they leave behind a journal or other account of what they’ve experienced. During their lifetimes, people accumulate a tremendous amount of information about themselves, the people around them, and current events.  This material is sometimes priceless, but often that’s not discovered until the person is […]
  • Needed: National Sliding Fee Scale - At present, there are sliding fee scales in which higher fees are charged to higher-income individuals, often to subsidize services provided to lower-income individuals.  This occurs in a variety of areas, such as income taxes and the provision of health services in neighborhood clinics.  These and other income-related gradations in services may be simplified and […]
  • Needed: Normalized Homelessness - We started pretty simply.  Regardless of your religious beliefs, you likely concur that we were living outdoors, without a pot to boil beans in.  What we have now is an advance over that in some much appreciated ways, but it is also a departure from that in some unfortunate ways. In our early days, we […]
  • Needed: Open This Link on My Other Computer - Users of the Firefox web browser can install “extensions,” or “add-ons,” to enhance the browser’s capabilities.  There have been several Firefox add-ons that have added the ability to right-click on a link and open this link in IE.  IE is short for Internet Explorer, the web browser from Microsoft.  Some webpages look or function better […]
  • Needed: Outdoor-Friendly Lodging Options for College - College is looking a bit pricey these days.  At the same time, we have successive generations of young people whose alienation from nature stems from their training for lives and careers indoors.  This has happened despite their occasional discovery that some of their own best experiences – from childhood on through summertime experiences in high […]
  • Needed: Paint Mix Sampler - I want to get some paint to fix a scratch on my car, or on my wall.  I want to go to the store and not buy a quart or even a pint:  I just want a half-ounce.  I’ll take it home and try it out.  If it’s not right, I’ll go back to the […]
  • Needed: Permanent Flea Market Stalls Online - I have some stuff that’s not worth much. For example, I have a small adapter for use with a certain kind of computer cable. I hate to throw it away; it seems wasteful. Somebody really might need it. But it’s not practical to go to the time and expense of writing it up and posting […]
  • Needed: Permatrivia Website - I have some miscellaneous stuff.  Maybe someone would want it.  But how can I connect with them?  I’m not in a situation where I can hold a yard sale – nor would I, for this junk.  On a larger scale, there are endless landfills containing unknown mixtures of useless, recyclable, and perfectly good items, slowly […]
  • Needed: Personal Digital Librarian - My computer, like many others, holds many digitized articles, mostly in PDF format.  I manually arrange them into folders and subfolders.  If I want to find one, I have to rely on my memory and on file search tools to retrieve it.  Sorting and retrieving takes time, leads to some duplication, and sometimes fails. It […]
  • Needed: Personal Numbers Map - Some numbers seem to recur in people’s lives at times.  For example, a person might coincidentally live at two different houses numbered 1012 (e.g., 1012 Main St. and then, years later, 1012 Green St.).  It’s probably just coincidence.  Still, it could be interesting to see which numbers appear most frequently in one’s daily materials.  A […]
  • Needed: Poem of History Wiki - It would be informative and inspiring to set up a wiki dedicated to presenting poems about the events of history.  Go to the page for October 14, 1066 and one of the links there is for the Battle of Hastings.  Follow that link and you’re on a wiki page where people can post their own […]
  • Needed: Random One-Shot MP3 Player - There should be an MP3 player that runs each time I log in. It plays just one song from my MP3 collection and then dies. I’m too busy to listen to music, but I do have time while the machine is booting and I am getting myself organized. It could also be arranged to run […]
  • Needed: Rapid Investment in Higher Education - Another blogger somewhere recently suggested that a major federal investment in education could forestall a recession.  Whatever the validity of that claim, it may make sense to offer very low-interest federal student loans to anyone who wishes to return to school now.  Doing so could give the apparently rising numbers of unemployed people something productive […]
  • Needed: Recording Layers of Experience - It is possible to add layers to a map.  You might start with a map of a city, in the simplest sense – as, say, a blob of color on a white background.  The yellow area indicates where Columbus is, for instance, on the map of Ohio; but the yellow area does not show any […]
