Monday, July 4, 2011

The Missing Mass of Our Universe

I found this great BBC documentary about dark matter today. It is definitely worth a watch even though it is from 2006. The experiments they were doing in the mines looked pretty cool. I looked into them some more and found some recent developments by the University of Chicago team inside of a mine in Minnesota. From what I've read on average they find one particle a day that may hint at the existence of dark matter. Hopefully in the near future the combined efforts across the world will bring some new light upon this mysterious force in our universe.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Neil deGrasse Tyson Year Book Pic

Neil deGrasse Tyson is looking pretty cool in his yearbook picture. He's definitely my favorite celebrity physicist.


I just finished reading a great story about the singularity and the implications it may have on humanity and our culture. The book is Accelerando by Charles Stross. You can read it here for free in a variety of formats.
The book describes the life of three generations of a family before, during, and after the singularity. The portrayal of the way technology progresses is very good throughout the story. Stross only uses ideas that have some scientific basis behind them. He does a really good job of using a lot of well researched theories as well. Having real ideas behind the story is nice because you could just Google something you don't understand and be provided with a great resources about that topic.

The ideas and technologies that Stross presents in the book really opened up my mind to the possibilities of a human/computer interface. Human potential will be much greater when technology like that is created and implemented widely. We will be able to get information so much faster than we can now. We won't be held back by how fast our brains can interpret text. The speed of the computers interfaced with out brain will be the new limit to how fast we can absorb information. The interfaces will probably start off with humans being able to control computers using certain thoughts. There will be electrodes that monitor brain activity and by learning certain thought processes you will be able to control a computer.

The next step would be making an interface between the neurons in the brain and the computer, so the electrical signals of the brain can interact directly with the computer. Our thoughts would be able to pull up information directly from the computer.
Stross describes a few ways that computers and brains could interact and allow humans to achieve intelligence beyond the capabilities of our biological bodies. A main part of the story revolves around the idea that humans will be able to upload a mapping of their brain to a computer in order to create a conscious being living inside a virtual world. People will ditch their bodies in order to become more intelligent.

A few other things he touches on are the nature of giant corporations affecting the development of mankind, extraterrestrial beings that revolve their existence around corporations, Dyson spheres, Matrioshka brains, future space craft, and the dismantling of the solar system for resources.

It's free, so why not read it

How Fast Can You Go

Over time the propagation of new ideas throughout society has increased to faster and faster speeds. Information that once would have took decades or centuries to spread out across only a small part of the earth now takes seconds. The speed of information has allowed society to develop more rapidly and fostered technological innovation. Spreading information has developed from simple word of mouth communication to complex computer networks designed to retrieve vast amounts of information.

In the early times of humanity, the speed that ideas could travel was limited by how fast someone could walk, ride an animal and talk. There was also a limit on how long the original idea could be saved, due to a persons life span. Information had to be shared orally and be passed down from generation to generation in order for it to survive the test of time. The slow process of learning that information was determined by how fast a person could commit spoken word to memory.

The development of written language allowed information to be saved for periods much longer than a person's life. An idea no longer had to be passed down from an older generation to be saved.  Text was also important because it could be copied verbatim instead of trusting someones memory to recall knowledge. People were also able to intake written text faster than a person can talk. The human mind's comprehension of ideas slowly degrades over time, so this was helpful in preserving ideas more precisely. Information could be spread much easier because it no longer relied on just the performance of our brain and the ability to recall ideas. Writing allowed people to expand upon their thought process as well. Instead of having to speak their ideas and trying to make them as detailed as possible, people were able to elaborate on their ideas over time and revise them easily. The people reading the information were allowed to understand a person's string of though, so they were more capable of expanding upon the ideas that were presented to them. Information could become much more complex and in depth due to this.

After written text was developed, a key limitation of the spread of information was how fast the physical writings could be transported to new people and how difficult it was to translate information in to other languages. Horses and other animals allowed people to travel faster than they could on foot and the use of boats allowed humans to travel to new lands across water. The development of railroad system greatly improved the speed humans were able to travel and the amount of information transported, either through written work or human minds. Trains were able to travel long distances at a fast speed without stopping or relying on animals. Railroads especially helped the transportation of information stored in humans by moving cultures across the planet to new locations where they were able to spread their ideas.

