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Confident Businessman Crossing Arms on Front

Fake It ’til You Make It – The Power Pose Parable Part II

Where does p-hacking and the replication crisis leave the state of scientific studies?

Last time, we explored the findings of a 2010 psychological study, which concluded that assuming a “power pose” for two minutes increases testosterone (confidence) and decreases cortisol (stress). But it turned out that p-hacking affected the results of the initial study, and that subsequent studies debunked the “power pose” findings. Dana Carney, the lead author of the original paper, acknowledged the faults of the original study and updated her views “to reflect the evidence.” Today, we explore the implications: Carney’s willingness to acknowledge the p-hacks and to support efforts to redo the power-pose tests is convincing evidence that the p-hacks were well-intentioned. This was how a lot of research was done at the time. Joseph Simmons, Leif Nelson, and Uri…

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He is big boss and has power

Fake It ‘til You Make It — The Power Pose Parable

Why a study "proving" a unique way to boost confidence and reduce stress turned out to be wrong

A 2010 paper published in a top-tier psychology journal advised that “a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful.” The researchers had 42 people assume two positions for one minute each — either high-power poses (sitting in a chair with their feet on a desk and standing with their hands spread on a desk) or low-power poses (sitting in a chair with hands clasped between their legs and standing with their arms and legs crossed). Saliva samples were used to measure the dominance hormone testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol. Risk-taking was gauged by a willingness to take a bet with a 50 percent chance of winning $2 and a 50 percent chance of losing…

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Supermassive extraterrestrial life form in outer space, dark red planet in twisted galaxy

Astronomer: Hunt for ET Can Unify Science and Religion

Avi Loeb told The Hill that the Galileo Project, which looks for physical evidence of extraterrestrials, could answer religious questions as well as science ones

Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, spoke at a recent Ignatius Forum on his differences with “the scientific mainstream” about the evidence for extraterrestrial life. Perhaps in part because the venue was the Washington National Cathedral, Loeb felt motivated to reflect on the religious as well as the science implications of a search for extraterrestrial life. As a member of Harvard University’s Galileo Project which seeks to “bring the search for extraterrestrial technological signatures of Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations (ETCs) from accidental or anecdotal observations and legends into the mainstream of transparent, validated and systematic scientific research,” he shared his thoughts with The Hill, which covers the U.S. Congress: In finding advanced extraterrestrial intelligence, religion might simply reflect advanced science with a twist.…

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multiverse conceptual illustration

Multiverse Cosmology Is Not a Good Argument Against God

Or against fine tuning of our universe. God could have created countless universes on various principles for a variety of reasons

New Scientist’s executive editor Richard Webb, a “recovering particle physicist,” offers a look at the current state of the idea that there might be an infinity of universes out there. Why believe it? Mainly, it turns out, to avoid believing something else: Gods and their intelligent designs are less in the mainstream of scientific thought now, yet similar ideas about an optimal universe still trickle through cosmology. That is principally down to some mysterious numbers that determine its workings. Tot them all up in the standard models of particle physics and cosmology, and you end up with about 30 constants of nature – numbers like the strengths of the fundamental forces and the masses of elementary particles that our theories…

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Spaceship leaving Earth for interstellar deep space travel

Interstellar Travel: The Four Top Technologies for Getting There

Astrophysicist Adam Frank looks at the technologies we meet in science fiction and identifies the challenges that hold them back

University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank looks at the possibilities of interstellar travel, given the “insane scale” of the distances between stars and galaxies, in relation to space exploration, whether by ourselves or by intelligent extraterrestrials. Science fiction usually starts with the assumption that the distance problem is somehow already solved. What real-world proposals are out there now for solving it? At Big Think, Frank offers four: Cryosleep, solar sails (or light sails), wormholes, and warp drives. Cautioning that they may all be pipe dreams, he offers some thoughts. Possibly the most intriguing is cryosleep: Cryosleep technology would basically “freeze” the body’s metabolism (or at least slow it down) for the duration of the journey. Despite being a staple of…

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Science and research of the universe, spiral galaxy and physical formulas, concept of knowledge and education

What If ET Has Morphed Into What We Now Call the Laws of Nature?

