Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryBiology

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View of a white marble hindu temple

What Do Hindus Think About the Big Bang? The Cyclic Universe?

Hinduism posits a creator God but assumes the creation of cyclic universes

In last week’s Mind Matters News podcast, “Hinduism and the beginning of the universe,” neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed Arjuna Gallagher, a Hindu in New Zealand. The first podcast looked at what the world’s 1.2 billion Hindus generally think about the mind and the second explored the Hindu view of free will and evil. Gallagher hosts a YouTube channel called Theology Unleashed, which has featured many guests discussing the spiritual dimension of our lives — for example, philosopher David Bentley Hart and neuroscientist Mark Solms (along with Egnor). https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/03/Mind-Matters-News-Episode-179-Arjuna-Gallagher-Episode-3-rev1.mp3 A partial transcript, notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow: The Big Bang and cyclical universes Michael Egnor: How do Hindus understand creation? Is the universe eternal? Was it created at a Read More ›

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Venus. Cinematic and very realistic sunrise seen from space on venus

Why Researchers Focus On Possible Life on Venus

Chemicals that we shouldn’t find unless they are produced by life forms are sparking interest in exploring Venus from both public and private sources

At one time, Venus was considered a likely candidate for hosting life. But its late- discovered carbon dioxide atmosphere turned out to be very discouraging so researchers focused on Mars. However, research into microbes on Earth has now identified many extremophiles that live under daunting conditions so researchers don’t want to run the risk of making “rules” for life forms that sometimes seem as if they were made to be broken. One possibility raised is that, given that life forms transform their environment over time, simple ones might be slowly shaping it over a long period of time: A team of researchers has put forward a new theory suggesting possible life on the planet Venus could be making the environment Read More ›

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Beautiful realistic flight over cumulus lush clouds in the night moonlight. A large full moon shines brightly on a deep starry night. Cinematic scene. 3d illustration

Is This Idea Too Crazy?: There Was Life on the Early Moon?

Not quite as crazy as some might think. The early solar system was very different from the current one

Life got started on Earth while the planet was still somewhat unstable. It could have got started within 100 million years of Earth’s formation at 4.5 billion years ago or as late as 3.5 billion years ago, depending on who you talk to. Either way, things were much more extreme and much less stable back then. That was true for Venus, Mars, and the Moon as well. To the extent that the universe appears fine-tuned for life to a dramatic degree, it’s at least reasonable to think it could have survived on, say, the Moon or Mars until conditions there became prohibitive. And if panspermia is a correct assumption (that life spread throughout the galaxy and took root in various Read More ›

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Extremely detailed and realistic high resolution 3D image of an Exoplanet. Shot from space. Elements of this image are furnished by Nasa.

Former Astronaut Names Planet He Thinks Most Likely To Have Life

Researchers now seek to narrow down the list of exoplanets for the James Webb Space Telescope to research from thousands to dozens, to avoid wasting time

Former astronaut Chris Hadfield, with nearly 5000 known exoplanets to choose from, names Kepler-442b, 1200 light years from Earth, as an “excellent” one for the James Webb Space Telescope to have a look at: An excellent planet for @NASAWebb to have a look at. https://t.co/AutXPXInJW — Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) February 19, 2022 At Futurism, Victor Tangermann explains that researchers now week to narrow down the list of exoplanets from thousands to dozens, to avoid wasting space telescope time: In a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal in 2015, a team of astrobiologists argued that several exoplanets identified by NASA’s Kepler and K2 missions, including Kepler-442b, were highly likely to possess liquid surface water, like Earth. “We ranked the known Kepler Read More ›

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Alien Planet with Moons

Recent Science Papers Support Science Fiction Premises

There isn’t a crystal clear boundary; both science and science fiction achievements require imagination

Good science fiction should start with science fact. But, of course, science is a dynamic enterprise that includes many current mysteries and uncertainties so there is plenty of room to develop an imaginative theme while exploring the edges. Here are five edges that a reader or writer may want to explore: ➤ It might indeed be possible to go through a wormholes to a distant galaxy, according to a recent paper. A wormhole, first envisioned by Einstein and Rosen in 1935, “is a special solution to the equations describing Einstein’s theory of general relativity that connects two distant points in space or time via a tunnel.” (LiveScience) It has long been considered at best hypothetical and at worst impossible but Read More ›

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Sick woman trying to sense smell of fresh tangerine orange, has symptoms of Covid-19, corona virus infection - loss of smell and taste, standing at home. One of the main signs of the disease.

Has the Human Sense of Smell Declined in Recent Millennia?

Researchers found that people with “ancestral” genes perceived various odors as more intense

Recently, a group of researchers embarked on an unusual experiment. They screened the genomes of 1,000 Han Chinese people to find genetic variations that were linked to the way participants perceived 10 different scents, including musk and underarm odor. They then repeated the experiment for six odors in an ethnically diverse group of of 364 people to check their results. They reported that people who had “ancestral” versions of the scent recognition genes perceived the odors as more intense: Participants carried different versions of the musk and underarm odor receptor genes, and those genetic variations affected how the person perceived the scents. In combination with previously published results, the researchers find that people with the ancestral versions (the version shared Read More ›

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canada geese in flight

Source of Most Animal Intelligence Still a Mystery

Eric Cassell takes questions: If life forms are born or hatched knowing this stuff, it isn’t learned. But if it’s in the genes, where is it?

