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Prepare to jump to light speed: Inside the mission to go interstellar | New Scientist issue 3225
"Proxima Centauri is 4 light years away. Ambitious space mission Breakthrough Starshot is developing a way to push spacecraft there at a fifth of the speed of light"
dreams  awe  NewScientist  inspiration  Space 
12 days ago by pierredv
Is religion good or bad for humanity? Epic analysis delivers an answer - Harvey Whitehouse | New Scientist issue 3224, April 2019
"A scientific review of 10,000 years of history is finally revealing the unexpected truth behind religion's role in human civilisation"

"Another popular hypothesis is that cooperation in complex societies is intimately connected with the invention of “Big Gods”: deities who demand that their moral code be observed by all, and who have supernatural powers of surveillance and enforcement. Most of today’s world religions have these moralising gods, but they are rare in small-scale societies, where supernatural beings tend to care only whether people discharge their obligations to the spirit world."

"Other researchers, including me, have examined the role that sacred rituals might have as social glue."

"Instead of helping foster cooperation as societies expanded, Big Gods appeared only after a society had passed a threshold in complexity corresponding to a population of around a million people. . . . The most parsimonious explanation is that something other than Big Gods allowed societies to grow."

"Piecing all this together, here is what we think happened. As societies grew by means of agricultural innovation, the infrequent, traumatic rituals that had kept people together as small foraging bands gave way to frequent, painless ones. These early doctrinal religions helped unite larger, heterogeneous populations just enough to overcome the free-riding problem and ensure compliance with new forms of governance. However, in doing so they rendered them vulnerable to a new problem: power-hungry rulers. These were the despotic god-kings who presided over archaic states. Granted the divine right to command vast populations, they exploited it to raise militias and priesthoods, shoring up their power through practices we nowadays regard as cruel, such as human sacrifice and slavery. But archaic states rarely grew beyond 100,000 people because they, in turn, became internally unstable and therefore less defensible against invasion.
"The societies that expanded to a million or more were those that found a new way to build cooperation – Big Gods. They demoted their rulers to the status of mortals, laid the seeds of democracy and the rule of law, and fostered a more egalitarian distribution of rights and obligations. To our modern eyes, “bad” religions gave way to “good” ones. In reality, religions were always “good” in the sense that they promoted cooperation. What changed was that societies began valuing social justice above deference to authority. In other words, they changed their ideas about what constituted “good” cooperative behaviours to ones that more closely align with our modern agenda."
NewScientist  religion  culture  rituals  gods 
12 days ago by pierredv
Gaia rebooted: New version of idea explains how Earth evolved for life | New Scientist issue 3222 Mar 2019
"The controversial Gaia hypothesis sees Earth as a superorganism adapted to be perfect for life. A weird type of evolution may finally show how that actually happens"

"As far as we know, Earth is a one-off: there is no population of competing, reproducing planets for natural selection to choose between to form the next generation. And yet, like a superorganism honed by evolution, Earth seems to self-regulate in ways that are essential for life. Oxygen levels have remained relatively constant for hundreds of millions of years, as has the availability of key building blocks of life such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. Crucially, Earth’s surface temperature has remained within the narrow range that allows liquid water to exist. It is true there have been upheavals: during a “snowball Earth” episode about 700 million years ago, for example, almost the entire surface was frozen. “But the key question is, why does it spend so much time in a stable state and not just flying all over the place?” asks Tim Lenton at the University of Exeter, UK."

Def of "selection by persistence":

"[Tim Lenton, Execter] suggests, Earth and the early life on it might have interacted haphazardly at first. Unstable configurations – those, say, with little or no cycling of key elements such as nitrogen – would have failed quickly, requiring life to reboot nearly from scratch. Eventually, though, the system must have stumbled on a stable configuration, with better cycling and tighter regulatory mechanisms. It should be no surprise, then, that the planet of today has strong regulatory systems."

"From Bouchard’s perspective, natural selection favours traits that enhance persistence, with reproductive success being one way to do that, but not the only one."
equilibrium  NewScientist  evolution  complexity  geology 
12 days ago by pierredv
Schrödinger’s kittens: New thought experiment breaks quantum theory | New Scientist, issue 3222, Mar 2019
"A twist on the famous Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment could undermine quantum physics – or provide a path to a deeper understanding of how the world works"
physics  quantum-mechanics  measurement  paradoxes  NewScientist 
12 days ago by pierredv
AI-powered smartphone cameras are changing the way we see reality | New Scientist, issue 3221, Mar 2019
"Smartphone cameras now use artificial intelligence to completely transform the pictures we take, and it could change the way we see reality"

"The goal of digital photography was once to approximate what our eyes see. “All digital cameras, including ones on smartphones, have always had some sort of processing to modify contrast and colour balance,” says Neel Joshi, who works on computer vision at Microsoft Research.
Computational photography goes beyond this, automatically making skin smoother, colours richer and pictures less grainy. It can even turn night into day. These photos may look better, but they raise concerns about authenticity and trust in an era of fakeable information. “The photos of the future will not be recorded, they’ll be computed,” says Ramesh Raskar at the MIT Media Lab. "

"Other clever things your phone’s camera can do

Google Translate’s camera feature lets you point your phone at a sign in a foreign country or words in a book (see picture), superimposing an on-screen translation of the text to make it appear in your own language.

Microsoft’s Pix app detects if you are taking a picture of a whiteboard or receipt, automatically straightening and cropping the image to the text contained within. The firm’s Excel app can capture printed data tables and automatically put them into a spreadsheet, doing away with the need for tedious data entry.

Samsung’s Bixby virtual assistant has a calorie counter built into its camera (see picture below). Point it at what is on your plate and it will give you an estimate of the food’s energy content.
photography  AI  cameras  NewScientist 
12 days ago by pierredv
Elizabeth Holmes: The hypnotic tale of the rise and fall of Theranos | New Scientist, Mar 2019
"Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes built a $10 billion company on the promise of a miracle blood test. But it didn’t work. A new film, The Inventor, follows the fallout"

"How could so many smart people have been duped for so long? "

"Eerily, Holmes named her prototype blood-testing machine “Edison”. The real Edison also pretended things worked when they didn’t."

"Ian Gibbons, Theranos’s chief scientist,was pushed out. Facing a legal battle involving the company, he took his own life."

"The film shows how Holmes and Balwani created a culture of paranoia. "
NewScientist  History  technology  biotech  tricksters  innovation 
5 weeks ago by pierredv
How to upgrade your thinking and avoid traps that make you look stupid | New Scientist
" IQ does correlate with many important outcomes in life, including academic success and job performance in many workplaces. But it is less useful at predicting “wise” decision-making and critical thinking, including the capacity to assess risk and uncertainty and weigh up conflicting evidence."


= "framing – our tendency to view certain statistics more favourably depending on the way they are phrased"

= "sunk cost fallacy: the tendency to pour more resources into a failing project to save sacrificing your initial investment, even though it will ultimately cost you a lot more than simply giving up"

= "gambler’s fallacy, the belief that chance events somehow even themselves out"

= Solomon's paradox: "find it easier to reason wisely about other people’s dilemmas than our own"

= "motivated reasoning, which means we apply our intelligence in a one-sided manner, to build arguments that justify and rationalise our own intuitive views and demolish the arguments of others"

= (perceptions of expertise can lead to) "earned dogmatism – the sense that you have earned the right to remain closed-minded about a subject, while rejecting arguments that disagree with those views"

"The Dunning-Kruger effect has now been replicated many times. Those studies have mostly examined basic skills such as numeracy. If you look at people with specialist expertise, however, a very different picture emerges."

Tips from the sidebar "Keeping your thinking on track"
= self-distancing
= consider the opposite of what you had just been thinking
NewScientist  IQ  intelligence  wisdom  fallacies  tips  bias  risk-assessment  cognitive-bias 
7 weeks ago by pierredv
Life’s secret ingredient: A radical theory of what makes things alive | New Scientist, issue 3215, Feb 2019
I couldn't figure out what he was on about.
Lots of "arguments by ethos" i.e. citing big name people to support his arguments
See also

maxwell demons

"Physicists and chemists use the language of material objects, and concepts such as energy, entropy, molecular shapes and binding forces. These enable them to explain, for example, how cells are powered or how proteins fold: how the hardware of life works, so to speak. Biologists, on the other hand, frame their descriptions in the language of information and computation, using concepts such as coded instructions, signalling and control: the language not of hardware, but of software."
physics  biology  NewScientist  entropy  Maxwell-demons  thermodynamics 
11 weeks ago by pierredv
I'm building a machine that breaks the rules of reality | New Scientist, Apr 2018, Vlatko Vedral
"Tobias Schaetz ... he described an experiment looking at ions inside a crystal. He gave them some energy and watched how they cooled. Unlike a cup of coffee, which cools gradually, the ions seemed to lose energy for a while, but then the energy suddenly bounced back. It is proof of what we had suspected: the rules of classical thermodynamics don’t always apply in the quantum world."

