Tag Archives | Science & Technology

In the Beginning was the Code: Juergen Schmidhuber at TEDxUHasselt

The universe seems incredibly complex. But could its rules be dead simple? Juergen Schmidhuber’s fascinating story will convince you that this universe and your own life are just by-products of a very simple and fast program computing all logically possible universes.

Juergen Schmidhuber is Director of the Swiss Artificial Intelligence Lab IDSIA (since 1995), Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Lugano, Switzerland (since 2009), and Professor SUPSI (since 2003).

He helped to transform IDSIA into one of the world’s top ten AI labs (the smallest!), according to the ranking of Business Week Magazine. His group pioneered the field of mathematically optimal universal AI and universal problem solvers. The algorithms developed in his lab won seven first prizes in international pattern recognition competitions, as well as several best paper awards.
Since 1990 he has developed a formal theory of fun and curiosity and creativity to build artificial scientists and artists.… Read the rest

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23 Things Terence McKenna Said Best, From DMT Sex To Telepathic Octopi

NOAA Ocean Explorer (CC BY-SA 2.0)

NOAA Ocean Explorer (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via Reset.me:

At 25, a friend introduced me to “Surfing Finnegans Wake,” in which a nasally man lectures for three hours, ostensibly off-the-cuff, on the psychedelic, boundary-dissolving experience of reading James Joyce. I remember thinking his voice sounded extra-terrestrial. It was Terence McKenna. Here’s a quote from the lecture, which will hopefully be blurbed on the next jacket cover of Finnegans Wake: “This [Finnegans Wake] comes about as close as anybody came to pushing the entire contents of the universe down into approximately 14 cubic inches.”

A year or so later, having forgotten about McKenna, I found the Psychedelic Salon, a podcast hosted by a friendly man named Lorenzo. It had hundreds of archived talks given by what seemed to be a community of people dedicated to psychedelics, and to a counter-culture movement of sorts. I wasn’t prepared to discover McKenna’s oeuvre.

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Is String Theory About to Unravel?

trailfan (CC BY 2.0)

trailfan (CC BY 2.0)

via Smithsonian:

In October 1984 I arrived at Oxford University, trailing a large steamer trunk containing a couple of changes of clothing and about five dozen textbooks. I had a freshly minted bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard, and I was raring to launch into graduate study. But within a couple of weeks, the more advanced students had sucked the wind from my sails. Change fields now while you still can, many said. There’s nothing happening in fundamental physics.

Then, just a couple of months later, the prestigious (if tamely titled) journal Physics Letters B published an article that ignited the first superstring revolution, a sweeping movement that inspired thousands of physicists worldwide to drop their research in progress and chase Einstein’s long-sought dream of a unified theory. The field was young, the terrain fertile and the atmosphere electric. The only thing I needed to drop was a neophyte’s inhibition to run with the world’s leading physicists.

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NASA Rover Finds Active and Ancient Organic Chemistry on Mars

The first definitive detection of Martian organic chemicals in material on the surface of Mars came from analysis by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover of sample powder from this mudstone target, "Cumberland." Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The first definitive detection of Martian organic chemicals in material on the surface of Mars came from analysis by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover of sample powder from this mudstone target, “Cumberland.” Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

via Nasa from December 16:

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory’s drill.

“This temporary increase in methane — sharply up and then back down — tells us there must be some relatively localized source,” said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a member of the Curiosity rover science team. “There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock.”

Researchers used Curiosity’s onboard Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory a dozen times in a 20-month period to sniff methane in the atmosphere.

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Is This a Dream? The Hitchhikers’ Guide to Lucid Dreaming

via Good Times Weekly:

A beginner’s guide to understanding and exploring the uncanny world of lucid dreams.

“Are you dreaming right now?” asks science writer and dream researcher David Jay Brown. We are sitting in the ivy-draped courtyard of Laili, next to a babbling fountain and a rowdy dinner party of 10.

“No!” I say, sure of the answer to such an absurd question.

“But how do you know?” he asks.

“I just know.”

“Well, have you tested it?” He picks up a fork and taps the wall. In a dream, maybe the tines would bend, he says. In a dream, the words on the menu would scramble the minute you looked away and looked back again. And if you plugged your nose and breathed out, you’d feel the air leaving your nostrils, even though they were plugged.

“Nope, not dreaming,” I say, through a pinched nose. But there’s an epiphany scratching around inside his point: even when fork tines bend with no effort and landscapes transform at the mere suggestion of thought, we accept what we’re experiencing in a dream as real.

