Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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Asteroid Meteor Rock Flying Toward Planet EarthRealitic Cinematic vision of earth and large meteor Asteroid Comet- Outer space view

Asteroid Bennu’s Chances of Hitting Earth Slightly Increased

New calculations based on data from asteroid probe Osiris Rex refine the data and raise the chances by a slight amount — enough for good science fiction

For those who enjoy worry: Due to improved measuring technology, researchers are reporting a slightly increased chance of asteroid Bennu hitting Earth in the by 2300: Specifically, there is one chance in 2700 of Bennu hitting us on September 24, 2182 (0.037%): Along with an asteroid called 1950 DA, Bennu ranks as the most hazardous known asteroid in the Solar System. Its orbital trajectory and period of around 1.2 years means that there are multiple close approaches to Earth in the coming centuries that are near enough for a possible impact. Michelle Starr, “This Giant, Hazardous Asteroid Almost Certainly Won’t Hit Us, Probably, NASA Says” at ScienceAlert (August 12, 2021) Here’s a tour of our possible dreaded visitor courtesy asteroid…

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Life and death

Android Asks, Is Immortality Truly a Benefit? — Sci-fi Saturday

He argues that he can never appreciate life if he knows he can never die

“Extent” (2018) at DUST by Paul Michael Draper (August 9, 2021, 12:43 min) Time stands still as two old friends attempt to grapple with a question that defines their very existence. If you could live forever, would you? Review: Edward, the greatest inventor has invented many things, including his friend Alexander. But he comes to think everything is futile because he faces oblivion at death. Meanwhile, android Alexander wants Edward to enable him to “cherish moments” and to be able to long for a “tomorrow that may never come” — which, in the context, means he wants mortality. Alexander reflects, “I think about what my forever may be, It haunts me” and later “Pleasure and pain are no longer relevant…

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Close up portrait of nuclear post-apocalypse survivor, living underground mutant or creature, skilled stalker wearing rags and armored full-face gas mask or air breathing apparatus, toned shoot

Merv Is the Last Man in a Ruined World — Sci-fi Saturday

He’s been alone so long that the thought of another human being panics him

“Merv” (2013) by Steven Woller and Matt Inns (August 11, 2021 at DUST, 13:05 min) After the end of the world, Merv’s life in the lonely wastes is comfortably boring until an unexpected signal heralds the coming of a stranger. Review: This New Zealand-based film company provides a haunting evocation of a totally ruined urban landscape — just an enormous pile of rubble peopled by a surviving hermit. When he catches sight of another human, he pelts like mad for his underground den. Then, arming himself, sets out to confront the stranger. Steven Woller, also one of the producers, does a good job as Merv, who has been alone so long that it seems like the only natural state for…

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a hand rolling dice

Randomness is Not a Scientific Explanation

We can never know if anything is truly random

It is common in the sciences to claim aspects of our universe are random: In evolution, mutations are random. In quantum physics, the wave collapse is random. In biology, much of the genome is random. In business theory, organizational ecologists state new ideas are random. There is a general idea that everything new has its origins in randomness. This is because within our current philosophy of science, the two fundamental causes in our universe boil down to randomness and necessity. Since necessity never creates anything new, then by process of elimination the source of newness must be randomness. Similar to how the ancient Greeks believed the universe originated from chaos. Here’s the irony of the view that whatever is unique…

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Crab close up, Cuba

If We Find Life on Exoplanets, Some of It Might Be “Crabs”

Over millions of years, many crustaceans gradually grew to look more and more like crabs, a process called convergent evolution

The earliest crablike creatures are thought to date from about 365 million years ago (the Late Devonian period). But the odd thing is that many creatures that did not start out looking like crabs have, over tens of millions of years, grown to look like them. A good many lobster-like decapods (= they have ten feet) began to look like crabs (carcinization). Possible causes include greater mobility (some crabs can climb trees), easier hiding in narrow spaces, and less temptation for predators (no juicy tail). Biologists call this process convergent evolution — life forms converge on the same solutions to their problems even if they are not closely related. So we might ask, if we find life on other planets,…

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Starlight night

Quantum Physicist: Aliens May Communicate by Starlight

Terry Rudolph of Imperial College, London, argues that they may have evolved so as to take advantage of quantum mechanics via photonics more easily than we can

Terry Rudolph of Imperial College in London argues in a recent preprint paper that technologically advanced extraterrestrials might manipulate the light from stars to send messages over great distances“ — almost like a series of interstellar smoke signals,” as science writer Dan Robitzski puts it: The physics of the ordeal get a bit dense — which is probably reasonable if aliens are rapidly communicating across star systems — but the basic idea is to use entangled photons from different stars to transmit messages that appear to be random twinkling to any nosy onlookers. Dan Robitzski, “Scientist claims that aliens may be communicating via starlight” at Futurism That’s a reason, it is suggested, why we might not “see” extraterrestrials. Rudolph’s open-access…

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Beautiful Young Woman Looking Through Binoculars At The Sea On A Bright Sunny Day

