Category: Science

Andrew Lam

If It's Bleak On Earth, Look Up To The Heavens

By Andrew Lam, Dec 24, 2012 10:34 AM

 Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for getdata.asp.html.jpeg  This Christmas season that bright distinctive star that once led the three wise men to Bethlehem takes on an extra meaning. Some astronomers have over the years speculated that the star might have very well been a comet, as comets can be extremely bright and visible for months in the night sky, moving against a background of stars. But none until now thought that it could also be the source of life itself -a cosmic pollen carrying possible genetic and organic materials; the primordial soup.

Latest scientific discoveries in astronomy suggest conditions for life is rife everywhere. The more science discover, the deeper the mystery of the universe,

Consider: A few years ago NASA’s press release on the comet dust brought back to Earth by the space probe Stardust: °These chunks of ice and dust wandering our solar system appear to be filled with organic molecules that are the building blocks of life.”


The finding surprised scientists because many predicted that the space probe would find mostly ice. Instead, the finding could lend support for the belief that comets could have “seeded” life on our planet as well as others.

Such a statement would have been unimaginable only a few decades ago. Traditionally humans have an egocentric tendency to explain our place in the universe.

But as astonishing discoveries are being made, that sense of self- importance had given way to a more humble assessment of our place in the cosmos.

Everywhere we look, peering as far as we can into our universe, we find tantalizing evidence that supports conditions for life. From evidence of water once flowed on Mars to ice on the moon or a giant ocean found on Titan, Saturn's moon.

Add to these findings the continual discoveries of exoplanets- those that orbit stars - a total of 854 such planets as of 2012, some in "habitable" zones where conditions are ripe for life.


In a sense, Science chips away at our ancient myths only to reveal even greater mysteries. The more science reveals, the more mysterious the revelation. Science, in other word, is at its best when it evokes, like art, the experience of wonder and awe.

War and strife seem endless on our little blue planet, but up above the heavens is sublime. We look at the Christmas star might very well be a comet whose dust might be full of the stuff that creates life. This gives new meanings to a very old story, and it leaves some of us who gaze upward breathless. 


New America Media editor, Andrew Lam is the author of “Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora” (Heyday Books, 2005), which won a Pen American “Beyond the Margins” award and where the above essay is excerpted, and “East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres.” His next book, “Birds of Paradise Lost” is due out in 2013. He has lectured and read his work widely at many universities.


Peter Schurmann

Black in America -- Not in Silicon Valley

By Peter Schurmann, Feb 16, 2012 12:49 PM

CNN’s Black in America series recently touched on the struggle African Americans entrepreneurs face in breaking through the tech ceiling of the “new promised land” that is Silicon Valley. At one point in the segment, a successful South Asian businessman tells the group they need to hire a “white front man” if they ever want their ideas or businesses to see the light of day.

Andrew Lam

Avian Flu Crisis - A Question of When

By Andrew Lam, Jan 4, 2012 10:30 AM

 A man recently died from the Bird Flu, known as the H5N1 virus, in Shenzhen, China, raising the spector of a pandemic, given the strain is known to be deadly, with a high fatality rate somewhere above 60%. The country is now on high alert. Here's an old interview that may be useful to those wanting to know a little more about the virus.   

Q&A: Avian Flu Crisis - A Question of When


Interview with Dr. David Relman, professor of medicine and of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University

By Andrew Lam, New America Media

The avian flu virus, H5N1, has the potential to kill millions once it learns how to jump from human to human. So far, most people who become infected have worked with live chickens. But scientists say it's a matter of time before avian flu makes the leap. The virus most recently surfaced in Indonesia, where four people have died.


Sep 22, 2005

NAM: Should we ask if avian flu will jump from animal-to-human transmission to human-to-human transmission -- or is it a question of when?

DR: It probably is a question of when, not if. This virus is progressing right down the path you would predict for a virus that will eventually become quite good at human-to-human transmission.

NAM: Is there a timeline?


DR: That's the hard thing. Some people say it could be as early as this winter. Those of a more optimistic sort say maybe two years, or five. I think the really important question is, when it acquires that capability (human-to-human transmission), what will it cost the virus? Most people think it won't be as virulent.

NAM: Since the number of people who have died so far is small, can we really speculate about the number of fatalities avian flu could cause?

