I listen to Coast to Coast quite often as I have a late night schedule. These two shows intrigued me. One is about the future of where humanity is heading and the other is about the world of humanity’s past. The following are the description of the shows from the Coast to Coast website. If you follow the links you’ll find more info.
Robots & Warfare
An expert in 21st century warfare, P.W. Singer discussed military robots and robotic systems, and the ramifications of their usage. Some examples in the battlefield include unmanned spy planes such as the Predator, which sends video and infrared data to human operators, and Packbots, small mobile robots (made by the company that manufactures the Roomba) that seek out and find IED bombs.
A military experiment demonstrated that when soldiers conducted war games with robots, the teams that had robots designed with personalities did better than the teams whose robots didn’t have personalities. Soldiers are starting to build bonds with their robots, and they’ve even taken risks to save them, Singer reported. Science-fiction has often accurately predicted changes in technology, and has served as a catalyst for robotic designers and the military, he commented.
The use of machinery to conduct our wars marks a big change in the way it’s been done for the last 5,000 years, he noted. Israel’s war with the Hezbollah in Lebanon was the first time that both sides used unmanned drones. Among the ethical questions Singer posed: Does robotic technology make it easier to go to war? Will soldiers controlling robots make decisions they wouldn’t if they were actually at the combat site?
Fossils & Folklore
Science historian Adrienne Mayor shared her research into how pre-scientific cultures understood the fossil record, and how their interpretation formed the basis of many ancient legends. According to Mayor, fossils were easily found in the ancient Greco-Roman world due to the region’s seismic activity, as well as erosion caused by thunderstorms and landslides. Mayor said the simple act of plowing a field could reveal fossilized remains, which would then be collected, measured, and put on display at a local Temple. Isolated bones from mastodons or giant rhinoceroses were often misidentified as monsters or heroes from myth, Mayor explained.
Native Americans had their own stories about creatures of legend. Mayor thinks Paleo-Indians may have encountered giants in certain areas of America. They likely lived alongside very large birds as well. As evidence, Mayor noted that a huge bird with a 15-ft wingspan, known as a Teratorn, co-existed with early humans in Africa. She also pointed to a petroglyph at Petrified Forest National Monument in Arizona that depicts a giant bird with a person in its beak.
Mayor spoke about Fifth century Greek historian Herodotus, who claimed to have been shown evidence of winged snakes in Egypt. Roman statesman Cicero also mentioned winged reptiles, she explained, as did a Medicine Man from the Crow Tribe, who told his granddaughter that he had found a flying lizard during a vision quest.
Mayor discussed giant sea creatures mentioned in the Bible and elsewhere in ancient literature (Pliny the Elder), as well as presented stories about UFOs in antiquity. In one such tale, natives in Ecuador and Peru showed Spanish explorers bones belonging to what they described as giant invaders from the sea. Mayor said the natives informed the explorers about a flash of fire from the heavens that destroyed the huge creatures and left only their charred remains behind. In an account from 74 BC, two warring armies witnessed a flaming object crash into their battlefield. The object was described as molten silver in color and shaped like a nose cone, Mayor said.