Science & Technology


'Something is rotten in the state of Denmark': Russia's Academy of Sciences may elect businessmen, politicians

Certain Russian politicians and businessmen could be elected members of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), a leading Russian business daily said Monday.

Kommersant said that Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin, leading banker Garegin Tosunyan, Khabarovsk Region governor Viktor Ishayev and senator Gleb Fetisov would be likely to seek election to the RAS.

"I believe if a person occupies a public position and is a good academic, he should not be banned from becoming an RAS member," academician Alexander Chubaryan said.
Light Saber

Laser Beam Believed To Set Record For Intensity

If you could hold a giant magnifying glass in space and focus all the sunlight shining toward Earth onto one grain of sand, that concentrated ray would approach the intensity of a new laser beam made in a University of Michigan laboratory.

Sheep in human clothing - scientists reveal our flock mentality

Have you ever arrived somewhere and wondered how you got there? Scientists at the University of Leeds believe they may have found the answer, with research that shows that humans flock like sheep and birds, subconsciously following a minority of individuals.

Scientist postulates 4 aspects of 'humaniqueness' differentiating human and animal cognition

Shedding new light on the great cognitive rift between humans and animals, a Harvard University scientist has synthesized four key differences in human and animal cognition into a hypothesis on what exactly differentiates human and animal thought.

In new work presented for the first time at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Marc Hauser, professor of psychology, biological anthropology, and organismic and evolutionary biology in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, presents his theory of "humaniqueness," the factors that make human cognition special. He presents four evolved mechanisms of human thought that give us access to a wide range of information and the ability to find creative solutions to new problems based on access to this information.

"Animals share many of the building blocks that comprise human thought, but paradoxically, there is a great cognitive gap between humans and animals," Hauser says. "By looking at key differences in cognitive abilities, we find the elements of human cognition that are uniquely human. The challenge is to identify which systems animals and human share, which are unique, and how these systems interact and interface with one another."

MIT: No easy answers in evolution of human language

The evolution of human speech was far more complex than is implied by some recent attempts to link it to a specific gene, says Robert Berwick, professor of computational linguistics at MIT.

Berwick will describe his ideas about language in a session at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Sunday, Feb. 17. The session is called "Mind of a Toolmaker," and explores the use of evolutionary research in understanding human abilities.

Some researchers in recent years have speculated that mutations in a gene called Foxp2 might have played a fundamental role in the evolution of human language. That was based on research showing that the gene seems to be connected to language ability because some mutations to that gene produce specific impairments to language use, and because our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees, lack both these gene mutations and the capacity for language. But the claim that the gene mutation is directly connected to the development of language is very unlikely to be right, says Berwick, who holds appointments in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

Little green and salty men: Early Mars 'too salty' for life

The Red Planet was too salty to sustain life for much of its history, according to the latest evidence gathered by one of the US rovers on Mars' surface.

High concentration of minerals in water on early Mars would have made it inhospitable to even the toughest microbes, a leading Nasa expert says.

Clues preserved in rocks that were once awash with water suggest the environment was both acidic and briny.

Experts said the findings 'tightened the noose' on hopes of life on Mars
Magic Wand

France: Brittany's ancient stones said to be erected by giants, haunted by fairies

Carnac, France - The rows of ancient standing stones stretch more than 900 metres amid the rolling countryside of southern Brittany.

Jutting out of the ground in a variety of bizarre shapes - some look like whale heads covered with moss and lichen, others like abstract sculptures carved by the wind and rain over the millennia - the nearly 1,100 stones form an extraordinary panorama.

©Corel Photography
This is photograph of the rows and rows of standing stones, Menhirs, in Carnac.
Black Cat

Machines To Achieve Human-level Artificial Intelligence By 2029?

Machines will achieve human-level artificial intelligence by 2029, a leading US inventor has predicted.

Humanity is on the brink of advances that will see tiny robots implanted in people's brains to make them more intelligent said engineer Ray Kurzweil.

He said machines and humans would eventually merge through devices implanted in the body to boost intelligence and health.

Comment: What Ray Kurzweil seems to fail to realize, for whatever unknown reasons, is that there are at least two kinds of "humans" on the planet today. One has a conscience and the other does not. Therefore to think that machines could somehow be programmed to include 'emotional intelligence' is probably incredibly short-sighted. Without a significant seed of a soul any 'emotional intelligence' would probably turn out to be nothing more than a complex set of programs that vastly pale in comparison to a genuine human being's conscience. Therefore it's likely that such machines could become sociopathic if not not psychopathic.

The potential for such nanotech is incredibly scary. Imagine waking up one day as your normal self. Then you have a glass of water, unaware that you've just swallowed water containing nanotech that will transform you into who knows what...

When psychopaths have complete control of nearly everything - as they certainly do in today's world - any technological advances will surely be used to their advantage, especially if that technology can be used to take control of those of us who have a conscience.


Top Scientists Want Research Free From Politics

Boston - Leading U.S. scientists called on Congress Thursday to make sure the next president does not do what they say the George W. Bush Administration has done: censor, suppress and falsify important environmental and health research.

The Spinning Magnet Of A Sun-Like Star

An international group of astronomers that includes the University of Hawaii's Evgenya Shkolnik reported today that they have discovered that the sun-like star tau Bootis flipped its magnetic field from north to south sometime during the last year.

star tau Bootis
©Karen Teramura (UH IfA)
The magnetic field of the sun-like star tau Bootis has flipped its north and south poles, the first time this has been observed in a star other than our sun. The shortened cycle of this event may be due to interactions with its nearby massive planet.