Archive for the 'Science' Category

Are we living in a simulation?

… And what happens when it ends?  Does God roll the dice and start again?  Does some other God, higher being,  conscious entity, or multi-tentacled blue alien pick up the pieces and give it a different try?  Or does one of us sentient programs get sent up to the big leagues?  Kind of like a promoted angel or being picked to be the one to leave Earth on Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Or Fourth Kind in this case.

What if you subscribed to the Do Not Simulate list?  Surely there is some way to opt out of this spammy digital existence short of death.

The world is becoming increasingly digitized. 3D printers are already here.  You won’t have to sorry about losing your car keys for the 20th time or building that collection of orphan socks.  Just print another.  Politicians are worried about people printing guns.  But that’s small potatoes.  Soon we’ll be able to print money, dogs, babies, and lovers.  And clones, especially clones.  Think of how productive you could be with your duplicates.  It’s just a matter of time.

What happens when we expand beyond the limited computing capacity in our brain or outlive our bodies, even despite our cloaned body parts?  When we just get tired of having to take a shower every day and say hello to the annoying neighbor next door?  Futurists say that in our digital world we’ll download into a virtual life.  I’ve already got my name on a hot little petrabyte drive when I go.  But it’s clear now that I’ll just be zapped into the “cloud.”

Of course we’ll just repeat the same mistakes we did when we were meat in our funky simulated real life. In our virtual lives you know what we’ll all be doing.   The same things we do on Second Life and the Net.  We’ll be having sex with hot busty MILFs that wouldn’t have looked at us on the outside, drowning in trivial gossip, and watching LOLcat videos.  Our fantasies will come true where our husbands actually listen and the kids are well behaved.

So we’ll be in a simulation in a simulation in a simulation.  And that doesn’t count the sick fucks, aka Gods, who will want to create their own universes and play with their own galaxies, planets, and dues-paying citizenry that cling to such quaint ideas as free will.  And eventually create their own simulations just like we’re doing.

There must be some limit to the potentially infinite recursion of simulations.  I read a science fiction story where time slows as finite simulation processing resources approach full use.  Just like using a Windows computer that gets clogged up every few days and is going to crash.  So be sure to create your own universes before your neighbors do the same.

This isn’t just theoretical fun. We’re deconstructing the simulation through science and learning its rules now.

We see this digitization at the incredibly small nano scale where we’re reaching the limits of the known universe.  Reality there is different.  Albert Einstein got it wrong.  God does play with dice.  Quantum mechanics is just like magic.  Quantum computing allows data to be transmitted immediately anywhere.  Right now the distance may be microscopic.  But again, it’s just a matter of time until it’s thousands of miles to anywhere else in the world, light years, or all the way to the other side of our simulated galaxy.   Combine that with 3D printing and consciousness uploading and you have teleportation.

The scientists are finally getting with the program, so to speak.  Check out The Measurement That Would Reveal The Universe As A Computer Simulation.

Balance, not Bluster: Free market ideology is anti-science

Research from the University of Western Australia sheds light on the irrationality of extremism, typified by the far right of the Republican party in the U.S.

The data is from a survey called  NASA faked the moon landing|Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science. While the study finds support for crank magnetism (if you believe in one anti-science theory, you believe in others), it found an even greater correlation with free market ideology where believers rejected science from humans causing climate change to smoking causing lung cancer and HIV causing AIDS.

Science Blogs has excellent commentary at More data on why people reject science.

The survey unfortunately doesn’t break down free market ideology.  The free market is a proven part of modern economics.  But it’s just one cog in a strong and healthy civilization. A strict belief that elevates the free market at the expense of the other pillars of society is a fundamental part of what caused the global recession and the breakdown of the middle class in the U.S.

Of course if you are one such believer you’ll reject this piece of science as well.  Please continue on to the next blog on fairies, unicorns, little green men, the drug war, universal forces that take an interest in your personal affairs, and  the salvation (i.e. continuing destruction) of America through greed and anarchy.

Compensation theory

No, this is not an article on the repeated attacks on my manhood by my critics, my sweetie, and that cute blonde at Starbucks 30 years my junior who hasn’t even seen my Beemer yet.

