my serendipities

Sep 19

Earth is fast becoming a more crowded place — and it may become even more crowded than expected. According to a new projection of human population growth, there could very well be 12.3 billion people by century’s end, up to 2 billion more than some estimates.

The number’s not written in stone, but it’s something to consider. Life’s already pretty complicated with 7.5 billion people confronting environmental problems, food insecurity and spotty public health. Are we ready for more?

The most recent UN estimates put the global population at 10.9 billion by 2100. Some demographers have, however, criticized that projection as excessively high. The projections also contained a great deal of uncertainty, with possible population scenarios of as many as 15.8 billion people, or as few as 6.2 billion.

Raftery’s group took a finer grained look at the data, running population models on a country-by-country basis. “There is an 80 percent probability that world population, now 7.2 billion, will increase to between 9.6 and 12.3 billion in 2100,” they concluded.

Within that total, populations will level off in Asia and South America, where fertility rates have slowed considerably, but follow a very different trajectory in Africa, where fertility has not dropped as fast as expected.
Projections of probable populations by continent.

As a consequence, the continent’s population “is projected to rise to between 3.1 billion and 5.7 billion with probability of 95 percent by the end of the century,” concluded the researchers. Most of that growth would be concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Everything is not rosy, but the average person in a developing country is much better off than in 1960 in terms of food, poverty, education and employment,” Lam said.

Central to that transition were increases in agricultural productivity. Though a case can be made that the increases were often unsustainable, relying on high rates of fertilizer, pesticide and water use, they’re at least a testament to the possibility of human ingenuity.

Further agricultural improvements will be needed to feed even 10 billion people, much less 12.3 billion, but it should be possible. As population professor Joel Cohen of Rockefeller University wrote in the New York Times, humanity already produces enough grain to feed 11 billion people. We just don’t use it smartly.

” — Boom! Earth’s Population Could Hit 12 Billion by 2100 | WIRED

Sep 18

“The number of websites has burst above one billion and is growing apace, according to figures updated in real time by online tracker Internet Live Stats. Tim Berners-Lee, considered the father of the World Wide Web, touted the milestone on Twitter—one of the most prominent websites in the mushrooming but sometimes murky Internet world. It comes as the agency responsible for managing addresses on the Internet expands choices far beyond “.com” and “.net” to provide more online real estate for the booming ranks of websites. The World Wide Web turned 25 in April this year. It was born from an idea in a technical paper from Berners-Lee, then an obscure, young computer scientist at a European physics lab.” — Number of websites explodes past a billion (and counting)

Sep 16

“Has it ever struck you … that life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going? It’s really all memory … except for each passing moment.” — Eric Kandel, “In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind” (via neuromorphogenesis)

(via neuromorphogenesis)

Never before has the boundary between geek culture and mainstream culture been so porous. Beyond Mr. Munroe’s popularity and the national obsession with Apple products, other examples abound. Whether it is TV series like “The Big Bang Theory” and “Silicon Valley,” or comic-book movies such as this year’s top-grossing title, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” or the runner-up, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” or fantasy-based fiction like the “Game of Thrones” books (and HBO show), once-fringe, nerd-friendly obsessions like gadgets, comic books and fire-breathing dragons are increasingly everyone’s obsessions. “Becoming mainstream is the wrong word; the mainstream is catching up,” said the actor Wil Wheaton, a self-described champion of nerd culture who wrote a memoir, “Just a Geek,” and appeared in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” “Tech has become so ubiquitous and seamless in our lives,” he said, “and because tech and personal tech and wearable tech are such a part of our daily existence, we want to know more about them.”

From gadgets to social networks to video games, the decision not to embrace the newest technology is a choice to be out of the mainstream.

“If you are not a geek, you are Luddite, and that is not cool,” said Thomas Dolby, an arts professor at Johns Hopkins University and a nerd icon from the 1980s because of his hit song “She Blinded Me With Science.”

“But there’s no club. There’s just lots of people who are excited about thinking, learning, joking and sometimes overanalyzing things.”

Still, Ms. Sporrong said, “It’s a little bit demeaning, real nerd and fake nerd,” adding that “everyone lives with tech.”

Looking at the techie crowd in a “not cynical way,” she saw a “common intelligence” around her.

“The world maybe isn’t getting smarter,” she said. “But it is trying to.”

” — We’re All Nerds Now - NYTimes.com

Sep 15

A positive attitude can improve your immune system and may help you live longer, according to a University of Queensland study. The research, published in Psychology and Aging has found that older people who focused on positive information were more likely to have stronger immune systems.

"A person who focuses on positive information over negative information may be better able to cope with stressful situations, may take a more positive long-term outlook on life, and may maintain positive social interactions, thus reaping the immune benefits.

"These findings raise the possibility that humans have evolved to become more positive late in life in order to enhance their own longevity."

” — A positive boost to the immune system