Astrophysicist Caleb Scarf has asked us to consider a daring hypothesis for conundrums around dark matter and dark energy

Columbia astrophysicist Caleb A. Scharf, has proposed that, if advanced technology might look like magic to less technologically advanced viewers, very advanced technology might look like the laws of nature: Toward the end of Carl Sagan’s 1985 science-fiction novel Contact, the protagonist follows the suggestion of an extraterrestrial to study transcendental numbers. After computing to 1020th places, she finds a clearly artificial message embedded in the digits of this fundamental number. In other words, part of the fabric of the universe is a product of intelligence or is perhaps even life itself. It’s a great mind-bending twist for a book. Perhaps hyper-advanced life isn’t just external. Perhaps it’s already all around. It is embedded in what we perceive to be…

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Billiard balls colorful background, 3D rendering

Can the “Physical World” Be Wholly Physical? Physical at All?

Nothing ever physically touches anything else in the physical world, yet the effects of objects on each other are a constant occurrence

Sounds like the answer should be “Of course!” But the question may not be as simple as it appears. Let’s wind the clock back to the first century BC, when a Roman poet and philosopher named Lucretius wrote the poem On the Nature of Things.” In this poem, Lucretius outlines a philosophy known as Epicureanism in order to demonstrate the world can be explained without reference to a deity. In the Epicurean philosophy, only three things exist: atoms, the void, and the universe. Consequently, everything we see in the physical world can be reduced to atoms bumping into each other. You may notice that Epicurean philosophy sounds similar to modern day physics. This is not an accident. Through the influence…

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Colorful numbers background

How Even Random Numbers Show Evidence of Design

Random number generators are actually pseudo-random number generators because they depend on designed algorithms

In Define information before you talk about it, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed engineering prof Robert J. Marks on the way information, not matter, shapes our world (October 28, 2021). In the first portion, Egnor and Marks discussed questions like: Why do two identical snowflakes seem more meaningful than one snowflake. Then they turned to the relationship between information and creativity. Is creativity a function of more information? Or is there more to it? And human intervention make any difference? Many questions arose during the discussion. Does Mount Rushmore have no more information than Mount Fuji? Does human intervention make a measurable difference? That’s specified complexity. Putting the idea of specified complexity to work, how do we measure meaningful information? How…

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Can Wholly Random Processes Produce Information?

Can information result, without intention, from a series of accidents? Some have tried it with computers…

In Define information before you talk about it, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed engineering prof Robert J. Marks on the way information, not matter, shapes our world (October 28, 2021). In the first portion, Egnor and Marks discussed questions like: Why do two identical snowflakes seem more meaningful than one snowflake. Then they turned to the relationship between information and creativity. Is creativity a function of more information? Or is there more to it? And human intervention make any difference? Does Mount Rushmore have no more information than Mount Fuji? Does human intervention make a measurable difference? That’s specified complexity. Putting the idea of specified complexity to work, how do we measure meaningful information? How do we know Lincoln contained more…

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The Earth from space. This image elements furnished by NASA.

Astronomer: We Can’t Just Assume Countless Earths Out There

He points out that the Principle of Mediocrity is based on faulty logical reasoning

Dartmouth physicist and astronomer Marcelo Gleiser wrote recently that the Copernican Principle has been misused to imply that Earth is somehow insignificant. That, he says, is a philosophical attitude, unrelated to the science. We don’t know where Earth stands in relation to other planets because we do not yet have telescopes capable of getting much detail about planets outside our solar system. Gleiser, author of The Island of Knowledge (2014), has also tackled the Mediocrity Principle (because Earth is nothing special, there must be countless intelligent civilizations out there). According to Britannica, “Widely believed by astronomers since the work of Nicolaus Copernicus, this principle states that the properties and evolution of the solar system are not unusual in any important…

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Science fiction interior - a hallway with reinforced gate.

Physicist: Does Captain Kirk Die Going Through the Transporter?

