Science & Knowledge
Follow
Find
2.1K views | +0 today
 
Scooped by Amira
onto Science & Knowledge
Scoop.it!

Simple mathematical pattern describes shape of neuron ‘jungle’

Simple mathematical pattern describes shape of neuron ‘jungle’ | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it

"Neurons come in an astounding assortment of shapes and sizes, forming a thick inter-connected jungle of cells. Now, UCL neuroscientists have found that there is a simple pattern that describes the tree-like shape of all neurons.

Neurons look remarkably like trees, and connect to other cells with many branches that effectively act like wires in an electrical circuit, carrying impulses that represent sensation, emotion, thought and action.

 

Over 100 years ago, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, the father of modern neuroscience, sought to systematically describe the shapes of neurons, and was convinced that there must be a unifying principle underlying their diversity.

Cajal proposed that neurons spread out their branches so as to use as little wiring as possible to reach other cells in the network. Reducing the amount of wiring between cells provides additional space to pack more neurons into the brain, and therefore increases its processing power.

 

New work by UCL neuroscientists, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has revisited this century-old hypothesis using modern computational methods. They show that a simple computer program which connects points with as little wiring as possible can produce tree-like shapes which are indistinguishable from real neurons – and also happen to be very beautiful.

 

They also show that the shape of neurons follows a simple mathematical relationship called a power law.

Power laws have been shown to be common across the natural world, and often point to simple rules underlying complex structures. Dr Herman Cuntz (UCL Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research) and colleagues find that the power law holds true for many types of neurons gathered from across the animal kingdom, providing strong evidence for Ramon y Cajal’s general principle."

more...
No comment yet.
Science & Knowledge
A systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. In an older and closely related meaning (found, for example, in Aristotle), "science" refers to the body of reliable knowledge itself, of the type that can be logically and rationally explained.
Curated by Amira
Your new post is loading...
Your new post is loading...
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

List of libraries in the ancient world | Wikipedia

List of libraries in the ancient world - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The great seats of learning in the ancient Indian subcontinent, namely Takshasila (6th to 5th century BC in modern day Pakistan), Nalanda (founded in 427 and considered "one of the first great universities in recorded history."), Vikramshila (8th century), Kanchipuram and other universities, also maintained vast libraries of palm leaf manuscripts on various subjects, ranging from theology to astronomy.

Amira's insight:

"The great libraries of the ancient world served as archives for empires, sanctuaries for sacred writings, and depositories of literature and chronicles."
Contents:

    1 Anatolia
    2 Egypt
    3 India
    4 Iran
    5 Iraq
    6 Israel
    7 Rome
    8 Syria
    9 See also
    10 Notes

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

Einstein's Zurich Notebook

Einstein's Zurich Notebook | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it
Amira's insight:

"This discovery of this theory is somehow more than mere science. It is not the fitting of a formula to a set of data or the succumbing to the weight of unanswerable evidence. General relativity was an achievement of creative imagination. Through it, Einstein found the boundary of science and art. There he wrote equations linking space, time, matter and gravity every bit as beautiful as Shakespeare's sonnets, but written in the universal language of mathematics. The evidence that favors general relativity is no where near as strong or thorough as that which speaks for quantum theory. Yet we favor general relativity simply because no conception this beautiful should be wrong. And it survives because no theorist in the many decades since 1915 has been imaginative enough to find a theory that does better than general relativity. Every time a new test is devised Einstein's theory wins."

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

Elegance,’ ‘Symmetry,’ and ‘Unity’: Is Scientific Truth Always Beautiful? Marcelo Gleiser: Life is fundamentally asymmetric

Elegance,’ ‘Symmetry,’ and ‘Unity’: Is Scientific Truth Always Beautiful? Marcelo Gleiser: Life is fundamentally asymmetric | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it
‘Elegance,’ ‘Symmetry,’ and ‘Unity’: Is Scientific Truth Always Beautiful?
“Today the grandest quest of physics is to render compatible the laws of quantum physics—how particles in the subatomic world...
Amira's insight:

"Look into a mirror and you’ll simultaneously see the familiar and the alien: an image of you, but with left and right reversed. Left-right inequality has significance far beyond that of mirror images, touching on the heart of existence itself. From subatomic physics to life, nature prefers asymmetry to symmetry. (...) Life is fundamentally asymmetric. (...) Somehow, during its infancy, the cosmos selected matter over antimatter. This imperfection is the single most important factor dictating our existence. (…) It is not symmetry and perfection that should be our guiding principle, as it has been for millennia. (...)