The media and pop culture like Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus lionize the differences between sexes. It’s pablum for both the self-involved Me Generation and the unevolved Lost Generation that wants a return to the good old days of homogeneity like the good ol’ 1950s (BC?).  We all want to be special. If we can’t celebrate that we’re better, whether real or fictional, by virtue of sports team, city, country, skin color, religion, or sexual preference, there always is gender.

For decades medical research has highlighted those differences from genetics to hormones to neuroanatomy to individual and group psychology.  We’re all conceived as women in the womb until the Y chromosome for some kickstarts that nasty testosterone. Guys have larger parts of the brain for spatial reasoning, whereas gals have more for language. Etc.

Like most things in life, what we know merely serves to frame what we don’t know. Some sex differences are necessary for propagation of the species. But what about the rest? Are they cause or effect, and more importantly why?

Fascinating medical research suggests that many gender anomalies evolved not but to make the genders different, but to make them similar, to compensate for sex biology.  Researcher Geert de Vries first made this connection studying the brains of prairie voles. He found the males were devoted parents, just like the females, but had many more receptors for vasopressin, the pair bonding hormone.  The females naturally secreted more vasopressin during pregnancy.  The males didn’t have this advantage.  They compensated with more receptors.

So perhaps the gender differences codified by culture have been all wrong.

Ladies, you think you’re so smart with all your talking. It’s natural with those highly evolved language centers in your beautiful brains. You wonder why us guys have so little to say. Well, our manly secret is now out. You see, we’ve heard it all. We worked it out somewhere around age 5 when our GI Joes began massacring your Barbies. All your chitchat and stories and gossip are just not important. At all. Really. … Hulk smash. That’s all there is. No need to say more. Once your brain finishes compensating and catches up you’ll understand too.

Bang Bang: What’s beyond the universe

The Big Bang was hypothesized in 1931 by Georges Lemaître, to explain the expanding universe.  The cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR),  discovered almost 50 years ago, shows the leftover evidence of the first few moments, 13.75 billion years ago, when the universe was tiny and hot and exploded to form the universe that we know today.  The radiation is a fingerprint that was long thought to be random.  But the latest satellite data shows circular patterns that point to processes beyond the Big Bang.

A few theories provide intriguing and very cool ideas to explain it. One says that this universe doesn’t have a beginning and end, but that it’s a cycling universe that explodes, expands to become infinitely large and flat, and repeats.  Another says its evidence of the multiverse, where our universe is one of infinitely many universes.  The patterns are due to collisions with other universes.

How to really live long & prosper

From How to achieve ‘biological immortality’ naturally:

Evolutionary biologist Michael Rose, professor at University of California, Irvine, says he has discovered a natural way to achieve “biological immortality” without the use of anti-aging drugs and stem cell treatments.

“It’s one you can start this evening. … It comes at no cost, you don’t have to buy anything, and, in fact, it might save you money.”

Rose says that just like evolution has created aging to maintain youthful vigor in species, it also created natural biological immortality, such as a 10,000 Mojave desert creosote bush and other long-lived organisms.   The  immortality phase is a plateau where the probability of dying remains constant through the rest of the lifespan.

He says:

The key is not to slow the rate of aging, but go directly to the immortal phase at a lower rate of mortality, which is exactly what the fruit flies do.

Do this by adopting a “paleo” pre-industrial hunter-gatherer lifestyle once you reach 40 years old that is fully natural.

  • Stay in motion and exercise daily.
  • Eat meat, seafood, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid dairy, grains and grasses, such as milk, rice and corn

Chimp tech

Ladies, your battery-powered super-studded vibrator isn’t anything new in the animal kingdom. Humans aren’t the only beasties to use tools for romantic pursuits.  Horny chimps employ leaves to catch the attention of the ladies. That’s much like the gold bling I use to wear briefly when I was 16, my shiny bald head now serving that purpose. Presumably the chimps then use the leaf to roll a relaxing joint after the act is consummated. Read more in this science article.

