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“Advanced Life May Exist in a Form That’s Beyond Matter” Astrophysicists Claim

Astrophysicist Paul Davies at Arizona State University suggests that advanced technology might not even be made of matter. That it might have no fixed size or shape; have no well-defined boundaries. Is dynamical on all scales of space and time. Or, conversely, does not appear to do anything at all that we can discern. Does not consist of discrete, separate things; but rather it is a system, or a subtle higher-level correlation of things.

Are matter and information, Davies asks, all there is? Five hundred years ago, Davies writes, ” the very concept of a device manipulating information, or software, would have been incomprehensible. Might there be a still higher level, as yet outside all human experience, that organizes electrons? If so, this “third level” would never be manifest through observations made at the informational level, still less at the matter level.

We should be open to the distinct possibility that advanced alien technology a billion years old may operate at the third, or perhaps even a fourth or fifth level -all of which are totally incomprehensible to the human mind at our current state of evolution.

Susan Schneider of the University of Pennsylvania appears to agree. She is one of the few thinkers—outside the realm of science fiction— that have considered the notion that artificial intelligence is already out there, and has been for eons.

Her study, Alien Minds, asks “How would intelligent aliens think? Would they have conscious experiences? Would it feel a certain way to be an alien?”

While we are aware that our culture is anthropomorphizing, Schneider imagines that her suggestion that aliens are supercomputers may strike us as far-fetched. So what is her rationale for the view that most intelligent alien civilizations will have members that are superintelligent AI?

Schneider presents offer three observations that support her conclusion for the existence of alien superintelligence.

The first is “the short window observation”: Once a society creates the technology that could put them in touch with the cosmos, they are only a few hundred years away from changing their own paradigm from biology to AI. This “short window” makes it more likely that the aliens we encounter would be postbiological.

The short window observation is supported by human cultural evolution, at least thus far. Our first radio signals date back only about a hundred and twenty years, and space exploration is only about fifty years old, but we are already immersed in digital technology.

Schneider’s second argument is “the greater age of alien civilizations.” Proponents of SETI have often concluded that alien civilizations would be much older than our own “…all lines of evidence converge on the conclusion that the maximum age of extraterrestrial intelligence would be billions of years, specifically [it] ranges from 1.7 billion to 8 billion years.

If civilizations are millions or billions of years older than us, many would be vastly more intelligent than we are. By our standards, many would be super-intelligent. We are galactic babies. But would they be forms of AI, as well as forms of super-intelligence? Schneider says, yes. Even if they were biological, merely having biological brain enhancements, their super-intelligence would be reached by artificial means, and we could regard them as being “artificial intelligence.”

But she suspects something stranger than this: that they will not be carbon-based. Uploading allows a creature near immortality, enables reboots, and allows it to survive under a variety of conditions that carbon-based life forms cannot. In addition, silicon appears to be a better medium for information processing than the brain itself. Neurons reach a peak speed of about 200 Hz, which is seven orders of magnitude slower than current microprocessors.

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Boston Dynamics video shows its humanoid robot running and jumping over obstacles

If you thought you’d be able to run away from the terrifying new breed of robots, bad news.

Boston Dynamics has revealed a video of its terrifying Atlas robot running and jumping over obstacles with ease.

‘Atlas does parkour,’ the firm says in the description for the video, which shows the robot leaping up a series of 40cm steps with ease, and over logs with a single bound.

It says the robot’s software has been updated giving it the new features.

‘The control software uses the whole body including legs, arms and torso, to marshal the energy and strength for jumping over the log and leaping up the steps without breaking its pace.

‘Atlas uses computer vision to locate itself with respect to visible markers on the approach to hit the terrain accurately. ‘

Earlier this year Boston Dynamics posted two videos showing off the new skills of two of its advanced automatons.

In one, Atlas, a humanoid robot, can be seen jogging around a grassy field, before leaping over a log that’s obstructing its path.

In the second, a SpotMini robo-dog navigates its way around an office building, climbing and descending a set of stairs with ease, all under its own direction.

The canine automatons look eerily similar to those featured in an episode of the sci-fi series, where mechanised creatures hunt humans in a post-apocalyptic future.

Boston Dynamics, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, manually steered SpotMini around its test course to prepare for the demonstration.


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How to Easily Locate the Accelerometer in an iPhone

Everyone should probably know that I’m obsessed with both physics and smart phones. If I can use my phone for a physics experiment, I’m good to go. That’s exactly what I am going to do right now—use some physics to find the location of the accelerometer in the iPhone 7.

Your smart phone has a bunch of sensors in it. One of the most common is the accelerometer. It’s basically a super tiny mass connected with springs (not actual springs). When the phone accelerates in a particular direction, some of these springs will get compressed in order to make the tiny test mass also accelerate. The accelerometer measures this spring compression and uses that to determine the acceleration of the phone. With that, it will know if it is facing up or down. It also can estimate how far you move and use this along with the camera to find out where real world objects are, using ARKit.

