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The Great Filter

The Great Filter
Sept. 15, 1998 by Robin Hanson Humanity seems to have a bright future, i.e., a non-trivial chance of expanding to fill the universe with lasting life. But the fact that space near us seems dead now tells us that any given piece of dead matter faces an astronomically low chance of begating such a future. Introduction Fermi, Dyson, Hart, Tipler, and others [Finney & Jones, Dyson 66, Hart 75, Tipler 80] have highlighted the relevance to SETI (the search for extraterrestrial intelligence) of the "The Great Silence" [Brin 83] (also known as the Fermi paradox), the fact that extraterrestrials haven't substantially colonized Earth yet. The Great Silence must force us to revise a standard view in one or more area of biology, astronomy, physics, or the social sciences. Life Will Colonize So far, life on earth seems to have adapted its technology to fill every ecological niche it could. This phenomena is easily understood from an evolutionary perspective. The Data Point The Great Filter Related:  UFOs? UAP? Who Goes There? Life in the Beyond...

Lab gets funding to put 3D goggles on praying mantises It sounds like the kind of research project that a future a Congressman might hold up as an example of wasteful government spending: gluing a praying mantis to a stick and putting mini-3D goggles on it. But this project is very real and pretty neat, and it should actually tell us something about neurobiology. (Plus, it's all being funded by a private foundation.) Praying mantises aren't just unusually large insects; they're extremely efficient predators that have even been known to catch and eat birds. This requires both a lightning-quick strike and the visual acuity to direct the strike towards the prey. Right now, as the video below demonstrates, that involves placing a mantis (glued to a stick so it doesn't move around) in front of a television monitor and filming its strikes. An alternative possibility is that the insects operate under a completely different visual processing system.

Want to find alien life? Search for Dyson spheres "I think most sci-fi fans would understand "uploading" as the process of basically creating a copy of one's mind in the form of a computer program, rather than some mystical process wherein your soul possesses a computer." What's the difference? It still relies on the mystical belief that the soul/mind/consciousness is separable from the brain. "logically speaking, there's no obvious reason why it shouldn't be possible someday" No- logically, since a mind has never left a brain and gone somewhere else, and since a damaged brain clearly leads to a loss of self, there's PRESENTLY no logical reason to believe it's possible. In science, language counts. "one can imagine a human brain being gradually integrated with machine components, without there being a single moment of "upload" It doesn't matter if it's gradual or instantaneous. Unless we can actually transfer our consciousness. "with no speculation at all, this site wouldn't exist." Absolutely.

Why Habitable Exoplanets Are Bad News for Humanity's Future - The Crux This article was originally published on The Conversation. Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth orbiting in the “habitable zone” – the distance from a star in which we might expect liquid water, and perhaps life. What did not make the news, however, is that this discovery also slightly increases how much credence we give to the possibility of near-term human extinction. The Great Filter is an argument that attempts to resolve the Fermi Paradox: why have we not found aliens, despite the existence of hundreds of billions of solar systems in our galactic neighborhood in which life might evolve? This apparent absence of thriving extraterrestrial civilizations suggests that at least one of the steps from humble planet to interstellar civilization is exceedingly unlikely. Are We Alone? Or Is the Filter Ahead of Us?

Mantis Shrimp-Inspired Material is Stronger than Airplanes The mighty, mighty mantis shrimp is a colorful and fearsome predator that can smash its opponent (and aquariums walls) to pieces using its arms that are covered with hard exoskeleton. Researchers hoping to harness its power have now created a material that’s stronger than what’s used in airplane frames. Also known as a stomatopd (Odontodactylus scyllarus), the 4 to 6-inch long smashing predator has a fist-like “mineralized dactyl club” that can withstand thousands of high-velocity blows, which it delivers to its prey. The force created by the impact of its club is more than 1,000 times its own weight, and underwater, the club accelerates faster than a 22-caliber bullet. Much of the impact resistance and shock absorbance is thanks to the spiraling (or helicoidal) arrangement of mineralized fiber layers on an area of the club called the endocuticle region. The work was published in Acta Biomaterialia this week. Images: Carlos Puma (top), UC Riverside (middle) Photo Gallery

