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(Apropos of nothing, I've taken the position of Science Track Head for [livejournal.com profile] arisia. Wish me luck.)

Yesterday, the right nose piece for my glasses fell off. Looking closer, it was perfectly intact, but the tiny little screw which is supposed to hold it in place was nowhere to be found. Fortunately for me, Costco's opticians perform little repairs like this for free for members.

Not wanting to take a trip to Nashua for just one thing, I asked my family whether there were things that we need from Costco. "I can't think of anything. No, wait:", and then a respectable list of things got rattled off, not enough to swamp my car, but enough to fill a standard Post-It note. There. Now I had an Errand, as well as an urgent prosthetic fix.

To keep the nose piece in place for the day, I twisted a toothpick into the hole and broke it off. That did indeed work.

After the day at the office, I drove up to Nashua, flashed my membership card at the door, then ambled to the opticians. I can tell you that he had some trouble getting the toothpick out, but I couldn't tell you how he fixed that, because I didn't have my glasses on. Just as I started to worry that he'd never get my stop-gap out, he handed me my fully-repaired glasses. Win! I thanked him, and proceeded to buy the odds and ends that we were shy on.

(Oddly, they seemed to be out of tighty-whiteys. They have "boxer briefs", which appear to combine the disadvantages of both, but no simple briefs. I'm going to assume that the back-to-school crowd ran them out of inventory.)

After spending just under $100 for a cartload, I flashed my receipt and pushed the cart out to my car, and transferred everything to the trunk. Being a Good CitizenTM, I then returned my cart to the cart corral, where I spotted something odd: a bath mat was draped over the steering cross-bar of a cart.

I looked around. Nobody was pulling out of the parking lot just then; nobody was running or even walking back to the cart corral. A few people were pushing fully-loaded carts to their cars.

Somebody went to Costco, bought a load of stuff including a bath mat, draped that bath mat over the steering crossbar of the cart, pushed the cart with their hands on the bath mat to their car, then pushed the cart with their hands on the bath mat to the corral. And left it there.

Hey! Bonus bath mat!

It's a nice one, too: just enough pile on top for wet bare feet to be comfortable (which is an important quality in a bath mat), a non-skid surface for the bathroom floor, and memory foam for body. If you haven't experienced this, it's a very pleasant sensation first thing in the morning as you stumble from bedroom to bathroom to stand on memory foam as you face your bleary face in the mirror. Some serious design effort went into this bath mat.

The sad part of this story is that it meant the official demise of the bath mat I've had since college. It was simple pile carpet; once upon a time, it was done up to look like a "ONE WAY" street sign that instead said "NO WAY". But the intervening 35 years have not been kind to it, and nor have my two daughters, who liberally doused it with nail polish and hair dye. And the contrast-color street sign motif was almost completely gone. This old mat was a ghost of its original self, and it was losing its non-skid backing. Out it went, relatively unceremoniously.

But I did not discard it until I had a replacement, one which apparently chose me. Bonus bath mat!
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I collected a list of Bad Science links over the first part of last year to use for the [livejournal.com profile] arisia panel "The Year in Bad Science". I fully expected the Science track to accept the suggestion for the panel, as the previous year's "Bad Science in 2011" was very popular and enthusiastically received.

Alas, it was not accepted. Nor was it rejected. It appears to have been dropped on the floor. I will be more diligent this year in getting the panel onto the schedule (or find out why they don't want it).

But feel free to examine 2012's list and comment there (or here).

(I already know that the list is incomplete; I expected to back-research some of the bigger election-year howlers. But if you think I missed something important, please let me know.)
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  1. U.S. State Science Standards Are ‘Mediocre to Awful’, according to a report by the Thomas Fordham Institute. (State-by-state reports and full report available on that page.)

  2. The U.K. proposes to cover Gaming Addiction under National Health, despite no consensus that it even exists. This is based off a misreading of conclusions of one study, despite the plethora of studies that show it isn't a thing.

  3. Ars Technica calls out the journal "Nature" for not requiring open-source software. The claim is that closed-source software impedes the reproducibility of scientific claims.

