superfriedscienceguy:

"Math is the dialect of the universe"…. What does that even mean? There are things we observe in the universe and sometimes we don’t always understand them. Thats why we invented math. Math is the manual of the universe. A guide to help us understand why things happen the way they do. The universe threw countless mysteries at us and we honed those mysteries using numbers. Numbers interpret the way the universe works and translates it so that we can understand the universe. It is the “google translate” of everything. We didn’t give quantitive values to things that were qualitative. The universe did. We, however, deciphered the code that the universe had set forth and did it without every using a single word. Math is to real life as binary is to computers. It’s the encryption of how things should happen, and it follows that code down to the letter. Thats because the universe IS math. Math teaches us to learn the ways of everything. There is so much underlying wisdom in math. So much latent potential in math. 

Math is… underrated. From now on, rather than trying to memorize x and y or the quadratic equation, learn that x and y are values that are susceptible to change and that the quadratic equation represents a pattern that YOU can use to your advantage. Math is a tool more valuable than any other. Learn to use it

"Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth."
Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth (via whats-out-there)

Polonium’s most stable isotope gets revised half-life measurement

randdmag:

image

Scientists at NIST have determined that polonium-209, the longest-lived
isotope of this radioactive heavy element, has a half-life about 25%
longer than the previously determined value, which had been in use for
decades. The new NIST measurements could affect geophysical studies such
as the dating of sediment samples from ocean and lake floors.

Read More - http://www.rdmag.com/news/2014/09/polonium%E2%80%99s-most-stable-isotope-gets-revised-half-life-measurement

mindblowingscience:

Ethical trap: robot paralysed by choice of who to save

Can a robot learn right from wrong? Attempts to imbue robots, self-driving cars and military machines with a sense of ethics reveal just how hard this is
CAN we teach a robot to be good? Fascinated by the idea, roboticist Alan Winfield of Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK built an ethical trap for a robot – and was stunned by the machine’s response.
In an experiment, Winfield and his colleagues programmed a robot to prevent other automatons – acting as proxies for humans – from falling into a hole. This is a simplified version of Isaac Asimov’s fictional First Law of Robotics – a robot must not allow a human being to come to harm.
At first, the robot was successful in its task. As a human proxy moved towards the hole, the robot rushed in to push it out of the path of danger. But when the team added a second human proxy rolling toward the hole at the same time, the robot was forced to choose. Sometimes, it managed to save one human while letting the other perish; a few times it even managed to save both. But in 14 out of 33 trials, the robot wasted so much time fretting over its decision that both humans fell into the hole. The work was presented on 2 September at the Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems meeting in Birmingham, UK.
Winfield describes his robot as an “ethical zombie” that has no choice but to behave as it does. Though it may save others according to a programmed code of conduct, it doesn’t understand the reasoning behind its actions. Winfield admits he once thought it was not possible for a robot to make ethical choices for itself. Today, he says, “my answer is: I have no idea”.
As robots integrate further into our everyday lives, this question will need to be answered. A self-driving car, for example, may one day have to weigh the safety of its passengers against the risk of harming other motorists or pedestrians. It may be very difficult to program robots with rules for such encounters.
But robots designed for military combat may offer the beginning of a solution. Ronald Arkin, a computer scientist at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, has built a set of algorithms for military robots – dubbed an “ethical governor” – which is meant to help them make smart decisions on the battlefield. He has already tested it in simulated combat, showing that drones with such programming can choose not to shoot, or try to minimise casualties during a battle near an area protected from combat according to the rules of war, like a school or hospital.
Arkin says that designing military robots to act more ethically may be low-hanging fruit, as these rules are well known. “The laws of war have been thought about for thousands of years and are encoded in treaties.” Unlike human fighters, who can be swayed by emotion and break these rules, automatons would not.
"When we’re talking about ethics, all of this is largely about robots that are developed to function in pretty prescribed spaces," says Wendell Wallach, author ofMoral Machines: Teaching robots right from wrong. Still, he says, experiments like Winfield’s hold promise in laying the foundations on which more complex ethical behaviour can be built. “If we can get them to function well in environments when we don’t know exactly all the circumstances they’ll encounter, that’s going to open up vast new applications for their use.”
This article appeared in print under the headline “The robot’s dilemma”