The problem has kept her up at night for decades, she says, and it appears we are no closer to an answer

Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder is genuinely puzzled and asks readers for possible solutions: Does Captain Kirk die when he goes through the transporter? This question has kept me up at night for decades. I’m not kidding. And I still don’t have an answer. So this video isn’t going to answer the question, but I will explain why it’s more difficult than you may think. Sabine Hossenfelder, “Does Captain Kirk die when he goes through the transporter?” at BackRe(Action) (October 23, 2021) Why so difficult? Assume that all the information about a person is contained in the exact configuration in which it appears at one moment in time. Hossenfelder accepts that as the correct view. So the transporter converts you into…

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Canadian Geese Flying in V Formation

The Intelligence Birds and Bees Naturally Have — and We Don’t

An exploration of the stunning findings in Eric Cassell's new book, "Animal Algorithms"

You’re aiming to find your childhood friend’s home in a new city. A map helps; GPS is better. Accessing all that previously-acquired mapmakers’ knowledge, employing all of that satellite, radio and computing technology, you’ll probably (although not certainly) reach your goal. Could some “dumb bird” do any better?  Way better, actually.  Baked-in Brain Power A bird born near Wales (UK) knows how to fly over 6,200 miles (10,000 km) south in the winter, following the west coastlines of Europe and Africa, then crossing the Atlantic Ocean to land in Argentina. The same bird knows how to return to its original home a few months later. She flies north along the east coasts of South and North America, then crosses the Atlantic back…

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Happy beautiful twins girls point up isolated on blue background, two sisters showing something above their heads , advertisement, place for text, body language

Why Physicalism Is Failing as the Accepted Approach to Science

The argument that everything in nature can be reduced to physics was killed by the philosophical Zombie, as Prudence Louise explains
At Medium, Prudence Louise, a writer on philosophy and religion, explains that in 1994 philosopher David Chalmers killed the Zombie in cold blood, igniting “a zombie apocalypse.” Sounds like an unusual role for a philosopher. And the Zombie?: “The philosophical notion of a “zombie” basically refers to conceivable creatures which are physically indistinguishable from us but lack consciousness entirely (Chalmers 1996)” — Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Louise asks us to picture that: Imagine you meet your doppelganger. Someone physically identical to you, atom for atom. The only difference is the doppelganger has no inner consciousness. They look happy or sad, they even tell you of their hopes and dreams. But there is nothing more than physical processes moving in response to physical causes. Their lips move and sounds which are meaningful to you come out, but they experience nothing at all. From the outside you are identical. But from the inside the zombie is a hollow imitation. That is a philosophical zombie. The physical structure, functions and behavior are identical, but there is no consciousness. What exactly is the missing ingredient? Prudence Louise, “The Impossibly Hard Problem of Consciousness” at Medium (October 30, 3021) The zombie could, in principle, exist. At the same time, we all know we are not zombies in the sense that we know we are conscious more certainly than we know anything else. And if consciousness is an illusion, well, whose illusion is it? As Louise goes on to show, for a physicalist (a person who believes that everything is physical), the zombie is an “explanatory nightmare.” It forces us to sense that there is something besides the physical. Although we can explain more and more about the human body in terms of structure and function, there is no good science-based theory of consciousness on the horizon. And if we can explain everything about a human being except consciousness, well, we haven’t explained, say, the difference between Jane and Zombie-Jane, which humans generally agree is important. As Louise explains in her short article, “The stakes are high. If there can’t be a scientific explanation of conscious experience, this shows physicalism is false.” One problem is that science explains third-person phenomena but consciousness is a first-person phenomenon. She then goes into much more careful logical and philosophical detail but here’s the gist: When you move your body to the fridge in response to a desire for a snack, or take medication in response to pain, or lock the doors due to a fear of burglars, there is no causal connection between those conscious states and the physical effects of your body moving. This view isn’t fatal to the physicalist theory, but it puts it on critical life support. Our mental states cause actions which move matter constantly, giving us a lot of evidence it’s true. Any arguments those powers are illusory will need to be stronger than our confidence our conscious states cause our bodies to move. Prudence Louise, “The Impossibly Hard Problem of Consciousness” at Medium (October 30, 3021) Physicalism took root in a mechanistic view of the universe, pioneered by Isaac Newton. And before the Zombie even showed up, that view was already being challenged by quantum mechanics, in which the conscious observer plays a key role in what happens. But, for scientists, physicalism is not the only game in town: Alternative metaphysics, like idealism, substance dualism or panpsychism all avoid the hard problem by denying causal closure. They accept the observation that consciousness is non-physical, and it’s causally effective, which means causal closure must be false. Unlike the observations of consciousness and its causal powers, causal closure isn’t based on observations of the world. It’s a metaphysical commitment. Physicalism is confronting a problem created by its philosophical commitments being in conflict with our observations of the world. Prudence Louise, “The Impossibly Hard Problem of Consciousness” at Medium (October 30, 3021) Of the three alternatives Louise lists, panpsychism seems to the one many scientists are gravitating to. Instead of “nothing is conscious,” many now think everything is conscious. Just recently, prominent biochemist James Shapiro titled a paper “All living cells are cognitive.” And prominent neuroscientist Antonio Damasio offered that viruses have some type of intelligence. Other well-known science achievers argue that electrons have a rudimentary mind. In response to criticism from physicists Sabine Hossenfelder and Sean Carroll, philosopher Philip Goff points out that panpsychism is not in conflict with physics. It offers a simpler view of physics than dualism, with fewer gaps than materialism (including physicalism). Essentially, panpsychism offers a way for scientists to address human consciousness, as currently understood, without explaining it away as an illusion. It would allow them to say that if Zombie-Jane existed, she would be missing something critical that Jane has (and so does everything else, to at least some extent). Whether that benefit makes panpsychism a better explanation of reality than idealism or dualism is a separate question. Each of these points of view has its own issues but the Zombie isn’t one of them. You may also wish to read: Theoretical physicist slams panpsychism Electrons cannot be conscious Sabine Hossenfelder’s view because they cannot change their behavior. Hossenfelder’s impatience is understandable but she underestimates the seriousness of the problem serious thinkers about consciousness confront. There is a reason that some scientists believe that the universe is conscious: It would be more logically coherent to say that you think the universe is conscious than to say that your own consciousness is an illusion. With the first idea, you may be wrong. With the second idea, you are not anything. Read More ›
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Time travel machine. Surreal steampunk technology

