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March for Science Melbourne

March for Science RallyJoin us in Melbourne on April 22nd to champion science as a pillar of human prosperity!  This will be huge – invite everyone to come – yes, everyone!

WHEN: EARTH DAY, 22nd April 2017
WHERE: Melbourne (Schedule & Location TBA)
WHY: Among other things, a global event bringing together people from all walks of life who believe we need more evidence and reason in our political process.

“The March for Science champions publicly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good, and for political leaders and policymakers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest.”

The March for Science in Melbourne will be on the 22nd of April.  Please join the meetup group and tweet about it – push it out on social media!

The global mission statement is as follows: “THE MARCH FOR SCIENCE CHAMPIONS PUBLICLY FUNDED AND PUBLICLY COMMUNICATED SCIENCE AS A PILLAR OF HUMAN FREEDOM AND PROSPERITY. WE UNITE AS A DIVERSE, NONPARTISAN GROUP TO CALL FOR SCIENCE THAT UPHOLDS THE COMMON GOOD, AND FOR POLITICAL LEADERS AND POLICYMAKERS TO ENACT EVIDENCE-BASED POLICIES IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST.”

SCIENCE, NOT SILENCE

Recent world events have inspired us to march in our cities to ask our leaders to use science to make decisions through evidence, not ignorance, and to ensure science and scientific literacy is accessible and achievable to all.

 

Robert S. Young thinks it’s a bad idea – what do you think?

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Check out the main facebook page (connected to the March in Washington DC). And the Main Website!

Extending Life is Not Enough

Dr Randal Koene covers the motivation for human technological augmentation and reasons to go beyond biological life extension.

randal_koene_squareCompetition is an inescapable occurrence in the animate and even in the inanimate universe. To give our minds the flexibility to transfer and to operate in different substrates bestows upon our species the most important competitive advantage.” I am a neuroscientist and neuroengineer who is currently the Science Director at Foundation 2045, and the Lead Scientist at Kernel, and I head the organization carboncopies.org, which is the outreach and roadmapping organization for the development of substrate-independent minds (SIM) and also previously participated in the ambitious and fascinating efforts of the nanotechnology startup Halcyon Molecular in Silicon Valley.

Slides of talk online here
Video of Talk:

Points discussed in the talk:
1. Biological Life-Extension is Not Enough Randal A. Koene Carboncopies.org
2. PERSONAL
3. No one wants to live longer just to live longer. Motivation informs Method.
4. Having an Objective, a Goal, requires that you have some notion of success.
5. Creating (intelligent) machines that have the capabilities we do not — is not as good as being able to experience them ourselves… Imagine… creating/playing music. Imagine… being the kayak.Imagine… perceiving the background radiation of the universe.
6. Is being out of the loop really your goal?
7. Near-term goals: Extended lives without expanded minds are in conflict with creative development.
8. Social
9. Gene survival is extremely dependent on an environment — it is unlikely to survive many changes.Worse… gene replication does not sustain that which we care most about!
10. Is CTGGAGTAC better than GTTGACTGAC? We are vessels for that game — but for the last10,000 years something has been happening!
11. Certain future experiences are desirable, others are not — these are your perspectives, the memes you champion…Death keeps stealing our champions, our experts.
12. Too early to do uploading? – No! The big perspective is relevant now. We don’t like myopic thinking in our politicians, lets not be myopic about world issues ourselves.
13. SPECIES
14. Life-extension in biology may increase the fragility of our species & civilization… More people? – Resources. Less births? – Fewer novel perspectives. Expansion? – Environmental limitation.
15. Biological life-extension within the same evolutionary niche = further specialization to the same performance “over-training” in conflict with generalization
16. Aubrey de Grey: Ultimately, desires “uploading”
17. TECHNICAL
18. Significant biological life-extension is incredibly difficult and beset by threats. Reality vs. popular perception.
19. Life-extension and Substrate-Independence are two different objectives
20. Developing out of a “catchment area” (S. Gildert) may demand iterations of exploration — and exploration involves risk.Hard-wired delusions and drives. What would an AGI do? Which types of AGI would exist in the long run?
21. “Uploading” is just one step of many — but a necessary step — for a truly advanced species
22. Thank You carboncopies.orgrandal.a.koene@carboncopies.org

http://www.carboncopies.org/singularity-summit-australia-2012
http://2012.singularitysummit.com.au/2012/11/randal-koene-extending-life-is-not-enough/