DR: Right now, of the known cases of avian flu in humans, it has killed about 50 percent. The big question is, are there others out there walking the streets, sitting in their homes, eating dinner and talking to their family members who have become infected and didn't even become sick? I don't think there are many. There are some surveys out there of blood from people who are healthy to see if they have evidence of exposure to this virus, and there haven't been many episodes or incidences of that. But it's still possible.

NAM: How will it be transmitted among humans? I imagine if it is airborne, like SARS, it is going to be very contagious.


DR: Correct. It almost certainly will behave just like all the influenza viruses before it, meaning that it will be aerosol-transmitted. In fact, the current human-to-human flu viruses that we all experience each winter are more transmissible than SARS. They actually become transmitted easily through fine-particle aerosols, person to person. SARS required large droplets or even direct contact.

NAM: I was traveling in Asia near the beginning and at the end of the SARS epidemic, and the attitude regarding SARS, especially in big cities, was one of sheer panic. Yet with avian flu the attitude is 180 degrees different. In Hanoi friends said to me, "Oh, it's just farmers who get it, so just don't eat chicken now and you'll be OK."

DR: It probably reflects something about human nature. At the time you're talking about, during the height of the SARS event, there were a lot of people who were sick. There were hospitals that were shut down. There was already a fairly substantial impact on the health care system in a few major world cities.

We're not there yet with Avian flu. I think the inevitable course will be that this virus will become better at human-to-human transmission, and when it does that, SARS unfortunately may look like quite a small little blip.

NAM: What about the new vaccine being developed against avian flu?

DR: The vaccine does appear to induce what should be protective immunity in humans. That's the good news. The bad news is that even with the prototype vaccine in hand, we still don't have the production infrastructure to make enough doses quickly. If every vaccine producing factory in the world were devoted solely to the purpose of making this new influenza vaccine, at current levels of production we would only have enough for maybe 50 to 100 million doses worldwide, for a whole population that needs 10 times more doses.

NAM: Why do you think the last few diseases of concern -- SARS, avian flu and now swine flu -- all seem to originate from one particular area, either Southeast Asia or South China?

DR: For reasons that are still unclear, influenza, even yearly, seems to evolve out of the bird population of Southeast Asia. Nobody knows why. SARS seems to also have found a natural home in animal populations of China, and then moved into humans when those animals were moved about. But every continent has its sites for the origin of a new emerging infection.

NAM: But are there common conditions that promote the development and spread of such viruses?

DR: Where you see emerging infections around the globe, you see dislocations of animals, you see disease in animals because of crowding, you see displacements of humans, crowding of humans, poor sanitary conditions, poor hygiene, war, famine -- anything that perturbs what might have previously been a fine-tuned balance in nature.

NAM: Has our changing relationship with animals encouraged the rise of new diseases?


DR: There have been major changes in the way we manage animal populations. One of the most important in the more developed world is the rise of very large-scale, industrial scale livestock management, farming that involves populations of hundreds of thousands of millions of animals all packed together. It's easy to see where an infectious agent might have lived and died within a small population of animals, but now has the opportunity to move within millions very easily.

We also move animals about the globe in ways that we never ever did ten, 20 years ago. Look at monkey pox, which showed up in the United States two years ago. How did it get here? We are importing millions of exotic strains and species of animals that have no place being in North America, due to Americans' desires for exotic and unusual pets.

NAM: So basically the rise of new diseases, or a lot of them anyway, are the direct cause of our human behavior?


DR: Correct. We are at fault in many ways.

NAM: But with technology we are also quicker in defining and isolating the cause of diseases.

DR: Yes, you have to hope that on the one hand, while we're the cause of many of our own problems, we are also the potential solution.



Lam is author of "Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora,"  and "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres." His third book, "Birds of Paradise" is due out in 2013.

Andrew Lam

Grandmother's Last Lesson -- Seeing Time As a Trick of the Mind

By Andrew Lam, Dec 30, 2011 3:30 PM

  The year zoomed by like comet Lovejoy that went near the sun and survived. It makes one wonder about mortality and time, and one's place in the world. here's an old essay that contemplates that... enjoy and happy new year...