The science we create is just that, our creation. Wonderful as it is, it is always limited, it is always constrained by what we know of the world. […] The notion that there is a well-defined hypermathematical structure that determines all there is in the cosmos is a Platonic delusion with no relationship to physical reality. (…)

The critics of this idea miss the fact that a meaningless cosmos that produced humans (and possibly other intelligences) will never be meaningless to them (or to the other intelligences). To exist in a purposeless Universe is even more meaningful than to exist as the result of some kind of mysterious cosmic plan. Why? Because it elevates the emergence of life and mind to a rare event, as opposed to a ubiquitous and premeditated one. (...)

Unified theories, life principles, and self-aware universes are all expressions of our need to find a connection between who we are and the world we live in. I do not question the extreme importance of understanding the connection between man and the cosmos. But I do question that it has to derive from unifying principles. (…)

For a clever fish, water is “just right“ for it to swim in. Had it been too cold, it would freeze; too hot, it would boil. Surely the water temperature had to be just right for the fish to exist. “I’m very important. My existence cannot be an accident,” the proud fish would conclude. Well, he is not very important. He is just a clever fish. The ocean temperature is not being controlled with the purpose of making it possible for it to exist. Quite the opposite: the fish is fragile. A sudden or gradual temperature swing would kill it, as any trout fisherman knows. We so crave for meaningful connections that we see them even when they are not there. (...) The gravest mistake we can make is to think that the cosmos has plans for us, that we are somehow special from a cosmic perspective."

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

Harvard Researchers Turn Book Into DNA Code

Harvard Researchers Turn Book Into DNA Code | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it
In the latest attempt to corral society's growing quantities of digital data, Harvard University researchers encoded an entire book into the genetic molecules of DNA, the basic building block of life, and then accurately read back the text.
Amira's insight:

"A device the size of your thumb could store as much information as the whole Internet," said Harvard University molecular geneticist George Church, the project's senior researcher.

In their work, the group translated the English text of a coming book on genomic engineering into actual DNA.

DNA contains genetic instructions written in a simple but powerful code made up of four chemicals called bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C) and thymine (T).

The Harvard researchers started with the digital version of the book, which is composed of the ones and zeros that computers read. Next, on paper, they translated the zeros into either the A or C of the DNA base pairs, and changed the ones into either the G or T.

Then, using now-standard laboratory techniques, they created short strands of actual DNA that held the coded sequence—almost 55,000 strands in all. Each strand contained a portion of the text and an address that indicated where it occurred in the flow of the book. (...)

Research groups in the U.S., Europe and Canada devised ways to use DNA to encode trademarks and secret messages in cells. And when genomics pioneer Craig Venter and colleagues created the first synthetic cell in 2010, they wrote their names into its DNA code, the way an artist might sign a painting, along with three literary quotations and a website address.

Other researchers used DNA to encode poetry and popular music inside the living cells of bacteria. (...)

The Harvard effort stands out for its large scale, the scientists said. All told, the book contains 53,426 words, 11 illustrations and a JavaScript computer program. The 5.27 megabits of data are more than 600 times bigger than the largest data set previously encoded in DNA. It is the equivalent of the storage capacity of a 3.5-inch floppy computer disk. (...)

The method requires a series of advanced laboratory procedures, microarray chips and a high-speed gene-sequencing machine to assemble the strands in the proper order, correct any errors and then read the final text."

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

Caltech commencement address given by Richard Feynman in 1974 ☞ Cargo cult science

Caltech commencement address given by Richard Feynman in 1974 ☞ Cargo cult science | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it

"The examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid—not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked—to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

 

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can—if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong—to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition. (...)

 

We’ve learned from experience that the truth will come out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature’s phenomena will agree or they’ll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven’t tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it’s this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in cargo cult science. (...)

