Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Oceans cover some 75% of the earth's surface. Most of the oceans are, in biological terms, a vast desert. The nutrition for plant growth to start off the biological cycles has for the most part sunk to the bottom. Near the shores, though the opposite problem happens, as farm runoff arrives in the ocean, triggering a vast bloom of algae, which quickly turns into a suffocating oxygenless muck. The sun shines upon the ocean making rain, some of which powers the land-based photosynthesis with water, but most of which falls back into the ocean again. The availability of sun and water suddenly gave me an interesting idea. We take a discarded cargo ship, and convert the large surface area to a vast farm. Equipment is installed beneath the ship to suck up water and desalinate it, and have it bubble up beneath the dirt at the surface. The ship sails around the world, slowly growing tons and tons of food. Periodically the ship arrives at harbors where food prices are highest to sell the food, buy fertilizer, and change crews. (The laboring farmers would be mostly employees, and this system could hopefully offer some nice wages, enough for a plane ride back home every so often.) If there's any runoff from this, there would be a temporary bloom running behind the ship's wake, but not severe enough to cause any sort of red tide or harmful eutrophication, and this causes a temporary fish spawning point. The benefits of ocean feeding occur provided the ship remains in motion at all times. In addition, the ship could remain in constant spring or summer by constantly sailing back and forth between the northern and southern hemispheres, maintaining beneficial conditions for the crops at all times. This would take on the large scale a considerable amount of energy. For best results, this should be done after fusion power is available, which would allow for the boat to operate pollution free. In practice, though, the boats would probably be coal fired, or diesel driven, with all the problems that attend that. For feeding an increasingly hungry world, this might make at least a small difference.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Yesterday, during my work break, I learned of a cool thing, and a tragic thing. The cool thing is that a young father, wanting to share his love of the Zelda series of video games with his daughter, has been reading the text for her. As the daughter would prefer that her avatar in video games be female, he has been changing the references to the hero, Link, being a boy, to being a girl. To preserve this once she does learn to read, he hex edited the rom and re-burned it with the references all changed. Some awkwardness ensued, as all text had to remain the exact same length, lest all pointers thereafter become wrong, corrupting the entire ROM. Link is ambiguous looking enough so that this works out. At first, the comments that the father received were admiring, especially from young women who wished that they could have enjoyed media in this way. However, after the blog entry had been up for about a day, suddenly a storm of people came in infuriated that he altered the original game, feeling that he was somehow ruining it. A veritable torrent of rants, whines, and complaints that he was infringing Nintendo's copyright ensued. Perhaps these people were trolling, or perhaps they felt that any modification of their favorite thing detracted from it, even hypothetically, but it did make me wonder one thing about the world of technology. Is the world of video games and computers sexist? I do admit that there were only four people in my graduated class who were female...and none of them graduated as a computer scientist. All of them switched to math or other related majors. None of them really explained why, but when I look around, I suspect it's the culture. Computer science has been so male dominated for so long that a fraternity-esque "dudebro" culture that's as disconcerting for an average women as a knitting group consisting primarily of bitterly divorced mothers would be for an average man dominates the scene. Some pundits posit that this doesn't really matter, but I think it does. Many of the most important pioneers in computer science have been women, such as the very first programmer ever, Ada Lovelace, or the inventor of higher level languages, Admiral Hopper. Other fields also had problems of a sexist culture, such as medicine, and they resolved it by treating sexist behavior as completely unacceptable. I see no reason why computer science can't do the same.