All posts by Tomas Martin

Writer and particle physics student from Bristol, England. My story 'A Shogun's Welcome' featured in Aberrant Dreams #7 and 'The Shogun and The Scientist' will be published in the anthology 'The Awakening' in January 2008. I review at SFCrowsnest and wrote the fictional blog miawithoutoil for the world without oil project.

Did the aliens all run out of gas?

is there no one out there?

{image from the Hubble Heritage Project}

It’s amazing just how interlinking life can be when you think about it. As well as the fact that when oil, gas and coal run out we’ll have no choice but to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, this great article links peak oil and global warming to another large-scale problem – The Fermi Paradox.

It’s an interesting article to ponder, particularly in relation to mankind’s future. Is the reason we can’t see any evidence of alien life out there because they all ran out of resources before they could get off their own planet?

[Edit – another good article on the subject here – thanks to Tom James and Sentient Developments for that link! The original article seems to be having server trouble but this alternative is just as interesting.]

160,000 year journey of man

ice in europeA lot can happen in 160,000 years. Back then a handful of human beings scraped out a life in Africa and at various hard times during the centuries catastrophes have pushed the total world population down to barely 10,000 people. This excellent animation by the Bradshaw Foundation shows how the human race expanded and contracted as climate changed, eventually spreading to all the continents after the last ice age. Watching the ice and glaciers advance and retreat and volcanoes erupt and change and the impact this had on human lives is a stark warning to anyone denying climate change. It’s amazing how much the Earth can effect our lives.

And here’s a reminder of just how small even mankind’s efforts are amidst the vastness of the universe. This wonderfully kitsch 1977 video zooms out at a power of ten from the earth out into space. Alternatively, why not go the other way, as in this zooming in animation.

[via Dark Roasted Blend][image courtesy of]

The future of cost-effective medicine?

An enterprising doctor in New York is offering a distinctive new form of treatment specializing in “young adults aged 18 to 40 without health insurance”. As well as making house calls to work or home, Jay Parkinson, MD will meet you online – via MSN, AIM, webcam or email – to discuss problems. Using the internet to search for the best price treatments to recommend also helps drive down the price of medicine. Are local surgeries and GPs under threat from the new world wide web docs? I can’t help thinking about the worlds of Snow Crash or Neuromancer when I think of doctors meeting you online to discuss your wounds.

[via Boing Boing, image from the doc’s website]

Want to use biofuel? There’s oceans of possibilities.

Could this green slime be a goldmine?

{image by Juvetson via Flickr Creative Commons}

A British biologist has suggested that there may be an overlooked candidate to make biodiesel. Corn, soy and Palm oil are three of the main crops converted into the alternative fuel but all have significant problems with environmental impact as well as raising the price of the foods themselves.

 John Munford proposed this week that much of the algae growing on the surface of the ocean could be harvested to produce biodiesel. Utah University has been studying fresh water algae, which can produce as much as 10,000 barrels of oil per acre. Munford says that seaborne algae has the advantage over this kind of pond scum by being self-maintained by existing ecosystems. An area similar to the North Sea could produce all the biodiesel currently used in transport across the world.

 [via The Economist]

Often ill? Maybe you’re not seeing the light.

Sunlight - man's best friend?

{Photo taken by StewartJames on Flickr Creative Commons}

A very interesting article in the Independent yesterday talked about a new study on the effects of vitamin D on health. The study by the Institute of Oncology in Milan and Lyon’s International Agency for Research on Cancer was the biggest ever to be done on the nutrient and found that it had a much bigger impact of health than previously thought.

90% of the vitamin D we receive is not from food but from absorbing sunlight on open skin. A solid dose of sunlight a few times a week was found to reduce mortality by 7%. Even taking pills filled with the vitamin can reduce the risk of cancer, MS and heart disease by as much as a half. Even Autism and Diabetes have links to Vitamin D deficiency. So perhaps the best thing you can do to save your life is to take that walk in the park on a sunny day.

Interestingly, the amount of sunlight needed is quite strong so winters in the UK, for example, are barely strong enough to give a good dose – the cause of countless flu seasons and the infamous Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) . Aside from supplements, light therapy with very bright lights is thought to help.

[via the independent]