Matryoshka World

Monday, March 28, 2011

Alien Life, Coming Slowly Into View

This New York times editorial considers the advances made in recent years toward an answer to the question of life in the universe, and contemplates the impact of such a discovery on our civilization.

The implications of the discovery of any form of life could be profound, as I will discuss further in my next post which will address the concept of The Great Filter.

Alien Life, Coming Slowly Into View

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Scientist poll - which technology will have the biggest impact in the next 30 years?

Also, check out the links at the top for recent New Scientist articles on each of these technologies

New Scientist Poll

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Word geek roughs up math geek"

That self-description aptly sums up the New York Times review of Michio Kaku’s new book “Physics of the Future,” which the Times describes as a "dull" and "charmless" read that nonetheless “has the ability to surprise and enthrall and frighten as well."

Kaku's book speculates on the state of technology, science, and life at the end of the present century.

NY Times review of "Physics of the Future"

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Initial reaction to the paper on life in meteorites is at best mixed

Not surprising given the nature of the claims that were made. It appears safe to say there will be no near term consensus concerning the reported findings from the recent paper claiming to find evidence of ancient bacteria trapped inside meteorites.

The scientific community is naturally skeptical of any claims that are as radical as those suggested in the recent paper by Richard Hoover, an astrobiologist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. That does not mean the claims are wrong, but as Cosmic Log says, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

Cosmic Log: Life in meteorites? Study stirs debate

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What are the odds that LHC finds supersymmetry?

"In fact, the latest results from ATLAS, one of the two giant detectors at the LHC, show that there's no evidence for many of the particles all the way up to 700 GeV, or over 100,000 times the mass of the electron and the two lightest quarks."

Will the LHC Find SUSY?

Opencog roadmap for the development of advanced human-level general intelligence

roadmap for OpenCog development in the next 12 years of advanced human-level general intelligence

Opencog Roadmap for Human Level Artificial General Intelligence

New paper claims to find evidence of ancient extraterrestrial life in meteorites

Similar claims have been made before. However, this paper offers some compelling photographs of possible fossilized Cyanobacteria and perhaps makes a more persuasive case than previous claims.

Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites
Richard B. Hoover, Ph.D. NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

New experiment to test a theory of time travel involving postselected closed timelike curves

This post at Next Big Future summarizes an experiment to test the theory of Closed Timelike Curves via postselection. The article includes links to the paper describing the experiment as well as earlier papers describing the theory and proposing the experiment.

Closed Timelike Curves via Postselection: Theory and Experimental Test of Consistency

Monday, February 28, 2011

Is technology immortal?

"But the deeper lesson of this whole exercise is that — to a degree I didn't appreciate until Kevin forced me to look — technology does indeed persist. Tools, machines, they change, they adapt, they morph, but they continue to be made. I hadn't noticed this tenaciousness before."

Tools Never Die, The Finale

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dark Matter: New Evidence on How Galaxies Are Born

Time magazine article on a new paper published in Nature that explains starburst galaxies as resulting from the size of the dark matter that surrounds them.

Dark Matter: New Evidence on How Galaxies Are Born

Friday, February 25, 2011

Modified theory of gravity or dark matter?

There was a time when the idea of dark matter pervading the universe was considered by most cosmologists as a radical theory not to be taken very seriously. However, over time ever more evidence from observations of galaxies, and galaxy clusters and the afterglow of the big bang pointed to the existence of dark matter.

Despite the adoption of dark matter as the best current explanation for observations, some researchers prefer an idea known as Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) which is basically a theory that gravity works a little differently than currently understood on larger scales.

In this paper, Stacy McGaugh, an astronomer at the University of Maryland, College Park, reports that MOND can explain an observed correlation between the mass and the rotation speed of galaxies. McGaugh gathered data from various sources on 47 galaxies that contain more hydrogen gas than stars. The mass of the gas can then be estimated directly. McGaugh made a plot of visible mass versus rotation speed for the galaxies. He then plotted the prediction that comes straight out of MOND in a few lines of algebra. The MOND line went right through the data. "You draw the line and the data fall right on it," McGaugh says. "No muss, no fuss." He reports the result in a paper in press at Physical Review Letters.

