By George Dvorsky | io9.com
Back in 2003, Oxford professor Nick Bostrom suggested that we may be living in a computer simulation. In his paper, Bostrom offered very little science to support his hypothesis — though he did calculate the computational requirements needed to pull of such a feat. And indeed, a philosophical claim is one thing, actually proving it is quite another. But now, a team of physicists say proof might be possible, and that it’s a matter of finding a cosmological signature that would serve as the proverbial Red Pill from the Matrix. And they think they know what it is.
According to Silas Beane and his team at the University of Bonn in Germany, a simulation of the universe should still have constraints, no matter how powerful. These limitations, they argue, would be observed by the people within the simulation as a kind of constraint on physical processes.
So, how could we ever hope to identify these constraints? Easy: We just need build our own simulation of the universe and find out. And in fact, this is fairly close to what the physicists are actually trying to do. To that end, they’ve created an ultra-small version of the universe that’s down to the femto-scale (which is even smaller than the nano-scale).
And to help isolate the sought-after signature, the physicists are simulating quantum chromodynamics (QCD), which is the fundamental force in nature that gives rise to the strong nuclear force among protons and neutrons, and to nuclei and their interactions. To replace the space-time continuum, they are computing tiny, tightly spaced cubic “lattices.” They call this “lattice gauge theory” and it is subsequently providing new insights into the nature of matter itself.
Interestingly, the researchers consider their simulation to be a forerunner to more powerful versions in which molecules, cells, and even humans themselves might someday be generated. But for now, they’re interested in creating accurate models of cosmological processes — and finding out which ones might represent hard limits for simulations.
To that end, they have investigated the Greisen–Zatsepin–Kuzmin limit (or GZK cut-off) as a candidate — a cut-off in the spectrum of high energy particles. The GZK cut-off is particularly promising because it behaves quite interestingly within the QCD model.
According to the Physics arXiv blog, this cut-off is well known and comes about when high energy particles interact with the cosmic microwave background, thus losing energy as they travel long distances. The researchers have calculated that the lattice spacing imposes some additional features on the spectrum, namely that the angular distribution of the highest energy components should exhibit cubic symmetry in the rest of the lattice (causing it to deviate signiﬁcantly from isotropy).
“In other words,” write the arXiv bloggers, “the cosmic rays would travel preferentially along the axes of the lattice, so we wouldn’t see them equally in all directions.”
And that would be the kind of reveal the physicists are looking for — an indication that there is indeed a man hiding behind the curtain.
And what’s particularly fascinating about this is that we can make this measurement now with our current level of technology. As the researchers point out, finding this effect would be the same as ’seeing’ the orientation of the lattice on which our own universe is simulated.
Read the full article at: io9.com
Every once in a while, there’s news which reminds us that we’re living in the age of accelerating change. This is one of those times: A new project has been announced in which scientists at the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex are hoping to create the first accurate computer simulation of a honey bee brain — and then upload it into an autonomous flying robot.
This is obviously a huge win for science — but it could also save the world. The researchers hope a robotic insect could supplement or replace the shrinking population of honey bees that pollinate essential plant life.
Powerful and affordable
Now, while this might sound like some kind of outlandish futurist joke, there are some serious players — and money — involved. Called the “Green Brain Project,” it was recently given £1 million (USD $1,614,700) by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), as well as hardware donations from the NVIDIA corporation.
Specifically, NVIDIA will provide them with high-performance graphical processing units called GPU accelerators. This will allow the researchers to simulate aspects of a honey bee’s brain by using massively paralleled desktop PCs. While this will certainly work to promote the NVIDIA brand, it will also allow the researchers to conduct their project inexpensively (supercomputer clusters aren’t cheap).
And indeed, the researchers are going to need all the computational power they can get; it may appear that insects have simple minds — but their brains can be extremely complex.
Now, it should be noted that the researchers aren’t trying to emulate a complete honey bee brain, but rather two specific and complex functions within it, namely vision and sense of smell. Once complete, they will upload those models into a robotic honey bee so that it can act autonomously.
