Getting serious about plant intelligence
Monica Gagliano studies learning and memory in plants. She’s an “evolutionary ecologist” who performs behavioral experiments on plants that are adapted from studies of animal intelligence. Her work has convinced her that plants learn and have memories. Gagliano’s been cited in The New Yorker, and she spoke recently to radiolab. Her peer-reviewed conclusions are at times controversial, though specific criticisms of her methodologies have been sparse. In promoting her upcoming book, Thus Spoke the Plant, she gave a thought-provoking interview to Andréa Morris writing for Forbes in May 2018.
Gagliano admits it’s a field of study that not everyone takes seriously, and she’s weary of being lumped in with the group of 36 scientists who published a 2006 article announcing the birth of “plant neurobiology,” a provocative choice considering that plants don’t have neurons, at least in their usual sense. Gagliano says that rather than advance further research, their announcement impeded it, at least in part due to the intense objections it provoked that still resonate. As recently as 2013, cellular and molecular physiologist Clifford Slayman told Michael Pollan in the above-cited The New Yorker piece that plant neurobiology was, “the last serious confrontation between the scientific community and the nuthouse on these issues.”
For skeptics, the plant neurobiology article was likely just another bit of ridiculousness after the now-largely discredited 1973 book The Secret Life of Plants credited plants with consciousness — and psychic abilities. Daniel Chamovitz, author of What a Plant Knows says that 1973 book “stymied important research on plant behavior as scientists became wary of any studies that hinted at parallels between animal senses and plant senses.”
Another roadblock to what Gagliano calls “plant cognitive ecology” research is, she says, that, “Many plant biologists, especially physiologists, are actually very much into little molecules and little signals and this chemical does this and therefore the plant does this and on and on.” To the ecologist, “In a sense, there is no plant and environment. The plant and environment are one unit. For me, a plant isn’t an object, it’s always a subject that is interacting with other subjects in the environment. I had to learn. I just assumed that everyone would see things like this. But no.”
(Flickr user m01229)
Gagliano believes nonetheless that by being meticulous with her own methodology, and by being rigorously discriminating in her conclusions, she’s producing science that will eventually be validated. She finds the usual dismissiveness of the entire field maddeningly unscientific: “It’s counterproductive when a new field needs good, solid, strong, data-driven science. Instead, it dilutes, in a way, the impact that the science could have. It’s kind of unacceptable in any field, let alone a new field. So for me, what this field really needs is true vision and data — more experimental work.”
Studying plant “behavior”
While “behavior” may seem an odd word to use, the undisputed fact is that plants do respond to stimuli, albeit often very slowly over the course of hours, days, or weeks. This makes it easy to feel like nothing is going on with them. Still, as Pollan points out, “A race of aliens living in a radically sped-up dimension of time arrive on Earth and, unable to detect any movement in humans, come to the logical conclusion that we are “inert material” with which they may do as they please. The aliens proceed ruthlessly to exploit us.”
Plants do, however, sometimes move in a time frame we can perceive, as in Gagliano’s controversial study of Mimosa pudica — or “touch-me-not” — a plant whose leaves fold when touched or disturbed, the assumption being that it’s the plant’s response to insects that might pose a threat.
In Gagliano’s experiment, she dropped 56 potted mimosas from a height of 15 centimeters, causing their leaves to fold as expected. Looking to find out if they could “habituate” to the disturbance, she repeated the process 60 times, finding that even after four to six drops, the mimosas no longer responded. “By the end, they were completely open,” she said in presenting her research to other scientists. “They couldn’t care less anymore.”
To eliminate fatigue as the explanation, and to see if the plants could remember what they’d learned, Gagliano left the mimosas to recover, retesting them in a week and again 28 days later. She found that their leaves no longer responded to being dropped, suggesting that the plants did, in fact, remember their lessons of nearly a month earlier. Gagliano concluded that brains like ours and animals’ may not actually be required for learning, but rather that there’s “some unifying mechanism across living systems that can process information and learn.” The audience response to her presentation was divided.
A sessile lifestyle
There’s an important challenge that plants face which must be recognized and factored in: They’re “sessile,” rooted to the ground and, as Pollan puts it, a plant “has to find everything it needs, and has to defend itself, while remaining fixed in place.” He writes that plants, therefore, require an “extensive and nuanced understanding” of what’s around them to have a chance of surviving. “A highly developed sensory apparatus is required to locate food and identify threats.”
(For the balance of this article please visit: https://bigthink.com/robby-berman/getting-serious-about-plant-intelligence/)
Some Santas came from as far away as Japan.
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Braving Europe’s heatwave, more than 150 Santas from around the world donned their heavy suits and full beards at their annual conference in Denmark.
As the 61st World Santa Claus Congress kicked off in Copenhagen, many of the delegates – from countries as far away as Japan and the United States – took a paddle in the sea, to the amusement of local bathers.
The three-day event will see the Santas visit the Little Mermaid statue during a parade and go head to head in the Santa Obstacle Course World Championships.
“Normally us Santas work alone,” said Santa Ian Tom, 67, from Scotland, who is attending his sixth congress this year.
“This is like a big family. But a family you get on with.”
For Santa Douglas, 60, from Washington D.C., attending his twelfth convention, it’s the international feel of the event that keeps luring him back.
“It’s interesting how when meeting others their culture starts to rub off on you and yours on them. For example, a lot of the Santa suits now are not the traditional gray Danish one. They’ve gone more American, which in a way is a shame.”
(For the source of this article, and to see a video of the marching Santas, visit: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/santa-congress-denmark_us_5b57ada9e4b0b15aba934af4/)
If it seems that it was just about a year ago that scientists finally figured out the mystery behind the Bermuda Triangle, it was. The culprits behind the legendary disappearances of ships and planes were said to be powerful hexagonal cloud formations. Except that now, a team led by Simon Boxall, an oceanographer from the Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton at the University of Southampton, claims to have finally finally solved the riddle, and it’s not clouds. It’s ginormous rogue waves, a legendary maritime phenomenon all their own.
