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Exoplanet

When Sci-Fi Gets Earnest About Colonization — Sci-fi Saturday

Worth seeing but we never get to find out who the characters are fighting or why some treaty could not be arranged

“Ripple Effect” at DUST by [ Hannah Bang at Dust, July 12, 2021, 7:12 min: “In a not so distant future- a coalition of the old earth’s nations have sought and claimed the discovery of a new planet “Gaia” as the human race’s last hope for survival. However, when the human settlements rolled in, what awaited them was neither discovery nor pioneering but colonization and war against the planet’s original inhabitants. With an increasingly militaristic government that demands the settlers’ sacrifice for the good of all, one family is torn apart when the eldest daughter, Ara, questions who the real bad guys are. At a time where mass think seems to be the safest option, Ripple Effect asks us if…

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Create yourself concept. Good looking young man drawing a picture, sketch of himself

If You Could Change by “Inserting” Knowledge… Should You?

An education professor is surprisingly sympathetic to just “inserting” Correct knowledge to produce desirable changes

John Tillson, philosopher of education and author of Children, Religion, and the Ethics of Influence, asks if, instead of drills and homework, what about just “learning” a skill via a computer cable plugged into the back of your head, the way Neo learned karate in The Matrix?: Discussing the pros and cons of just acquiring knowledge by mere insertion, Tillson is surprisingly friendly to the idea, especially in terms of reprogramming bad ideas: Even if we dodge the threat of replacement by downloading a modest suite of knowledge at a suitably gentle pace, we might still worry that knowledge insertion would make us become someone we wouldn’t want to be. This isn’t always a problem. Suppose Neo was racist and…

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water pouring into glass

Human Psychology in a World Without Water — Sci-fi Saturday

“Oasis” was filmed as a response to the Capetown Water Crisis of 2018

“Oasis” (2020) at DUST by David Wayne Smith (May 12, 2021 at DUST). 8:05 min “In the wake of the 2018 Cape Town water crisis, a handful of filmmakers and I put together a project that tackled environmental issues. In developing a film that focused on the needs of Cape Town, we discovered a global story. OASIS is a Science-Fiction short film that comments on our responsibility in a world that is vulnerable.” Review: The almost entirely wordless film does a good job of portraying a world dying for lack of water. But honestly, the psychological dynamics — and particularly, the fight scene — did not make sense. There is such a thing as taking the “empowered woman” thing too…

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Colorful exoplanet insolated on black

Why the Search for ET Now Focuses on Oceans in the Outer Planets

Some researchers are refining their ET life-tracking skills

The moons of the outer planets, research shows, have vast oceans and water is an essential ingredient of life as we know it. Natalie Elliot, a science writer with a specialty in astrobiology, explains, The hottest spots in the search for alien life are a few frigid moons in the outer solar system, each known to harbor a liquid-water ocean beneath its icy exterior. There is Saturn’s moon Titan, which hides a thick layer of briny water beneath a frozen surface dotted with lakes of liquid hydrocarbon. Titan’s sister Saturnian moon Enceladus has revealed its subsurface sea with geyserlike plumes venting from cracks near its south pole. Plumes also emanate from a moon that is one planet closer to the…

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chemin vers le brouillard

Remembering a Biologist’s Remarkable Confession of Faith

Is it scientific misconduct to make science about materialist atheism?

My friend and colleague Casey Luskin has penned a poignant essay in memory of Richard Lewontin, a Harvard evolutionary biologist who passed away at 92 recently. Casey is a gentleman and a scholar, and very much disposed to finding the best in people. Indeed it seems there was much that was very good in Lewontin’s persona, and Casey highlighted it beautifully in his encomium. I am not of the opinion, however, that we should speak only good of the dead. The passing of a public figure is a good time to consider his impact, and Lewontin’s impact on American culture and science is something very much worth considering. By all accounts, Lewontin was a gentleman and a good friend and…

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The Earth from space. This image elements furnished by NASA.

