From Centauri Dreams:
Stretch out your time horizons and interstellar travel gets a bit easier. If 4.3 light years seems too immense a distance to reach Alpha Centauri, we can wait about 28,000 years, when the distance between us will have closed to 3.2 light years. As it turns out, Alpha Centauri is moving in a galactic orbit far different from the Sun’s. As we weave through the Milky Way in coming millennia, we’re in the midst of a close pass from a stellar system that will never be this close again. A few million years ago Alpha Centauri would not have been visible to the naked eye.
The great galactic pinball machine is in constant motion. Epsilon Indi, a slightly orange star about an eighth as luminous as the Sun and orbited by a pair of brown dwarfs, is currently 11.8 light years out, but it’s moving 90 kilometers per second relative to the Sun. In about 17,000 years, it will close to 10.6 light years before beginning to recede. Project Ozma target Tau Ceti, now 11.9 light years from our system, has a highly eccentric galactic orbit that, on its current inbound leg, will take it to within the same 10.6 light years if we can wait the necessary 43,000 years.
And here’s an interesting one I almost forgot to list, though its close pass may be the most intriguing of all. Gliese 710 is currently 64 light years away in the constellation Serpens. We have to wait a bit on this one, but the orange star, now at magnitude 9.7, will in 1.4 million years move within 50,000 AU of the Sun. That puts it close enough that it should interact with the Oort Cloud, perhaps perturbing comets there or sending comets from its own cometary cloud into our system. In any case, what a close-in target for future interstellar explorers!
I’m pulling all this from Erik Anderson’s new book Vistas of Many Worlds, whose subtitle — ‘A Journey Through Space and Time’ — is a bit deceptive, for the book actually contains four journeys. The first takes us on a tour of ten stars within 20 light years of the Sun, with full-page artwork on every other page and finder charts that diagram the stars in each illustration. The second tour moves through time and traces the stars of an evolving Earth through text and images. Itinerary three is a montage of scenes from known exoplanets, while the fourth tour takes us through a sequence of young Earth-like worlds as they develop.
Anderson’s text is absorbing — he’s a good writer with a knack for hitting the right note — but the artwork steals the show on many of these pages, for he’s been meticulous at recreating the sky as it would appear from other star systems. It becomes easy to track the Sun against the background of alien constellations. Thus a spectacular view of the pulsar planet PSR B1257+12 C shows our Sun lost among the brighter stars Canopus and Spica, with Rigel and Betelgeuse also prominent. The gorgeous sky above an icy ocean on a planet circling Delta Pavonis shows the Sun between Alpha Centauri and Eta Cassiopeiae. Stellar motion over time and the perspectives thus created from worlds much like our own are a major theme of this book.
From Epsilon Eridani, as seen in the image below, the Sun is a bright orb seen through the protoplanetary disk at about the 4 o’clock position below the bright central star.
Image: The nearby orange dwarf star Epsilon Eridani reveals its circumstellar debris disks in this close-up perspective. Epsilon Eridani is only several hundred million years old and perhaps resembles the state of our own solar system during its early, formative years. Credit: Erik Anderson.
Vistas of Many Worlds assumes a basic background in astronomical concepts, but I think even younger readers will be caught up in the wonder of imagined scenes around planets we’re now discovering, which is why I’m buying a copy for my star-crazed grandson for Christmas. He’ll enjoy the movement through time as well as space. In one memorable scene, Anderson depicts a flock of ancient birds flying through a mountain pass 4.8 million years ago. At that time, the star Theta Columbae, today 720 light years away, was just seven light years out, outshining Venus and dominating the sunset skies of Anderson’s imagined landscape.
And what mysteries does the future hold? The end of the interglacial period is depicted in a scene Anderson sets 50,000 years from now, showing a futuristic observation station on the west coast of an ice-choked Canada. The frigid landscape and starfield above set the author speculating on how our descendants will see their options:
Will the inhabitants of a re-glaciating Earth seek refuge elsewhere? Alpha Centauri, our nearest celestial neighbor, has in all this time migrated out of the southern skies to the celestial equator, where it can be sighted from locations throughout the entire globe. It seems to beckon humanity to the stars.
And there, tagged by the star-finder chart and brightly shining on the facing image, is the Alpha Centauri system, now moving inexorably farther from our Sun but still a major marker in the night sky. Planet hunter Greg Laughlin has often commented on how satisfying it is that we have this intriguing stellar duo with accompanying red dwarf so relatively near to us as we begin the great exoplanet detection effort. We’re beginning to answer the question of planets around Alpha Centauri, though much work lies ahead. Perhaps some of that work will be accomplished by scientists who, in their younger years, were energized by the text and images of books like this one.
What I find facinating is a comment by a reader ( kzb ) of this post concerning the Fermi Paradox:
One frequently-seen explanation of the Fermi paradox is that interstellar travel is just too difficult: the distances are so great that no intelligent species has ever cracked the problem.
This article highlights an argument against this outlook. One scale-length towards the galactic centre, and the space density of stellar systems is 2.7 times what it is around here. Two scale lengths in and the density is 7.4 times greater. The scale-length of our galaxy is around only 2.1-3kpc according to recent literature.
Intelligent species that evolve in the inner galactic disk will not have the same problem that we have. Over galactic timescales, encounters between stellar systems within 1 light-year will not be uncommon.
I think you can see what I am saying, and I think this is one aspect of the FP discussion that is poorly represented currently.
And Erik Anderson’s response:
@ kzb: I give an overview of the Fermi Paradox on page 110 and I didn’t miss your point. It was definitely articulated by Edward Teller, whom I explicitly quote: “…as far as our Galaxy is concerned, we are living somewhere in the sticks, far removed from the metropolitan area of the Galactic center.”
Of course this precludes the explanations that there is no such thing as speedy interstellar travel ( be they anti-matter or warp drives ) and UFOs are really just mass hallucinations.
However Anderson’s book is novel in its’ treatment of interstellar exploration over vast timescales and that closer to the Galactic Center, possible advanced civilizations could have stellar cultures due to faster stellar movements and much shorter distances between stars. And I find that novel in an Olaf Stapledon kind of way!
That and the fact as we are discovering using the Kepler and HARP interstellar telescopes multiple star systems that have their own solar systems and many of them could have intelligent life lends credence to Mr. Anderson’s themes.
So I might treat myself to an early Christmas present by purchasing Anderson’s book!