Peering Into the Future with Nikola Danaylov

In a new online series, futurist Danaylov shares both wisdom and folly about future expectations for science and technology

Is our future determined? And if so, what is it determined by? These are the questions Nikola Danaylov is discussing at Singularity Weblog, an online format the futurist author and podcaster uses for addressing topics of science, technology, humanity, and the future. In his latest series, Danaylov – who playfully addresses himself as “Socrates” – posits that humanity’s future is, indeed, determined – determined by the stories we tell ourselves.  Before we jump into his fascinating analyses, let’s take a look at Danaylov himself to understand the worldview from which he writes. Danaylov is a futurist author and speaker based in Toronto, Canada. As a futurist, Danaylov is optimistic about the future of technology and the possibility of an age…

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Background with a Planet, Moon and Star

SETI’s Seth Shostak Explains the New Galileo Project To Find ET

Controversial Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb has put together a private funding package to search for alien life

The Galileo Project, formed in response to the recent release report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), proposes to look “systematically, scientifically and transparently” for evidence of ET. The report noted that a number of observed phenomena remain unexplained. SETI’s Seth Shostak explains: Avi Loeb, a Harvard astrophysicist who doesn’t hesitate to swim in the shark-infested waters of controversy, is proposing a major effort to find aliens in our solar system, perhaps even in our airspace. He has raised $1.7 million in private funding to launch something he calls the Galileo Project, an initiative to bring the rigor of experimental science to ufology. Loeb’s plan is to use a telescope now under construction, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, to study interstellar…

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Ideas escape from brain of pensive african man

Dualism Is Best Option for Understanding the Mind and the Brain

Theories that attempt to show that the mind does not really exist clearly don’t work and never did

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In this section (with transcript), they talk about ways we can understand the relationship between the mind and the brain: The basic options are materialist (several varieties), idealist, panpsychist, and dualist. The most popular textbook type theory is reductive materialism, which Egnor says argues that mental states are identical to brain states. Here is a partial transcript and notes for the thirty to forty-two minute mark: Identity theory Michael Egnor: Identity theory doesn’t mean that mental states come from brain states or that they correlate with brain states but that they are brain states, in the same way that the evening…

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Brain mind way soul and hope concept art, illustration, surreal mystery artwork, imagination painting, conceptual idea of success

How we can know mental states are real?

Mental states are always “about” something; physical states are not “about” anything

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In this section, they talk about how we can know that the mind is real and how materialist philosophy has just plain gone bad: Here is a partial transcript and notes for the twenty to thirty-one minute mark: Michael Egnor: There was a philosopher named Franz Brentano (1838–1917) in the 19th century who proposed what I think is the best definition of what distinguishes a mental state from a physical state. Brentano asks, is there any unique thing that all mental states have that no physical state has? He said, it’s intentionality, and by intentionality he meant that every mental state…

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Pot with beautiful blooming azalea and cup of tea on table

How Science Points To Meaning in Life

The earliest philosopher of science, Aristotle, pioneered a way of understanding it

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” Among other things, he talks about how science points to meaning in life. Earlier, he had explained why he ceased to be an atheist as he learned more about science and its dependence on mathematics, which is not a material thing. In this section, he talks about the importance of the concept of purpose in nature (teleology), with a hat tip to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BCE) Here is a partial transcript and notes for the fifteen- to twenty-minute mark: Michael Egnor: I think teleology is the cornerstone of understanding nature. That whole system of understanding nature, that includes…

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Abstract fractal spiral. Shell background

Quantum Theory of Consciousness Gains Support From Recent Study

The researchers were testing principles that underpin the Penrose–Hameroff theory

Cristiane de Morais Smith, a condensed matter physicist at the University of Utrecht in Belgium, has teamed up with colleagues from China led by quantum physicist Xian-Min Jin at Shanghai Jiaotong University to test principles that underpin a quantum theory of consciousness. Many dismiss the idea, originally proposed in the Nineties by Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff, because it is assumed that quantum mechanical laws (as opposed to classical physics laws) apply mainly at very low temperatures, for example at – 272 C, which is just below – 273 (absolute zero, when all classical movement stops). De Morais Smith and Xian-Min think, however, that they may have come a bit closer to validating the idea: Our brains are composed of…

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ビジネスプラン

How Informational Realism Subverts Materialism

Within informational realism, what defines things is their capacity for communicating or exchanging information with other things

Here are some brief excerpts from design theorist William Dembski’s chapter in a forthcoming book on informational realism: To see how informational realism dissolves the mind-body problem, we need first to be clear on what informational realism is and why it is credible. Informational realism is not simply the view that information is real. We live in an information age, so who doesn’t think that information is real? Rather, informational realism asserts that the ability to exchange information is the defining feature of reality, of what it means, at the most fundamental level, for any entity to be real. William A. Dembski, “Informational Realism Dissolves the Mind–Body Problem,” a chapter of the forthcoming Mind and Matter: Modern Dualism, Idealism and…

Human skull and science

Our Scientific Salvation Will Be The Death Of Us

Will we trust "the science" (meaning the scientists) to the point of madness?