Grandmother's Last Lesson -- Seeing Time As a Trick of the Mind

Nearing the end of her life and plagued with senility, my grandmother fell into a strange state of grace. At 95, she believed herself a young woman again living in her hometown in the Mekong Delta. One day when I visited her in her convalescent home in San Jose, California, where she had lived for the last decade or so, I asked grandma to name the names of her four children and she looked a bit astonished: "Children?" She said in her frail, hoarse voice, "Mister, but I am only 17."

Receding from her memories are the years in America, years full of longing and grief for her lost homeland. Lost, too, mercifully, are her memories of the war and the incredible suffering it had caused her. The garden outside her window teamed with life, butterflies and bees hovering over gardenias and roses, but her vision had begun to travel far beyond its walls. In her mind, Grandmother had already gone back to a happier time, rowing her boat down the river in the old country, singing some folksongs, watching white cranes fly above the green rich rice fields, celebrating Tet with relatives and neighbors -- to an unhurried world of long ago.

My parents and aunts sighed and shook their heads whenever they visited, feeling guilty for not being able to care for her at home, sad that their mother no longer knew them. I, on the other hand, took a different attitude altogether. I saw that there was a mixed blessing in her senility and forgetfulness. After all, grandmother had, in her own way, managed to conquer time.

Years ago, when she was still lucid, Grandma bought a wooden clock carved in the S shape of the map of Vietnam from a Vietnamese store in Little Saigon in Anaheim. Above her bed, the clock ticked mournfully, a constant reminder of how long she'd spent away from her home and hearth. Sometimes she would watch that clock tick as she counted her rosary and then cried silent, bitter tears.

Indeed, America's concepts of time only helped to confuse her. She did not know why, for instance, a grandson had to leave home at 18. When I left home for college, she wept. I overheard her protesting to my mother in an incredulous voice: "How can you let him go? He 's immature at 17 and now he's 18, somehow he's mature? Not everyone is a real adult at 18 or 21 either. It's not so simple."

Once, I remember, she asked me how far Vietnam was from California. I shrugged, "Well, I guess it's about 18 hours." Hearing this, grandma, made a scowling face and snapped: "If our country is only less than a day away by your measurement, then tell me how come I've been waiting for 15 years, seven months and eight days now and I am still here in America?"

If since her exile to America at the end of the Vietnam war time had been her enemy, telling her how long she'd been away from the country of her birth, it finally lost its grip on her that last year. That year before she died, she was no longer ruled by the clock. She traveled freely most of the time to the distant past and she seemed, if not happy, then at peace.

The last time I saw her alive, we held hands. Perhaps grandma thought I was a beau from the next village come courting or a distant relative, but she blushed when I told her that she was beautiful.

"Let's hurry," she said, her eyes staring at an impossibly far away place, "we're going to be late for the celebration at the temple."

Perhaps she is there now. As for me, since she passed away I am, I must say, not as fearful of old age as I once was. When I grow old and senile, I, too, should like to forget all the sorrow and sadness in my own life. Memories of heartbreaks and great losses will be dissolved like smoke in the morning wind. Like grandma, I'll relive instead all the moments of intense happiness: walking with my first love down Bankroft Street in Berkeley at dusk; singing silly songs with my siblings on Christmas eve when we were kids; luxuriating in my mother's arms as a child after a warm bath; watching the moonrise with my cousin over the ocean on a tiny island in Thailand.

And above all, I should like to return to that windblown pine hill of Dalat, Vietnam, a plateau of forests high above the sea where I grew up. I will sit again with my best friend in fourth grade, the two of us leaning against a pine tree and looking up at the clouds drifting by, our sweaters and hair stuck with pine needles after a game of hide and seek.

It was on that same hill that I later lost my first watch, a Mickey Mouse watch which I got for my seventh birthday, Mickey's arms pointing at the hours and minutes that slowly led me away from my childhood wonders and eventually my homeland. I had cried for days afterwards, but I now think that it's apt that the watch should lie decaying somewhere on that lovely hill.

For perhaps there is something that the adult forgets and only the very young and very old could know: That time and space are an illusion, a trick of the mind...

See me then as a starry-eyed child among pine trees, staring at the shifting sky, enraptured by an impossible sense of beauty, delighting simply to be in the world.


Andrew Lam is author of
Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora and East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres.