Watch a video of these ‘ethical’ robots in action here

mindblowingscience:

Ethical trap: robot paralysed by choice of who to save

Can a robot learn right from wrong? Attempts to imbue robots, self-driving cars and military machines with a sense of ethics reveal just how hard this is

CAN we teach a robot to be good? Fascinated by the idea, roboticist Alan Winfield of Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK built an ethical trap for a robot – and was stunned by the machine’s response.

In an experiment, Winfield and his colleagues programmed a robot to prevent other automatons – acting as proxies for humans – from falling into a hole. This is a simplified version of Isaac Asimov’s fictional First Law of Robotics – a robot must not allow a human being to come to harm.

At first, the robot was successful in its task. As a human proxy moved towards the hole, the robot rushed in to push it out of the path of danger. But when the team added a second human proxy rolling toward the hole at the same time, the robot was forced to choose. Sometimes, it managed to save one human while letting the other perish; a few times it even managed to save both. But in 14 out of 33 trials, the robot wasted so much time fretting over its decision that both humans fell into the hole. The work was presented on 2 September at the Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems meeting in Birmingham, UK.

Winfield describes his robot as an “ethical zombie” that has no choice but to behave as it does. Though it may save others according to a programmed code of conduct, it doesn’t understand the reasoning behind its actions. Winfield admits he once thought it was not possible for a robot to make ethical choices for itself. Today, he says, “my answer is: I have no idea”.

As robots integrate further into our everyday lives, this question will need to be answered. A self-driving car, for example, may one day have to weigh the safety of its passengers against the risk of harming other motorists or pedestrians. It may be very difficult to program robots with rules for such encounters.

But robots designed for military combat may offer the beginning of a solution. Ronald Arkin, a computer scientist at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, has built a set of algorithms for military robots – dubbed an “ethical governor” – which is meant to help them make smart decisions on the battlefield. He has already tested it in simulated combat, showing that drones with such programming can choose not to shoot, or try to minimise casualties during a battle near an area protected from combat according to the rules of war, like a school or hospital.

Arkin says that designing military robots to act more ethically may be low-hanging fruit, as these rules are well known. “The laws of war have been thought about for thousands of years and are encoded in treaties.” Unlike human fighters, who can be swayed by emotion and break these rules, automatons would not.

"When we’re talking about ethics, all of this is largely about robots that are developed to function in pretty prescribed spaces," says Wendell Wallach, author ofMoral Machines: Teaching robots right from wrong. Still, he says, experiments like Winfield’s hold promise in laying the foundations on which more complex ethical behaviour can be built. “If we can get them to function well in environments when we don’t know exactly all the circumstances they’ll encounter, that’s going to open up vast new applications for their use.”

This article appeared in print under the headline “The robot’s dilemma”

Watch a video of these ‘ethical’ robots in action here

scienceisbeauty:

Light Printing

We are exploring new modalities of creative photography through robotics and long-exposure photography. Using a robotic arm, a light source is carried through precise movements in front of a camera. Photographic compositions are recorded as images of volumetric light. Robotic light “painting” can also be inverted: the camera is moved via the arm to create an image “painted” with environmental light. Finally, adding real-time sensor input to the moving arm and programming it to explore the physical space around objects can reveal immaterial fields like radio waves, magnetic fields, and heat flows.

