Especially when nuclear weapons are involved and you don’t—you can’t—know what the enemy is up to, and you’re scared. Then it helps (it helps a lot) to be calm.
The world owes an enormous debt to a quiet, steady Russian naval officer who probably saved my life. And yours. And everyone you know. Even those of you who weren’t yet born. I want to tell his story …
It’s October 1962, the height of the Cuban missile crisis, and there’s a Soviet submarine in the Caribbean that’s been spotted by the American Navy. President Kennedy has blockaded Cuba. No sea traffic is permitted through.
The sub is hiding in the ocean, and the Americans are dropping depth charges left and right of the hull. Inside, the sub is rocking, shaking with each new explosion. What the Americans don’t know is that this sub has a tactical nuclear torpedo on board, available to launch, and that the Russian captain is asking himself, Shall I fire?
The blind cavefish can actually walk and crawl up waterfalls like a four-footed animal; researchers are calling it a major discovery.
It walks, it crawls, it’s a blind cave-dwelling fish that lives in Thailand and scientists have never seen anything like it before. Welcome to the world, little Cryptotora thamicola.
“Fishes have adapted a number of different behaviors to move out of the water, but none have been described as being able to walk on land with a tetrapod-like gait,” notes the study in which the new species is described. “Here we show that the blind cavefish C. thamicola walks and climbs waterfalls with a salamander-like diagonal-couplets lateral sequence gait and has evolved a robust pelvic girdle that shares morphological features associated with terrestrial vertebrates.” Wow!
The researchers from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), who observed C. thamicola walking on rough and smooth wet surfaces while out of water, say that the discovery has implications for understanding how land-walking anatomy evolved during the transition from fins to limbs, which began around 420 million years ago.
Of the novel anatomy seen in C. thamicola, researcher on the study Brooke E. Flammang says, “It possesses morphological features that have previously only been attributed to tetrapods. The pelvis and vertebral column of this fish allow it to support its body weight against gravity and provide large sites for muscle attachment for walking.” She adds, “This research gives us insight into the plasticity of the fish body plan and the convergent morphological features that were seen in the evolution of tetrapods.”
Lee Sedol had seen all the tricks. He knew all the moves. As one of the world’s best and most experienced players of the complex board game Go, it was difficult to surprise him. But halfway through his first match against AlphaGo, the artificially intelligent player developed by Google DeepMind, Lee was already flabbergasted.
AlphaGo’s moves throughout the competition, which it won earlier this month, four games to one, weren’t just notable for their effectiveness. The AI also came up with entirely new ways of approaching a game that originated in China two or three millennia ago and has been played obsessively since then. By their fourth game, even Lee was thinking differently about Go and its deceptively simple grid.
The AlphaGo-Lee Sedol matchup was an intense contest between human and artificial intelligence. But it also contained several moves made by both man and machine that were outlandish, brilliant, creative, foolish, and even beautiful. Deconstructing the gameplay helps explain why AlphaGo’s achievement is even more notable than it may seem on the surface and points to a fascinating future for AI.
In December of 1973, the prestigious British scientific journal Nature published a two-page article titled, “Is the Universe a Vacuum Fluctuation?” by the 33-year-old American physicist Edward P. Tryon of Hunter College of the City University of New York.
It was a bold theory, maybe even too daring. For what he was saying no one had ever said. And what he was saying was quite easy for any physicist to understand, and yet still nearly impossible for any physicist to believe or accept.
For Tryon was advocating the surreal idea that our very large and very old universe had been a tiny particle that had spontaneously emerged from nothing because of the laws of physics; and because his theory accepted the Big Bang model, this would mean that he was also arguing that this tiny particle somehow came to grow to be our present-day universe.
And he was also making the argument that this “simplest and most appealing imaginable” of the Big Bang models could be understood within “the framework of conventional science.”
What existed before our universe existed? Tryon, like almost all physicists, assumes a vacuum existed. In regular words, an empty space, with nothing in it. Empty space is nothing to most people, but to a physicist empty space is never truly empty and actually has something in it.
And if the laws of physics are applied to this vacuum, then quantum field theory and quantum mechanics also come into play. And so Tryon will be transferring our knowledge of our quantum world to this quantum world that existed before our universe existed.
Quantum mechanics and quantum field theory deal with things at the atomic and subatomic level. And the rules that exist at or below the atomic level are very strange and almost even nonsensical. At this level everything is unstable, energy changes constantly. And because of the laws of quantum mechanics, virtual particles pop in and out of existence from the emptiness of space. These virtual particles exist and then disappear very quickly. And so in our present quantum world, wherever there is space, even empty space, “nothing,” these particles exist. And so even in “nothing,” something does exist.