 

But this long history of learning how not to fool ourselves—of having utter scientific integrity—is, I’m sorry to say, something that we haven’t specifically included in any particular course that I know of. We just hope you’ve caught on by osmosis.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that."

 

 

more...
No comment yet.
Rescooped by Amira from cognition
Scoop.it!

Manhood Of Humanity The Science and Art of Human Engineering By Alfred Korzybski (1921) (pdf)

"The question we have, therefore, to consider first of all is fundamentally: What is Man? What is a man? What is a human being? What is the defining or characteristic mark of humanity? To this question two answers and only two have been given in the course of the ages, and they are both of them current to-day. One of the answers is biological—man is an animal, a certain kind of animal; the other answer is a mixture partly biological and partly mythological or partly biological and partly philosophical—man is a combination or union of animal with something supernatural. An important part of my task will be to show that both of these answers are radically wrong and that, beyond all things else, they are primarily responsible for what is dismal in the life and history
of humankind. This done, the question remains: What is Man? I hope to show clearly and convincingly that the answer is to be found in the patent fact that human beings possess in varying degrees a certain natural faculty or power or capacity which serves at once to give them their appropriate dignity as human beings and to discriminate them, not only from the minerals and the plants but also from the world of animals, this peculiar or characteristic human faculty or power or capacity I shall call.

 

Chapter I. Introduction 11the time-binding faculty or time-binding power or time-binding capacity. What I mean by time-binding will be clearly and fully explained in the course of the discussion, and when it has been made clear, the question—What Is Man?—will be answered by saying that man is a being naturally endowed with time-binding capacity—that a human being is a time-binder—that men, women and children constitute the time-binding class of life."


Via FastTFriend
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

DNA could have existed long before life itself | New Scientist

DNA could have existed long before life itself | New Scientist | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it

"The latest twist in the origin-of-life tale is double helical. Chemists are close to demonstrating that the building blocks of DNA can form spontaneously from chemicals thought to be present on the primordial Earth. If they succeed, their work would suggest that DNA could have predated the birth of lifeMovie Camera.

 

DNA is essential to almost all life on Earth, yet most biologists think that life began with RNA. Just like DNA, it stores genetic information. What's more, RNA can fold into complex shapes that can clamp onto other molecules and speed up chemical reactions, just like a protein, and it is structurally simpler than DNA, so might be easier to make.

 

After decades of trying, in 2009 researchers finally managed to generate RNA using chemicals that probably existed on the early Earth. Matthew Powner, now at University College London, and his colleagues synthesised two of the four nucleotides that make up RNA. Their achievement suggested that RNA may have formed spontaneously - powerful support for the idea that life began in an "RNA world". (...)

 

Nucleotides consist of a sugar attached to a phosphate and a nitrogen-containing base molecule - these bases are the familiar letters of the genetic code. DNA nucleotides, which link together to form DNA, are harder to make than RNA nucleotides, because DNA uses a different sugar that is tougher to work with.

 

Starting with a mix of chemicals, many of them thought to have been present on the early Earth, Powner has now created a sugar like that in DNA, linked to a molecule called AICA, which is similar to a base (Journal of the American Chemical Society, doi.org/h6q). (....)

That could have important implications for our understanding of life's origins. (...)

 

Conventional wisdom is that RNA-based life eventually switched to DNA because DNA is better at storing information. In other words, RNA organisms made the first DNA. (...)

 

Life may have begun with an "RNA and DNA world", in which the two types of nucleotides were intermingled. (...) Powner suggests that life started out using these hybrid molecules, gradually purifying them into DNA and RNA."

 

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

How the Internet Affects Our Memories: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips

How the Internet Affects Our Memories: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it

Abstract:

 

“The advent of the Internet, with sophisticated algorithmic search engines, has made accessing information as easy as lifting a finger. No longer do we have to make costly efforts to find the things we want. We can “Google” the old classmate, find articles online, or look up the actor who was on the tip of our tongue. The results of four studies suggest that when faced with difficult questions, people are primed to think about computers and that when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it. The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.”