There is a short promo-interview for the Singularity Summit AU 2012 conference that Adam Ford did with Dr. Koene, though unfortunately the connection was a bit unreliable, which is noticeable in the video:

Most of those videos are available through the SciFuture YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheRationalFuture

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Review of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari – Steve Fuller

Sapiens, a breif history of humankind - Yuval Noah HarariMy sociology of knowledge students read Yuval Harari’s bestselling first book, Sapiens, to think about the right frame of reference for understanding the overall trajectory of the human condition. Homo Deus follows the example of Sapiens, using contemporary events to launch into what nowadays is called ‘big history’ but has been also called ‘deep history’ and ‘long history’. Whatever you call it, the orientation sees the human condition as subject to multiple overlapping rhythms of change which generate the sorts of ‘events’ that are the stuff of history lessons. But Harari’s history is nothing like the version you half remember from school.

In school historical events were explained in terms more or less recognizable to the agents involved. In contrast, Harari reaches for accounts that scientifically update the idea of ‘perennial philosophy’. Aldous Huxley popularized this phrase in his quest to seek common patterns of thought in the great world religions which could be leveraged as a global ethic in the aftermath of the Second World War. Harari similarly leverages bits of genetics, ecology, neuroscience and cognitive science to advance a broadly evolutionary narrative. But unlike Darwin’s version, Harari’s points towards the incipient apotheosis of our species; hence, the book’s title.

This invariably means that events are treated as symptoms if not omens of the shape of things to come. Harari’s central thesis is that whereas in the past we cowered in the face of impersonal natural forces beyond our control, nowadays our biggest enemy is the one that faces us in the mirror, which may or may not be able within our control. Thus, the sort of deity into which we are evolving is one whose superhuman powers may well result in self-destruction. Harari’s attitude towards this prospect is one of slightly awestruck bemusement.

Here Harari equivocates where his predecessors dared to distinguish. Writing with the bracing clarity afforded by the Existentialist horizons of the Cold War, cybernetics founder Norbert Wiener declared that humanity’s survival depends on knowing whether what we don’t know is actually trying to hurt us. If so, then any apparent advance in knowledge will always be illusory. As for Harari, he does not seem to see humanity in some never-ending diabolical chess match against an implacable foe, as in The Seventh Seal. Instead he takes refuge in the so-called law of unintended consequences. So while the shape of our ignorance does indeed shift as our knowledge advances, it does so in ways that keep Harari at a comfortable distance from passing judgement on our long term prognosis.

Homo Deus YuvalThis semi-detachment makes Homo Deus a suave but perhaps not deep read of the human condition. Consider his choice of religious precedents to illustrate that we may be approaching divinity, a thesis with which I am broadly sympathetic. Instead of the Abrahamic God, Harari tends towards the ancient Greek and Hindu deities, who enjoy both superhuman powers and all too human foibles. The implication is that to enhance the one is by no means to diminish the other. If anything, it may simply make the overall result worse than had both our intellects and our passions been weaker. Such an observation, a familiar pretext for comedy, wears well with those who are inclined to read a book like this only once.

One figure who is conspicuous by his absence from Harari’s theology is Faust, the legendary rogue Christian scholar who epitomized the version of Homo Deus at play a hundred years ago in Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West. What distinguishes Faustian failings from those of the Greek and Hindu deities is that Faust’s result from his being neither as clever nor as loving as he thought. The theology at work is transcendental, perhaps even Platonic.

In such a world, Harari’s ironic thesis that future humans might possess virtually perfect intellects yet also retain quite undisciplined appetites is a non-starter. If anything, Faust’s undisciplined appetites point to a fundamental intellectual deficiency that prevents him from exercising a ‘rational will’, which is the mark of a truly supreme being. Faust’s sense of his own superiority simply leads him down a path of ever more frustrated and destructive desire. Only the one true God can put him out of his misery in the end.

In contrast, if there is ‘one true God’ in Harari’s theology, it goes by the name of ‘Efficiency’ and its religion is called ‘Dataism’. Efficiency is familiar as the dimension along which technological progress is made. It amounts to discovering how to do more with less. To recall Marshall McLuhan, the ‘less’ is the ‘medium’ and the ‘more’ is the ‘message’. However, the metaphysics of efficiency matters. Are we talking about spending less money, less time and/or less energy?

