Hard Rain

I saw an incredibly interesting article about a new form of scanning that’s currently in development to detect cutaneous melanoma lesions earlier. In effect, the scan uses a VI (not AI, as reported–until a machine intelligence can pass a Turing test, it’s a virtual intelligence, not a machine soul) to diagnose abnormal light scatter patterns that show up in digital images of the skin. Those patterns are visible to the camera and its special algorithm long before a cancerous lesion becomes visible to the naked eye. It’s astonishing tech, and I hope for so many people’s sakes that it’s up and running soon.

As cool as that is, though, what caught my imagination was this quote: “‘…in skin cancer the movement of the backscattered light goes from the middle outward or circles the middle of the lesion.'”

I immediately thought of a pebble being dropped into a still pond, and the ripples that propagate from the central insult.

I also immediately thought of the Neal Stephenson book Seveneves, in which the Moon is destroyed by a bolide hit and the Earth’s surface is eventually pummeled into oblivion by the Moon’s fragments. It takes years to unfold and millennia to finish, but humanity has no choice but to flee the planet as the fragments destroy the Earth’s surface in a gravity-driven meteor bombardment called the “hard rain.”

It’s an odd thought, to view my own skin on that scale–as the surface of a planet, with deadly bolides of subatomic particles slamming into it.

But to our technologies, that scale is nothing more than a new frontier to be explored.


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