  4. Good Science Critiques Bad Science: the Journal of Psychiatric Research has published a critique of a 2009 article which claimed that abortion leads to subsequent mental health problems. The critique all but calls the original study "bullshit".

  5. Is it science? pre-review of "The Republican Brain" by Chris Mooney

  6. The state of Florida marks rights answers as 'wrong' because they don't believe that students would know they got it right.

  7. Starfire Water, the water with magnetically-infused information in it. o.O

  8. 8 Paranoid Sex Myths Debunked

  9. The NYT screams "food deserts!", large swaths where people have no access to fresh produce. Turns out they were wrong.

  10. Some bad pseudo-science and circular reasoning went into the DSM, the psychiatric bible.

  11. Zenify, the Stress-Free Drink, feeds your brain's alpha waves at 8-12 Hz, not the beta waves at 14 Hz like jittery caffeine and taurine do. Uh-huh.

  12. The Union of Concerned Scientists cooked the books, to a willing media reception.

  13. The Washington Times published an utterly bogus study ostensibly showing harm to children of lesbian parents.

  14. Gallup poll: 46 percent of the U.S. are creationists. And another 32% believe that humans evolved, but that God guided the process.

  15. The Eurocrats of the European Union launched a web-site: Science! It's a girl thing!, complete with lipstick graphics, pink-themed photos, and a teaser video of girls getting together to giggle and do no science. This all ignores all research which shows girls responding better to appeals with more gender-neutral imagery.

  16. In the "don't believe everything you read" department, a Japanese anesthesiologist, Yoshitaka Fujii, fabricated a whopping 172 papers over the past 19 years.

  17. The A.C.E. Christian fundamentalist curriculum is using the Loch Ness monster to disprove evolution. In their science class. Yes, really.

  18. State chemist Anne Dookhan not only faked her academic credentials, she faked chemical analyses of drug trail evidence for several years, including sprinkling cocaine over evidence samples to get the "right" test results. She would also take 25 samples, test 5, then declare all 25 positive for illegal drugs.

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  1. Invisible Engines - How Software Platforms Drive Innovation and Transform Industries, Evans & Hagiu & Schmalensee A good look at "two-sided platforms", such as credit cards (which need both users and merchants) and operating systems (which need app developers and end-users).

  2. REAMDE, Neal Stephenson -- 1/27. Long, and very Stephenson. Thriller, not sci-fi, loaded with action and plenty of thought. Loved it.

  3. You Are Not So Smart, David McRaney -- 2/26. Excellent "Psychology 101" book for those of us who never took psychology. Strongly recommended, as is his blog

  4. Double Homicide, Jonathan and Faye Kellerman -- 1/27. Two novellas by a married pair of crime-novelists, collaborating for the first time. Both murder mysteries/police procedurals and both quite good.

  5. Borderlands 3, anthology -- 3/22. First published 1992. There are several gems here, and several stories where I saw the "surprise" coming from the first page. I know I can do better than most of these contributors (but probably not better than Poppy Z. Brite's contribution, even as it was not one of her best).

  6. The Magic of Reality, Richard Dawkins, illus. Dave McKean - 3/25. This is actually a children's book about science and skepticism. The subtitle for this book is "How We Know What's Really True". The illustrations are as quirky as you'd expect, and true to the science on every page.

  7. You Suck! A Love Story, Christopher Moore - 4/26. Sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends, there's some troubling behavior (was that sex aconsensual?) but the characterization is brilliant. Unhappy about the ending, but I can see why he did it.

  8. If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, Italo Calvino Post-modern meta-book with 10 false starts and a loopy framing sequence which somehow manages to work.

  9. Interworld, Neil Gaiman and Michael Reeves A young boy who can walk between dimensions encounters an army of... himself.

  10. Lords and Ladies, Terry Pratchett A Discworld novel. Featuring Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

  11. The Island of the Color-Blind, Oliver Sacks Non-fiction. Achromatopsia is absurdly prevalent on the Pacific island of Pingelap. Meanwhile, on Guam ("Cycad Island"), people born before 1952 are subject to a mysterious neurological degeneration.

