All posts by George Harrison

DesignFeaturedTechnology

When technology gets too smart

We cannot quite know what will happen if a machine exceeds our own intelligence, so we can’t know if we’ll be infinitely helped by it, or ignored by it and sidelined, or conceivably destroyed by it. — Stephen Hawking Technology is the collection of techniques, skills, methods and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives, such as scientific investigation. Technology can be the knowledge of techniques, processes, etc. or it can be embedded in machines, computers, devices and factories, which can be operated by individuals without detailed knowledge of the workings of such things. The human species’ use of technology began with the conversion of natural resources into simple tools.

The prehistoric discovery of how to control fire and the later Neolithic Revolution increased the available sources of food and the invention of the wheel helped humans to travel in and control their environment. Developments in historic times, including the printing press, the telephone, and the Internet, have lessened physical barriers to communication and allowed humans to interact freely on a global scale. The steady progress of military technology has brought weapons of ever-increasing destructive power, from clubs to nuclear weapons.

Technology has many effects. It has helped develop more advanced economies (including today’s global economy) and has allowed the rise of a leisure class. Many technological processes produce unwanted by-products, known as pollution, and deplete natural resources, to the detriment of Earth’s environment. Various implementations of technology influence the values of a society and new technology often raises new ethical questions. Examples include the rise of the notion of efficiency in terms of human productivity, a term originally applied only to machines, and the challenge of traditional norms.

Philosophical debates have arisen over the use of technology, with disagreements over whether technology improves the human condition or worsens it.

Until recently, it was believed that the development of technology was restricted only to human beings, but 21st century scientific studies indicate that other primates and certain dolphin communities have developed simple tools and passed their knowledge to other generations.

FeaturedScienceTechnology

A closer look at distant nebulas

Emission nebulae often have dark areas in them which result from clouds of dust which block the light. Many nebulae are made up of both reflection and emission components.

An emission nebula is a nebula formed of ionized gases that emit light of various colors. The most common source of ionization is high-energy photons emitted from a nearby hot star. Among the several different types of emission nebulae are H II regions, in which star formation is taking place and young, massive stars are the source of the ionizing photons; and planetary nebulae, in which a dying star has thrown off its outer layers, with the exposed hot core then ionizing them.

Usually, a young star will ionize part of the same cloud from which it was born although only massive, hot stars can release sufficient energy to ionize a significant part of a cloud. In many emission nebulae, an entire cluster of young stars is doing the work.

The nebula’s color depends on its chemical composition and degree of ionization. Due to the prevalence of hydrogen in interstellar gas, and its relatively low energy of ionization, many emission nebulae appear red due to the strong emissions of the Balmer series. If more energy is available, other elements will be ionized and green and blue nebulae become possible. By examining the spectra of nebulae, astronomers infer their chemical content. Most emission nebulae are about 90% hydrogen, with the remainder helium, oxygen, nitrogen, and other elements.

Politics

The race for the White House

The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the United States, located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. It has been the residence of every U.S. president since John Adams in 1800.

The house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia Creek sandstone in the Neoclassical style. When Thomas Jefferson moved into the house in 1801, he (with architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe) expanded the building outward, creating two colonnades that were meant to conceal stables and storage. However, in 1814, during the War of 1812, the mansion was set ablaze by the British Army in the Burning of Washington, destroying the interior and charring much of the exterior. Reconstruction began almost immediately, and President James Monroe moved into the partially reconstructed Executive Residence in October 1817. Construction continued with the addition of the South Portico in 1824 and the North in 1829.

Early Presidential Residences

Because of crowding within the executive mansion itself, President Theodore Roosevelt had all work offices relocated to the newly constructed West Wing in 1901. Eight years later, President William Howard Taft expanded the West Wing and created the first Oval Office which was eventually moved as the section was expanded. In the main mansion, the third-floor attic was converted to living quarters in 1927 by augmenting the existing hip roof with long shed dormers.

A newly constructed East Wing was used as a reception area for social events; Jefferson’s colonnades connected the new wings. East Wing alterations were completed in 1946, creating additional office space. By 1948, the house’s load-bearing exterior walls and internal wood beams were found to be close to failure. Under Harry S. Truman, the interior rooms were completely dismantled and a new internal load-bearing steel frame constructed inside the walls. Once this work was completed, the interior rooms were rebuilt.