 

***
“We investigate whether the Internet has become an external memory system that is primed by the need to acquire information. If asked the question whether there are any countries with only one color in their flag, for example, do we think about flags—or immediately think to go online to find out? Our research then tested if, once information has been accessed, our internal encoding is increased for where the information is to be found rather than for the information itself. (…)

 

And transactive memory is also evident when people seem better able to remember which computer folder an item has been stored in than the identity of the item itself. These results suggest that processes of human memory are adapting to the advent of new computing and communication technology. Just as we learn through transactive memory who knows what in our families and offices, we are learning what the computer “knows” and when we should attend to where we have stored information in our computer-based memories. We are becoming symbiotic with our computer tools, growing into interconnected systems that remember less by knowing information than by knowing where the information can be found. (...)

 

We have become dependent on them to the same degree we are dependent on all the knowledge we gain from our friends and coworkers—and lose if they are out of touch. The experience of losing our Internet connection becomes more and more like losing a friend. We must remain plugged in to know what Google knows.”

 

 

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

Lisa Randall on the effective theory

Lisa Randall on the effective theory | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it

“The idea that we can systematically understand certain aspects of the world and make predictions based on what we’ve learned — while appreciating and categorizing the extent and limitations of what we know — plays a big role in how we think. Many words that summarize the nature of science such as “cause and effect,” “predictions,” and ” experiments,” as well as words that describe probabilistic results such as “mean,” “median,” “standard deviation,” and the notion of “probability” itself help us understand more specifically what this means and how to interpret the world and behavior within it.

 

“Effective theory” is one of the more important notions within and outside of science. The idea is to determine what you can actually measure and decide — given the precision and accuracy of your measuring tools — and to find a theory appropriate to those measurable quantities. The theory that works might not be the ultimate truth—but it’s as close an approximation to the truth as you need and is also the limit to what you can test at any given time. People can reasonably disagree on what lies beyond the effective theory, but in a domain where we have tested and confirmed it, we understand the theory to the degree that it’s been tested.

 

An example is Newton’s Laws, which work as well as we will ever need when they describe what happens to a ball when we throw it. Even though we now know quantum mechanics is ultimately at play, it has no visible consequences on the trajectory of the ball. Newton’s Laws are part of an effective theory that is ultimately subsumed into quantum mechanics. Yet Newton’s Laws remain practical and true in their domain of validity. It’s similar to the logic you apply when you look at a map. You decide the scale appropriate to your journey — are you traveling across the country, going upstate, or looking for the nearest grocery store — and use the map scale appropriate to your question.

 

Terms that refer to specific scientific results can be efficient at times but they can also be misleading when taken out of context and not supported by true scientific investigation. But the scientific methods for seeking, testing, and identifying answers and understanding the limitations of what we have investigated will always be reliable ways of acquiring knowledge. A better understanding of the robustness and limitations of what science establishes, as well as probabilistic results and predictions, could make the world a better place.”

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

S. Hawking, L. Mlodinow on why is there something rather than nothing and why are the fundamental laws as we have described them

S. Hawking, L. Mlodinow on why is there something rather than nothing and why are the fundamental laws as we have described them | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it

“According to the idea of model-dependent realism, our brains interpret the input from our sensory organs by making a model of the outside world. We form mental concepts of our home, trees, other people, the electricity that flows from wall sockets, atoms, molecules, and other universes. These mental concepts are the only reality we can know. There is no modelindependent test of reality. It follows that a well-constructed model creates a reality of its own.”

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

39 New Scientific Concepts That Everyone Should Understand

39 New Scientific Concepts That Everyone Should Understand | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it

"The editors over at Edge.org asked some of the most influential thinkers in the world — including neuroscientists, physicists and mathematicians — what they believe are the most important scientific concepts of the modern era. (...)

 

The Copernican Principal is the idea that we are not special — that the universe is much larger, and we have a rather insignificant role. "The paradox of the Copernican Principle is that by properly understanding our place, even if it be humbling, we can only then truly understand our particular circumstances. And when we do, we don't seem so insignificant after all." -- Samuel Arbesman (...)

 

Double-blind control experiment: It's a tool that researchers use to prevent against subconscious bias when performing experiments. Understanding the need for double-blind experiments would help the rest of the population understand their inherent subjective, everyday biases, and guard against generalization and impress upon people the need for critical thinking." -- Richard Dawkins (...)