The secret to long life

As a card-carrying Pastafarian, I am eternally blessed and let the Noodly One handle little details like my eternal salvation, the future of the human race, and navel lint.  Still, it’s always a small joy to see one’s lifelong pursuit vindicated in the kangaroo court known as science.  Of course I’m talking about tinfoil hats.

Finally you can toss your Bluetooth.  Kill those Sedoku and crossword puzzles you keep working on.  It’s time to go old school.  Pass ‘Go’ and talk directly into your cell phone.  You remember how you used to do it a few years ago.  There is wonderful news.  While the phone may give you cancer (it doesn’t, that’s unproven at this time), it also fights and even reverses Alzheimer’s.  So pick your poison.  You no longer have to resort to brain games and that especially nasty habit of reading to keep your mind active to prevent your impending date with senility.   That’s the surprising news from this research.  At least for mentally challenged mice.

As for me, I’ve always conveniently stored my phone in my hat.  No, I mean this hat.   So I’m good.  I hear voices AND I’m fighting old age.  But thanks for asking.

Music, Evolution, and Man

DarwinTunes is a magical experiment in computer music that illuminates evolution in music, culture, and even ourselves.  A simple sine wave is genetically combined in a myriad of patterns and broadcast over the Internet. The music is looped for 15 seconds and then a new variant played.  Listeners just like you and me rate whether we like it.  Our ratings determine which loops live and which die.

After just two months over 20,000 ratings have evolved 275 generations into wonderfully sweet music (to this US-cultured listener) that is surprisingly sophisticated with tempo changes,  intertwining melodies, counterpoint, bass and treble lines, and color.  The mutating music occasionally plays lemons but more often surprises and even delights with daring combinations and creative leaps  You can even download the tunes.  I like to use it as uptempo background music.

The premise that music, like all complicated forms of life and beauty, can be evolved is proven. Where does it end?  And what does the experiment say about us?

Is man a simple beast?  Will the music evolution flatten out, reaching a plateau that’s maximally suited to the human animal, a scientifically-definable level that corresponds to the capacity of our neural and aural wiring and sensors?

We already know that music has special properties to bypass the conscious mind and directly moderate and even manipulate moods and unconscious thought.  I can hear that in DarwinTunes.  Already it occasionally hits a loop that is “on” and engages both body and mind beyond the straightforward tones.  It’s not much of a leap to  imagine music like this (though far calmer) doled out in Orwell’s 1984 as aural pablum to control the masses.

Almost 30 years ago (yikes!) I wrote a story about music  that had evolved so perfectly in tune with the human organism that it directly tapped into the pleasure centers.  The result – catatonic fugue, a case of technology surpassing man.

But there is another future. Perhaps DarwinTunes will continue to climb the evolutionary path … and take us for the ride.  Higher-order composition and complexity, unknown today, could break music boundaries, surpass the random stylings of human composers, and open our minds.

Human evolution has essentially stalled.  Civilization has removed the process of natural selection, save the occasional buffoon cleaning his gun,  drunk walking in front of a bus, or neanderthal starting a war.  Evolution has jumped to another plane with cybernetic and networked life.

Yet we know that our brains from babies in the womb to seniors are plastic and constantly growing.  Music has the potential not just to tap into our meat to make us happy, calm, angry, or zombies, but to program the wiring itself, building a higher order platform or operating system on our primitive wetware. Instead of a being limited beast, we would have unlimited godlike potential.

Or maybe the music itself, having achieved its own evolved sentience, influenced me to write this essay to ensure its parasitic existence.  I’m sure it will have more precise instructions in the next generation.

In any event there is artifice aplenty in how the experiment is set up.  I hope the researchers extend it by making all aspects of the music experience evolvable.

How does that fit in there?

If you’re a nerd like me, one of the legendary industry publications is the Annals of Improbable Research and their annual Ig Nobel Prizes for the best research.

The Public Health prize this year went to a bra that can be quickly converted into a pair of protective face masks in an emergency.  … Kinda like a reverse motorboat (see Craig Ferguson). And you thought the only thing they were good for was storing boobies and iPods and slinging rocks.

As an extra bonus I present one of the all-time award winners – MRI Sex.  The amazing video shows actual copulation as imaged by an MRI machine, and thus the title of this post and the image below.

MRI photo


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