Nonbelievers can show that the universe does have meaning, and that it exists whether humans do or not. And they can show that that meaning emerges inevitably, inexorably, out of the basic physical processes of the universe – that it is not optional or accidental. We can get a religion out of that, but of a very different kind than we've had in the past six thousand years.
It's not enough to point out the difficulty of shooting only the assailant in a room full of panicking people. We also have to remember that in a civilized nation, citizens grant a monopoly on violence to a legitimately elected government.
Far from being gravitational traps, super-Earths should be positive incubators of spacefaring civilizations. Surface gravity could be the same as Earth, and their larger size would give them more resources to work with.
When implantable technologies come of age, new uses will be found for them, and they won’t be about merely enhancing our bodies. It’ll about letting our bodies do things we have never dreamed of doing before.
Imagine a user standing at a table, wearing glasses, gesturing in the air, and turning in various directions to look at different aspects of her work. Monitors will be obsolete. That's what computer work will look like in 2022.
In the long run, stupidity never wins. Humanity will get its act together, as it always has. The only question is when. That’s why I’m not only a scientific progressive, I’m an optimistic scientific progressive.
If you sent 5.25" floppy disks back to medieval times, knights might decide that they make excellent sun visors. And our cat Posy thinks that a flash drive dangled from a lanyard is simply a great cat toy. To my own surprise, this train of thought led to mind-destroying messages and Shannon entropy. Here's how you build really good alien technology.
In the popular imagination, aliens are usually either thinly disguised humans (e. g. Klingons) or utterly incomprehensible (e.g. the inscrutable monolith in 2001.) But will real extraterrestrials be so different from us as to be truly incomprehensible? I think the answer is no. And yes.
Danny Boyle's opening ceremony for the Olympics told a rich and fascinating story of why Great Britain had such a massive impact on world history. It was a brilliant achievement, and it makes the 2012 Olympics one to remember.
A small radio antenna fifty billion miles from Earth would be incredibly sensitive. It would use the Sun itself as a gravitational lens. If you want to get serious about SETI, this is one way to do it.
When I was a kid I read "Tom Swift and the Visitor From Planet X" and found it a crashing disappointment. But here's a way we could send a real Visitor to an alien planet: create an AI (artificial intelligence) and send that, along with instructions on how to run it.
How, exactly, does nonviolent protest—or protest of any kind, for that matter—actually change anything? How does it deprive the violent, the unjust, and the selfish of their power? How does it put competent and fair-minded people in power? How does it take bad laws off the books and replace them with good ones? How, in short, does it change anything?
Pseudo-apocalypses are proxies for American fears about very real events: global climate change, peak oil, and terrorism. Laughing at the people who believed in a fake apocalypse is a way of dealing with our fears of the real thing.
Aliens could have profoundly different metaphorical systems for structuring their languages, but patient explanation may get the message across all the same. Here's how the work of several linguists can be applied to the problem of interspecies communication.
When I was ten, my dad showed me how to make a computer out of a bunch of matchboxes and jujubes. It taught me a crucial lesson: all computers are equally stupid, no matter how much RAM they have or how fast their CPUs are. To make a smart computer, you need more than hardware. You need an environment in which computers have to evolve to survive.
According to Moore's Law, the number of transistors on a chip doubles approximately every two years. Now, welcome Stevenson & Kording's Law: the number of neurons that can be tracked in the brain doubles every 7.4 years. What are the implications of that?
I made one relationship blunder after another throughout my thirties and early forties. Still, I did learn a lot along the way. Here's ten behaviors that helped me as my wife and I transitioned from "dating" to "serious relationship."