Recently, geologist Casey Luskin interviewed Eric Cassell, author of Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts (2021) on one of the central mysteries of biology: How do animals “know” things that they can’t have figured out on their own? This is the third and final part. Here’s the first part, with transcript and notes and here’s the second. Below is the third part, the audience questions, with notes and partial transcript: Eric Cassell is an expert in navigation systems, including GPS whose experience includes more than four decades of experience in systems engineering related to aircraft, navigation and safety. He has long had an interest in animal navigation. His model for animal navigation is the natural algorithm: Read More ›

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Common octopus in large sea water aquarium

Science Paper: Could Octopuses Be Aliens From Outer Space?

It’s the octopus’s intelligence that causes such usual theses to float in the science literature

A 2018 science paper that suggests that the brainy cephalopod might have originated off the planet has been receiving new attention. The basic thesis is that the Cambrian Explosion, which produced most of the basic animal life forms we see today, was the outcome of extraterrestrial viruses carried on a meteor that crashed onto Earth 540 million years ago. The underlying theory is panspermia, a hypothesis espoused by Francis Crick, that some viruses and bacteria travel on the tails of comets or meteors and may take root on planets: These comets could have introduced Earth to novel life-forms that evolved on other planets, including viruses, durable microorganisms like unearthly tardigrades or, as the new study suggests, even fertilized animal eggs Read More ›

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Closeup of a red wood ant. Concept useful insects.

Neuroscience Mystery: How Do Tiny Brains Enable Complex Behavior?

Eric Cassell notes that insects with brains of only a million neurons exhibit principles found only in the most advanced man-made navigation systems. How?

Recently, geologist Casey Luskin interviewed Eric Cassell, author of Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts (2021) on one of the central mysteries: How do animals “know” things that they can’t have figured out on their own? Consider, for example, butterflies migrating over several generations from Canada to Mexico and back. No single butterfly makes the whole trip there or back. How can animals do math they know nothing about? How can a great deal of information be packed into a brain with comparatively few neurons? We are slowly learning about some of that. Eric Cassell is an expert in navigation systems, including GPS, whose experience includes more than four decades in systems engineering related to aircraft, Read More ›

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Surreal 3d illustration of multiple faces in a wall. Concept of post-human and transhumanism ideas.

Is Transhumanism Really a Form of Liberation?

The central transhumanist doctrine is that the body can be dispensed with. What are the consequences?

Libby Emmons, editor-in-chief at The Post Millennial, Canada’s non-Woke “young” media outlet, offered some unexpected thoughts on transhumanism, the idea that we must take charge of the evolution of our species — sometimes expressed in the idea that we can upload ourselves as digital entities and live forever. Emmons is not sure that transhumanism is really a form of liberation. She acknowledges the value of, for example, prostheses controlled by thoughts alone. But she asks us to consider what full-blown transhumanism entails: With the widespread acceptance of human augmentation, bio-tech, AI, and transgenderism, we are removing agency from the human body, and granting it entirely to the mind. But our humanity lies not in our consciousness, but in the biological Read More ›

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Prehistoric hand paintings at the Cave of the Hands (Spanish: Cueva de Las Manos ) in Santa Cruz Province, Patagonia, Argentina. The art in the cave dates from 13,000 to 9,000 years ago.

Evolutionary Psychology: When We Looked In, No One Was There…

Evo psych likely got started when psychologists wanted to get in on illuminating findings in evolution, like the Cambrian Explosion

In a recent episode of ID: The Future, Casey Luskin and I discussed my chapter on evolutionary psychology in The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith: Exploring the Ultimate Questions About Life and the Cosmos (2021). Evolutionary psychologists claim to find the basis of human psychology in what enabled our remote ancestors to survive — that is, in prehuman or prehistoric behavior. A conceptual problem has always bothered me. Reading University of New Hampshire philosopher Subrena Smith helped clarify my thoughts: There is no such thing as a fossil mind. If our behavior is said to stem from our prehistoric or prehuman past, not from our known human circumstances, evolutionary psychology is a discipline without a subject. Also, any human Read More ›

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African Clawed Frog (Xenopus laevis)

Is the Age of the Living, Self-Replicating Robot at Hand? No.

Stem cells naturally reproduce themselves. The researchers working with frog stem cells merely found, via algorithms, one configuration that works better

Recently, the sci-fi dream of self-replicating robots has been in the news, thanks to the University of Vermont, Tufts University, and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. A recent experiment with frog cells was hailed by news outlets as disparate as CNN (“World’s first living robots can now reproduce, scientists say”) and Daily Wire (“American Universities Create First ‘Self-Replicating Living Robots’”). And it was also debunked by Ars Technica: (“Interesting research, but no, we don’t have living, reproducing robots”). So what’s really happening? Self-replication is a very tricky problem of information. To truly self-replicate, an organism must completely copy the information necessary for function. Seems simple enough but it introduces a conundrum. For the organism to copy Read More ›