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Mar 15, 2018

Quantum physics made fun

Posted by in categories: computing, information science, quantum physics, transportation

We all know that physics and maths can be pretty weird, but these three books tackle their mind-bending subjects in markedly contrasting ways. Clifford V. Johnson’s The Dialogues is a graphic novel, seeking to visualise cosmic ideas in comic-book style. Darling and Banerjee’s Weird Maths is a miscellany of fun oddities, ranging from chess-playing computers to prime-counting insects. Philip Ball’s Beyond Weird argues that we’ve got quantum mechanics all wrong: it’s not so weird actually, but quite sensible. All three books do a fine job for their respective audiences. Just make sure you know which target group you’re in.

The Dialogues is a sequence of illustrated conversations, often between pairs of youthful and attractive characters, scrupulously diverse in race and gender, who happen to meet in a café, gallery or train carriage, and find themselves talking about physics. Perhaps ‘The Lectures’ would be a better title, since one interlocutor is the expert, while the other is an interested lay person whose role is to feed questions at appropriate intervals.

The author shows himself to be a highly talented graphic artist as well as being a distinguished theoretician, and while the ping-pong chats may be somewhat lacking in narrative drive, they do provide a platform for some admirably lucid explanations of topics such as Maxwell’s equations or Einstein’s cosmological constant. Not the kind of comic book you roll up in your pocket, but a weighty hardback that would grace any coffee table.

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Mar 15, 2018

This Startup Will Literally Kill You for Science

Posted by in categories: neuroscience, science

Nectome has successfully preserved a rabbit’s brain keeping its neural connections intact. Can it do the same with humans? Not without killing them.

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Mar 15, 2018

Elon Musk: ‘Mark my words — A.I. is far more dangerous than nukes’

Posted by in categories: Elon Musk, existential risks, robotics/AI

The billionaire tech entrepreneur called AI more dangerous than nuclear warheads and said there needs to be a regulatory body overseeing the development of super intelligence, speaking at the South by Southwest tech conference in Austin, Texas on Sunday.

It is not the first time Musk has made frightening predictions about the potential of artificial intelligence — he has, for example, called AI vastly more dangerous than North Korea — and he has previously called for regulatory oversight.

Some have called his tough talk fear-mongering. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said Musk’s doomsday AI scenarios are unnecessary and “pretty irresponsible.” And Harvard professor Steven Pinker also recently criticized Musk’s tactics.

Continue reading “Elon Musk: ‘Mark my words — A.I. is far more dangerous than nukes’” »

Mar 15, 2018

‎Dan Kummer‎ Lifeboat Foundation Photo

Posted by in category: lifeboat

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Mar 15, 2018

Blood, Fraud and Money Led to Theranos CEO’s Fall From Grace

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, economics

“The Theranos story is an important lesson for Silicon Valley,” said Jina Choi, director of the SEC’s San Francisco Regional Office. “Innovators who seek to revolutionize and disrupt an industry must tell investors the truth about what their technology can do today, not just what they hope it might do someday.”


Elizabeth Holmes raised hundreds of millions of dollars from investors on the promise that her medical-testing startup Theranos Inc. would change medicine with a single drop of blood. On Wednesday, securities regulators called her a fraud and forced her to give up the company she built.

The lawsuit and settlement announced Wednesday by the U.Securities and Exchange Commission detailed how Holmes and her chief deputy lied for years about their technology, snookered the media, and used the publicity to get investors to hand more than $700 million to keep the closely held company afloat.

Continue reading “Blood, Fraud and Money Led to Theranos CEO’s Fall From Grace” »

Mar 14, 2018

Researchers demonstrate existence of new form of electronic matter

Posted by in categories: computing, physics

Researchers have produced a “human scale” demonstration of a new phase of matter called quadrupole topological insulators that was recently predicted using theoretical physics. These are the first experimental findings to validate this theory.

The researchers report their findings in the journal Nature.

The team’s work with QTIs was born out of the decade-old understanding of the properties of a class of materials called topological insulators. “TIs are electrical insulators on the inside and conductors along their boundaries, and may hold great potential for helping build low-power, robust computers and devices, all defined at the atomic scale,” said mechanical science and engineering professor and senior investigator Gaurav Bahl.

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Mar 14, 2018

VR is still a novelty, but Google’s light-field technology could make it serious art

Posted by in categories: habitats, space travel, virtual reality

I recently got a private tour of a NASA space shuttle’s cockpit, a quirky mosaic-covered LA home, and a peaceful chapel with light streaming through ornate stained-glass windows—all without leaving my chair.

That chair was in an office at Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters, and I was wearing an HTC Vive virtual-reality headset on my face. But because these places were filmed with a high-resolution prototype camera that reproduces some of the key cues we use to understand depth in the real world, it felt more like actually being there than anything I’ve experienced with any other live-action VR. Which is to say it was pretty damn cool.

I could peer around the seats in the space shuttle Discovery, revealing buttons and switches on the walls of the cockpit that were previously obscured. As I looked closely at mirrored bits of tile on the outside of the mosaic house, I glimpsed reflections of other tiles in the background and saw a dizzying display of shapes and patterns. In the chapel, I gazed at the floor, and the colorful sunbeams moved as I did.

Continue reading “VR is still a novelty, but Google’s light-field technology could make it serious art” »

Mar 14, 2018

Silicon Valley billionaire pays $10k to be killed and have his brain preserved

Posted by in categories: computing, life extension, neuroscience

A SILICON Valley billionaire is paying the ultimate price for the chance of immortality: death.

Well that, and a spare ten grand.

Entrepreneur Sam Altman is one of 25 people who have splashed the cash to join a waiting list at Nectome – a startup that promises to upload your brain into a computer to grant eternal life to your consciousness.

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Mar 14, 2018

Air Force awards big launch contracts to SpaceX and ULA

Posted by in category: satellites

WASHINGTON — The Air Force on Wednesday awarded two major launch contracts to SpaceX and United Launch Alliance.

Under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, SpaceX received a $290 million firm-fixed-price contract for three GPS 3 missions. ULA was awarded a $351 million firm-fixed-price deal for Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-8 and AFSPC-12 satellites launches.

The contracts include launch vehicle production, mission integration, launch operations and spaceflight certification. The missions will be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station or Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

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Mar 14, 2018

DARPA Is Funding Time Crystal Research

Posted by in categories: government, military, particle physics, quantum physics

You probably scratched your head last year if you read about time crystals, likely 2017’s most esoteric, widely covered popular science story. Even if you understood how they worked, you might not have known what use they could have. Time crystals, systems of atoms that maintain a periodic ticking behavior in the presence of an added electromagnetic pulse, have now piqued the interest of one well-funded government agency: the Department of Defense.

The DoD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, announced a new program to fund research on these systems. More generally, the new DRINQS program will study exactly what its acronym stands for: “Driven and Nonequilibrium Quantum Systems.” But why?

“The applications could be for atomic clocks, where you have an ensemble of atoms you’re vibrating to extract time information,” Ale Lukaszew, program manager in DARPA’s defense sciences offices, told Gizmodo. “There might be applications related to measuring things with exquisite sensitivity in time and magnetic field domains. Not a lot of these applications are open for discussion.” In other words, time crystal-based military technology is classified.

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