It is telling that the sort of efficiency which most animates Harari’s account is the conversion of brain power to computer power. To be sure, computers can outperform humans on an increasing range of specialised tasks. Moreover, computers are getting better at integrating the operations of other technologies, each of which also typically replaces one or more human functions. The result is the so-called Internet of Things. But does this mean that the brain is on the verge of becoming redundant?

Those who say yes, most notably the ‘Singularitarians’ whose spiritual home is Silicon Valley, want to translate the brain’s software into a silicon base that will enable it to survive and expand indefinitely in a cosmic Internet of Things. Let’s suppose that such a translation becomes feasible. The energy requirements of such scaled up silicon platforms might still be prohibitive. For all its liabilities and mysteries, the brain remains the most energy efficient medium for encoding and executing intelligence. Indeed, forward facing ecologists might consider investing in a high-tech agronomy dedicated to cultivating neurons to function as organic computers – ‘Stem Cell 2.0’, if you will.

However, Harari does not see this possible future because he remains captive to Silicon Valley’s version of determinism, which prescribes a migration from carbon to silicon for anything worth preserving indefinitely. It is against this backdrop that he flirts with the idea that a computer-based ‘superintelligence’ might eventually find humans surplus to requirements in a rationally organized world. Like other Singularitarians, Harari approaches the matter in the style of a 1950s B-movie fan who sees the normative universe divided between ‘us’ (the humans) and ‘them’ (the non-humans).

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

The bravest face to put on this intuition is that computers will transition to superintelligence so soon – ‘exponentially’ as the faithful say — that ‘us vs. them’ becomes an operative organizing principle. More likely and messier for Harari is that this process will be dragged out. And during that time Homo sapiens will divide between those who identify with their emerging machine overlords, who are entitled to human-like rights, and those who cling to the new acceptable face of racism, a ‘carbonist’ ideology which would privilege organic life above any silicon-based translations or hybridizations. Maybe Harari will live long enough to write a sequel to Homo Deus to explain how this battle might pan out.

NOTE ON PUBLICATION: Homo Deus is published in September 2016 by Harvil Secker, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Fuller would like to thank The Literary Review for originally commissioning this review. It will appear in a subsequent edition of the magazine and is published here with permission.

Video Interview with Steve Fuller covering the Homo Deus book

Steve fuller discusses the new book Homo Deus, how it relates to the general transhumanist philosophy and movementfactors around the success of these ideas going mainstream, Yuval Noah Harari’s writing style, why there has been a bias within academia (esp sociology) to steer away from ideas which are less well established in history (and this is important because our successfully navigating the future will require a lot of new ideas), existential risk, and we contrast a posthuman future with a future dominated by an AI superintelligence.

Yuval Harari’s books

– ‘Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow’: https://www.amazon.com/Homo-Deus-Brief-History-Tomorrow-ebook/dp/B019CGXTP0/

– ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’: https://www.amazon.com/Sapiens-Humankind-Yuval-Noah-Harari/dp/0062316095/

Discussion on the Coursera course ‘A Brief History of Humankind’ (which I took a few years ago): https://www.coursetalk.com/providers/coursera/courses/a-brief-history-of-humankind

NASA Provides Free Access to All Published Research

nasaLogo-570x450NASA recently announced that it is providing free open access to all its published research – “Public access to NASA-funded research data now is just a click away, with the launch of a new agency public access portal. The creation of the NASA-Funded Research Results portal on NASA.gov reflects the agency’s ongoing commitment to providing broad public access to science data.”

Science Alert stated “The free online archive comes in response to a new NASA policy, which requires that any NASA-funded research articles in peer-reviewed journals be publicly accessible within one year of publication.”

That’s pretty exciting stuff!
“At NASA, we are celebrating this opportunity to extend access to our extensive portfolio of scientific and technical publications,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman. “Through open access and innovation we invite the global community to join us in exploring Earth, air, and space.”

NASA now requires articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and papers in juried conference proceedings be publicly accessible via the agency’s PubSpace: https://www.nihms.nih.gov/db/sub.cgi

“Making our research data easier to access will greatly magnify the impact of our research,” said NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan. “As scientists and engineers, we work by building upon a foundation laid by others.”

