Fun Science FRIEDay – Inception

Inception, a clever movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio where the premise of the story is to sneak into a person’s subconscious and implant an idea or a memory whilst they sleep. When the person awakes from their slumber they cannot distinguish the implanted memory from their own. It makes for blockbuster cinematography, but the practical concept is quite frightening to think about: the ability to artificially implant memories inches closer to the prospect of reality distortion.

Zebra Finch – Birds (Credit: Paul Dinning)
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Academia should be more Skyrim and less Mario Kart to address lack of long-term diversity

Many friendships in the 90s were built or lost over who got to select their Mario Kart character first because character selection largely determined whether or not you would win.  SNES Mario Kart designers tried to correct this by crafting tracks that favored one character over others, guaranteeing a win on at least one race. Bowser’s fast top speed and drifting skills made them the best suited character for Bowser Castle’s sharp turns and straightaways.  The icy pools of Vanilla Lake smiled upon Koopa Troopa and Toad’s tight handling and minimal drift, but that was arguably the only track they could dominate.  

Now imagine another version of Mario Kart, but instead of a variety of different tracks that celebrate different strengths, every track was built by Mario.  With Mario as an architect, it’s highly likely that every track would favor his particular set of (minimal) strengths.  This would give the non-Mario players an unintended disadvantage since they would never get a chance to excel with their diverse skills, and the majority of races would consequently be won by Marios.  In many places, this is the current state of academia.  

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Emerging technologies for exploration and independent monitoring of seafloor extraction in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction

[The following is a transcript from a talk I gave at the 2019 Minerals, Materials, and Society Symposium at the University of Delaware in August, 2019. It has been lightly edited for clarity.]

Good afternoon and thank you all for coming. I want to change tracks for a bit and scan the horizon to think about what the future of exploration and monitoring in the high seas might look like because ocean and conservation technology is in the midst of an evolutionary shift in who has access to the tools necessary to observe the deep ocean.

This is the Area. Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, International Waters, the High Seas, the Outlaw Ocean. It’s the portion of the ocean that falls outside of national EEZs and is held in trust by the UN under the Convention on the Law of the Sea as the Common Heritage of Humankind. It covers 64% of the ocean and nearly half of the total surface of the Earth. It’s also the region in which most major deep-sea mining ventures intend to operate.

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