An other great innovation in the spread of information was the printing press. The press allowed copies of books to be made relatively easily. Much easier than copying the text by hand. The quantity of books available increased  drastically. It allowed many copies of ideas to be distributed across the earth. People in different locations were able to read about the same ideas and build their own ideas of off them independently. Books also became much more common and affordable, so the cost of information/ideas went down allowing more people to have access. Ideas were exposed to a much greater audience and more people were able to think about solving the same problems that faced society. Innovation increased dramatically. By the 19th century industrial scale printing was capable and even more people were exposed to the ideas and events of the world through news papers.

The telegraph sped the transfers of information faster than anything else up to its time. People had an almost instant way to share information across great distances.  The amount of information you could transfer was slower than other ways of accessing information, but the great distances if could travel made up for it. News from one side of a continent could permeate to the other side in hours instead of days. Current events became much more pertinent. Letters that would have taken weeks to reach it audience could now be sent across the same distance in a matter of minutes. The telephone essentially did the same thing but it used voice communication instead of text.

Radio increased the capabilities of voice communication even further. It's advent spawned a whole new medium to convey knowledge to the masses without  being constrained by wires. The radio could reach huge audiences across a large area. People received current news and entertainment right in their homes. Instantaneous communication to such a large audience changed the how current events were viewed. News could be relayed around the world through the air.

The step from radio to digital communication over networks provided a similar leap in information sharing, than that of the ability to move from spoken word ideas to the storage of ideas in written text. Instead of relying on voice communications to exchanged information quickly over large distances, text could be sent across the world instantly on the internet and be preserved on the recipients computer to be accessed anytime. Information could be stored any where in the world with an internet connection and through the use of computers it could be accessed almost instantly. At first phone lines were used and they provided only so much bandwidth. A person with an internet connection can access information stored anywhere in the world. There are no longer any barriers holding back the propagation of ideas across the world. Mighty electrons carry information across the world at almost instant speeds. The creation of fiber optic networks and widespread adoption of broadband by households has increased the speed an average person can receive and transmit information to unthinkable levels.

Even though humans can transfer data at speeds unimaginable in earlier time, there is still a need to transfer more information at faster speeds. Humanity's insatiable hunger information can't be quelled. The world will continue to become an even smaller places as the way we communicate with each other becomes faster and faster. This increase of speed is key to the development of the singularity. The swiftness of ideas moving around the world will foster more innovation that will lead to even greater technology. Instantaneous retrieval of information is key to the development of an intelligence that transcends man.

The Singularity

Lately, I have been spending a lot of time reading about the technological singularity.  For those who do not know what it is this is the gist of it. The singularity refers to the development of greater than human intelligence some time in the future. If a greater than human intelligence can be created then that intelligence would be able to create one smarter than itself. This would lead to incredibly fast creation of intelligence. Because of the grand implications of this idea, it is hard to predict what will actually happen to humanity after that point because there will be such a great leap in technology that all new developments would seem entirely alien to present day humans. When greater than human intelligence determines innovation, more and more intelligent technology will be created eventually causing intelligence to expand exponentially. Vernor Vinge wrote an excellent paper on the singularity and what it might mean for the human race.

Over time the propagation of new ideas throughout society has increased to faster and faster speeds. In early times ideas only spread by word of mouth. The speed that ideas could travel was limited by how fast someone could walk or ride an animal. There was also a limit on how long the original idea could be saved, due to a persons life span. Information had to be shared orally and be passed down from generation to generation in order for it to survive. The relatively slow process of learning that information also slowed down the rate that it traveled.

Eventually there was writing that could store information and allow information to be saved longer than a humans life. Also written text can be copied and distributed to new areas. The next major development for the spread of information

Here are some ways that some believe the singularity will be reached.
  • Computers that are "conscious" may be created and they will reach superhuman intelligence
  • Large computer networks may develop some greater intelligence
  • Computer/human interfaces will allow man to think at much greater levels than those allowed by purely biological life forms.
  • The altering of human biology to allow for greater intelligence. This could mean altering DNA in order to develop better brains.
In the next few posts I will expand on some of these ideas and share some of the history of the sharing and comprehension of information.

    Back in the Blogging Game Again

    I have started up a new blog after being away from internet blogging for several years now. I am looking forward to posting about physics, space, science fiction, and comics.

    Hope you enjoy.