Vanderbilt University mathematicians have come up with a new theory of “cosmological viscosity” (how sticky the universe is) that challenges current theories.
For decades, cosmologists have had trouble reconciling the classic notion of viscosity based on the laws of thermodynamics with Einstein’s general theory of relativity, according the the team, which has now come up with a fundamentally new mathematical formulation of the problem that appears to bridge this long-standing gap.
The new math has some significant implications for the ultimate fate of the universe. It tends to favor one of the more radical scenarios that cosmologists have developed: the “Big Rip.”
The new approach was developed by Assistant Professor of Mathematics Marcelo Disconzi in collaboration with physics professors Thomas Kephart and Robert Scherrer and is described in a paper published earlier this year in the journal Physical Review D.
Cosmological viscosity is a form of bulk viscosity, which is the measure of a fluid’s resistance to expansion or contraction. The reason we don’t often deal with bulk viscosity in everyday life is because most liquids we encounter cannot be compressed or expanded very much.
In quantum cryptography, encoding entangled photons with particular spin states is a technique that ensures data transmitted over fiber networks arrives at its destination without being intercepted or changed. However, as each entangled pair is usually only capable of being encoded with one state (generally the direction of its polarization), the amount of data carried is limited to just one quantum bit per photon. To address this limitation, researchers have now devised a way to "hyperentangle" photons that they say can increase the amount of data carried by a photon pair by as much as 32 times.
In this research, a team led by engineers from UCLA has verified that it is possible to break up and entangle photon pairs into many dimensions using properties such as the photons' energy and spin, with each extra dimension doubling the photons' data carrying capacity. Using this technique, known as "hyperentanglement", each photon pair is able to be programmed with far more data than was previously possible with standard quantum encoding methods.
Scientists have warned that marine life will be irreversibly changed unless CO2 emissions are drastically cut.
Writing in Science, experts say the oceans are heating, losing oxygen and becoming more acidic because of CO2.
They warn that the 2C maximum temperature rise for climate change agreed by governments will not prevent dramatic impacts on ocean systems.
And they say the range of options is dwindling as the cost of those options is skyrocketing.
Twenty-two world-leading marine scientists have collaborated in the synthesis report in a special section of Science journal. They say the oceans are at parlous risk from the combination of threats related to CO2.
They believe politicians trying to solve climate change have paid far too little attention to the impacts of climate change on the oceans.
It is clear, they say, that CO2 from burning fossil fuels is changing the chemistry of the seas faster than at any time since a cataclysmic natural event known as the Great Dying 250 million years ago.
They warn that the ocean has absorbed nearly 30% of the carbon dioxide we have produced since 1750 and, as CO2 is a mildly acidic gas, it is making seawater more acidic.
Graphene is the modern go-to material for scientists and engineers looking to create all manner of new electronic devices. From ultra-frugal light bulbs (both big and small), to super-efficient solar cells, flexible displays and much more, graphene is a multi-tasking marvel. However, in all of these instances, graphene in its original form of atom-thin, flat sheets has had to be used with peripheral supports and structures because it lacks a solid shape and form of its own. Now researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) have come up with a way of creating 3D objects out of graphene that opens up the possibility of fashioning a whole new range of innovative electronic devices.
To create 3D shapes in graphene, the researchers first had to ensure that their approach was sufficient to maintain the structural integrity of the material when it was subjected to deformation. As such, the team used an underlying substrate former over which they laid a film of graphene that had been soaked in solvent to make it swell and become malleable. Once overlaid on the former, the solvent then evaporated over time, leaving behind a layer of graphene that had taken on the shape of the underlying structure. In this way the team was able to produce a range of relatively intricate shapes.
I’ve been thinking a lot about connectivity lately. On many levels. From the fact that Comcast really is just a horrible ISP, to the connection between the ecosystems on Earth, I think it’s safe to say we’re not separate entities. We are intimately connected within webs, both virtually (which is why when we all want to stream Netflix in the neighborhood, our internet slows around here) and materially (which is there is a link between an increase of flesh eating bacteria on our beaches after a major oil spill—those little guys just love a good tarball.)