  12. Let's Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson

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After posting for the first time in two months yesterday, and carping that I still hadn't received my [livejournal.com profile] arisia schedule, I just got it this morning:

Facing the Prejudice of Giants -- Friday, 7:00 PM
The World Fantasy Award is a statuette of H. P. Lovecraft's head. Yet, as many have pointed out, Lovecraft was deeply racist and anti-Semitic. More than the rest, women, people of color, LGBT, and other minorities must deal with the uncomfortable truth that many of the Giants we honor hate(d) us, or employ problematic stereotyping in their work. How do we reconcile these contradictions? How do we respond? When should a work's status as "great literature" be reconsidered in light of its flaws?

Vampires: Fear of the Other, Fear of the Body -- Fri 8:30 PM
Scholars of vampire literature have alleged that early traditions of the vampire in Europe reflect fears of Jews, both religiously and racially. Yet over time, the vampire has morphed. Rather than representing fear of societal dilution, the vampire represents destruction of the individual body, and concepts of the "blood disease" as like unto AIDS began to enter the zeitgeist. Rather than express fear of the other, more modern vampire literature embraces the other.

(Actually, the Greek vrikolakas legends predate their contact with Jews, but vampires have certainly been used for the phobia-du-jour.)

All Together Now: Yellow Submarine at 45 -- Mon 10:00 AM
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the release of the Beatles' animated movie Yellow Submarine. It is a classic musical fantasy film for children of all ages, complete with bizarre creatures, fantastical adventures, and an overarching moral theme. Nominated for a Hugo, Yellow Submarine remains transcendent beyond its litany of classic songs by the Beatles. It influenced the look and feel of animated film for many years after.

The Perils of Near-Future Science Fiction -- Mon 11:30 AM -- moderating
When writing near-future science fiction, one danger is that events will overtake your premise. Before you know it, your readers are looking back on the world that didn't happen rather than ahead to the possible future. What are some of the benefits that outweigh the risks? Does the reader's engagement with the story necessarily have to change when the story becomes near-past rather than near-future?

...This is a preliminary schedule; I signed up for seven panels, including my creation "The Year In Bad Science", which I moderated and was very popular last year. I'm hoping that the Science track is just late with their panel assignments. Also, all four of these panels are on Friday or Monday, which is less than ideal, but hey.
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According to my archive, I haven't posted since October 2nd. That's a bit too long, even for me. So what's happened?

  1. Well, most importantly, I got a job. I started on October 15th at FluidNet, in yet another heavily regulated industry where software issues are a matter of life and death.

  2. This job is up in Amesbury, MA. That's a 40-mile commute, but it's a straight shot up I-495. As long as the highway isn't clogged, the drive is very pleasant. (The highway is frequently clogged between the exits for Rt. 3 and I-93.)

  3. My daughters are growing up. My elder has a pretty serious relationship, and is carrying a wicked hard course-load (including an AP Comp Sci course at MIT), and is kicking butt at it. My younger is just starting relationships, is interviewing high schools, and has completed her audition video for Advanced Circus Camp (where she's doing beautiful lyra work and juggling torches).

  4. Poor [livejournal.com profile] tamidon has been laid up with Lyme disease. It's bad. She's in pain.

  5. I'm overweight and out of shape, but my knees keep reminding me that the whole exercize thing will cost me. Of course, the whole lack of exercize thing will cost me, too. On the positive side, I no longer wheeze as much when I climb the four stories up to the office every morning.

  6. I registered for panels at [livejournal.com profile] arisia, but have yet to hear back about a schedule or whatever. This may affect my near-term reading list, so I await with bated breath.

  7. I have no idea what to do for Xmas this year. Don't know whether I want a tree. Don't know whether Brodie deDawg would behave correctly around a tree in the house. Don't really have the cycles after I get home from work to think about it. Maybe if we got a tree, put it up, but put off decorating it until we see how the dog reacts.

This is probably enough to post.
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Rabbit rabbit!

I have an interview today which came completely out of the blue. I've researched them a bit over the weekend, but I still have a few questions which I'll actually need answered before I start telling them how awesome I am.