Monsters of the deep
Until the so-called 18.5-meter — that’s nearly 61 feet high — Draupner wave was observed, via satellite, on New Year’s Day in 1995, it wasn’t entirely certain that rogue waves weren’t just the stuff of maritime legend. These monsters are terrifying anomalies: Unpredictable massive walls of water coursing across the ocean, capable of wiping out most anything they happen to encounter.
According to site Freak Waves, rogue waves can have a force as powerful as 100 metric tons per square meter. For a sense of scale, a normal 12-meter wave produces about 6 metric tons of force. Ships are built to withstand about 15 metric tons per square meter. And the Draupner wave was nothing compared to other reported waves, such as the pair that injured 50 passengers a month later when the Queen Elizabeth II ran into them in North Atlantic bad weather. One, at least, was estimated to be about 95 feet high.
“At 0410 the rogue wave was sighted right ahead, looming out of the darkness from 220°, it looked as though the ship was heading straight for the white cliffs of Dover. The wave seemed to take ages to arrive but it was probably less than a minute before it broke with tremendous force over the bow. An incredible shudder went through the ship, followed a few minutes later by two smaller shudders. There seemed to be two waves in succession as the ship fell into the ‘hole’ behind the first one. The second wave of 28-29 m (period 13 seconds), whilst breaking, crashed over the foredeck, carrying away the forward whistle mast.” — Captain of the QE II
What’s this got to do with the Bermuda Triangle?
One of the earliest ships to have disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle was the USS Cyclops, which disappeared en route from the West Indies to Baltimore in 1918. At 550 feet long, it was the largest ship in the U.S. Navy at the time, and not a trace of it was ever found. It was carrying manganese ore and had a crew of 309. Its last message before vanishing was “Weather Fair, All Well.”
Numerous theories have been put forward over the years about what happened to the ship, including the possibility that it was an unacknowledged casualty of World War I, which had begun a year before its voyage.
Boxall’s team suspected the Cyclops was lost to a rogue wave and built an indoor simulation to demonstrate who it might have happened. Says Boxall, “If you can imagine a rogue wave with peaks at either end, there’s nothing below the boat, so it snaps in two. If it happens, it can sink in two to three minutes.” Other experts, such as Marvin W. Barrash, author of the book USS Cyclops, agree. Barrash told Forces.net, “She had a flat bottom, she rolled quite easily, and on one day she rolled approximately 50 degrees one way, and in the high forties the other way.”
Cyclops’ sister ships, Proteus and Nereus, also disappeared in the area, and they were also flat-bottomed.
Lovely weather for an aquatic behemoth
Boxall’s conclusion that rogue waves were behind other disappearances in the Triangle has to do in part with the area’s weather conditions being favorable to such monsters. Speaking on the UK’s Channel 5 program “The Bermuda Triangle Enigma,” Boxall notes that the Triangle’s climate is about right: “There are storms to the South and North, which come together… we’ve measured waves in excess of 30 meters. The bigger the boat gets, the more damage is done. And if there are additional ones from Florida, it can be a potentially deadly formation of rogue waves.”
Having said all that, is the Bermuda Triangle really real?
It depends on who you ask. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, that’s a “nope”:
The Coast Guard does not recognize the existence of the so-called Bermuda Triangle as a geographic area of specific hazard to ships or planes. In a review of many aircraft and vessel losses in the area over the years, there has been nothing discovered that would indicate that casualties were the result of anything other than physical causes. No extraordinary factors have ever been identified.
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, agrees, saying:
Environmental considerations could explain many, if not most, of the disappearances. The majority of Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes pass through the Bermuda Triangle, and in the days prior to improved weather forecasting, these dangerous storms claimed many ships. Also, the Gulf Stream can cause rapid, sometimes violent, changes in weather. Additionally, the large number of islands in the Caribbean Sea creates many areas of shallow water that can be treacherous to ship navigation.
NOAA does concede that “there is some evidence to suggest that the Bermuda Triangle is a place where a ‘magnetic’ compass sometimes points towards ‘true’ north, as opposed to ‘magnetic’ north.
Still, NOAA finds, “The U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard contend that there are no supernatural explanations for disasters at sea. Their experience suggests that the combined forces of nature and human fallibility outdo even the most incredulous science fiction.”
As science writer, Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki told News.com, “the number of planes that go missing in the Bermuda Triangle is the same as anywhere in the world on a percentage basis.”
This won’t, of course, convince every Bermuda Triangle believer, such as the Reddit member who posted in response to Boxall’s theory, “But that doesn’t explain the airplanes that went missing in the area…” Says another, “Flown over it a few times. Very disappointed that I’m still alive.”
(Source, and for photo’s of Boxall’s simulation, visit: https://bigthink.com/robby-berman/the-bermuda-triangle-mystery-is-solved-again/)
President Trump was almost universally panned for the press conference that followed the meeting with Russia’s President Putin in Helsinki, Finland. Trump was seen as capitulating to Russia by refusing to confront Putin on the issue of past and present interference in American elections. In fact, the American president seemed to be saying he doesn’t support the findings of his own intelligence agencies and instead prefers to take the Russian leader at his word. Even if he’s changed his tune under the backlash.
Whether you believe Putin really has some kind of compromising material to make Trump do his bidding or if Trump is simply being nice to people who partially helped get him elected, or if you somehow still think, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that all this is much ado about nothing, the fact is President Putin is a very experienced former KGB officer. He has both the know-how and the intelligence to carry out very far-sighted and ingenious operations. We don’t know his endgame and neither do we know how much of his KGB training he still employs, but in light of current events, there may be a way for us to get a deeper understanding by studying the words of Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov, a former KGB agent who defected to Canada in 1970.