  • Needed: Sci-Fi: Reverse Evolution - There should be a science fiction story in which creatures make a slow transition to other forms of life, in reverse evolution. Like, at some point in the future, people will have developed superior character traits, will no longer need the extreme adaptability that comes with a scattered and chaotic lifestyle, and will come to […]
  • Needed: Superheroes Club & Council of Elders - I started to write this up and realized there were two separate ideas.  The first idea was that the world needs a relatively informal but real institution, a superstar team or council of elders, limited to maybe a dozen truly standout people.  Like maybe the Nobel Peace Prize would count as one of the bases […]
  • Needed: Sweden™ - Sweden is one of the world’s best places to live, according to a variety of measures.  It ranked third (behind Finland and Switzerland) in Newsweek’s 2010 list of the world’s best countries; MSN Money includes it among the world’s most prosperous nations, with the world’s second-highest annual investment in research and development; the World Economic Forum […]
  • Needed: Swiss Gold Standard for Good Government - Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf says, “Africa is not poor.  It is poorly managed.”  A rich country like the U.S. could, in theory, go in and set up systems and guidelines for good government.  But the credibility of the U.S. has been strained, and the American experience in Iraq has eroded the desire and trust in […]
  • Needed: Tech Jams - It would be entertaining and instructive to attend a jam session of highly skilled tech types.  The ambiance would be that of a karaoke bar, but the equipment onstage would be a set of fearsome multimedia computer systems.  The concept would be that you wait your turn to get up there and do something with […]
  • Needed: The Free Speech Billionaire - Nothing does more to keep America mired in corruption and dismay than the fact that we cannot speak freely about things that need to be brought into the light and talked about.  This is true across many fronts, but a particularly noticeable one has to do with the risk of being sued in a civil […]
  • Needed: The Google Imponderable RSS Feed - When you do a Google search, ordinarily you get thousands if not millions of hits.  If you do a specialized search, you may get it down to just a few dozen or, rarely, just a handful of results. Once in a while, though, you find that you have asked Google a question that it cannot […]
  • Needed: The Lifestyle Lottery - Instead of lotteries that award pure cash to winners (who sometimes blow the money and wind up back where they were), there should be at least the option for a kind of lottery that would put the winner into a certain lifetsyle, guaranteed, for the rest of his/her life.  Or, in case that lifestyle proved […]
  • Needed: The Thanksgiving Doctor’s Message - Thanksgiving can be a mealy-mouthed sort of thing, when people feel a sort of vague gratitude that life is so good, or at least that it’s not as bad as it could be.  One way to focus our gratitude would be to have the Surgeon General deliver an annual message touching upon the various things […]
  • Needed: Trashpile-Cleaning Robots - We have mountains of trash. Inside those mountains are all sorts of things that could be better used. Some are recyclable. Some are compostable. Some are still potentially useful. Some are even brand new. A trashpile-cleaning robot could have a camera and could be connected to the Internet. It could be connected to an electrical […]
  • Needed: Ubiquitous Instant Input Microphones - I’m in the grocery store.  I’m looking for something.  I can’t find it.  I also can’t find a clerk to help me find it.  So I give up.  I want to tell the store about it and move on, maybe try again next week.  What I need is a wired or wireless microphone, one in […]
  • Needed: Unfinished Projects Registry - A government agency is restructured, and what people were trying to achieve previously is mothballed.  A company goes out of business, and some really cool thing that its people were trying to develop gets put into boxes in a warehouse.  A retired individual has a labor of love underway, and would like to pass along […]
  • Needed: Universal Basic Biography - Nobody should be treated as though s/he were faceless.  At birth, and at important occasions thereafter, everyone should be entitled to the collection and preservation of a bit of basic audio, video, still image, and documentary information about them.  Important occasions might include turning a certain important age (e.g., 10, 21, 65), achieving a certain […]
