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changing nature of war
 …  surveillance and other stealthy warcraft is given higher priority.
 …  But now America faces rivals, such as China, that match it technologically. For software, the Pentagon has urged Silicon Valley and other tech firms to overcome their ethical quandaries and help shield American forces from cyber-attacks, or develop machine learning to support them on the battlefield.
 …  hypersonic missiles, which combine velocity—travelling at five times the speed of sound—with pinpoint accuracy.
 …  It is better to fight the next war than the last one. /19-06-14

Radiocarbon dating can be done on microgram quantities
 …  the materials the artist used
 …  samples of a sufficient size
 …  Laura Hendriks of eth Zurich
 …  millionths of a gram
 …  a sample of paint weighing no more than 200 micrograms
 …  maybe not if their owners are unwilling to contemplate bad news /19-06-10

Cosmology, Sean Carroll
1. The Big Bang model is simply the idea that our universe expanded and cooled from a hot, dense, earlier state. We have overwhelming evidence that it is true.
2. The Big Bang event is not a point in space, but a moment in time: a singularity of infinite density and curvature. It is completely hypothetical, and probably not even strictly true. (It’s a classical prediction, ignoring quantum mechanics.)
3. People sometimes also use “the Big Bang” as shorthand for “the hot, dense state approximately 14 billion years ago.” I do that all the time. That’s fine, as long as it’s clear what you’re referring to.
4. The Big Bang might have been the beginning of the universe. Or it might not have been; there could have been space and time before the Big Bang. We don’t really know.
5. Even if the BB was the beginning, the universe didn’t “pop into existence.” You can’t “pop” before time itself exists. It’s better to simply say “the Big Bang was the first moment of time.” (If it was, which we don’t know for sure.)
6. The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem says that, under some assumptions, spacetime had a singularity in the past. But it only refers to classical spacetime, so says nothing definitive about the real world.
7. The universe did not come into existence “because the quantum vacuum is unstable.” It’s not clear that this particular “Why?” question has any answer, but that’s not it.
8. If the universe did have an earliest moment, it doesn’t violate conservation of energy. When you take gravity into account, the total energy of any closed universe is exactly zero.
9. The energy of non-gravitational “stuff” (particles, fields, etc.) is not conserved as the universe expands. You can try to balance the books by including gravity, but it’s not straightforward.
10. The universe isn’t expanding “into” anything, as far as we know. General relativity describes the intrinsic geometry of spacetime, which can get bigger without anything outside.
11. Inflation, the idea that the universe underwent super-accelerated expansion at early times, may or may not be correct; we don’t know. I’d give it a 50% chance, lower than many cosmologists but higher than some.
12. The early universe had a low entropy. It looks like a thermal gas, but that’s only high-entropy if we ignore gravity. A truly high-entropy Big Bang would have been extremely lumpy, not smooth.
13. Dark matter exists. Anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background establish beyond reasonable doubt the existence of a gravitational pull in a direction other than where ordinary matter is located.
14. We haven’t directly detected dark matter yet, but most of our efforts have been focused on Weakly Interacting Massive Particles. There are many other candidates we don’t yet have the technology to look for. Patience.
15. Dark energy may not exist; it’s conceivable that the acceleration of the universe is caused by modified gravity instead. But the dark-energy idea is simpler and a more natural fit to the data.
16. Dark energy is not a new force; it’s a new substance. The force causing the universe to accelerate is gravity.
17. We have a perfectly good, and likely correct, idea of what dark energy might be: vacuum energy, a.k.a. the cosmological constant. An energy inherent in space itself. But we’re not sure.
17. We don’t know why the vacuum energy is much smaller than naive estimates would predict. That’s a real puzzle.
19. Neither dark matter nor dark energy are anything like the nineteenth-century idea of the aether. /19-06-06

Objective Morality?
 …  Morality is a form of social technology – it is context specific and can go out-of-date
 …  the history of Christianity also features people like John Calvin, who not only banned representations of God, but, like the Taliban, forbade dancing
 …  Extreme disagreements over what people consider morally permissible exist
 …  we seem to be wired to have the capacity for morality, while allowing for variability
 …  a more subtle and nuanced way to understand moral differences?
 …  Metaethics
 …  whether moral statements are even capable of being true or false.
 …  the study of morality from the point of view of game theory.
 …  Morality can be conceived of as a social technology that provides guidance on how people should behave when facing interdependent decision problems.
 …  to the greatest extent possible, given the existence of other people.
 …  Good Samaritan .. indirect reciprocity
 …  Morality, like other forms of technology, can result in competing, incompatible standards, each of which attempt to solve the same underlying social problems.
 …  antonym of objective is not relative, but subjective.
 …  universal human rights, international law, the importance of human dignity, individual autonomy, privacy, and freedom of speech, as well as tolerance and respect for others.
 …  equal treatment of men and women, and greater understanding and appreciation of the variation in sexual orientation. We have eliminated capital punishment, and no longer believe it acceptable to punish children by beating them. Yet these and many other gains are fragile. /19-06-06