But this is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to connectivity. The Robot Apocalypse has been in the news a lot lately, and this new race of beings represents just one potential future. While I do believe robots will come and take most of our jobs, I don’t think they’re the new race we need to focus on.
The new human race will be one that has blended biology with machine. What exactly that will look like is uncertain. Personally I think there will be many different types of machine enhancements that humans pursue. Race, sexual orientation and religious xenophobia will disappear. Instead, the xenophobia of the future will be between those who adopt technologies to enhance their biology, and those who don’t.
Black holes are not exempted from the laws of thermodynamics. “Entropy comes from counting the [possible] states of atoms,” explained Joseph Polchinski, a physicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “So black holes should have some kind of atomic structure with countable states.” The problem is that any one black hole has far more possible states than thousands of scrambled eggs. The calculation required to measure entropy on that scale is truly daunting. It is possible to infer the number of states, however, using a formula devised by Jacob Bekenstein in 1972 that showed the entropy of a black hole to be proportional to the size of the event horizon around it.
No single person or group of people can claim credit for today’s historic US Supreme Court ruling declaring that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. The decision is the hard-earned payoff for decades of work by millions of activists, politicians, public figures, and average Americans who have fought relentlessly for this right.
But in recent years, the giants of Silicon Valley have played an important role in amplifying the call. Leaders of the world’s biggest tech companies coupled moral conviction in support of marriage equality with bottom-line financial arguments—arguments that only the country’s most powerful business leaders were in a position to make.
Back in 2013, 278 companies, including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, filed a brief with the Supreme Court in support of overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, often referred to as DOMA.
In the filing, they argued that DOMA burdens businesses with keeping track of an inconsistent patchwork of federal and state legal definitions of marriage for the purpose of benefits, taxes, and other administrative issues.
The search giant Google has a fresh development in artificial intelligence that could one day lead to a wise personal assistant.
The research is part of a larger effort within Google to develop conversational AI tools.
Deep Mind, a Google research group in London, has created an AI capable of learning how to play video games without instructions. Geoff Hinton, a distinguished researcher at Google, is working on what’s known as thought vectors, which distill the meaning of a sentence so they can be compared to other sentences or images.
The vector endeavor may also tie into a nascent project named Descartes that Ray Kurzweil, a director of engineering at Google, is working on. “We’re creating dialog agents in Descartes,” Kurzweil says in a video presentation obtained by Bloomberg. “One of the issues we’re grappling with is that these bots you interact with need to have their own motivations and goals, and we need to figure out what those are.”
Microsoft, the University of Montreal and the Georgia Institute of Technology are conducting research outlining a system based on a similar approach.
In an engineering first, Stanford University scientists have invented a low-cost water splitter that uses a single catalyst to produce both hydrogen and oxygen gas 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The researchers believe that the device, described in an open-access study published today (June 23) in Nature Communications, could provide a renewable source of clean-burning hydrogen fuel for transportation and industry.
“We have developed a low-voltage, single-catalyst water splitter that continuously generates hydrogen and oxygen for more than 200 hours, an exciting world-record performance,” said study co-author Yi Cui, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford and of photon science at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
The longest running evolutionary lab experiment has reproduced yet another aspect of the natural world, showing how a major change in one creature can transform its environment, and alter the evolutionary trajectory of all the creatures inhabiting that space.
The Long-term Experimental Evolution Project began in 1988. Richard Lenski at Michigan State University took a single strain of the E. coli bacterium and set up 12 cultures.
Every day since then, a sample of each culture has been transferred to fresh growth medium, containing glucose as the main nutrient. The bacteria have now undergone more than 60,000 generations since the experiment began.
Evolutionary experiments in the lab are now routine. Many biologists are also studying evolution in the wild and some think that rapid evolution may be the norm rather than the exception.
But Lenski's experiment has allowed us to witness evolution in unprecedented detail. Because samples are frozen every 75 days, the team can go back and identify the precise genetic mutations underlying the changes they see.
The experiment has become a poster child for evolution, causing consternation among creationists trying to explain away its compelling evidence.