Via Mediated Matter (MIT)

"Science is neither a philosophy nor a belief system. It is a combination of mental operations that has become increasingly the habit of educated peoples, a culture of illuminations hit upon by a fortunate turn of history that yielded the most effective way of learning about the real world ever conceived."
Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (via retromantique)
"Evolution isn’t just a story about where we came from. It’s an epic at the center of life itself. Far from robbing our lives of meaning, it instills an appreciation for the beautiful, enduring, and ultimately triumphant fabric of life that covers our planet. Understanding that doesn’t demean human life - it enhances it."
Kenneth Miller, biologist (via whats-out-there)
thedragoninmygarage:

Carl Sagan on Alien Abduction
Carl Sagan was captivated by the notion of life beyond Earth. Yet in this interview, conducted shortly before the well-known champion of science died in 1996, Sagan says that extraterrestrial intelligence is “a wonderful prospect, but requires the most severe and rigorous standards of evidence.” Sagan doubted that the various proponents of so-called “alien abduction” making headlines in the 1990s had met those scientific standards.
NOVA: Speculate for a moment on the parts of human nature, the commonality of believing in abductions, or aliens anyway, and the part of human nature that wants to search for other life forms in the universe.
Carl Sagan: I personally have been captured by the notion of extraterrestrial life, and especially extraterrestrial intelligence, from childhood. It swept me up, and I’ve been involved in sending space craft to nearby planets to look for life and in the radio search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
It would be an absolutely transforming event in human history. But, the stakes are so high on whether it’s true or false that we must demand the more rigorous standards of evidence—precisely because it’s so exciting. That’s the circumstance in which our hopes may dominate our skeptical scrutiny of the data. So, we have to be very careful. There have been a few instances in the [past]. We thought we found something, and it always turned out to be explicable.
So, a kind of skepticism is routinely applied to the radio search for extraterrestrial intelligence by its most fervent proponents. I do not see [in] the alien abduction situation a similar rigorous application of scientific skepticism by its proponents. Instead, I see enormous acceptance at face value, and leading the witness, and all sorts of suggestions. Plus, the contamination by the general culture of this idea.
It seems to me there is a big difference between the two approaches to extraterrestrial intelligence, although I’m frequently written to [to] say how could I search for extraterrestrial intelligence and disbelieve that we’re being visited. I don’t see any contradiction at all. It’s a wonderful prospect, but requires the most severe and rigorous standards of evidence.
NOVA: Could you please comment on the part of the quality of the evidence that is put forward by these so-called “abduction proponents.”
Carl Sagan: Well, it’s almost entirely anecdote. Someone says something happened to them, and people can say anything. The fact that someone says something doesn’t mean it’s true. Doesn’t mean they’re lying, but it doesn’t mean it’s true.
To be taken seriously, you need physical evidence that can be examined at leisure by skeptical scientists: a scraping of the whole ship, and the discovery that it contains isotopic ratios that aren’t present on Earth, chemical elements from the so-called island of stability, very heavy elements that don’t exist on Earth. Or material of absolutely bizarre properties of many sorts—electrical conductivity or ductility. There are many things like that that would instantly give serious credence to an account.
But there’s no scrapings, no interior photographs, no filched page from the captain’s log book. All there are are stories. There are instances of disturbed soil, but I can disturb soil with a shovel. There are instances of people claiming to flash lights at UFOs and the UFOs flash back. But, pilots of airplanes can also flash back, especially if they think it would be a good joke to play on the UFO enthusiast. So, that does not constitute good evidence.
"Precisely because of human fallibility, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

thedragoninmygarage:

Carl Sagan on Alien Abduction

Carl Sagan was captivated by the notion of life beyond Earth. Yet in this interview, conducted shortly before the well-known champion of science died in 1996, Sagan says that extraterrestrial intelligence is “a wonderful prospect, but requires the most severe and rigorous standards of evidence.” Sagan doubted that the various proponents of so-called “alien abduction” making headlines in the 1990s had met those scientific standards.

NOVA: Speculate for a moment on the parts of human nature, the commonality of believing in abductions, or aliens anyway, and the part of human nature that wants to search for other life forms in the universe.

