The Big Think

October 9, 2014

Peter Thiel Is Wrong About the Future

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 9:21 am

Peter Thiel Is Wrong About the Future:

“The reason mid-20th-century Americans were optimistic about the future wasn’t that science-fiction writers told cool stories about space travel. Science-fiction glamour in fact worked on only a small slice of the public. (Nobody else in my kindergarten was grabbing for ‘You Will Go to the Moon.’) People believed the future would be better than the present because they believed the present was better than the past. They constantly heard stories — not speculative, futuristic stories but news stories, fashion stories, real-estate stories, medical stories — that reinforced this belief. They remembered epidemics and rejoiced in vaccines and wonder drugs. They looked back on crowded urban walk-ups and appreciated neat suburban homes. They recalled ironing on sweaty summer days and celebrated air conditioning and wash-and-wear fabrics. They marveled at tiny transistor radios and dreamed of going on airplane trips.

Then the stories changed. For good reasons and bad, more and more Americans stopped believing in what they had once viewed as progress. Plastics became a punch line, convenience foods ridiculous, nature the standard of all things right and good. Freeways destroyed neighborhoods. Urban renewal replaced them with forbidding Brutalist plazas. New subdivisions represented a threat to the landscape rather than the promise of the good life. Too-fast airplanes produced window-rattling sonic booms. Insecticides harmed eagles’ eggs. Exploration meant conquest and brutal exploitation. Little by little, the number of modern offenses grew until we found ourselves in a 21st century where some of the most educated, affluent and cultural influentially people in the country are terrified of vaccinating their children. Nothing good, they’ve come to think, comes from disturbing nature.

Optimistic science fiction does not create a belief in technological progress. It reflects it. “

What It Felt Like to Test the First Submarine Nuclear Reactor

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 9:08 am

What It Felt Like to Test the First Submarine Nuclear Reactor – The Atlantic:

“The major difficulty was with the numerous safety circuits, any one of which could cause the reactor to shut down suddenly. These circuits were meant to be extremely tender in their operation; they were, in fact, so sensitive as to provide a serious difficulty to the operators. A submarine propulsion plant not capable of operating without emergency shutdowns under sea motion and depth-charge attack would not be satisfactory, yet the Mark I had a constant plague of ‘scrams’ from such slight causes as vibration from a crew member’s walking through the reactor compartment or a bolt of lightning striking a Montana power line three hundred miles away.”

Cool article

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