Cornell: Earth Could Be Seen by ET Far More Easily Than Thought

Using analytic software, researchers can determine whether Earth would be visible from a given star system

According to Cornell and American Museum of Natural History researchers, “Scientists have identified 2,034 nearby star-systems — within the small cosmic distance of 326 light-years — that could find Earth merely by watching our pale blue dot cross our sun”: Scientists at Cornell University and the American Museum of Natural History have identified 2,034 nearby star-systems — within the small cosmic distance of 326 light-years — that could find Earth merely by watching our pale blue dot cross our sun. That’s 1,715 star-systems that could have spotted Earth since human civilization blossomed about 5,000 years ago, and 319 more star-systems that will be added over the next 5,000 years. Exoplanets around these nearby stars have a cosmic front-row seat to…

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Virus bacteria cells background

What If the UAP (UFOs) Are Much Simpler Life Forms Than We Think?

Why assume, if the unexplained phenomena are ET, that they are more advanced than we are? What if the opposite is true?

Readers will recall that on June 25, the Pentagon released a nine-page report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UFOs) which signaled a significant change in attitude from debunking to carefully assessing. That is, we don’t know what’s out there but it’s something and we had better find out. The report references 144 incidents, of which investigators “could not explain”143. First, some reactions from science writers at Futurism: They were generally “disappointed” by the report’s uncertainty, accompanied by tantalizing hints: Reports of strange sightings made by US military pilots emerged after The New York Times published a series of mysterious videos in 2017, captured by military personnel and showing unidentified objects that seemed to defy the laws of physics. The June report,…

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Petals of Oscillation

Quantum Physics: Is Everything Determined? Egnor vs. Papineau

Physicalist philosopher David Papineau is clearly unhappy with the implications of quantum mechanics, as neurosurgeon Michael Egnor sets them out

Yesterday, we published the fifth portion of the debate between materialist philosopher David Papineau and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, where the key issue was “Can traditional philosophy help us understand the mind vs. the brain?” In this final instalment, we look at the portion which starts roughly at 47 min where Papineau and Egnor start to talk about quantum physics, the physics that governs electrons, which famously do not obey the same rules as larger particles and are also the most basic level of the brain (partial transcript): Note: Dr. Papineau is a “physicalist.” On that view, “the mind is a purely physical construct, and will eventually be explained entirely by physical theory, as it continues to evolve.” (Philosophy basics) He…

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Tree brain with human head cape, idea concept of think  hope freedom and mind , surreal artwork, dream art , fantasy landscape, imagination of nature

Can Traditional Philosophy Help Us Understand Mind vs. Brain?

Michael Egnor asks us to look back to the traditional idea that the soul is the “form” of the body

Yesterday, we published the fourth portion of the debate between materialist philosopher David Papineau and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, where the key issue was “Is the mind simply what the brain does?” Today, we look at the portion which starts roughly at 36 min where Papineau and Egnor start to talk about traditional philosophical ways of thinking about the soul and the body (partial transcript): Note: Dr. Papineau is a “physicalist.” On that view, “the mind is a purely physical construct, and will eventually be explained entirely by physical theory, as it continues to evolve.” (Philosophy basics) He is considered to be one of the best defenders of naturalism (nature is all there is), often called “materialism.” Michael Egnor: In the…

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Father And Son Competing In Video Games At Home

Why Did Video Gamers Uncover Fraud More Easily Than Scientists?

Video gamers are subject, a psychologist tells us, to much more rigorous constraints than scientists

In a recent article at The Atlantic, King’s College psychologist Stuart Ritchie, author of Science Fictions: How Fraud, Bias, Negligence and Hype Undermine the Search for Truth (2020), has noted a curious fact: Video gamers are much quicker to spot fraud than scientists. The video game fraud he focuses on involved a gamer’s claim that he had finished a round of Minecraft in a little over 19 minutes, a feat he attributed, Ritchie tells us, to “an incredible stretch of good luck.” “Incredible” is the right choice of word here. “Dream,” as the player was known, later admitted — in the face of skepticism — that he had “inadvertently” left some software running that improved his game — thus disqualifying…

