Last Two Issues








Last Two Issues











Last Two Issues









Last Two Issues









Last Two Issues








Last Two Issues










Last Two Issues












Last Two Issues











Last Two Issues










Last Two Issues


"History is just people doing things"


                 ISSN 1087-2302   Online Edition Number 338......February 2024

Published since 1985 for clients and contacts of 
ABQ Communications Corporation, the fuzzy focus

of The ABQ Correspondent is "the impact of new 
technology on society." If you'd like to receive email 
notification when each monthly issue is posted, please 
let us know.   correspo at swcp dot com


A note: With this issue of the Correspo, it has been published for a full 39 years. If we get out an issue in March of this year (and we expect to), that will begin the 40th year. Nobody is more surprised than I.



It was in June of 1997 that the Correspo first noted the development of miniature surveillance aircraft “with six-inch (really, six-inch, fifteen centimeter) wingspans and a range of some kilometers.” Approaching thirty years later, that seems unremarkable; the skies are full of interesting big and tiny things. Word is getting around about a new development (apparently already in use) that gives one pause. A classic problem with drones is that their range is limited by the amount of fuel they can carry. This new development addresses that. A very small vehicle is now able to perch on electrical power lines and draw power from them, allowing the aircraft to navigate from spot to spot along its route, stopping off to recharge whenever necessary. Given this, the aircraft can carry a lot of navigation and communication equipment as well as a useful payload. Somebody’s idea of a useful payload is a small, unobtrusive package that can be secured to one of those power lines, and left behind, not attracting attention. This package may contain an explosive…not in itself really damaging, something along the lines of a Roman Candle that can when triggered toss an expanding cloud of fine conductive wires into the air. That cloud can settle over its electrical surroundings… shorting them out. Some of us recall lunching in a New Mexico restaurant many years ago when the lights went out for an extended time. The effect was produced by hot weather in the state of Washington a thousand miles away that caused some power transmission lines to expand until they shorted out on something normally below them. Thoughtful (and quite inexpensive) application of clouds of fine conductive wire could bring down power in a whole country, creating inconvenience.    



A while back (can’t find the piece at the moment) the Correspo spoke of work that revealed active communication among plants…largely warnings of danger, but other matters of importance as well. The information seems to be transported by networks of fungi that can pass along chemical messages over great distances. It’s by no means clear to some of us how those messages can be intelligible to their recipients, and one wonders how complicated the messages can be, but Nature is clever and resourceful. Those researchers were concerned with underground systems, but work proceeds and people are discovering things about communication using aerosols. Apparently a plant may notice something of which it disapproves…maybe a caterpillar eating its leaves, and it responds by releasing into the air some chemicals that carry the message, “Hey, watch out, guys, I’m being attacked.” Other plants in the area may respond to that warning by emitting chemicals that are repugnant to caterpillars, giving them some protection. Detecting this message sending/receiving was not casual for the researchers, who modified some plants genetically, enabling them to emit light as well as noxious chemicals, letting their reaction be seen. You can see it.

Not to be too anthropic about this; the variety of communication seems to be, must be, quite limited and entirely a mechanistic process, but it’s easier to talk about it as if the communication were by choice. Then again…

Late friend Steven Sester (aw) whose comments we

often published, had this to say about the piece on

fungal communication: “I just realized I tossed lots

of Science Report features including one called

Tree Talk. The Acoustical Society of America

worked for a more broad spectrum of folks beyond

piano builders and tuners, concert halls, and

audiology concerns. Tree talk was about how

acoustical sensors could tell how stressed a tree

was including as I remember, drought, disease and

boring beetles (they wouldn't be that way if people

had read to them).

One wonders if, as your story suggests, they were

passing that information along to other trees too.

The species of trees I worked with most had

common root systems as one form of reproduction.

Redwoods needed this provision since their seeds

required high heat to shed a protective shell and

germinate otherwise. Lodgepole Pines were almost

like stands of bamboo and heat would travel through

the common roots systems and combust miles away.




There’s a whole lot of work on “soft” robots, mostly because of their ability to squoosh down and slither through narrow places (under doors, for example), expanding again on the other side.  Here’s a case in which the researchers are more interested in the “end effectors” for handing things…using octopus tentacles and related structures for models.

(We seem to have developed a soft spot for octopuses lately.)



It’s hard to know what to make of this, but it’s an interesting phenomenon, different from sublimation.