“This is an important further advance over current work on brain models because it is becoming more and more clear that an essential aspect of brain function is that the brain is not acting in isolation but in constant interaction with the body and the environment,” they note in their proposal, “This concept of ’embodiment’ and its consequences for cognition are important insights of modern cognitive science and will become equally important for modern neuroscience.”
By isolating and modeling these particular functions, the researchers hope to provide their flying robot with the cognitive power required to perform basic tasks — and without a set of pre-programmed instructions.
Read the full article at: io9.com
Human and Humanoid Robot Shake Hands in Space 1st
2012 02 16
By Marcia Dunn | PhysOrg.com
The commander of the International Space Station, Daniel Burbank, shook hands Wednesday with Robonaut. It’s the first handshake ever between a human and a humanoid in space.
Call it Conspiracy City. Call it Scandal City. Call it Leak City. These days the holy city has been in the news for anything but holy reasons.
“It is a total mess,” said one high-ranking Vatican official who spoke, like all others, on the condition of anonymity.
The Machiavellian maneuvering and machinations that have come to light in the Vatican recently are worthy of a novel about a sinister power struggle at a medieval court.
Last October, near Karlsruhe, Germany, Thomas Senkel completed the first manned flight of an electric multicopter, flying it 10 feet off the ground for 90 seconds. Senkel, a physicist and paraglider pilot who helped found the company E-volo to build the craft, invented it after seeing a YouTube video of a German hobbyist’s remote-controlled hexacopter in action.
Multicopters are more stable and easier to control than helicopters. They’re also potentially safer: The craft can land even after four of its 16 rotors, each of which has its own battery-powered motor, have failed. Multicopters could also be fitted with a parachute (which would be caught in the overhead rotor on a helicopter). E-volo says it will build a two-seat multicopter by the spring and begin selling the craft for recreational purposes next year.
|The LS3 robot funded by DARPA is a faster, quieter version of Boston Dynamics’ BigDog robot.
U.S. troops who carry as much as 100 pounds of gear could soon get a robotic mule capable of shouldering their burdens in the toughest terrain. Such a robot recently showed how it can follow a person and navigate around trees and rocks while climbing a hill in its first outdoor test — but it might someday follow spoken commands like a huge, obedient dog.
The four-legged, headless “LS3″ robot evolved as the quieter, faster and tougher version of Boston Dynamics’ “BigDog” robot funded by the U.S. military’s DARPA research arm. Upcoming trials will test the robot’s ability to carry 400 pounds on a tough 20-mile trek without any refueling for 24 hours.
“If successful, this could provide real value to a squad while addressing the military’s concern for unburdening troops,” said Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, program manager for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). “LS3 seeks to have the responsiveness of a trained animal and the carrying capacity of a mule.”
Added “hearing” technology could even allow human squad members to issue spoken commands such as “stop,” “sit” or “come here.”
An “intensitygram” from the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the double-barreled sunspot active region 1416 pointing toward Earth.
As solar activity builds toward an expected peak in 2013, a double-barreled sunspot has been doubling in size over the past couple of days and now has the potential to shoot significant eruptions in our direction.
It’s not certain that active region 1416 will erupt with coronal mass ejections as violent as the blasts that were thrown off by the sun late last month. But it has developed a mixed “beta-gamma” magnetic field that packs enough energy to throw off medium-scale solar flares, SpaceWeather.com reports.
“Any such eruptions this weekend would be Earth-directed as the sunspot turns to face our planet,” SpaceWeather’s Tony Phillips wrote.
Medium-size M-class flares are generally associated with the kinds of solar storms that produce enhanced auroral lights, but not huge inconveniences on Earth. It’s the X-class flares you really have to watch out for: That level of solar storming could affect radio communications as well as satellites and electrical grids if the operators of those systems aren’t careful.
NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have a wide array of space assets monitoring the sun, and for now all’s quiet on the solar front. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center reported some problems tracking the Advanced Composition Explorer, a satellite that plays a key role in tracking solar storms, but those problems are expected to go away as ACE’s orientation with respect to the sun improves.
The heart-shaped coronal mass ejection can be seen at about the 10 o’clock position on this image from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.