Does this mean gravity may work differently on large scales, and that observations of large scale structures in the universe may be explained without invoking dark matter? Most astronomers would still say the evidence for dark matter is too strong for the theory to be discarded, but some believe the jury is still out on the dark matter verdict.

More Evidence Against Dark Matter?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Physical Limits of Inference


I show that physical devices that perform observation, prediction, or recollection share an underlying mathematical structure. I call devices with that structure "inference devices". I present a set of existence and impossibility results concerning inference devices. These results hold independent of the precise physical laws governing our universe. In a limited sense, the impossibility results establish that Laplace was wrong to claim that even in a classical, non-chaotic universe the future can be unerringly predicted, given sufficient knowledge of the present. Alternatively, these impossibility results can be viewed as a non-quantum mechanical "uncertainty principle". Next I explore the close connections between the mathematics of inference devices and of Turing Machines. In particular, the impossibility results for inference devices are similar to the Halting theorem for TM's. Furthermore, one can define an analog of Universal TM's (UTM's) for inference devices. I call those analogs "strong inference devices". I use strong inference devices to define the "inference complexity" of an inference task, which is the analog of the Kolmogorov complexity of computing a string. However no universe can contain more than one strong inference device. So whereas the Kolmogorov complexity of a string is arbitrary up to specification of the UTM, there is no such arbitrariness in the inference complexity of an inference task. I end by discussing the philosophical implications of these results, e.g., for whether the universe "is" a computer.

This paper by David Wolpert was cited in the Scientific American article in the immediately preceding post.

What are the laws of physics anyway?

Physics might be defined as the subject that tries to figure out why the world may look incomprehensibly complex at first, but on closer examination is governed by simple laws. Those laws, applied repeatedly, build up the complexity. From this definition, you'd presume that physicists have at least sorted out what they mean by "law".

What are the laws of physics anyway?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Nanofuture 2030 on the path to Brain Augmentation

The Path to Brain Augmentation

New York Times excerpt from Michael Chorost's book World Wide Mind

Excerpt from chapter 4 of World Wide Mind, which discusses the possibility of using nanotechnology to directly connect the brain to the Internet (and other minds) in coming decades. Chorost discusses the need for any such technology to retain human intimacy. For the technology to be accepted, and successful, it must tactile and face to face interactions.

World Wide Mind

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ray Kurzweil on the significance of IBM's Watson

Ray Kurzweil discusses the significance of IBM's Jeopardy! Champion computer Watson as a milestone in the progress of artificial intelligence.

Kurzweil concludes his thoughts with the statement that: " By the time the controversy dies down and it becomes unambiguous that nonbiological intelligence is equal to biological human intelligence, the AIs will already be thousands of times smarter than us."

While it is likely that artificial intelligence will continue to meet or surpass human intelligence in more and more areas, I'm not sure what it would really mean to think of something "thousands of times more intelligent" than a human. Certainly, computers will ultimately be able to process many times faster than a human brain, but that does not necessarily lead to a correspondingly greater intelligence.

If there are only so many layers of understanding before an ultimate knowledge of the universe would be reached, perhaps there is limit, beyond which it would not be meaningful to discuss greater intelligence. While there is no doubt that human intelligence would not be the pinnacle of potential intelligence in the universe, I'm not sure it will come to pass that computers will be thousands of times more intelligent than people in any meaningful sense.

The significance of IBM's Watson

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Atlantic: Mind vs Machine


Mind vs. Machine

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Brief summary of Nick Bostrom's Simulation Argument

Bostrom's Simulation argument briefly summarized in this 2006 New Scientist article.

here is the argument as originally presented in Philosophical Quarterly

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Watch NOVA's program on Watson: "The Smartest Machine on Earth

NOVA's program on the development of Watson, the Jeopardy computer champion.