  • Needed: Video Time & Place Sharing - This one calls for a mix of Google Earth and peer-to-peer file sharing. I take a video at a certain time and place.  I go to a version of Google Earth and indicate (a) the place that I am videotaping and (b) the point from which I am videotaping it.  I then enter the date […]
  • Needed: Website Accessibility Logo and Certification - The world knows what the accessible symbol means.  Now somebody needs to make a modified version of that symbol, to serve as a logo — as a sort of Good Housekeeping Seal indicating that a webpage meets standard accessibility guidelines.  Permission to use (or, with sophisticated coding, perhaps even the possibility of using) the symbol […]
  • Needed: What They Think of You - It would be helpful to have a webpage on which you could invite others to say what they consider your strengths to be.  Not weaknesses, directly, since some people would hesitate to criticize friends and others might overdo the criticism.  A carefully selected set of choices among strengths might do a better job.  A fairly good […]
  • Needed: Wish List Webpage - There should be a wish list webpage. On this page, people would list their wishes in different categories, according to what kind of thing the person wants. Some people want money; some people want prayers or positive thoughts; some want feedback on the websites they have developed or the creative things they have written; and […]
  • Needed: SpringBike - I was going to send this idea to MIT’s Senseable City lab, but couldn’t find the contact info.  So here it is instead. They’re working on an electric bicycle that saves the energy that would otherwise be wasted when you stop the bike.  It stores that energy to a battery that powers a motor.  But […]
  • Quips: Money and Democracy - Democracy is like money.  Below a basic level, its absence causes suffering.  Above an optimal level, its excess fosters absurdity.
  • The Tax We Needed (May 30, 2008) - Suppose that politicians had raised taxes on gas, starting in the early 1990s, at the very time when Newt Gingrich and his fellow Republicans were so successfully attacking taxation as a Democratic disease. What difference would it have made? With steadily rising gas taxes, we might have been spared the SUV craze. Some of those […]



  • A Current Reason for Revolution - There is probably always some kind of reason for revolution:  the beer is warm, cars are too expensive, the vanguard of the proletariat demands that we STRIKE!  Egypt et al. certainly have had their reasons recently, as Russia did long ago and America long before that. One reason why it could be our turn again […]
  • A Possible Response to the Central American Kids Invasion - We have tens of thousands of children fleeing from Central America to the U.S. It seems they face horrendous circumstances if they go back. But there’s also fear that keeping them here sets a bad precedent — that there are millions more, adult and child alike, willing to follow them if the signals are right. […]
  • A Technique for Thinking About Things - Good thinking should be structured, particularly in the sense of applying previous learning.  It should also be unstructured, to the extent that you want to apply your own creativity and take account of your unique circumstances. I used to use lists to help me think.  For example, people often advise writing down the pluses of […]
  • How to Make a Difficult Decision - Everybody knows how to make a decision.  You line up the choices, compare pros and cons, and decide.  Simple. Unfortunately, some decisions are not like that.  You make your decision, and then later you change your mind.  And then you change your mind again.  This happens more for some people than for others.  Maybe they […]
  • How to Settle the Spratleys - In the past few years, China has become increasingly engaged in actions that provoke concerns throughout eastern and southern Asia.  In response, neighboring nations have become receptive to measures to counterbalance and contain China.  For instance, such nations appear generally favorable toward America’s recent military “pivot to Asia.” One area of perceived arrogance has to […]
  • Iraq: What Happens When They Neglect the Peace Corps (April 12, 2008) - The Peace Corps has consistently accepted about 30% to 40% of its applicants. But what if the nation had maintained a commitment to the Peace Corps at least as strong as its commitment to the military? We do need a military. But we, and the world, have also needed other things as well. Iraq is […]
  • It’s Not Just a War — It’s an Adventure (re Afghanistan) (Sept. 18, 2001) - [This was one of a half-dozen articles that I submitted for publication to various newspapers and magazines, in the weeks following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. Several others follow this one. One of this set of articles is posted in another blog.] * * * […]