Dwayne Brown at NASA headquaters in Washington writes “The NASA-Funded Research Results portal is in response to a 2013 request from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, directing science-funding agencies to develop plans to increase access to the results of federally-funded research. NASA’s public access plan was developed in coordination with the science and technology research community across the agency. NASA will continue to consult with the scientific community, academic institutions, publishers and other federal agencies to implement this plan and increase access to research results.”

“Making our research data easier to access will greatly magnify the impact of our research,” said NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan. “As scientists and engineers, we work by building upon a foundation laid by others.”

For more information, please visit: http://www.nasa.gov/open/researchaccess

Nasa GlobeReferences:
NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-unveils-new-public-web-portal-for-research-results

Science alert: http://www.sciencealert.com/nasa-just-made-all-the-scientific-research-it-funds-available-for-free

Application Driven Science vs Curiosity Inspired Science

Given that it’s hard to know what will be found through scientific discovery should commercial application be the only reason to do scientific research?
In this video Sheila Patek* said “Discovery-based research is most useful when new knowledge is sought for its own sake” – yes I agree with this [1], but fundamental scientific discovery-basted research± is one aspect of the scientific enterprise.
If you, as I do, buy into well researched notions that we are facing environmental, social, economic and technological risks – facing problems that directed science and engineering could provide answers to, it seems that at least in principle there should be a _balance_ between application-directed research for the sake of solving immediate known problems and novelty-oriented discovery research for the sake of new-knowledge (that once understood could actually help solve ‘real-world’ problems)[2].

Why knowledge for the pure sake of knowing is good enough to justify scientific research

[1] I’ve argued elsewhere that fundamental scientific discovery-based research is culturally useful µ (as a source of awe & wonder etc), as well as being very useful in that historically it has enabled putting to purpose ‘unknown unknowns’, transforming them into very useful real world applications – applications which seem difficult or impossible to anticipate until we get up close.

[2] The question then becomes understanding and refining this balance. Science is underfunded everywhere – it shouldn’t be the case that huge funding trade-offs should have to be made between goal oriented and novelty-based scientific research while we live in a world where there are huge piles of resources being spent on other wasteful enterprises.

*1 Duke University biologist Sheila Patek has faced criticism from lawmakers over her research into mantis shrimp and trap-jaw ants, with some calling her government-funded studies a waste of taxpayer money. But according to Patek, not only do her findings have important practical applications, but scientific inquiry is most fruitful when knowledge is sought for its own sake, not to justify budgets.

± Here I have treated ‘Discovery Science‘ in a similar sense to ‘fundamental scientific research‘.

µ Science focused on curiosity may – in the far future, be an imperative – we may never want an end to novelty, we may wish to mine for ever more effective axiologies, search for new & interesting models of value as opposed to being satisfied with current conceptions of what counts as valuable.

Brian Greene on Artificial Intelligence, the Importance of Fundamental Physics, Alien Life, and the Possible Future of Our Civilization

March 14th was Albert Einstein’s birthday, and also PI day, so it was a fitting day to be interviewing well known theoretical physicist and string theorist Brian Greene – the author of a number of books including, The Elegant Universe, Icarus at the Edge of Time, The Fabric of the Cosmos, and The Hidden Reality!
Think-Inc-logo2Many thanks to Suzi and Desh at THINKINC for helping organize this interview & for bringing Brian Greene to Australia for a number of shows (March 16 in Perth, March 18 in Sydney and March 19 in Melbourne) – check out www.thinkinc.org.au for more info!

Audio recording of the interview:

About the Interview with Brian Greene

Brian Greene discusses implications Artificial Intelligence and news of DeepMind AI (AlphaGo) beating the world grand champion in the board game Go.  He then discusses physics string theory, the territory of opinion on grand unifying theories of physics, the importance of supporting fundamental science, the possibility of alien life, the possible future of our space-faring civilization and of course gravitational waves!

In answer to the question on the importance of supporting fundamental research in science, Brain Greene said:

I tell them to wake up! Wake up and recognize that fundamental science has radically changed the way they live their lives today. If any of these individuals have a cell phone, or a personal computer, or perhaps they themselves or loved ones has been saved by an MRI machine.. I mean any of these devices rely on integrated circuits, which they themselves rely on quantum physics – so IF those folks who were in charge in the 1920s had have said, ‘hey you guys working on quantum physics, that doesn’t seem to be relevant to anything in the world around as so were going to cut your funding – well those people would have short circuited on of the greatest revolutions that our species has gone through – the information age, the technological age – so the bottom line is we need to support fundamental research because we know historically that when you gain a deep understanding of how things work – we can often leverage that to then manipulate the world around us in spectacular ways! And that needs to be where our fundamental focus remains – in science!