The prediction center’s Facebook page reports that on Friday, the sun threw off a slow-moving coronal mass ejection, or CME — in the shape of a heart, no less. “A preliminary model run predicts this CME will arrive, appropriately enough, on Valentine’s Day,” NOAA reports. So if you’re out with your Valentine that night, particularly in Scandinavia or Canada, watch the skies. Even if the earth doesn’t move, the aurora might glow.
Meanwhile, the sunspot region that caused all the auroral fireworks last month, known as AR1402, has moved around the far side of the sun. Solar scientists will be interested to see how that region has changed when it comes back into view. We’re still a year out from the anticipated peak in the sun’s 11-year activity cycle, so there’ll be lots of sun-watching ahead. The best ways to keep track on a daily basis is to check in with NOAA’s space weather center and SpaceWeather.com.
Russian scientists, using drill for 20 years, finally reach deep Antarctic lake buried under ice for 20 million years
The Russian achievement is likened to Americans winning the epic race to the moon in 1969
How the Russians did it: This illustration shows how Russian scientists were able to reach a body of water the size of Lake Ontario that had been hidden for 20 million years under Antarctic ice.
After more than two decades of drilling in Antarctica, Russian scientists have reached a gigantic freshwater lake hidden under miles of ice for some 20 million years – a pristine body of water that may hold life from the distant past and clues to the search for life on other planets.
Neuroscience breakthroughs could be harnessed by military and law enforcers, says Royal Society report
By Ian Sample | guardian.co.uk
Neuroscience breakthroughs could be harnessed by military and law enforcers, says Royal Society report
Soldiers could have their minds plugged directly into weapons systems, undergo brain scans during recruitment and take courses of neural stimulation to boost their learning, if the armed forces embrace the latest developments in neuroscience to hone the performance of their troops.
These scenarios are described in a report into the military and law enforcement uses of neuroscience, published on Tuesday, which also highlights a raft of legal and ethical concerns that innovations in the field may bring.
The report by the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science, says that while the rapid advance of neuroscience is expected to benefit society and improve treatments for brain disease and mental illness, it also has substantial security applications that should be carefully analysed.
The report’s authors also anticipate new designer drugs that boost performance, make captives more talkative and make enemy troops fall asleep.
“Neuroscience will have more of an impact in the future,” said Rod Flower, chair of the report’s working group.
“People can see a lot of possibilities, but so far very few have made their way through to actual use.
“All leaps forward start out this way. You have a groundswell of ideas and suddenly you get a step change.”
The authors argue that while hostile uses of neuroscience and related technologies are ever more likely, scientists remain almost oblivious to the dual uses of their research.
The report calls for a fresh effort to educate neuroscientists about such uses of the work early in their careers.
Some techniques used widely in neuroscience are on the brink of being adopted by the military to improve the training of soldiers, pilots and other personnel.
A growing body of research suggests that passing weak electrical signals through the skull, using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), can improve people’s performance in some tasks.
One study cited by the report described how US neuroscientists employed tDCS to improve people’s ability to spot roadside bombs, snipers and other hidden threats in a virtual reality training programme used by US troops bound for the Middle East.
Mysterious Greenstone Mask Discovered inside Pyramid of the Sun
2012 02 08
From: Past Horizons
Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan.Photo: David Hamill – Flickr, CC
Archaeologists discovered a series of deposits in the interior of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan in Mexico. The team of researchers announced their findings after exploring the 65-metre high pyramid from 2008 to 2011.
Using the 116 metre long tunnel excavated in the 1930s by archaeologist Eduardo Noguera, the Pyramid of the Sun Project, directed by Alejandro Sarabia, stratigraphically excavated 59 trenches and created 3 short tunnels in order to reach the natural rock level and verify the presence of burials and offerings.
“We knew that if the builders of Teotihuacan placed something inside the monument it would have been done at the base level, so we made a vertical shaft at the end of the tunnel and a short horizontal tunnel to reach the centre of the pyramid, since the original tunnel was cut approximately 6 metres to the west of the centre of the monument”, commented team member Perez Cortes.