Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Human biocomputers, matrix, the Universe and Cosmotheories

This Video is an interview with dr. Manos Danezis, Professor of astrophysics in National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. It is in Greek Language, and someone should translate this video, so the whole world could hear his sayings.

Unlocking the Brain’s Deepest Secrets

In neuroscience, neurons get all the glory. Or rather, they used to. Researchers are beginning to discover the importance of something outside the neurons—a structure called the perineuronal net. This net might reveal how memories are stored and how various diseases ravage the brain.
The realization of important roles for structures outside neurons serves as a reminder that the brain is a lot more complicated than we thought. Or, it’s exactly as complicated as neuroscientists thought it was 130 years ago.
In 1882, Italian physician and scientist Camillo Golgi described a structure that enveloped cells in the brain in a thin layer. He later named it the pericellular net. His word choice was deliberate; he carefully avoided the word “neuron” since he was engaged in a battle with another neuroscience luminary, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, over whether the nervous system was a continuous meshwork of cells that were fused together—Golgi’s take—or a collection of discrete cells, called neurons—Ramón y Cajal’s view.
Ramón y Cajal wasn’t having it. He argued Golgi was wrong about the existence of such a net, blaming the findings on Golgi’s eponymous staining technique, which, incidentally, is still used today.
Ramón y Cajal’s influence was enough to shut down the debate. While some Golgi supporters labored in vain to prove the nets existed, their findings never took hold. Instead, over the next century, neuroscientists focused exclusively on neurons, the discrete cells of the nervous system that relay information between one another, giving rise to movements, perceptions, and emotions. (The two adversaries would begrudgingly share a Nobel Prize in 1906 for their work describing the nervous system.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cosmology and Culture

Joel R. Primack
Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Cruz

There is no way to describe scientifically the origin of the universe without treading upon territory held for millennia to be sacred. Beliefs about the origin of the universe are at the root of our consciousness as human beings. This is a place where science, willingly or unwillingly, encounters concerns traditionally associated with a spiritual dimension.

For thousands of years people have wondered, speculated, and argued about the origin of the universe without actually knowing anything about it. In the closing years of the twentieth century, we're learning enough to begin to peer across the gulf that separates our universe from its source at the beginning of-or perhaps before-the Big Bang. A story is emerging in modern cosmology that will, if it follows the pattern of earlier shifts in cosmology, change our culture in ways no one can yet predict. It is important to start now to speculate on the possible meanings for our time of this emerging cosmological story. Rather than assuming that science and spirit are separate jurisdictions, I assume that reality is one, and that truth grows and evolves with the universe of which it speaks.

Predicting the Next 100 Years - Physics of the Future

by Michio Kaku over a year ago

When I was a child, two experiences helped to shape the person I am today and spawned two passions that have helped to define my entire life.
First, when I was eight years old, I remember all the teachers buzzing with the latest news that a great scientist had just died. That night, the newspapers printed a picture of his office, with an unfinished manuscript on his desk. The caption read that the greatest scientist of our era could not finish his greatest masterpiece. What, I asked myself, could be so difficult that such a great scientist could not finish it? What could possibly be that complicated and that important? To me, eventually this became more fascinating than any murder mystery, more intriguing than any adventure story. I had to know what was in that unfinished manuscript.
Later, I found out that the name of this scientist was Albert Einstein and the unfinished manuscript was to be his crowning achievement, his attempt to create a “theory of everything,” an equation, perhaps no more than one inch wide, that would unlock the secrets of the universe and perhaps allow him to “read the mind of God.”
But the other pivotal experience from my childhood was when I watched the Saturday morning TV shows, especially the Flash Gordon series with Buster Crabbe. Every week, my nose was glued to the TV screen. I was magically transported to a mysterious world of space aliens, starships, ray gun battles, underwater cities, and monsters. I was hooked. This was my first exposure to the world of the future. Ever since, I’ve felt a childlike wonder when pondering the future.

