Thursday Things: No Good Options Edition
19 August 2021. Vol 3 No 33 By Dan McGirt.
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I’ll put it all on the robots. Photo by Free Walking Tour Salzburg on Unsplash
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That’s a whole lot of watts. Fusion experiment breaks record, blasts out 10 quadrillion watts of energy
Scientists used an unconventional method of creating nuclear fusion to yield a record-breaking burst of energy of more than 10 quadrillion watts, by firing intense beams of light from the world's largest lasers at a tiny pellet of hydrogen.
Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Northern California said they had focused 192 giant lasers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) onto a pea-size pellet, resulting in the release of 1.3 megajoules of energy in 100 trillionths of a second — roughly 10% of the energy of the sunlight that hits Earth every moment, and about 70% of the energy that the pellet had absorbed from the lasers.
Yes, it’s the elusive dream of controlled fusion reactions to generate energy — all the energy we could ever need. When we (and by we I mean people much smarter than me, but I’m cheering them on. And, as a taxpayer, helping pay for it) do eventually harness fusion energy — and I have no doubt that eventually we will — it changes everything. So for at least one brief (100 trillionth of a second) shining (with 1.3 megajoules and also with the most powerful lasers in the world) moment scientists came one step closer. That’s good news!
Meanwhile, what are German scientists up to? Mini brains’ created from stem cells in a lab grow their own eyes
DÜSSELDORF, Germany — “Mini brains” which scientists grow from human stem cells help researchers learn about how people grow from tiny embryos. Now, these brain organoids may also uncover how eye diseases form after an experiment revealed that these structures can grow their own eyes!
Using human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), researchers in Germany created brain organoids that contained their own eye structures called optic cups. These mini brains developed a pair of symmetrical optic structures right in the front of the brain-like region — just like a normal human baby would in the womb.
Oh. Yeah, this seems like a bad idea. Disembodied mini-brains that spontaneously grow their own eyes? Next they’ll be growing tentacles and after that things get bad…
“What are you looking at?” asked the disembodied mini-brain. Source: Elke Gabriel
Parkour! If the mini-brains don’t get us, the robots will. Watch Boston Dynamics Atlas Robots Parkour Like Human Pros In An Amazing Video Demo
Today, the Boston Dynamics team showed off twin bipedal Atlas robots running through a parkour course like seasoned pros. They jumped, ran up and down stairs, walked along a balance beam, and performed multiple backflips. Heck, one of the robots even celebrated by "brushing off" his shoulders as he "admired" his accomplishments.
Yes, let’s teach the robots how to jump, backflip, and run up stairs. What could possibly go wrong? 🙄
Meanwhile, in France… “The Blob,” a strangely intelligent slime mold, is going to space OH COME ON!
The slime mold:Physarum polycephalum is a slime mold commonly referred to as the Blob because, well… it’s just one big, blob-like cell.
Despite its unsophisticated appearance, the Blob is a fascinating organism. Scientists have seen it complete mazes, learn new skills, and store memories — all without anything resembling a brain.
Figuring out how the strange slime mold can do all of these things is still a work in progress, though.
So let’s shoot it into space! What’s the worst that could happen? It is literally called “the Blob”, it is strangely intelligent and you, French scientists, want to shoot it into space where it can experience microgravity. Are you kidding me? Why would you DO this?
Why: Studying this weirdly smart slime mold might teach us new things about intelligence in general, according to Nirosha Murugan, first author of an unrelated study on the Blob.
“Figuring out how proto-intelligent life manages to do this type of computation gives us more insight into the underpinnings of animal cognition and behavior, including our own,” she explained in a news release.
That is exactly what the scientists say in every horror movie right before their ill-conceived experiment unleashes a fresh new horror like, oh, I don’t know, THE BLOB!
“We don’t know what will happen,” Audrey Dussutour, the project’s principal investigator, told France 24 in March. “We will see how they move, how they feed. Maybe their behaviour will change, instead of growing flat they will gain volume.”
I know exactly what will happen. Because, unlike the scientists of France, I have seen this movie.
Well, at least if the Blob gets us we won’t have to worry about the revolt of the mini-brains or the robot uprising. Or the mini-brains taking control of the robots. Because the Blob will eat us first.
Have a great week!
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