The Golden Four: 2017 National Champions in the US Senior Men's Team Foil - (L to R): David Hadler, Zack Hammer, Alexander Pivovarov and Anton Zakharikov from the San Francisco Fencers Club.Read More
FRB 121102, a fast radio burst signal first picked up in 2012, was just observed emitting many new bursts of energy. Scientists from SETI and Breakthrough Listen are all over this and are pondering its cause.
ZME Science quotes Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and of the Breakthrough Listen program, who said "Bursts from this source have never been seen at this high a frequency.”
On Saturday, UC Berkeley postdoctoral researcher Dr. Vishal Gajjar used the Breakthrough Listen backend instrument at the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia to target FRB 121102 once again. After observing for five hours and across the entire 4 to 8 GHz frequency band, Gajjar and the Listen team analyzed the 400 terabytes of data gathered and found 15 new pulses from FRB 121102.
If you're interested in the Breakthrough program, check out their website.
So, does this mean there's the exciting possibility of extraterrestrial life out there beaming Fast Radio Bursts out into space? Possibly, but this doesn't appear to be an event that demonstrates a greater likelihood than previously thought. These signals came from Three billion light years away. Three billion (with a "b"). The amount of energy required to generate a radio wave to travel that distance is...well, beyond my comprehension. Which doesn't mean that another life form couldn't do it, but it is much more likely to be cause by some nuclear event of amazing proportions such as a quasar. A current, popular theory being explored is whether these FRBs are the result of a collision between two black holes (an event too amazing for me to quite fathom). But these are the epic-level forces of nature that astro-physicists (the people who know a good deal more about this stuff than yours truly) are currently pondering.
Our friends in Japan have pretty consistently shown a penchant for embracing robots to replace humans in repetitive jobs. They've even managed to successfully replace humans in service industry roles like food servers, hotel concierge. Even companions for the elderly. And now, funeral priests.
Japan's telecommunications company SoftBank just unveiled "Pepper," its robot priest, dressed in Buddhist robes, that can chant Buddhist scriptures, play the drum, and livestream the ceremony for people who can't attend the funeral in person. The demo took place at Japan's "Life Ending Industry Expo" in Tokyo last Wednesday (OK, maybe its just me...but... "Life Ending Indstry Expo?" Man, oh man.).
According to The Guardian:
The robot was on display on Wednesday at a funeral industry fair, the Life Ending Industry Expo, in Tokyo, shown off by plastic molding maker Nissei Eco.
With the average cost of a funeral in Japan reaching in excess of £20,000, according to data from Japan’s Consumer Association in 2008, and human priests costing £1,700, Nissei Eco is looking to undercut the market with Pepper available for just £350 per funeral.
Pepper (not a name I'd expect a Buddhist priest to have, but this is a robot we're talking about after all...but hey, I'm still struggling with the whole idea of a robotic voice pronouncing last rites...) has not yet been hired for a real funeral. With my northern European ancestral sensibilities, this is a wrong application of technology, but that's both culturally biased and pretty meaningless in the big scheme of things. We'll see how this sits with Japan's Buddhists.
In Ancient "Resist" History: On August 24, 1967, guerilla theater activist Abbie Hoffman and his pals dropped a slew of dollar bills off the balcony of the New York Stock Exchange onto the trading floor below. As Hoffman later said, "“If you don’t like the news, why not go out and make your own?” From Smithsonian:
Participant Bruce Dancis recalled, “At first people on the floor were stunned. They didn’t know what was happening. They looked up and when they saw money was being thrown they started to cheer, and there was a big scramble for the dollars.”
The protesters exited the Stock Exchange and were immediately beset by reporters, who wanted to know who they were and what they’d done. Hoffman supplied nonsense answers, calling himself Cardinal Spellman and claiming his group didn’t exist. He then burned a five-dollar bill, solidifying the point of the message. As Bruce Eric France writes, “Abbie believed it was more important to burn money [than] draft cards… To burn a draft card meant one refused to participate in the war. To burn money meant one refused to participate in society.”
For Hoffman himself, the success of the stunt was obvious. “Guerrilla theater is probably the oldest form of political commentary,” he wrote in his autobiography. “Showering money on the Wall Street brokers was the TV-age version of driving the money changers from the temple… Was it a real threat to the Empire? Two weeks after our band of mind-terrorists raided the stock exchange, 20,000 dollars was spent to enclose the gallery with bullet-proof glass.”
Protest "against the Man" is as old a humans governing other humans. I'll give ol' Abbie credit for means of making noise with such theater rather than noisy violence in the public square. I post this because I love the humor...the P. T. Barnum-esque flourish of this statement is delightful. The resulting action from the stock exchange is historical theater at its finest. God bless humanity.