So, we know there is a sensor in the phone—but where is it located? I’m not going to take apart my phone; everyone knows I’ll never get it back together after that. Instead, I will find out the location by moving the phone in a circular path. Yes, moving in a circle is a type of acceleration.

Of course you already knew that circular motion was a type of acceleration. Yes, you knew this because you have been in car (you have probably been in a car). It turns out that the human body can also feel accelerations—although we sometimes confuse these accelerations with gravitational forces, but we can still feel them. If you are sitting in a car seat and the vehicle speeds up, it accelerates and you can feel that. Now if that car is turning in a circle, you can also feel it. That turning car is accelerating—even if it travels at a constant speed.

If you want to really understand why circular motion is a type of acceleration, you need to start with the definition of acceleration.

Here the Δ means “change in”. So the acceleration is the change in velocity divided by the change in time—that is a rate. But here is the key point. Both the acceleration and velocity are vector quantities. This means that they depend on direction as well as magnitude. Since the velocity is a vector, you can have an acceleration just by changing the direction of the velocity. Moving in a circle at a constant speed means there is indeed an acceleration.

If we have an object moving in a circle, the acceleration is pointed towards the center of the circle and depends on two things: the angular velocity (ω) and the circular radius (r). If you increase either of these values, the magnitude of the acceleration will also increase according to the following:

So perhaps you can see where this is going. If I move a phone around in a circle, I can measure both the acceleration and the angular velocity. From this, I can calculate the radius of the circle—which will be the distance from the center of the circle to the accelerometer. That shouldn’t be too difficult. Actually, I have done this experiment before but it was a slightly different setup.

Actually, you can do this yourself. Really, all you need a device that rotates the phone such that it moves in a circle with a constant radius. For me, I used this nice rotating platform.

Notice the addition of the ruler so that I can accurately measure the distance from the center of the circle to the bottom of the phone. I also put a small clamp at the end to prevent the phone from flinging off the platform. That would be bad.

The other thing you need is a way to measure both the angular velocity and the acceleration. Most phones have a type of gyroscope to measure rotations so that you can get both measurements with your phone. Although there are several apps to record sensor data on your phone, but I really like PhyPhox (for both Android and iOS).

Now we are all set. Start recording data and rotate the phone. As the angular velocity changes, so does the acceleration (since the radius is fixed). Since the acceleration is proportional to the square of the angular velocity, I can plot acceleration vs. ω22. It should look something like this (hopefully).

It seems to be linear—so that’s good. The slope of this line is 0.14138 meters with an intercept of 0.093 (rad/s)2 (that’s close to zero). That slope is the important part. It’s the distance from the center of the circle to the sensor. I recorded the distance of the bottom of the phone to the center with a radius of 0.09 meters. This means that the accelerometer is 5.1 centimeters above the bottom of the phone.

But wait! What about the side-to-side location? I can repeat the experiment with the side of the phone facing the center of the circle. Here is the data for that run.

In this case, I had the screen facing down with the “sleep” button side of the phone facing the center of the circle at a radius of 15.9 cm. The slope of the line above is 17.7 cm. That means the sensor is 1.8 cm from the side. OK, this is technically wrong, but I’m going to use it anyway. The 17.7 cm is actually the radial distance to the sensor. This will only give me the distance from the side of phone if the sensor was half way from the top of the phone. Oh well, this will be close enough.

So here is a diagram of my iPhone (looking at it from the back).

Pretty sure that’s where the sensor is located. Now I just need to take apart my phone to verify this result. Oh wait. I’m not going to do that.

Read More On This At Science Latest

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Scientists to set up a microbial ‘Noah’s Ark’

Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 CSIRO

Friendly gut bacteria needs to be preserved.

The plan would involve preserving the beneficial bacteria found in the guts of people from all across the world.

The move has been fuelled by concerns that poor diets may eventually wipe out some of the ‘friendly’ bacteria that has been quietly colonizing the intestines of humans for thousands of years.

The facility would be the microbial equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway which preserves thousands of seeds in case of a natural disaster in the future.

It is hoped that the project could lead to the development of new treatments for modern diseases.

“We want a backup for all of these collections in a safe, neutral country where they can be preserved until we fully understand them,” said biologist Maria Dominguez Bello.

“We hypothesise that they perform important, crucial functions and we can’t afford to lose them.”

Of particular importance will be preserving samples taken from remote societies such as the tribal people of the Amazon whose gut microbes are far more diverse due to their diet and lifestyle.

As these societies integrate more with the modern world their diets change and this bacteria is lost.

“This is just the beginning of our knowledge about the impacts of living in an industrialised world,” Bello and colleagues wrote.

“We need to better understand which strains in human populations are diminishing and what the functional and pathological implications are for these losses.”

Source: The Guardian

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