"I thought I would make a quantum version of a heat engine ... The idea was to set up pairs of organic molecules and raise them to a high energy level by shining light on them. Left alone, the molecules will return to a slightly lower energy level, re-emitting light of a different frequency as they do so. ... If we set up the experiment just right, the emitted light won’t carry any information that could tell us which of the two molecules it came from. According to quantum theory, this forces them to become entangled, so that when one drops to the lower energy level, the other one automatically does too, with both emitting light in unison in a process called superradiance."

"... we were scooped ... Walmsley and his team saw that light was produced quicker than the classical rules of thermodynamics predict"

"Felix Binder, now at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, has shown that quantum batteries can charge more quickly than normal ones"
NewScientist  thermodynamics  quantum-mechanics  Vlatko-Vedral 
11 weeks ago by pierredv
Matter, energy… knowledge: How to harness physics' demonic power | New Scientist, May 2016
"Information is a real, physical thing that seems to play a part in everything from how machines work to how living creatures function.

Recently came the most startling demonstration yet: a tiny machine powered purely by information, which chilled metal through the power of its knowledge"

"Others realised that the demon’s trick depends on its knowledge of the molecules but Szilard’s breakthrough was to quantify the information the demon needed"

Landauer & Bennett: "Accounting for the cost of deleting information restored some balance to the demon’s thermodynamic world, but it was a little unsatisfactory. The demon still gets away with bending the second law for a while – until its head gets too full."

"Takahiro Sagawa and Masahito Ueda ... worked out that you can salvage the second law by adding an extra term called mutual information ... Sagawa and Ueda’s updated second law shows how much work you can extract from a system for a given amount of demonic knowledge. It doesn’t hold only when memory is erased."

"In 2010, Shoichi Toyabe then as at Chuo University in Tokyo and his colleagues built a working demon using a tiny plastic rotor, a camera and a computer. ... Jukka Pekola and his team at Aalto University in Espoo created a microscopic demon ... With no work being done, how can the system cool while the demon gets hotter? The feat seems impossible until we incorporate Sagawa and Ueda’s mutual information."

"If information alone can have a physical effect, then it is a physical thing. So what kind of thing is it? "

"Well, Pekola’s demon is not going to bring us perpetual motion. It is still governed by the restrictions Landauer hit upon: it can create a temperature difference that could be used to do work, but only at the cost of repeatedly wiping its memory, which requires work."
NewScientist  information  Maxwell-demons  thermodynamics  entropy 
11 weeks ago by pierredv
An AI conference warns us why we need to mind our language | New Scientist issue 3212, Jan 2019
"We’re using the wrong words to talk about artificial intelligence."

"Language is at the heart of the problem. In his 2007 book, The Emotion Machine, computer scientist Marvin Minsky deplored (although even he couldn’t altogether avoid) the use of “suitcase words”: his phrase for words conveying specialist technical detail through simple metaphors. Think what we are doing when we say metal alloys “remember” their shape, or that a search engine offers “intelligent” answers to a query."

"Without metaphors and the human tendency to personify, we would never be able to converse, let alone explore technical subjects, but the price we pay for communication is a credulity when it comes to modelling how the world actually works. No wonder we are outraged when AI doesn’t behave intelligently. But it isn’t the program playing us false, rather the name we gave it."

"Earlier this year in a public forum [Turkish-born Memo Akten, based at Somerset House in London] threatened to strangle a kitten whenever anyone in the audience personified AI, by talking about “the AI”, for instance."
NewScientist  language  quotes  metaphor  thinking  cognition  AI  anthropomorphism  culture 
12 weeks ago by pierredv
An audacious new plan will make all science free. Can it work? | New Scientist
"We fund scientific research through our taxes but often have to pay a hefty fee to read its findings. An uprising aims to bring the knowledge paywall crashing down"

"This all adds up to a very lucrative business. In 2013, academic publishing generated global revenues of $25.2 billion. Profit margins are reported to be between 30 and 40 per cent: the figure is hard to verify, although not disputed by the industry’s leading trade body, the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers. Indeed, last year Elsevier, the world’s largest academic publisher, reported a profit margin of nearly 37 per cent, amounting to £913 million. In other words, academic publishing is one of the most profitable businesses in the world."
NewScientist  PlanS  Research  publication  business-models 
may 2019 by pierredv
Termites in Brazil have covered an area the size of Britain in mounds | New Scientist Nov 2018
In the dry forests of northeastern Brazil, an area of 230,000 square kilometres – larger than Great Britain – is covered in 200 million regularly spaced mounds, each about 2.5 metres tall. These mounds, known to locals as murundus, are the waste earth dug out by termites to create a vast network of underground tunnels, and some of them are up to 4000 years old.

The termites have excavated over 10 cubic kilometres of earth to build the tunnels and mounds, making this the biggest engineering project by any animal besides humans, according to Stephen Martin from the University of Salford, UK.
NewScientist  awesome  insects  biology 
may 2019 by pierredv
There's a dark side to self-control. Here's why you should loosen up | New Scientist Nov 2018
"Willpower is the secret of success – or so we've been told. But too much can be bad for the body and mind. The trick is to know when to give in to temptation"

"Much of our current understanding of self-control stems from the work of psychologist Walter Mischel "

"What’s more, the greater obedience associated with high self-control may be damaging for oneself as well as others. People with high self-control report feeling less satisfied with their partners and colleagues, believing that others take advantage of their dependability."

"She found that small cues indicating high self-control (whether someone flosses their teeth, for instance) prompted volunteers to allocate them more work, while also underestimating the effort they would need to put in to complete the work. The assumption, it seemed, was that someone with high self-control could simply “get on with it”. Koval says she has witnessed many friends and colleagues who have been taken advantage of in this way. "

"And it gets worse. In the long run, high self-control can be a source of regret. ... Rather than feeling pride in their achievements, most wished that they had exercised less self-control, not more."

"Perhaps the most troubling finding, however, comes from a survey of nearly 700 African American families from poor neighbourhoods. In line with much of the previous research, teachers’ assessments of children’s self-control predicted many later outcomes: those scoring highly were more likely to enter college, for instance. Yet they also had high blood pressure and showed elevated levels of hormones commonly associated with stress."

" At the very least, programmes designed to boost self-control should offer greater support to help children cope with those additional stresses. But Uziel is also keen on using so-called nudge techniques to improve behaviour without the need for self-control. "

"As Uziel points out, people with high self-control may doggedly pursue a goal even once it has stopped being personally meaningful. You might also make more effort to deliberately leave empty windows in your diary that allow greater spontaneity and indulgence (see “A lazy path to self-control”)."
NewScientist  willpower  self-control  * 
april 2019 by pierredv
Feedback: The diesel scent of London, now available in a bottle | New Scientist Oct 2018
Air unfreshener

NOTHING stirs the memory quite like smell, so for absent metropolitans, how about a bottle of London fragrance? The concoction, prepared by artist Michael Pinsky and a team of master perfumers, evokes “an olfactory snapshot of Piccadilly Circus”, with “long notes of diesel, and a tar accord with a butch subwoofer taste”.

Those who wish to take a sensory trip abroad can also breathe in the gritty sulphurous smog of Beijing, or the sharp tang of rotting garbage and car fumes reminiscent of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The city scents are part of a project to call attention to air pollution around the world.

Turning perfumery on its head, Pinsky sought to find a use for bad smells instead of trying to mask them. Londoners could sample the foul air in “pollution pods” erected in Somerset House in the city earlier this year. This installation has long since wrapped up, but those who missed it need only step outside for an approximate experience.
NewScientist  humor  satire  art  aromatherapy 
april 2019 by pierredv
Exclusive: Grave doubts over LIGO's discovery of gravitational waves | New Scientist Nov 2018
“We believe that LIGO has failed to make a convincing case for the detection of any gravitational wave event,” says Andrew Jackson, the group’s spokesperson. According to them, the breakthrough was nothing of the sort: it was all an illusion.
LIGO  gravity  cosmology  experiment  NewScientist  physics 
april 2019 by pierredv
The animal economists that can wheel and deal as well as any human | New Scientist Dec 2018
"As we get to know Earth’s myriad other species better, it is becoming apparent that many animals and organisms make trades, and that some are surprisingly savvy wheeler-dealers capable of manipulating the market in their own selfish interests. From frisky baboons to fish offering spa treatments on the reef, pretty much everywhere we look in nature we find evidence of surprisingly sophisticated economic decision-making. Even fungi are at it, and according to the latest studies, these brainless soil dwellers give the impression of being more rational than us."