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Big bang explosion in space

Round 3: Egnor vs Papineau: The Big Bang Has No Natural Beginning

In the debate between theistic neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and naturalist philosopher David Papineau, the question gets round to the origin of the universe itself

Michael Egnor begins this portion of the discussion by asking What caused the Big Bang? What causes the singularities at the core of black holes? (Yesterday, we published materialist philosopher David Papineau’s reply to neurosurgeon Michael Egnor. For Egnor’s opening statement, go here. Starts, roughly, at 21:30 min: David Papineau: I don’t think it’s a coherent question. It’s like asking what causes the number five. I mean, you’re misapplying the notion of cause to the beginning of the material universe. … I’m not following. I said all physical effects have a physical cause, and you’re going to give me a counterexample of a physical effect that doesn’t have a physical cause, so what would that be? Note: The Big Bang,…

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Black Hole in space

What Happens If Earth Passes Through a Black Hole—Sci-fi Saturday

This story isn’t exactly about passage through a black hole: It is a meditation on nothingness that crashes headfirst into nihilism

“Until There Was Nothing” at DUST by Paul Trillo (August 25, 2020, 5:36 min) “A philosophical video and art exploration of the Earth’s passage through a black hole.” Review: This film is actually a philosophical meditation on nothingness — the concept of non-entity, as every concept of mathematics, physics, natural law, and order vanishes. Gravity reverses itself at odd moments for no particular reason. Terrifying. Whether the filmmakers intended this or not, it is really a meditation on the way the fundamental constants of the universe work. And what would happen if they didn’t. For more, see the Kalam Constant, a philosophical proof of the existence of God. — A note re our new feature below: We sort reviewed films…

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Exoplanet

Researchers: Maybe Half of Earth-Sized Planets Missed by Studies

It’s not clear how many planets are in Earth’s size range but that is important for physics reasons for habitability as we know it

A recent study suggests that Earth-sized planets may be missed if they are orbiting one of two binary stars: Earth-sized planets may be much more common than previously realized. Astronomers working at NASA Ames Research Center have used the twin telescopes of the international Gemini Observatory, a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab, to determine that many planet-hosting stars identified by NASA’s TESS exoplanet-hunting mission are actually pairs of stars—known as binary stars—where the planets orbit one of the stars in the pair. After examining these binary stars, the team has concluded that Earth-sized planets in many two-star systems might be going unnoticed by transit searches like TESS’s, which look for changes in the light from a star when a planet passes…

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Left-handed woman writing in notebook at wooden table, closeup

Aliens Who Landed Here Would Just Starve, Science Writer Predicts

We tend to assume that any life form could live with our complicated chemistry but what if — fundamentally — not?

NASA has — quite recently — stopped being snarky about aliens. That does not make them true. It just means we don’t have to live with the snark now. Which makes it easier to think. Will Lockett makes the point at Medium that if extraterrestrials did land on Earth, they would probablystarve to death: The way life forms work (at least, the only ones we know) involves chirality: All living organisms are based upon certain ‘mirror’ isomers of amino acids. Although normal chemical reactions produce right and left mirrors in equal amounts, often called a ‘racemic mixture’, the proteins which constitute the organelles in living cells are composed entirely of right handed forms of sugars and left handed forms of…

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COVID-19’s Origins: Uses and Misuses of the Explanatory Filter

How a critic of intelligent design theory misunderstands the application of design inference

Last year in July a prominent critic of intelligent design theory, Dr. Adam Shapiro, took the Discovery Institute to task for not debunking the lab origin theory. He says, Behe seems to miss an opportunity to demonstrate that intelligent design theory shows how those pathways are not irreducible complex. Adam Shapiro, “Did Intelligent Design Just Miss Its Corona Moment?” at American Scientist and, How better to demonstrate its own apolitical nature than to apply its scientific process to debunk the Chinese lab myth? Adam Shapiro, “Did Intelligent Design Just Miss Its Corona Moment?” at American Scientist First of all, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of ID. ID theory is only resilient against false positives, not false negatives, as Dr. Ewert…

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Space and Galaxy light speed travel. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