In 1984, Bezmenov gave an interview to G. Edward Griffin from which much can be learned today. His most chilling point was that there’s a long-term plan put in play by Russia to defeat America through psychological warfare and “demoralization”. It’s a long game that takes decades to achieve but it may already be bearing fruit.
Bezmenov made the point that the work of the KGB mainly does not involve espionage, despite what our popular culture may tell us. Most of the work, 85% of it, was “a slow process which we call either ideological subversion, active measures, or psychological warfare.”
What does that mean? Bezmenov explained that the most striking thing about ideological subversion is that it happens in the open as a legitimate process. “You can see it with your own eyes,” he said. The American media would be able to see it, if it just focused on it.
Here’s how he further defined ideological subversion:
“What it basically means is: to change the perception of reality of every American to such an extent that despite of the abundance of information no one is able to come to sensible conclusions in the interest of defending themselves, their families, their community, and their country.”
Bezmenov described this process as “a great brainwashing” which has four basic stages. The first stage is called “demoralization” which takes from 15 to 20 years to achieve. According to the former KGB agent, that is the minimum number of years it takes to re-educate one generation of students that is normally exposed to the ideology of its country. In other words, the time it takes to change what the people are thinking.
He used the examples of 1960s hippies coming to positions of power in the ’80s in the government and businesses of America. Bezmenov claimed this generation was already “contaminated” by Marxist-Leninist values. Of course, this claim that many baby boomers are somehow espousing KGB-tainted ideas is hard to believe but Bezmenov’s larger point addressed why people who have been gradually “demoralized” are unable to understand that this has happened to them.
Referring to such people, Bezmenov said:
“They are programmed to think and react to certain stimuli in a certain pattern [alluding to Pavlov]. You can not change their mind even if you expose them to authentic information. Even if you prove that white is white and black is black, you still can not change the basic perception and the logic of behavior.”
Demoralization is a process that is “irreversible”. Bezmenov actually thought (back in 1984) that the process of demoralizing America was already completed. It would take another generation and another couple of decades to get the people to think differently and return to their patriotic American values, claimed the agent.
In what is perhaps a most striking passage in the interview, here’s how Bezmenov described the state of a “demoralized” person:
“As I mentioned before, exposure to true information does not matter anymore,” said Bezmenov. “A person who was demoralized is unable to assess true information. The facts tell nothing to him. Even if I shower him with information, with authentic proof, with documents, with pictures; even if I take him by force to the Soviet Union and show him [a] concentration camp, he will refuse to believe it, until he [receives] a kick in his fan-bottom. When a military boot crashes his balls then he will understand. But not before that. That’s the [tragedy] of the situation of demoralization.”
It’s hard not to see in that the state of many modern Americans. We have become a society of polarized tribes, with some people flat out rejecting facts in favor of narratives and opinions.
Once demoralization is completed, the second stage of ideological brainwashing is “destabilization”. During this two-to-five-year period, asserted Bezmenov, what matters is the targeting of essential structural elements of a nation: economy, foreign relations, and defense systems. Basically, the subverter (Russia) would look to destabilize every one of those areas in the United States, considerably weakening it.
The third stage would be “crisis”. It would take only up to six weeks to send a country into crisis, explained Bezmenov. The crisis would bring “a violent change of power, structure, and economy” and will be followed by the last stage, “normalization.” That’s when your country is basically taken over, living under a new ideology and reality.
This will happen to America unless it gets rid of people who will bring it to a crisis, warned Bezmenov. What’s more “if people will fail to grasp the impending danger of that development, nothing ever can help [the] United States,” adding, “You may kiss goodbye to your freedom.”
It bears saying that when he made this statement, he was warning about baby boomers and Democrats of the time.
In another, somewhat terrifying excerpt, here’s what Bezmenov had to say about what is really happening in the United States. It may think it is living in peace, but it has been actively at war with Russia. And for some time:
“Most of the American politicians, media, and educational system trains another generation of people who think they are living at the peacetime,” said the former KGB agent. ”False. United States is in a state of war: undeclared, total war against the basic principles and foundations of this system.”
Whether you think that is true may depend on your politics, but the reality of Russian active measures, as has been outlined in the recent indictments by the special counselor Robert Mueller, give Bezmenov’s words new urgency.
(Source site, and you can watch the full interview by visiting: https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/34-years-ago-a-kgb-defector-described-america-today/)
Say you’re engrossed in a task, scrolling through your phone or reading a book. Suddenly that creepy, prickly feeling grabs hold of you. Someone’s staring. You turn to find out who it is. Be they friend or foe, the feeling itself seems like an eerie sort of 6th sense. It’s also a necessary part of being human, an adaptation that kept our ancestors alive. So how is it that we can even do this? It’s actually an important feature of our sight, our brain, and certain social aspects of our species.
The biological phenomenon is known as “gaze detection” or “gaze perception.” Neurological studies have found that the brain cells which initiate this response are very precise. If someone turns their gaze off of you by turning just a few degrees to their left or right, that eerie feeling quickly fades. Scientists suggest that a complex neural network is behind gaze detection.
So far, the neural network responsible in humans remains unidentified. A study with macaque monkeys however, discovered the neurological circuits responsible for their gaze detection, even getting down to the specific cells involved.
We do know that ten distinct brain regions are involved with human sight, and there may be more. The visual cortex is the main contributor. This is a large area at the back of the brain, which supports many important aspects of sight. But other areas, such as the amygdala, which registers threats, must also be involved with gaze detection somehow.
Humans are sensitive to the gaze of others. When another person changes the direction of their attention, we automatically follow their gaze. It’s more than just being predators, who as a group are naturally sensitive and drawn toward changes in the environment. It also has to do with the cooperative and social nature of humans and how we’ve depended on one another throughout our history and development.
The visual cortex. By Coxer, Wikimedia Commons.