"... over the past few years, biologists have shown that scores of animals are capable of responding to market forces, including chimpanzees, macaques, mongooses, ants, wasps and small fish called cichlids. In one of the most recently unearthed examples of a biological market, the traders don’t have brains at all. Kiers studies the underground marketplace in which mycorrhizal fungi trade phosphorus for carbon with the roots of plants."
NewScientist  economics  rationality  biology 
march 2019 by pierredv
The world's great nations are revisiting the moon. But where's Europe? | New Scientist Dec 2019
"Since the beginning of the Soviet state, space travel has been associated with utopianism, exemplified by 19th-century visionary Nikolai Fedorov and his colleague Konstantin Tsiolkovsky."

"For the US, going to the moon was all about rugged, pragmatic individualism; for the Soviets, it was a parable for their communal social philosophy. This enactment of national myth is apparent in the Chinese moon programme. Chang’e is the name of a goddess who flew to the moon after she drank an elixir of immortality to stop her husband’s enemy from stealing it: a story of heroic and dutiful self-sacrifice that underlies China’s Moon Festival in the autumn. ... more recently the government has revived legends and historical figures such as Confucius to mobilise nationalist sentiment."

** Not clear to me how this is "enactment of national myth" - unless one defines myth as Merriam Webster
"2 a : a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone especially : one embodying the ideals and institutions of a society or segment of society"
NewScientist  space  utopianism  myth 
march 2019 by pierredv
Fat and proud: Why body-positive activists say obesity can be healthy | New Scientist Sep 2018
"Growing calls for "fat acceptance" fly in the face of accepted medical advice, but studies show you can be overweight and healthy"
NewScientist  health  weight  obesity  fat  life-expectancy 
january 2019 by pierredv
Mind-reading devices can now access your thoughts and dreams using AI | New Scientist, Sep 2018
"We can now decode dreams and recreate images of faces people have seen, and everyone from Facebook to Elon Musk wants a piece of this mind reading reality"

"From an fMRI brain scan, Liu’s AI can say which of a selection of 15 different things a person was viewing when the scan was taken. For example, if someone was looking at a picture of a face, the AI can detect patterns in their scan that convince it to say “face”. Other options include birds, aeroplanes and people exercising, and the AI can call the correct category 50 per cent of the time."

Jack Gallant, UC Berkely: "When shown brain scans of someone watching a different YouTube video, the AI was able to generate a new movie of what it thought the person was viewing. The results are eerie outlines of the original, but still recognisable."

"Yukiyasu Kamitani at Japan’s Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute first showed in 2013 that it is possible to train an AI to detect the content of someone’s dreams, describing each in basic terms such as whether there was a male or female character, the objects included and details about the overall scene. Kamitani’s system has an accuracy of about 60 per cent."

"However, one big drawback of EEG is that there is so much unwanted noise to contend with. "

"The progress using AI with fMRI is causing people to rethink what EEG might be capable of."
NewScientist  AI  neuroscience  dreams  recognitioin  fMRI  EEG  ethics 
january 2019 by pierredv
Art: The Science Gallery opens in London | New Scientist Sep 2018
"From heroin to Playstation, we are all users argues Hooked, a captivating show to launch a gallery with ambitions to demolish the boundaries around science"
NewScientist  London  art  travel  museums  galleries 
january 2019 by pierredv
The US Army is making a laser-powered drone that can fly indefinitely | New Scientist Sep 2018
"THE US Army is taking wireless recharging to new heights, by using lasers to power small drones in mid-air."

"Now the US Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center based in Maryland is developing a power beaming system with a combination of lasers and efficient photovoltaic cells.

The aim is to provide enough power from 500 metres away to keep a drone patrolling indefinitely above a base, or flying over a convoy for its entire route. The system works by firing laser light at photovoltaic cells on the drone, which then converts the light into electricity."
NewScientist  drones  UAV  USArmy 
january 2019 by pierredv
The 'me' illusion: How your brain conjures up your sense of self | New Scientist Sep 2018
Complexity doesn't imply consciousness: "In other animals, the well-trodden paths in the brain will be different. In bats, for example, it might be those transmitting information from the echolocation clicks used to construct a 3D model of the world. There will be a huge diversity of emergent mental patterns that serve the various survival needs of different species. Looked at this way, there is no clear hierarchy of consciousness corresponding to mental complexity."

"This challenge might have triggered the evolution of a bodily self-awareness akin to that of primates, but Godfrey-Smith sees a clear distinction between the two. “When one watches an octopus squeeze through a tiny space, it certainly looks [different],” he says. Either way, we can rest assured that if an octopus has a sense of self, it will have very little in common with the “self” that inhabits our brains. It is even less likely to be something we can measure with a mirror."
NewScientist  consciousness  psychology 
january 2019 by pierredv
We've started to uncover the true purpose of dreams | New Scientist, Jul 2018
"Mark Blagrove at Swansea University in the UK and his colleagues have found that the emotional strength of the experiences we have when we are awake is linked to the content of our dreams, and the intensity of our dreaming brainwaves."

"Together, these findings suggest that the most intense dreaming activity occurs when our brains are working hard to process recent, emotionally powerful experiences."
NewScientist  dreams  psychology 
december 2018 by pierredv
Dream on: My year pursuing the third state of being | New Scientist, Dec 2018
"Dreaming represents a state in between consciousness and unconsciousness, and this year I’ve been trying to get on top of what we know about this universal and mysterious experience. I went to a dream conference in Arizona, and spent the night in a dream lab in Swansea, UK. There I learned about research providing evidence, for the first time, that explains the purpose of dreaming.

But while scientists are learning more about the function of dreams and of sleep, I’ve been particularly drawn to the mysterious border state between wakefulness and slumber. Sleep scientists call this transient period the hypnagogic state, a highly creative state that has been actively pursued by artists and scientists over the years."
NewScientist  dreams  psychology 
december 2018 by pierredv
Glass box of atomic vapour could work as a James-Bond-style spy radio | New Scientist, Sep 2018

"David Anderson at Rydberg Technologies in Michigan and his colleagues built their radio receiver to be smaller and more secure than traditional radios. At its heart is a centimetre-sized glass box full of caesium vapour. The caesium atoms are prepared so that some of their electrons have more energy than normal, which makes them highly sensitive to certain frequencies of electromagnetic waves."

"In the new radio receiver, the caesium atoms act as the antenna. When an electromagnetic wave hits the atoms, it temporarily bumps some of their electrons up to a higher energy level, changing the atoms’ quantum state"

"Unlike traditional radio receivers, this compact design works in multiple frequency bands"
NewScientist  RF  antennas 
december 2018 by pierredv
Artificial intelligence is about to revolutionise warfare. Be afraid | New Scientist Sep 2018
"Sci-fi loves to depict military AIs as malign killer minds or robots. But the truth is more subtle and more terrifying – and it's happening right now"
NewScientist  AI  warfare  strategy 
december 2018 by pierredv
Why the end of cash could cause a new data disaster | New Scientist, Aug 2018
"The convenience of card and mobile payments means cash use is in freefall globally. But we haven't thought through the consequences of an all-digital world."

"But the use of cash is in free fall. According to trade association UK Finance, fewer payments will be made with cash than by debit card in the UK for the first time in 2018. The proportion of cash payments in the UK dropped from 62 per cent of transactions in 2006 to 40 per cent in 2016, and is projected to fall to just 21 per cent in 2026 (see “Money down the drain”)."

"Despite negative interest rates, cash use is falling unusually rapidly in Sweden: the proportion of cash payments declined from 39 per cent in 2010 to 13 per cent in 2018. About 60 per cent of Swedes already use a mobile app called Swish that allows people to instantly transfer money between different bank accounts just by tapping in a phone number."
NewScientist  economics  commerce  finance  blockchain  money 
december 2018 by pierredv
There's no escaping the internet, says artist James Bridle | New Scientist, Aug 2018
"In New Dark Age, James Bridle expends no little shoe leather mapping the current walls of our eerie futuristic home, in the real and the virtual realm"

“Complexity is not a condition to be tamed,” Bridle cautions, “but a lesson to be learned.”
NewScientist  Internet  quotations  books  reviews 
october 2018 by pierredv
Chill factors: The everyday things that make us see ghosts | New Scientist Nov 2017
"Over the years, researchers have singled out various physical, psychological and environmental factors. But debate continues about which ones are actually involved, how they create ghostly experiences and why some of us are more affected than others."

