Sunday, December 09, 2012

Welcome to the Future?

One of the things I use my iPad Mini for is to read magazines I like. I have digital subscriptions for The Atlantic, National Geographic, Discover Magazine, American Songwriter, and Newsweek (which is ending production of its print version soon). I have subscribed to paper versions of these on and off for years, and aside from losing the clutter of all those magazines I haven't quite finished reading yet (I especially hate throwing out National Geographic for some reason), I probably end up reading more articles on the iPad than I did with the paper copies, especially when I travel. I was about to bemoan the fact that Scientific American doesn't offer an iPad version, but I checked, and now they do! So there's one more favorite I don't need to get on paper anymore.

Today I've been reading the January-February 2013 issue of Discover Magazine. This special double issue covers what the magazine considers to be the top 100 science stories of 2012 (some of them are more technology than science, but that's OK with me). Although I followed many of these stories as they developed, it's cool to read this kind of summary and get a big-picture overview of how many things are changing. Even in a technology-jaded hyper-connected world where many of us carry powerful computers in our pockets (iPhones, etc.), the top 10 really gives me a "welcome to the future" feeling.
  1. Found: The God Particle (Higgs Boson)
  2. Mars Rover Sticks Its Landing (JPL's Curiosity in Gale Crater)
  3. A Census of Your Inner Ecosystem (the trillions of microbes that live in and on us, performing countless essential services).
  4. Environmental Extremes (from drought to shrinking polar ice to Hurricane Sandy)
  5. Old Dads Drive Evolution (more mutations in the DNA of sperm from older men)
  6. Space Taxis Take Off (the success of SpaceX and other private space ventures)
  7. Q&A: Mind Control Robots (neural implants to help the disabled)
  8. Dark Matter Comes Into View (inferred from gravitational lensing)
  9. Social Jet Lag (irregular sleep patterns can trigger serious health problems)
  10. The Case for Fracking (it's a mixed case but natural gas is better than coal)
There's a lot of amazing stuff in the "bottom 90" too. Exoplanets (100 more found in 2012, including one orbiting Alpha Centauri B,  #14). Self-driving cars (#15). Asteroid Vesta (#17) has an iron core, mantle, and crust - a baby Earth! Advances in carbon nanotube electronics (#27). An engineered alternate to DNA (called XNA, #38). And much, much more. Crazy times.

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