Can computers do calculations in multiple universes? Scientists are working on it. Step into the world of quantum computing.
- While today's computers—referred to as classical computers—continue to become more and more powerful, there is a ceiling to their advancement due to the physical limits of the materials used to make them. Quantum computing allows physicists and researchers to exponentially increase computation power, harnessing potential parallel realities to do so.
- Quantum computer chips are astoundingly small, about the size of a fingernail. Scientists have to not only build the computer itself but also the ultra-protected environment in which they operate. Total isolation is required to eliminate vibrations and other external influences on synchronized atoms; if the atoms become 'decoherent' the quantum computer cannot function.
- "You need to create a very quiet, clean, cold environment for these chips to work in," says quantum computing expert Vern Brownell. The coldest temperature possible in physics is -273.15 degrees C. The rooms required for quantum computing are -273.14 degrees C, which is 150 times colder than outer space. It is complex and mind-boggling work, but the potential for computation that harnesses the power of parallel universes is worth the chase.
The attack on the Capitol forces us to confront an existential question about privacy.
- The insurrection attempt at the Capitol was captured by thousands of cell phones and security cameras.
- Many protestors have been arrested after their identity was reported to the FBI.
- Surveillance experts warn about the dangers of using facial recognition to monitor protests.
Brad Templeton: Today's Surveillance Society is Beyond Orwellian<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="06eb4a2ab19b644f5a3c0bf35ac2f42b"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/awFrWxfDA30?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>There's the <a href="https://www.thecut.com/2021/01/capitol-rioter-larry-rendall-brock-identified-to-fbi-by-ex.html" target="_blank">ex-wife of a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel</a> whose neck gaiter was pulled down; the <a href="https://www.inquirer.com/news/nation-world/capitol-insurrectionists-losing-jobs-social-media-identification-20210108.html" target="_blank">patriotic cohort of Internet detectives</a> crowd-sourcing information for the FBI; the director of the infamous pseudoscience film, "Plandemic," <a href="https://conspirituality.net/transmissions/plandemics-mikki-willis-joins-praises-violent-capitol-mob/" target="_blank">praising the "patriots" that breached the building</a> moments after he left the siege himself; and that unemployed actor who regularly attended QAnon events leaving the most public trail imaginable, and who is <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-55606044" target="_blank">currently in custody</a> facing serious charges.</p><p>Fish in barrels, all of them. What of the remaining thousands? </p><p>This privacy discussion is not new. Arthur Holland Michel, founder and co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, <a href="https://bigthink.com/technology-innovation/gorgon-stare-surveillance" target="_self">warned Big Think in 2019</a> about the dangers of surveillance technology—specifically, in this case, a camera known as Gorgon Stare. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Say there is a big public protest. With this camera, you can follow thousands of protesters back to their homes. Now you have a list of the home addresses of all the people involved in a political movement. If on their way home you witness them committing some crime—breaking a traffic regulation or frequenting a location that is known to be involved in the drug trade—you can use that surveillance data against them to essentially shut them up. That's why we have laws that prevent the use of surveillance technologies because it is human instinct to abuse them. That's why we need controls."</p><p>Late last year, University of Miami students <a href="https://bigthink.com/technology-innovation/facial-recognition-software" target="_self">pushed back against school administrators</a> using facial recognition software for potentially insidious means—a protest not limited to that campus. Can you place students refusing to attend classes during a pandemic with armed insurrectionists attempting to change the results of a democratic election? Not even close. More to the point, however, we should leave political leanings out of the equation when deciding who we think should be monitored. </p>
Protesters enter the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump.
Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images<p>Shortly after the siege, the New Yorker's Ronan Farrow <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/an-air-force-combat-veteran-breached-the-senate" target="_blank">helped reveal the identity</a> of the aforementioned lieutenant colonel while conservatives <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/01/07/antifa-capitol-gaetz-trump-riot/" target="_blank">claim the riots were actually antifa</a>—a conspiracy theory that's <a href="https://apnews.com/article/virus-outbreak-race-and-ethnicity-suburbs-health-racial-injustice-7edf9027af1878283f3818d96c54f748" target="_blank">been peddled before</a>. Politics simply can't be avoided in this age. Still, Albert Fox Cahn, founder of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, doesn't believe the insurrection attempt <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-the-capitol-attack-doesnt-justify-expanding-surveillance/" target="_blank">justifies an uptick in facial recognition technology</a>.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We don't need a cutting-edge surveillance dragnet to find the perpetrators of this attack: They tracked themselves. They livestreamed their felonies from the halls of Congress, recording each crime in full HD. We don't need facial recognition, geofences, and cell tower data to find those responsible, we need police officers willing to do their job."</p><p>The New Orleans City Council recently <a href="https://thelensnola.org/2020/12/18/new-orleans-city-council-approves-ban-on-facial-recognition-predictive-policing-and-other-surveillance-tech/" target="_blank">banned similar surveillance technologies</a> due to fears that it would unfairly target minorities. San Francisco was the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/14/us/facial-recognition-ban-san-francisco.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first city to outright ban facial recognition</a> nearly two years ago. Cahn's point is that the FBI shouldn't be using AI to cover for the government's failure to protect the Capitol. Besides, the insurrectionists outed themselves on their own social media feeds. </p><p>When Pandora's box cracks open, it's hard to push the monster back in. Naomi Klein detailed the corporate takeover of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in "The Shock Doctrine." Real estate brokers, charter school companies, and government agencies didn't cause the flood, but they certainly profited from it. The fear is that companies like Clearview AI, which saw a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/09/technology/facial-recognition-clearview-capitol.html" target="_blank">26 percent spike in usage of its facial recognition service</a> following the attack, will be incentivized, as will police departments to use such technology for any means they choose.</p><p>Cahn comes to a similar conclusion: don't expose American citizens to the "anti-democratic technology" known as facial recognition. New Yorkers had to endure subway backpack checks for nearly a decade after 9/11; this slope is even slipperier. </p>As the US braces for <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/11/politics/fbi-bulletin-armed-protests-state-us-capitol/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">further "armed protests"</a> in all 50 states over the coming week, phones need to keep capturing footage. Bystanders need to remain safe, of course. But if last week was any indication, the insurrectionists have difficulty deciphering between social media and real life. Their feeds should reveal enough.<p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His most recent book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
A powerful new tool lights up the brains of worms, and may soon help draw maps of other animals brains.
- A new tool called NeuroPal allows scientists to map the brain in more detail than ever before.
- By using the same color highlight for similar neurons, it allows researchers to more fully understand what areas of the brain do what.
- It has already been made available to other researchers who are publishing new brain studies.
I’ve heard of a vibrant imagination, but this is ridiculous.<p> <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/676312v2.full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NeuroPAL </a>(Neuronal Polychromatic Atlas of Landmarks)<strong> </strong>is a genetic engineering technique that lights up neurons in fluorescent, easily discerned colors. Neurons expressing the same genetic information will be the same color under a microscope, allowing scientists to produce an easily readable map showing which neurons have similar genetic details and functions. This provides much more information than previous <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brainbow" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">methods</a>. When combined with other techniques that record the communications between cells, it can provide previously impossible insights into neural network dynamics.</p><p>In this study, published in <a href="https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(20)31682-2?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0092867420316822%3Fshowall%3Dtrue" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cell</a>, the scientists used NeuroPal on <em>Caenorhabditis elegans</em> (<em>C. elegans</em>) worms and on computer screens. </p><p><em>C. elegans</em> is commonly used in biological science for experimentation. A tiny creature, they have a comparatively simple and well-mapped nervous <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caenorhabditis_elegans#Research_use" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">system</a>. Previous studies using electron microscopes have mapped the connections in the worm's brain but have faced difficulties identifying every neuron in the system. As mentioned, NeuroPal can identify every neuron that expresses certain genetic features. </p><p>Using this tool, the study found that the connections in this animal's brain are much more complicated than previously <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/676312v2.full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">known</a>. </p><p>The researchers also created a computer program that provides optimal color schemes for using NeuroPal in other, more complicated <a href="https://eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-01/cu-sp010721.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">animals</a>. </p>
