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What Will Your City Look Like in 1,000 Years? Jonathon Keats’ Millennium Camera
Thanks to Big Think’s favorite experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats, our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren will have a photographic record of how Tempe, Arizona, in 3015 ended up that way.
Will it be a smoldering cinder? A techno-utopia? Something in between? Unless you’re a self-biohacking billionaire, you may never know. But thanks to Big Think’s favorite experimental philosopher, Jonathon Keats, our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren will have a photographic record of how Tempe, Arizona, in 3015 ended up that way.
Using a highly durable pinhole camera, Keats (well, his camera anyway) will document the changes in the skyline of Tempe over the next millennium. The project is sponsored by the Emerge Festival and Arizona State University Art Museum and will (we hope) culminate in an exhibition 1,000 years from now. If physical universities still exist in 3015, and if the camera is not destroyed by rampaging robots constructed by other robots that have long since acquired autonomous intelligence, it will provide our descendants a glimpse backward into “deep time.” Keats hopes that it will give them some perspective on how quickly and radically our cities change, often under our very noses and at the hands of a few ambitious developers and politicians.
Living as we do in a world that records everything, yet seems to have an increasingly limited memory, we can take Keats’ experiment as a reminder that even over massive time scales, some things endure.
Video: Director Nathan Broderick documents (the beginning of) the Millennium Camera Project.
I asked Jonathon a few questions about his farsighted experiment:
1) Do you have any expectations about what the Tempe image will show if it survives? Will it all be bad news?
Tempe is largely a product of population growth in Phoenix, and it's representative of both the promise and the perils of urban expansion throughout the United States. One of the foremost questions of our time is whether cities can make civilization sustainable, and how populations can be optimally distributed for efficient and equitable use of resources. The question is especially pressing in the American Southwest. Growth is constrained by the availability of water, and the availability of water is likely to destabilize with the climate. So I believe that Tempe provides a good vantage to scrutinize urbanization now and in a thousand years. It's a good place to examine our expectations about city life.
That said, urbanization is not the only worthy subject for a millennium-long photograph. For that reason, my deep-time photography is by no means limited to Tempe. At Amherst College next month, I'll place a second millennium camera in a spire overseen by the Mead Art Museum, providing a thousand-year view of the Holyoke Mountain Range, recording how our changing climate impacts natural habitat.
In a thousand years, these photographs may provide our great-great-grandchildren's great-great-grandchildren with evidence of our role in the decimation of the environment and the collapse of civilization. Alternately, the fact that we're being held accountable can help instill a sense of responsibility sufficient to overcome our present-day complacency. So I can't say whether it will be all bad news, all good news, or a mixture of the two. Today the image inside each of the millennium cameras is blank. Through our actions, we can decide how the pictures will develop.
2) Why 1,000 years?
Well, it started out at a hundred years. The first instantiation of my deep-time photography was in Berlin last summer. Working with a local arts organization called Team Titanic, I manufactured 100 pinhole cameras, each with a century-long exposure time. Anyone in the city could take a camera in exchange for a 10-euro deposit, refundable in a century. Berliners hid the cameras in their neighborhoods. Eventually they'll reveal the cameras' whereabouts to children, who will be the ones to retrieve the cameras for a 2114 exhibition of the city in transformation.
With my century camera, I deliberately made the duration of the exposure longer than a human lifespan: The audience will be those not yet born — the people most impacted by what we do to the world, with the least influence over our choices. The millennium camera exponentially extends the timespan to a degree that we cannot even fathom the people or the civilization at the far end. Yet, as with the century cameras, I intend the millennium camera also to be experienced by those alive today. The experience will not be visual, but conceptual. The process of seeing change will be internalized, prompted by the awareness that we're being watched.
One reason for extending the exposure time is that the camera can potentially serve as a connection across multiple generations and even civilizations, potentially fostering cooperation. Another reason for doing so is that the camera can serve as a means for us to think in deep time.
Deep time is geological time, a timeframe that's imperceptible to us because it's exponentially more expansive than the human lifespan. Yet it's highly relevant to our lives because our actions today can deeply affect the far future of our planet. (Our technology is as forceful as planetary geology.) So it's essential that we make deep time experiential — even participatory — and that we're able to see our activities in the context of the next thousand years or more: to see ourselves from the perspective of the far future.
3) What advice would you give me if I wanted to do my own personal millennium camera project in my own town or city?
If I may, allow me to start by discussing the century camera. Anyone can easily make a century camera and place it in the city or town where they live. You can make one out of an old biscuit tin or beer can. All you have to do is place a sheet of black paper opposite a pinhole puncture, seal the lid against light leaks, and remember where you hide the camera. Over time, the paper will gradually fade, preserving the image projected through the pinhole. The technology is completely open source and free for anyone to adapt.