Another reason, if you look at human eyes in contrast to other animals, the sclera or white part surrounding the pupil is far larger. In most other species, the pupil takes up most of the eye. This is to obscure their eyes from predators. But for humans, a larger sclera allows us to notice the direction of each other’s gaze quickly.
Of course, we don’t have to be looking directly at someone to tell whether or not they’re staring at us. We can also evaluate the direction of their attention through our peripheral vision. But this method is much less accurate. A pair of studies finds that we can only accurately detect whether or not someone is staring at us within four degrees of our “central fixation point.”
It isn’t always about seeing another’s eyes. With our peripheral vision, we consider the position of their head. And other clues, such as how their body is positioned, lend to whether we think they’re looking at us or not. What if we’re not sure? Just to be safe, the brain errs on the side of caution. It assumes we’re being stared at, if there’s any doubt.
So what about when we feel someone staring from behind? According to a 2013 study published in the journal Current Biology, that’s just a fail-safe. Humans are hardwired to think that someone is starting at us when we can’t see them, even if we have no evidence to suggest so.
We’re hardwired to assume someone is staring from behind. Getty Images.
Psychology Professor Colin Clifford of the University of Sydney’s Vision Centre, found that when people can’t tell where a person is looking, they automatically assume they’re looking at them. “A direct gaze can signal dominance or a threat, and if you perceive something as a threat, you would not want to miss it,” he said. “So simply assuming another person is looking at you may be the safest strategy.”
Looking at someone is also a social cue. It usually means you want to talk to them. Since it’s our natural inclination to assume someone behind us is staring, the feeling we get may initiate a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we turn around, our action calls up the other person’s gaze. But when they meet our eyes, they give us the impression that they’ve been staring the whole time.
Another answer could be confirmation bias. We remember only the times we turned around and someone was staring (or appeared to be), and not the times they weren’t. And that weird, tingly sensation? It’s psychological and emanates from the thought of being stared at, not the physical act itself.
(For the balance of this article please visit: https://bigthink.com/philip-perry/why-is-it-you-can-sense-when-someones-staring-at-you/)
Take look at a map of Turkey and you’ll have to agree: it’s a curiously box-shaped country. Why is the wrong question. Like most international borders, Turkey’s are the result of geopolitical accident, not of aesthetic or geometric design. A more pertinent query: How rectangular is Turkey? Is it, perhaps, the most rectangular country in the world?
To answer that question, you’d have to find a dataset that minutely describes the borders of all countries on Earth and devise an algorithm that compares each country’s shape to an optimum rectangle with the same area.
That’s exactly what Australian geo-statistician David Barry did. His conclusion: Turkey is only the 15th most rectangular country in the world. The winner: Egypt.
Inevitably, one esoteric geographical question led to its opposite: What is the roundest country in the world? That one was answered by Gonzalo Ciruelos, an Argentinian mathematician. The top of that ranking is Sierra Leone.
As the winners in both categories indicate, Africa is a country of great diversity in geopolitical morphology. But the most curious country in either ranking is… the Vatican. As it turns out, the Papal State is both the 4th roundest and the 2nd most rectangular country in the world. How is that possible?
First, let’s have a closer look at the results. In Mr Barry’s definition, ‘optimum rectangularity’ is the maximum percentage overlap of a country with a rectangle of the same area.
He’s the first to admit that his algorithm may be inadequate for some countries with complex shapes (“Italy looks like the biggest country that might be wrong”), scattered geographies (e.g. Norway, because it includes Bouvet Island, a Norwegian dependency located between South Africa and Antarctica, freakishly far from the motherland) or locations on either side of the 180° longitude meridian (New Zealand, United States, Russia).
Also, the Natural Earth database includes small dependencies such as Scarborough Reef (1) as separate entries, which somewhat distorts a per-country ranking. Still, here goes:
Cutting through empty deserts, Egypt’s western and southern borders are completely straight—the Bir Tawil Trapezoid (2) is a notable but statistically insignificant exception. Combined with a fairly straight Mediterranean coastline in the north and its only slightly slanted Red Sea shore in the east, Egypt gets a ‘rectangularity’ score of 0.955 (out of 1), and the first place.
The Vatican’s actual borders are a lot more varied than this boxy rendition—perhaps because the database wasn’t built to reflect the delineation of the world’s smallest state in the greatest possible detail. That may explain why the geopolitical headquarters of the Catholic church manages to rank second in this list.
(For the balance of this interesting article please visit: https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/sierra-leone-is-the-worlds-roundest-country-and-egypt-the-squarest-one/)
The flag of Asgardia, Wikimedia Commons
If you believe that the technology to live in space will be available to you within your lifetime; if you agree with the political philosophy outlined by the ‘World Passport’; if you find yourself in China, India, the U.S., Indonesia, or Brazil with a hankering to take to the stars, then perhaps you should consider becoming a citizen of Asgardia, an organization that hopes to be the first ‘country in space.’
What do you need to do to become a citizen of Asgardia?
Read the Asgardian Constitution. If you agree with it, then you can apply.
Where is Asgardia located?
Stubenring 2/8-9, 1010 Wien, Austria.
How big is Asgardia?
They currently claim around 200,000 citizens — many of them Russian.
Where will Asgardia be eventually?
Asgardia seeks to live in space stations circling the earth and on a moon base, perhaps in the next twenty-five years. There are no current designs for the space stations or moon base at this time.
An artist’s depiction of Asgardia. Flickr user CarlosR38.
That’s it? All I need to become a citizen of Asgardia is to read something and then apply?
Once you join — and they are accepting applications — they ask for your information: where you live, your education, the best way to contact you, and that’s pretty much it.
The Independent has reported that Asgardia might consider an IQ test for prospective citizens, but the potential of citizens having to take an IQ test sets up a decent (and relevant) follow-up question.
