What especially distinguishes human beings from other animals has been the degree to which they seek out and invent ways to leverage the basics of their biology to reach ever more complex levels of thought and action.
The miniaturization of electronic devices has been the principal driving force behind the semiconductor industry, and has brought about major improvements in computational power and energy efficiency. Although advances with silicon-based electronics continue to be made, alternative technologies are being explored. Digital circuits based on transistors fabricated from carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have the potential to outperform silicon by improving the energy–delay product, a metric of energy efficiency, by more than an order of magnitude. Hence, CNTs are an exciting complement to existing semiconductor technologies.
Owing to substantial fundamental imperfections inherent in CNTs, however, only very basic circuit blocks have been demonstrated. Scientists from Stanford recently show how these imperfections can be overcome, and demonstrate the first computer built entirely using CNT-based transistors. The CNT computer runs an operating system that is capable of multitasking: as a demonstration, we perform counting and integer-sorting simultaneously. In addition, we implement 20 different instructions from the commercial MIPS instruction set to demonstrate the generality of our CNT computer. This experimental demonstration is the most complex carbon-based electronic system yet realized. It is a considerable advance because CNTs are prominent among a variety of emerging technologies that are being considered for the next generation of highly energy-efficient electronic systems.
Originally published on RenewEconomy. Several years ago, Tony Seba, an energy expert from Stanford University, published a book called Solar Trillions, predicting how solar technologies would redefine the world’s energy markets and create an...
One of the greatest feats of the human brain is its ability to filter a vast amount of information into a manageable stream of relevant information.
Aldous Huxley describes this as a ‘reducing valve’ – our brains funnel the enormous amount of information in the environment in whichever way proved to be most adaptive to our ancestors.
This means two things; we have sampled an excruciatingly tiny portion of the buffet of potential experiences our neural hardware is capable of, and we are insensitive to certain environmental information that didn’t confer an adaptive advantage in the ancestral environment. Developing sensitivity to this information is crucial for rational and ethical behaviour in the modern world.
Cognitive biases can lead the most empathic and conscientious people to behave in ways that could appear as sheer callousness.
The source of this seemingly selfish behaviour is not malice or indifference, but more that our brains are not equipped to apprehend reality as it really is. By recognizing our cognitive limitations we can understand why people act in inconsistent and unethical ways and how we can avoid falling into the same trap ourselves.
If people acted in accordance with their espoused egalitarian preferences, they would treat the value of every human life equally. In practice this is not the case. Despite endorsing egalitarian norms studies have shown unconscious cognitive biases can lead to valuation functions that decrease in absolute value as the number of victims increases!
I’m very excited to say that my new book, “Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science”, has just been released!
The book is about networked science: the use of online tools to transform the way science is done. In the book I make the case that networked science has the potential to dramatically speed up the rate of scientific discovery, not just in one field, but across all of science. Furthermore, it won’t just speed up discovery, but will actually amplify our collective intelligence, expanding the range of scientific problems which can be attacked at all."
A look at how human colonies could exist in space, from domed cities to underground bases, to orbital habitats, to hollowed-out asteroids. Also a look at how robots will play a role in space survival; how food will be grown; the advances in space suit and equipment technology; and a look at how resources could be gathered and processed to sustain such otherworldly colonies.
Space colonization (also called space settlement, or extraterrestrial colonization) is permanent human habitation outside of Earth. There are several arguments for space colonization that can be made: survival of human civilization and the biosphere from possible disasters (natural or man-made), and the huge resources in space for expansion of human society, being the two most common ones.
However, as of right now the building of a space colony would be a hugely difficult and massively expensive project. Space settlements would have to provide for all the material needs of hundreds or thousands of humans, in an environment out in space that is very hostile to human life. They would involve technologies, such as closed-loop life support systems, that have yet to be developed in any meaningful way. They would also have to deal with the as yet unknown issue of how humans would behave and thrive in such places long-term.
There have been no space colonies built so far, nor are there any governments or large-scale private organizations with a timetable for building any. However there have been many proposals, speculations and designs for space settlements that have been made, and there are a considerable number of space colonization advocates and groups. And several famous scientists, such as Freeman Dyson, have come out in favor of space settlement.
The primary argument that calls for space colonization as a first-order priority is as insurance of the survival of human civilization, by developing alternative locations off Earth where humankind could continue in the event of natural and man-made disasters.
Theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking has argued for space colonization as a means of saving humanity, in 2001 and 2006. In 2001 he predicted that the human race would become extinct within the next thousand years, unless colonies could be established in space. The more recent one in 2006 stated that mankind faces two options: Either we colonize space within the next two hundred years and build residential units on other planets or we will face the prospect of long-term extinction.
Louis J. Halle, formerly of the United States Department of State, wrote in Foreign Affairs (Summer 1980) that the colonization of space will protect humanity in the event of global nuclear warfare. The physicist Paul Davies also supports the view that if a planetary catastrophe threatens the survival of the human species on Earth, a self-sufficient colony could "reverse-colonize" Earth and restore human civilization. The author and journalist William E. Burrows and the biochemist Robert Shapiro proposed a private project, the Alliance to Rescue Civilization, with the goal of establishing an off-Earth backup of human civilization.
J. Richard Gott has estimated, based on his Copernican principle, that the human race could survive for another 7.8 million years, but it isn't likely to ever colonize other planets. However, he expressed a hope to be proven wrong, because "colonizing other worlds is our best chance to hedge our bets and improve the survival prospects of our species"
Climate engineering-which could slow the pace of global warming by injecting reflective particles into the upper atmosphere-has emerged in recent years as an extremely controversial technology. A leading scientist long concerned about climate change offers a proposal for an easy fix to what is perhaps the most challenging question of our time. After decades during which very little progress has been made in reducing carbon emissions we must put this technology on the table and consider it responsibly.
David Keith is the Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Harvard University and Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
On Sunday, SpaceX leapt toward its dream of affordable orbital flight through reusable launch vehicles. The company's Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast carrying the Canadian CASSIOPE scientific satellite, as well as a trio of small, university-built satellites. But the big success for Elon Musk's space venture came when some of the rockets succeeded in refiring their engines, a major step toward a reusable Falcon 9.
Scientists have grown the first mini human brains in a laboratory and say their success could lead to new levels of understanding about the way brains develop and what goes wrong in disorders like schizophrenia and autism.
Researchers based in Austria started with human stem cells and created a culture in the lab that allowed them to grow into so-called "cerebral organoids" - or mini brains - that consisted of several distinct brain regions. It is the first time that scientists have managed to replicate the development of brain tissue in three dimensions.
Thanks to the NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP satellite, NOAA has put together an incredible interactive map of the world's greenery, we can now see to an amazing degree of detail which parts of the planet is covered in green and which are bare.
The map is thanks to the ability of the satellite to collect 2 TB of data every week -- and that's only the portion of data collected for the vegetation index...
Would you let a robot take over as a live-in nurse for your aging parent or grandparent?
In 2050, the elderly will account for 16 percent of the global population. That's 1.5 billion people over the age of 65, according to the Population Reference Bureau. Caring for those seniors - physically, emotionally and mentally - will be an enormous undertaking, and experts say there will be a shortage of professionals trained and willing to take on the job.
"We have to find more resources and have to get new ways of delivering those resources and delivering the quality of care," says Antonio Espingardeiro, an expert in robotics and automation at the University of Salford in Manchester, England.