That said, I think we can be much more ambitious. What would happen if the century camera were a birthright, and every child received one? Mass-produced in cardboard, these cameras could be made very inexpensively, perhaps for less than a tenth of a cent apiece, and they could be freely distributed by UNESCO, which could also host a rolling global exhibition of the photos. Every day, starting 100 years from now, a new worldwide deep time panorama would be revealed.
The millennium cameras could also be overseen by UNESCO. Imagine a millennium camera prominently placed in every city, town, and village, all serving as elements in a global network observing our changing environment. The structures supporting these millennium cameras could be as monumental as obelisks, each serving as a public counterpoint to the intensely personal experience of privately hiding a century camera.
If it's spatiotemporally possible for you, catch these upcoming events with Jonathon Keats:
Follow Jason Gots @jgots on Twitter
Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.
- U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
- Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
- While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
The U.S. Navy controls patents for some futuristic and outlandish technologies, some of which, dubbed "the UFO patents," came to life recently. Of particular note are inventions by the somewhat mysterious Dr. Salvatore Cezar Pais, whose tech claims to be able to "engineer reality." His slate of highly-ambitious, borderline sci-fi designs meant for use by the U.S. government range from gravitational wave generators and compact fusion reactors to next-gen hybrid aerospace-underwater crafts with revolutionary propulsion systems, and beyond.
Of course, the existence of patents does not mean these technologies have actually been created, but there is evidence that some demonstrations of operability have been successfully carried out. As investigated and reported by The War Zone, a possible reason why some of the patents may have been taken on by the Navy is that the Chinese military may also be developing similar advanced gadgets.
Among Dr. Pais's patents are designs, approved in 2018, for an aerospace-underwater craft of incredible speed and maneuverability. This cone-shaped vehicle can potentially fly just as well anywhere it may be, whether air, water or space, without leaving any heat signatures. It can achieve this by creating a quantum vacuum around itself with a very dense polarized energy field. This vacuum would allow it to repel any molecule the craft comes in contact with, no matter the medium. Manipulating "quantum field fluctuations in the local vacuum energy state," would help reduce the craft's inertia. The polarized vacuum would dramatically decrease any elemental resistance and lead to "extreme speeds," claims the paper.
Not only that, if the vacuum-creating technology can be engineered, we'd also be able to "engineer the fabric of our reality at the most fundamental level," states the patent. This would lead to major advancements in aerospace propulsion and generating power. Not to mention other reality-changing outcomes that come to mind.
Among Pais's other patents are inventions that stem from similar thinking, outlining pieces of technology necessary to make his creations come to fruition. His paper presented in 2019, titled "Room Temperature Superconducting System for Use on a Hybrid Aerospace Undersea Craft," proposes a system that can achieve superconductivity at room temperatures. This would become "a highly disruptive technology, capable of a total paradigm change in Science and Technology," conveys Pais.
High frequency gravitational wave generator.
Credit: Dr. Salvatore Pais
Another invention devised by Pais is an electromagnetic field generator that could generate "an impenetrable defensive shield to sea and land as well as space-based military and civilian assets." This shield could protect from threats like anti-ship ballistic missiles, cruise missiles that evade radar, coronal mass ejections, military satellites, and even asteroids.
Dr. Pais's ideas center around the phenomenon he dubbed "The Pais Effect". He referred to it in his writings as the "controlled motion of electrically charged matter (from solid to plasma) via accelerated spin and/or accelerated vibration under rapid (yet smooth) acceleration-deceleration-acceleration transients." In less jargon-heavy terms, Pais claims to have figured out how to spin electromagnetic fields in order to contain a fusion reaction – an accomplishment that would lead to a tremendous change in power consumption and an abundance of energy.
According to his bio in a recently published paper on a new Plasma Compression Fusion Device, which could transform energy production, Dr. Pais is a mechanical and aerospace engineer working at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), which is headquartered in Patuxent River, Maryland. Holding a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Pais was a NASA Research Fellow and worked with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. His current Department of Defense work involves his "advanced knowledge of theory, analysis, and modern experimental and computational methods in aerodynamics, along with an understanding of air-vehicle and missile design, especially in the domain of hypersonic power plant and vehicle design." He also has expert knowledge of electrooptics, emerging quantum technologies (laser power generation in particular), high-energy electromagnetic field generation, and the "breakthrough field of room temperature superconductivity, as related to advanced field propulsion."
Suffice it to say, with such a list of research credentials that would make Nikola Tesla proud, Dr. Pais seems well-positioned to carry out groundbreaking work.
A craft using an inertial mass reduction device.
Credit: Salvatore Pais
The patents won't necessarily lead to these technologies ever seeing the light of day. The research has its share of detractors and nonbelievers among other scientists, who think the amount of energy required for the fields described by Pais and his ideas on electromagnetic propulsions are well beyond the scope of current tech and are nearly impossible. Yet investigators at The War Zone found comments from Navy officials that indicate the inventions are being looked at seriously enough, and some tests are taking place.