Carl Sagan: I personally have been captured by the notion of extraterrestrial life, and especially extraterrestrial intelligence, from childhood. It swept me up, and I’ve been involved in sending space craft to nearby planets to look for life and in the radio search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

It would be an absolutely transforming event in human history. But, the stakes are so high on whether it’s true or false that we must demand the more rigorous standards of evidence—precisely because it’s so exciting. That’s the circumstance in which our hopes may dominate our skeptical scrutiny of the data. So, we have to be very careful. There have been a few instances in the [past]. We thought we found something, and it always turned out to be explicable.

So, a kind of skepticism is routinely applied to the radio search for extraterrestrial intelligence by its most fervent proponents. I do not see [in] the alien abduction situation a similar rigorous application of scientific skepticism by its proponents. Instead, I see enormous acceptance at face value, and leading the witness, and all sorts of suggestions. Plus, the contamination by the general culture of this idea.

It seems to me there is a big difference between the two approaches to extraterrestrial intelligence, although I’m frequently written to [to] say how could I search for extraterrestrial intelligence and disbelieve that we’re being visited. I don’t see any contradiction at all. It’s a wonderful prospect, but requires the most severe and rigorous standards of evidence.

NOVA: Could you please comment on the part of the quality of the evidence that is put forward by these so-called “abduction proponents.”

Carl Sagan: Well, it’s almost entirely anecdote. Someone says something happened to them, and people can say anything. The fact that someone says something doesn’t mean it’s true. Doesn’t mean they’re lying, but it doesn’t mean it’s true.

To be taken seriously, you need physical evidence that can be examined at leisure by skeptical scientists: a scraping of the whole ship, and the discovery that it contains isotopic ratios that aren’t present on Earth, chemical elements from the so-called island of stability, very heavy elements that don’t exist on Earth. Or material of absolutely bizarre properties of many sorts—electrical conductivity or ductility. There are many things like that that would instantly give serious credence to an account.

But there’s no scrapings, no interior photographs, no filched page from the captain’s log book. All there are are stories. There are instances of disturbed soil, but I can disturb soil with a shovel. There are instances of people claiming to flash lights at UFOs and the UFOs flash back. But, pilots of airplanes can also flash back, especially if they think it would be a good joke to play on the UFO enthusiast. So, that does not constitute good evidence.

"Precisely because of human fallibility, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

"Pretending to know everything closes the door to finding out what’s really there."
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Cosmos (via thedragoninmygarage)

scinote:

image

Question:

Why do materials look darker when they absorb water?

Asked by 

Answer:

The way we see things is dependent on how light travels from the object back to our eye, and the color that we see is the wavelength of light that bounces back from the object.

A layer of water helps light penetrate the surface of the material more deeply than if the material were dry. When the light is in the surface of the material, it “gets lost” a little bit, and when it comes back up, it might be in a slightly different direction. This is called subsurface reflection, which scatters the light. Basically, when an object gets wet, the new combination of, say, fabric with water will absorb a different wavelength of light, producing what we see as a slightly different color or contrast.

To read more about subsurface reflection, click here.

Answered by Vinnie C., Expert Leader

Edited by Carrie K.

libutron:

Nomia iridescens a Bee with colourful abdominal stripes 

This cool bee, scientifically named Nomia iridescens, belongs to the Halictidae Family, a cosmopolitan group commonly referred to as halictid bees and sweat bees.

Nomia iridescens is a conspicuously banded bee with amazing neon-green stripes, which occurs in southeast Asia (India, Borneo, Peninsular malaysia, Philippines).

Sweat bees play a vital role in the pollination ecology of a region. By having  a wide range of adaptational capabilities, these inhabit all kind of ecological niches both in tropical and temperate regions. In number and kind these anthophilic insects (attracted to flowers) surpass all other bees and thus are mainly responsible for conserving the vegetation germplasm by pollinating a bewildering variety of wild and cultivated entomophilic flora.