Can a Man Go Back and Fix His Past? — Sci-Fi Saturday

It turns out that the old man calling from 2120 doesn’t just want to give his younger self advice; he wants to change the past to prevent tragedy

“Hey, it’s me” (2020) at DUST by Mark Sposato & Courtney Sposato (October 11, 2021), 11:11 min. A selfish man tries to alter his destiny when he receives an ominous phone call from his future self. Review: Year 2120 and a sick and unhappy old man (Cedric Cannon) wants to go back and talk to his past self (RJ Brown). The past self, in 2030, is young and swinging and already has the neon telephone that can do that — as he shows his “date.” And then the phone rings and it’s his old man. That is, himself as a sick old man (120 years old)… And he has only seven minutes with him. No more spoilers. The story revolves…

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Extraterrestrial aliens spaceship fly above small town, ufo with blue spotlights in dark stormy sky.

Elon Musk Keeps Buzz About Extraterrestrials in the News

He has said that we may be ET’s sims. Then this year he created an uproar by doubting UFOs — and another one months later by implying that they do exist. Huh?

Self-driving car and private space travel entrepreneur Elon Musk has been all over the map recently as far as ET is concerned. He has claimed that our universe may have been simulated by extraterrestrials. He has hinted that he himself is an extraterrestrial. Earlier this year, he apparently reversed course and identified (on Twitter) the strongest argument for the idea that ET doesn’t even exist: ‘Strongest argument against aliens,’ Musk tweeted, along with two charts that shows camera resolution has advanced, but UFO pictures have remained the same. The post concludes that extraterrestrials do not exist, due to most images showing floating blobs, but many of the comments argue otherwise. One user responded with ‘that’s exactly what an alien would…