And, as expected, I had anxiety dreams every night since Friday.

Wish me luck!

[ETA:] The interview has been postponed (on their end) to tomorrow morning at 10am.
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Be careful: there are two similar (but not identical) beers from the good folks at Cape Ann Brewing. One is "Fisherman's Imperial Pumpkin Stout", and the other is this one, "Fisherman's Pumpkin Stout". I hear good things about the artisanal Imperial Pumpkin Stout, but that's not what I've got here. The Imperial is significantly stronger, so if you get that one, split it with friends after dinner.

This appears to be of milk-stout strength and body (as opposed to a Guinness "extra stout"), but there are many subtle flavor notes in here. You actually have to search for the pumpkin (you'll find it, but only if you search).

It's a bit of a novelty, but certainly a good beer: potable, medium-bodied, flavorful, and would go with many meats or pies.

You'll want a stout glass or a pint glass for this, so your nose can enjoy as much as your tongue. No need for a stein, as it can be served at cellar temperature with no problem. And in fact, you won't want to refrigerate it, for fear of trapping the aromas.
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It may surprise some of you to know that I'm on several left-wing mailing lists. Some of their offerings I can easily delete unread ("Help Socialist politicians win in Europe!"), but most of the time, I read about issues and can find useful data in what people consider important, even if I disagree with their proposed solutions.

But this morning had a lot of woo in the headlines. Let's start with this one:
Will Science Rule Out the Existence of God?"

Of course not. "The existence of God" is not disprovable. It's not an hypothesis which can be scientifically tested.

Worse, delving into the article itself, the reporter claims that theoretical cosmologist (as opposed to "practical cosmologist", I suppose) Sean Carroll is claiming that science will "provide conclusive proof that there is no God."

Somebody please strap this reporter to a chair and run the Ludoviko method on him until he experiences extreme nausea upon making such statements.

What Sean Carroll actually said was:
Most modern cosmologists are convinced that conventional scientific progress will ultimately result in a self-contained understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe, without the need to invoke God or any other supernatural involvement. This conviction necessarily falls short of a proof, but it is backed up by good reasons. While we don't have the final answers, I will attempt to explain the rationale behind the belief that science will ultimately understand the universe without involving God in any way.

Get that: he explicitly does not "provide conclusive proof that there is no God." That's not even what he's trying to do. Because he's a scientist. I recommend reading his actual essay.

Moving right along, the leftie animal-rights letter asked, "Do Animals Have Souls?" and pointed to this scientific article which... never asks that question. It does explore some fascinating aspects of neurotheology, and I'd offer that dogs or coyotes howling at the moon may well qualify as "a spiritual ritual", but none of this touches on whether we have magical ghosts.

The other headline I ran into was "Global Warming Isn't Up For Debate", and I was going to rant that there are no wholly settled issues in science ("You think gravity is a settled issue? Great. Tell me how it works."), but then I saw that it was just an appeal to get Jim Lehrer to include the topic of global warming in the presidential candidates' debate that he'll be moderating. <Litella>Never mind.</Litella>
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Yesterday, I definitely had the head-cold that my younger brought home from school (happy September! The germ pool is open!). But I nuked myself with Dayquil so that I had most of my head for a phone screen that went well.

Today was more of the headful of stupid. I meandered thru the morning, answered some recruiter email, noticed that I wasn't making much sense, and so took a nap this afternoon.

For the whole afternoon.

I woke up in time for the mechanic to call and tell me that my car was finally repaired and ready, so we went and retrieved that and threw a bunch of well-earned money at my mechanic. Driving home, I put the car on cruise-control at the speed limit, so I could devote my remaining attention on traffic and staying safe.

Then I noticed that the day was all done.

I will drug myself to sleep tonite, and hope that my body can finish defeating this stupid rhinovirus (that is to say, a rhinovirus which causes a case of the stupids).
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Okay, folks, how's this for an idea?

Synchronized Shakespeare.

The play is blocked in a 3/4 round, but the characters are all double-cast, and appear onstage with a two-meter gap between them. Everyone must say their lines in perfect unison, with the same intonation.