References: [1] - [2] - [3] - [4]

Photo credit: ©Paul Bertner | Locality: Mt. Isarog National Park, Philippines (2014) | [Top] - [Middle] - [Bottom]

"Biologists call a small male fish who darts in to fertilize eggs a “sneaker,”, a medium male who resembles a female a “female mimic,”, and a large aggressive territorial male a “parental,” to place a positive spin of his egg guarding. Both the sneaker and the female mimic are “sexual parasites” of the parental male’s “investment” in nest construction and territorial defense. The sneaker and the female mimic are said to express a gene for “cuckoldry,” as though the parental male were married to a female in his territory and victimized by her unfaithfulness. In fact, a territorial male and the female who is temporarily in his territory are not pair-bonded. Scientists sneak gender stereotypes into the primary literature and corrupt its objectivity. Are these descriptions only harmless words? No. The words affect the view of nature that emerges from biology."
Joan Roughgarden (2004) Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People, University of California Press, Berkley
(via 420-catnip)
"A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called “leaves”) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time ― proof that humans can work magic."
CARL SAGAN (via ohstarstuff)
ucresearch:

Seeing a supernovae within hours of the explosion
For the first time ever, scientists have gathered direct evidence of a rare Wolf-Rayet star being linked to a specific type of stellar explosion known as a Type IIb supernova. Peter Nugent of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory says they caught this star – a whopping 360 million light years away – just a few hours after it exploded.
Hear more about this discovery →

ucresearch:

Seeing a supernovae within hours of the explosion

For the first time ever, scientists have gathered direct evidence of a rare Wolf-Rayet star being linked to a specific type of stellar explosion known as a Type IIb supernova. Peter Nugent of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory says they caught this star – a whopping 360 million light years away – just a few hours after it exploded.

Hear more about this discovery →

mindblowingscience:

How archer fish gun down prey from a distance

Archer fish are the sharpshooters of the animal world, capable of hitting prey from metres away with pinpoint accuracy. The fish, Toxotes jaculatrix, which live in mangroves in southern and southeast Asia, achieve this by compressing their gill covers, and forcing water through a ‘gun barrel’ made by their tongue and the roof of their mouth.
To determine how the fish aim these water cannons, animal physiologists Peggy Gerullis and Stefan Schuster, who are both at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, trained the fish to fire at specific targets. They then used a high-speed camera to film the animals as they shot at targets of different heights. The researchers found that the fish adjusted the speed of the jets so that they were most focused and forceful just before reaching a target.
To do this, the archer fish controlled their water jets by adjusting the rate at which they opened and closed their mouths. When they needed to hit a faraway target 60 centimetres above the water, the fish sprayed water for a longer period of time, opening their mouth more gradually, than when aiming for a target 20 cm above the water. Gerullis and Schuster report their results in Current Biology1.
Journal Reference:
Gerullis, P. & Schuster, S. Curr. Biol. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.07.059 (2014).

Animated gif courtesy of io9

mindblowingscience:

How archer fish gun down prey from a distance

Archer fish are the sharpshooters of the animal world, capable of hitting prey from metres away with pinpoint accuracy. The fish, Toxotes jaculatrix, which live in mangroves in southern and southeast Asia, achieve this by compressing their gill covers, and forcing water through a ‘gun barrel’ made by their tongue and the roof of their mouth.

To determine how the fish aim these water cannons, animal physiologists Peggy Gerullis and Stefan Schuster, who are both at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, trained the fish to fire at specific targets. They then used a high-speed camera to film the animals as they shot at targets of different heights. The researchers found that the fish adjusted the speed of the jets so that they were most focused and forceful just before reaching a target.

To do this, the archer fish controlled their water jets by adjusting the rate at which they opened and closed their mouths. When they needed to hit a faraway target 60 centimetres above the water, the fish sprayed water for a longer period of time, opening their mouth more gradually, than when aiming for a target 20 cm above the water. Gerullis and Schuster report their results in Current Biology1.

Journal Reference:

Gerullis, P. & Schuster, S. Curr. Biol. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.07.059 (2014).

Animated gif courtesy of io9