 

Umwelt is the idea that we blindly accept the reality of the world around us. “It would be useful if the concept of the umwelt were embedded in the public lexicon. It neatly captures that idea of limited knowledge, of unobtainable information, of unimagined possibilities.” — David Eagleman

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

Hunting the Higgs -- live video courtesy of CERN “Perhaps the most momentous day in particle physics of the century”

Hunting the Higgs -- live video courtesy of CERN “Perhaps the most momentous day in particle physics of the century” | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it

"In 2008, scientists fired up the Large Hadron Collider and began searching for the answer to one of the biggest questions in physics: Why do particles have mass? Now, 50 years after Peter Higgs first proposed what became known as the Higgs boson, the various researchers at CERN have the utmost certainty that they have found it."

 

"The Standard Model describes the fundamental particles from which we, and every visible thing in the universe, are made, and the forces acting between them. All the matter that we can see, however, appears to be no more than about 4% of the total. A more exotic version of the Higgs particle could be a bridge to understanding the 96% of the universe that remains obscure.

“We have reached a milestone in our understanding of nature,” said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer.  http://phys.org/news/2012-07-cern-physicists-strong-evidence-particle.html

 

"Scientists believe that in the first billionth of a second after the Big Bang, the universe was a gigantic soup of particles racing around at the speed of light without any mass to speak of. It was through their interaction with the Higgs field that they gained mass and eventually formed the universe." http://www.firstpost.com/world/live-cern-scientists-presenting-evidence-for-god-particle-366545.html

 

Physicists At CERN Confirm Discovery Of Elusive Higgs Particle Essential To Understanding The Universe: "The discovery of the Higgs boson is the last piece of the puzzle for the Standard Model, which will now likely be refined with further experimentation and potentially pave the way toward even more unification theories. But for now, science has another toolset — like Newton’s Laws of Motion, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and quantum mechanics — in which to study the strangeness and mystery of everything that surrounds us. Understanding of other cosmic phenomena, such as dark matter and dark energy, extra dimensions, antimatter, and string theory, will only benefit from this deeper understanding of subatomic particles and the forces that bind them." http://www.forbes.com/sites/singularity/2012/07/04/physicists-at-cern-confirm-discovery-of-elusive-higgs-particle-essential-to-understanding-the-universe/

 

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson

 

Replay from conference https://cdsweb.cern.ch/record/1459604

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

Music, Mind, and Meaning by Marvin Minsky | MIT (1981)

Music, Mind, and Meaning by Marvin Minsky | MIT (1981) | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it

"Why do we like music? Our culture immerses us in it for hours each day, and everyone knows how it touches our emotions, but few think of how music touches other kinds of thought. It is astonishing how little curiosity we have about so pervasive an "environmental" influence. What might we discover if we were to study musical thinking? (...)

 

Something has a "meaning" only when it has a few; if we understood something just one way, we would not understand it at all. That is why the seekers of the "real" meanings never find them. This holds true especially for words like 'understand'. That is why sonatas start simply, as do the best of talks and texts. The basics are repeated several times before anything larger or more complex is presented."

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

Behold a 3D map of of the universe, showing all galaxies out to 300 million light years (video)

Behold a 3D map of of the universe, showing all galaxies out to 300 million light years (video) | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it
Amira's insight:

"[Brent] Tully, a cosmologist at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy (...) has mapped the universe in detail out to a distance of about 100 million light years. To put that in more human terms: Columbus’s maps of the New World described a land 3,000 miles from home, but Tully’s map extends 6,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles out. No wonder he is often referred to as a cosmic cartographer. By filling in the details, Tully has made it possible to discern the true structure of the universe: clusters of galaxies arranged into enormous filaments, bound together by invisible strands of dark matter, and tremendous lonely voids where galaxies are sparse."

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

The Global Consciousness Project | Multidisciplinary collaboration of scientists, engineers, artists

The Global Consciousness Project | Multidisciplinary collaboration of scientists, engineers, artists | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

Facts | Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Facts | Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it
Amira's insight:

Facts, philosophers like to say, are opposed to theories and to values, they are the objects of certain mental states and acts, they make truth-bearers true and correspond to truths, they are part of the furniture of the world. We present and discuss some philosophical and formal accounts of facts.