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Double amputee controls two robotic arms with his mind

via Engadget:

Here’s one other DARPA-funded robotic limb controlled by thoughts alone — actually make that two, because Colorado man Les Baugh had two bionic arms attached from shoulder level. Baugh got them this summer, 40 years after losing both arms, as part of aRevolutionizing Prosthetics Program test run at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. The project’s researchers have been developing these Modular Prosthetic Limbs (MPL) over the past decade, but they say Baugh is the “first bilateral shoulder-level amputee” to wear two MPLs at the same time. Unlike Jan Scheuermann who controlled a robotic arm with a pair of neural implants, though, Baugh had to undergo a procedure called targeted muscle reinnervation, which reassigned the nerves that once controlled his arms and hands.

Read More: http://www.engadget.com/2014/12/18/double-amputee-mind-controlled-robot-arms

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These 10 companies make a lot of the food we buy. Here’s how we made them better.

Behind-the-brands-illusion-of-choice-graphic-2048x1351

via OxFam America:

It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it’s true: There really are 10 companies that control most of the food and drinks you’ll find in the grocery store. Between them, these giants—whose revenues add up to more than a billion dollars a day—own hundreds of common brands, from Cheerios to Ben & Jerry’s, Odwalla to Tropicana. (See the infographic above to learn more.)

So why should these huge companies care about doing business responsibly? First, because their global operations touch countless lives. “These corporations are so powerful that their policies can have a major impact on the diets and working conditions of people worldwide, as well as on the environment,” wrote Alexander E.M. Hess in USA Today.

Second, because shoppers these days think about factors like fairness and sustainability—and we’re increasingly (and successfully) demanding that the brands we buy do the same. These food companies may be big, but no company is too big to listen to its customers.

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15 Ongoing Space Missions You Should Know About

Akatsuki via Nasa.

Akatsuki via Nasa.

via Mental Floss:

Last month, the European Space Agency (ESA) landed a robot on a comet. While the exciting news seemed to come out of nowhere, you can be forgiven for sleeping through the initial launch—it happened in 2004. Scientists and engineers at space agencies around the world play very long games. Rosetta traveled 6.4 billion kilometers before rendezvousing with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Even on the starship Enterprise, that’s well over an hour away at warp speed. This raises the question: what else is going on up there? Here are 15 ongoing space missions you might not know about.

1. AKATSUKI

2. JUNO

3. DAWN

4. NEW HORIZONS

5. ROSETTA

6. CASSINI

7. HAYABUSA 2

8. PIONEER 10 & PIONEER 11

9. VOYAGER 1

10. VOYAGER 2

11. KEPLER

12. STEREO

13. MARS ORBITER MISSION

14. VENUS EXPRESS

15. INTERNATIONAL COMET EXPLORER

To read an in-depth overview of each mission, head over to Mental Floss.… Read the rest

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13 real technologies Woody Allen (of all people) predicted in the ’70s

ecodallaluna (CC BY-SA 2.0)

ecodallaluna (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via DVice:

Back in 1973, eternally eccentric filmmaker Woody Allen made Sleeper. Set in the year 2173, Sleeper is, to date, Allen’s sole venture into overt sci-fi. A slapstick comedy, Sleeper pokes fun at other sci-fi classics, notable amongst them Fahrenheit 451 and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The political and social aspects of the film are thinly veiled 1970s sentiment, set in a dystopic inept police state.

What is truly interesting is Sleeper’s perspective on the progress of technology, 200 years from its production. While Woody Allen did not predict technological miniaturization, he did get a lot of things right. Was Woody Allen a tech prophet? Here’s a list of technologies predicted in Sleeper that already exist, 161 years ahead of schedule.

1. Sleeping Pods Not once, but twice in Sleeper are we given glimpses of long-term sleeping devices. I guess that’s appropriate, given the title.

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Simulations back up theory that Universe is a hologram

Kenneth Lu (CC BY 2.0)

Kenneth Lu (CC BY 2.0)

via Nature.com

A team of physicists has provided some of the clearest evidence yet that our Universe could be just one big projection.

In 1997, theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena proposed1 that an audacious model of the Universe in which gravity arises from infinitesimally thin, vibrating strings could be reinterpreted in terms of well-established physics. The mathematically intricate world of strings, which exist in nine dimensions of space plus one of time, would be merely a hologram: the real action would play out in a simpler, flatter cosmos where there is no gravity.

Maldacena’s idea thrilled physicists because it offered a way to put the popular but still unproven theory of strings on solid footing — and because it solved apparent inconsistencies between quantum physics and Einstein’s theory of gravity. It provided physicists with a mathematical Rosetta stone, a ‘duality’, that allowed them to translate back and forth between the two languages, and solve problems in one model that seemed intractable in the other and vice versa (see ‘Collaborative physics: String theory finds a bench mate‘).

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