Digital Dog Tag

From the Unnecessary Pet Technology department, FutureWire points us to the "Dog-e-Tag™" digital dog tag.  It stores phone numbers, e-mail addresses, vet info, and personalized messages like "I can’t hear, I’m deaf," "I am 9 years old and I can’t see very well," and the ever-important "I like my tummy rubbed."

And when the battery runs out?

I offered one of these to my dog, but he’s a Luddog™.  Good boy.

Link: dogetag.com, via : FutureWire: A Database for Your Dog.

Unrest in New York over School Cellphone Ban

I’m sure this story has been reported and discussed ad nauseum already, but if you missed it: International Herald Tribune/NY Times: New York ban on students’ phones cuts lifeline, parents grumble.

The parents do have a point — we certainly are more dependent on cellphones, given the disappearance of public phones (though I have no idea if there are public phones in schools these days).  Surely there’s some solution where students can keep their phones but must lock them away during class hours.

This story points out some distressing characteristics of life today.  Parents demand cellphones because of irrational fears, fed to them by the media, about child predators and terrorist attacks.  Kids can’t imagine life without cellphones; "I feel so empty," says one 14 year-old who needs to listen to music on her cellphone to avoid a "really, really boring" subway ride.

U.S. Marks Chernobyl by Launching Pro-Nuclear PR Campaign

From Environmental News Service:

The nuclear industry launched a new campaign on Monday to generate support for increased nuclear power, spearheaded by Greenpeace
cofounder Patrick Moore and former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

Nuclear power advocates are hoping that Moore and Whitman can
sell the American public on the benefits of nuclear power and help
spark the resurgence of an industry that has not constructed a new
plant in some 30 years.

“Scientific evidence shows that nuclear power is an
environmentally sound and safe energy choice,” said Moore, who along
with Whitman will cochair the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition
(CASEnergy).

[…]

Jim Riccio, a nuclear power analyst with Greenpeace USA, said Moore has
been “living off his reputation with Greenpeace for some time now and
lacks credibility.”

To call nuclear power clean and safe is “the height of
hypocrisy, especially as we are ready to commemorate Chernobyl,” Riccio
told ENS.

Wednesday is the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine – the world’s worst nuclear power accident.

Although U.S. plants are much safer than the doomed Chernobyl
facility, critics remain unconvinced that the nation’s regulatory
agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or the nuclear industry, in
fact focus on safety.

A report released Monday by Greenpeace finds that the industry has had some 200 “near misses” to nuclear meltdowns since 1986.

The study shows that nuclear power plants are a “clear and
present danger,” Riccio said, and packaging nuclear power as a solution
to global warming is “dead wrong.”

Link: U.S. Nuclear Industry Fires Up Public Relations Campaign,
via PR Watch: Learning from, and Spinning, the Chernobyl Disaster.

Chinese Scientists Clone Mad Cow-Resistant Calf

Happy_cow_small
From VOA News:

Chinese scientists say they have successfully cloned a calf with genes resistant to mad cow disease.

China’s official news agency, Xinhua, reports Wednesday that scientists at the Laiyong Agro-Science Institute in eastern Shangong used transplant technology to introduce genes to the calf, which was cloned from the cells of an adult cow.

The scientists say more tests are needed to confirm that the procedure was a success.

Link: VOA News – Chinese Scientists Clone Mad Cow-Resistant Calf,

via blog.bioethics.net: The Cow That Will Not Lose Its Mind (or Kill You).

It’s surely a good thing to prevent mad cow disease, but does this mean the industry could now relax about what they feed cows?  Hooray for cow-nabilism! (sh-udder)

A Google image search for happy cow returns many things, some amusing and some downright frightening.  The image above is from a manufacturer of antibiotics for cows. Ew.  Did I mention I’m vegan (mostly)? 🙂

Singularity and Human Enhancement Events

Here are a couple of upcoming events that might interest you if you’re in the Bay area and want to see lots of big name futurist types do their thing.

The Singularity Summit at Stanford, May 13, is "a rare gathering of thinkers to explore the rising impact of science
and technology on society. The summit has been organized to further the
understanding of a controversial idea – the singularity scenario."  Features Eric Drexler, Ray Kurzweil, Bill McKibben and many others.

The Human Enhancement Technologies and Human Rights conference is May 26-28, at Stanford Law School.  Speakers include James Hughes, Aubrey de Grey and others.

I’ll be attending the Singularity Summit and will report on it here.  I’m not sure yet if I’ll go to the Human Enhancement conference.

[Updated 4/30/06]

Newsflash: Number of Words in English Reaches a Gazillion!

You can’t ask for a much better example of our fascination with scientific sounding yet meaningless statistics than the recent news stories about the number of words in the English language.  A few weeks ago one group told us that we were fast approaching one million, according to their particular database and method of counting.  Jesse Sheidlower wrote in Slate about the silliness of this count (Slate: Word Count: Are there really 988,968 words in the English language?).

Now today another group comes along and tells us we’ve just hit one billion words (AP/SF Chronicle: English Language Hits 1 Billion Words).  That’s 1,000,000,000 instead of 1,000,000.  Unless they mean 10^12 instead of 10^9 — this is a British group and the usage of "billion" varies — see Wikipedia: Billion.  So who knows?  It’s a one and a whole bunch of zeros.

Prepare to be dazzled, dear readers, when my personal vocabulary reaches 1,000.  I’m working on the press release already.

Branded Sheep: Baaaaad Idea

Harvey_yourlogo15From the International Herald Tribune comes a story about sheep being used in the Netherlands as walking billboards.  People aren’t happy about it.  I love this quote:

"My first reaction was a smile; it is very creative," said the town’s mayor, Bert Kuiper. "My second reaction is that we have to stop this. If we start with sheep, then next it’s the cows and horses."

Link: Billboards that eat and bleat – International Herald Tribune.

The image is from the ad company’s website, www.leaseasheep.org.

People don’t want video on their phones

Just a few weeks ago, Wired tried to tell us that people were clamoring for more features like video on their cell phones, despite evidence to the contrary (see earlier post: What do we really want from our cell phones?).  Today the New York Times reports that only one per cent of mobile phone users watch video on their phones, compared to 28% who have the feature available.  (Link: NYT: Video Handsets Mostly Just Used as Phones).  Some will say it’s just a matter of time and cost.  But maybe people just don’t want it, like they didn’t want video phones in the 1970s.

Future Hype

Future_hype_final_cover_300_wideSorry if it seems like book promotion week here (though it is the start of TV Turnoff Week, so perhaps it’s appropriate).  Here’s another new book that I’m really excited about:
Future Hype: The Myths of Technology Change by Bob Seidensticker.  I’ve just read parts of it so far, but it looks like exactly the kind of level-headed skepticism we need more of.

There’s a website for the book with excerpts and more information: www.future-hype.com.