How Physics Will Change—and Change the World—in 100 Years

One hundred years ago, Albert Einstein had only just published his revolutionary new theory of gravity, atomic nuclei were entirely mysterious, and quantum “theory” was a tissue of guesswork. Superconductivity, the nature of the chemical bond, and the energy source of stars were riddles that baffled physics.
And then there were the unknown unknowns: Big Bang cosmology, black holes, quarks, gluons, the triumph of symmetry and its breaking, radio, television, masers, lasers, transistors, nuclear magnetic resonance, the eruption of microelectronics and telecommunications…and, of course, nuclear bombs. We’ve come a long way. It is safe to say that 100 years ago no one could remotely have anticipated modern physics, and certainly no one did.

Today we have much deeper understanding of the physical world, providing (I think) a much more stable platform from which to launch futuristic speculations. Indeed, a physicist transported from 50 years ago to today would not be nearly so clueless, and one transported from 25 years ago could get up to speed in short order. So today, thinking 100 years ahead may not be entirely silly.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Insects can teach us about the origins of consciousness

Are insects merely tiny robots? Or, in the phrase popularised by the philosopher Thomas Nagel, is there something it is like to be a bee?

Until recently, most scientists and philosophers would have laughed at the question. But now, research is challenging that dismissive attitude towards invertebrate consciousness.

It is worth clarifying what we mean when we talk about insect consciousness, since the term consciousness carries a lot of baggage. Everyone agrees that bees can take in environmental information and perform impressive computations on it.
We want to know something more: whether insects can feel and sense the environment from a first-person perspective. In philosophical jargon, this is sometimes called "phenomenal consciousness".
Rocks, plants and robots don't have this. Metaphorically speaking, they are dark inside. Conversely, most of us think that a dog running for its dinner isn't just a little guided missile. It smells its food, wants to eat and sees the world around it as it runs.

Each of these feel a certain way to us, and they feel like something for the dog too. If that is right, then dogs are conscious, at least in the minimal sense.

Does this ant look angry to you? Credit: r reeve/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Consciousness is sometimes used to refer to a much more complicated capacity: the ability to self-reflect. That is a rare achievement. Humans may well be the only animals that can become aware that they are aware. Even then, we are mostly just conscious in the more minimal sense, rarely pausing for true self-reflection.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Superadvanced alien civilizations probably don’t live in our cosmic neighborhood

If there are superadvanced civilizations out there in the nearby universe, they’re hiding themselves pretty well. So concludes an astronomer in the Netherlands who looked at a sample of galaxies that shine unusually brightly at midinfrared wavelengths—a sign that they may harbor a so-called Kardashev type III civilization, one that has the technology to harvest energy from stars across an entire galaxy. 

Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev proposed in the 1960s grading civilizations by the energy they used: the output of their home planet, their home star, or their home galaxy. A type III, galaxy-wide civilization could hypothetically surround all stars in energy-harvesting “Dyson spheres” (artist's representation above) but these would nevertheless leak a lot of waste heat in the midinfrared. A U.S. team last year drew up a list of several hundred bright midinfrared candidates from 100,000 local galaxies. 

But the new study, to be published this week in Astronomy & Astrophysics, compared the midinfrared output from 93 of those galaxies with their emission at radio wavelengths. Most of these measurements followed a rule called the midinfrared radio correlation, which applies to almost all galaxies. 
So, the study concludes, the midinfrared brightness of most of the sample galaxies probably comes from natural processes, such as dust clouds heated by regions of active star formation. 
And if there are Kardashev type III civilizations out there, they are either very rare or have the technology to hide their infrared emissions.