You want to see Hamlet in parallel, don't you? You never thought about it before, but now that you have, you want to see it, for the sword-fight scenes, if for no other reason.

That, and the death of Polonius in stereo.
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Here's hoping this is a much better month.
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a. Links to the Site. You may create your own link to the Site, provided that your link is in a text-only format. You may not use any link to the Site as a method of creating an unauthorised association between an organisation, business, goods or services and London 2012, and agree that no such link shall portray us or any other official London 2012 organisations (or our or their activities, products or services) in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner.

Yo, douchebags! This is your piece-o'-crap logo! It cost you £400,000 and it looks like a pile of pop-rocks! And it links to your site!

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I've got 20 likes so far. Have done 55 push-ups, but I'm done with that for the evening. I'll pick up again tomorrow morning.
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As those of you who read [livejournal.com profile] tamidon know, we've taken custody of Brodie, [livejournal.com profile] tikva's wonderful ex-guide-dog. Brodie has bonded strongly with [livejournal.com profile] tamidon, so that part of the change in the household menagerie is going just fine.

The two cats, however, still believe that Brodie is going to eat them. They generally stay on different floors from Brodie, so I've had to feed them on the second floor, next to the washer-dryer. This is awkward, but it's working for now.

Now, turn the calendar back a couple of years, when my old cat Haiku was living with those same two cats. Among other elderly ailments, Haiku was arthritic, and required daily doses of Cosequin. It came in powdered form, and chicken-flavored, and I gave it to him by sprinkling it on his gooshy (canned) food. To keep the younger cats from eating that medicine, I'd shake the cat food out of the can into a cat-food bowl, then set the can on the floor. Both young cats would bump heads vying for the small amount of "gravy" left in the can. I'd powder the cat food, set it down, and Haiku would lick off the Cosequin powder in peace, and even eat some of the food before the other two got around to nosing at it.

This morning, instead of putting the gooshy food directly into the bowl and bringing it upstairs, I brought the can upstairs because the cat food bowl was already there. Both cats joined me next to the washer-dryer as I shook the food from the can into the bowl. I set the bowl down. The cats were having none of it.

"Really?", I asked, which was somewhat foolish, because cats aren't verbal.

I set down the can, and they bumped heads to lick the "gravy" out. Right next to the cat-food bowl full of cat-food. Because, apparently, the can is the best part.

Wave! (Hi!)

Jul. 6th, 2012 01:16 pm
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You know Hokusai's "Great Wave of Kanagawa", right? Of course you do:

(It's actually one of his "Thirty-six Views of Fujiyama"; that's Mount Fuji in the background.)

Well, conditions were right and such a wave happened again.
"The French Navy labeled this day a double code red prohibiting and threatening to arrest anyone that entered the water."

I don't know whether they actually arrested this surfer or the cameraman.

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Sunday was Father's Day, so [livejournal.com profile] tamidon took the kids to see her father. In Ohio. I got them to Logan at ZOMG WHY ARE YOU EVEN UP in the morning, then got myself back home. I checked on the chickens, collected eggs, fed and watered them, then came inside to eat.

As it happens, the previous Tuesday I got my allergy shots, and they have a scale there. It claimed that I weighed 208 pounds (fully clothed, with shoes). This was not a shock, nor even a surprise. So that blew past my "do I have to?" threshold, and I started thinking seriously about exercizing again. (I am pretty much the opposite of "big boned"; I should not carry more than 175 pounds, and should probably be down around 160 or so.)

Back to Sunday. There's nobody else in the house. I'm farting around on the internet, but my own personal inner nag got me up and moving. I decided to dust off the fake Hoffner and play Beatles Rock Band for a while, and I worked up a bit of a sweat. Well, as long as I was already sweaty, I may as well exercize for real, so I fired up the Wii Fit.

"It has been 938 days since your last session. Your previous goal has expired. Would you like to set a new goal?"

Why, yes. Yes I would. Wearing only socks, underwear, and a t-shirt, this machine decided I was 193 pounds, which sounds reasonable (given the previous weighing a few days earlier). It informs me that my balance is for crap (which I actually had been noticing), so I tried out a few yoga poses.