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bacteria

University of Chicago Biochemist: All Living Cells Are Cognitive

James Shapiro’s recent paper points out, with examples, that bacteria meet the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of “cognitive”

University of Chicago biochemist and evolutionary biologist James Shapiro has a message that those who believe that consciousness is an illusion (as, for example, philosopher Daniel Dennett claims) should heed: If all living things are “cognitive” then, to what extent would life itself have to be an illusion? Something’s wrong there. Let’s follow the thread of what Shapiro is saying. He takes a simple approach: If bacteria and archaea, thought to be the oldest, simplest life forms from at least 2 billion years ago, can be shown to have cognitive processes, then it stands to reason that most (if not all) of the more complex life forms have them too: All living cells sense and respond to changes in external…

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The universe within. Silhouette of a man inside the universe, physical and mathematical formulas.. The concept on scientific and philosophical topics.  Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

Philosopher: Panpsychism Is Not in Conflict With Physics at All

Responding to criticism from physicists Sabine Hossenfelder and Sean Carroll, Philip Goff points out that panpsychism is not a dualist perspective

At IAI.tv, University of Durham philosophy prof Philip Goff tells us that “The world of academic philosophy has been rocked by the conversion of one of the most influential materialists of the last thirty years, Michael Tye, to a form of panpsychism (panprotopsychism) in his latest book. And the main annual UK philosophy conference held a plenary panel on panpsychism this year for the first time in its history.” That’s part of a pattern in which philosophy and science are warming to panpsychism, the belief that either all entities or all living entities participate in consciousness. Dr. Goff, author of Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness, offers some thoughts on what panpsychism is and isn’t: Panpsychism is the…

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Man in front of the universe with his arms raised

Physicist: If Humans Died Out, the Galaxy Might Lose All Meaning

Ahead of a big climate change conference, Brian Cox assesses the prospect of other habitable planets or their civilizations much more soberly than we often hear

Ahead of the big climate change conference COP 26 (31 Oct – 12 Nov 2021), physicist and broadcaster Brian Cox offers an ominous warning which also raises some questions. Speaking in connection with his new series, Universe, he presents a starkly different picture from much that we hear: Humans might be the only intelligent beings in our galaxy, so destroying our civilisation could be a galactic disaster, Prof Brian Cox has warned leaders in the run-up to Cop26. Speaking at the launch of his new BBC Two series Universe, the physicist and presenter said that having spoken to the scientists around the world advising the show, he thought that humans and sentient life on Earth “might be a remarkable, naturally…

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Mars Base

Theoretical Physicist: Colonizing Mars Is a Ridiculous Idea

Making Mars habitable (terraforming) has been kicking around engineering circles for decades. What are the chances, given Moore’s Law-level increases in technology?

And so what does a theoretical physicist know about it, you ask? Well, when it’s Sabine Hossenfelder, she is alwaysworth listening to: The biggest problem is not that Mars is “minus 60 degrees Celsius or minus 80 Fahrenheit,” she explains, but that it has no magnetic field so the atmosphere was blown away by the solar winds. So to form Mars into a second Earth, we would first need to give it a magnetic field. How easy is that?: In a paper that was just published in April in the International Journal of Astrobiology, two physicists explain that all you have to do put a superconducting wire around Mars, simple enough, isn’t it? The circle would have to have a…

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Exoplanets with moon

How Exoplanets Have Made the Search for ET Respectable

Recent years have seen a marked change from official skepticism to official curiosity, which includes more generous funding for the search

Exoplanets were first confirmed in 1992. Before that, it was easy to simply mock the search for the flying saucers and the little green men. After that, the obvious question became: If planets, why not habitable planets? If inhabited, why not by intelligent life forms? It was the naysayers who had more to prove. More recently, astrobiologists looking for signals from intelligent extraterrestrials (technosignatures) have started to doubt that the old standby, radio, is the best choice, as science writer Corey S. Powell reports, ‘I was never a big fan of what might be called “beacon SETI”,’ the astrophysicist Adam Frank from the University of Rochester tells me. ‘The idea is that you’re waiting for somebody to send you a…