Królem Ugandy był wtedy gej i pedofil ... męczennicy z Ugandy /Polskie Radio 2, Słowo na dzień, 6:55, 19-06-03

humans know more truths than any species on earth. Yet we also believe the most falsehoods.
 …  power means having the ability to manipulate objective realities: to hunt animals, to construct bridges,
 …  power also means having the ability to manipulate human beliefs,
 …  Earth was conquered by Homo sapiens .. because we are the only mammals that can cooperate in very large numbers.
 …  believing common stories. But these stories need not be true.
 …  completely fictional stories about God, about race or about economics.
 …  Rabbits don’t know that E=mc2 .. No rabbit would have been willing to crash an airplane into the World Trade Center in the hope of being rewarded with 72 virgin rabbits in the afterlife.
 …  whereas the truth is universal, fictions tend to be local.
 …  we want to distinguish our tribe from foreigners
 …  handicap principle, which says that reliable signals must be costly to the signaler. .. male peacocks signal their fitness to female
 …  If you believe your leader only when he or she tells the truth, what does that prove? In contrast, if you believe your leader even when he or she builds castles in the air, that’s loyalty!
 …  the truth is often painful and disturbing.
 …  presidential candidate who tells the American public the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about American history has a 100 percent guarantee of losing the elections.
 …  Some might argue that the long-term costs of believing fictional stories outweigh any short-term advantages in social cohesion.
 …  they believe nonsense in some fields, while being eminently rational in others. /19-05-27

Fusion power is attracting private-sector
 …  the old joke that commercial fusion power is 30 years away—and always will be.
 …  “They’re all based on good physics. They’re all good people that are doing these programmes.” And the prize is enormous. If even one of the fusion startups succeeds, the world’s electricity supply will be guaranteed—and carbon free—for ever. /19-05-27

Empathy in Our Selfish World
 …  Empathy evolved as one of humans’ vital survival skills. Over millennia, we changed to make connecting easier. Our testosterone levels dropped, our faces softened, and we became less aggressive. We developed larger eye whites than other primates, so we could easily track one another’s gaze, and intricate facial muscles that allowed us to better express emotion.
 …  we developed vast empathic abilities
 …  we were magnificent—unbeatable super-organisms who hunted woolly mammoths, built suspension bridges, and took over the planet.
 …  In 2007, humanity crossed a remarkable line: For the first time, more people lived in cities than outside of them. By 2050, two-thirds of our species will be urban. Yet we are increasingly isolated.
 …  More than half of Paris’s and Stockholm’s residents live alone, and in parts of Manhattan and Los Angeles that number is north of 90 percent.
 …  For the past four decades, psychologists have measured empathy. The news is not good.
 …  Homeless individuals present one of empathy’s most difficult tests.
 …  VR as “the ultimate empathy machine.”
 …  technology can make it harder for us to see one another. But used differently, it can do just the opposite. /19-05-26

/The New Yorker/19-05-25

Venice Time Machine /19-05-21

Scientists have created the world’s first living organism that has a fully synthetic and radically altered DNA code.
 …  read and redesigned the DNA of the bacterium Escherichia coli (E coli)
 …  removing some of its superfluous codons
 …  The redesigned genetic code was then chemically synthesised and, piece by piece, added to E coli where it replaced the organism’s natural genome.
 …  it’s surprising it grows at all after so many changes /19-05-20

There’s a 49 Percent Chance the World As We Know It Will End by 2050
 …  Jared Diamond’s new book, Upheaval
 …  to accept responsibility
 …  We can buy different sorts of cars. We can do less driving. We can vote for public transport.
 …  climate .. resources
 …  We have to avoid a nuclear holocaust.
 …  balancing individual interests with community interests /19-05-20

Art of the Mathematical Conjecture
 …  the Riemann hypothesis — often considered the greatest of great conjectures
 …  the first 10 trillion cases of the Riemann hypothesis have been checked numerically
 …  absolute certainty and want to know why the conjecture is true.
 …  Euler’s conjecture .. a fourth power can never be written as a sum of three other fourth powers
    20,615,6734 = 2,682,4404 + 15,365,6394 + 18,796,7604
 …  The shortest statements can require the longest proofs
 …  There is no such thing as a 99 percent proof.
 …  For two millennia, people tried to prove that Euclid’s fifth postulate
 …  Kurt Gödel .. the greatest logical achievement /19-05-20