Is this all a scam?
There’s not an implausible chance. Outsiders being offered IQ tests and then being told that they either have ‘just the intelligence’ needed for a ‘special project’ or that there’s something wrong with them that only someone else can fix — as Scientology has done for years — sounds like a scam.
The website Stop Fake — a collection of Ukranian journalists seeking to point out Russian propaganda — notes that Asgardia “encourages people to buy shares in its joint stock company, Asgardia AG” and invest in their own cryptocurrency.
There’s also a not implausible chance that this might also be a Russian thing.
(For the balance of this story please see: https://bigthink.com/evan-fleischer/the-first-space-nation-asgardia-is-accepting-applications-for-citizenship-but-is-it-a-hoax/)
Michio Kaku: Let’s not advertise our existence to aliens
Michio Kaku – Theoretical Physicist, Author, and Science Educator Professor of Theoretical Physics, CUNY.
If advanced alien civilizations do exist, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku asks, why would they want anything to do with us? It would be like an academic talking to a squirrel, he suggests, and he has a great point. Hollywood and science fiction novels have conditioned us for years to believe that aliens either want to hang out on our intellectual level and learn from us… or destroy us. If alien life really does have the technology and know-how to make it all the way here, perhaps we should just play it cool and not assume that we are the top species in the universe. Besides, if we play our cards wrong and go all Will Smith in Independence Day on our smart new neighbors, it could be the end of us. Mankind’s biggest folly, Kaku suggests, might just be in its insistence that we are an exceptional species. Michio Kaku’s latest book is the wonderful and enlightening The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Out Destiny Beyond Earth.
Michio Kaku: We have this mental image that a flying saucer will circle the White House lawn, land on the White House lawn and give us a bounty of all sorts of technological goodies to initiate an age of Aquarius on the planet earth. Personally, I don’t think that’s going to happen. For example, if you’re in the forest do you go out and talk to the squirrels and the deer? Maybe you do for a while, but after a while, you get bored because they don’t talk back to you because they have nothing interesting to tell you because they can’t relate to our values and our ideas.
If you go down to an anthill do you go down to the ants and say I bring you trinkets; I bring you bees; take me to your aunt queen; I give you nuclear energy. So I think for the most part the aliens are probably not going to be interested in us because we’re so arrogant to believe that we have something to offer them. Realize that they could be thousands, maybe millions of years ahead of us in technology and they may have no interest in interacting with us in the same way that we don’t necessarily want to deal with the squirrels and the deer in the forest.
Now some people say that we should not try to make contact with them because they could be potentially dangerous. For the most part, I think they’re going to be peaceful because they’ll be thousands of years ahead of us, but we cannot take the chance. So I personally believe that we should not try to advertise our existence to alien life in outer space because of the fact that we don’t know their intentions.
Then the other question is what happens if they’re evil? Well, I think the question of evil is actually a relative question because the real danger to a deer in the forest is not the hunter with a gigantic rifle; he’s not the main danger to a deer in the forest. The main danger to a deer in the forest is the developer; the guy with blueprints; the guy in a three-piece suit; the guy with a slide rule and calculator; the guy that’s going to pave the forest and perhaps destroy whole ecosystems.
In other words, the aliens don’t have to be evil in order to be dangerous to us, they might not care, they just might not care about us and in the process pave us over. In fact, if you read the novel War of the Worlds the Martians in HG Wells seminal novel were not evil in the sense they wanted to torture us and they wanted to do all sorts of barbaric things to humanity. No, we were just in the way. And so I think that is a potential problem. We could be in the way of a very advanced civilization that simply is not evil but simply views us as we would view squirrels and deer in the forest.
So personally I think that we should not advertise our existence when we go into outer space. For the most part, however, I do think they are going to be peaceful, they’re not going to want to plunder the earth because there are plenty of planets out there that have nobody on them that they can plunder at will without having to worry about restive natives called humanity. And so I think they’re not going to come to visit the earth to plunder us, to do all sorts of mischief. For the most part, I think they’ll just leave us alone.
The TMC Dumont’s 36-inch rims make it look like a rolling pair of spectacles – and a spectacle it certainly is.
Impractical? Sure! Vulgar? Most certainly. Unique? In every sense. This staggering custom motorcycle uses the biggest pair of hubless wheels we’ve ever seen, as well as placing the rider astride a snarling, 300-horsepower Rolls-Royce aircraft engine. Live in fear – of corners, if nothing else.
The TMC Dumont is the work of Brazilian ex-Formula One driver and champion motorcycle custom builder Tarso Marques. Its name is a tip of the hat to Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont, who Brazilians believe got an airplane aloft before America’s Wright Brothers.
Hence the aircraft engine – a monstrous Continental flat six from the Rolls-Royce aircraft company that was lifted from a 60’s-era aircraft and polished within an inch of its life.
Three hundred horsepower (224 kW) is a heck of a lot for a motorcycle, and it’s even madder when you look at the bike’s signature feature: gargantuan, hubless 36-inch wheels that sit high enough to block the rider’s view, and connect to underslung swingarms by the flimsiest of connections.
(To see a video of this bizarre contraption on the road visit: https://newatlas.com/tmc-dumont-giant-hubless-rims/55471/)
Photo: KFDM Staff
Canadian-based aviation firm Opener Inc. has unveiled its new BlackFly single-seater aircraft, which it bills as a Personal Aerial Vehicle (PAV) and the world’s first ultralight all-electric fixed-wing Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. The fully-amphibious drop-shaped flyer with fore and aft wings sporting eight electric motors has a range of 25 mi (40 km) and a top speed of 62 mph (100 km/h).
(To view the complete article, plus a video, please go to: https://newatlas.com/blackfly-vtol-aircraft/55445/)
The CanguRo personal assistant/smart scooter can follow its user around or provide a motor-driven ride
There’s a reason they call it the “hard problem.”
