Matryoshka World

Friday, October 16, 2015

Star KIC 8462852 and Alien Megastructures

After the Atlantic posted this article earlier this week, there was a resulting media frenzy regarding the possibility that the Kelper space telescope had detected evidence of an intelligent alien mega-engineering project.  

It is important to keep in mind that no scientist who has been involved in the study of this star to date is arguing or theorizing that alien engineering is the most likely explanation for the observed anomalies around KIC 8462852, but rather it has been noted that no known natural explanation provides a good fit for observation, and in some aspects the observations match what was predicted if Kepler did happen to stumble across a system with megastructures.   

What makes KIC 8462852 so unusual is a combination of the type of star that it is, and the observed bizarre changes in brightness of the star. The Kepler telescope looks for tiny dips in starlight to detect exoplanets.  Even very large gas giant exoplanets would only cause a dip in brightness of a star this size by 1 percent or less.  However, the observations from this star included dips in light far greater than any planet could create, and the dips were not symmetric or periodic as would be expected with planets.  In particular, two dips in brightness were far outside the range of any normal phenomena.   The first major dip obscured the star's brightness by up to 15%, and the other by up to 22%. Dips of this size would indicate a transit of something covering up to half the width of the star.

 One possibility would be a disk circumstellar dust, or rings.  However, the star is not a young star by all observations, making this type of a possibility unlikely.  Other theories invoke a recent planetary collision, however these events are incredibly rare and it is highly unlikely this would provide an answer.  In addition, a massive collision scenario would create dust that glows in infrared wavelengths, but there is no observed excess infrared energy, ruling out massive planetary collision debris or other explanations that invoke large dust or debris clouds.

Whatever the explanation for the strange observations so far of KIC 8462852, it is likely to involve a new and interesting to date undiscovered phenomena.  It seems likely that if we do discover proof of alien intelligence it will be through a gradual understanding of observations and interpretation of evidence over time.  Because such an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof, essentially to the point of almost completely excluding natural explanations, a sudden discovery is unlikely. Rather, such a finding will require the long, difficult process of excluding all other possible explanations (as it should). Whether it ends up being this observation or something else, we will likely only gradually come to fully understand over time what the importance of a discovery as earth shattering as alien intelligent life if this type of discovery is ever made.  Here are some links of interest regarding KIC 8462852:

Friday, September 11, 2015

What Happens When We Upload Our Minds?

 “I think if you coded all of my information, if you got every detail perfect, then yes, you could express an algorithm that follows the same thinking pattern that my brain follows,” she said. “But there’s a difference between a description of reality and reality itself. If you die, and I make up a new being that’s a perfect description of you, it doesn’t mean that person is you.”

 What Happens When We Upload Our Minds?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

AI Catastrophe

A few recent posts have considered the advent of strong AI or possibly even AI super intelligence in the coming decades. As was noted in the prior post, this technology is potentially so powerful it could lead to our extinction or at the opposite extreme could have untold benefits.  This article takes a closer look at the possibilities of AI going bad, in particular the nearer term threat of weak AI (AI that is narrowly tailored for a specific purpose) in the decades before the development of a stronger general AI.
How Much Longer Before Our First AI Catastrophe?

Friday, August 21, 2015

The AI Revolution: Our Immortality or Extinction

This is part two of Tim Urban's article on the coming AI revolution.  Urban gives a sense of the almost unimaginable impact AI could have on the future of humanity- Artificial Superintelligence, or ASI is certainly a real possibility in coming decades and the outcome of the development of this technology could be immortality or extinction. 

Immortality or Extinction?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The AI Revolution: the Road to Superintelligence

The AI Revolution: the Road to Superintelligence

The reason this post took three weeks to finish is that as I dug into research on Artificial Intelligence, I could not believe what I was reading. It hit me pretty quickly that what’s happening in the world of AI is not just an important topic, but by far THE most important topic for our future. So I wanted to learn as much as I could about it, and once I did that, I wanted to make sure I wrote a post that really explained this whole situation and why it matters so much.- Tim Urban

Monday, August 10, 2015

Impact of life extension on world population and population sustainability

Is death necessary?  While radical life extension technology likely remains decades away, constant advances in understanding the processes of aging opens the door to the possibility that at some point in that not so distant future people may be able to choose to live lives that are much longer than a natural life span.

The link below takes a look at the impact of different factors on future world population growth, and also addresses the requirements of a larger world population.

One thought related to this is the role of death in the evolution of life.  Obviously, throughout history death has been necessary to advance life due to the limited resources available in the environment and the process of natural selection.  However, when people can expand their environment by leaving earth and can intelligently adapt to a changing environment by choice through technologies such as gene modification, death is arguably not a necessary element of human life.  The role of death would be in many ways obsolete.

Future population and radical life extension         

Friday, August 7, 2015

Is Our Universe A Fake?

I began bemused. The notion that humanity might be living in an artificial reality — a simulated universe — seemed sophomoric, at best science fiction. But speaking with scientists and philosophers on "Closer to Truth," I realized that the notion that everything humans see and know is a gigantic computer game of sorts, the creation of supersmart hackers existing somewhere else, is not a joke. Exploring a "whole-world simulation," I discovered, is a deep probe of reality.   -  Robert Lawrence Kuhn

Kuhn article on the possibility we live in a simulated reality

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Theories of Everything, Mapped

Quanta Magazine provides a neat, interactive guide to Theories of Everything:

TOE, an interactive guide