This new technology converts sea water into drinking water in minutes

Purifying dirty water is a notoriously difficult and expensive process - even in California, financial pressures affect what can be done to tackle the severe drought in the area. Those in developing nations have far less money to play around with, which is why a newly invented and ultra-cheap water cleaning process is looking so promising.
Developed by a team of researchers at Alexandria University in Egypt, the procedure uses a desalination technique called pervaporation to remove the salt from sea water and make it drinkable. Specially made synthetic membranes are used to filter out large salt particles and impurities so they can be evaporated away, and then the rest is heated up, vapourised, and condensed back into clean water.
Crucially, the membranes can be made in any lab using cheap materials that are available locally, and the vaporisation part of the process doesn't require any electricity. This means the new method is both inexpensive and suitable for areas without a regular power supply - both factors that are very important for developing countries.
The technique not only desalinates the seawater, it's capable of removing sewage and dirt from it too. The researchers combined expertise in oceanography, chemical engineering, agricultural engineering and biosystems engineering to come up with the solution, and their work has now been published in the journal Water Science and Technology.

Half of all marine life lost in 40 years: WWF report

The populations of some marine species have declined by 49 per cent in just four decades, according to one of the most extensive surveys of sealife ever compiled.

The Living Blue Planet Report, just released by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, documents the extraordinary losses, which occurred from 1970 to 2012. Alarmingly, some fish species were found to have declined by almost 75 per cent.

The authors of the report attribute the dramatic population drops to human-driven climate change as well as to habitat loss, overexploitation and pollution.

"In less than a human generation, we can see dramatic losses in ocean wildlife -- they have declined by half -- and their habitats have been degraded and destroyed," said Mr Brad Ack, senior vice president for oceans at WWF.

"Driving all these trends are humans actions: from overfishing and resource depletion, to coastal development and pollution, to the greenhouse gas emissions causing ocean acidification and warming."

The findings were determined after researchers surveyed more than 10,000 populations of 3,038 marine species, including fish, birds, mammals and reptiles. The report estimates that close to one-third of the world's fish stocks are overfished, and one in four species of sharks, rays and skates are threatened with extinction.

Several shark species "have declined dramatically around the world due to overfishing," and other human-driven causes, said Professor Mahmood Shivji, director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University, who was not involved with the study.
Three-quarters of world's coral reefs threatened

Yet another key finding from the report is that three-quarters of the world's coral reefs are currently threatened. At current projected levels of warming and ocean acidification, all coral reefs are projected to be lost by the year 2050.

WOW!! A vast global ocean lies under the surface of Saturn’s moon, Enceladus

A huge global ocean is hidden underneath the surface of Saturn’s sixth largest moon, Enceladus, according to new research just announced by NASA.
NASA scientists made the discovery after noticing that the magnitude of Enceladus’s slight wobble as it orbits Saturn is too great to be accounted for if the moon’s outer ice shell were solidly connected to its rocky inner core, as was previously thought to be the case. The only explanation, says NASA, is that an uninterrupted body of water lies in between the ice crust and the moon’s inner core.
“If the surface and core were rigidly connected, the core would provide so much dead weight the wobble would be far smaller than we observe it to be,” said study co-author Matthew Tiscareno from the SETI Institute in the US in a statement. “This proves that there must be a global layer of liquid separating the surface from the core.”

Researchers explain human decision-making with physics theory

The next time someone accuses you of making an irrational decision, just explain that you're obeying the laws of quantum physics.

A new trend taking shape in  not only uses  to explain humans' (sometimes) paradoxical thinking, but may also help researchers resolve certain contradictions among the results of previous psychological studies.
According to Zheng Joyce Wang and others who try to model our decision-making processes mathematically, the equations and axioms that most closely match human behavior may be ones that are rooted in quantum physics.
"We have accumulated so many paradoxical findings in the field of cognition, and especially in decision-making," said Wang, who is an associate professor of communication and director of the Communication and Psychophysiology Lab at The Ohio State University.
"Whenever something comes up that isn't consistent with classical theories, we often label it as 'irrational.' But from the perspective of quantum cognition, some findings aren't irrational anymore. They're consistent with —and with how people really behave."

