This afternoon I'll be skipping the weekly physics colloquium in favor of a symposium at our own (admittedly not creatively named) Institute for Advanced Studies on "Big History". So if anyone cares to join me over in Nolte at 4 pm:
Mapping Timescales - presentation by David Christian and David Fox
Sponsored By: Institute for Advanced Study
David Christian (History, San Diego State University) and David Fox (Geology and Geophysics, University of Minnesota) will discuss the emerging field of "Big History," which combines the evolution of the planet with human history.
Astronomers, of course, have a congenital affinity for long timescales, but you folks may have noticed my deep interest in projects like the Long Now Foundation. On which topic, the New York Times this week has a profile of Stewart Brand, one of the principals behind the Clock of the Long Now. However, he's made a successful career of being uncannily right about the near future as well, and I recommend giving it a read. Incidentally, the big mechanical thing he's posing with is a prototype of the chimes for the Clock, which like the rest of the beast are a mechanical digital beast able to generate millions of unique chiming sequences over the Clock's 10,000 year lifespan.
Observation: 10,000 years is roughly the length of time that of Stonehenge has been a significant site. The oldest post-holes there have been dated to c. 8000 BCE, although perhaps five millenia more passed before the first stones were erected.
Also from this week's NYT, a decent overview of fringe fusion ideas. Fusion power has had this nasty habit over the past half-century of always being about 30 years from practical, which is as good an argument as any for exploring many alternate paths to getting it to work. Most will fail, but only one has to work out to dramatically ease humanity's long-term outlook.