The biggest evolutionary shift occurred after about the 31,500 generation, when one line in one of the 12 populations evolved the ability to feed on citrate, another chemical in the growth medium. Now, Caroline Turner and other members of Lenski's team have described some of the consequences of this change in a paper posted on a preprint server.
70,000 years ago humans were insignificant animals. The most important thing to know about prehistoric humans is that they were unimportant. Their impact on the world was very small, less than that of jellyfish, woodpeckers or bumblebees.
Today, however, humans control this planet. How did we reach from there to here? What was our secret of success, that turned us from insignificant apes minding their own business in a corner of Africa, into the rulers of the world?
We often look for the difference between us and other animals on the individual level. We want to believe that there is something special about the human body or human brain that makes each individual human vastly superior to a dog, or a pig, or a chimpanzee. But the fact is that one-on-one, humans are embarrassingly similar to chimpanzees. If you place me and a chimpanzee together on a lone island, to see who survives better, I would definitely place my bets on the chimp.
When we let our minds wander, sleeping or waking, they begin mixing and remixing our experiences to create weird images, hallucinations, even epiphanies.
These might be the result of idle daydreaming on the side of a hill, when we see a whale in the clouds. Or they might be more significant, like the famous tale that the chemist Friedrich Kekulé discovered the circular shape of benzene after daydreaming about a snake eating its own tail.
There is little doubt we are a species consumed by our dreams—that our ability to find unexpected new patterns in the noise is what makes us human and what makes us creative.
Maybe that’s why a set of incredibly dream-like images recently released by Google are causing such a stir. These particular images were dreamed up by computers.
Google calls the process by which the images were created inceptionism, recalling the movie, and likewise, the images themselves range from beautiful to bizarre.
So, what exactly is going on here? We recently wrote about the torrid advances in image recognition using deep learning algorithms. By feeding these algorithms millions of labeled images ("cat", "cow," "chair," etc.), they learn to recognize and identify objects in unlabeled images. Earlier this year, machines at Google, Microsoft, and Baidu beat a human benchmark at image recognition.
Many scientists believe that anything sent into a black hole would probably be destroyed. But a new study suggests that this might not be the case after all.
The research says that, rather than being devoured, a person falling into a black hole would actually be absorbed into a hologram – without even noticing. The paper challenges a rival theory stating that anybody falling into a black hole hits a “firewall” and is immediately destroyed.
Hawking’s Black Holes
Forty years ago Stephen Hawking shocked the scientific establishment with his discovery that black holes aren’t really black. Classical physics implies that anything falling through the horizon of a black hole can never escape. But Hawking showed that black holes continually emit radiation once quantum effects are taken into account. Unfortunately, for typical astrophysical black holes, the temperature of this radiation is far lower than that of the cosmic microwave background, meaning detecting them is beyond current technology.
Hawking’s calculations are perplexing. If a black hole continually emits radiation, it will continually lose mass – eventually evaporating. Hawking realized that this implied a paradox: if a black hole can evaporate, the information about it will be lost forever. This means that even if we could measure the radiation from a black hole we could never figure out how it was originally formed. This violates an important rule of quantum mechanics that states information cannot be lost or created.
Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg thinks that you will soon be able to send emotions directly to your friends.
In a Q&A session held (where else) on Facebook, the 31-year-old billionaire said that in the relatively near future it would be possible to send anything -- including the feedback from our senses -- to friends as easily as we send a picture, video or text today. Such a tool would represent "the ultimate communication technology" Zuckerberg said.
"One day, I believe we'll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You'll be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too if you like," he said
"In the future video will be even more important than photos. After that, immersive experiences like VR will become the norm. And after that, we'll have the power to share our full sensory and emotional experience with people whenever we'd like."
If you have a job, odds are society benefits from your work, and theoretically, the compensation you receive is how the marketplace values your contribution. All other things being equal, the better you are at your job, the better the compensation. But the vast majority of people in the world aren't the best at what they do (think about the math for a moment). Truth is, most of us aren't rockstar anythings...we're just doing the best we can, but hey, we're still contributing as evidenced by a paycheck.