1. Philosophies of Facts1.1. Facts, Facts & Facts1.2. Facts, Ontology and Metaphysics1.3. Facts and Knowledge1.4. Facts, Intentionality, Semantics and TruthmakingSupplement: On the History of Philosophies of Facts2. Formal Theories of Facts2.1. Facts and Worlds2.2. Boolean Operations on Facts2.3. Independency2.4. Facts and Propositions2.5. The Inner Structure of FactsSupplement: Some Formal Theories in the LiteratureSupplement: The Slingshot ArgumentBibliographyAcademic ToolsOther Internet ResourcesRelated Entries

 

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

David Deutsch On Artificial Intelligence

David Deutsch On Artificial Intelligence | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it
The very laws of physics imply that artificial intelligence must be possible. What's holding us up?
Amira's insight:

“What is needed is nothing less than a breakthrough in philosophy, a theory that explains how brains create explanations. (…)

What distinguishes human brains from all other physical systems is qualitatively different from all other functionalities, and cannot be specified in the way that all other attributes of computer programs can be. It cannot be programmed by any of the techniques that suffice for writing any other type of program. Nor can it be achieved merely by improving their performance at tasks that they currently do perform, no matter by how much. Why? I call the core functionality in question creativity: the ability to produce new explanations. (…)

What is needed is nothing less than a breakthrough in philosophy, a new epistemological theory that explains how brains create explanatory knowledge and hence defines, in principle, without ever running them as programs, which algorithms possess that functionality and which do not. (…)

The truth is that knowledge consists of conjectured explanations — guesses about what really is (or really should be, or might be) out there in all those worlds. Even in the hard sciences, these guesses have no foundations and don’t need justification. Why? Because genuine knowledge, though by definition it does contain truth, almost always contains error as well. So it is not ‘true’ in the sense studied in mathematics and logic. Thinking consists of criticising and correcting partially true guesses with the intention of locating and eliminating the errors and misconceptions in them, not generating or justifying extrapolations from sense data. And therefore, attempts to work towards creating an AGI that would do the latter are just as doomed as an attempt to bring life to Mars by praying for a Creation event to happen there. (…)

Present-day software developers could straightforwardly program a computer to have ‘self-awareness’ if they wanted to. But it is a fairly useless ability.”

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

Richard Feynman on Probability and Uncertainty: The quantum mechanical view of nature

Richard Feynman courtesy of the Cornell Messenger Lecture Archive. Cornell Mathematics Library. Lecture #6 Probability and Uncertainty in quantum mechanics.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

Living is information processing; from molecules to global systems by K. D. Farnsworth, J. Nelson, C. Gershenson (2012) (pdf)

Abstract:

"We extend the concept that life is an informational phenomenon, at every level of organisation, from molecules to the global ecological system. According to this thesis: (a) living is information processing, in which memory is maintained by both molecular states and ecological states as well as the more obvious nucleic acid coding; (b) this information processing has one overall function - to perpetuate itself; and (c) the processing method is filtration (cognition) of, and synthesis of, information at lower levels to appear at higher levels in complex systems (emergence). We show how information patterns, are united by the creation of mutual context, generating persistent consequences, to result in 'functional information'.

 

This constructive process forms arbitrarily large complexes of information, the combined effects of which include the functions of life. Molecules and simple organisms have already been measured in terms of functional information content; we show how quantification may extended to each level of organisation up to the ecological. In terms of a computer analogy, life is both the data and the program and its biochemical structure is the way the information is embodied. This idea supports the seamless integration of life at all scales with the physical universe. "

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

How far backwards in time is it possible to see? | Quora

How far backwards in time is it possible to see? | Quora | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it

"The furthest back in time that we are currently actively seeing is

 

13,7 _ 0,15 billion years -- 379,000 years

 

The 13.7 billion years is the currently measured time to the Big Bang and 379,000 years is the number of years after the Big Bang when the universe cooled off enough to become transparent. The (mostly visible light) photons from the hot plasma that filled the universe at that time have been traveling since then and have now been red-shifted down into the microwave range. This is the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation that has been very accurately measured by the WMAP satellite.