Like many geeks of the post-Sputnik generation, I grew up hoping that space travel would be common by the time I reached middle age. Weaned on a youthful diet of speculative fiction by the likes of Ray Bradbury and Arthur Clarke, raised on Star Trek and The Outer Limits, and thrilled by real-life hero Neil Armstrong’s “one small step” onto the gravelly surface of the Moon when I was in elementary school, it never occurred to me that humankind’s manifest destiny in the stars would be undone by changing political winds, disasters like the Challenger explosion, and a mountain of debt to pay for misguided military adventures like the War in Iraq.
It’s true that, in some ways, we’re living in a new golden age for space nerds. Bard Canning’s gorgeously enhanced footage of Curiosity’s descent to Mars — made instantly available by the global network we built instead of a Hilton on the Moon — certainly beats grainy snippets beamed down from Tranquility Base. A newly discovered exoplanet that “may be capable of supporting life” seems tomake headlines every few months. Cassini’s ravishing closeups of Saturnregularly put the fever dreams of ILM’s animators to shame. But wasn’t I supposed to be “strolling on the deck of a starship” by now, as Paul Kantner’s acid-fueled hippie space epic Blows Against the Empire promised me when it was nominated for a Hugo award in 1971?
The problem, it turns out, isn’t just a loss of political will to finance manned space flight. Rocket science turns out to be rocket science — not easy, and constrained by some very real limitations dictated by material science, the physics of acceleration, and the unwieldy economics of interstellar propulsion. Until a real-life Zefram Cochrane comes along to invent a practical warp drive, I may not be sightseeing on any Class M planets anytime soon.
One of the best briefings on the state of the art of interstellar exploration is Lee Billings’ essay “Incredible Journey,” recently reprinted in a wonderful new anthology called The Best Science Writing Online 2012, edited by Scientific American’s Bora Zivkovic and Jennifer Ouellette. I’m very honored to have a piece in the anthology myself: my NeuroTribes interview with John Elder Robison, author of the bestselling memoir of growing up with autism, Look Me in The Eye, and other books. When SciAm’s editors suggested that each author in the book interview one of the other authors, I jumped at the chance to interview Billings about his gracefully written and informative article about the practical challenges of space flight. Billings is a freelance journalist who has written forNature, New Scientist, Popular Mechanics, and Seed. He lives outside New York City with his wife, Melissa.
Steve Silberman: Before we even get into the meat of your piece, I want to mention how impressed I was by the power and lyricism of your writing. Phrases like “the cosmos suddenly becomes less lonely” and “the easiest way the Daedalus volunteers found to fuel their starship was, in effect, the industrialization of the outer solar system” make vast and highly abstract concepts immediately comprehensible and visceral to lay readers. What made you want to become a science writer, and who are your role models for writing, in any genre?
Lee Billings: My attraction to science preceded my attraction to the act of writing, perhaps because, like every child, I was intensely curious about the world around me. Science, more so than any other source of knowledge I could find, seemed to change the world into something at once eminently understandable and endlessly mysterious.
I became interested in science writing, science journalism, at approximately the same time I realized I would make a poor scientist. I was midway through my college prerequisites, thinking I was on a path to a career in neuroscience. I’d been having a lot of trouble with the more quantitative courses — calculus, organic chemistry, and so on. Many of my friends would ace their assignments and tests after sleeping through lectures and rarely cracking a book. I would study hard, only to receive poor grades. Meanwhile I was breezing through courses in English, literature, history, and art. After a particularly fervent all-night cram-session for a final exam that I still almost flunked, I decided if I wasn’t destined to excel within science itself, perhaps I could instead try to make my mark by helping communicate the world-changing discoveries scientists were making. So I switched my academic emphasis from neuroscience to journalism, and became something of a camp follower, scavenging and trailing behind the gifted few at the front lines of research. I’ve never looked back, and have no regrets. The job never gets old: Rather than being at best a mediocre, hyper-specialized bench worker, being a science writer lets me parachute in to varied fields on a whim, and invariably the brilliant individuals I find upon landing are welcoming and happy to talk to me.
As for influences… I still have a long way to go, but if my writing ever comes to possess a fraction of Carl Sagan’s charisma and elegance, John McPhee’s structure and eye for detail, Richard Preston’s depth of focus and cinematic flair, Stanislaw Lem’s imagination and analytic insight, or Ray Bradbury’s lyrical beauty, I will be a happy man.
Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”
Silberman: Several times a year now, we hear about the discovery of a new exoplanet in the “Goldilocks zone” that could “potentially support life.” For example, soon after he helped discover Gliese 581g, astronomer Steven Vogt sparked a storm of media hype by claiming that “the chances for life on this planet are 100 percent.” Even setting aside the fact that the excitement of discovering a planet in the habitable zone understandably seems to have gone to Vogt’s head at that press conference, why are such calculations of the probability of life harder to perform accurately than they seem?
Billings: The question of habitability is a second-order consideration when it comes to Gliese 581g, and that fact in itself reveals where so much of this uncertainty comes from. As of right now, the most interesting thing about the “discovery” of Gliese 581g is that not everyone is convinced the planet actually exists. That’s basically because this particular detection is very much indirect — the planet’s existence is being inferred from periodic meter-per-second shifts in the position of its host star. The period of that shift corresponds to the planet’s orbit as it whips from one side of the star to the other; the meter-per-second magnitude of the shift places a lower limit on the planet’s mass, but can’t pin down the mass exactly. So that’s all this detection gives you — an orbit and a minimum mass. That’s not a lot to go on in determining what a planet’s environment might actually be like, is it?
Now, get up and walk around the room. You’re moving at about a meter per second. Imagine discerning that same rate of change in the motion of a million-kilometer-wide ball of plasma, a star many light-years away. Keep in mind this star’s surface is always moving, in pounding waves and swirling eddies, in rising and falling convection cells, in vast plasmatic prominences arcing above the surface, often at many kilometers per second. At any particular moment, all that stellar noise can swamp the faint planetary signal. Only by building up hundreds or thousands of careful measurements over time can you get that crucial periodicity that tells you what you’re seeing might be a planet. So the measurement is quite statistical in nature, and its interpretation can change based on the statistical assumptions being used. This is further complicated by the fact that planets are rarely singletons, so that any given stellar motion may be the product of many planets rather than one, requiring careful long-term study to tease apart each world’s contribution to the bulk signal. It’s also complicated by the instability of astronomical instruments, which must be kept carefully, constantly calibrated and stabilized lest they introduce spurious noise into the measurements. In the case of Gliese 581g, not everyone agrees on the putative planetary signal actually being caused by a planet, or even being real at all — the signal doesn’t seem to manifest equally in the handful of instruments purportedly capable of detecting it.
