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Vaclav Smil « Distinguished Professor Emeritus Vaclav Smil. Can We Apocalypse-Proof the World’s Knowledge with DNA? This piece was originally published at BBC Future.

Can We Apocalypse-Proof the World’s Knowledge with DNA?

Neither Ewan Birney nor Nick Goldman can remember exactly how they came up with the idea of storing all the world’s knowledge in DNA. They know it happened in the bar of the Gastwerk Hotel in Hamburg, and that many beers were involved. They may or may not have scrawled their ideas on a napkin. “It must have involved a pen or pencil because I can’t think without holding one,” says Goldman. “It would’ve involved a lot of hands from me,” says Birney. Their chat was fuelled by a simple realisation: scientists would soon start amassing more genetic information than they could afford to store.

That would be a setback for a normal lab and an outright catastrophe for the place where Birney and Goldman work. After the conference, Goldman and Birney retreated to a local pub and started batting around possible solutions, beers in hand. In terms of information density, DNA outclasses anything we’ve been able to invent. ‘I have a dream’ Why Does the Higgs Particle Matter? Editors' Note: It has been one year since scientists announced the discovery of a particle believed to be Higgs.

Why Does the Higgs Particle Matter?

Read this essay by a Nobel prize winner in physics and share your comments on our Facebook page. Imagine a planet encrusted with ice, beneath which a vast ocean lies. (Imagine Europa.) Within that ocean a species of brilliant fish evolved. Those fish were so intelligent that they took up physics, and formulated the laws that govern motion. Front Page - The Long Now. A Brief History of Intellectual Discussion of Accelerating Change. Origins — The Idea of Progressive Change To consider the origins of the idea of accelerating change, we should briefly go back to a much earlier one, that of progress itself.

A Brief History of Intellectual Discussion of Accelerating Change

As historian J.D. Bury reminds us in his masterwork, The Idea of Progress, 1921, the idea of progress in any human domain other than spiritual (e.g., social, intellectual, technical), versus stasis, moral decline, or cyclic fluctuation, has been a quite recent emergence in human history. We see no evidence for it at the start of human civilization in Mesopotamia with the Sumerians, circa 3,500 BCE. Surprisingly, it was missed entirely by Greek civilization during its "Golden Age" of imperial democracy and scientific flowering, 500-300 BCE Even the rise of the Roman empire was not explicitly (e.g., in the written record) associated with progress!

During the Middle Ages, the great rich-poor divides of the Roman era were flattened back to more equitable social structures. Adams was the great-grandson of U.S. Mark Blyth: Austerity - The History of a Dangerous Idea. Welcome to Less Wrong. Edge : Conversations on the edge of human knowledge.

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What it's Like to be an Atheist. What it feels like to be an Atheist I've always been an atheist, I know nothing else.

What it's Like to be an Atheist

From my earliest memory of considering the question, I'm talking maybe age three or four, I was skeptical as hell. The God stories just didn't add up. I'm amazed everyday of my life that everyone isn't an atheist like me. But they're not, I have no idea why that is, but it is reality. Imagine that you live in a world where 90% of the people around you sincerely believe in something that appears to you to be downright whacky, if perhaps relatively pleasant on the surface in many respects.

But in this fantasy world, they're not content merely to believe in Santa Claus, they want you to publicly agree all the time that you also believe in Santa, in their specific version of same, and they pressure everyone else in numerous ways to pretend that they're not strange or childish for believing in this. They're Not Pretending. Egads! "Where do you think Christmas came from? Spacetime - Einstein's Relativity, Space, Time, Quantum Gravity, Quantum Physics, and the Existence of Time.

Introduction to the Spacetime Continuum, Einstein's Relativity, and Quantum Theories for beginning and advanced visitors, with Links to the Best Websites on Quantum Gravity, Higg's Boson, Dark Matter and Energy, plus a discussion of the possibility that we live in an essentially atemporal universe.

Spacetime - Einstein's Relativity, Space, Time, Quantum Gravity, Quantum Physics, and the Existence of Time

The Links are the most valuable feature of this website, including a link to the NOVA series Fabric of the Cosmos. MAJOR NEWS! On March 17, 2014 a team of Astrophysicists announced the First Direct Evidence of Cosmic Inflation and the First Images of Gravitational Waves (ripples in space-time). The swirly B-mode pattern is a unique signature of gravitational waves. If you are looking for a few paragraph answer to the question "What is Space-Time? " "In 1906, soon after Albert Einstein announced his special theory of relativity, his former college teacher in mathematics, Hermann Minkowski, developed a new scheme for thinking about space and time that emphasized its geometric qualities.