  • Proposed: American Carmakers Should Get into Trains - The highway paradigm seems to be dying; and even if it weren’t, it should.  Trains are a much more efficient and enjoyable way to travel, in most situations.  Chasing the highway paradigm may be the death of American carmakers. It seems likely that prices of steel, aluminum, rubber, concrete, and other materials used in production […]
  • Proposed: CCC + RTC = Public Service Administration - The Civilian Conservation Corps employed thousands of jobless young men in the 1930s.  In exchange for room, board, and a stipend, they built state parks and other public works that have been enjoyed by generations of Americans.  The discipline instilled by that experience served those young men well, as they next turned to military service […]
  • Proposed: Cycle-Killer - There should be an ad for a motorscooter, Segway, skateboard, or some other transportation device that uses the Talking Heads’ song, “Psychokiller.”  Not that it’s a great song to sell products, except maybe if you’re in an extreme sports kind of mindset.  Being of a somewhat green orientation, I would suggest the “cycle” that is […]
  • Proposed: Electricity from Pavement Expansion & Contraction - Like so many other ideas, this has probably already been considered, rejected, tried, and/or implemented in one form or another.  My quick search this morning doesn’t turn up anything obvious, and I’m out of time for more searching, so I’ll just write it up and move on. Pavement expands and contracts with each morning’s solar […]
  • Proposed: Free Kashmir - The contested region of Jammu and Kasmir, shown around the number 10 near the top of a Wikipedia map, has inspired passions and war among India, China, and Pakistan.  While the situation has been largely stable on the state-to-state level for years, the unsettled status of the region continues to inspire militancy.  It may therefore […]
  • Proposed: Global Inflation as Financial Cure - People desperately need money now.  So give them money. If any one nation does this by itself, its currency will become worthless.  If you print endless amounts of dollars and give them to all American citizens, you help them wipe out their debt, but it will take a stack of dollars to buy a single […]
  • Proposed: Hand Signal to Call for Help - I saw a video where a young woman needed help and was not able to cry out or use something like the diver’s signal, “waving” from side to side. It occurred to me that it could be useful to have an easy, one-hand emergency signal that a person could use unobtrusively. There did not seem […]
  • Proposed: Hillary Clinton Should Become an Actress - I’ve been chuckling, for years, at Leno’s & Letterman’s jokes at the expense of Hillary Clinton — about pantsuits and frigidity and all that.  But in reality, as I view the person she has turned out to be, I think she’s a consummate actress.  I don’t say that critically or disparagingly.  I mean to say […]
  • Proposed: Jesse Ventura as Interim President of Libya - Reports at the moment suggest that Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi is about to be ousted.  Assuming that happens, the conversation turns to the question of who will replace him.  Libya, like Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan before it, is divided among multiple groups that do not necessarily get along well with each other.  As in those other […]
  • Proposed: Merge Citibank and Bank of America - Citibank and B of A are failing, and yet are too large to fail.  The bankruptcy of either one would likely have large effects on global financial confidence.  The bankruptcy of both would be much worse. One solution may be to merge them.  Doing so could have some benefits.  First, it would constitute a form […]
  • Proposed: Middle Age Starts at the Median Age - Wikipedia tells me that middle age has been defined in different ways, starting somewhere between 35 and 45 and running on to somewhere between 50 and 65.  I’m not too clear, yet, on the line between middle and old age.  But since I’m 55, I think I have probably at least entered middle age, and […]
  • Proposed: Morality < Cleanliness < Self-Respect - This is a response to “The Smell of Virtue: Clean Scents Promote Reciprocity and Charity,” Psychological Science (2009) (lead author Katie Liljenquist) (see LiveScience writeup).  The paper says: [C]lean smells might not only regulate physical cleanliness, but may also motivate virtuous behavior.  … [M]orality and cleanliness may also be reciprocally linked.  … [T]he current research […]
  • Proposed: Party Game: What Are You Thinking? - In this game, you sit in a circle and take turns.  The first person says, “I bet that, since this game started, someone in this circle has had the thought that they hope they will win the game.”  Everyone in the circle who has had this thought raises his/her hand, gets a point, takes a […]