So it’s very difficult to just detect these things, and actually determining whether they are much like Earth is a task orders of magnitude more difficult still. Notice how I’m being anthropocentric here: “much like Earth.” Astrobiology has been derisively called a science without a subject. But, of course, it does have at least one subject: our own living planet and its containing solar system. We are forced to start from what we know, planting our feet in the familiar before we push out into the alien. That’s why we, as a species, are looking for other Earth-like planets — they probably offer us the best hope of recognizing anything we might consider alive. It’s not the strongest position to be in, but it’s the best we’ve got. Calculating the probability of life on an utterly alien world outside the solar system for which we know only the most basic information — its mass, its orbit, maybe its radius — is at this stage a very crude guess. The fact is, we still don’t know that much about how abiogenesis occurred on Earth, how life emerged from inanimate matter. There are very good physical, chemical, thermodynamic reasons to believe that life arose here because our planet was warm, wet, and rocky, but we really don’t yet know all the cogent occurrences that added up to build the Earth’s earliest organisms, let alone our modern living world. A warm, wet, rocky planet may be a necessary but not a sufficient condition for life as we know it to form and flourish.
Lee Billings with planet hunter Geoff Marcy
This is really a chicken-and-egg problem: To know the limits of life in planetary systems, we need to find life beyond the Earth. To find life beyond Earth, it would be very helpful to know the limits of life in planetary systems. Several independent groups are trying to circumvent this problem by studying abiogenesis in the lab — trying to in effect create life, alien or otherwise, in a test tube. If they manage to replicate Earth life, the achievement could constrain just how life emerged on our own planet. If they somehow manage to make some single-celled organism that doesn’t use DNA, or that relies on silicon instead of carbon to build its body, or that prefers to swim in liquid ethane rather than liquid water, that gives us a hint that “Earth-style” biologies may only be one branch in a much larger and more diverse cosmic Tree of Life.
Silberman: Going deeper than the notion of the cosmos feeling “less lonely” – as well as the fact that we all grew up watching Star Trek and Star Wars and thinking that aliens are frickin’ cool (as long as they’re not the mama alien fromAlien) — why do you think people are so motivated to daydream about extraterrestrial life? What need in us do those dreams fulfill?
Billings: I don’t really think most people are necessarily motivated to daydream about just any sort of extraterrestrial life. It will probably take more than a microbe or a clam to excite most of our imaginations, even if that microbe happens to be on Venus or that clam happens to be on Mars.
I do think humans are motivated to daydream about extraterrestrial intelligence, and, to put a finer point on it, extraterrestrial “people.” They are motivated to dream about beings very much like them, things tantalizingly exotic but not so alien as to be totally incomprehensible and discomforting. Maybe those imagined beings have more appendages or sense organs, different body plans and surface coverings, but they typically possess qualities we recognize within ourselves: They are sentient, they have language, they use tools, they are curious explorers, they are biological, they are mortal — just like humans. Perhaps that’s a collective failure of imagination, because it’s certainly not very easy to envision intelligent aliens that are entirely divergent from our own anthropocentric preconceptions. Or perhaps it’s more diagnostic of the human need for context, affirmation, and familiarity. Why are people fascinated by their distorted reflections in funhouse mirrors? Maybe it’s because when they recognize their warped image, at a subconscious level that recognition reinforces their actual true appearance and identity.
More broadly, speculating about extraterrestrial intelligence is an extension of three timeless existential questions: What are we, where do we come from, and where are we going? The late physicist Philip Morrison considered SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, to be the “archaeology of the future,” because any galactic civilizations we could presently detect from our tiny planet would almost certainly be well more advanced than our own. It’s unlikely that we would ever receive a radio message from an alien civilization in the equivalent of our past Stone Age, and it’s unlikely Earth would ever be visited by a crewed starship that powered its voyage using engines fueled by coal or gasoline. Optimists consider this, and say that making contact with a superior alien civilization could augur a bright future for humanity, as it would suggest there are in fact solutions to be found for all the current seemingly intractable problems that threaten to destroy or diminish our species. It’s my opinion that most people think about aliens as a way of pondering our own spectrum of possible futures.
I’m inclined to believe some of the things Billings has to say in that it’s doubtful we’ll build anything like a starship in the near future and folks ( taxpayers ) just won’t fund those kinds of projects. Entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, James Cameron and Peter Diamandis could in the future fund projects such as starprobes and starships – only if they prove profitable.
IMO it looks like stronger telescopes both on Earth and in space will be the only human built machines exploring the closer solar systems for any signs of life and extant civilizations because they can be economically constructed – and if they found anything interesting, the items are still a safe distance away.
Many changes have occurred just in the past ten years. Who would have thought that Twitter and Facebook would have become the great democratizing forces in the world and helped change governments? (Not to mention WikiLeaks!)
Futurist John L. Peterson of the Arlington Institute recently posted on Starpod.org an article in which coming changes in the 21st Century will eclipse the changes that occurred during the previous century by a thousand fold.
And that might not necessarily be a bad thing.
We are living in unprecedented times … but, of course, everyone has said that at any given period in the past. Nevertheless, technically it’s true. Every year is a fresh, new one that might seem familiar, but essentially, is not. Unless all change could be eliminated, we’re necessarily producing new realities every moment that have never existed before.
Parallels with historical times, at best, therefore, reflect only a very rough congruity with an earlier time that certainly did not have the technology, communications, ideas and values of the present. So, sure, these are unprecedented times.
But in important ways, this time it is really unprecedented. There is always change, but the rate of change that we are experiencing these days has never been seen before … and it is accelerating exponentially. That means that if present trends continue, every week or month or year going forward will produce significantly more change than in the previous one. Humans have never experienced this rate of change before.
Let me give you an example. Futurist Ray Kurzweil, in his important book, “The Singularity is Near,” cataloged the rate of technological change in many different dimensions. His bottom-line assessment was that our present century will see 1000 times the technological change as the last century — during which the automobile, airplane, Internet and nuclear wars emerged. Transportation rates went from that limited by the gallop of a horse to chemically propelled space craft that traverse more than 15,000 miles in an hour. And, of course, we visited the moon.
Now, think about what 1000 times that change would be. What kind of a world might show up in 100 years if we lived through a thousand times the change of the 20th century? Well, you can’t reasonably do it. No one can. The implications are so great that you are immediately driven into science fiction land where all of the current “experts” just dismiss you with a wave of a hand.
Try it. With two compounded orders of magnitude change over the period of a century, you could literally find yourself in a place where humans didn’t eat food or drink water (which would eliminate agriculture). They might be able to read minds telepathically and be able to visually read the energetic fields of anyone they looked at — immediately knowing about the past experiences, present feelings, and honesty of statements. Just that, of course, would eliminate all politicians and advertising!