Tryon believes that in the empty vacuum before our universe existed, virtual particles also existed. But a big difference is that in the vacuum before our universe came to be, virtual particles don’t just pop in and out of existence. Sometimes, one of these particles will pop into the vacuum and instead of instantly popping out of existence, grow into a universe like ours. But Tryon does admit “vacuum fluctuations on the scale of our universe are probably quite rare.”
Tryon doesn’t give a reason for “how a vacuum fluctuation could occur on such a grand scale.” But he does say “that the laws of physics place no limit on the scale of vacuum fluctuations.”
Tryon also mentions that this vacuum is actually “the vacuum of some larger space which our universe was imbedded.” He seems to be saying our universe is really part of a bigger universe, or maybe a multilayered universe. He does not go into any more details of what this thing is, leaving it vague to interpretation.
And this quantum fluctuation of the vacuum was without purpose, just an accident. It just happened because this is what occurs in the quantum world. He makes Aristotle’s Prime Mover a simple (but scientific) accident. And paradoxically, the basis of this accident without causality (or I should say seems without causality?) he believes is all grounded in the scientific laws of physics that seem to be based on causality! And this is why he ends up saying: “In answer to the question of why it happened, I offer the modest proposal that our Universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time.”
via Joshua Kennon:
Despite wanting to support him, after reading Senator Sanders’ economic and tax plan, I have come to the same conclusion that most mainstream economists have. Only, I’m going to be more blunt about it. You know I’m not a fan of cursing and I try to be as even-minded as I can so please absorb what I am about to say to you in all seriousness because that is how it is intended. This is not a joke. I do not say this lightly. I am not kidding.
My verdict: When it comes to economic and tax policy, Bernie Sanders is bat shit crazy.
I wince even saying it so vulgarly but there’s no other way to quite emphasize how insane this man’s proposals are. I don’t say that to provide a sense of hyperbole. I’m not trying to generate an emotional response. I’m telling you that I think the man’s economic and tax policies are deranged. In a real sense, he is a sort of anti-Obama. Whereas President Obama’s proposals are ultimately workable and sound policy, even if I feel like they go too far at times on the revenue raising side before he’s forced to compromise with Congress, what Senator Sanders wants to do is not only unworkable, it’s immoral. It’s disgusting. It is nothing but the recycled, failed policies of the 1970’s; garbage that will ultimately harm the poor and middle class. It is so unbelievably, catastrophically bad that I cannot imagine anyone but the economic illiterate or someone so deeply vested in political ideology that they’ve lost all semblance of objectivity supporting this.
It is abundantly clear why none of the Democrats would work with him in the time he has been in the Senate to get anything meaningful done.
it is abundantly clear why none of the Republicans would work with him in the time he has been in the Senate to get anything meaningful done.
It is abundantly clear why he has a shockingly and inappropriately small net worth and tens of thousands of dollars in personal credit card debt despite having a very lucrative six-figure income for many, many years now.
He cannot be trusted with money. He cannot be trusted with the nation’s economy. He cannot be allowed to get anywhere near the economic and regulatory framework of the greatest wealth-producing system in global history. No matter how much I agree with him on much of everything else, I will not support this kind of lunacy.
To put it bluntly, Bernie Sanders’ tax plan does not just “soak the rich”. He all but declares war on the both the middle and upper middle classes as well as the self-employed. By way of illustration, if you are a reasonably successful dentist living in a suburb who owns your own practice, you are going to get mauled to such a degree that it will result in a materially lower standard of living for you, your spouse, your children, and your grandchildren. It will result in a gargantuan increase in the size and power of the government – the very government everyone is complaining is already too corrupt! This is true even accounting for the theoretically lower cost of healthcare.
Specifics matter so let’s get into some of the details:
The first rule of fantasy football is “No one gives a damn about your fantasy team!” But I’m not here to tell you about my players, rather I’m going to once again describe the process that wins 75% of games.
First the results. I play in two leagues, a “Work” league and a “Money” league. Both are 12-man leagues. The Work League is competitive, 12 adults who watch a lot of football. The Money league even more so, with about $2,000 on the line each season. Waiver wire pickups are not easy in either league.
This season I’m Super Bowl Champion of the Work League (2nd year in row) and finished 2nd place in my Money league.
I’ve been playing for 3 years in the Work League. My 3 seasons have finished 3rd Place/SuperBowl/SuperBowl. This is my 2nd season in the Money League and I’ve finished 3rd Place / 2nd Place.
Thru the last 3 seasons I’ve won more than 75% of games combining both leagues. My secret is two data scientists, Boris Chen and Dylan Lerch. I did a full write-up of their methods in this article:
Good luck next season. And stay tuned for my NCAA Basketball methodology, coming in March! I’m a money-winner in that as well.
In this letter, Richard Feynman argues the worthwhile problems are the ones you can really contribute something to.
No problem is too small or too trivial if we can really do something about it.