  • Proposed: Person of the Year: Mohamed Bouazizi - I would bet that Time magazine will already have plans for this.  But in case they don’t, it seems the person of the year must be Mohamed Bouazizi, the fruit seller in Tunisia who set himself on fire last December and died on January 4, 2011. Bouazizi, age 26 at death, was protesting bureaucratic harassment and […]
  • Proposed: Public-Private Worksharing - Some companies have been known to pay their employees to do random work, for the companies themselves or even for other organizations, rather than take the easy route of just terminating or laying off those unneeded workers.  Companies have done this mostly because it can be difficult and expensive to recruit and train personnel, and […]
  • Proposed: Stop Emphasizing Math and Science Scores - There is a perennial concern that the U.S. will fall behind because young people don’t study math, science, and engineering often enough or well enough.  A partial solution to this problem is to stop making such fields even more forbidding than they are. Math is a language.  It is a way of thinking.  It is […]
  • Proposed: Tax Credits for Helping Someone - The question is whether President-elect Barack Obama should cut taxes on the wealthy.  Raising taxes on anyone during a recession is said to be bad policy.  That may be; but it does not necessarily follow that a simple tax reduction is the most prudent course. One alternative would be to grant tax credits in exchange […]
  • Proposed: The Alternating Six-Year Presidency (moved) - This item has been moved to my political blog.
  • Proposed: The Digital Year - It will probably be a long time before anyone finds it advisable to tinker with the basic units of our calendar – weeks, months, years, centuries, millennia.  Ditto for other basic units of timekeeping.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate about what it would be like if someone did. I saw a video, the […]
  • Proposed: The Internet Library Circulation Department - I have a copy of a book.  I would rather have it in PDF format so I can search it for specific terms and store it electronically.  So I rip it apart and I scan it.  Later, I’m done with it.  I sell or donate it to the Internet Library Circulation Department (ILCD) by sending […]
  • Proposed: The Main Food Groups (for Emergencies) - Every schoolchild has heard about the main food groups:  grains, fruits, . . .  well, whatever they are.  But it occurs to me that, in a pinch, people have pretty well established that there are also some main food groups for emergency situations.  Emergencies, in common experience, include receiving a divorce notice, getting a leg […]
  • Proposed: The Permanent Drizzle - I keep hearing about cloud-seeding and all sorts of other cool ideas to get water into the air so that it can fall on the ground — not to mention other water-related terraforming concepts, like the canal to bisect Australia.  My humble contribution, probably inferior and unworkable in many ways, is to suggest putting pipes […]
  • Proposed: The Subsidized Intellectual Life - We have lots of highly educated people who won’t be getting work, anytime soon, at their skill level.  We would have even more of them if people were more diligent about following their interests and going with what really excites them, which is much more likely to be literature or social justice than engineering or […]
  • Proposed: The U of M’s Pfizer Space Becomes the Hub of a Global Intellectual Haven - In previous posts, I suggested that a tough economy and chronic undervaluing of intellectual assets create an environment in which Ph.Ds can be acquired cheaply, and that it makes sense to provide highly skilled people with Internet access and other basic resources needed to make themselves useful to society. The University of Michigan has acquired […]
  • Proposed: The West Berlinization of Jordan - At the end of World War II, western troops faced off against Soviet troops across central Europe.  The result was an Iron Curtain that partitioned the Continent. I visited Berlin in 1988.  West Berlin was a rich city, surrounded by East Berlin and East Germany.  It was an island of prosperity and freedom within a […]
  • Proposed: Use Malls as Disney-Style Day Parks - I got this idea:  Golden Corral and other buffet-style restaurants could sell day passes.  You could have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all in one restaurant.  Problem:  at least until we have fingerprint or retinal identification, they could have people sharing their day passes with friends.  Instead of stuffing one person, which could require a large […]
  • Proposed: You’re Welcome Friday - After Thanksgiving Thursday.
