Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Sunday, March 28, 2021
Thursday, March 25, 2021
A disparity of size comes to mind here as a tiny bulldozer goes out to try to unstick the Ever Given, a huge cargo ship wedged in in the Suez Canal, thus holding up 12% of the world's trade 24/7. The Guardian and Austin Powers memes rule in trying to free up this monster to get the canal up and running again.
Online, the slow-moving crisis was quickly turned into a learning experience: memes 101. The overarching theme was futility: of work in the face of a never-ending number of things to do; of $1,400 stimulus checks in response to the coronavirus pandemic; of drinking in the face of “the incessant, crushing weight of existence”.
But it does get better, way better. :)
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Science ... designed to be questioned, the opposite of religion, designed to be obeyed, strikes yet again, this time dealing with the potential shortcomings of the Standard Model as forces and entities like Dark Matter cannot be explained using this existing theory of physics.
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
Monday, March 22, 2021
Sunday, March 21, 2021
Saturday, March 20, 2021
No apology, no groveling, just shameless bastards trying to hold unto their position of power no matter what their transgression may be whether it involves corruption, theft of public monies or inappropriate behavior with women, it matters not to our so called leaders of 2021.
Susan Wise Bauer’s editor reached out to her last year about updating her 2008 book The Art of the Public Grovel, about how politicians apologize when accused of sexual misdeeds. Given the #MeToo movement and claims against Donald Trump, her editor said, a new edition might sell well.
Earlier this month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo—facing allegations from several women of sexual harassment—gave only a semi-apology for making some female aides “uncomfortable.” He denied he did anything wrong and argued the public should “wait for the facts.” He’s continued to maintain his innocence, ignoring growing calls from fellow Democrats to resign.
Cuomo is just the latest in a recent string of male political figures, from state lawmakers to members of Congress to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who have hotly denied allegations of sexual harassment, attacked their accusers, or claimed to be the victims of smear campaigns. Even when forced to retire or resign, these men have often declined to make a public apology or any kind of comments on their decision to end their political careers.
What a smart move, cover canals with solar panels, thus killing two birds with one stone ...
- Reducing evaporation and
- Generating water cooled power as solar panels lose power the hotter it gets.
PEANUT BUTTER AND jelly. Hall & Oates. Now there’s a duo that could literally and figuratively be even more powerful: solar panels and canals. What if instead of leaving canals open, letting the sun evaporate the water away, we covered them with panels that would both shade the precious liquid and hoover up solar energy? Maybe humanity can go for that.
Scientists in California just ran the numbers on what would happen if their state slapped solar panels on 4,000 miles of its canals, including the major California Aqueduct, and the results point to a potentially beautiful partnership. Their feasibility study, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, finds that if applied statewide, the panels would save 63 billion gallons of water from evaporating each year. At the same time, solar panels across California’s exposed canals would provide 13 gigawatts of renewable power annually, about half of the new capacity the state needs to meet its decarbonization goals by the year 2030.
It gets better.
California’s water conveyance system is the world’s largest, serving 35 million people and 5.7 million acres of farmland. Seventy-five percent of available water is in the northern third of the state, while the bottom two-thirds of the state accounts for 80 percent of urban and agricultural demand. Shuttling all that water around requires pumps to make it flow uphill; accordingly, the water system is the state’s largest single consumer of electricity.
Solar-paneling canals would not only produce renewable energy for use across the state, it would run the water system itself. “By covering canals with solar panels, we can reduce evaporation and avoid disturbing natural and working lands, while providing renewable energy and other co-benefits,” says environmental engineer Brandi McKuin of the University of California, Merced, and the University of California, Santa Cruz, lead author on the paper.
Friday, March 19, 2021
Thursday, March 18, 2021
Have you ever had the experience of a walking texter, you know, the kind who's oblivious to their surroundings until they look up and you, and they, have to do a walk around because of this doofus imposing their will in a public space, an action akin to people not leashing their dogs, especially jumpers able to soil your clothes and piss you off to no end. Seems there's a scientific basis as to why this act is a total pain in the ass to us non-texting rubes.
SAVE FOR THE Macarena, the most aggravating dance a human can perform is that thing where you’re walking down the street and have to out-maneuver a pedestrian who’s texting. At first, it seems like they’re going to crash into you. Then they finally look up from their phone, at which point you have to figure out who’s going to swerve left or right. You both swerve left and realize that won’t work, so you both swerve right, and that goes on and on until you finally get mad enough to yell at them.
We’ve all danced that infuriating dance, but now scientists have shown just how big of a mess a phone-distracted pedestrian can make not just for you but for a crowd at large. Researchers at the University of Tokyo and Nagaoka University of Technology set up “bidirectional flow experiments” in which two groups of 27 people (one team wearing yellow beanies, the other wearing red) walked head-on. In each experiment, one of the groups included three people looking at smartphones. The researchers placed these distracted walkers either at the front, middle, or back of the pack, while cameras above tracked everyone’s routes and speeds.
Each crowd has some leaders in front, and each of these is scanning the movements of their counterparts headed in the other direction to avoid collision. This interaction between leaders is known as mutual anticipation. “If it is me and you, at the same time I try to predict where you will be in the future, and you try to predict where I will be in the future,” says University of Tokyo computer scientist Claudio Feliciani, coauthor of a new paper describing the experiments in the journal Science Advances. Basically, you’re making split-second assumptions about how that person will behave and how you should respond appropriately. “And that's the mechanism that makes it possible to have this kind of collective pattern formation,” Feliciani adds.