This report on a long-term experiment to determine how long seeds can remain vital (they’re looking at about 150 years of controlled experiments so far, and the things keep germinating) recalls that thirty years ago or so a friend gave us a handful of very distinctive-looking beans that were the second generation grown from a cache of seeds discovered in an ancient site in New Mexico, estimated to be a couple of thousand years old. We planted them…and, sure enough got a crop. We didn’t have the self-discipline to carry on the line, though we talked about selling small lots of ancient beans…harder in those pre-WWW days. We also didn’t eat any, mostly because we didn’t have enough, but others had, and they reported that they were very good. Further, somebody had done some scientific analysis of them, and determined that they were exceptionally nutritious.




This piece from 2000 is brought to mind by both the

fact that this is an Olympics year (in Paris) and by

the emergence of a television network dealing with

the status and activities “indigenous” peoples worldwide.


Much commentary during Olympics coverage from Sydney dwelt on the awkward relationship between the aboriginal Australian people and the folks who have overwhelmed them. Amidst the handwringing, one of the most-recently-living-away-from-civilization aboriginal gents commented wistfully that he missed the old tribal life...but he was rather glad to be free of the power of the shamans who could have him put to death for failure to conform with their views of what was proper.

Bingo! There’s a key consideration: if you want to preserve the ancient cultures, can you succeed by preserving only the non-lethal parts? If people speak the old languages, eat the same foods, and sing the same songs...are you preserving the culture? The situation is not without embarrassing parallels here in New Mexico. Indeed, Southwest Airlines just decorated one of its 737s with an attractive big Zia symbol only after striking a monetary arrangement with the Zia Pueblo authorities, who insist that it’s exclusively theirs by tradition. Well, no, the symbol isn’t copyrighted, and yes, it’s on the state flag and has been used in commercial logos, on letterheads, in jewelry, on clothes, cakes, license plates, coffee cups, so often and so long that it’s virtually a generic symbol of the region. (One hears gossip that the Zia Pueblo helped the Spanish conquerors re-take the territory after the Pueblo Revolt in the late 1600's, and their symbol floating over all the state buildings is figuratively rubbing salt into the wounds of their numerous fellows here.) The airline’s gesture does not come without complications. Dr. Sophie Aberle (a distinguished figure with Conant, Bronk, and others on the National Science Board that created the National Science Foundation) once remarked to me that “preservation of the Indian cultures” became moot as soon as the tribal caciques lost their power to have people executed, which wasn’t really that long ago. That fundamental change destroyed the traditional structure of those societies. What’s left? We have no answers; merely point out the dilemma. Maybe cell phones and satellite TV will solve everything by blotting out all that has traditionally seemed important.

In a mere 24 years, cellphones and streaming have

not changed quite everything, but the work is still

in process. Now there’s a phenomenon in the form

of “FNX” First Nations Experience, a television

network that reverts to old-fashioned “free”


Threatened by streaming and online media, the

traditional (well, since the 1940s) networks and

PBS have launched a campaign to persuade viewers

to obtain digital rabbit-ears antennas that allow

them to bring in very large numbers of channels

(they talk about as many as 100 in major markets

…which impresses some of us who recall having a

max of five or six in those same areas back in the

day) without any physical connection, and without

charge. One of those channels is FNX, which

concentrates on matters affecting “indigenous”

groups all over the world, from Zuni to Mauri to

Uighers. Not surprisingly, the content features a

lot of restrained, but deeply-felt reference to the

savage, maltreatment of local peoples by encroaching

European occupiers who stole their land, their

culture and their children with breathtaking arrogance.

But really, there’s a wide range of material, much

of it entertaining and informative (see Moosemeat

and Marmalade, for example, a show in which a

large American Indian and a small, classically

trained British chef show each other what to eat

and how to prepare it in their different cultures.

Lots of great, non-resentful stuff to watch.) Every

now and again, something creeps in along the lines

of what the Australian chap expressed these years

since…relief at being free of the possibility of

execution at the whim of the shaman…and occasional

recognition that “aboriginal” really means not “we

have always been here,” but “we were here a long

time before you came.” There are a few cracks in

attitudes toward the “official” views of history

enforced by institutions that have a stake in the

status quo. Not many cracks, but a few, enough to

keep FNX sounding legitimate, not just propaganda.


Nobody is a Nobody                                                                                                            


Graphical user interface

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceWell, the link to LuLu, which was printing and shipping the book, has stopped working after some months of listing it on Amazon at an insane $37, rather limiting sales.

I’ll figure out a practical alternative one of these times, and post the information when I have it.

Meanwhile, the picture of the cover makes a sort of graphically useful anchor at the bottom of this page, so it will stay while I fumble.



 Ah, there’s some light flickering at the end of the tunnel.







Copyright © 2024 ABQ Communications Corporation   All Rights Reserved