Archive for the ‘Universe’ Category


2.11.2015 Leave a comment

We may be on the brink of one of the most important discoveries in our history!

A few days ago the Cassini probe flew only 49km above the surface of Enceladus, the sixth-largest moon of Saturn. Notably, it passed through the cloud of material ejected from Enceladus’ south pole geysers.

So far there is mounting evidence that the white ice-covered moon harbors a global water ocean under the surface. After the data gathered by the probe is sent back to Earth and analyzed in a few weeks, we will know more about the chemical composition of Enceladus’ ocean and be able to assess whether it has conditions suitable for the existence of life.

While Cassini’s instruments are incapable of detecting life forms, the scientists should be able tell whether there is any hydrothermal activity going on, which could be important for sustaining life.

Discovering any form of life on a such a tiny rock (500km in diameter) would indicate that life is common in the Universe.

Categories: Universe

Who are you?

10.05.2015 Leave a comment

Do you consider yourself a magical being driven by an invisible soul, or a biomechanical wonder, an incredible system consisting of nanomachinery and water, an organic robot?

If you can provide an unbiased, honest answer, I suspect your answer will be correlated with your belief system.

Categories: Universe

The future of driving

14.04.2015 Leave a comment

As the era of robots is approaching, self-driving cars are a hot topic.

The transition to self-driving cars will be gradual. Initially, cars will be able to drive autonomously only in perfect road conditions, e.g. on the well-marked freeway. Perhaps initially we will have single lanes for self-driving cars, where it will be forbidden for humans to operate the steering wheel, except for critical situations. Eventually robot-only lanes will be expanded to entire sections of roads and freeways. Autonomous vehicles will be much safer and faster on the freeway than human-operated vehicles.

Less developed countries will soon become an excellent testbed for self-driving cars. In many countries, the quality of roads is very low, some roads don’t have lane markings and are full of obstacles. Also, the road laws don’t seem to apply in many countries and are treated by drivers only as guidelines. Driving in these countries is going to be a great challenge for self-driving cars.

Now, here is an idea for a self-driving car feature.

Imagine driving on a winding road with a high speed limit behind a tractor or another slow vehicle. You cannot overtake it, because you cannot see far enough ahead. A self-driving car could be equipped with a drone. When visibility is limited, the car could deploy the drone to check out the conditions ahead. The drone would be continuously sending images and its position back to the car, so the car would know, whether it’s safe to overtake even if there is no visibility. The self-driving car would know, that there are no other cars on the lane in the opposite direction.

The drone could also be equipped with a radar, which would make it useful in foggy conditions. Upon encountering fog, the car would deploy the drone and could keep driving at a high speed, because it would have the image of the road ahead.

The drone’s battery would have a limited capacity, so the drone could only be deployed for a limited time, and would need to return to the car for charging. A more expensive self-driving car could be equipped with two drones. While one drone is in operation, the other drone could be charging.

Ideally, the drones should be cheap and should use a standardized communication protocol as well as support a standardized docking mechanism. It would be common to lose a drone, so it should be cheap to buy a new one, or upgrade it.

The drones would probably be useful to self-driving cars even if all cars were self-driving and communicating with each other, esp. in cases where road visibility is limited and pedestrians or animals are present near the road.

Categories: Universe

How to end all wars

4.04.2015 Leave a comment

Wars don’t do much good to our civilisation. Aside from all the pain and sorrow they cause, they also set us back due to all the damage they inflict. How to prevent them? Here is an idea.

There is a theory that our civilisation began to coalesce when the levels of testosterone in men fell low enough, that men became willing to cooperate. Before, when the levels of testosterone were high, men were too aggressive to cooperate.

My theory is that the primary reason for all the wars, which are currently happening, are still high testosterone levels. Just as most crimes are committed by men between certain ages.

To end all wars (and also prevent crimes), we need to lower the levels of testosterone in men. One way to do that would be to have all men between certain ages take pills which reduce testosterone. Another way would be to alter our genome, so that men produce less testosterone in the first place. Low testosterone levels should at least be mandatory for all men, who have decisive powers, including governments, government agencies, military, police, as well as all men, who have ever committed any crimes.

It sounds drastic, but I’m sure it would make the world a better place. Testosterone is the main source of evil.

Putting your ego aside, can you think of any drawbacks?

Categories: Universe

Robots are coming!

8.03.2015 Leave a comment

…to a factory near you. But beware, they are after your job, too! Foxconn, one of the biggest electronics manufacturers, is looking to replace 70% of its human workforce with robots in a couple of years. The fear of robots replacing human workers originates from ca. 1970s, when robots have been introduced on production lines in many industries, but their deployment was expensive and limited. Only now the technology seems to have matured enough for robots to be feasible on a broader scale. If you combine robots with 3D printing, which is another hot area of development, humans will be pretty much redundant in manufacturing soon. I predict that humans will be replaced in most other areas too, from store clerks through medical staff. Think of a job a robot cannot do, and I guarantee robots will eventually be able to do it. Most likely, engineers will be one of the few jobs left to humans, but probably not for long. Some specialized, niche jobs may also be safe for some limited time. This will gradually happen over the next 30 to 50 years. We will soon need a brand new economy, in which humans will not be qualified or will be too expensive to perform any kind of work. Therefore, humans will not earn money, so they will not have money to spend. It is hard to imagine what social turmoil we will be going through. In my opinion, governments should start thinking about how to approach this problem now, when it’s not too late. It is inevitable and there is no way to prevent it. We will have no choice, but to adapt.

