Tag Archives | Science

Marie Curie’s Research Papers Are Still Radioactive 100+ Years Later

Marie Curie’s notebooks, clothes, and Parisian home are still radioactive and will be for at least the next 1,500 years.

Ted Mills via Open Culture:

When researching a famous historical figure, access to their work and materials usually proves to be one of the biggest obstacles. But things are much more difficult for those writing about the life of Marie Curie, the scientist who, along her with husband Pierre, discovered polonium and radium and birthed the idea of particle physics. Her notebooks, her clothing, her furniture, pretty much everything surviving from her Parisian suburban house, is radioactive, and will be for 1,500 years or more.

If you want to look at her manuscripts, you have to sign a liability waiver at France’s Bibliotheque Nationale, and then you can access the notes that are sealed in a lead-lined box. The Curies didn’t know about the dangers of radioactive materials, though they did know about radioactivity.

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It’s time to redraw the world’s very unequal knowledge map

If you map the world by scientific research output, things look rather uneven. From www.worldmapper.org

If you map the world by scientific research output, things look rather uneven. From www.worldmapper.org

If the world were mapped according to how many scientific research papers each country produced, it would take on a rather bizarre, uneven appearance. The Northern hemisphere would balloon beyond recognition. The global south, including Africa, would effectively melt off the map.

This image makes a dramatic point about the complexities of global inequalities in knowledge production and exchange. So what is driving this inequality and how can it be corrected?

Money matters

Money and technology are needed to produce research. The average research and development intensity – that is, as a percentage of GDP – was 2.4% for OECD countries in 2009. But few developing countries had reached 1%. Without sufficient national funds, researchers must spend a great deal of time fundraising and dealing with grant organisations outside their universities. This means less time for actually undertaking and producing research.… Read the rest

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Is effective regulation of AI possible? Eight potential regulatory problems

artificial brain

This post was originally published on Philosophical Disquisitions.

The halcyon days of the mid-20th century, when researchers at the (in?)famous Dartmouth summer school on AI dreamed of creating the first intelligent machine, seem so far away. Worries about the societal impacts of artificial intelligence (AI) are on the rise. Recent pronouncements from tech gurus like Elon Musk and Bill Gates have taken on a dramatically dystopian edge. They suggest that the proliferation and advance of AI could pose a existential threat to the human race.

Despite these worries, debates about the proper role of government regulation of AI have generally been lacking. There are a number of explanations for this: law is nearly always playing catch-up when it comes to technological advances; there is a decidedly anti-government libertarian bent to some of the leading thinkers and developers of AI; and the technology itself would seem to elude traditional regulatory structures.… Read the rest

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You Have to Be Conscious to Deny Consciousness, and Other Conundrums

Leonhard_Euler_2

via Evolution News:

Would you have a rational discussion with a zombie? Materialists are forced into the position of discussing philosophy and science with the walking dead, since under their terms we are all that. Unless rationality is a mindful concept — unless we are more than atoms in motion — that’s the logical result of denying mind and intelligence.

To deny that we are mindful creatures, the materialist also has to deny the existence of any realm of abstract concepts that a mind can access. Yet materialism itself is an abstract concept.

This seems intuitively obvious, but it’s amazing how often materialists ignore the self-refuting nature of their assumptions. Nancy Pearcey wrote about this a few months ago, noting ways in which materialist claims commit the self-referential absurdity: “Applied to itself, the theory commits suicide.”

A recent example is a new theory of consciousness from Ezequiel Morsella, a psychology professor at San Franciso State University.

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Music, Aesthetics & Making Sense: A Conversation with Andrew Bowie

Bowie Header Adorno

This post originally appeared on four by three magazine.

What is music? Can music make sense of the world or even transcend it? Philosopher and jazz musician Andrew Bowie talks to four by three about the connection between music, aesthetics, language, and time, with reference to Adorno and Heidegger, as well as about the relationship between philosophy, the arts and sciences, asking: why does art matter?


‘Art is supposed to engage your whole being and not just your conceptual capacity’
— Andrew Bowie

four by three: The philosophy and philosophical significance of music has been a major preoccupation of much of your writing. What is it that motivates you to write philosophically about music?

