Giant ‘telescope’ links London to New York

Today in Digg, I came upon this article that made me dream – by By Lara Farrar
for CNN.

“As the first splinters of sunlight spread their warmth on the south bank of the River Thames on Thursday, it became clear that after more than a century, the vision of Victorian engineer Alexander Stanhope St. George had finally been realized.

In all its optical brilliance and brass and wood, there stood the Telectroscope: an 11.2-meter-(37 feet) long by 3.3-meter-(11 feet) tall dream of a device allowing people on one side of the Atlantic to look into its person-size lens and, in real time, see those on the other side via a recently completed tunnel running under the ocean. (Think 19th-century Webcam. Or maybe Victorian-age video phone.)

(…)

During the twilight hours Tuesday, massive dirt-covered metal drill bits miraculously emerged — one by the Thames near the Tower Bridge and the other on Fulton Ferry Landing by the Brooklyn Bridge in New York — completing the final sections of  the transatlantic tunnel.

The drills were removed Wednesday night and replaced with identical Telectroscopes at both ends, allowing Londoners and New Yorkers to wake up Thursday, look over to the far and distant shore and stare at each other for a while (the telescope-like contraption permits visual but not vocal communication).”

(..)
To read the rest of this article, please go here.

Vatican: It’s OK to believe in aliens

Today while browsing through Digg, I found this curious article written by By ARIEL DAVID for the Associated Press

VATICAN CITY – Believing that the universe may contain alien life does not contradict a faith in God, the Vatican’s chief astronomer said in an interview published Tuesday.

The Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, was quoted as saying the vastness of the universe means it is possible there could be other forms of life outside Earth, even intelligent ones.

“How can we rule out that life may have developed elsewhere?” Funes said. “Just as we consider earthly creatures as ‘a brother,’ and ‘sister,’ why should we not talk about an ‘extraterrestrial brother’? It would still be part of creation.”

In the interview by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Funes said that such a notion “doesn’t contradict our faith” because aliens would still be God’s creatures. Ruling out the existence of aliens would be like “putting limits” on God’s creative freedom, he said.

The interview, headlined “The extraterrestrial is my brother,” covered a variety of topics including the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and science, and the theological implications of the existence of alien life.

To read the rest of the article, please go here.

Is it wise to be smart?

Today, while browsing the electronic pages of the New York Times, I found this interesting editorial

The Cost of Smarts
By Verlyn Klinkenborg

Research on animal intelligence always makes me wonder just how smart humans are. Consider the fruit-fly experiments described in Carl Zimmer’s piece in the Science Times on Tuesday. Fruit flies who were taught to be smarter than the average fruit fly tended to live shorter lives. This suggests that dimmer bulbs burn longer, that there is an advantage in not being too terrifically bright.

Intelligence, it turns out, is a high-priced option. It takes more upkeep, burns more fuel and is slow off the starting line because it depends on learning “” a gradual process “” instead of instinct. Plenty of other species are able to learn, and one of the things they’ve apparently learned is when to stop.

Is there an adaptive value to limited intelligence? That’s the question behind this new research. I like it. Instead of casting a wistful glance backward at all the species we’ve left in the dust I.Q.-wise, it implicitly asks what the real costs of our own intelligence might be. This is on the mind of every animal I’ve ever met.

Every chicken that looks at you sideways “” which is how they all look at you “” is really saying what Thoreau said less succinctly: you are endeavoring to solve the problem of a livelihood by a formula more complicated than the problem itself. Thoreau himself would not dispute that he was hoping to recover the chicken’s point of view. He went to Walden Pond “to remember well his ignorance.”

Research on animal intelligence also makes me wonder what experiments animals would perform on humans if they had the chance. Every cat with an owner, for instance, is running a small-scale study in operant conditioning. I believe that if animals ran the labs, they would test us to determine the limits of our patience, our faithfulness, our memory for terrain. They would try to decide what intelligence in humans is really for, not merely how much of it there is. Above all, they would hope to study a fundamental question: Are humans actually aware of the world they live in? So far the results are inconclusive.

This editorial refers to the following article : Lots of Animals Learn, but Smarter Isn’t Better