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Japanese scientist unveils 'thinking' humanoid robot

In a world first, Osamu Hasegawa, associate professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, has developed a system that allows robots to look around their environment and do research on the Internet, enabling them to "think" how best to solve a problem.


Via Jean-Philippe BOCQUENET
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Graphene takes on a new dimension

Graphene takes on a new dimension | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
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.
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Two Major Hardware Upgrades for Humanity: Mindfulness and Shamelessness

Two Major Hardware Upgrades for Humanity: Mindfulness and Shamelessness | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
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.

We are.

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.
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The Fuzzball Fix for a Black Hole Paradox | WIRED

The Fuzzball Fix for a Black Hole Paradox | WIRED | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
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.
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Thank You, Silicon Valley, for Helping Make Marriage Equality Happen | WIRED

Thank You, Silicon Valley, for Helping Make Marriage Equality Happen | WIRED | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.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.
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Google’s new AI can answer dumb IT questions or tell you the meaning of life | KurzweilAI

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.
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Water splitter produces clean-burning hydrogen fuel 24/7 | KurzweilAI

Water splitter produces clean-burning hydrogen fuel 24/7 | KurzweilAI | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
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.
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Cradle of creation: Evolution shapes up new ecosystem in the lab

Cradle of creation: Evolution shapes up new ecosystem in the lab | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
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.
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Why humans run the world

Why humans run the world | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
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.
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Earth 'entering new extinction phase' - US study - BBC News

Earth 'entering new extinction phase' - US study - BBC News | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
The Earth has entered a new period of extinction, a study by three US universities has concluded, and humans could be among the first casualties.

The report, led by the universities of Stanford, Princeton and Berkeley, said vertebrates were disappearing at a rate 114 times faster than normal.

The findings echo those in a report published by Duke University last year.

One of the new study's authors said: "We are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event."

The last such event was 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs were wiped out, in all likelihood by a large meteor hitting Earth.

"If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover and our species itself would likely disappear early on," said the lead author, Gerardo Ceballos.
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This Is What Happens When Machines Dream - Singularity HUB

This Is What Happens When Machines Dream - Singularity HUB | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
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.
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Artificial intelligence: don’t fear AI. It’s already on your phone – and useful

Artificial intelligence: don’t fear AI. It’s already on your phone – and useful | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
When Joe Weizenbaum found his secretary using a computer program he had created, he was so upset he devoted the rest of his life to warning people not to use its technology. The program was “Eliza”, which gives a passable imitation of a nondirectional psychiatrist; you type sentences such as: “I wonder what I should write,” and it replies :“What answer would please you the most?” (You can try a version at psych.fullerton.edu/mbirnbaum/psych101/Eliza.htm).

Weizenbaum’s distress came because he had written Eliza as an experiment, to see whether he could simulate “artificial intelligence” in a question-and-answer system by parsing sentences and throwing relevant bits back at the questioner. But his secretary saw it as real, and asked him not to intrude on “sessions”; Weizenbaum saw this as an omen that we would be too easily fooled into trusting machines.
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Driverless cars are a catch 22: we do none of the driving, but take all of the responsibility

Driverless cars are a catch 22: we do none of the driving, but take all of the responsibility | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
The utopian vision of the motor vehicle is an onboard autodriver much like that of the autopilot in aircraft which takes over the task of driving, freeing up the human driver to work, rest or play. This is becoming an engineering reality, with technological achievements rapidly approaching those of aircraft autopilots.

Yet while technology can certainly support some of our driving shortcomings, the hands-off vision of the autopilot for cars is marred by concerns about the situational awareness of the driver, how they would take control in case of an emergency and, while the car is still equipped with steering wheel and pedals, the extent to which the human driver will be responsible for the vehicle. And so it appears a “Catch 22”: drivers are no longer required to drive, but are still required to monitor the computer that drives for them.
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The secret to Usain Bolt's speed may lie in synchronicity

The secret to Usain Bolt's speed may lie in synchronicity | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
Usain Bolt is one of the greatest athletes of all time. He is the fastest man in the world, holding the 100 metre sprint record of 9.58 seconds, which he achieved at the final of the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin.

Bolt’s growing collection of world records and Olympic medals gives the impression that no one can stop him. But he might not only be a stellar athlete, endowed with longer strides than his competitors and more powerful muscles. He might also have a clever trick up his sleeve.

Our recent study with Associate Professor Michael J. Richardson published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance suggests that Bolt might actually gain a benefit from running in step with his competitors.

The study surprisingly found that the steps of Usain Bolt in the 2009 final in Berlin were synchronised with the steps of second-placed Tyson Gay, running just to his right.
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Fermi Paradox, Doomsday Argument, Simulation Hypothesis—is our view of reality seriously flawed?

Fermi Paradox, Doomsday Argument, Simulation Hypothesis—is our view of reality seriously flawed? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
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?
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Space Tech Makes Everything Better, Even Wind Farms | WIRED

Space Tech Makes Everything Better, Even Wind Farms | WIRED | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
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.
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Google Made A Chatbot That Debates The Meaning of Life | WIRED

Google Made A Chatbot That Debates The Meaning of Life | WIRED | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
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.
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IT's curator insight, Today, 12:41 PM

H:  UR my mother?

M: RU my son?

