The 'show why science is awesome' thread:


‘The problem with BPA-free: Alternatives are just as troubling’:

I’ve been trying to source just glass bottles for much of our food+drink based groceries, but it is not always possible, and evidence like this just shows how bad plastics are for storage of foodstuffs.


Sadly, another article about the stellerator had a quote from the scientists that they were still 20 years away. But as you say, better to be 20 years away and still making progress than be twenty years away and just stop trying.


This German stellerator is more of a research project than anything. It was never built to put out more than what it takes in. It’s still impressive, but mostly as a 20-30 year engineering project that will eventually reveal more clues on how to do self sustaining fusion.


… isn’t that just the old joke about fusion power being repeated in a new way?


‘After 100 years, scientists are finally closing in on Einstein’s ripples’:


I definitely misread that for a moment and was confused as to the scientific value of Einstein’s nipples.


My god he figured out why men have nipples?! Nobody will top that.


The noble 80’s british comic 2000AD used to have a section called ‘Future Shock’ in which it would provide some kind of dystopian warning. Anyway this is in that theme of in terms of interesting science:

'Would you bet against sex robots? AI ‘could leave half of world unemployed’:

Machines could put more than half the world’s population out of a job in the next 30 years, according to a computer scientist who said on Saturday that artificial intelligence’s threat to the economy should not be understated.

Expert Moshe Vardi told the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): “We are approaching a time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task.

“I believe that society needs to confront this question before it is upon us: if machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?”

Physicist Stephen Hawking and the tech billionaires Bill Gates and Elon Musk issued a similar warning last year. Hawking warned that AI “could spell the end of the human race” and Musk said it represents “our biggest existential threat”.

Kill the machines, kill them now, while you can!


At some point in our society’s evolution, isn’t the goal to put people out of work? Automating menial tasks to free or time for better pursuits?


The goal is to save money for a select few and to starve and disenfranchise the rest. I could be wrong about this, but I doubt it.


In theory, I guess. But the reality is we expect everyone to work at all times and economics pretty much requires it as well. Until we hit a Star Trek scenario where everyone gets things for free (which doesn’t even work in Star Trek really), people need jobs and shit.


Sure, but they don’t need menial manufacturing jobs.


To be fair, it’s all some people are really able to do other than working fast food. Everyone can’t be a doctor and even if they could, we don’t need that many doctors. Hell, everyone can’t really work in the service industry (which outsources everything it can as well).


Indeed, and the danger with the select few pushing this race, is, according to the report i linked (and the one below from arstechnica on the same subject), that the AI may just turn on them too, the ‘skynet’ situation thing. But first the rest of us will be out of work, living in poverty and not have access to the means to stop any of this from happening.

‘Robots: Destroying jobs, our economy, and possibly the world’:

The PC i’m typing this message from is our long-term enemy, as long as we recognise that we might have a chance.


I suspect that they could all do something more than menial labor though. Some may be more creative pursuits, just in things which aren’t easy to get paid for currently. But once energy is cheaper, then it would hopefully be more feasible for them to make a living doing weird stuff that they enjoy.

Like space hippies from star trek.


I mean, I’m all for it, but reality isn’t remotely there yet and people live in said reality.


I’m probably in the extreme minority on this one, but I don’t necessarily view that as a bad thing. Bad for homo sapiens, certainly, but it seems like a vastly more adaptable evolution. A silicon-based species (if we can even use that term for non-carbon forms of consciousness—and if not conscious, then fully controllable by humans) wouldn’t be dependent on ecological factors currently under threat from climate change, and it would have the longevity & relatively light weight to make space-faring civilizations immediately possible, aided again by the greatly diminished natural resource problems.

If we’re not too anthropocentric about it, there’s more upside than downside, evolutionarily speaking.


I’m pro human though, in that i believe we can all (life on planet earth) have a future, and that future does not have to = no humans. We just have to stop being short term stupid. And some more on this seemingly hotter than normal topic (going on all the articles appearing that i’m finding):

‘The superhero of artificial intelligence: can this genius keep it in check?’:

Demis Hassabis has a modest demeanour and an unassuming countenance, but he is deadly serious when he tells me he is on a mission to “solve intelligence, and then use that to solve everything else”. Coming from almost anyone else, the statement would be laughable; from him, not so much. Hassabis is the 39-year-old former chess master and video-games designer whose artificial intelligence research start-up, DeepMind, was bought by Google in 2014 for a reported $625 million.

He is the son of immigrants, attended a state comprehensive in Finchley and holds degrees from Cambridge and UCL in computer science and cognitive neuroscience. A “visionary” manager, according to those who work with him, Hassabis also reckons he has found a way to “make science research efficient” and says he is leading an “Apollo programme for the 21st century”. He’s the sort of normal-looking bloke you wouldn’t look twice at on the street, but Tim Berners-Lee once described him to me as one of the smartest human beings on the planet.

Artificial intelligence is already all around us, of course, every time we interrogate Siri or get a recommendation on Android. And in the short term, Google products will surely benefit from Hassabis’s research, even if improvements in personalisation, search, YouTube, and speech and facial recognition are not presented as “AI” as such (“Then it’s just software, right?” he grins. “It’s just stuff that works.”).

In the longer term, though, the technology he is developing is about more than emotional robots and smarter phones. It’s about more than Google. More than Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and the other giant corporations currently hoovering up AI PhDs and sinking billions into this latest technological arms race. It’s about everything we could possibly imagine; and much that we can’t.

I don’t know, isn’t history littered with the mistakes and unforeseen consequences of ‘clever’ men and women?


You guys are making me wonder if the Butlerian Jihad will always be fiction.


…and while this could have gone in a number of the threads in PR, in the current trend of AI stuff in this thread, that is interesting and sciencey, some pretty horrific stuff about the real current SKYNET program:

‘The NSA’s SKYNET program may be killing thousands of innocent people’:

In 2014, the former director of both the CIA and NSA proclaimed that “we kill people based on metadata.” Now, a new examination of previously published Snowden documents suggests that many of those people may have been innocent.

Last year, The Intercept published documents detailing the NSA’s SKYNET programme. According to the documents, SKYNET engages in mass surveillance of Pakistan’s mobile phone network, and then uses a machine learning algorithm on the cellular network metadata of 55 million people to try and rate each person’s likelihood of being a terrorist.

Patrick Ball—a data scientist and the director of research at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group—who has previously given expert testimony before war crimes tribunals, described the NSA’s methods as “ridiculously optimistic” and “completely bullshit.” A flaw in how the NSA trains SKYNET’s machine learning algorithm to analyse cellular metadata, Ball told Ars, makes the results scientifically unsound.

Somewhere between 2,500 and 4,000 people have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, and most of them were classified by the US government as “extremists,” the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported. Based on the classification date of “20070108” on one of the SKYNET slide decks (which themselves appear to date from 2011 and 2012), the machine learning program may have been in development as early as 2007.

In the years that have followed, thousands of innocent people in Pakistan may have been mislabelled as terrorists by that “scientifically unsound” algorithm, possibly resulting in their untimely demise.