Andrew Lam

Japanese Scholar to Bay Area: Please Don't Forget About Us

By Andrew Lam, Apr 11, 2011 9:32 PM

  
With many Japanese afraid to travel to cities they believe to be “contaminated” with nuclear fallout, one Japanese scholar is reaching out to the San Francisco Bay Area with a plea: Please don’t forget about the people of Fukushima.

Takashi Oda, who from 2005 to 2008 was an advisor for community affairs to the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco and then became a Fulbright scholar at UC Berkeley studying the Japanese-American community in the Bay Area, is calling on his “San Francisco Bay Area Family and Friends” to continue to reach out to the people of Fukushima.

He writes in an op-ed for San Francisco-based newspaper Nichi Bei Weekly that his hometown of Iwaki -- a city of more than 340,000 residents, located less than 25 miles from the nuclear plant -- is now being shunned by the rest of Japan.

“While I am very grateful that my family is safe, my family’s home was severely damaged. But more important than the physical damage is the damage done to us by people who shun us, fearing that all of Iwaki is ‘contaminated’ because of the radioactive leakage. It has gotten to a point where some residents were forced to leave the town because food or water is no longer transported, due to a fear of it being infected.”

Oda writes that his uncle, whom he describes as “a very proud and strong man,” told him, “‘We have been totally left to live in isolation.’”

“People who lost their homes, family and their whole life history now face another challenge of being treated as someone from the ‘polluted area,’” Oda notes, due to their proximity to the radiation.

With his hometown effectively a city under siege, Oda writes that the role the San Francisco Bay Area can play has become even more crucial.

“So friends, I have a favor,” Oda writes. “Please do not forget about us even after the news have stopped covering our lives and have moved on to other things. We need you to remember that our communities will require time, support and love to restart. While some Fukushima products are temporarily restricted, there are many other products that are very safe to purchase and consume. Please reach out to buy Fukushima’s safe products and welcome Fukushima people into your lives
to let them know you care. You have and continue to do that for me, and now, more than ever, I know what real friends are, no matter where they are located.”

Andrew Lam is author of East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres

Andrew Lam

We're Not Alone in the Universe, So it seems

By Andrew Lam, Feb 10, 2011 10:35 AM

 For as long as man has been gazing up to the heavens we have been, in away, searching for reflections ourselves. And increasingly, it seems, we are finding more and more evidence that say we are not alone.

UFOs and earthlike planets are in the news. The Kepler, NASA's space based telescope launched just two years ago, has found some serious possibilities for potential life out there. So far it found 1,235 planets orbiting nearby stars. But more tantalizing, it has found 54 planets in habitable zones –atmospheres and liquid water and - conditions that may support life. "It's very likely that life is common in our galaxy," said the chief scientist of the Kepler mission, William Borucki.

Meanwhile, UFOs are being spotted practically every week, and with the advent of portable cameras they can been seen. Whether many are hoaxes remain to be seen but these videos become viral on the internet. In Utah last week, witnesses saw a ufo – three red dots of light in a triangle shape - dropping bright lights. At the same time, a bright round spot of light could be seen hovering over the dome of rock Jerusalem. Four videos captured it and millions have viewed them on youtube. While some claim them to be hoaxes, Many are believers.

It may sound hokey in the past, but increasingly more and more people believe in extraterrestrial life. A Scripps Howard News Service poll in 2008 says that a whopping 56 percent Americans believe “very likely or somewhat likely that intelligent life exists on other worlds.”

“One in every 12 Americans has seen a mysterious object in the sky that might have been a visitor from another world,” According to the poll, conducted with Ohio Univeristy, “while nearly one in every five personally knows someone who has seen an unidentified flying object.”

Indeed, a radical shift in human psyche regarding our relationship with the rest of universe is taking place. Not so long ago, until Copernicus came along, we assumed our world was the universe's center -- and, for that matter, flat -- and that the sun orbited Earth. Last century we held on to the notion that our solar system was unique. Scientists just a generation ago assumed, too, that conditions on Earth -- a protective atmosphere, ample water and volcanic activity -- made it the only planet that could possibly support life.

That sense of self-importance has given way to a more humble assessment of our place in space. The conditions on our home planet may be unique, but solar systems are not at all anomalies. We are in the process of accepting that we are very much part of the larger universe.

Furthermore, by sending space probes to the edge of the solar system, by collecting moon rocks and comet dust, by landing probes on Mars to dig for soils and search for signs of life, and by planning manned missions to Mars, we are in constant exchange with the universe.