But maybe, as some sources seriously suggest, you could manifest physical things at will — just by focusing your mind. Think of what that would do to the notion of economics as we know it. In this handful of future human characteristics you’d also be able to transport yourself wherever you wanted by thinking yourself there. In that world, no one would know what airplanes were.
You might think that what I’ve just described is farfetched, and if so, then you just made my point. Even though there are credible analysts and observers who seriously propose that the above changes will happen in far less than a century, change of this sort is more than we can reasonably understand and visualize. Just to parse it down to the next decade — 70-80 times the change of the last century — boggles the mind!
Well, it’s my business to think about these things and even I have a hard time visualizing how this all might turn out, just because it is so severe and disruptive, but I can tell you a bit about what a revolution of this magnitude means.
First of all, it means that we are in a transition to a new world — a new paradigm. All of this change has direction and it is leading us to a new world that operates in very different ways.
Secondly, in this kind of shift, things change fundamentally. We’re not talking about adjustments around the edge. The only way to support and sustain this rate of change is if there are extraordinary breakthroughs across almost every sector of human activity.
Already, for example, there are serious efforts afoot to make it possible to control many processes with only your thoughts and the ability to make physical things invisible has made great strides. In a very short time it will be possible to capture, store and search on everything you say in any public (or even private) environment and extract it at will. As this book suggests, unlimited energy and the control of gravity are all in the works.
Thirdly, the tempo accelerates — things change more quickly. The rate of change is increasing so bigger things are coming faster. And as they converge, these extraordinary events and driving forces interact and cause chain reactions, generating unanticipated consequences. There’s a pretty good chance that the inventors of Facebook and Twitter didn’t think they were going to be part of bringing down governments … and it’s certainly clear that most governments didn’t anticipate that this new technology might threaten their ability to govern.
Fourthly, much of the change will therefore be strange and unfamiliar. When very rapid, profound, interconnected forces are all in play at the same time, the unanticipated consequences are likely to move quite quickly into threatening the historical and conventional understanding of how things work. Our situation is exacerbated by the fact that significant cosmic changes are influencing the behavior of the sun and therefore major systems (like the climate) on our planet. These are contextual reorganizations that are so large and unprecedented that the underlying systems — agriculture, economic, government, etc. — will not be able to respond effectively.
Because of that, human systems will have a hard time adapting to the change. Research has shown that civil and social systems (legal, education, government, families, et. al.) reconfigure themselves thousands of times slower than the rate of technological change that we are experiencing.
Therefore, it is inevitable that the old systems will collapse. They will not have the capability to change fast enough, and in some cases (like the global financial system), have structurally run out of the ability to sustain the status quo.
So, lastly, a new paradigm will emerge from all of this upheaval that only seems chaotic because we’re in the middle of it. Something new will arise to fill the vacuum left by the implosion of the legacy systems. If history gives us any indicator of what the new world will be, it is certain that it will be radically different from the world in which we all now find familiar.
In physical terms, there is no more fundamental and basic influence on the way we live and behave than the availability and form of energy that we use. Every aspect of our lives, food, clothing, shelter and transportation . . . and therefore every derivative activity (work, government, recreation, etc.) changes when the affordable source of energy changes. The modern world has been directly enabled by the discovery, development and availability of petroleum, for example. When that era ends, many other ways of doing things will also necessarily end.
Peterson is clearly a Kurzweil Singulitarian and that might not be a bad thing.
But if Charlie Stross’ novel Accelerando is a guide for the 21st Century (and it looks like it is), we’re in for a wild ride!
Duck your head!
Astronomers say it may be space junk or it could be a tiny asteroid, too small to cause damage even if it hit. It’s 33 to 50 feet wide at most.
Hmm..makes a good case for the Flexible Path asteroid missions, eh?
From the wonderful world(s) of the multiverse and quantum entanglement:
For the first time, physicists have convincingly demonstrated that physically separated particles in solid-state devices can be quantum-mechanically entangled. The achievement is analogous to the quantum entanglement of light, except that it involves particles in circuitry instead of photons in optical systems. Both optical and solid-state entanglement offer potential routes toquantum computing and secure communications, but solid-state versions may ultimately be easier to incorporate into electronic devices.
The experiment is reported in an upcoming issue of Physical Review Lettersand highlighted with a Viewpoint in the January 11 issue of Physics.
In optical entanglement experiments, a pair of entangled photons may be separated via a beam splitter. Despite their physical separation, the entangled photons continue to act as a single quantum object. A team of physicists from France, Germany and Spain has now performed a solid-state entanglement experiment that uses electrons in a superconductor in place of photons in an optical system.
As conventional superconducting materials are cooled, the electrons they conduct entangle to form what are known as Cooper pairs. In the new experiment, Cooper pairs flow through a superconducting bridge until they reach a carbon nanotube that acts as the electronic equivalent of a beam splitter. Occasionally, the electrons part ways and are directed to separatequantum dots — but remain entangled. Although the quantum dots are only a micron or so apart, the distance is large enough to demonstrate entanglement comparable to that seen in optical systems.
In addition to the possibility of using entangled electrons in solid-state devices for computing and secure communications, the breakthrough opens a whole new vista on the study of quantum mechanically entangled systems in solid materials.
Optical connections not needed? Solid state devices can utilize quantum configurations?
This is huge. Maybe Kurzweil can get his mechanical AI sooner than thought?
Speaking of Ray Kurzweil, the Guru of the Technological Singularity grants an interview with the Transhumanist ezine H+:
RAY KURZWEIL: One area I commented on was the question of a possible link between quantum computing and the brain. Do we need quantum computing to create human level AI? My conclusion is no, mainly because we don‘t see any quantum computing in the brain. Roger Penrose‘s conjecture that there was quantum computing in tubules does not seem to have been verified by any experimental evidence.
Quantum computing is a specialized form of computing where you examine in parallel every possible combination of qubits. So it‘s very good at certain kinds of problems, the classical one being cracking encryption codes by factoring large numbers. But the types of problems that would be vastly accelerated by quantum computing are not things that the human brain is very good at. When it comes to the kinds of problems I just mentioned, the human brain isn‘t even as good as classical computing. So in terms of what we can do with our brains there‘s no indication that it involves quantum computing. Do we need quantum computing for consciousness? The only justification for that conjecture from Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff is that consciousness is mysterious and quantum mechanics is mysterious, so there must be a link between the two.