Consciousness: Where is it? What is it? No one single perspective seems to be able to answer all the questions we have about consciousness. Now Bernardo Kastrup thinks he’s found one. He calls his ontology idealism, and according to idealism, all of us and all we perceive are manifestations of something very much like a cosmic-scale dissociative identity disorder (DID). He suggests there’s an all-encompassing universe-wide consciousness, it has multiple personalities, and we’re them.
Kastrup’s paper is an attempt to devise an explanation for consciousness that leaves no unanswered questions behind as other commonly held perspectives do, at least at our current level of scientific knowledge. (Kastrup is a computer engineer specializing in AI and reconfigurable computing.)
Physicalism and substance dualism
There are a seemingly endless array of ultimately unsatisfying isms thrown at the problem of consciousness. If you’ve got some time, have a look at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Here, though, if only to explain what panpsychism, the basis of Kastrup’s idealism, isn’t, it’ll be helpful to talk very briefly about two of the most popular ontologies to which it’s a response.
Physicalism describes the belief that consciousness is a product of interaction between different types of physical matter. For many, though, physicalism falls into a seemingly uncrossable chasm between strictly physical processes on one hand, and our “phenomenal experience” — the experience of experiencing — on the other. One is chemical, electrical, mechanical, and the other is…something else. Physical processes may be able to explain how we know a roaring fire is hot, but not what warmth feels like to us.
In substance dualism, there’s physical substance and immaterial substance, consciousness, and they’re two separate domains. This seems intuitively true to a lot of people — think body and soul — but if they are fundamentally different things, what means of exchange, or “language,” could they possibly have in common, and how could they interact? How could a physical experience make our consciousness feel a certain way, and how could a purely mental decision cause our body to take action? And where exactly could this happen?
Take one dash of constitutive panpsychism
Kastrup’s system is based on an ontology growing popular with some philosophers, and with some physicists, called constitutive panpsychism. (We’ve explained this concept in greater detail before at Big Think.) It’s basically the idea that everything, all of the tiny subatomic particles that make up the universe’s mass, have consciousness, a sense of what it’s like to have an experience. We have consciousness because it’s everywhere. In this way, it’s all there is.
(For the balance of this article visit: https://bigthink.com/robby-berman/are-we-all-multiple-personalities-of-universal-consciousness/)
Back in 2014, DARPA announced the launch of its Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program, an initiative designed to break through a single paradigm that has been weighing the military down in ground combat. That paradigm is the ever-escalating vendetta between tanks and anti-tank guns.
Artillery designers keep making bigger anti-tank guns, and in response the tank designers have to load them up with more and more armor, to the point where the M1A2 Abrams (the main battle tank of the US Army) now weighs a staggering 72 tons.
That’s nearly twice the weight of a semi-trailer loaded to its maximum legal capacity of 40 tons, and it makes the modern tank a real pain to deal with, from the build, maintenance and deployment, right through to the end use. They’re not what you’d call light-footed or agile, and their sheer bulk can damage or destroy roads or bridges that aren’t up to the task.
DARPA has thus been working on what comes next: smaller, lighter, more nimble vehicles that have tricks other than massive armor up their sleeve when it comes to surviving on the battlefield.
Last month, the GXV-T program demonstrated some of the remarkable technologies it’s been working on. And while they’re far from finished, there are some pretty radical ideas in there. Let’s take a look:
(For the balance of this article visit: https://newatlas.com/darpa-gxv-t-demonstration-military-vehicle-technology/55198/)
Eindhoven, the Netherlands, looks poised to become something of a 3D-printed architecture boom town. Following the construction of a 3D-printed bridge in the city, a total of five rental homes made using the cutting edge tech are now planned too. Read more
by Conner Flynn
I thought that the urinal was the only safe place left to get away from ads being played, but nope. And once you start peeing you are a captive audience as long as that stream is going with these new video urinals from Dutch toilet company Mr.Friendly. Brilliant idea, marketing guys.
This high-tech urinal actually has several nice features like a waterless/flushless function and an anti-bacterial surface, but the big new upgrade is the built-in display with an automatic sensor that’ll play advertisements while you pee.
I know that online they use ads based on your browsing and buying habits, so I can only guess that this thing chooses the ads based on peeing technique? I hope it doesn’t have any other sensors that give it info about your junk because it could be pretty embarrassing if several guys are peeing and watching ads, and one guy gets the erectile dysfunction ad.
Also, we probably shouldn’t be distracted in the bathroom unless you want pee everywhere. Let’s just focus on the task at hand and leave the urinal an ad-free zone, guys. And how many people are going to be pissed off at the ads so that they piss on them for real? People are nasty after all. This is a bad idea.
(Article source: https://technabob.com/blog/2018/04/20/video-ad-bathroom-urinal/)
Over 15 years ago, a strange counter-intuitive bit of data was identified in patients undergoing hemodialysis for chronic kidney disease. Across several studies, overweight or mildly obese patients were displaying greater survival rates than those with healthy weights. The phenomenon was dubbed the “obesity paradox” and for well over a decade scientists have debated what could be causing it. Several new studies presented recently at the European Congress on Obesity have added further weight to the hypothesis of an obesity paradox, finding several strange correlations between obesity and survival rates across a variety of conditions.
The first study looked generally at patients admitted to hospital for an infectious disease. Tracking more that 18,000 patients admitted to hospitals in Denmark over a four-year period, the study found that within 90 days of discharge those patients of a normal weight displayed a significantly higher chance of dying when compared to both overweight and obese patients.
Two more studies presented at the conference examined mortality rates from patients admitted to hospitals for pneumonia and sepsis. Both studies examined large banks of data tracking admissions from over 1,000 US hospitals.