 

We will not be able to see back further in time (to before 379,000 years after the Big Bang) with photons since the universe was opaque to photons before that time.

 

However, if we are ever able to use neutrino telescopes to measure very low energy neutrinos (which is probably impossible), then we would be able to see back to a few minutes after the Big Bang. Finally, it is also theoretically possible to see back to roughly seconds after the Big Bang if we could measure the possible gravitational waves that could have been generated at the end of the inflationary period of the Big Bang at that time."

 

See also:

 

If there was a mirror a million light years away and I looked at via telescope, how far back would I see in the past?
http://www.quora.com/If-there-was-a-mirror-a-million-light-years-away-and-I-looked-at-via-telescope-how-far-back-would-I-see-in-the-past

 

 

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

Dirk Helbing on A New Kind Of Socio-inspired Technology

Dirk Helbing on A New Kind Of Socio-inspired Technology | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it

“There’s a new kind of socio-inspired technology coming up, now. Society has many wonderful self-organization mechanisms that we can learn from, such as trust, reputation, culture. If we can learn how to implement that in our technological system, that is worth a lot of money; billions of dollars, actually. We think this is the next step after bio-inspired technology. (…) If those computers interact with each other, it’s creating an artificial social system in some sense. (…)

 

That tells us something that we need to change our perspective regarding these systems. Those complex systems are not characterized anymore by the properties of their components. But they’re characterized by what is the outcome of the interactions between those components. As a result of those interactions, self-organization is going on in these systems. New emergent properties come up. They can be very surprising, actually, and that means we cannot understand those systems anymore, based on what we see, which is the components. (…) We need to have new instruments and tools to understand these kinds of systems. (…)

 

“We have interconnected everything. In some sense, we have created unstable systems. (…) Just take financial trading today, it’s done by the most powerful computers. These computers are creating a view of the environment; in this case the financial world. They’re making projections into the future. They’re communicating with each other. They have really many features of humans. And that basically establishes an artificial society, which means also we may have all the problems that we are facing in society if we don’t design these systems well. (…) We really need to understand those systems, not just their components. (…) Their interaction is creating a completely new world, and it is very important to recognize that it’s not just a gradual change of our world; there is a sudden transition in the behavior of those systems, as the coupling strength exceeds a certain threshold. (…)

 

What will be very important in order to make sense of the complexity of our information society is to overcome the disciplinary silos of science. (…) Big Data is not a solution per se. Even the most powerful machine learning algorithm will not be sufficient to make sense of our world, to understand the principles according to which our world is working. This is important to recognize. The great challenge is to marry data with theories, with models. (…)

 

Information society will transform our society fundamentally and we shouldn’t just let it happen. We want to understand how that will change our society, and what are the different pathes that our society may take, and decide for the one that we want it to take. (…) In the future, [this sea of data] will probably be a cheap resource, or even a free resource to a certain extent, if we learn how to deal with openness of data. The expensive thing will be what we do with the data. That means the algorithms, the models, and theories that allow us to make sense of the data.”

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

Technocalyps (Beyond Man) documentary

"Are we prepared for dealing with the prospect that humanity is not the end of evolution?

 

Technocalyps is an intriguing three-part documentary on the notion of trans-humanism by Belgian visual artist and filmmaker Frank Theys.

 

The accelerating advances in genetics, brain research, artificial intelligence, bionics and nanotechnology seem to converge to one goal: to overcome human limits and create higher forms of intelligent life and to create transhuman life.

 

The film includes interviews by top scientists and thinkers on the subject worldwide, including Marvin Minsky, Ray Kurzweil, Hans Moravec, Terence McKenna, Bruce Sterling, Robert Anton Wilson, Margaret Wertheim, Rael, the Dalai Lama and many more."
http://www.technocalyps.com/

 

Playlist: Part I, Part II, Part III http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMCMs_11Llg&list=PL6BA4CFB37AA00F45&feature=plpp_play_all

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality: ‘Morality is a form of decision-making, and is based on emotions, not logic’

What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality: ‘Morality is a form of decision-making, and is based on emotions, not logic’ | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it

“Morality is not the product of a mythical pure reason divorced from natural selection and the neural wiring that motivates the animal to sociability. It emerges from the human brain and its responses to real human needs, desires, and social experience; it depends on innate emotional responses, on reward circuitry that allows pleasure and fear to be associated with certain conditions, on cortical networks, hormones and neuropeptides. Its cognitive underpinnings owe more to case-based reasoning than to conformity to rules.
(...)