Originally published at Patheos “The truly insane man is the perfectly rational man.” So says G.K. Chesterton. This saying is very counter intuitive today. The perfectly rational man is the ideal scientist, the man who knows reality in precise quantitative terms, the best kind of knowledge we have. Such scientific knowledge promises the secret of immortality. If we can understand the fundamentals of our physical existence, we can shape our existence in whatever way we wish. The rational man is the messiah of our scientific age. So, why did Chesterton warn us about the rational man? The problem is that rationality only deals with the known knowns and the known unknowns. Rationality does not deal with the unknown unknowns. The…

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Atom Particle

Why Neurosurgeon Mike Egnor Stopped Being a Materialist Atheist

He found that materialism is just not working out in science

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did another podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” Among other things, Egnor talked about why he ceased to be an atheist as he learned more about science and its dependence on mathematics, which is not a material thing. A partial transcript follows, taking us down to 15 minutes, with notes (more in a further installment): Arjuna Das: (00:01:49) Today, I’ve got Michael Egnor on. I’m very delighted to have him on for a second time. He’s a neurosurgeon, a Christian, and he’s quite good at arguing philosophy too… W So we’ll start out with him telling a little bit of a story, how he changed his metaphysical views through things…

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Close encounters of the third kind. Unidentified objects coming from space. Contact with extraterrestrials UFO.

NASA Seeks Standards for ET Life Claims

The agency wants to develop a credibility scale so we know what to pay attention to

What with everything from Oumuamua to phosphine on Venus claiming our attention, NASA thinks it’s time to develop some standards for what constitutes a credible claim about extraterrestrial life: “The discovery of a potential biosignature in [a planet’s] atmosphere is important, but it’s just the start,” said Green in an interview. “You have to examine potential false positives, whether there are [non-biological] ways to form the chemical, whether the measurement is an artifact of your instrument, whether the environment on the planet is conducive or hostile to life, whether water is present.” Applying such a chain of reasoning could result in a kind of credibility scale for the general public to turn to when they read about new results in…

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アンドロメダ銀河

Some Say That the Universe Is a Donut. Others Say It’s a Hole.

Actually, as astrophysicist Ethan Siegel points out, there’s only one universe — which makes theorizing about it a problem.

At Forbes, theoretical astrophysicist Ethan Siegel comments: The true problem with the Universe is that there’s only one to observe, or at least, only one that we’re capable of observing. We don’t have a large sample of Universes to compare between, and we don’t have a large set of data points available to us within our Universe. It’s like rolling five dice, together, once. Your odds of getting all sixes is small: about 1-in-7800. Yet if you rolled five dice at once and saw that it came up all sixes, you wouldn’t necessarily conclude that it was anything more than random chance. Sometimes, nature just doesn’t give you the most likely outcome. It’s possible that the leftover photons from the…

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Time and space travel concept abstract background

What If Only Part of You Could Be Teleported? — Sci-Fi Saturday

A rooftop smoke break reveals a dreadful secret

“Liminal” at DUST by Collin Davis and Matt Litwiller (July 19, 2021, 6:47 min) From the producers: “Liminal explores big ideas in contained spaces: a character piece with a sci-fi backdrop. Gwen, the lead scientist on a secret experiment to teleport humans, encounters a co-worker on a smoke break. As she grapples with the implications of recent discoveries it’s clear that a dire mistake has been made. Her test subject has lost something along the way. ” Review: “We sent a man to Europa and brought him back in two-thirds of a second … the solar system just got smaller.” This short film benefits from good performances by Anna Campbell (Gwen) and Max Lesser ( Tim), lending authenticity to a…

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Wild Zoo Animal Squares

Would You Become an Animal to Save a Species? — Sci-fi Saturday

The animation is good and the question raised is interesting

“Floreana” at DUST by Louis Morton (Jul 23, 2021), 4:13 min, originally at IMDB 2019 “On a remote island in the future, people are training for an important mission. Take a look at the mechanics of this training facility and the creatures within.” Review: Floreana is an animated film which offers a genuine surprise in terms of how humans in the future might propose to deal with the issue of endangered wildlife. It’s a bit unrealistic (how many people would really go along with living inside animals?) but worth thinking about. Just the right length to get across the basic idea. Films reviewed are sorted roughly by length so you can choose films based on how much time you have.…

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The stones in the water

Claim: “Spirituality” Circuit in the Brain Has Been Identified

Really? Is that even possible?

It’s a story like so many others: Researchers have “found” the brain circuits for spirituality: A new study led by investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital takes a new approach to mapping spirituality and religiosity and finds that spiritual acceptance can be localized to a specific brain circuit. This brain circuit is centered in the periaqueductal gray (PAG), a brainstem region that has been implicated in numerous functions, including fear conditioning, pain modulation, altruistic behaviors and unconditional love … “Our results suggest that spirituality and religiosity are rooted in fundamental, neurobiological dynamics and deeply woven into our neuro-fabric,” said corresponding author Michael Ferguson, PhD, a principal investigator in the Brigham’s Center for Brain Circuit Therapeutics. “We were astonished to find…