Posts Tagged ‘Future History’

Future history for the next 2 weeks

May 14, 2011

Blogging will be light for the next two weeks as I shall be travelling (attending my son’s graduation). So let me write my future history now!!

I expect during these two weeks that:

  1. Victor Muller will continue his charlatan games with Saab. He has been an amazing gatherer of funds but none of his companies have ever made a profit though he personally has made a little fortune. One month ago I wrote:  “It seems clear that Victor Muller will drive SAAB to the verge of bankruptcy to ensure that Vladimir Antonov can be seen as a rescuing angel and allowed in as SAAB’s owner.” This game will continue.
  2. Nothing to do with Teacher Wang  and entirely to do with solar events, I expect there will be a major earthquake or significant volcanic activity somewhere on the Pacific Rim’s “Ring of Fire”. Hopefully it will not be near a heavily populated region and will not cause too many casualties.
  3. The stresses and strains on the European Union will continue. In addition to the potential fracturing of the Euro currency pact, the small cracks  in the Schengen agreement and the reintroduction of passport controls will expand with other countries joining Denmark. Political and economic union between the diversity of behaviour between the profligate South and the more disciplined North of Europe is much too premature. It is still – I think – a desirable and eventually beneficial goal but the expansion of the EU has gone much too fast and – for now – the diversity of behaviour is still too large.  The convergence of behaviour cannot be forced. Behaviour ultimately depends on values and values have to be lived rather than imposed.
  4. The Global Warming Doctrine will continue to be discredited and the stupidity and greed represented by the demonisation of carbon dioxide will become  increasingly apparent.
  5. The stalemate in Libya will break and the Gaddafi end-game – which has been suspended – will resume. I expect “negotiations” for his exit to gather pace. The euphoria in Tunisia and Egypt will further die down and the differences between the many political views will surface and become stridently – if not violently – obvious. But the Arab spring will be put on hold and will not continue through the summer. But it is now irreversible and will reappear in other countries through the autumn.
And now it is time to pack.

Habitable planet to be discovered in May 2011?

September 22, 2010

The only thing certain about forecasts is that they are more often wrong than right – and I exclude forecasts made entirely on known science or “laws” of nature where the level of uncertainty is insignificant (e.g. the sun will rise tomorrow). Nevertheless “Future History” which is a study of how forecasts evolve and how accurate they have been is a most powerful tool when making judgements about directions to follow and actions to be taken. In management “Future History” methodology is, I think, one of the most powerful tools for the development of corporate strategies and action plans.

The New Scientist reports that :

“Two researchers have used the pace of past exoplanet finds to predict that the first habitable Earth-like planet could turn up in May 2011”.

In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore observed that the number of transistors that fit on a chip doubles about once every two years – a trend now known as Moore’s law. Samuel Arbesman of Harvard Medical School in Boston wants to see if scientometrics – the statistical study of science itself – can similarly be used to not only study past progress but also to make predictions.

He and Greg Laughlin of the University of California, Santa Cruz, are testing the idea with exoplanets. Over the past 15 years or so, the pace of planet discoveries has been accelerating, with some 490 planets now known. “It is actually somewhat similar to Moore’s law of exponential growth,” Arbesman says.

To predict when astronomers might find the first planet similar in size to Earth that also orbits far enough from its star to boast liquid water, the team scoured the discovery records of 370 exoplanets.

They focused on two basic properties needed for habitability: a planet’s mass and its surface temperature. They used these two factors to assign each planet a ‘habitability metric’ ranging from 0 to 1, where 0 was uninhabitable and 1 is close to Earth’s twin.

A rough estimate of each planet’s habitability was then plotted against the date of its discovery. Using different subsets of the 370 planets, the researchers made curves from the individual points and extrapolated the curves to find when a planet would be found with a habitability of 1. They then analysed the range of discovery dates to determine which would be most probable.

Habitable planets:

Their calculations suggest there is a 50 per cent chance that the first habitable exo-Earth will be found by May 2011, a 75 per cent chance it will be found by 2020, and a 95 per cent chance it will be found by 2264.

In fact, exoplanet researchers have made forecasts of the future informally, plotting the mass of planets against the date of discovery to see how the field is progressing. “We’ve done that for many years at conferences,” says Eric Ford of the University of Florida in Gainesville. “The new aspect of this paper is putting an uncertainty on those predictions and unfortunately the uncertainty is quite large.”

One source of uncertainty is how factors like changes in funding and the development of new techniques and technology can alter the pace of discovery. “Like the stock market, past returns are no guarantee of future performance,” Ford says.

“There are always these complex factors of how science is actually done,” Arbesman agrees. But he says the forecasting technique could still prove useful, even if these factors are not accounted for directly. In part, that is because new technologies tend to take a while to ramp up, so they may not lead to sharp jumps in the number of discoveries made.

Previously, Arbesman has quantified how the ease of discovering new mammalian species, chemical elements, and asteroids affects the rate of their discovery. New species and asteroids are more difficult to find the smaller they are, and indeed larger ones are found first. For chemical elements, the opposite is true, since the bigger they are, the rarer and more unstable they tend to be.

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