There Is Free Will You make choices even if your atoms don’t.
 …  Sam Harris has dueled philosopher and free-will defender Daniel Dennett for years
 …  Christian List .. Why Free Will Is Real .. tries to bridge the gap
 …  Sean Carroll and philosopher Jenann Ismael, who dissolve the old dichotomies on free will and think that a nuanced reading of physics poses no contradiction for it.
 …  fundamental physics and neurobiology are only part of the story of human behavior.
 …  You may be a big bunch of atoms governed by the mechanical laws, but you are not just any bunch of atoms. You are an intricately structured bunch of atoms, and your behavior depends not just on the laws that govern the individual atoms but on the way those atoms are assembled.
 …  Skeptics miss this point, List argues, because they rely on loose intuitions about causation.
 …  Causation is a higher-level concept.
 …  A free-will skeptic argues, first, that free will requires one or more properties: intentional, goal-directed agency; alternative possibilities—that it must be possible for me to do otherwise; or causal control over our actions. Then the skeptic claims that those properties are not to be found among the fundamental physical features of our world. Different skeptics focus on different properties.
 …  Patricia and Paul Churchland say we should understand human behavior not so much at the cognitive, psychological level where we invoke explicit mental states, goals, intentions, and purposes, but rather at a lower level of description, as the product of biophysical processes in the brain.
 …  Human beings have a strong tendency to ascribe intentions to all sorts of phenomena, like the weather,
 …  Benjamin Libet found that the conscious decision to press a button is not the beginning of the causal sequence that initiates the process,
 …  free will requires intentional agency
 …  the standard arguments against free will lies in a failure to distinguish between different levels of description.
 …  The neuroscientific skeptic is absolutely right that, at the fundamental physical level, there is no such thing as intentional goal-directed agency. The mistake is to claim that there is no such thing at all.
 …  Intentional agency is an emergent higher-level property, but it is no less real for that.
 …  the best way to make sense of those patterns and regularities is by assigning intentional agency to the people involved.
 …  Wait, I’m not sure I want indeterminism at the human level. I want my decisions to flow out of my deliberations, not to be the product of chance.
 …  This is subtle. There are different forms of indeterminism. In statistical physics, indeterminism is associated with randomness. But in the social sciences, we use a different kind of indeterminism based on option availability.
 …  In the sciences, we test for causation by looking for systematic correlations
 …  There is no conceptual reason why sophisticated AI systems could not qualify as bearers of free will. /19-05-18

 …  Karl Popper .. what distinguishes science from non-science is falsifiability
 …  Popper’s philosophy of science is a product of his view on the problem of induction
 …  while you can’t prove that a theory is true, you can at least show that it’s false
 …  most philosophers of science think falsificationism, despite its appeal, is actually mistaken
 …  a theory is never falsifiable simpliciter, but only relative to a set of background assumptions
 …  Kuhn was basically right about the sociology of theory change, but ...
 …  as when creationists posit that God planted fossils that seem very ancient to test our faith
 …  the search for such a criterion of demarcation between science and non-science, whether in terms of falsifiability or not, is probably hopeless. If you want to argue that something is pseudoscience, there is no shortcut that will save you the pain of having to engage with it and grapple with the arguments of its proponents. /19-05-17

 …  Planets, stars, life, even the direction of time all depend on disorder. And we human beings as well.
 …  randomness, novelty, spontaneity, free will and unpredictability.
 …  order .. systems, law, reason, rationality, pattern, predictability.
 …  like twilight and dawn, they have much in common.
 …  Ernst Gombrich believed that, although human beings have a deep psychological attraction to order, perfect order in art is uninteresting.
 …  delight lies somewhere between boredom and confusion.’ Too much order, we lose interest. Too much disorder, and there’s nothing to be interested in.
 …  the symmetry of a snowflake .. the amorphous shape of a high-riding cloud
 …  Clausius coined the term entropy
 …  Disorder is also the answer to the profound question: why is there something rather than nothing?
 …  If there were an equal number of particles and their antiparticles
 …  there is a slight asymmetry in how they interact
 …  well-known example of disorder in biology is the shuffling of genes
 …  From an evolutionary point of view, order implies predictability, patterns, repeatability – all of which allow us to make good predictions.
 …  More unexpected, perhaps, is how attentiveness to surprise, chance and novelty can also confer an advantage.
 …  departing from our familiar routines
 …  DRD4-7R .. ‘the wanderlust gene’. It occurs in about 20 per cent of the population, /19-05-16

... ... ... 2014

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