The pneumonia study, which included data from 1,690,760 hospitalizations, found that obese and overweight patients were between 20 and 30 percent less likely to die from the condition than those of normal weight. The sepsis study impressively gathered data from 3.7 million hospital admissions and found obese and overweight patients were around 20 percent more likely to survive following admission than patients of normal weight.
(For more information visit: https://newatlas.com/obesity-paradox-overweight-survival-sepsis-pnemonia/)
I’m going through a divorce. It’s amicable, mature, and adult. We just don’t work together as a couple anymore, but we’ll try and remain friends. As a writer, I work from home. I’m alone all day and now, no one is coming home at night. As a result, I’m taking great pains to be social, to go out, to see friends and family, to make phone calls, and to avoid social isolation. There’s no shame in admitting as much, although our rugged individualist society may look down on opening up about such things, especially as a straight male. Aren’t we supposed to be stoic mavericks, able to set out on our own, without anyone’s help at all? Turns out, not so much.
A young man sits by himself in a stadium. Image credit: Getty Images.
In fact, staying connected is the healthiest thing to do, and not just psychologically. According to a 2014 University of Chicago study, loneliness can have a significant negative impact on physical health. It can increase the rate of atherosclerosis—the hardening of the arteries, increase the risk of high blood pressure and stroke, and decrease retention, which can even hurt learning and memory. What’s more, the lonely often make worse life choices and are more prone to substance abuse.
Some research suggests loneliness is worse for you than smoking or obesity. It can even increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Seniors are often the focus. Those who face social isolation actually see a 14% increased risk of premature death.
(To continue with this article visit: bigthink.com/philip-perry/theres-a-loneliness-epidemic-in-the-us-and-its-getting-worse/)
Ireland gives us whiskey, Bitcoin gives us… hmm.
In addition to being insufferable, Bitcoin is also absolutely terrible for the environment. According to a letter published today in the energy journal Joule by financial economist and blockchain specialist Alex de Vries, the Bitcoin network is consuming roughly 2.55 gigawatts of energy annually, at the absolute minimum. To put that in context, that’s nearly the same amount of energy consumed by the entirety of Ireland. That’s just the conservative current estimate; De Vries predicts that by December, the Bitcoin network could be using almost triple that.
Bitcoins cost energy to “mine,” because mining is just a computer running calculations; the longer Bitcoin is around, the more energy it takes to mine each subsequent unit (it takes four times as much energy to mine a single Bitcoin now as it did when the currency launched in 2009). There is a finite amount of Bitcoin, and the most recent projections show it will take about another 120 years to mine all 21 million Bitcoins. There is also, theoretically, a tipping point somewhere in there where the amount of energy it takes to mine a piece of Bitcoin is more valuable than the Bitcoin itself, though it all depends on the market value. But Bitcoin transactions, not just mining, take energy (one transaction could currently power a home for a week), so the more widely used it is, the more carbon we are pumping into the atmosphere.
There’s been a considerable amount of debate over the last couple of years surrounding the extent of the energy impact of Bitcoin (for instance, is it pretty bad, or really really bad?), not least because energy use in most parts of the world contributes carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change. But in the wake of Bitcoin’s wild valuation ride throughout most of 2017 up to nearly $20,000 per coin, cryptocurrency mining doesn’t seem likely to slow down anytime soon. Researchers need concrete answers before it becomes far too late enact institutional restrictions and regulations on the practice, writes De Vries.
De Vries’ figure doesn’t even include the energy expenditures of other popular cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Ripple. The altcoin market’s potential for comparably sky-high energy consumption levels is unfortunately all too serious. According to the Digiconomist’s Ethereum Energy Consumption Index (which is technically still in beta), Ethereum production already makes up .09 percent of the world’s total energy consumption. While this may seem like a relatively small amount, it’s not. It’s already more than the total yearly energy consumption of countries like Iceland, Jordan, and Cuba. And given that Ethereum is only just getting started (ugh), this figure will likely only rise.
Energy use of Bitcoin will likely stop growing so fast and even decline in the near future; Grist estimated that at current trends Bitcoin would cost as much energy as the whole world uses now in only two years, an incredibly unlikely situation. It may also be possible to improve mining algorithms so they don’t use as much energy. Still, when the energy use is so high and interest isn’t waning, De Vries is trying to draw attention to the currency’s impact.
“We’ve seen a lot of back-of-the-envelope calculations, but we need more scientific discussion on where this network is headed,” said de Vries in a press release. “Right now, the information available is pretty poor quality overall, so I’m hoping that people will use this paper as a foundation for more research.”
(Article source, and for more information, see: https://theoutline.com/post/4561/bitcoin-is-consuming-as-much-energy-as-the-country-of-ireland?zd=1&zi=zh754dcw)
One bicycle burst
In the momentary dash of a flat-out sprint, the average cyclist can eke out a single horsepower. Pro pedalers can generate twice that. Horses, however, have humans beat on staying power; even Tour de France elites can’t sustain more than a few tenths of a horsepower over the full length of a race.
One coffee maker
In electrical work, we measure power in watts, a unit named for dear James. A lone watt is tiny—only enough to power an LED night light. That’s why we almost always talk in terms of kilowatts, especially on electric bills. Still, 1 horsepower’s worth, or 746 watts, is enough to power a standard drip coffee maker.
One enormous dead lift
A foot-pound is the work it takes to lift 1 pound a distance of 1 foot. To exert 33,000 of those all in the space of an extremely sweaty minute, the equivalent of 1 horsepower, an eager equine could drag 10,000 pounds up 3.3 feet, 3.3 pounds up 10,000 feet, or (more realistically) 330 pounds up 100 feet.