  • Proposed: Zardari for President - Excerpts from a recent New York Times article: If Pakistan is the most dangerous country on earth … its presidency is one of the world’s least enviable posts. …. My impression? This guy’s very smart, street smart, a wheeler-dealer in an area full of them, secular, pro-American, committed to democracy, and brave. I never heard […]
  • Suggestions for the Legacy of the Marshall Islands - The Marshall Islands, in the western Pacific, are among the low-lying islands likely to be most affected by rising sea levels — likely, that is, to become uninhabitable in the not-too-distant future. Uninhabitability will occur long before the islands are actually submerged. Higher tides and storm surges are capable of eroding, salinizing, and otherwise damaging soil, […]
  • Use an Asteroid to Get to Mars - Instead of trying to build spacecraft to travel to Mars, maybe we should be (1) learning to steer asteroids and (2) building spacecraft that could hitch rides on asteroids. The steering concept builds on what we already do with spacecraft.  The craft that we send off to explore parts of the solar system sometimes use […]



  • Can Desalination Proceed without Electricity? - It always seems like desalination (i.e., removal of salt from sea water to make fresh water) is treated as a power problem.  It takes a lot of electricity to do that.  But I was wondering, can this be done without electricity? I know this has surely been considered by many engineers.  But my search didn’t […]
  • Is It Possible to Terraform Venus By Steering an Asteroid Into It? - Venus is incredibly hot.  Its atmosphere is super-dense.  It features sulfuric acid rain.  There is little if any water.  On the other hand, it is Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor and is also about the same size as Earth.  With the right technologies, over a period of a century or two, it could conceivably become an alternate […]
  • Question: Do Animals Cross in Front of Cars for Protection? - I just tried doing a quick Google search for this, but I don’t want to invest a lot of time in a stray thought, so just let me ask:  do you suppose animals race across the road, right in front of cars, because they know that birds of prey will not dare to dash down […]
  • Question: Does Upheaval Happen More at the End of Decades? - In 2008, Obama won on a campaign of change, which McCain imitated.  Clinton won in 1992 on a much more centrist message. The world’s most famous stock market crash occurred in 1929.  The recession of the early 1980s arguably began with the 1979 energy crisis.  Likewise, the 2001 recession arguably began with the skyrocketing NASDAQ […]
  • Question: Is Nighttime Good for You? - People originally lived outdoors.  They were outside during the daytime, and therefore got lots of sunshine.  They were also outdoors at night, except if they happened to live in a cave.  So they got to see the stars and the moon, feel the night breeze, hear the nighttime insects, and so forth. Nowadays, people are […]
  • Question: Water in the Desert - I am thinking about the western U.S. drying up, and I wonder whether it would help to pump massive amounts of ocean water into a large natural or artificial basin somewhere in Nevada.  This would obviously not be the more authentically natural move, at least not in the sense of leaving things as we found […]
  • Question: Why Don’t Moths Smarten Up? - I was wondering why moths fly toward lightbulbs.  I was thinking it might be because they think that light-avoiding nocturnal predators won’t bother them there.  But I got this other answer from Moths use the moon to navigate. The moon doesn’t move out of position if the moth flies in a straight line. But […]
  • Question: Why Two Genders? - I just read part of a debate on intelligent design vs. evolution.  People made good points on both sides.  But I still am not sure why there are two genders. Someone said there are actually three, but they were counting hermaphrodites.  There is not a distinct third gender which is as different from male and […]
  • Questions: What If It’s Not Just Parrots? - I was just thinking about what people do when they meet someone who speaks another language.  Sometimes, especially if they are not too bright or not too kind, they make jabbering noises at the person who is trying to speak to them.  That’s what they hear — jabbering. Now, parrots have learned how to do […]
  • The Real Osama bin Laden Question: What Changed? - I’m seeing all these editorials asking how we can consider Pakistan an ally when it allowed Osama bin Laden to live in a place where it surely knew of his presence, just a few blocks from a Pakistani military base.  These editorials seem to be focusing on a relatively trivial matter.  Yes, Pakistan is complicated.  […]
  • Unanswered Question: Tree Leaves - Why do trees sometimes drop all of their leaves at once?  Some trees, some years, lose almost all their leaves in a single day.  Why?




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