" In the early 1900s, British radio pioneer Oliver Lodge linked physical vibrations to reports of psychic phenomena. Others have since pointed the finger specifically at infrasound – sounds below the normal limit of human hearing – and electromagnetic fields. .... But other studies have been inconclusive."

" in 2009 by a team at Goldsmiths, University of London, who built a room to investigate environmental factors linked to ghostly encounters. Participants in the Haunt project reported plenty of “anomalous” sensations, ranging from tingling and sadness to sensing a presence, terror and even sexual arousal. However, there were no peaks in these effects close to planted sources of infrasound, and they were just as common when the infrasound was off as when it was on."

"The case for electromagnetic fields is less compelling, but O’Keeffe suspects infrasound does have a role in experiences of haunting. ... Context is crucial, though. "

"Some clues come from neurological patients who report feeling someone is there when no one is actually present. Olaf Blanke [et al.] examined some of them, and traced their experiences to lesions in parts of the brain involved in sensorimotor control: ... In particular, damage in any one of three brain areas resulted in the misperception of “self” as “other”."

“Our study shows that the brain has multiple representations of our own body,” says Blanke. “Normally, these are successfully integrated, giving us a unitary experience of our body and self. However, when the brain network is damaged, a second representation of our body – different from our physical body – may arise, which is not experienced as ‘me’ or ‘I’, but rather as the presence of another human being.” He notes that at high altitudes, a lack of oxygen could affect the temporoparietal junction, one brain region his team identified as playing a role in sensing a presence. Physical exhaustion could do so too. “Due to its direct link with sensorimotor processing, it could impact the brain regions we described,” says Blanke.
psychology  NewScientist  paranormal  hallucination  synaesthesia  sound  neuroscience 
october 2018 by pierredv
Uncannily real: volumetric video changes everything | New Scientist Dec 2017
Wonderful essay by Simon Ings - neat twist in the tail, I love the open to close:

"<open> OUTSIDE Dimension Studios in Wimbledon, south London, is one of those tiny wood-framed snack bars that served commercial travellers in the days before motorways. The hut is guarded by old shop dummies dressed in fishnet tights and pirate hats. If the UK made its own dilapidated version of Westworld, the cyborg rebellion would surely begin here.
<close> Jelley walks me back to the main road. Neither of us says a word. He knows what he has. He knows what he has done. Outside the snack shack, three shop dummies in pirate gear wobble in the wind."

"Truly immersive media will be achieved not through magic bullets, but through thugging – the application of ever more computer power, and the ever-faster processing of more and more data points. Impressive, but where’s the breakthrough?"

"The cameras shoot between 30 and 60 times a second. “We have a directional map of the configuration of those cameras, and we overlay that with a depth map that we’ve captured from the IR cameras. Then we can do all the pixel interpolation.” This is a big step up from mocap. Volumetric video captures real-time depth information from surfaces themselves: there are no fluorescent sticky dots or sliced-through ping-pong balls attached to actors here."
NewScientist  writing  video  essays  *  FX  movies 
september 2018 by pierredv
Effortless thinking: Thoughtlessly thoughtless | New Scientist Dec 2017
click through for examples

= see life as a win-lose game
= childish intuitions
= stereotyping
= sycophancy - suckers for celebrity
= conservatism
= tribalism
= religion
= revenge
= confabulation
NewScientist  bias  psychology 
september 2018 by pierredv
Niche construction: the forgotten force of evolution | New Scientist, Nov 2003
By Kevin Laland and John Odling-Smee

"Our studies have convinced us that niche construction should be recognised as a significant cause of evolution, on a par with natural selection."

"Put another way, the only relevant evolutionary feedback from extended phenotypes is to the genes that express them. So when beavers build dams, they ensure the propagation of “genes for” dam building, but that is all. Yet by constructing their own niche, beavers radically alter their environment in many ways. "

"Across the globe, earthworms have dramatically changed the structure and chemistry of soil by burrowing, dragging plant material into the soil, mixing it up with inorganic material such as sand, and mulching the lot by ingesting and excreting it as worm casts. The scale of these earthworks is vast. What’s more, because earthworm activities result in cumulative improvements in soil over long periods of time, it follows that today’s earthworms inhabit environments that have been radically altered by their ancestors. In other words, some extended phenotypes can be inherited. "
NewScientist  biology  evolution  *  ecology 
september 2018 by pierredv
We could find advanced aliens by looking for their space junk | New Scientist Mar 2018
"Technologically advanced aliens could be revealed by the space junk around their planets."

"Many satellites work best in geosynchronous orbits, where the satellite matches the planet’s rotation so it stays over the same general location on the surface. This is key for surveillance and telecommunications satellites. These orbits are all at about the same altitude – on Earth, around 35,800 kilometres up. So, geosynchronous satellites form a ring around the planet, known as the Clarke belt.

Socas-Navarro calculated that the opacity of Earth’s Clarke belt has increased exponentially over the past 15 years. He found that if this trend continues, it will be observable from nearby alien worlds around the year 2200."
orbital-debris  space-debris  space-junk  NewScientist  GEO 
september 2018 by pierredv
Yoga and meditation work better if you have a brain zap too | New Scientist, Jul 2018
"Brain stimulation seems to offer a shortcut to unlocking the benefits of yoga and mindfulness sessions, but turbocharging meditation could have a dark side"

"Even so, it takes time and dedication to see results from yoga and meditation. Bashar Badran, a neuroscientist at the Medical University of South Carolina, and his colleagues think they can speed things along. Their secret is a simple, non-invasive brain stimulation technique called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). This involves sticking two electrodes to the head, one above the eye and one on the temple, and then steering a small electrical current across the brain. The method has already been shown to improve the symptoms of depression, help with addiction and cravings, and possibly speed up recovery from stroke. Badran thought it might also help people achieve a state of mindfulness more quickly and easily."

"In 2010, work by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, both then at Harvard University, showed that our mind not only wanders during as much as half of our waking hours, but we are also less happy when mind-wandering than when we are focused on a task. The pair’s conclusions concurred with what religions have emphasised for centuries: a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.

This mind-wandering state is associated with a set of brain regions collectively known as the default mode network. This switches off when we target our attention towards a specific goal, but comes back on when we allow our minds to drift. Studies show that people with more than 10 years of meditation experience are skilled at deactivating their default mode network, consistent with decreased mind-wandering.

Brain stimulation seems to fast-track that process."
NewScientist  yoga  meditation  mindfulness  tDCS  default-mode-network  neuroscience 
september 2018 by pierredv
No, mobile phones still won't give you brain cancer | New Scientist Jul 2018
Examples of everyday activities that the WHO places in an even higher category of risk, of “probably carcinogenic”, include breathing in emissions from frying food, working as a hairdresser and doing night shifts.
cellular  health  cancer  NewScientist  WHO 
september 2018 by pierredv
Sleep and dreaming: Where do our minds go at night? | New Scientist Jan 2013
"dreams tend to be silent movies – with just half containing traces of sounds. It is even more unusual to enjoy a meal or feel damp grass beneath your feet – taste, smell and touch appearing only very rarely. Similar studies have tried to pin down some of the factors that might influence what we dream about, though they have struggled to find anything reliable."

"the idea that sleep helps to cement our memories for future recall "

[Mark Blagrove at Swansea University]'s "team has found that memories enter our dreams in two separate stages. They first float into our consciousness on the night after the event itself, which might reflect the initial recording of the memory, and then they reappear between five and seven days later, which may be a sign of consolidation"

"the sleeping brain also forges links to other parts of your mental autobiography, allowing you to see associations between different events"

"Perhaps the intense images are an indication of what a difficult process it is integrating a traumatic event with the rest of our autobiography."

"Despite these advances, many, many mysteries remain. Top of the list is the question of the purpose of our dreams: are they essential for preservation of our memories, for instance – or could we manage to store our life’s events without them? “There’s no consensus,” says [Patrick McNamara at Northcentral University]."

"some research suggesting that TV may have caused a major shift in the form and content of our dreams"
NewScientist  sleep  dreaming  neuroscience  psychology  dreams  memory 
august 2018 by pierredv
Weird dream? Your brain won't even try to make sense of it | New Scientist, Apr 2015
"The bizarre can seem completely normal when you’re dreaming, perhaps because parts of your brain give up trying to figure out what’s going on. Armando D’Agostino of the University of Milan in Italy thinks that the strangeness of dreams resembles psychosis, because individuals are disconnected from reality and have disrupted thought processes that lead to wrong conclusions."