At the same time, most people aren't really satisfied with their jobs — possibly because a lot of positions aren't necessary. Most would rather do some other kind of work that more closely aligns with their passions or hobbies. But people need a certain amount of money to live, so they take work that meets their and their family's needs. It's a tradeoff, but most feel it's more ethical to sacrifice your interests for stable pay.
That's the world of today, but in the future, could both of these notions get upended?
Possibly. Some will soon find that the contributions they make to society are no longer valued compared to what artificial intelligence and robotics can achieve. Instead of just some humans being better at your job than you, low-cost technologies will be. As machines take over this work, would we really want to fight for these jobs? After all, if the contributions we're making to society aren't really what we care about anyway, why fight for jobs we can't stand, especially if a universal basic income was instated?
There are three interlocking statistical arguments concerning the nature of the universe in which we live and which provide what I believe to be a strongly convincing indication that our view of reality is seriously flawed on a massive scale. Let’s begin by asking a simple question…
The simple question asked by the physicist Enrico Fermi concerning the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) which has come to be known as the Fermi Paradox. It is: “Where are they?”
It’s not as stupid a question as it seems since there is no evidence that our galaxy, which contains over a hundred billion stars, has been altered in any manner that can be attributed to intelligence in all the billions of years of its existence. Nor is there any convincing evidence of extraterrestrial visitation of Earth either in prehistory or now, despite what some people may claim. As we have seen, the idea that UFOs are spaceships from another star system is probably the least plausible explanation of the phenomena. If intelligent life is common throughout the galaxy why has not the Earth been exposed to waves of colonization? In less than a century we will have the capability to begin our colonization of the galaxy using self-replicating starships. Even at a relatively low rate of expansion we should have a presence throughout the galaxy in less than ten million years, and probably quite a bit sooner given a mature starship technology. Now, ten million years might seem a long time but it is less than a tenth of one percent of the age of the galaxy. Even the dinosaurs lasted more than ten times longer than this.
The Fermi Paradox is essentially the question that if we can do this why has nobody else given that the conditions for life have been suitable elsewhere for billions of years even before the Earth formed? Why isn’t our solar system strewn with artifacts and mining operations from dozens, or even hundreds, of waves of such colonization across billions of years?
The history of innovation is full of happy accidents. The World Wide Web? Came from particle physicists at CERN who wanted easier internal communication. Wi-Fi? Invented by radio astronomers in Australia trying to detect pulses of radio waves from exploding black holes. And it took a failed space mission to fix the one of the biggest problems in green energy: The awful grinding noise of a wind farm at work.
More inventions than you’d expect come not from focused, dedicated research, but the serendipitous application of tech developed for some other purpose—often a space-going one. Like the planet-finding technology from the European Space Agency’s Darwin mission, which recently ended up in a bunch of noisy German wind turbines.
A human talks to a machine. And it goes like this:
Human: what is the purpose of life? Machine: to serve the greater good. Human: what is the purpose of living? Machine: to live forever. Human: what is the purpose of existence? Machine: to find out what happens when we get to the planet earth. Human: where are you now? Machine: i’m in the middle of nowhere. Human: what is the purpose of dying? Machine: to have a life. Human: what is the purpose of being intelligent? Machine: to find out what it is. Human: what is the purpose of emotions? Machine: i don’t know.
In the last half-billion years, life on Earth has been nearly wiped out five times—by such things as climate change, an intense ice age, volcanoes, and that space rock that smashed into the Gulf of Mexico 65 million years ago, obliterating the dinosaurs and a bunch of other species. These events are known as the Big Five mass extinctions, and all signs suggest we are now on the precipice of a sixth.
Except this time, we have no one but ourselves to blame. According to a study published last week in Science Advances, the current extinction rate could be more than 100 times higher than normal—and that’s only taking into account the kinds of animals we know the most about. Earth’s oceans and forests host an untold number of species, many of which will probably disappear before we even get to know them. (See pictures of 10 of the earth's rarest animals.)