Why we should send uploaded astronauts on interstellar missions There are ways to test these assumptions of yours in much less dramatic way. John, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, I will call it a duck. Similarly, if a person remembers my memories, thinks like me, feels like me, and thinks/feels that he is me, I will accept him as a valid continuation of me. But we have been here before. I think all these identity issues and “problems” disappear like snow in the sun when looked at from the right perspective, and I guess nobody will see any problem once uploading is commonplace. But I think this (uploaded astronauts to the stars) is a very cool application especially because it sidesteps the identity discussion, which is irrelevant in this context. A copy of a thing is not a thing. And it wouldn't matter which was the original, if the copy was exactly like it, unless the original and copy were PEOPLE. My mother passed away some years ago, and I miss her. Yeah, a copy of you on a spaceship is probably cool, for you.

Our Best Bet for Colonizing Space May Be Printing Humans on Other Planets Assuming human deep space travel turns out to be not just incredibly dangerous, but perhaps “crazy idiotic" and "laughable," as Harvard biologist Gary Ruvkun put it, the tenacious dream of an interstellar civilization forces some out-of-the box thinking. What if, instead of rocketing humans to other planets, we made an exact copy on site? Adam Steltzner, the lead engineer on the NASA JPL's Curiosity rover mission, believes that to send humans to distant planets, we may need to do one of two things: look for ways to game space-time—traveling through wormholes and whatnot—or rethink the fundamental idea of "ourselves." "Our best bet for space exploration could be printing humans, organically, on another planet," said Steltzner on stage at Smithsonian Magazine’s Future Is Now conference in Washington, DC this month. The "printing" idea starts out by encoding human genetic information in bacteria so that our DNA can hitch a ride to another planet. Beautiful, fantastic, and totally bonkers.

Scientists Discover New Shape When Playing With Rubber Bands What do you yet when you cross a rubber band with an octopus? A whole new shape, it turns out, with perversions. The Harvard researchers who made the discovery were seeking to make springs. They glued two strips of uneven length together and stretched them out while clipped at each end with strings thin enough that the strips could rotate freely. While the new shape resembles a double helix the team noticed it had what they call perversions (see image above). What was unexpected was that the bands developed not just one perversion, but as many as eleven. "Once you are able to fabricate these complex shapes and control them, the next step will be to see if they have unusual properties; for example, to look at their effect on the propagation of light," says Associate Professor Katia Bertoldi, one of the authors. Helices and hemihelices are common in nature. The formation of perversions represented something of a puzzle, since a helix is the energetically lowest possible system.

Point and Shoot - Issue 3: In Transit The history of human exploration has always been tied to the search for a destination. Space travel is no different: The Apollo program, which ferried humans to the moon, was not only a scientific and technical achievement, but also an exercise in planting flags and leaving bootprints. Yet proposals are now brewing to launch missions to empty dots in the vastness of space, albeit ones with very special properties. Take any planet in orbit around a star, or any moon that spins around a planet. In each of these systems there will be five spots, arranged in a geometrical configuration that resembles the points of an archer’s drawn bow, where the combined gravitational fields and centrifugal force of the bodies’ rotation cancel out. These are zones of hidden equilibrium, gravitational lacunae amid the ceaseless movement of celestial bodies. The name “Lagrange points” may be a bit of a misnomer, as they vary in character and stability.

A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science | Compound Interest A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science Click to enlarge A brief detour from chemistry, branching out into science in general today. This graphic looks at the different factors that can contribute towards ‘bad’ science – it was inspired by the research I carried out for the recent aluminium chlorohydrate graphic, where many articles linked the compound to causing breast cancer, referencing scientific research which drew questionable conclusions from their results. The vast majority of people will get their science news from online news site articles, and rarely delve into the research that the article is based on. EDIT: Updated to version 2! EDIT 2 (April 2015): Update to version 3, taking into account a range of feedback and also sprucing up the design a little. Support Compound Interest on Patreon for post previews and more! The graphic in this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Like this: Like Loading...