"Using a “bizarreness” scoring system, the researchers found that dreams were significantly weirder than the waking fantasies the volunteers composed. "
NewScientist  dreams 
august 2018 by pierredv
Fixing planet plastic: How we'll really solve our waste problem | New Scientist May 2018
"Five countries in Asia – China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – are responsible for 55 to 60 per cent of all the plastics that leak from land to ocean, according to a 2015 report by Ocean Conservancy and the consultants McKinsey. Another study in 2017 found that around 90 per cent of river-borne plastic was coming from just 10 rivers, eight of them in Asia."
NewScientist  plastic  recycling 
july 2018 by pierredv
Quantum time: Is this where the flow of existence comes from? | New Scientist, April 2018
"Since all measurement outcomes are probabilistic, varying from case to case, the order in which we make measurements determines their outcome. “The true variability underlying physics is not the passing of time, but the ‘non-reproducibility’ of the outcome of quantum experiments,” says Connes.

That would mean that time isn’t fundamental. There is no order of time in the quantum world; temporal order appears only when processes such as measurement irreversibly turn quantum phenomena into observable classical phenomena. Applied to thermal systems, what emerges matches the second law of thermodynamics. “The flow has the same properties as what we call time,” says Rovelli."

"According to the most popular notion of how tunnelling occurs, derived from relativistic quantum field theory, it takes place in no time at all, with the electron travelling faster than light. That rings alarm bells. “Most of us are very careful about this – we shouldn’t really think about things travelling faster than light,” says Steinberg."

"The basic idea is to have ultracold atoms, cooled to a billionth of a degree above absolute zero, tunnel through a barrier formed by the tightly focused electromagnetic fields of a laser beam. “We’ve started to see the atoms tunnel through,” says Steinberg. “Now we have to add a measurement of how long they sit inside the barrier.”"

"Rovelli agrees that, in the end, there may not be one universally valid answer to the question of what time is. “When we think about time, we tend to think about it as a single package, and that’s definitely wrong,” he says. There’s the psychological time of our experience; the passing instants of time that clocks measure; relative time as explored by Einstein; time as entropy increase; and perhaps, now, time rooted in quantum ignorance. “It’s a beautiful problem because it brings together so many things,” says Rovelli. “I don’t think we’re anywhere near the end of the story, but there is real progress.”"
NewScientist  time  quantum-mechanics  relativity  Carlo-Rovelli 
july 2018 by pierredv
Culture clash: Why are some societies strict and others lax? | Ne, Apr 2018w Scientist
Article on tightness/looseness as a way of categorizing societies

"Starting in the 1960s, [Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede] developed a model for understanding cross-cultural differences based on six dimensions (see “Six degrees of separation”). Since then, one of his metrics, individualism/collectivism, has attracted considerable interest and proved useful in explaining cultural differences, especially those epitomised by typically Western or Eastern modes of thought. But [cultural psychologist Michele] Gelfand believes the focus has been too narrow, and that tightness/looseness is a neglected source of cultural variation that has a huge influence on our behaviour – “a Rosetta stone for human groups”, she says."

"[Gelfand] suspected that tightness is determined by the level of external threat to which a society was exposed historically – whether ecological, such as earthquakes or scarce natural resources, or human-made, such as war. “Tightness is about the need for coordination,” she says. “The idea is that if you are chronically faced with these kinds of threats, you develop strong rules in order to coordinate for survival.”"

"But it doesn’t end there. Gelfand and her colleagues found that the degree of tightness was reflected in all sorts of societal institutions and practices – even after taking national wealth into consideration. Tight societies tend to be more autocratic, with greater media censorship and fewer collective actions such as demonstrations. They are also more conformist and religious, and have more police, lower crime and divorce rates, and cleaner public spaces. ... Loose societies tend to be more disorganised, but also more creative, innovative and tolerant of diversity."
NewScientist  culture  psychology  morality  Geography 
june 2018 by pierredv
The inequality delusion: Why we've got the wealth gap all wrong | New Scientist, 31 Mar 2018; Mark Sheskin
"There are staggering levels of inequality in the world, and wide agreement that these should be reduced. But we should aspire to fair inequality, not unfair equality."
cognition  culture  NewScientist  equality  fairness  economics  morality  ethics 
june 2018 by pierredv
Science isn't everything – and it's not even after the truth | New Scientist 28 Feb 2018, issue 3167
"Although science is an admirable achievement, we look silly when we claim there are no limits to what it can do, say two new books"

"Understanding trumps truth: scientists will generally settle for a less accurate model if it is more cognitively transparent."

"There is no “scientific method”, but there is a collection of tried-and-tested principles: try to use reason, compare theory against experiment, attempt to replicate results, that kind of thing. The precise emphases differ by discipline."
NewScientist  science  scientific-method  books  philosophy 
may 2018 by pierredv
Wireless at the speed of plasma | New Scientist Dec 2010
"PSiAN consists of thousands of diodes on a silicon chip. When activated, each diode generates a cloud of electrons – the plasma – about 0.1 millimetres across. At a high enough electron density, each cloud reflects high-frequency radio waves like a mirror. By selectively activating diodes, the shape of the reflecting area can be changed to focus and steer a beam of radio waves."
antennas  NewScientist 
april 2018 by pierredv
The epic robot fails that say AI will never rule the world | New Scientist issue 3157, Dec 2017
"If you want to look at what the future of AI really holds, it’s not the highlight reels that matter – it’s the out-takes."

"... don’t even talk about stairs. Judging by the awkward ascents of most robots, to avoid the rise of the machines we only need to retreat to the mezzanine."
NewScientist  robotics  automation  quotations 
march 2018 by pierredv
Will supersonic air travel's return be another white elephant? | New Scientist - issue 3159, Jan 2018
" SpaceX said its BFR rocket – ostensibly for Mars and moon missions – could provide anywhere-on-Earth, city-to-city transport in under an hour. And Virgin Galactic, focused on suborbital tourist trips with its rocket plane, also has city-to-city travel on its radar. So a supersonic future is a done deal? One barrier to a spaceplane route is that the US may deem landing a rocket abroad as breaching a ban on exporting this technology."
NewScientist  aviation  space  regulations  SpaceX  VirginGalactic 
february 2018 by pierredv
Different meditation types train distinct parts of your brain | New Scientist, Oct 2017
"Two new studies published in Science Advances suggest that certain kinds of meditation can change social and emotional circuitry... looked at the effects of three different meditation techniques on the brains and bodies of more than 300 volunteers over 9 months" - Tania Singer, ReSource Project at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig

"Mindfulness meditation increased thickness in the prefrontal cortex and parietal lobes, both linked to attention control, while compassion-based meditation showed increases in the limbic system, which processes emotions, and the anterior insula, which helps bring emotions into conscious awareness. Perspective-taking training boosted regions involved in theory of mind."

"Many studies have reported that meditation makes people feel calmer, but the effects on levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been mixed ... The researchers found that mindfulness meditation alone made the volunteers feel calmer when asked to give a presentation at short notice, but their cortisol levels were no different from those in controls. After engaging in face-to-face sessions with a partner in addition to compassion or perspective-based meditation, however, volunteers showed up to a 51 per cent drop in cortisol levels compared with controls."
meditation  NewScientist  Tania-Singer  psychology  neuroscience  emotion  feelings 
january 2018 by pierredv
Uber’s major pile-up with London’s regulators is no big surprise | New Scientist issue 3146, 7 Oct 2017
Obsessed with their technology’s disruptive potential, fast-moving outfits like Uber have long been on a collision course with regulation, says Paul Marks"

"Uber London disputes the decision [by TfL's that it is not going to renew Uber London’s private hire taxi operator’s licence] and says it will appeal. But instead of immediately talking to TfL about what it could do to get its licence back, its first move was characteristically brash: it organised a petition protesting the potential hit to its service and the threat to thousands of drivers’ jobs. However, the next day Uber’s global CEO was apologetic, committing the firm to change."
NewScientist  innovation  Uber  regulations 
december 2017 by pierredv
EU plan to erase digital borders will further isolate Brexit UK | New Scientist issue 3145, 30 Sep 2017
"Estonia wants the EU to adopt data as a “fifth freedom” – alongside goods, services, capital and people – promoting its free movement across EU borders. But is pooling half a billion people into a single digital nation a good idea?"

"When Estonia published a paper explaining its digital vision in July, it gave the example of an Estonian start-up selling software to universities. The system is used by 150 institutions across Europe, but the company is struggling, as many states require student data to be kept in the same country as their university, forcing the company to navigate local laws."