Ouch. And, twitch.

I did some of the complementary strength exercizes, and then alternated between them and the yoga poses. Okay, now I'm breathing hard for real. How long have I been doing this?

14 minutes.


Just then, [livejournal.com profile] jbsegal came in to inspect the garage for some [livejournal.com profile] baitcon materials that we store there. I'm sweating like the proverbial pig, I'm mostly undressed, but thanks to chicken tending, the garage is already open. I tell him to go for it, and I finish up my routine.

At about this point, the Wii Fit decides I am 186 pounds. I don't think I've sweated that much. But I do a balance game (partly to test my balance, partly to catch my breath) and finish with an aerobic routine. Then I say good-bye to [livejournal.com profile] jbsegal and go shower.

The next day (Monday): ouch. Muscles ache. The pitiful little work-out I did actually woke up some underused muscles. Yeesh. Okay. This must be the right thing to do. Deal with some errands, go to work, ache a bit all day, come home, shop for some groceries, do chicken errands, eat dinner, fart around on internet, and consider exercizing again today. Er, "No", say the thighs and some previously unknown muscle between ribs and arms.

So I play Beatles Rock Band again, and work up a sweat. Does anybody else's body do this? Is it because I'm dancing around to keep the beat while bumping up from "Medium" to "Hard"?

Here's the thing: if I use the Wii instead of just watching TV, I clear one of the hurdles to being active, and sometimes haul out the actual exercize program. Let's see how quickly the fat burns off.
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Anonymous commenting enabled; all comments screened.

If you would like (or just allow) your comment to be unscreened, please start it with an asterisk (*). Then let loose.

Shout something. Shout something inappropriate. Shout something you've been holding in. Shout something at me, at the universe, at your mother, at FOX News, at your best friend.

Unless you name me, I will not assume that your words are intended at me. I will take no offense here, unless you explicitly instruct me to take offense, because you feel I deserve it.

But ideally, you should be able to scrawl something across the comment, and feel no need to go back and change anything.

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Which philosopher are you?
Your Result: Aristotle

Truth does not exist in some transcendent realm. We get to truth by applying reason to the physical world. The world follows logic and commonsense. Science if done properly is not too far from philosophy.

--This quiz was made by S. A-Lerer.

Sartre/Camus (late existentialists)
W.v.O. Quine / Late Wittgenstein
Early Wittgenstein / Positivists
Plato (strict rationalists)
Immanuel Kant
Which philosopher are you?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Decent quiz, but I wish they'd had it proofread.
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I still believe that we have to get "the value of money" out of the hands of bureaucrats, to the extent that we can. The gold-standard position to take in lieu of "fiat currency" is, well, the gold standard. This is not because gold has some alchemical magic, or because Gawd told us to use it, but simply because it is difficult to counterfeit (or easy to tell when counterfeited), and the world's known reserves are really well known: we know where they are, and roughly how much gold they contain. There haven't been any gold rushes lately, and the gold mines are fairly well staked. This makes gold, as a commodity, very difficult to inflate.

I would quasi-flippantly say, "So until we find an asteroid made of gold to haul down to Earth, it's about the most stable commodity we could use."

James Cameron and Google are emphasizing my quasi-, and shorting out my flippancy:
Asteroid mining is imminent. Sure, they're mostly talking about using the minerals which are already up there for construction and stuff outside our gravity well, but you know if they find a quarter-ton of gold or platinum, most of that will work its way down to us.

Which is great for electronics, catalysts, and, oh, jewelry I suppose, but it means that the previously-stable commodity will inflate.

Ultimately, we'll probably use energy itself as our commodity to back currency, but that's well past the life-times of anyone able to read this. Maybe Frank Ryan's old idea of using Fancy-grade maple syrup isn't as wacky as it originally sounded.

Oh, yeah, asteroid mining will also make things like space-ports, space-based solar power, zero-gravity-built pharmaceuticals, extremely-fine-grained (XFG) powder chemistry, and all sorts of other wonderfulness feasible. So, yay! And, unlike NASA, it will get people interested in space again.
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