Consider these astonishing discoveries made in the past decade or two.

Using the Hubble Telescope to study Earth's atmosphere, astronomer Lou Frank proved that Earth is constantly hit by snowballs from space. The implications are enormous: If snowballs from outer space hit Earth regularly, it is raining elsewhere onto other planets, providing much-needed water for the primordial soup.

The two rovers found ice on Mars. If there's ice on Mars, the probability of ice on other planets has grown exponentially as well.

And then, in 2009 , we found water on the moon.

A quarter of century ago, a meteorite from Mars found on Earth, known as the Allan Hills meteorite (or ALH 84001 to scientists), astonished everyone when some scientists claimed they found tantalizing traces of fossilized life within it. Their findings have been contested, but the meteorite renewed enthusiasm for the idea of "panspermia."

The interstellar exchange of DNA was a theory championed by Francis Crick, who discovered the DNA molecule with two other scientists in the last century. If scientists laughed behind the Nobel laureate's back when he first suggested it, no one is laughing now.

Besides, there is such a thing as self-fulfilling prophecy: If Earth didn't receive DNA for a startup way back when, we are now actively sending out DNA through space with our spacecrafts and satellites and shuttles.

And what do scientists find when they analyze the comet dust collected by space probes? Organic materials, rich in biogenic materials with great varieties of organic molecules.

Roland Robertson, a social scientist, defines globalization as "the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole."

Taking Robertson's definition a step further, it seems inevitable that the universe, too, shrinks and compresses as we explore and measure it, and infer profound implications from our discoveries.

Perhaps it is why so many of us have changed our mind: We are not alone in the universe. Earth maybe unique, but only in the sense that every human being is unique. It’s harder, after to all, to claim the role of sole inheritor’s of god’s grace in a vast universe abundant with water and organic materials and planets with atmospheres orbiting stars like our own sun.

War and strife and revolutions and bloodshed seem endless on our little blue planet, but when man gazes up to the heavens it remains sublime. To paraphrase the great mythologist, Joseph Campbell, that sea on which humanity now sails is infinitely more vast than that imagined by Columbus. And the cosmic age, no doubt about it, has arrived.



Andrew Lam is author of
East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres. 

Sandip Roy

Tiger Mother Haunts Obama's SOTU

By Sandip Roy, Jan 26, 2011 8:36 AM

Obama did not mention Amy Chua in his State of the Union.

But the Tiger Mother, who is everywhere these days, was hovering over his speech like Banquo’s ghost.

He mentioned China four times in the speech.

  • Meanwhile, nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they could compete in this new world.
  • Just recently, China became the home to the world's largest private solar research facility, and the world's fastest computer.
  • China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation's infrastructure, they gave us a "D."
  • Recently, we signed agreements with India and China that will support more than 250,000 jobs here in the United States.

Sandip Roy

Looking for Dick Cheney's Heart

By Sandip Roy, Jan 4, 2011 11:29 PM

 Dick Cheney is not heartless. He just has less of a heart. The New York Times says Cheney’s heart will never beat at full strength again. His new mechanical pump leaves patients without a pulse because it does not mimic the heart’s own beat.

So Dick Cheney has no pulse. Yet he walks among us. This is the Twilight Zone, verily.

Andrew Lam

Opinion: The Universe Is Shrinking -- Call It Cosmozation

By Andrew Lam, Nov 12, 2010 11:13 AM

 Quick, what comes after the age of globalization? If you're stumped, not too worry. Most people are. In fact, there's no age yet being coined or agreed upon.

So here's something I came up with: cosmozation. The word doesn't exist in the dictionary, but then 25 years or so ago neither did globalization. Soon, however, Webster will have to add "cosmozation," or something like it, in order to address man's intensifying relationship with the cosmos.


NASA

This artist rendition provided by NASA shows the Kepler space telescope, which was designed to search for Earth-like planets in the Milky Way galaxy.

Think about it: We are looking for planets like ours in the Milky Way via the new Kepler telescope. and we are finding some serious possibilities. While astronomer Dimitar Sasselov recently made a mistake identifying some of those 140 possibilities as "Earthlike," instead of Earth-sized, the excitement of potential discoveries lit up the Internet. Despite the fuzzy data, the potential for finding millions more remains great.