 

Hardware and software are intertwined to such an extent that all philosophy must be “neurophilosophy.” There’s no other way. (...) Morality turns out to be not a quest for overarching principles but rather a process and practice not very different from negotiating our way through day-to-day social life. Brain scans, she points out, show little to no difference between how the brain works when solving social problems and how it works when solving ethical dilemmas. (…)

 

[Churchland] thinks, with Aristotle’s argument that morality is not about rule-making but instead about the cultivation of moral sentiment through experience, training, and the following of role models. The biological story also confirms, she thinks, David Hume’s assertion that reason and the emotions cannot be disentangled. (...) Churchland describes this process of moral decision-making as being driven by “constraint satisfaction.” (...) roughly speaking it involves various factors with various weights and probabilities interacting so as to produce a suitable solution to a question.” (...) Morality doesn’t become any different than deciding what kind of bridge to build across a river. (...)

 

Our intuitions about how to get along with other people may have been shaped by our interactions within small groups (and between small groups). But we don’t live in small groups anymore, so we need some procedures through which we leverage our social skills into uncharted areas—and that is what the traditional academic philosophers, whom Churchland mostly rejects, work on. What are our obligations to future generations (concerning climate change, say)? What do we owe poor people on the other side of the globe (whom we might never have heard of, in our evolutionary past)? (...) [A] several universal “foundations” of moral thought: (...) That strikes her as a nice list, but no more—a random collection of moral qualities that isn’t at all rooted in biology."

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

Why does nature so consistently organize itself into hierarchies? Living Cells Show How to Fix the Financial System

Why does nature so consistently organize itself into hierarchies? Living Cells Show How to Fix the Financial System | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it

"Hierarchy (...) is a way of limiting complexity in the interest of both stability and evolvability. Simon argued that systems structured in this way possess a basic, competitive simplicity. (...) Take ordinary bone, for example, which is remarkably tough, yet lightweight, with properties that our technology still cannot match. The secret is hierarchy. Within bone, small molecules bind together into proteins, which then link into filaments, which in turn organize into larger structures. When a bone suffers a blow, the hierarchy provides a variety of mechanisms by which it can pass along the excess energy it absorbs, without creating lasting damage. Bone, like most other structures in biology, is not just complex, but complex in a highly organized way.

 

What about structures in economics and finance?

 

The growth of modern finance seems to have violated the principle of hierarchical structures, and with gusto. Two trends in the past 30 years — the merging of banks into huge institutions and the explosion of derivatives that link them around the globe — have made the network much less modular. We have created a vast web of interconnections with extreme complexity but little organization. And this does appear to have made the system less resilient. (...) Unlike organisms, of course, financial systems haven’t undergone evolutionary competition from which only the fit have emerged. We have little reason to expect that what exists would be anything like optimal, or even reasonable. (...) Both high concentration and high interconnectedness contribute to an “everything is linked to everything” outcome that is the very opposite of modularity, and a likely recipe for instability. Financial engineering should learn to avoid this architecture, just as surely as biology has.”

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Amira
Scoop.it!

"We Originated in the Belly of a Star" | NASA Lunar Science Institute

"We Originated in the Belly of a Star" | NASA Lunar Science Institute | Science & Knowledge | Scoop.it

“Consider that you can see less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum and hear less than 1% of the acoustic spectrum. As you read this, you are traveling at 220 km/sec across the galaxy. 90% of the cells in your body carry their own microbial DNA and are not “you.” The atoms in your body are 99.9999999999999999% empty space and none of them are the ones you were born with, but they all originated in the belly of a star. Human beings have 46 chromosomes, 2 less than the common potato.

 

The existence of the rainbow depends on the conical photoreceptors in your eyes; to animals without cones, the rainbow does not exist. So you don’t just look at a rainbow, you create it. This is pretty amazing, especially considering that all the beautiful colors you see represent less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum.”

more...
No comment yet.