"There are 8 million journeys between Estonia and Finland every year, says Ilves. To get health insurance, some people end up printing out a form, carrying it across on the ferry and handing it over on the other side – where it gets digitised again"

EU’s General Data Protection Regulation's "strict privacy policies are at odds with Estonia’s plan, says Theodorakopoulos. How do you square the right to control your own data with its free flow across borders?"
NewScientist  Estonia  EU  data  borders  GDPR 
december 2017 by pierredv
Ships fooled in GPS spoofing attack suggest Russian cyberweapon | New Scientist 19 Aug 2017
"[Todd] Humphreys thinks this is Russia experimenting with a new form of electronic warfare. Over the past year, GPS spoofing has been causing chaos for the receivers on phone apps in central Moscow to misbehave. "

" There have not yet been any authenticated reports of criminal spoofing, but it should not be difficult for criminals to use it to divert a driverless vehicle or drone delivery, or to hijack an autonomous ship. Spoofing will give everyone affected the same location, so a hijacker would just need a short-ranged system to affect one vehicle."
NewScientist  GPS  spoofing  Russia  navigation 
december 2017 by pierredv
Don't quit now: Why you have more willpower than you think | New Scientist
Built around Carol Dweck's Mindset approach. Metaphor: willpower a store of something vs. a motivation.

"The quitters, Dweck found, blamed their difficulties on lack of ability and felt that they would never make the grade. The more determined children, by contrast, were more motivated by learning itself than by getting good grades, and they tended to see ability as fuelled by effort, rather than set in stone."

Alternative to ego-depletion theory "the difference in people’s ability to stay strong in the face of temptation can be explained by the amount of fuel in our mental reserves." (Roy Baumeister, 1998)

"Meanwhile, other research has directly challenged the idea that glucose is the source from which willpower springs. ... when volunteers gargled a sugary drink before or during a mental challenge, it prevented ego depletion, even if they spat the drink out. This suggests that merely the suggestion of a fuel top-up is enough to keep mental exhaustion at bay. This is tricky for the ego-depletion theory to explain because gargling doesn’t allow time for glucose to be metabolised. It is also more than a placebo, because gargling an artificially sweetened drink doesn’t have the same effect."

"According to the revised theory, whether we are able to maintain self-control comes down to our judgement about how much willpower juice we have left and how we choose to allocate these reserves. As with physical effort, in which our muscles feel tired long before they are close to collapse, how long we can keep going is all about how much energy we think is left."
NewScientist  willpower  psychology  metaphor 
december 2017 by pierredv
Feeling lonely? You're not on your own | New Scientist issue 3134, 22 Jul 2017
"Anyone can feel lonely, even when surrounded by friends, and loneliness is on the up. How can we curb its devastating effect on people's mental and physical health?"

"Yet loneliness may have very little to do with being on our own, or having few friends, even if this is how it is often defined. “It’s not social isolation; it’s feeling socially isolated,” says Cacioppo ... Loneliness arises from a mismatch between expectations of our social interactions and the reality."

“Correcting for demographic factors, loneliness increases the odds of early mortality by 26 per cent,” says Cacioppo. “That’s about the same as living with chronic obesity.”

"If there’s one factor that stands out in alleviating loneliness, then it is the quality, rather than quantity of relationships. "

Robin Dunbar: “For you to live, survive, work and function well depends on you having a set of very intense close friendships, or family relationships. It turns out that this core group numbers about five close friends and family – and this is very consistent across primates, including humans.”
NewScientist  psychology  loneliness  feelings  emotion  disease  mortality 
december 2017 by pierredv
Awesome awe: The emotion that gives us superpowers | New Scientist issue 3136, 29 Jul 2017
Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt "described awe as the feeling we get when confronted with something vast, that transcends our frame of reference and that we struggle to understand. It’s an emotion that combines amazement with an edge of fear. Wonder, by contrast, is more intellectual – a cognitive state in which you are trying to understand the mysterious."

"... van Elk presented functional MRI scans showing that awe quiets activity in the default mode network, which includes parts of the frontal lobes and cortex, and is thought to relate to the sense of self."

“Awe produces a vanishing self,” says Keltner. “The voice in your head, self-interest, self-consciousness, disappears. Here’s an emotion that knocks out a really important part of our identity.” As a result, he says, we feel more connected to bigger collectives and groups.

"Instead, Keltner believes that awe predates religion by millions of years. Evolution-related ideas are tough to back up, but he argues that responding to powerful forces in nature and in society through group bonding would have had survival value. ... It’s an instinct that has been co-opted for political ends throughout history, for example in grandiose structures from the pyramids of Egypt to St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, or even Trump Tower. "

"Awe also seems to help us break habitual patterns of thinking. The Arizona team discovered that after experiencing awe, people were better able to remember the details of a short story."

"Through brain scanning, he and others have found that psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin and LSD reduce activity in the default mode network – just as awe does. In addition, boundaries between normally segregated bits of the brain temporarily break down, boosting creativity."
NewScientist  psychology  religion  emotion  feeling  awe  meditation 
december 2017 by pierredv
The geometry that could reveal the true nature of space-time | New Scientist issue 3136, 29 Jul 2017
"The discovery of an exquisite geometric structure is forcing a radical rethink of reality, and could clear the way to a quantum theory of gravity"

[Andrew Hodges, one of Penrose’s colleagues at Oxford] "showed that the various terms used in the BCFW method could be interpreted as the volumes of tetrahedrons in twistor space, and that summing them up led to the volume of a polyhedron."

"So why invoke virtual particles at all? ... The first is that dealing with them rather than with fields makes the maths more tractable. The other great advantage is that they help physicists visualise everything as the well-defined interactions between point-like particles, as opposed to the hazy goings-on between particles and fields. This fits nicely with the intuitive principle of locality, which holds that only things in the same spot in space and time can interact. Finally, the technique also helps enforce the principle of unitarity, which says that the probability of all outcomes should add up to 1."

Gluon interactions seemed to complex, but "In 1986, Stephen Parke and Tomasz Taylor from Fermilab near Batavia, Illinois, used Feynman diagrams and supercomputers to calculate the likelihoods of different outcomes for interactions involving a total of six gluons. A few months later, they made an educated guess at a one-line formula to calculate the same thing. It was spot on. More than 200 Feynman diagrams and many pages of algebra had been reduced to one equation, and the researchers had no idea why."

"In 2005, Ruth Britto, Freddy Cachazo, Bo Feng and Edward Witten [BCFW] were able to calculate scattering amplitudes without recourse to a single virtual particle and derived the equation Parke and Taylor had intuited for that six-gluon interaction"

[Nima Arkani-Hamed and his team at IAS] "arrived at a mind-boggling conclusion: the scattering amplitude calculated with the BCFW technique corresponds beautifully to the volume of a new mathematical object. They gave a name to this multi-dimensional concatenation of polyhedrons: the amplituhedron."

"It may transform physics, too ... because the amplituhedron does not embody unitarity and locality, those core principles baked into reality as described by Feynman diagrams. ... If so, locality is not a fundamental feature of space-time but an emergent one."
NewScientist  geometry  physics  gravity  field-theory  quantum-mechanics  twistors  Roger-Penrose  Richard-Feynman  Ed-Witten  maths 
december 2017 by pierredv
Orbiting ‘space nation’ data centre could avoid all Earthly laws | New Scientist issue 3130, 17 Jun 2017
"Self-styled “space nation” Asgardia is planning to put a data centre in orbit, beyond the reach of Earthly laws, but lawyers say that leaving the planet isn’t enough to get around them. As more organisations seek to exploit space in this way, it’s time we decide how to govern the final frontier. Asgardia announced itself last year as a space-based nation, independent of countries on Earth, and has since convinced 180,000 people to become citizens by filling out an online form. Now it is planning its first foray into orbit, with the launch later this year of a compact satellite called Asgardia-1 holding a 512-gigabyte solid state drive filled with data chosen by its citizens. Asgardia-1 will hitch a ride aboard a resupply mission to the International Space Station, and will orbit Earth for five years before burning up in the atmosphere. While in orbit, more data can be uploaded using radio signals."

"Asgardia-1 will be sent into orbit from a NASA launch pad, so the US government, a signatory to the treaty, will be legally responsible for what Asgardia-1 gets up to. If the storage aboard was used for illegal purposes according to US law, the US could hold Asgardia to account. At least that’s the theory. The Outer Space Treaty has never been tested this way."
NewScientist  space  law 
december 2017 by pierredv
Who can you trust? How tech is reshaping what we believe | New Scientist
"The more trust in a society, the better it fares. Put another way: without trust, society would collapse. But something strange is happening. Public trust in our institutions has plummeted in the past decade. Nearly half of people in the US mistrust lawmakers, according to a poll carried out in June. In the UK, fewer than 1 in 4 people trust the press. And yet we are putting more trust than ever before in people we meet on the internet."