If you’re lost in your phone, though, this interpersonal relationship—however fleeting—breaks down. The person who’s approaching you is monitoring your movements and anticipating your behavior, but you’re not reciprocating. You’re adrift, and that means the people following behind you are as well. When you finally make contact with a person in the approaching crowd, you fall into the Smartphone Six-Step, and the effects of that hesitation ripple back through your followers like a multicar pileup.
A total PITA without question.
Artificial life evolution, can this happen? Interesting question is it not? Seems people have talked about this notion beginning in the 1950's when computing was but a dream save for visionaries like Alan Turing and John VonNewman, among significant others.
I could stridently insist that natural selection is the only way that complex life can evolve, but that’s not strictly true. We can already design computers that can learn and reason and—almost—convince an observer that their behavior might be human. It’s not unreasonable that in 100 or 200 years, our computer systems will be effectively sentient: human-like robots, similar to Star Trek’s Commander Data. Alien civilizations that are considerably more advanced than us are likely already capable of such creations. The possibility—likelihood, even—of such robotic life has implications for our predictions about life on alien planets.
The 1950s physicist Anatoly Dneprov wrote quirky and characteristically Soviet science fiction. His novel Crabs on the Island tells the story of two engineers conducting an experiment in cybernetics on a deserted island. A single self-replicating robot (a “crab”) is released, and forages for the raw materials to build other robots. Soon the island is overrun with baby robot crabs. But the crabs begin to mutate. Some are larger than others, and ruthlessly cannibalize the smaller robots for spare parts to build even larger robots. How would such an experiment end? Catastrophically, of course, as is consistent with the genre, with robot crabs spreading exponentially across the entire island.
But there is no certitude. Quantum and the only constant being that of change rules, even over super AI.
How likely is it that this universe of interconnected computers would be doing nothing but communicating, reproducing, and carrying out their singular goal? Possibly not very. If such an alien world of artificially intelligent organisms really exists, there are some things it cannot avoid—no matter how intelligent or how well designed. On the one hand, artificial intelligence cannot improve without change, and change brings the risk of mutation. On the other hand, even the cleverest strategy is potentially open to exploitation—game theory cannot be discounted, even by a computer of sci-fi-level superintelligence.
The Tao rules ...
A branch of mathematics called percolation theory offers a surprising answer: just a few people can make all the difference. As users join a new network, isolated pockets of connected phones slowly emerge. But full east-to-west or north-to-south communication appears all of a sudden as the density of users passes a critical and sharp threshold. Scientists describe such a rapid change in a network's connectivity as a phase transition—the same concept used to explain abrupt changes in the state of a material such as the melting of ice or the boiling of water.
AKA phase transitions from water to ice is percolation theory writ large from this writer's perspective.
Had to add another :)
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
TWO MONTHS EARLIER, Hinton and his students had changed the way machines saw the world. They built what was called a neural network, a mathematical system modeled on the web of neurons in the brain, and it could identify common objects—like flowers, dogs, and cars—with an accuracy that had previously seemed impossible. As Hinton and his students showed, a neural network could learn this very human skill by analyzing vast amounts of data. He called this “deep learning,” and its potential was enormous. It promised to transform not just computer vision but everything from talking digital assistants to driverless cars to drug discovery.
The idea of a neural network dated back to the 1950s, but the early pioneers had never gotten it working as well as they’d hoped. By the new millennium, most researchers had given up on the idea, convinced it was a technological dead end and bewildered by the 50-year-old conceit that these mathematical systems somehow mimicked the human brain. When submitting research papers to academic journals, those who still explored the technology would often disguise it as something else, replacing the words “neural network” with language less likely to offend their fellow scientists.
Hinton, however, never quit pursuing his dream.
Hinton remained one of the few who believed it would one day fulfill its promise, delivering machines that could not only recognize objects but identify spoken words, understand natural language, carry on a conversation, and maybe even solve problems humans couldn’t solve on their own, providing new and more incisive ways of exploring the mysteries of biology, medicine, geology, and other sciences. It was an eccentric stance even inside his own university, which spent years denying his standing request to hire another professor who could work alongside him in this long and winding struggle to build machines that learned on their own. “One crazy person working on this was enough,” he imagined their thinking went. But with a nine-page paper that Hinton and his students unveiled in the fall of 2012, detailing their breakthrough, they announced to the world that neural networks were indeed as powerful as Hinton had long claimed they would be.
Read Wired's long & detailed piece on the start of AI, a story reminding one of the intensity of a high stakes poker game finally resulting as to what entity got the gold ring, thus cementing their stake as the major player in an open ended tech fraught with potential and danger of the third kind.
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Seems traversable wormholes are possible but how traversable remains the question of the day.
Wormholes are an old idea in general relativity. It's based on work by Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen, who tried to figure out how elementary particles might behave in curved spacetime. Their idea treated particle-antiparticle pairs as two ends of a spacetime tube.
But all is not lost. We know that Einstein's theory must break down at quantum scales because it is a classical theory. Presumably, there is some quantum theory of gravity that supplants general relativity.
One of these models is known as the Einstein-Dirac-Maxwell theory. It is so named because it includes aspects of Einstein's theory of gravity, Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism, and Dirac's theory of quantum particles. Recently a team found a wormhole solution to the Einstein-Dirac-Maxwell equations.
The team found that their wormhole solution was fully traversable. What's more, the solution doesn't require any negative-energy states. In principle, that would allow you to travel through the wormhole without needing negative mass. The only catch is that you would need to be in a quantum state. So microscopic clumps of atoms could travel through this wormhole, but not people.
Monday, March 15, 2021
Along the Third Ring Road near the CCTV tower. Credit... Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times