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Science Snippets 3

Entry 808, on 2008-07-03 at 17:00:29 (Rating 2, Science)

I noticed several interesting items in the science and technology news today and I want to briefly describe and discuss them here. None of these are hugely important themselves but I think they illustrate some current trends.

First, the downloads of Firefox 3.0 have officially been recognised as a new record. The final total of 8,002,530 downloads in a 24-hour period is an official Guinness world record for the largest number of software downloads in a day. And according to another news item use of Windows is steadily dropping. OK, its still the majority platform by far but the trend seems real.

I hope these two news stories indicate a real change towards more diversity in the type of computers and software the world is using. No one wins when a monopoly controls a whole industry (except the monopoly and even that is temporary) so its good to see "alternative" browsers (Firefox and Safari) increasing slowly but steadily in their market share over the last year.

Another interesting story involved new solar cells which can be embedded in curtains to capture energy. I don't necessarily think that is very useful in itself but its one of many stories I have seen recently regarding more efficient solar technologies so I'm optimistic that in a few years we will be a lot less dependent on fossil fuels. Really, why would we burn something as useful as oil?

A recent study has shown that slivers of diamond which were created in the first few hundred million years of the Earth's history contain a form of carbon which is usually associated with plants and bacteria. If this carbon was produced by life it would show life existed half a billion years earlier than we thought. The results are very provisional but several other recent discoveries have shown that life might have started earlier than we previously thought.

Also some recent discoveries have tended to show that life developing from non-biological sources might happen more easily than was previously thought. The only mystery is: if life is so easy to make why don't se see it on Mars on elsewhere in the Universe? Maybe the current Mars missions might help answer this question.

So the details are always changing in science but could I ask all science skeptics out there to please not interpret this as evidence that "science doesn't know what its talking about". Its true that every new answer reveals 10 new questions (well maybe not literally but you know what I mean) but those new questions are about more detail. We can only ask questions when we already have some answers. This is inevitable and will probably continue forever. After all, the Universe contains an essentially infinite amount of information, doesn't it?


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