If you'd like to read through Pais's patents yourself, check them out here.
Laser Augmented Turbojet Propulsion System
Credit: Dr. Salvatore Pais
- As the material that makes all living things what/who we are, DNA is the key to understanding and changing the world. British geneticist Bryan Sykes and Francis Collins (director of the Human Genome Project) explain how, through gene editing, scientists can better treat illnesses, eradicate diseases, and revolutionize personalized medicine.
- But existing and developing gene editing technologies are not without controversies. A major point of debate deals with the idea that gene editing is overstepping natural and ethical boundaries. Just because they can, does that mean that scientists should be edit DNA?
- Harvard professor Glenn Cohen introduces another subcategory of gene experiments: mixing human and animal DNA. "The question is which are okay, which are not okay, why can we generate some principles," Cohen says of human-animal chimeras and arguments concerning improving human life versus morality.
New studies stretch the boundaries of physics, achieving quantum entanglement in larger systems.
- New experiments with vibrating drums push the boundaries of quantum mechanics.
- Two teams of physicists create quantum entanglement in larger systems.
- Critics question whether the study gets around the famous Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
Recently published research pushes the boundaries of key concepts in quantum mechanics. Studies from two different teams used tiny drums to show that quantum entanglement, an effect generally linked to subatomic particles, can also be applied to much larger macroscopic systems. One of the teams also claims to have found a way to evade the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
One question that the scientists were hoping to answer pertained to whether larger systems can exhibit quantum entanglement in the same way as microscopic ones. Quantum mechanics proposes that two objects can become "entangled," whereby the properties of one object, such as position or velocity, can become connected to those of the other.
An experiment performed at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, led by physicist Shlomi Kotler and his colleagues, showed that a pair of vibrating aluminum membranes, each about 10 micrometers long, can be made to vibrate in sync, in such a way that they can be described to be quantum entangled. Kotler's team amplified the signal from their devices to "see" the entanglement much more clearly. Measuring their position and velocities returned the same numbers, indicating that they were indeed entangled.
Tiny aluminium membranes used by Kotler's team.Credit: Florent Lecoq and Shlomi Kotler/NIST
Evading the Heisenberg uncertainty principle?
Another experiment with quantum drums — each one-fifth the width of a human hair — by a team led by Prof. Mika Sillanpää at Aalto University in Finland, attempted to find what happens in the area between quantum and non-quantum behavior. Like the other researchers, they also achieved quantum entanglement for larger objects, but they also made a fascinating inquiry into getting around the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
The team's theoretical model was developed by Dr. Matt Woolley of the University of New South Wales. Photons in the microwave frequency were employed to create a synchronized vibrating pattern as well as to gauge the positions of the drums. The scientists managed to make the drums vibrate in opposite phases to each other, achieving "collective quantum motion."
The study's lead author, Dr. Laure Mercier de Lepinay, said: "In this situation, the quantum uncertainty of the drums' motion is canceled if the two drums are treated as one quantum-mechanical entity."
This effect allowed the team to measure both the positions and the momentum of the virtual drumheads at the same time. "One of the drums responds to all the forces of the other drum in the opposing way, kind of with a negative mass," Sillanpää explained.
Theoretically, this should not be possible under the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, one of the most well-known tenets of quantum mechanics. Proposed in the 1920s by Werner Heisenberg, the principle generally says that when dealing with the quantum world, where particles also act like waves, there's an inherent uncertainty in measuring both the position and the momentum of a particle at the same time. The more precisely you measure one variable, the more uncertainty in the measurement of the other. In other words, it is not possible to simultaneously pinpoint the exact values of the particle's position and momentum.
Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle Explained. Credit: Veritasium / Youtube.com
Big Think contributor astrophysicist Adam Frank, known for the 13.8 podcast, called this "a really fascinating paper as it shows that it's possible to make larger entangled systems which behave like a single quantum object. But because we're looking at a single quantum object, the measurement doesn't really seem to me to be 'getting around' the uncertainty principle, as we know that in entangled systems an observation of one part constrains the behavior of other parts."
Ethan Siegel, also an astrophysicist, commented, "The main achievement of this latest work is that they have created a macroscopic system where two components are successfully quantum mechanically entangled across large length scales and with large masses. But there is no fundamental evasion of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle here; each individual component is exactly as uncertain as the rules of quantum physics predicts. While it's important to explore the relationship between quantum entanglement and the different components of the systems, including what happens when you treat both components together as a single system, nothing that's been demonstrated in this research negates Heisenberg's most important contribution to physics."The papers, published in the journal Science, could help create new generations of ultra-sensitive measuring devices and quantum computers.