I get very excited about discussions about the true nature of consciousness, because I‘ve been thinking about this issue for literally 50 years, going back to junior high school. And it‘s a very difficult subject. When some article purports to present the neurological basis of consciousness… I read it. And the articles usually start out, “Well, we think that consciousness is caused by…” You know, fill in the blank. And then it goes on with a big extensive examination of that phenomenon. And at the end of the article, I inevitably find myself thinking… where is the link to consciousness? Where is any justification for believing that this phenomenon should cause consciousness? Why would it cause consciousness?
Kurzweil takes his reputation as the Guru of the Singularity in stride. He feels pretty confident in its eventual arrival.
Will it? Check out this interview!
What is Transhumanism?
The term itself has many definitions, depending on who you ask.
The stock meaning is that transhumanism is a step toward being ‘posthuman’, and that term is subject to many iterations also.
One definition of being transhuman is using advanced technology to increase or preserve the quality of life of an individual. And that is the interpretation I use for myself , of which I have mentioned many times on this blog (I’ve made no secret of my heart condition).
That is just one interpretation however. According to Michael Garfield, transhumanism has many meanings:
Mention the word “transhumanism” to most of my friends, and they will assume you mean uploading people into a computer. Transcendence typically connotes an escape from the trappings of this world — from the frailty of our bodies, the evolutionary wiring of our primate psychologies, and our necessary adherence to physical law.
However, the more I learn about the creative flux of our universe, the more the evolutionary process appears to be not about withdrawal, but engagement — not escape, but embrace — not arriving at a final solution, but opening the scope of our questions. Any valid map of history is fractal — ever more complex, always shifting to expose unexplored terrain.
This is why I find it is laughable when we try to arrive at a common vision of the future. For the most part, we still operate on “either/or” software, but we live in a “both/and” universe that seems willing to try anything at least once. “Transhuman” and “posthuman” are less specific classifications than catch-alls for whatever we deem beyond what we are now … and that is a lot.
So when I am in the mood for some armchair futurism, I like to remember the old Chinese adage: “Let a hundred flowers bloom.” Why do we think it will be one way or the other? The future arrives by many roads. Courtesy of some of science fiction’s finest speculative minds, here are a few of my favorites:
By Elective Surgery & Genetic Engineering
In Greg Egan’s novel Distress, a journalist surveying the gray areas of bioethics interviews an elective autistic — a man who opted to have regions of his brain removed in order to tune out of the emotional spectrum and into the deep synesthetic-associative brilliance of savants. Certainly, most people consider choice a core trait of humanity… but when a person chooses to remove that which many consider indispensable human hardware, is he now more “pre-” than “post-?” Even today, we augment ourselves with artificial limbs and organs (while hastily amputating entire regions of a complex and poorly-understood bio-electric system); and extend our senses and memories with distributed electronic networks (thus increasing our dependence on external infrastructure for what many scientists argue are universal, if mysterious, capacities of “wild-type” Homo sapiens). It all raises the question: are our modifications rendering us more or less than human? Or will this distinction lose its meaning, in a world that challenges our ability to define what “human” even means?
Just a few pages later in Distress, the billionaire owner of a global biotech firm replaces all of his nucleotides with synthetic base pairs as a defense against all known pathogens. Looks human, smells human…but he has spliced himself out of the Kingdom Animalia entirely, forming an unprecedented genetic lineage.
In both cases, we seem bound to shuffle sideways — six of one, half a dozen of the other.
By Involutionary Implosion
In the 1980s, Greg Bear explored an early version of “computronium” — matter optimized for information-processing — in Blood Music, the story of a biologist who hacks individual human lymphocytes to compute as fast as an entire brain. When he becomes contaminated by the experiment, his own body transforms into a city of sentient beings, each as smart as himself. Eventually, they download his whole self into one of their own — paradoxically running a copy of the entire organism on one of its constituent parts. From there things only get stranger, as the lymphocytes turn to investigate levels of reality too small for macro-humans to observe.
Scenarios such as this are natural extrapolations of Moore’s Law, that now-famous bit about computers regularly halving in size and price. And Moore’s Law is just one example of a larger evolutionary trend: for example, functions once distributed between every member of primitive tribes (the regulatory processes of the social ego, or the formation of a moral code) are now typically internalized and processed by every adult in the modern city. Just as we now recognize the Greek Gods as embodied archetypes correlated with neural subroutines, the redistributive gathering of intelligence from environment to “individual” seems likely to transform the body into a much smarter three cubic feet of flesh than the one we are accustomed to.
Greg Egan is the consumate trans/posthuman author and I have been a reader and fan of his for ten years. He is stunningly accurate and it amazes me how fertile his imagination must be.
Could he be getting quantum information from the future?
And I think I’ve read almost all of Greg Bear’s work over the past twenty years, including his Foundation works. His nanotech fiction is astonishingly prescient. Is he tapping into the quantum information highway too?
Like the author of this post speculates, maybe it’s just a few of the hundred flowers of the future.
The NASA IBEX probe has discovered something anomalous at the edge of our solar system and it has solar physicists scratching their heads:
In the murky boundary between our solar system and the rest of the galaxy, scientists have spotted a bright band of surprising high-energy emissions.
The results come from the first all-sky map created by NASA’s new Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft, which launched in October 2008. While orbiting Earth, IBEX monitors incoming neutral atoms that originate billions of miles away at the solar system’s edge to learn about the interaction between the sun and the cold expanse of space.
“The IBEX results are truly remarkable, with emissions not resembling any of the current theories or models of this never-before-seen region,” said David McComas, IBEX principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in Texas. “We expected to see small, gradual spatial variations at the interstellar boundary, some 10 billion miles away. However, IBEX is showing us a very narrow ribbon that is two to three times brighter than anything else in the sky.”
This ribbon of energy lies at the very edge of the solar system, where the bubble of charged particles streaming from the sun finally peters out. This bubble is called the heliosphere, and it encompasses the region of space dominated by the sun’s influence.
The edge of the solar system
At the boundary of the heliosphere, the sun’s positively-charged particles interact with neutral atoms drifting in from interstellar space. When these particles meet, an electron may hop over from a neutral atom to a charged one, called an ion. The result: the charged particle becomes neutral. IBEX detects these fast-moving neutral particles and traces their paths back to the solar system’s edge to create a picture of this chaotic frontier.
“We’re just now getting a handle on the interaction of the surrounding interstellar medium with the heliosphere, and that’s providing us with the big picture,” said mission co-investigator Eberhard Möbius of the University of New Hampshire.
The mission scientists said they were surprised to discover the striking band in IBEX’s sky maps, because no models had predicted such a pattern beforehand.
McComas said when he first saw the IBEX results he thought, “‘Something’s wrong,’ It was quite a long time before we convinced ourselves that we were right,” he said.
The bright ribbon appears to be shaped by the direction of the interstellar magnetic field outside the heliosphere. Scientists think this suggests that the galactic environment just outside the solar system has far more influence on the structure of the heliosphere than previously believed.
Why is the galactic environment influencing the heliosphere of our Solar System?
Does this happen to all solar systems and is a product of nature? Possibly plasma like the electric universe theory espouses?
Or something artificial?
Burt Rutan, principle designer of SpaceShipOne and designer emeritus of SpaceShipTwo might have been influenced by an ’80s Soviet military design.
Now things have come full circle in that the US military want to base a new air/space craft on the Rutan design:
Twenty years after the U.S. Air Force first retired its SR-71 spy plane, and 11 years after a handful of the Mach-3 jets was briefly returned to military service, the military has finally identified a candidate to replace the famed Blackbird. The Pentagon’s secretive National Security Space Office is navigating a minefield of budgetary perils, bureaucratic expectations and industry inhibitions, to turn a experimental, civilian “space plane” into a high-speed, responsive reconnaissance craft.
The late May roll-out, by innovative California aerospace firm Scaled Composites, of the four-engine “Eve” aircraft — the mother-ship for the so-called “Space Ship Two” rocket ship — offers the first glimpse of this potential, future Blackbird replacement. Scaled’s work with cheap, re-usable, low-orbit “space planes” — and efficient mother-ships for launching them, from high altitude — forms the theoretical basis of the Space Office’s so-called Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion concept.
The concept is more complex than the SR-71, but potentially cheaper. Rather than the Blackbird’s single, fast vehicle, SUSTAIN would be two vehicles. The jet-powered mother-ship, based in the U.S. or at a secure, overseas facility, would loft a smaller, rocket-powered “lander” to high altitude — say, 50,000 feet — before launching it. The rocket would quickly boost the lander to an altitude of around 400,000 feet, just shy of the orbital threshold. On completing its mission, the lander would deploy air brakes and spiral down to a landing.
While the SUSTAIN lander would be as fast as the SR-71, reaching up to Mach 3, its major advantage is altitude. The SR-71 operated at up to 80,000 feet — higher than most of today’s surveillance drones and manned planes, such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk and U-2 Dragon Lady, but not high enough to render unnecessary the direct over-flight of enemy territory. At five times the Blackbird’s altitude, the SUSTAIN lander provides an unparalleled, responsive platform for sophisticated, long-range cameras. “If you’re up there for five to 10 minutes, you could take a high-resolution image of something that’s out on the horizon — and you don’t necessarily have to over-fly what you want to image,” says Lieutenant Colonel Paul Damphousse, the Marine Corps officer in charge of SUSTAIN’s concept development.
As a side note, Damphousse no longer works for the Pentagon, he works for Senator Bill Nelson (D) of Florida as a Space Fellow.
Are UFO aliens just plain scoping us out through the windows of their craft?
According to Ron S. Stewart they are:
Around a month ago we received this interesting UFO video from a reader. No information regarding the footage was passed on to us. When we posted the story some readers thought the video showed a mere reflection in a window while others found the footage more compelling than that. I must say I myself was not so sure it was just a reflection of a light in a window. Since then we have received more information regarding this UFO event. We now know that the man heard in the clip is speaking Indonesian and that he seems genuinely confused as he calls regional control to tell them that ‘Noah’s Ark’ (he seems unfamiliar with UFOs and aliens) has been hovering over the port all morning. Lon Strickler then created an enhanced still from the footage which further intrigued me. We contacted our friend, Ronald Nussbeck of www.ufoimaging.com and asked him to see what he could come up with using Ron Stewart’s remarkable APEP photo enhancement technology. To our surprise and despite the poor quality of the film, a rather clear if not outright amazing image of a humanoid alien was captured peering through the windows of this UFO/extraterrestrial spaceship! The image, Lon Strickler’s enhanced image and the orginal footage can be viewed below.
www.ufoimaging.com is operated by Ron S. Stewart, Archeologist, Inventor and regarded as one of the world’s leading Imaging Scientists and the developer of APEP: Which has received attention from some of the World’s largest Corporations and the international UFO community.
APEP works because Ron S. Stewart found a Flaw in the Architecture Foundation of Image creation that affects all photos and videos for the last 50 years. The Flaw restricts DPI (dots per inch), the average photo contains about 150 DPI, APEP converts photos and videos to about 10,000 DPI, that means an increase of up to 10,000% in image resolution. The process also solves Pixelazation and Distortion when enlarging images and is inherent in all photo process today. The flaw restricts the laws of physics from attaining maximum resolution.
I don’t know about you, but the “faces” look pretty goddamn human to me!
I still think it’s post-Singularity humans coming back to gawk at us hair-less primates like museum pieces!
Burning down the house?
Government leaders said that massive bailouts were necessary. Were they right?
The New York Times wrote on July 16th:
In retrospect, Congress felt bullied by Mr. Paulson last year. Many of them fervently believed they should not prop up the banks that had led us to this crisis — yet they were pushed by Mr. Paulson and Mr. Bernanke into passing the $700 billion TARP, which was then used to bail out those very banks.
In his latest trend forecast, Gerald Celente writes:
It was the familiar fear tactic — one that had worked in the past and would work again — an economic version of the Bush/Cheney argument for the Iraq War. The people were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda. If he wasn’t stopped, the next cloud would be a mushroom cloud.
The pretense was different but the game was the same: instill fear in a panicked public and they will follow their leader, regardless of how shallow the reasoning or how big the lie.
Just as the nation was hurried to war before it could be proven that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction or Al Qaeda ties, so too there was no time to debate what might happen if the “too big to fail” failed…
While the national pastime of “follow the leader” is always the path of least resistance, it comes at a high cost … financial ruin and/or war and death. In either case, when disaster strikes, the followers typically absolve themselves of any direct moral responsibility for both the outcome and for the role they played in allowing it to happen.
Celente is over-the-top, right? Tin foil hat time, right?
Well, maybe. But Congressmen Brad Sherman and Paul Kanjorski and Senator James Inhofe all say that the government warned of martial law if Tarp wasn’t passed:
Bait And Switch
Indeed, the Tarp Inspector General has said that Paulson misrepresented some fundamental aspects of Tarp.
And Paulson himself has said:
During the two weeks that Congress considered the [Tarp] legislation, market conditions worsened considerably. It was clear to me by the time the bill was signed on October 3rd that we needed to act quickly and forcefully, and that purchasing troubled assets—our initial focus—would take time to implement and would not be sufficient given the severity of the problem. In consultation with the Federal Reserve, I determined that the most timely, effective step to improve credit market conditions was to strengthen bank balance sheets quickly through direct purchases of equity in banks.
So Paulson knew “by the time the bill was signed” that it wouldn’t be used for its advertised purpose – disposing of toxic assets – and would instead be used to give money directly to the big banks? But he didn’t tell Congress before they voted to approve the Tarp legislation? Does that mean that Paulson either actively misrepresented the purpose of the legislation or else committed a lie by omission – holding his tongue even though the fundamental idea behind his bill had changed?
It was a bait-and-switch, whether or not it was an intentional one.
The House Next Door
And while I have never heard of Obama and Bernanke’s “house next door” speeches before, Celente does a good job of describing them and then pulling the rug out from under their rationale:
Asked why taxpayers should be forced to foot the bill to bail out banks, brokerages, insurance companies and other institutions that had made bad bets, Mr. Obama responded, “You know, if my neighbor’s house is on fire, even if they were smoking
in the bedroom or leaving the stove on, right now my main incentive is to put out that fire so that it doesn’t spread to my house.”
When asked the same question seven months later, Ben Bernanke resorted to the same illegitimate analogy: “If you have a neighbor, who smokes in bed. And he’s a risk to everybody. If suppose he sets fire to his house, and you might say to yourself, ‘I’m not gonna call the fire department. Let his house burn down. It’s fine with me.’ But what if your house is made of wood? And it’s right next door to his house? What if the whole town is made of wood? Well, I think we’d all agree that the right thing to do is put out that fire first, and then say, ‘What punishment
is appropriate? How should we change the fire code? What needs to be done to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future? How can we fire proof our houses?’ That’s where we are now. We have a fire going on.”
Comparing a neighbor’s house on fire to spending trillions to bail out failed financial institutions is a totally fraudulent, puerile and transparent analogy … one that happened to be accepted without question by the entire media and foisted upon the public as the logic of the wise.
“Smoking in bed” and “the house on fire” bore no relationship to the reality. More to the point, what if your neighbor is a compulsive gambler who lost his fortune in Vegas and is now losing his house? Should the “whole town” be taxed for generations to come so that your neighbor is able to retain possession of his McMansion? And for his gross failures, should he be further rewarded with millions in “executive compensation” so he can travel first class back to Vegas to continue his wasteful, profligate ways?
Preventing the Next Fire
The bottom line is this. If the fire at the neighbor’s house was threatening your house, wouldn’t you want his matches taken away? Especially if he had lit fires that had burned down other houses in the past?
Unfortunately, as I have previously pointed out, Obama’s proposed economic regulations are like a law which makes arson illegal, but exempts convicted arsonists.
The top independent economists warn that the economy will not stabilize – and hundreds of billions or trillions of additional dollars will need to be thrown at the giant banks and financial companies – unless the fundamental problems are actually addressed and fixed. They agree that – to date – Obama, Summers, Geithner, Bernanke and the rest of the boys have not done so.
Indeed, I would argue that the government is actually handing out matches by encouraging the financial giants to hide the extent of their toxic assets (through funny accounting and the continued use of SIVs), restart the shadow banking system, re-lever up, and engage in new types of financial schemes such as securitization of life insurance policies.
As I wrote a year ago, by trying to put out the raging fires of deleveraging, the government was ensuring that they would grow and wipe out the whole forest.
And as former head BIS economist William White wrote recently, we have to resist the temptation to blow another bubble every time the economy gets in trouble:
Forest fires are judged to be nasty, especially when one’s own house or life is threatened, or when grave harm is being done to tourist attractions. The popular conviction that fires are an unqualified evil reached its zenith after a third of Yellowstone Park in the US was destroyed by fire in 1988. Nevertheless, conventional wisdom among forest managers remains that it is best to let natural forest fires burn themselves out, unless particularly dangerous conditions apply. Burning appears to be part of a natural process of forest rejuvenation. Moreover, intermittent fires burn away the undergrowth that might accumulate and make any eventual fire uncontrollable.
Perhaps modern macroeconomists could learn from the forest managers. For decades, successive economic downturns and even threats of downturns (“pre-emptive easing”) have been met with massive monetary and often fiscal stimuli…
Just as good forest management implies cutting away underbrush and selective tree-felling, we need to resist the credit-driven expansions that fuel asset bubbles and unsustainable spending patterns. Recent reports from a number of jurisdictions with well-developed financial markets seem to agree that regulatory instruments play an important role in leaning against such phenomena. What is less clear is that central bankers recognise that they might have an even more important role to play. In light of the recent surge in asset prices worldwide, this issue needs urgent attention. Yet another boom-bust cycle could have negative implications, social and political, stretching beyond the sphere of economics.
Whoever started the fire in the first place, and whether or not there was really a crisis which required bailouts the first time around, the fact is that the government is ensuring more – and – bigger fires in the future.
Want to know what WebBot is?
Find out in this interview that Heinrick Palmgren has with its’ creator, Cliff High!
According to film maker James Fox, if Gary McKinnon had just waited until October 19th, 2009, he wouldn’t be in as must trouble as he is with the American Federal Empire:
Computer hacker Gary McKinnon could be
facing 70 years in prison for hacking into government UFO files. He should
have just waited until Monday, October 19th @ 9 p.m. ET/PT when investigative
filmmaker James Fox (of FCZ Media) provides answers on the UFO phenomenon in
his feature-length documentary I Know What I Saw airing exclusively on The
History Channel. Fox assembled the most credible UFO witnesses from around
the world to testify at The National Press Club in Washington D.C. For the
first time, Air Force Generals, astronauts, military and commercial pilots,
and government and FAA officials from seven countries speak out on national
television, providing shocking evidence that UFOs are real.
Narrated by James Fox, I Know What I Saw traces sightings and reports
worldwide. Testimony includes high-ranking military personnel, pilots and
astronauts from France, England, Belgium, Chile, Peru, Iran and the United
States who all call on the U.S. Government to re-open its investigation into
UFOs – which the Air Force shut down over 30 years ago.
In I Know What I Saw, filmmaker James Fox uncovers new details of a UFO
landing at an American Air Force base in the UK. U.S. Air Force Col. Charles
Halt recently admitted, “In December 1980 I was involved in a multi night
incident where a UFO landed, was touched, photographed and departed rapidly.
Two nights later, five or more intelligently controlled objects, assumed to be
extraterrestrial, returned to the area and were witnessed by numerous people.”
Air Force Sergeant, James Penniston, copied strange markings from the landed
UFO which filmmaker James Fox has analyzed by an expert symbologist for the
very first time. The results are startling.
Senator John McCain and Arizona Governor Fife Symington reveal their efforts
to investigate the infamous “Phoenix lights” sighting. “I believe that our
government should take an active role in investigating this very real
phenomenon,” said Symington, who was himself a witness to the reported mile
wide craft seen by thousands in Arizona while he was governor.
For more information about James Fox and I Know What I Saw go to
I don’t how much truth was gleaned from Fox’s interviews, but interviewing the above listed people would go a long way toward some credibility in the study of UFOs.
But until the subject is studied under the same empirical scrutiny that SETI or others are given, all we have amounts the same as religious stygmata.
Some technologies are so complex and have so many frequent breakthroughs that few people can keep up. Now comes a new nine-week summer program in Silicon Valley for super-smart people. Dubbed Singularity University, its founders hope it will help close the gap in understanding and applying fast-developing technologies to solve what they called “humanity’s grandest challenges.”The goal of the Singularity school, which will be located at an Ames facility in Sunnyvale, Calif., is to bring together the world’s top graduate and postgraduate students in 10 diverse disciplines, such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, medicine and law. They will spend nine weeks together learning about each others’ disciplines and then focus on …… finding ways to overcome pressing challenges such as poverty, hunger and pandemics. Technology heavyweights, including Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, are slated to give the lectures.Applications should be available at Singularity University’s website, which is supposed to go live tonight.
Peter Diamandis, the Santa Monica physician credited with fueling private space rocketry; S. Pete Worden, director of NASA’s Ames Research Center; and futurist Ray Kurzweil are behind the move to form the school. Internet giant Google is a sponsor.
I had started a humongous post about the GooglePlex and its link to the Singularity and above individuals noted, but I ran away with myself writing it and it ended up not making any sense.
But I will provide link(s) to a person who has studied the subject extensively, in fact, he’s going to release DVDs concerning it within weeks;
I used to think the Singularity could be a good thing, but I found it’s just another Apocalyptic Religion.
The bad thing here is, this Apocalypse has a good chance of happening!
Every baby born a decade from now will have its genetic code mapped at birth, the head of the world’s leading genome sequencing company has predicted.A complete DNA read-out for every newborn will be technically feasible and affordable in less than five years, promising a revolution in healthcare, says Jay Flatley, the chief executive of Illumina.Only social and legal issues are likely to delay the era of “genome sequences”, or genetic profiles, for all. By 2019 it will have become routine to map infants’ genes when they are born, Dr Flatley told The Times.This will open a new approach to medicine, by which conditions such as diabetes and heart disease can be predicted and prevented and drugs prescribed more safely and effectively.The development, however, will raise difficult questions about privacy and access to individuals’ genetic records. Many people may be reluctant to have their genome read, for fear that the results could be used against them by an employer or insurance company.
The prospect of genome screening for all has emerged because of the plummeting cost of the relevant technology.
The Human Genome Project, which published its first rough sequence of mankind’s genetic code in 2001, cost an estimated $4billion (£2.7billion). By the time the scientists James Watson and Craig Venter had their genomes mapped two years ago, the cost had fallen to about $1m (£700,000).
Hmmm…2019…the same year the Singularity University plan to have their worldwide AI working.
Notice the name of the company too! (Oh no, there’s no such thing as the Illuminati, is there?)
These guys are fooling themselves into believing that an artificially intelligent GooglePlex will let itself be controlled by genetically perfect “elites”. By its very nature the Singularity is unpredictable and beyond any human comprehension.
I asked IIB about this one time and he said the elites might not even care if they get wiped out along with the rest of us, if the GooglePlex decides to do just that. His impression is that as long as this “child” of humanity survives mankind’s death, so much the better for Mother Gaia.
I know a few people who would go along with that, but I’m not one of them!
Hat tip to Red Ice Creations today!
Cardiff University experts have led an international team in unravelling the secrets of a 2,000-year-old computer which could transform the way we think about the ancient world.
Professor Mike Edmunds of the School of Physics and Astronomy and mathematician Dr Tony Freeth first heard of the Antikythera Mechanism, a clock-like astronomical calculator dating from the second century BC, several years ago. Now they believe they have cracked the centuries-old mystery of how it actually works.
Remnants of a broken wooden and bronze case containing more than 30 gears was found by divers exploring a shipwreck off the island of Antikythera at the turn of the 20th century. Scientists have been trying to reconstruct it ever since. The new research suggests it is more sophisticated than anyone previously thought.
Detailed work on the gears in the mechanism showed it was able to track astronomical movements with remarkable precision. The calculator was able to follow the movements of the moon and the sun through the Zodiac, predict eclipses and even recreate the irregular orbit of the moon. The team believe it may also have predicted the positions of the planets.
The findings suggest that Greek technology was far more advanced than previously thought. No other civilisation is known to have created anything as complicated for another thousand years.
The History Channel had this device on their Ancient Discoveries show last night. We are now beginning to understand how advanced Hellenistic (Greek) technology was and how it affected the civilizations that follwed it, the Romans, Arabs, Holy Roman Empire, Spain, Britain and us.
It just makes you wonder how advanced our science would be now if the Library of Alexandria wasn’t burned to the ground in early First Milleneum Wars.
Speaking of history, here is a dose of future history that in fact explains how more things change, the more they stay the same:
From Probapossible Prolegomena to Ideareal History by James Blish (1978). Blish expounds upon the historical theories of Oswald Spengler.
Civilizations may last for centuries and be extremely eventful; Imperial Rome is a prime example.
But autumn ends, and a civilization becomes a culture gone frozen in its brains and heart, and its finale is anything but grand. We are now far into what the Chinese called the period of contending states, and the collapse of Caesarism.
In such a period, politics becomes an arena of competing generals and plutocrats, under a dummy ruler chosen for low intelligence and complete moral plasticity, who amuses himself and keeps the masses distracted from their troubles with bread, circuses, and brushfire-wars. (This is the time of all times when a culture should unite — and the time when such a thing has become impossible.) Technology flourishes (the late Romans were first-class engineers) but science disintegrates into a welter of competing, grandiosely trivial hypotheses which supersede each other almost weekly and veer more and more markedly toward the occult.
An attempt is made to buttress this by syncretism, the wrenching out of context of religious forms from other cultures, such as the Indian, without the faintest hope of knowing what they mean. This process, too, leads inevitably towards a revival of the occult, and here science and religion overlap, to the benefit of neither. Economic inequity, instability and wretchedness become endemic on a hitherto unprecedented scale; the highest buildings ever erected by the Classical culture were the tenements of the Imperial Roman slums, crammed to bursting point with freed and runaway slaves, bankrupts, and deposed petty kings and other political refugees.
Doesn’t this sound very, very familiar?
The elites of different eras sure know their sheeple, don’t they?