“Trust is the bridge between the known and the unknown,” says Rachel Botsman at the University of Oxford’s Said Business School.

"Of course distrust in big institutions predates the internet, but technology has made it an international sport. It is easier than ever before for leaks to become common knowledge. And there are many more sources now. Opinion is no longer shaped only by journalists, experts or state authorities. With constant access to a deluge of information, rather than putting our trust in the institutions our peers also trust, as we once did, we’re now trusting our peers instead of those institutions."

"In fact, many of these companies have come to realise that trust itself is their product.

"Hawking trust between individuals requires some sleight of hand: we are more likely to trust people at a distance when they are backed up by trustworthy organisations. We trust strangers on Airbnb far more than strangers on a marketplace such as Craigslist, for instance."

"A major concern is that we will become overly dependent on digital platforms to manage trust for us. “People trust people, not institutions,” Zuckerberg recently said. That is misleading. We trust people online because of the institutions – Facebook included – that make it possible."
quotes  NewScientist  trust  psychology  Facebook  TaskRabbit  Airbnb  business 
december 2017 by pierredv
Inventor hero was a one-man environmental disaster | New Scientist
"From poisonous cars to the destruction of the ozone layer, Thomas Midgley almost single-handedly invented a global environmental crisis"

"Midgley came up with no fewer than 143 fuel additives to deal with knock. The initial front runner was ethyl alcohol [but he backed] tetraethyl lead (TEL), a compound first discovered in the 1850s and known to be highly poisonous. So why choose it? ... It was cheap ... And there was a key difference between the two: TEL was patentable."

"From the start, medical researchers warned that it could poison the nation."

Also found freon, the first CFC.

"As legacies go, environmental historian John McNeill offered one of the most chilling epitaphs: Midgley had “more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth’s history”. Nothing to envy there."
innovation  invention  IPR  intellectual-property  history  people  regulation  chemistry  precautionary-principle  transportation  NewScientist 
october 2017 by pierredv
Ready for anything: The best strategies to survive a disaster | New Scientist, May 2017
"In a crisis, your fight or flight response can actually leave you frozen. Training your brain to act could be the difference between life and death"

See side-bar "Tips to keep your wits" -- Prepare, Act
NewScientist  danger  preparedness  strategy  psychology  ** 
october 2017 by pierredv
Spectrum wars: The battle for the airwaves | New Scientist issue 3130, Jun 2017
"TV, mobiles, broadband, ID tags, tyre pressure sensors in your car: the radio spectrum may be our playground, but spectral noise is a nightmare for stargazers"
NewScientist  astronomy  spectrum 
september 2017 by pierredv
Gel-like ice is the lightest form of water ever discovered | New Scientist, Sep 2017
via John Helm

"The frosty cubes we pull from our freezers are just one of 17 possible types of ice, and an 18th type isn’t far from being made real. A team of researchers has now discovered a type of porous, lightweight “aeroice” – the aerogel of ice, if you will – that can tell us more about how water works under extreme conditions."
NewScientist  water  physics  chemistry 
september 2017 by pierredv
Ships fooled in GPS spoofing attack suggest Russian cyberweapon | New Scientist
Via Dale Hatfield

"Reports of satellite navigation problems in the Black Sea suggest that Russia may be testing a new system for spoofing GPS, New Scientist has learned. This could be the first hint of a new form of electronic warfare available to everyone from rogue nation states to petty criminals."
GPS  spoofing  NewScientist 
august 2017 by pierredv
Reality check: The hidden connections behind quantum weirdness | New Scientist, April 2017
Love the physical analogy to a QM pilot wave in the bouncing oil droplet experiment

"Bohm proposed there was a hidden reality to quantum theory, meaning its crazy predictions of a world that doesn’t exist until you choose to look at it are just that: crazy."

As an alternative to the Copenhagen interpretation, "De Broglie suggested another: that particles are real and have equally real waves associated with them. In this picture, when a particle goes through one of the double slits, its “pilot” wave goes through both, interferes with itself, and then guides the particle to a location on the screen. . . . Bohm’s ideas made de Broglie revisit and revise his own pilot-wave theory. He developed a two-wave theory in which every particle rides a pilot wave, which in turn interacts with another wave that behaves like a wave function."

Also explains entanglement: "In the alternative picture, though, if particles are entangled, a common pilot wave guides them, and any change in the position or momentum of one particle instantly changes the pilot wave, thus influencing all the other particles."

" In 2005, Yves Couder and Emmanuel Fort at Denis Diderot University in Paris stumbled upon a physical analogue of pilot waves. . . . The interesting thing was what happened when this wave-particle system encountered a barrier, a fraction of a millimetre below the surface, with two gaps in it: a double slit. The walking droplet went over one or the other slit, while its pilot wave went over both, and the wave pattern that emerged on the other side guided the droplet on. "

Improved experiment: Pucci, ... and Bush, "Non-specular reflection of walking droplets" (Journal of Fluid Mechanics, DOI: 10.1017/jfm.2016.537,

1. "Bohmian mechanics is formulated to replicate the predictions of standard quantum mechanics: experimentally, it’s almost impossible to tell them apart"
2. not relativistic
NewScientist  quantum-mechanics  physics 
august 2017 by pierredv
Upfront | New Scientist, issue 3122, Apr 2017, page down for the story
"Satellites swarms could increase space junk risk by 50 per cent
SWARMS of cheap CubeSats set to deliver internet access to every corner of the globe could cause a 50 per cent rise in catastrophic collisions with other satellites, unleashing hazardous space junk."

"Hugh Lewis at the University of Southampton, UK, and his colleagues used a supercomputer to simulate 200 years of possible orbits for 300 different scenarios.

The results, presented this week at a European Space Agency conference on space debris in Darmstadt, Germany, suggest that these megaconstellations boost the risk of a catastrophic collision – in which a satellite is destroyed – by 50 per cent."
NewScientist  satellite  space-junk  space-debris  space  risk-assessment 
july 2017 by pierredv
How number words may have changed us from zeroes to heroes | New Scientist, issue 3124
"In his exemplary new book Numbers and the Making of Us, Caleb Everett dissects the role that culture and language play in giving us our numerical smarts"
NewScientist  books  reviews  toread 
july 2017 by pierredv
We dream loads more than we thought – and forget most of it | New Scientist Issue 3121, 15 Apr 2017
"Francesca Siclari at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her colleagues have discovered that a decrease in these waves in an area at the back of the brain is a sign that someone is dreaming."

"The team found such a strong correlation between dreaming and fewer low-frequency waves in the “hot zone” that they could successfully predict whether a person was dreaming 91 per cent of the time."

"Monitoring seven people over five to 10 nights of sleep, Siclari found the volunteers dreamed during 71 per cent of their non-REM sleep, in addition to 95 per cent of their REM sleep. Despite all this dreaming, many dreams are forgotten. Sometimes participants had a foggy idea they had been dreaming, but couldn’t remember what about. In a further experiment with 10 people, the team found that being able to later remember a dream was linked to higher activity in the prefrontal cortex – which is associated with memory – while dreaming. "

Siclari et al, The neural correlates of dreaming
Nat Neurosci. 2017 Jun;20(6):872-878. doi: 10.1038/nn.4545. Epub 2017 Apr 10.
Consciousness never fades during waking. However, when awakened from sleep, we sometimes recall dreams and sometimes recall no experiences. Traditionally, dreaming has been identified with rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep, characterized by wake-like, globally 'activated', high-frequency electroencephalographic activity. However, dreaming also occurs in non-REM (NREM) sleep, characterized by prominent low-frequency activity. This challenges our understanding of the neural correlates of conscious experiences in sleep. Using high-density electroencephalography, we contrasted the presence and absence of dreaming in NREM and REM sleep. In both NREM and REM sleep, reports of dream experience were associated with local decreases in low-frequency activity in posterior cortical regions. High-frequency activity in these regions correlated with specific dream contents. Monitoring this posterior 'hot zone' in real time predicted whether an individual reported dreaming or the absence of dream experiences during NREM sleep, suggesting that it may constitute a core correlate of conscious experiences in sleep."
dreams  NewScientist  neuroscience 
july 2017 by pierredv
More empathy isn't the right prescription to heal the planet | New Scientist, Paul Bloom, issue 3111, 4 Feb 2017
"I JUST wrote a book called Against Empathy, ..."