PoliticsSpotlights

Here comes Hillary

Clinton had been preparing for a potential candidacy for United States President since at least early 2003. She was the first woman nominated by a major party for the presidency.

Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton (born October 26, 1947) is an American politician who served as the 67th United States Secretary of State under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013. She is the wife of the 42nd President of the United States Bill Clinton, and was First Lady of the United States during his tenure from 1993 to 2001. Clinton subsequently served as a United States Senator from New York from 2001 to 2009, and is a candidate for President of the United States in the 2016 presidential election.

An Illinois native, Hillary Rodham graduated from Wellesley College in 1969, where she became the first student commencement speaker, then earned her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1973. After a stint as a Congressional legal counsel, she moved to Arkansas, marrying Bill Clinton in 1975. She co-founded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families in 1977, became the first female chair of the Legal Services Corporation in 1978, and was named the first female partner at Rose Law Firm in 1979. While First Lady of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981, and 1983 to 1992, she led a task force that reformed Arkansas’ education system, and served on the board of directors of Wal-Mart, among other corporations. In 1988 and 1991, The National Law Journal listed her as one of the “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America”.

hillary-young

Hillary Clinton in 1975

As First Lady of the United States, her major initiative, the Clinton health care plan of 1993, failed to reach a vote in Congress. In 1997 and 1999, she played a leading role in advocating the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Foster Care Independence Act. The only First Lady to have been subpoenaed, she testified before a federal grand jury in 1996 regarding the Whitewater controversy, although no charges against her related to this or other investigations during her husband’s presidency were ever brought. Her marriage to the president was subject to considerable public discussion following the Lewinsky scandal of 1998, and overall her role as First Lady drew a polarized response from the American public.

Clinton had been preparing for a potential candidacy for United States President since at least early 2003. On January 20, 2007, she announced via her website the formation of a presidential exploratory committee for the United States presidential election of 2008, stating “I’m in, and I’m in to win.” No woman had ever been nominated by a major party for the presidency. When Bill Clinton became president in 1993, a blind trust was established; in April 2007, the Clintons liquidated the blind trust to avoid the possibility of ethical conflicts or political embarrassments as Hillary Clinton undertook her presidential race. Later disclosure statements revealed that the couple’s worth was now upwards of $50 million, and that they had earned over $100 million since 2000, with most of it coming from Bill Clinton’s books, speaking engagements, and other activities.

PoliticsSpotlights

The legacy of Lincoln

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.

Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War—its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. In doing so, he preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the economy.

Born in Hodgenville, Kentucky, Lincoln grew up on the western frontier in Kentucky and Indiana. Largely self-educated, he became a lawyer in Illinois, a Whig Party leader, and a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, where he served from 1834 to 1846. Elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1846, Lincoln promoted rapid modernization of the economy through banks, tariffs, and railroads. Because he had originally agreed not to run for a second term in Congress, and because his opposition to the Mexican–American War was unpopular among Illinois voters, Lincoln returned to Springfield and resumed his successful law practice. Reentering politics in 1854, he became a leader in building the new Republican Party, which had a statewide majority in Illinois. In 1858, while taking part in a series of highly publicized debates with his opponent and rival, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln spoke out against the expansion of slavery, but lost the U.S. Senate race to Douglas.

In 1860, Lincoln secured the Republican Party presidential nomination as a moderate from a swing state. With very little support in the slaveholding states of the South, he swept the North and was elected president in 1860.

When I am getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say and two-thirds about him and what he is going to say.

His victory prompted seven southern slave states to form the Confederate States of America before he moved into the White House – no compromise or reconciliation was found regarding slavery and secession. Subsequently, on April 12, 1861, a Confederate attack on Fort Sumter inspired the North to enthusiastically rally behind the Union in a declaration of war.

As the leader of the moderate faction of the Republican Party, Lincoln confronted Radical Republicans, who demanded harsher treatment of the South, War Democrats, who called for more compromise, anti-war Democrats (called Copperheads), who despised him, and irreconcilable secessionists, who plotted his assassination. Politically, Lincoln fought back by pitting his opponents against each other, by carefully planned political patronage, and by appealing to the American people with his powers of oratory. His Gettysburg Address became an iconic endorsement of the principles of nationalism, republicanism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy.