Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive March 2022

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First cell, origin of life

Will AI Chemistry Robots Finally Discover the Origin of Life?

Chemist Lee Cronin’s hopes for a breakthrough by getting robots to motor through millions of chemical combinations, looking for self-replicating systems

How did molecules form self-replicating systems? This is a harder problem than we sometimes think because it’s not obvious why molecules should seek to develop into complex organisms that can self-replicate. Science journalist Katharine Sanderson notes that University of Glasgow chemist Lee Cronin is using robots to test the “billions of ways” it could have happened: He and his team have set up machines that combine a selection of simple substances – acids, inorganic minerals, carbon-based molecules – to react randomly. The outcome is analysed and then an algorithm helps the robot choose how to proceed. In this way, the robot can hunt through vast swathes of chemical space to see if any self-replicating systems emerge. Cronin thinks this automated…

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Illustration of red blood cells with cancer cells.

“Killing Disease and Living Longer” Biotech Panel Now Online

Combining information technology with microscopic nanotechnology can help us find and weaken toxic bacteria so antibiotics can destroy them

Here’s the Innovations in Biotech workshop at COSM 2021 dedicated to “Killing Disease and Living Longer,” on November 11, 2021 in Bellevue, Washington: Panelists: Matt McIlwain (Moderator) — Managing Director, Madrona Venture GroupStephen C. Meyer — Director, Center for Science and CultureJim Tour — T.t. and W.f. Chao Professor of Chemistry, Rice UniversityMatthew Scholz — CEO, Oisin Biotechnologies Attendee Casey Luskin offers an overview of this panel at Manipulating Molecules: Combining info + nano for better medicine: At COSM 2021, scientists like Jim Tour and entrepreneurs like Matt Scholz offer a window into how we are learning to manipulate the building blocks of life (November 12, 2021). For example, Tour and his team are designing light-activated nanodrills which can drill…

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In State of the Union, Biden Vows to Curb Social Media Harms

Biden addressed the mental health harms of social media use on children and teens

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden referred to the harms of social media in his State of the Union address, announcing policy proposals to curb those harms. In response, however, some have been critical of the president’s remarks, accusing him of ignoring social media’s deeper dangers. Over an hour into his speech, President Biden turned to mental health and the emotional toll the pandemic has had, especially on children. Then he turned to the emotional health toll exacted by social media, long before the first COVID-19 lockdowns. “Children were also struggling before the pandemic – bullying, violence, trauma, and the harms of social media,” he said. “It’s time to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, demand tech companies stop…

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New ideas

Do Mathematicians Think Differently From Other People?

A math teacher illustrates some ways in which creative ones do but it’s really about imagination, not just getting the figures right

Math teacher Ali Kayaspor has thought a lot about how mathematicians have come up with fundamental ideas about the nature of reality and he shares anecdotes that give us a glimpse. But first, the cold shower: Unfortunately, there is no clear way to answer the question of how a mathematician thinks. But we can approach this question as follows; if you watched any chess tournament, the game’s analysis is shared in detail at the end of the match. When you examine the analysis, you will see a breaking point in each game. Similarly, mathematicians also experience a breaking point while working on a problem before finding a solution. Ali Kayaspor, “How Does a Mathematician’s Brain Differ from Other Brains?” at…

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Surreal brain tree in a desolate land and a determined person watering it using a sprinkling can. Man splashes the green shrub using a water pot, taking care of mental health. Human mind concept

It’s Not Even Clear How the Mind Relates to the Brain

Journalist and editor Ken Francis asks a series of skeptical questions of those who claim that the mind is really just the brain

Kenneth Francis, co-author with Theodore Dalrymple of The Terror of Existence: From Ecclesiastes to Theatre of the Absurd (2018), offers some thoughts at New English Review on why the mind cannot be the same as the brain. The context is whether artificial intelligence will ever have minds or be able to read our minds (as opposed to scanning our brains): Without even a basic understanding of what consciousness is, the idea of putting it into a machine, while not difficult to imagine in the fantasy of science fiction, becomes almost impossible to grapple with when it comes down to real and practical implementation… As to where the mind resides, that is the biggest mystery in philosophy. Although it interacts with…

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dangerous world

Putin vs. Ukraine: New Weapons Target Your Electronics, Not You

Putin’s recent warning about “consequences that you have never experienced” could refer to EMPs that target the computer-based systems that keep us all alive today

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his military to strike Ukraine. He also made a public statement that included a dangerous warning: Whoever tries to interfere with us, and even more so, to create threats for our country, for our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences that you have never experienced in your history. We are ready for any development of events. All necessary decisions in this regard have been made. David Brennan , Tom O’Connor and Naveed Jamali, “NATO States May Give Sanctuary to Fleeing Ukraine Forces as Russia Advances” at Newsweek (February 25, 2022) This warning has been widely viewed as a threat to employ nuclear…

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team of ants gathering strawberry, agriculture teamwork

Ants Use Algorithms Similar to Those of the Internet

Optimization algorithms enable the ant colony to decide how many ants to send to a given food source and when to drastically reduce the number

Researchers are beginning to understand how ant colonies can make complex decisions. It’s best understood, they say, as something like an optimization algorithm: Scientists found that ants and other natural systems use optimization algorithms similar to those used by engineered systems, including the Internet. These algorithms invest incrementally more resources as long as signs are encouraging but pull back quickly at the first sign of trouble. The systems are designed to be robust, allowing for portions to fail without harming the entire system. Understanding how these algorithms work in the real world may help solve engineering problems, whereas engineered systems may offer clues to understanding the behavior of ants, cells, and other natural systems. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, “Deciphering algorithms…

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young sample plant growing in test tube , biotechnology research concept

What Biotech Innovations Can Help Us Live Longer, Healthier?

Jay Richards interviews venture capitalist Matt McIlwain, whose firm invests in new tech on current promising new directions

At COSM 2021, business prof Jay Richards interviewed venture capitalist Matt McIlwain, CEO of the Madrona Group, which invests in a wide range of promising software applications: McIlwain chaired a panel on innovations in biotech, “Killing Disease and Living Longer” on November 11, 2021: Matt Mcilwain (Moderator) — Managing Director, Madrona Venture GroupStephen C. Meyer — Director, Center for Science and CultureJim Tour — T.t. and W.f. Chao Professor of Chemistry, Rice UniversityMatthew Scholz — CEO, Oisin Biotechnologies Casey Luskin offers an account of McIlwain’s 2021 panel at “Manipulating molecules: Combining info + nano for better medicine”: Yesterday at COSM 2021, philosopher of science Stephen Meyer, synthetic organic chemist James Tour, and biotech entrepreneur Matthew Scholz looked at how nanotechnology…

Truth Social - Social network launched by former President of th

Trump Releases Truth Social, Users Run Into Errors

The jury is out on whether this will stand as a true rival to Twitter

Last week, former President Trump unveiled his new social media app: Truth Social, a free-speech alternative to Twitter. It immediately became the number one free app on Apple’s App Store and boasted half a million users within its first forty-eight hours. But hiccups soon followed, including error messages and long wait times for access to the platform. The app went live on February 21, which was (perhaps not coincidentally) President’s Day. But those who signed up to join were automatically placed on a waitlist, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. When a Post reporter tried to sign up for a Truth social account on Tuesday morning, he was told that he was number 387,392 on a waitlist. “We love you, and you’re…

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Bored couple with sexual problem addicted to internet mobile phone.Relationship difficulties

Bedtime Media Can Help Us Get Better Sleep — But Not Social Media

One issue is the way blue lights and electronic notification and alert beeps interfere with natural sleep patterns

University of Buffalo communications prof Lindsay Hahn doesn’t think we need to avoid media before bedtime in order to get better sleep. Her recent research showed that the question was more complex than that: “We found that media use just prior to the onset of sleep is associated with an earlier bedtime and more total sleep time, as long as the duration of use is relatively short and you’re not multitasking, like texting or simultaneously scrolling social media,” says Lindsay Hahn, PhD, an assistant professor of communication in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences. “Watching a streaming service or listening to a podcast before bed can serve as a passive, calming activity that improves aspects of your…

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Centipede is a poisonous animal with many legs that can bite and release poison to enemies.

A Robotic Centipede Is Not Just a Toy

It may be useful in agriculture because it replicates natural centipede skills at navigating rough ground or water

Georgia Tech biological physicist Daniel Goldman recently told a virtual meeting of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology that he hopes to build a centipede robot. A robot that riffed off the centipede, a carnivorous land-dwelling arthropod with a long body and many jointed legs, would look a little bit like this: What would it be good for? Well, intense study by Goldman and his colleagues showed that centipedes have ways of overcoming obstacles that make them especially useful for agricultural tasks like planting, picking, and weeding, where they must constantly adapt to the landscape (land or water), which is something a lot of machines have difficulty with: Here’s one of their papers on the topic. Another approach, pioneered…

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Texture of multi-colored sweet marshmallows. Marshmallows candy for background.

Can Waiting for a Marshmallow Predict a Child’s Future?

Believing so was all the rage in recent decades but later research didn’t back up the idea

You’ve maybe heard of Stanford University’s “marshmallow experiment,” right? A child’s future can be predicted, we were told by psychologist Walter Mischel (1930–2018), by whether the child can delay gratification: Walter Mischel’s pioneering research at Bing in the late 1960s and early 1970s famously explored what enabled preschool-aged children to forgo immediate gratification in exchange for a larger but delayed reward… This research identified some of the key cognitive skills, strategies, plans and mindsets that enable self-control. If the children focused on the “hot” qualities of the temptations (e.g., “The marshmallows are sweet, chewy, yummy”), they soon rang the bell to bring the researcher back. If they focused on their abstract “cool” features (“The marshmallows are puffy and round like…