Categories: Universe

Women best candidates for Mars

14.11.2014 Leave a comment

This is a great piece: Women are cheaper to send to Mars than men.

If you think of it, it makes sense. Life support is one of the most expensive elements of any manned space mission. Every kilogram sent to orbit and then away matters. Among things which contribute to the total mass of any space vehicle are not only humans themselves, but also their food and all the equipment necessary to keep them healthy and happy.

Statistically, women are smaller (weigh less) than men and need less food. Given that men and women are equally smart, women seem to be better candidates for deep space missions.

So what next?

The mission to Mars may be the last mission where humans will break the frontiers of space exploration. Given the current rate of AI evolution, I won’t be surprised if sentient machines will be the ones going beyond Mars.

Categories: Universe

Men: Have kids young, or never

25.02.2014 Leave a comment

You are a male and you think you still have time to have kids? Think twice!

New research suggests that the quality of male sperm deteriorates with ages due to more mutations happening over lifetime. Having children late in your lifetime bears a significant risk of genetic disorders and defects in offspring.

Relying on a roulette in such an important matter is not very wise. So get to work!

Categories: Universe

Happy birthday, Opportunity

8.02.2014 Leave a comment

Two weeks ago Opportunity had its 10th birthday. (In case you live under a rock, Opportunity is one of the robots roving Mars.)

In my opinion, this is quite an achievement for humanity. Opportunity should probably be brought to top of the list of the Wonders of the World. Except it’s not on this world…

Imagine a ten-year old car. What are the chances of a car surviving 10 years without any service and without breaking down? Add to that desert conditions (dust) and extreme temperatures (down to -40C at night, up to +40C during the day). Although it’s travelled only 38 km on land, to be fair for the expedition, one should add the distance from Earth, which varies between 54 and 401 million km.

For ten years, nobody has cleaned its solar panels. Let’s hope Opportunity will continue its journey for several more years without sharing the fate of its twin, Spirit, which probably froze to death during one of the Martian winters…

Categories: Universe

Three dimensions

22.04.2013 Leave a comment

How many colors do you need to color countries on a map such that no two adjacent countries have the same color? Only four.

The problem is solved by representing a map as a planar graph. The solution comes from the graph theory.

Unfortunately this is not true for non-planar graphs. Every non-planar graph can be represented in three dimensions and it is possible to connect each vertex with all the other vertices, therefore in the worst case one would need as many colors as there are vertices in order to avoid two interconnected vertices having the same color.

I suspect that this has something to do with the fact that our space is three-dimensional. Not two-dimensional and not four-dimensional. I think there must be some connection. Perhaps three dimensions are sufficient and a fourth dimension of space would be redundant? I am sure some physicist has already thought of it and wrote a nice thesis.

Categories: Universe

Brain is a simple device

14.03.2013 1 comment

The video of a live brain at work is mind-blowing. From this video we can see how signals propagate through the brain. There is a lot we know about the brain, but there is still a lot we don’t know. Here are some of the things we do know:

  • It works in primitive animals, too. It just can’t process as much data as ours.
  • Apes are not as intelligent as we are. We evolved to be more intelligent than apes. This indicates that the basic architecture of the brain is encoded in DNA.
  • Some information is encoded in the DNA as well. Many animals immediately know what to do right after they are “born”, e.g. newborn lizards know how to hunt and zebras know how to walk.
  • When we sleep, the brain sorts all the information and learns. Sleep works like a feedback loop for learning.
  • Some time ago I read somewhere, but I can’t find the link right now, that only certain patterns of information passing through the brain is valid. For example, when single neurons fire, they are ignored. When they fire randomly, they are also ignored. But when nearby neurons fire together, they fire like a wave and the wave passes through the brain – then the actual processing happens. This explains why animals are better at seeing movement than seeing static images.

These and the video of a live brain at work may lead to the conclusion that overall the brain is quite simple, in its own complexity. Processing happens when the signals are passing through the layers of neurons in the brain. Brain is also a memory device, so the passing signals may retrieve information or may store it or enforce it during learning feedback loops.

The question that bothers me is: how do we think? I suspect thoughts are output through the same routes as speech, but instead of reaching the speech apparatus (vocal cords, face) they go back to the brain as input. That would explain why we often think as if we were leading a monologue, speaking to ourselves.

The more interesting thing is how the actual thought processing happens which leads to ideas and solutions. I suspect the information is just passing through appropriate parts of the brain which process it. The information is probably routed based on its type (numbers, words, images, etc.).

So how do you think?

Categories: Universe