Brainy Quote of the Day

Friday, December 2, 2016


Image Source: Link below
Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Commentary, Politics, Science Fiction, Research

In the science fiction short story and 2002 film "Minority Report" (also a short-lived series with Megan Good), by the legendary Philip K. Dick, using psychics (you can get away with that in science fiction) as "PreCogs," they could apprehend citizens guilty of "PreCrime." In other words before you even THINK you're going to commit a crime, you are guilty before proven innocent. I guess civil liberties go out the window in 2054.

One part of this report gave me some pause:

With the advent of photography, a tiny fraction of 19th-century scientists believed they could develop methods of accurately identifying criminals by their facial features. While their hypotheses were eventually discredited, new artificial intelligence technology suggests their claims might’ve been valid after all.

Xiaolin Wu and Xi Zhang from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China have resurrected this facial recognition tradition and built a neural network that can supposedly pick out criminals by simply looking at their faces.

To accomplish this, the researchers used an array of machine-vision algorithms to examine a series of facial juxtapositions between photos of criminals and non-criminals with the goal of finding out whether a neural network can reliably tell them apart.

As MIT Technology review explains, there are three defining facial features the neural network factored in to make its classifications:

[T]he curvature of upper lip which is on average 23 percent larger for criminals than for noncriminals; the distance between two inner corners of the eyes, which is 6 percent shorter; and the angle between two lines drawn from the tip of the nose to the corners of the mouth, which is 20 percent smaller.

I might have such an upper lip, as may many other ethnicities.

Artificial intelligence like its original biological intelligence model could be taught by condition and repetition: biased prejudice in service of the state. 😨

The Next Web:
This scary artificial intelligence has learned how to pick out criminals by their faces
by Mix

One of two breaks in December, the second around Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa. See you for this one the 11th.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Diamonds Are Forever...

Image Source:, a similar photo is also at the link below.
Topics: Condensed Matter Physics, Nuclear Physics, Nuclear Power

Well, not exactly forever, but at least past our lifetimes.

Scientists from the University of Bristol Cabot Institute are hitting two birds with one stone, thanks to their lab-made diamond that can generate electricity and is made from upcycled radioactive waste.

In nuclear power plants, radioactive uranium is split in a process called nuclear fission. When the atoms are split, heat is generated, and that heat then vaporizes water into steam that turns electricity-generating turbines.

A severe downside of this process is the creation of dangerous radioactive waste, which ultimately deposits in the graphite core that it is housed in. Today, this nuclear contamination is safely stored away until it stops being radioactive…and with a half-life of 5,730 years, that takes quite a while.

The scientists found a way to heat the radioactive graphite to release most of the radioactivity in a gaseous form. The gas is subjected to high temperature and low pressures that turn it into a man-made diamond.

Diamond Batteries Made of Nuclear Waste Can Generate Power For Thousands of Years
Author: Jess Vilvestre, Editor: Patrick Caughill

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


A collage that summarizes the research
Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Exoplanets, NASA, Space Exploration

Researchers from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), the University of Tokyo, and the Astrobiology Center have nailed down an important property of a potentially Earth-like extrasolar planet while it was in transit.

The team used the MuSCAT instrument on the Okayama Astrophysical Observatory’s 188-cm telescope to study the extrasolar planet, called K2-3d, discovered by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft in 2015.

The extrasolar planet is about 150 light-years away, 1.5 times the size of Earth, and closely orbits its host star in about 45 days. K2-3d is particularly important to scientists because there’s a chance it may foster extraterrestrial life. Calculations show that the temperature of the host star and the closeness of the orbit make for a warm Earth-like climate with the possibility of liquid water on the surface.

Astronomy: An Earth-like extrasolar planet could harbor extraterrestrial life
Nicole Kiefert

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Image Source: Hyper Physics
Topics: Condensed Matter Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Theoretical Physics, Thermodynamics

For more than a century and a half of physics, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that entropy always increases, has been as close to inviolable as any law we know. In this universe, chaos reigns supreme.

But researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Argonne National Laboratory announced recently that they may have discovered a little loophole in this famous maxim.

Their research, published in Nature Scientific Reports, lays out a possible avenue to a situation where the Second Law is violated on the microscopic level.

The Second Law is underpinned by what is called the H-theorem, which says that if you open a door between two rooms, one hot and one cold, they will eventually settle into lukewarm equilibrium; the hot room will never end up hotter.

Recent advancements in a field called quantum information theory offered a mathematical construction in which entropy increases.

"What we did was formulate how these beautiful abstract mathematical theories could be connected to our crude reality," said Valerii Vinokur, an Argonne Distinguished Fellow and corresponding author on the study.