No Big Bang? Quantum equation predicts universe has no beginning

( —The universe may have existed forever, according to a new model that applies quantum correction terms to complement Einstein's theory of general relativity. The model may also account for dark matter and dark energy, resolving multiple problems at once.
The widely accepted age of the , as estimated by , is 13.8 billion years. In the beginning, everything in existence is thought to have occupied a single infinitely dense point, or . Only after this point began to expand in a "Big Bang" did the universe officially begin.
Although the Big Bang singularity arises directly and unavoidably from the mathematics of general relativity, some scientists see it as problematic because the math can explain only what happened immediately after—not at or before—the singularity.
"The Big Bang singularity is the most serious problem of general relativity because the laws of physics appear to break down there," Ahmed Farag Ali at Benha University and the Zewail City of Science and Technology, both in Egypt, told
Ali and coauthor Saurya Das at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, have shown in a paper published in Physics Letters B that the Big Bang singularity can be resolved by their  in which the universe has no beginning and no end.

Why you should start work at 10am

We shouldn’t make everyone come in at 9am just because it suits the boss’s sleeping patterns. It’s time to stagger starting times and let 30-somethings come in later, says one leading sleep scientist

Lots of us know we are sleep-deprived, but imagine if we could fix it with a fairly simple solution: getting up later. In a speech this week at the British science festival, Dr Paul Kelley, clinical research associate at the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at Oxford University, called for schools to stagger their starting times to work with the natural biological rhythms of their students. It would improve cognitive performance, exam results and students’ health (sleep deprivation has been linked with diabetes, depression, obesity and an impaired immune system).

It follows a paper, published last year, in which he noted that when children are around 10 their biological wake-up time is about 6.30am; at 16 this rises to 8am; and at 18, someone you may think of as a lazy teenager actually has a natural waking hour of 9am. The conventional school starting time works for 10-year-olds, but not 16- and 18-year-olds. For the older teenagers, it might be more sensible to start the school day at 11am or even later. “A 7am alarm call for older adolescents,” Kelley and his colleagues pointed out in the paper, “is the equivalent of a 4.30am start for a teacher in their 50s.”

Raising Children Without Religion May Be A Better Alternative, Suggests New Research

Gone are the days of the unyielding God-fearing mother as the archetype of good parenting, suggests a recent article from the Los Angeles Times. According to multiple reports, research has shown that a secular upbringing may be healthier for children. According to a 2010 Duke University study, kids raised this way display less susceptibility to racism and peer pressure, and are “less vengeful, less nationalistic, less militaristic, less authoritarian, and more tolerant, on average, than religious adults.” But the list of benefits doesn’t stop there.

Citing Pew Research, the Times’ Phil Zuckerman notes that there’s been a recent spike in American households who categorize themselves as "Nones" — their religious affiliation being “nothing in particular.” According to Zuckerman, modern nonreligious adults account for 23 percent of Americans. As early as the ’50s, that figure was only four percent. And with godlessness on the rise, researchers have begun analyzing the benefits of nonreligious child rearing more closely.

Global Marine Populations Have Halved Since 1970

The oceans are in a dire state. A new report released today by the WWF and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has concluded that many marine species, including those critical to human food security, are in “potentially catastrophic decline” unless dramatic action is taken to stop overfishing and other major threats.

“In the space of a single generation, human activity has severely damaged the ocean by catching fish faster than they can reproduce while also destroying their nurseries. Profound changes are needed to ensure abundant ocean life for future generations," said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International. "Overfishing, destruction of marine habitats and climate change have dire consequences for the entire human population, with the poorest communities that rely on the sea getting hit fastest and hardest.”

The report tracked over 1,200 species of marine mammals, birds, reptiles and fish, and calculated their population trends over the last 45 years. The results are not good. The general trend is an overall decline in marine populations by 49%, but some species relied upon for food are faring even worse than that. Tuna and mackerel populations, for example, have dropped by a staggering 74%, while sea cucumber numbers have crashed by 98% around the Galapagos Islands and 94% in the Red Sea.