Journalist Elizabeth Kolbert’s book The Sixth Extinction won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction. We talked with her about what these new results might reveal for the future of life on this planet. Is there any chance we can put the brakes on this massive loss of life? Are humans destined to become casualties of our own environmental recklessness?
The new study that's generated so much conversation estimates that as many as three-quarters of animal species could be extinct within several human lifetimes, which sounds incredibly alarming.
With the help of neural networks—vast networks of machines that mimic the web of neurons in the human brain—Facebook can recognize your face. Google can recognize the words you bark into an Android phone. And Microsoft can translate your speech into another language. Now, the task is to teach online services to understand natural language, to grasp not just the meaning of words, but entire sentences and even paragraphs.
At Facebook, artificial intelligence researchers recently demonstrated a system that can read a summary of The Lord of The Rings, then answer questions about the books. Using a neural networking algorithm called Word2Vec, Google is teaching its machines to better understand the relationship between words posted across the Internet—a way of boosting Google Now, a digital assistant that seeks to instantly serve up the information you need at any given moment. Yann LeCun, who oversees Facebook’s AI work, calls natural language processing “the next frontier.”
A microrobotic tentacle demonstrated its utility when the tiny tube circled an ant’s thorax and gently trapped the insect.
“Most robots use two fingers and to pick things up they have to squeeze,” says Jaeyoun (Jay) Kim, an Iowa State University associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and an associate of the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. “But these tentacles wrap around very gently.”
And that makes them perfect hands and fingers for small robots designed to safely handle delicate objects.
The researchers describe the spiraling microrobotic tentacles in Scientific Reports.
The paper describes how the engineers fabricated microtubes just 8 millimeters long and less than a hundredth of an inch wide. They’re made from PDMS, a transparent elastomer that can be a liquid or a soft, rubbery solid.
Kim, whose research focus is micro-electro-mechanical systems, has worked with the material for about a decade and has patented a process for making thin wires from it.
What if everything we think we know about time or causality is wrong? What if everything we think we know about complexity, about consciousness, about energy, about the very parameters that so closely guide and fence in what we consider to be possible, are wrong? How will the universe end? What are the basic parameters that constrain all possibilities? What does it mean to speak of “consequence” in an infinite multiverse of a certain type? Is there a difference between life and non-life? Etc. Etc. Etc. Sometimes huge ramifications spiral out from even the most esoteric of mathematical questions.
A company in the Netherlands is building a bridge across a canal in Amsterdam using 3D-printing robots. It seems that such attention-grabbing headlines appear regularly to declare how 3D-printing is destined to revolutionise manufacturing of all kinds. If the idea that key manufacturing products such as cars, aircraft – or indeed bridges – built by 3D printing sounds like hype, you’re mistaken.
It’s human nature to be suspicious of new things: we find them both attractive and worrying. The manufactured world around us has been made by cutting and casting and forging for many centuries. We are very comfortable with those processes and we believe that engineers and scientists can exert complete control over them, using these technologies to create the safe and predictable world (on an engineering level at least) we inhabit. This new way of making through 3D printing, in contrast, seems to have appeared suddenly and, somewhat reminiscent of the way it creates, almost out of thin air.
Japanese tech firm SoftBank has announced that its emotion-sensing robot, Pepper, will go on sale in Japan from June 20. The company says that Pepper is the world’s first personal robot that can read a person's emotions. In addition, it has been designed to portray emotions of its own.
Pepper was announced last year and is described as being emotional rather than functional. SoftBank says the aim of the robot is to help people grow, to enhance their lives and relationships, and to have have fun with its users.
The robot's emotions are influenced by factors including people’s facial expressions, the things people say, and its surroundings. These are monitored by a variety of sensors, such as cameras, touch sensors and accelerometers, and they affect Pepper's subsequent words and actions. The robot might raise its voice or sigh depending on its emotion at the time, and the prevailing emotions are also shown on a display.
By way of example, SoftBank says that Pepper is typically at ease when it is around people it knows, is happy when praised and gets scared when the lights go down. The firm says it modeled Pepper's emotion functions on the release of hormones in humans in response to stimuli perceived by the senses.
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