Andrew Bowie: When I started doing philosophy, I used to regard my playing as completely separate from my philosophy, because I wasn’t very good at playing in any case [I still am not great, but I have got better].… Read the rest

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Clone Ethics: What shouldn’t you do with your clone?

c2k2e (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

c2k2e (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Would it be incest to have sex with your clone? Whitney Kimball explores clone ethics over at Hopes&Fears:

Do clones have souls? How about human rights? Can we kill our own clone? What happens if we… have sex with one? Hopes&Fears consults psychologists, geneticists, bioethicists, twin specialists, theological experts and a Raelian bishop to answer these ethical questions.

A few weeks ago, I was tasked with investigating a highly theoretical question: Can you have sex with your clone? Let’s consult B movies. We know from Weird Science (1985) and its chick flick sibling Virtual Sexuality (1999), it is acceptable and desirable to genetically engineer a person to have sex with you. You can also harvest their organs, build an army, and program them to do house chores, provided said clone transmorgrifies as a parentless, fully-formed adult. (The process has something to do with “tweaking the gamma” and 3D printing, I guess).

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Blowing in the wind? The mystery of Kawasaki disease

Beth  (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Beth (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Hard to diagnose, with an unknown cause, Kawasaki disease has been puzzling doctors for 150 years. Jeremy Hsu explores what we know, and still don’t know, about this troubling childhood heart condition.


A child’s death from scarlet fever wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows during the devastating epidemics that swept Europe and North America in the 1800s. But Samuel Gee, a highly regarded physician in England, found something very strange while cutting open the corpse of a seven-year-old boy in London in 1870. Gee’s autopsy findings, preserved in a single paragraph written in 1871, recorded signs of damage called aneurysms in the coronary arteries running across the surface of the boy’s heart. In the affected regions, the main blood vessels that supply blood to the heart had expanded like modelling balloons because of weakened vessel walls.

Gee described the case as follows:

“The peculiarity of the following case lies in the age of the patient.

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Synchronicity and the Secret of the Co-creator

Sync final

Synchronicity and the Secret of the Co-creator

Synchronicity: is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner [to the observer]. To count as synchronicity, the events should be unlikely to occur together by chance.

If you believe synchronicity is simply coincidence, then you haven’t read any of the top experts in the field. The famous psychotherapist Carl Gustav Jung coined the term synchronicity in the 1920s to reference the alignment of universal forces with a person’s experiences.

These forces have been sought out for centuries in many spiritual traditions as a means of aligning with the “flow.” This usually takes years of disciplined meditation, study, ritual or by other means to navigate this journey toward a harmonic “individuation.” To some the search is inward for the self, yet for others it’s an outward search for spirituality.

My first experience with synchronicity was on March 21st at 3:03am which is the 3rd month, 3rd week, 3rd hour, 3rd minute or 3333, on the equinox and the moment of my birth.… Read the rest

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Scientists discover ‘permanent’ dust cloud around Moon

An artist's conception of the thin dust cloud surrounding the Moon and the LADEE mission orbit. (Credit: Daniel Morgan and Jamey Szalay, University of Colorado)

An artist’s conception of the thin dust cloud surrounding the Moon and the LADEE mission orbit. (Credit: Daniel Morgan and Jamey Szalay, University of Colorado)

A curious dust cloud surrounding the moon has been discovered.

via Russia Today:

There is a permanent, but asymmetric dust cloud surrounding the Moon, created by tiny dust grains lifted up from the lunar surface, scientists have found. Its density may increase during annual meteor showers such as, for example, Geminid.

According to scientists from, the cloud is comprised of dust grains swept up by other high-speed, interplanetary particles passing by, often in the wake of comets.

Many of the dust particles are traveling at thousands of miles per hour in the opposite orbital direction of the solar system’s planets, causing high-speed, near head-on collisions with the moon’s leading surface, said Professor Mihali Horanyi.

According to Horanyi, even a single dust particle from a comet striking the moon can excite thousands of smaller particles on the surface.

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