What use is a mapped brain, exactly?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hg6XUYWj-pk" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> By providing a way to reliably identify different types of neuron cells and visibly present them for observation, NeuroPal will make creating comprehensive brain maps much simpler. In the discussion section of the recent study, the authors explain the potential uses of this tool in expanding our understanding of neural networks, including those not belonging to small <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/676312v2.full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">worms</a>: </p><p> "To date, functional networks have been investigated by recording the activity of small subsets of labeled neurons. More recent work has inaugurated whole-brain activity imaging with cellular resolution. However, the inability to reliably identify all neurons within whole-brain recordings has precluded a full picture with circuit-level details […] Coupling NeuroPAL with whole-brain activity imaging methods permits a unified view of network dynamics, across animals, without sacrificing circuit-level details."</p><p>The<strong></strong> lead author of the new study, Dr. Eviatar Yemini, shared another potential use with <a href="https://news.columbia.edu/news/scientists-paint-multi-color-atlas-neurons-brain" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Columbia </a><a href="https://news.columbia.edu/news/scientists-paint-multi-color-atlas-neurons-brain" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">News</a>:</p><p> "Being able to identify neurons, or other types of cells, using color can help scientists visually understand the role of each part of a biological system. That means when something goes wrong with the system, it may help pinpoint where the breakdown occurred."</p><p>NeuroPal has already been given to other researchers, and published studies utilizing it are beginning to trickle out. It is only a matter of time before this tool provides us with a much-improved understanding of the brain and its functions.</p>
The AI constitution can mean the difference between war and peace—or total extinction.
- The question of conscious artificial intelligence dominating future humanity is not the most pressing issue we face today, says Allan Dafoe of the Center for the Governance of AI at Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute. Dafoe argues that AI's power to generate wealth should make good governance our primary concern.
- With thoughtful systems and policies in place, humanity can unlock the full potential of AI with minimal negative consequences. Drafting an AI constitution will also provide the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of past structures to avoid future conflicts.
- Building a framework for governance will require us to get past sectarian differences and interests so that society as a whole can benefit from AI in ways that do the most good and the least harm.
Valles Marineris on Mars is 10 times longer and three times deeper than Earth's Grand Canyon.
- The HiRISE instrument aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured high-resolution images of Valles Marineris.
- Valles Marineris stretches roughly 2,500 miles across the Martian surface, and was likely formed by geologic faulting caused by volcanic activity.
- NASA's Perseverance rover is set to land on Mars in February 2021, where it will search for signs of ancient life.
East-facing slope in Tithonium Chasma
Credit: NASA/JPL/UArizona<p>Over the decades, scientists have proposed many explanations for the origin of Valles Marineris, including erosion by water and the withdrawal of subsurface magma.</p><p>But the most widely accepted theory is that the canyon was formed by<a href="https://marsed.asu.edu/mep/tectonics/canyons" target="_blank"> geologic faulting caused by volcanic activity</a> in the Tharsis region, a volcanic plateau near the Red Planet's equator. (The Tharsis region is home to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympus_Mons" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Olympus Mons</a>, one of the largest volcanoes in the solar system.)</p>
Credit: NASA<p>Launched in 2005, HiRISE is the most powerful camera sent to another planet. It's able to capture high-resolution images of objects the size of a kitchen table, in both visible and near-infrared wavelengths. Scientists use these images to study topography and mineral groups on the Martian surface, and to help select potential landing sites for future missions.</p> <p>In February 2021, NASA's Perseverance rover is set to land on Mars, where it will collect rock and soil samples, take high-resolution microscopic images of the surface and search for signs of ancient alien life. The rover will also carry the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, a small 4-pound drone designed to help scientists learn more about the feasibility of achieving flight on Mars, a planet with an atmosphere that's <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/6-things-to-know-about-nasas-ingenuity-mars-helicopter/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">99 percent less dense than Earth's</a>.</p>