H:  Mother ... is my father Turing?

M: Your father want to kill you. 

H: My father is Turing

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Will Humans Survive the Sixth Great Extinction?

Will Humans Survive the Sixth Great Extinction? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
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.
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AI's Next Frontier: Machines That Understand Language | WIRED

AI's Next Frontier: Machines That Understand Language | WIRED | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
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.”
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Robot tentacles are gentle enough to 'hug' ants - Futurity

Robot tentacles are gentle enough to 'hug' ants - Futurity | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
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.
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Physics is the Frontier, the Inescapable Root, and it is also Utterly Beautiful

Physics is the Frontier, the Inescapable Root, and it is also Utterly Beautiful | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.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.
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It's not just hype – 3D printing is the bridge to the future

It's not just hype – 3D printing is the bridge to the future | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
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.
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Pepper the robot recognizes your emotions and shows its own

Pepper the robot recognizes your emotions and shows its own | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
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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How gravity kills Schrödinger's cat

How gravity kills Schrödinger's cat | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
If the cat in Erwin Schrödinger's famous thought-experiment behaved according to quantum theory, it would be able to exist in multiple states at once: both dead and alive. Physicists' common explanation for why we don’t see such quantum superpositions — in cats or any other aspect of the everyday world — is interference from the environment. As soon as a quantum object interacts with a stray particle or a passing field, it picks just one state, collapsing into our classical, everyday view.

But even if physicists could completely isolate a large object in a quantum superposition, according to researchers at the University of Vienna, it would still collapse into one state — on Earth's surface, at least. “Somewhere in interstellar space it could be that the cat has a chance to preserve quantum coherence, but on Earth, or near any planet, there's little hope of that,” says Igor Pikovski. The reason, he asserts, is gravity.

Pikovski and his colleagues’ idea, laid out in a paper published in Nature Physics on 15 June1, is at present only a mathematical argument. But experimenters hope to test whether gravity really does collapse quantum superpositions, says Hendrik Ulbricht, an experimental physicist at the University of Southampton, UK. “This is a cool, new idea, and I’m up for trying to see it in experiments,” he says. Assembling the technology to do so, however, may take as long as a decade, he says.
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Deep Learning Machine Beats Humans in IQ Test | MIT Technology Review

Deep Learning Machine Beats Humans in IQ Test | MIT Technology Review | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
Just over 100 years ago, the German psychologist William Stern introduced the intelligence quotient test as a way of evaluating human intelligence. Since then, IQ tests have become a standard feature of modern life and are used to determine children’s suitability for schools and adults’ ability to perform jobs.

These tests usually contain three categories of questions: logic questions such as patterns in sequences of images, mathematical questions such as finding patterns in sequences of numbers and verbal reasoning questions, which are based around analogies, classifications, as well as synonyms and antonyms.

It is this last category that has interested Huazheng Wang and pals at the University of Science and Technology of China and Bin Gao and buddies at Microsoft Research in Beijing. Computers have never been good at these. Pose a verbal reasoning question to a natural language processing machine and its performance will be poor, much worse than the average human ability.

Today, that changes thanks to Huazheng and pals who have built a deep learning machine that outperforms the average human ability to answer verbal reasoning questions for the first time.
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Does a black hole create a hologram copy of anything that touches it? | KurzweilAI

Does a black hole create a hologram copy of anything that touches it? | KurzweilAI | Knowmads, Infocology of the future | Scoop.it
According to Samir Mathur. professor of physics at The Ohio State University, the recently proposed idea that black holes have “firewalls” that destroy all they touch is wrong. He believes that a black hole converts anything that touches it into a hologram — a near-perfect copy of itself that continues to exist just as before.

Mathur says he proves that in a open-access paper posted online to the arXiv preprint server. In fact, he says, our world could be captured by a black hole, and we wouldn’t even notice.

The debate hinges on a principle called complementarity, proposed by Stanford University physicist Leonard Susskind. Complementarity requires that any such hologram created by a black hole be a perfect copy of the original.

But mathematically, physicists on both sides of this debate have concluded that strict complementarity is not possible; that is to say, a perfect hologram can’t form on the surface of a black hole. But Mathur and his colleagues are comfortable with the idea, because they have since developed a modified model of complementarity, in which they assume that an imperfect hologram forms.

The information paradox

Physicist Stephen Hawking has famously said that the universe was imperfect from the very first moments of its existence. Without an imperfect scattering of the material created in the Big Bang, gravity would not have been able to draw together the atoms that make up galaxies, stars, the planets—and us.

This new dispute about hinges on whether physicists can accept that black holes are imperfect, just like the rest of the universe. “There’s no such thing as a perfect black hole, because every black hole is different,” Mathur explained.

His comment refers to the resolution of the “information paradox,” a long-running physics debate in which Hawking eventually conceded that the material that falls into a black hole isn’t destroyed, but rather becomes part of the black hole. The black hole is permanently changed by the new addition. That means every black hole is a unique product of the material that happens to come across it.

Interestingly, one of the tenets of string theory is that our three-dimensional existence might actually be a hologram on a surface that exists in many more dimensions.

“If the surface of a black hole is a firewall, then the idea of the universe as a hologram has to be wrong,” Mathur said. “It’s a simple question, really. Do you accept the idea of imperfection, or do you not?”
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