The Smartest Machine on Earth

See also the IBM Watson page

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Brian Greene: The Hidden Reality: interview and excerpt from his new book

Brian Greene's new book The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, explores how the cutting edge theories of physics including string theory, inflation, and quantum mechanics suggests that our universe may be one of many.

NPR recently had a story on Greene's new book that included an excerpt of the first chapter. Here is the link.

The Wall Street Journal recently interviewed Greene about his new book. Link to WSJ article.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Watson and the future of AI

The fact that there are now computers who can compete and win on Jeopardy is remarkable. Of course computers can easily store the database of knowledge necessary for a successful performance, but understanding language and being able to anticipate the question and respond fast enough to beat quality human opponents is amazing and points to the slow but steady progress being made in the field of artificial intelligence.

Watson and the future of AI

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Time Magazine on the Singularity- 2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal

Time magazine furthers the popularization of the concept of the Singularity

2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal

Friday, January 21, 2011

A collection of hundreds of predictions from The Futurist magazine

Many interesting predictions covering a number of fields both for the near future and for the longer term.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

From Cosmism to Deism

This essay hopes to persuade its readers that science ought to take the notion of deism a lot more seriously. The rise of the artilect in this century makes the notion of a hyperintelligent designer and creator of our universe far more plausible. It suggests the creation of a “hyper-physics” (as distinct from a traditional metaphysics that poses the deepest of questions) that would “investigate” the tree of universes that a branching set of artilects may have created.

From Cosmism to Deism

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Physics of Information Processing Superobjects: Daily Life Among the Jupiter Brains

"In this review, I discuss physical limitations on density, speed, size, energy dissipation and communication, sketching the constraints on very powerful information processing objects."

Daily Life Among the Jupiter Brains

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Galactic gradients, postbiological evolution and the apparent failure of SETI

Here is the abstract of this very interesting paper by Robert Bradbury:

Motivated by recent developments impacting our view of Fermi’s Paradox (the absence of extraterrestrials and their manifestations from our past light cone), we suggest a reassessment of the problem itself, as well as of strategies employed by the various SETI projects so far. The need for such reassessment is fueled not only by the failure of SETI thus far, but also by great advances recently made in astrophysics, astrobiology, computer science and future studies. As a result, we consider the effects of the observed metallicity and temperature gradients in the Milky Way galaxy on the spatial distribution of hypothetical advanced extraterrestrial intelligent communities. While properties of such communities and their sociological and technological preferences are, obviously, unknown at present, we assume that (1) they operate in agreement with the known laws of physics and (2) at some point in their history they typically become motivated by a meta-principle embodying the central role of information-processing; a prototype of the latter is the recently suggested Intelligence Principle of Steven J. Dick. There are specific conclusions of practical interest to astrobiological and SETI endeavors to be drawn from the coupling of these reasonable assumptions with the astrophysical and astrochemical structure of the spiral disk of our galaxy. In particular, we suggest that the outer regions of the Galactic disk are the most likely locations for advanced SETI targets, and that sophisticated intelligent communities will tend to migrate outward through the Galaxy as their capacities of information-processing increase, for both thermodynamical and astrochemical reasons. However, the outward movement is limited by the decrease in matter density in the outer Milky Way. This can also be regarded as a possible generalization of the galactic habitable zone (GHZ), concept currently being investigated in astrobiology.
Keywords: Astrobiology; Galaxy: evolution; Extraterrestrial intelligence; Physics of computation; SETI

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Computers in just 7 years may operate 100 times faster than the human brain

This article linked at Kurzweil's site suggest computers will continue their exponential growth in processing power in the coming years so that in less than a decade, they will operate at exaflop speeds (10^18 or a quintillion operations per second).

For computers to actually achieve strong AI (intelligence) on a level equalling or exceeding humans, dramatic improvements in AI software would also have to be made. Pure processing power in itself is not enough.