One pasta party
Pull power and heat are two sides of the same coin (a coin made of energy). To convert, you’ll have to work with British thermal units. One Btu provides roughly a kitchen match’s worth of warmth (or, more specifically, one penny match’s worth). A single equine could pound out 2,545 Btu per hour, enough to boil 2.2 gallons of room-temp water (assuming a tight lid and no heat loss in a perfect, imaginary world), which would cook 14 servings of pasta.
work (n.) The amount of force exerted over a distance. Units include foot-pound, kilowatt-hour, and BTU.
en.er.gy (n.) The capacity to do work. has multiple forms, including mechanical, thermal, and electrical.
pow.er (n.) The rate of work, calculated as the amount of work done divided by the time it took to do it.
This article was originally published in the January/February 2018 Power issue of Popular Science.
Note: this article has been updated to add statements and rearrange clauses so as to be more clear. Thank you to the Redditors who checked our work, though we stand by our inefficient method of cooking pasta.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) wants public input on a “scoping study” intended to justify calling some nuclear waste “very low-level waste” or VLLW. We call it “Very Large Loophole Waste.”
Radioactive gasses seep into concrete lodging and decay becoming other radioactive elements. Metal parts in the reactor are bombarded with neutrons during nuclear power production process and become activated radioactive metal.
As reactors and other processing factories that are a part of the nuclear fuel chain shut down, the buildings and their parts, the soil, the uniforms employees wore, the tools used to service reactors and other machinery, etc., all have become contaminated with radioactivity, and must be isolated from the environment and the public.
Instead of paying to manage these contaminated items as the nuclear waste they are, the Department of Energy (DOE) and nuclear industry are attempting to reclassify the waste as “Very Low-Level” and allow it to be dumped in landfills and/or incinerators, or recycled with consumer goods.
Huge amounts of dangerous but hard-to-detect nuclear wastes would no longer be regulated as radioactive and would have “alternative methods of disposal,” not at licensed radioactive waste sites.
The term “low-level” radioactive waste is already deceptive and can mean very high risk to humans and other life. Help protect us, our communities, and future generations!
Thanks for all you do, Diane D’Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director
Nuclear Information and Resource Service, 6930 Carroll Ave, Ste. 340, Takoma Park, MD 20912,(301) 270-6477, www.NIRS.org
What’s in a name? There are lots of reason to choose one name or another when naming a child — family tradition, or as a tribute to a beloved relative or friend — but does a name really matter? Research suggests, yes, maybe it does, when it comes to the level of success you’ll achieve in your career and love life, and even where you choose to live. The reasons for this remain in the realm of conjecture, but research has revealed some surprising — and some not so surprising — correlations.
The difference from A to Z
You may not think this matters, but the alphabetical position of the first letter of your name may have two effects:
- A 2007 study found that people whose names start with a letter early in the alphabet are more likely to be admitted to schools, even when those late in the alphabet have higher scores. Obviously, this foot in the door can ripple through adult life since it may affect a person’s career choice. Are admissions staff tired and cranky by the time they get to poor Xander?
- A 2013 study suggests that if you have a name that comes later in the alphabet, you’re more likely to be an impulse shopper. The study’s authors theorize that this is a product of a lifetime of waiting for your name to be called, leading to impatience.
Familiarity helps in work and love
- Marquette University found that people with common names are more likely to be hired for a job than others.
- This is even truer if your name is super-easy to pronounce, as an NYU study found, probably because we tend to like what’s easy.
- According to one 2008 study, you’re even actually statistically more likely to have a career at a company whose initials mirror your own. Benicio del Toro is welcome any time at Big Think.
- Familiarity even seems to affect where we live. We tend to gravitate to places named like us. Did you know St. Louis has an unusually higher percentage of residents named Louis? How about Philadelphia, packed with Philips? Or Jacksonville’s Jacks or Virginia Beach’s Virginias?
- In school, a boy with a girl’s name is more likely to be suspended according to one 2007 study.
- In romance, a surprisingly high number of people connect with others whose names start with the same letter as theirs do. Xander and Xavier sitting in a tree…
- On the other hand, a 2009 study found that if your name is difficult to say, you may have more trouble dating because hard-to-say names are associated with higher risk. Unless of course, you’re hitting on a thrill-seeker.
- According to psychologist Frank McAndrew, unfamiliar names are even penalized in a romantic context.
Unless you’re dating online and have one of these names
According to The Grade, these are the “hottest” names of the moment:
- Jeff (Hey, that’s double-dipping!)
The image your name conjures up
- Unusual names can be viewed as a sign of juvenile delinquency, and make one less likely to be asked in for a job interview, according to a 2009 study.
- Sad but true, if your name sounds “white,” you’re more likely to get hired thanks to subliminal or overt racial bias. A study by the American Economic Association documented this pernicious type of labor market discrimination.
- The European Journal of Social Psychology found that use of a middle initial makes you seem smarter and more competent. More initial? More better.
Names in the management class
- If your name sounds worthy, you’re more likely to rise to the top of the company. A study of German names found that people whose last names were “Kaiser” (“emperor”) or “König” (“king”) were more likely to be bosses than those named “Koch” (“cook”) or “Bauer” (“farmer”).
- For some reason, says LinkedIn, men in upper management are more likely to have short names. Maybe it has something with powerful people wanting less intimidating monikers?
- On the other hand, LinkedIn notes, powerful women are more likely to use their full names, likely to present a business-like impression.
- According to The Atlantic, women with gender-neutral-sounding names are more likely to be promoted in some industries.
That’s what’s in a name. Maybe.
Some of these studies are more convincing than others, and few get into the reasons behind these sometimes-odd correlations. If you’ve got an apparently problematic name according to it all, don’t worry. People do change them. (Joseph’s “Stalin,” which means “steel,” is clearly more imposing than his original “Dzhugashvili.”) And since correlation doesn’t equal causality, we’d better keep studying this.
Can you raed this?
Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.
I cdnuolt blveiee that I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd what I was rdanieg. The ph aonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in what oerdr the ltteres in a word are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is that the frsit and last ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can still raed it whotuit a pboerlm. This is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the word as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! If you can raed this forwrad it.
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