Tag Archives | Science

Warfighting Robots Could Reduce Civilian Casualties, So Calling for a Ban Now Is Premature

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Ronald C. Arken via IEEE Spectrum:

This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE. This article contains excerpts from “Lethal Autonomous Systems and the Plight of the Non-combatant,” published in AISB Quarterly, No. 137, July 2013.

I’ve been engaged in the debate over autonomous robotic military systems for almost 10 years. I am not averse to a ban, but I’m convinced we should continue researching this technology for the time being. One reason is that I believe such systems might be capable of reducing civilian casualties and property damage when compared to the performance of human warfighters. Thus, it is a contention that calling for an outright ban on this technology is premature, as some groups already are doing.

It must be noted that past and present trends in human behavior in warfare regarding adhering to legal and ethical requirements are questionable at best.

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Clavis Artis — Over A Skin Of Dragon

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Clavis Artis is the title of an alchemy manuscript created in Germany in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, attributed to the Persian Zoroaster (Zarathustra). The work is in three volumes of medium format, two of which are illustrated here. The text is in German Gothic script cursive and is accompanied by numerous illustrations in watercolor depicting alchemical images. There are also some pen drawings depicting laboratory instruments.

There are 3 copies of the manuscript, of which only two are illustrated. The most well-known is the Biblioteca dell’Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome. Another copy is kept in Trieste at the Public Library Attilio Hortis. A different version, in a single volume and without illustrations, is located at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, of Monaco of Bavaria.

A copy of the manuscript was also present at the Duchess Anna Amalia Bibliothek, of Weimar, but was destroyed in the 2004 fire that hit the German library.… Read the rest

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Nick Bostrom & Ray Kurzweil – Could Our Universe Be a Fake?

A word from the experts…

Robert Lawrence Kuhn, creator and host, “Closer To Truth” via Space.com:

It’s like the movie “The Matrix,” Bostrom said, except that “instead of having brains in vats that are fed by sensory inputs from a simulator, the brains themselves would also be part of the simulation. It would be one big computer program simulating everything, including human brains down to neurons and synapses.”

Bostrom is not saying that humanity is living in such a simulation. Rather, his “Simulation Argument” seeks to show that one of three possible scenarios must be true (assuming there are other intelligent civilizations):

  1. All civilizations become extinct before becoming technologically mature;
  2. All technologically mature civilizations lose interest in creating simulations;
  3. Humanity is literally living in a computer simulation.

His point is that all cosmic civilizations either disappear (e.g., destroy themselves) before becoming technologically capable, or all decide not to generate whole-world simulations (e.g., decide such creations are not ethical, or get bored with them).

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The Future Will Be Full of Lab Grown Meat

Here’s another one of those lab-grown meat boosting articles, this time from Gizmodo. I think I’ll stick to tofu.

In 2013, the world’s first lab-grown burger was unveiled to the world. It carried a $330,000 price tag, and apparently, it wasn’t all that tasty. But the scientists behind the idea have been hard at work, and artificial meat that’s both cost-effective and palatable may arrive sooner than we think.

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It’s not just cow-free beef burgers on the future menu — several groups around the world are attempting to clone chicken breasts and fish fillets, as well. Why do scientists want to grow meat in vats instead of on animals, and how close are we to actually accomplishing it?

The Big Resource Hog

The arguments for growing so-called ‘cultured’ meat are as wide-ranging as the reasons people decide to become vegetarian or vegan. If you’re not vegetarian or vegan, you’ve probably received a mouthful on this subject from a friend or family member before, so I’m going to keep it brief and focus on the argument cultured meat proponents seem to embrace the most: Sustainability.

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How do you know you’re going to have a bad trip?

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Sophie Weiner at Hopes&Fears:

Hopes&Fears answers questions with the help of people who know what they’re talking about. Today, we try to parse how to tell if you are going to have a negative psychedelic experience.

Though they’re illegal as ever, psychedelic drugs no longer have quite the bad rap they accumulated in the decades after the 1960s. Though memories of the notorious brown acid of Woodstock still haunt young trippers, scientists recently have been more focused on the positive, even healing effects these substances can produce when they’re used in controlled settings. But, as many music festival attendees know, bad trips can still happen. We asked experts what circumstances conspire to produce these difficult experiences, and how we can avoid them in the first place.

Frederick Barrett, Faculty Member at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department

Let me preface the following by saying that I am willing to share and represent the science on these compounds, and I am trying to reflect the best practices for research administration of these compounds, but I am not in any way encouraging or supporting the use of these compounds outside of controlled and sanctioned settings.… Read the rest

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The Oil Industry is Going Solar

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Zachary Shahan writes at Climate Crock of the Week:

There’s no way around it — the future of energy is solar energy. But here’s the fun part: the future starts now.

Solar panels have been on the market for decades, but saying solar panels of today are the same as solar panels of the 1990s is like saying phones of today are like phones of the 1990s. True, you can’t play Tetris on your solar panels or listen to music via them, but who wants to climb onto a record-hot roof to do that anyway? Getting back to the central point here, it’s that the cost of solar has fallen off a cliff, and solar power is increasingly the cheapest option around. (see graph above).

Solar power prices are falling so fast that it’s hard for just about anyone to keep up. Last year, many of us jumped for joy as a record-low solar PPA was signed in Austin, Texas (for 5 cents/kWh).

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EmDrive Back in the News

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Paul Gilster via Centauri Dreams:

Martin Tajmar (Dresden University of Technology) offers a paper entitled “Direct Thrust Measurements of an EmDrive and Evaluation of Possible Side-Effects” in his presentation on apparent thrust produced by the test device. As he told WIRED (which announced that The ‘impossible’ EmDrive could reach Pluto in 18 months), the current work will not close the story. From the paper itself:

The nature of the thrusts observed is still unclear… Our test campaign can not confirm or refute the claims of the EmDrive but intends to independently assess possible side-effects in the measurements methods used so far. Nevertheless, we do observe thrusts close to the magnitude of the actual predictions after eliminating many possible error sources that should warrant further investigation into the phenomena. Next steps include better magnetic shielding, further vacuum tests and improved EmDrive models with higher Q factors and electronics that allow tuning for optimal operation.

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Curiosity Roving Through the Claims of NASA

“However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” — Stanley Kubrick

Q: Do you trust the President of the United States?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the CIA?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the FBI?
A: No.

Q:What about the Congress?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the Federal Reserve?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the IRS?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the NSA?
A: No.

Q: How about the TSA?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the Supreme Court?
A: No.

Q: Ok, then. If you don’t trust any of these other government institutions, why then would you believe anything that comes from the mouth of NASA?

Above is an excerpt from a conversation I had the other day with a close friend about the stunning images of the recent fly-by of Pluto, taken from NASA’s satellite “New Horizons.” The persistent “No” I received from her was the patented response I expected, considering the general distrust people have in our politicians, world leaders, and governmental institutions these days.… Read the rest

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