No Free Lunches: Bernoulli is Right, Keynes is Wrong

What the Big Bang teaches us about nothing

Jacob Bernoulli made a now obvious observation about probability over three-and-a-half centuries ago: If nothing is known about the outcome of a random event, all outcomes can be assumed to be equally probable. Bernoulli’s Principle of Insufficient Reason (PrOIR) is commonly used. Throw a fair die. There are six outcomes, one for each face of the cube. The chance of getting five pips showing on the roll of a die is therefore one sixth. If a million lottery tickets are sold and you buy one ticket, the chances of winning are one in a million. This reasoning is intuitively obvious.  The assumption about the die is wrong if the die is loaded. But you don’t know that. You know nothing. So Bernoulli’s PrIOR…

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The universe inside us, the profile of a young woman and space, the effect of double exposure. scientific concept. The brain and creativity. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Do Larger Brains Make Us Human? Is That All?

Brain organoid studies suggest a “key genetic switch” that makes human brains grow larger than ape brains

In a study of “mini-brains” (brain organoids), the size of a pea, grown in a dish and incapable of further development, researchers have discovered a “key genetic switch” that makes human brains grow three times larger than primate brains: This new research, published in the journal Cell, used brain organoids to show that this transition occurs more slowly in humans compared to gorillas and chimpanzees – over seven days, compared to five. The progenitor cells in human brain organoids not only retained their cylindrical shape for longer, but also split more frequently so more cells were produced. This was linked to a gene called ZEB2, which switches on sooner in gorilla brain organoids than in human. By delaying the effects…

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They Knows.

The Pentagon’s UAP (UFO) Report Signals a Sharp Attitude Change

The brass have committed themselves to going “wherever the data takes us”

As promised, the Pentagon released its UAP (UFO) report. And what did they find? First, they … lack sufficient data to determine the nature of mysterious flying objects observed by American military pilots including whether they are advanced earthly technologies, atmospherics or of an extraterrestrial origin. Steve Gorman, “Watershed U.S. UFO report does not rule out extraterrestrial origin” at Reuters via Yahoo News (June 25, 2021) But read on: The report marked a turning point for the U.S. government after the military spent decades deflecting, debunking and discrediting observations of unidentified flying objects and “flying saucers” dating back to the 1940s. Steve Gorman, “Watershed U.S. UFO report does not rule out extraterrestrial origin” at Reuters via Yahoo News (June 25,…

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Choosing the High Road or Low Road

Freebits: An Interesting Argument From the Big Bang for Free Will

There are two types of uncertainty, we learn, only one of which could create free will

Caleb Scharf (pictured), author of The Ascent of Information (2021), offers an excerpt at Nautilus that introduces two new terms, the “dataome” and “freebits.” The dataome is all the ways human beings create information, from cave paintings to cloud servers. He asks, “Was all of this really inevitable? Did we ever have a choice in creating a dataome or doing any of the things we do, and does any self-aware entity in the universe have a choice either?” Relying on theoretical computer scientist Scott Aaronson’s 2013 essay, “The Ghost in the Quantum Turing Machine,” he asks us to consider that there are two types of uncertainty, only one of which could create choice. Typical “randomness” actually follows statistical laws, a…

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Artificial Intelligence. Digital age in the global world of the future. 3D illustration of computer mind in decentralized cyberspace

ET Expert Thinks That ET Is Probably AI (Artificial Intelligence)

Given the immense interstellar distances, not being alive might be the only way ET could get here.

Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) astronomer Seth Shostak (pictured) confesses that these are exciting times for alien hunters like himself, what with the Pentagon’s anticipated July 25 report on unidentified aerial phenomena. Still, he doesn’t expect any big revelations: “I think it’s overwhelmingly likely that aliens are present in our galaxy. But I don’t believe they’re hanging out in our airspace. Not now, and not in historic times.” On the other hand, he goes on to say, every third star in our galaxy could host an Earth-like planet so the odds are we are not alone. Few life forms on Earth resemble humans, so why should extraterrestrials? But if we are not alone, what would ET be like? A gaseous…