Indeed, a radical shift in human psyche regarding our relationship with the rest of universe is taking place. Not so long ago, until Copernicus came along, we assumed our world was the universe's center -- and, for that matter, flat -- and that the sun orbited Earth. Last century we held on to the notion that our solar system was unique. Scientists just a generation ago assumed, too, that conditions on Earth -- a protective atmosphere, ample water and volcanic activity -- made it the only planet that could possibly support life.

That sense of self-importance has given way to a more humble assessment of our place in space. The conditions on our home planet may be unique, but solar systems are not at all anomalies. We are in the process of accepting that we are very much part of the larger universe. Furthermore, by sending space probes to the edge of the solar system, by collecting moon rocks and comet dust, by landing probes on Mars to dig for soils and search for signs of life, and by planning manned missions to Mars, we are in constant exchange with the universe.

Consider these astonishing discoveries made in the past decade or two.

Using the Hubble Telescope to study Earth's atmosphere, astronomer Lou Frank proved that Earth is constantly hit by snowballs from space. The implications are enormous: If snowballs from outer space hit Earth regularly, it is raining elsewhere onto other planets, providing much-needed water for the primordial soup.

The two rovers found ice on Mars. If there's ice on Mars, the probability of ice on other planets has grown exponentially as well.

And then, last year, we found water on the moon.

A few years ago, a meteorite from Mars found on Earth, known as the Allan Hills meteorite (or ALH 84001 to scientists), astonished everyone when some scientists claimed they found tantalizing traces of fossilized life within it. Their findings have been contested, but the meteorite renewed enthusiasm for the idea of "panspermia."

The interstellar exchange of DNA was a theory championed by Francis Crick, who discovered the DNA molecule with two other scientists in the last century. If scientists laughed behind the Nobel laureate's back when he first suggested it, no one is laughing now.

Besides, there is such a thing as self-fulfilling prophecy: If Earth didn't receive DNA for a startup way back when, we are now actively sending out DNA through space with our spacecrafts and satellites and shuttles.

Roland Robertson, a social scientist, defines globalization as "the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole."

Taking Robertson's definition a step further, it seems inevitable that the universe, too, shrinks and compresses as we explore and measure it, and infer profound implications from our discoveries.

Cosmozation, then, is the process in which man's awareness expands beyond the globe. He grows cognizant that he exists on intimate levels with the rest of the universe, that earth is in a open system with the rest of the cosmos and that man is interacting with, and increasingly having an effect upon, it.

And, to paraphrase Joseph Campbell, that sea on which humanity now sails is infinitely more vast than that imagined by Columbus. For the cosmic age, no doubt about it, has arrived.

Andrew Lam

Trading Physical Space for the Virtual Kind

By Andrew Lam, Sep 9, 2010 12:50 PM

 A while back I overhead two homeless men having a row over a choice spot away from the wind. "This was always my space," one yelled. "No man, it's my space now," the other one replied. A few young, well-dressed people walked by and giggled. "MySpace" as a phrase has a totally different connotation to those who go often online, for it evokes the posh virtual neighborhood where real estate is still plentiful and cheap.

But it is exactly the relationship between MySpace and "my space" that I've been thinking about of late, living here in downtown San Francisco.

The problem is that for the first time in human history, there are more people living in urban areas than rural, and cities have grown like amoeba into megacities -- so crowded that they have become virtual countries with complex ecosystems unto themselves. Tokyo leads the pack with 31 million residents. Seoul has 23 million, followed by New York and Mumbai and Mexico City.

No wonder fewer adults are having children and more and more are spending their time online as if to use the virtual space as a substitute for the shrinking physical space they're in.

The Harris Poll reported recently that Americans 18 and older spent an average of 13 hours a week online, excluding time spent checking e-mail. More are spending time on social networking sites than ever before. And China this year has surpassed the U.S. as the No. 1 country with the number of people having access to the Internet.

Read the rest on AOL...

Andrew Lam is the author of East Eats West: Writing In Two Hemispheres. 

Andrew Lam

Opinion: The Universe Is Shrinking -- Call It Cosmozation

By Andrew Lam, Aug 26, 2010 9:35 AM

 Quick, what comes after the age of globalization? If you're stumped, not too worry. Most people are. In fact, there's no age yet being coined or agreed upon.