The scientists took quantum information theory, which is based on abstract mathematical systems, and applied it to condensed matter physics, a well-explored field with many known laws and experiments.

Argonne National Laboratory:
Argonne researchers posit way to locally circumvent Second Law of Thermodynamics
Louise Lerner

Monday, November 28, 2016

Gusev Crater...

Image Source: Link below
Topics: Astrobiology, Biology, Mars, NASA, Planetary Science, Space Exploration

November 24, 2016 – Published on November 17, 2016, in Nature Communications, researchers describe features in Gusev Crater on Mars that have a remarkable resemblance to hot spring sites found in El Tatio in Northern Chile. The physical comparison of the two sites is uncannily similar.

Spirit, the first of two Martian rovers which finally died when it got stuck in sand, found outcrops of nodular silica distributed across basaltic bedrock that resembles volcanic hydrothermal signatures here on Earth. On our planet we see this type of rock signature near no longer active hot springs and geysers. Such is the case in El Tatio, Chile.

When Spirit first rolled over the Gusev Crater site it used its thermal emission spectrometer to identify the silica in the rocks. The results from Gusev show qualitative similarities to the nodules at El Tatio. Seen below, El Tatio features hot springs, stone barricades and silica deposits in the middle of volcanic basalt deposits.

The next picture (posted above) shows a comparison between opaline silica structures found at Gusev Crater with side-by-side images from El Tatio. The resemblance is uncanny. At El Tatio, the micro-environmental conditions created by microbial biofilm and mat communities thriving in water at temperatures greater than 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) creates the shapes and nodular structures seen on the right. The images from Mars at similar scale appear nearly identical. Some of the rocks examined by Spirit appear to have similar porosity to what is seen at El Tatio to have been shaped by biology as well as by aeolian abrasion (wind).

21st Century Tech:
The Mars Rover Spirit May Have Traveled Over a Hydrothermal Vent and Discovered Evidence of Past Life

Friday, November 25, 2016

Truth, Post-Truth...

Image Source: Capital Hill Blue
Topics: Commentary, Politics, Research, Science, SETI

In our national mythology, we attribute all-wisdom, all-knowledge and all-prescience to the Founding Fathers. However, certain things they could not have predicted: an electorate made up of the plurality of voluntarily registered voters and not just property owners, the freedom of slaves and their rights as citizens, including the vote; women having the right to vote, an African American president, the removal of what used to be referred to as "bungholery" at least in spirit from the Uniform Code of Military Justice as well as public life; a credible female candidate of a national party and the Internet. Obviously crafting the First Amendment, they envisioned a free press and a public education system that would at least inform the citizenry. They had no concept of corporate conglomerates (or corporations), Nielsen Ratings, talk radio, created realities; the triangulation of church, state and echo chamber; social media or click-bait.


Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief:
‘in this era of post-truth politics, it's easy to cherry-pick data and come to whatever conclusion you desire’
‘some commentators have observed that we are living in a post-truth age’

NPR All Tech Considered:
We Tracked Down A Fake-News Creator In The Suburbs. Here's What We Learned

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Quantum Brain...

davidope for Quanta Magazine
Topics: Biology, Neuroscience, Quantum Computer, Quantum Mechanics

Note: With the exception of the historical links below, I don't have anything related to physics and Thanksgiving. Enjoy the food and links. Travel safe.

The mere mention of “quantum consciousness” makes most physicists cringe, as the phrase seems to evoke the vague, insipid musings of a New Age guru. But if a new hypothesis proves to be correct, quantum effects might indeed play some role in human cognition. Matthew Fisher, a physicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, raised eyebrows late last year when he published a paper in Annals of Physics proposing that the nuclear spins of phosphorus atoms could serve as rudimentary “qubits” in the brain — which would essentially enable the brain to function like a quantum computer.

As recently as 10 years ago, Fisher’s hypothesis would have been dismissed by many as nonsense. Physicists have been burned by this sort of thing before, most notably in 1989, when Roger Penrose proposed that mysterious protein structures called “microtubules” played a role in human consciousness by exploiting quantum effects. Few researchers believe such a hypothesis plausible. Patricia Churchland, a neurophilosopher at the University of California, San Diego, memorably opined that one might as well invoke “pixie dust in the synapses” to explain human cognition.

Quanta Magazine: A New Spin on the Quantum Brain, Jennifer Ouellette

Completely unrelated to anything but the day:

Manataka American Indian Council on Thanksgiving
What Really Happened at the First Thanksgiving? The Wampanoag Side of the Tale
Gale Tourey Toensing