"One issue is that people use the term empathy differently; if seen as synonymous with kindness and altruism, it seems hard to object to. But what about when we mean the capacity to share others’ feelings? This has its upsides, but as a guide for moral and political decisions, it is a train wreck. Empathy makes the world worse."

1. biased ("relatively easy to put yourself in the shoes of someone close... But empathy for your enemies [is] a lot less natural")

2. zooms in on the individual

3. malleable ("can be abused to sway people into backing all sorts of positions, including cruel ones")
empathy  compassion  NewScientist  morality  politics 
june 2017 by pierredv
Smart buildings predict when critical systems are about to fail | New Scientist issue 3110, Jan 2017
"They trained a machine learning algorithm on data from the first half of 2015, looking for differences in the readings of similar appliances. They then tested it on data from the second half of the year – could it predict faults before they happened? The system predicted 76 out of 124 real faults, including 41 out of 44 where an appliance's temperature rose above tolerable levels, with a false positive rate of 5 per cent"


"Finnish start-up Leanheat puts a wireless temperature, humidity and pressure sensor into apartments to remotely control heating and monitor appliance health. Its system is now installed in nearly 400 apartment blocks, says chief executive Jukka Aho."Once we had these sensors in place, very quickly there was evidence that buildings were not controlled optimally," he says. Instead of adjusting heating simply based on the outside temperature, Leanheat's models take into account how the weather has changed. Has the temperature fallen to zero from 10 degrees – or risen from 10 below?"
"US-based start-up Augury is installing acoustic sensors in machines to listen for audible changes in function and spot potentially imminent failures. CEO Saar Yoskovitz says Augury has 'diagnosed' machines in hospitals, power plants, data centres and a university campus."
NewScientist  building  architecture  RF-MirrorWorlds  prediction  AI  machine-learning 
may 2017 by pierredv
The world in 2076: Machines outsmart us but we're still on top | New Scientist issue 3100, 19 Nov 2016
Article has good arguments against the singularity by Toby Walsh

1. The "fast-thinking dog" argument, quoting Steven Pinker, "Sheer processing power is not a pixie dust that magically solves all your problems."

2. Anthropocentric argument. "There is no reason to suppose that human intelligence is a tipping point, that once passed allows for rapid increases in intelligence."

3. The "diminishing returns" argument. "The idea of a technological singularity supposes that improvements to intelligence will be by a relative constant multiplier, each generation getting some fraction better than the last. However, the performance of most of our AI systems has so far been that of diminishing returns. There are often lots of low-hanging fruit at the start, but we then run into difficulties when looking for improvements."

4. The "limits of intelligence" argument. "... AI may well run into some fundamental limits. Some of these may be due to the inherent uncertainty of nature. No matter how hard we think about a problem, there may be limits to the quality of our decision-making."

5. The "computational complexity" argument. "There are many computational problems for which even exponential improvements are not enough to help us solve them practically. "
NewScientist  AI  singularity 
may 2017 by pierredv
Emotions are not universal – we build them for ourselves | New Scientist, Mar 2017
"The more emotion concepts you know – not just one anger but many angers, each one fitting a particular situation – then the better you will be at regulating your emotions. Concepts are tools for living."

"Research shows that teaching kids emotion words expands their vocabulary of concepts and improves academic performance. This may be in part because a larger vocabulary tunes emotions more finely to the situation – being “frustrated” or “irritated” instead of just “angry” – and that improves self-control."
NewScientist  emotion  vocabulary  language  education  self-control  interviews 
may 2017 by pierredv
Cholesterol wars: Does a pill a day keep heart attacks away? | New Scientist issue 3112, Feb 2017
"For a start, heart attacks may have halved in the JUPITER trial, but the absolute incidence of heart attacks in the study population was low anyway. Only 99 people had a fatal heart attack during the trial period, 31 of whom were taking the statin. Viewed that way, less than 0.5 per cent of the people treated with rosuvastatin benefited, casting a different light on the drug’s effectiveness.

Similar caveats arise in other analyses. As highlighted in a 2014 editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine, for example, two meta-analyses of studies from 2012 and 2013 managed to come to opposite conclusions about statins’ effectiveness, despite the mortality levels they found differing by less than half a per cent."

"An alternative measure of a drug’s efficacy is “number needed to treat” (NNT), the number of people that have to be given a therapy for a specified time for one to benefit"

"Muscle pain, or myalgia, is the most commonly cited side-effect of statins. "

"Last year, modelling of available data by Judith Finegold at Imperial College London showed that a 50-year-old, non-smoking man without diabetes and with average cholesterol and blood pressure will increase his life expectancy by seven months on average after starting preventative statin therapy. But that average is highly misleading, Finegold says: it disguises the fact that 7 of that 100 will gain an average of 99 months (8.25 years) of life – while the remaining 93 get nothing at all."
ASCVD  heart  health  cholesterol  statins  NewScientist  NNT  statistics  myalgia  side-effects 
may 2017 by pierredv
No-fly zone: Exploring the uncharted layers of our atmosphere | New Scientist issue 3087, 20 Aug 2016
"This unknown zone increasingly matters to us. We are sending up ever more satellites, which are vulnerable to flare-ups in the ignorosphere. Electrical disturbances in this region can scramble GPS signals and other communications. And its influence may even stretch down to ground level and alter our weather. So we need to understand this rarefied air – and to do so, we must go and explore it.

"The ignorosphere encompasses those in-between altitudes that we find extremely hard to navigate. Above about 50 kilometres – where the stratosphere ends – the air becomes too thin to support research balloons. And below 300 km, it is too thick for satellites to survive the drag forces for more than a few months.

"Within this zone are two starkly different layers. Lower down is the icy mesosphere, ... Above the mesosphere is the thermosphere, heated to thousands of degrees by ultraviolet light."

"The QB50 project will see a fleet of CubeSats, each 20 by 10 by 10 centimetres, entering the ignorosphere. "

From the sidebar, "Save our Satellites"

"The solar storms that create the aurora inject heat and ionised plasma into the upper atmosphere, causing it to puff up and thus increase the drag on satellites in low Earth orbit. Sometimes this is so sudden that space agencies can lose track of their expensive property. “After intense solar activity, NASA has lost hundreds of satellites,” says Jan Thoemel at the von Karman Institute in Sint-Genesius-Rode, Belgium. Even small solar storms can throw their trajectories off a little. That’s no mere inconvenience: the ISS and other satellites must already navigate with care to avoid space junk, and collisions will become more of a risk as low Earth orbit gets more crowded."

"During the major solar storm of October 2003, GPS positions were thrown off by hundreds of metres."
NewScientist  atmosphere  CubeSats  physics  solar-storms  NASA 
april 2017 by pierredv
Fleet of CubeSats launches to study the neglected 'ignorosphere' | New Scientist April 2017
The 28 boxy satellites are part of QB50, an international mission to explore Earth’s lower thermosphere. Stretching from about 90 to 300 kilometres above ground level, this turbulent region is stirred from above by solar storms and flares, and from below by terrestrial weather. In its unpredictable moods it can scatter satellites and scramble GPS, so scientists would love to learn more about the gas and plasma up there.

But this upper air is far too thin to support research planes or balloons, while still thick enough to drag down spacecraft in a matter of months. Ground-based observations are no substitute for measurements in situ. Although a few satellites have taken measurements on their way back down to Earth, “these are sparse data, with no continuity”, says QB50 project manager Davide Masutti at the von Karman Institute in Sint-Genesius-Rode, Belgium. This lack of information has given this region its nickname: the ignorosphere.
NewScientist  atmosphere  CubeSats  physics 
april 2017 by pierredv
Metaphysics and consciousness | New Scientist Oct 2016
"Despite your metaphysics special (3 September, p 33), philosophy is not in a competition with science to see which can come up with the better answers to the same questions. Philosophy in every area is the art of thinking as clearly and deeply as we can. In science, its task is to understand the nature and scope of scientific investigation. The idea that science can supersede philosophy is therefore ludicrous."
NewScientist  philosophy  consciousness  scientific-method 
march 2017 by pierredv
Computer says no? Europeans can now challenge that decision | New Scientist July 2016
Issue 3082

"In April this year, the European parliament approved the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a new set of rules governing personal data. Due to go into effect in 2018, it introduces a “right to explanation”: the opportunity for European Union citizens to question the logic of an algorithmic decision – and contest the results."

"The GDPR also specifically calls for companies to prevent discrimination based on personal characteristics such as race, religious beliefs or health data. This matters because experiments already show that online ad services preferentially show details of higher-paying jobs to male users; criminal justice algorithms suggest harsher sentences for African Americans."
NewScientist  algorithms  AI  automation  law  EU  EuropeanParliament 
march 2017 by pierredv
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