So here's something I came up with: cosmozation. The word doesn't exist in the dictionary, but then 25 years or so ago neither did globalization. Soon, however, Webster will have to add "cosmozation," or something like it, in order to address man's intensifying relationship with the cosmos.

Think about it: We are looking for planets like ours in the Milky Way via the new Kepler telescope. and we are finding some serious possibilities. While astronomer Dimitar Sasselov recently made a mistake identifying some of those 140 possibilities as "Earthlike," instead of Earth-sized, the excitement of potential discoveries lit up the Internet. Despite the fuzzy data, the potential for finding millions more remains great.

Indeed, a radical shift in human psyche regarding our relationship with the rest of universe is taking place. Not so long ago, until Copernicus came along, we assumed our world was the universe's center -- and, for that matter, flat -- and that the sun orbited Earth. Last century we held on to the notion that our solar system was unique. Scientists just a generation ago assumed, too, that conditions on Earth -- a protective atmosphere, ample water and volcanic activity -- made it the only planet that could possibly support life.

That sense of self-importance has given way to a more humble assessment of our place in space. The conditions on our home planet may be unique, but solar systems are not at all anomalies. We are in the process of accepting that we are very much part of the larger universe. Furthermore, by sending space probes to the edge of the solar system, by collecting moon rocks and comet dust, by landing probes on Mars to dig for soils and search for signs of life, and by planning manned missions to Mars, we are in constant exchange with the universe.

Consider these astonishing discoveries made in the past decade or two.

Using the Hubble Telescope to study Earth's atmosphere, astronomer Lou Frank proved that Earth is constantly hit by snowballs from space. The implications are enormous: If snowballs from outer space hit Earth regularly, it is raining elsewhere onto other planets, providing much-needed water for the primordial soup.

The two rovers found ice on Mars. If there's ice on Mars, the probability of ice on other planets has grown exponentially as well.

And then, last year, we found water on the moon.

A few years ago, a meteorite from Mars found on Earth, known as the Allan Hills meteorite (or ALH 84001 to scientists), astonished everyone when some scientists claimed they found tantalizing traces of fossilized life within it. Their findings have been contested, but the meteorite renewed enthusiasm for the idea of "panspermia."


Read the rest at AOL News.
 

Andrew Q. Lam is an editor for New America Media and the author of two books: Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora and East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres.


William Beeman

Nothing New in Report on Iran's Nukes

By William Beeman, Jun 2, 2010 9:04 AM

I have now read the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran. It is clear that the IAEA is being pressured to toughen their stance.

Laura Goode

2010 Heralds Female Majority in the American Workforce

By Laura Goode, Jan 5, 2010 4:37 PM

The year 2010 may be remembered by America’s children as the year women took command of its workforce.

Accordingly, more and more major news outlets, themselves the beneficiaries of and sometime obstacles to women’s ascendancy (the sudden death of Deborah Howell, a titanic shatterer of journalism’s glass ceiling, provides a fresh reminder of this), are trumpeting the imminent female majority in the workplace.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Adventures in Multicultural Living: Swine Flu: How the "colorblind" H1N1 virus reveals our cultural differences

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, Jan 4, 2010 3:04 PM

I was invited to a special ethnic media briefing at Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle organized by New America Media (informally known as the AP of the Ethnic Press) with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to get the word out about the H1N1 (swine flu) virus and vaccine to our ethnic communities.

At first, I was naively surprised to receive this invitation. I thought that the H1N1 virus ought to be “colorblind” and not care about race, ethnicity, or culture; that it ought to make our bodies sick the same way. Why would ethnic communities need special briefings?

Andrew Lam

The Moon (And Universe) Is Very Wet

By Andrew Lam, Nov 16, 2009 10:05 AM

The universe is suddenly very wet. With the discovery of water on Mars and now on our nearest heavenly body, the moon, it seems that what was once impossible has become very possible: life elsewhere.

We know that Earth is constantly bombarded by meteors when we look up into the night sky and spot shooting stars. But more astounding is astronomer Lou Frank’s recent discovery. Using the Hubble Telescope to study Earth’s atmosphere, Frank proved that Earth is constantly being hit by snowballs from space. The implications are enormous: if ice from outer space hits Earth regularly, it could be “snowing” onto other planets too, providing much-needed water to support life.

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