You Want Me To Tan What, Now?

Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder is a great commenter on science, with a distaste for hype and phoniness. I usually read the transcripts of her videos. I'm usually not patient enough to watch videos, even from smart ladies with charming German accents.

Here's her most recent, wondering Why are male testosterone levels falling?

And a quote that made me snort:

The probably most prominent advocate for boosting your testosterone levels is Tucker Carlson, an American TV host. He’s seriously worried about the supposed decline of manliness and, among other things, suggests that men tan their balls to increase their testosterone levels. This is what his vision of the future man looks like.

So I made a PhD in physics and somehow ended up on YouTube talking about people tanning their balls. How do I explain this to my mom?

And how would I explain to my mom exactly why I found that amusing?

Briefly noted:

  • And a politics-related tweet from Matt Taibbi, bemoaning the snail-like pace of getting election results in Nevada: They Can't Count Even in Vegas Now?. Key quote: "If they counted money the way they’re counting ballots, those people would be in Lake Mead tied to a cinder block."

Last Modified 2022-11-13 4:11 PM EST

The Skeptics' Guide to the Future

What Yesterday's Science and Science Fiction Tell Us About the World of Tomorrow

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

An impulse pickup at the Portsmouth Public Library. I mean, that's kind of a neat cover, right? And I like to think of myself as a skeptic, I'm interested in the future, so it's as if this book was written for me.

Although I'm not sure about that apostrophe in the title: shouldn't it be Skeptic's?

And I'm also seeing the primary author identified as "Dr. Steven Novella" on the cover as kind of a warning flag. He's a medical doctor, fine. Which gives him zero additional credibility as a futurist. It doesn't help that it seems that people identifying themselves as doctors on book covers tend to be quacks, charlatans, and grifters.

But the book is pretty good. It's very wide ranging. The first section discusses where trends in today's tech might take us: genetic manipulation, stem cells, brain-machine interfaces, robotics, quantum computing, AI, self-driving cars, material science, various forms of augmented reality, wearable tech, additive manufacturing, energy production. Then a little bit further out: fusion, nanotech, synthetic life, room-temperature superconductors, space elevators. Space travel: advanced rocketry, solar sails, colonization, terraforming. And finally, an entertaining section (mostly) debunking classic science fiction gadgetry: magical energy sources, FTL spaceships, artificial gravity, transporters, immortality, uploaded digital consciousness.

Well, that last one seems doable, actually.

There are a lot of fun shout-outs to science fiction, old and new, books, TV shows, and movies. The authors are SF fans, obviously. And they're not afraid to throw out actual numbers: gigapascals, millikelvins, megajoules; that's nice. (No formulas, though. It is taboo for popular science books to have formulas.) I'd recommend this book especially to STEM-bright high school kids who are also science fiction geeks; there might be dozens out there.

Further quibbles: Despite the title, the authors are not as skeptical as (actual physicist) Sabine Hossenfelder about quantum computing. I caught one minor typo (can't find it now, sorry). And (p. 61) Axlotl tanks in the Dune series grew entire bodies, gholas and face dancers, not replacement organs.

And (sigh) not a word about my favorite panacea for global warming: artificial photosynthesis used for carbon capture. Not too much at all about climate change, or the economic/political issues involved in progress toward a bright and shiny future.