 

Layered art of Brian Greene, background and series titleBrian Randolph Greene is an American theoretical physicist and string theorist. He has been a professor at Columbia University since 1996 and chairman of the World Science Festival since co-founding it in 2008. Greene has worked on mirror symmetry, relating two different Calabi–Yau manifolds (concretely, relating the conifold to one of its orbifolds). He also described the flop transition, a mild form of topology change, showing that topology in string theory can change at the conifold point.

Greene has become known to a wider audience through his books for the general public, The Elegant Universe, Icarus at the Edge of Time, The Fabric of the Cosmos, The Hidden Reality, and related PBS television specials. He also appeared on The Big Bang Theory episode “The Herb Garden Germination“, as well as the films Frequency and The Last Mimzy. He is currently a member of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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Aubrey de Grey – Artificial Organs as Replacement Parts to aid in Defeating Aging

Aubrey de Grey discusses using artificial organs and synthetic devices as replacement parts to aid in defeating aging. (Also see this interview where Aubrey discusses some of the various approaches that SENS therapy will likely be delivered.)


Replacing a failing organ with a healthy one can sidestep the need for the various SENS therapies for that organ only – however there are two limitations – 1) much of the body is made up of non-transplantable organs, 2) transplanting organs or tissue engineering involves invasive surgery, something that involves risks if it is done too much.
Organ transplantation/Tissue engineering is useful today and will be useful when early forms of SENS delivery become available – however there will continue to be a very high priority in approaches that mitigate the need for invasive organ transplantation.
Non-biological organs are useful today – for instance the cochlear implant – and there will continue to be a place for them. Though in the long run biological organs will likely work more effectively because they are ‘evolved’ for that purpose.


Aubrey de Grey is the chief science officer of the SENS Research Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) public charity that is transforming the way the world researches and treats age-related disease.

The research SENS funds at universities around the world and at SENS own Research Center uses regenerative medicine to repair the damage underlying the diseases of aging. The goal of SENS is to help build the industry that will cure these diseases.


Aubrey de Grey was interviewed by Adam Ford in 2012.

Here is a playlist of all the interview sections:

AGI Progress & Impediments – Progress in Artificial Intelligence Panel

Panelists: Ben Goertzel, David Chalmers, Steve Omohundro, James Newton-Thomas – held at the Singularity Summit Australia in 2011

Panelists discuss approaches to AGI, progress and impediments now and in the future.
Ben Goertzel:
Ben Goertzle with backdrop of headsBrain Emulation, Broad level roadmap simulation, bottleneck, lack of imaging technology, we don’t know what level of precision we need to reverse engineer biological intelligence. Ed Boyed – optimal brain imageing.
Not by Brain emulation (engineering/comp sci/cognitive sci), bottleneck is funding. People in the field believe/feel they know how to do it. To prove this, they need to integrate their architectures which looks like a big project. Takes a lot of money, but not as much as something like Microsoft Word.

David Chalmers (time 03:42):
DavidChalmersWe don’t know which of the two approaches. Though what form the singularity will take will likely be dependent on the approach we use to build AGI. We don’t understand the theory yet. Most don’t think we will have a perfect molecular scanner that scans the brain and its chemical constituents. 25 Years ago David Chalmers worked in Douglass Hofstadter’s AI lab, but his expertise in AI is now out of date. To get to Human Level AI by brute force or through cognitive psychology knows that the cog-sci is not in very good shape. Third approach is a hybrid of ruffly brain augmentation (through technology we are already using like ipads and computers etc) and technological extension and uploading. If using brain augmentation through tech and uploading as a first step in a Singularity then it is including Humans in the equation along with humanities values which may help shape a Singularity with those values.

Steve Omohundro (time 08:08):
steve_omohundro_headEarly in history AI, there was a distinction: The Neats and the Scruffies. John McCarthy (Stanford AI Lab) believed in mathematically precise logical representations – this shaped a lot of what Steve thought about how programming should be done. Marvin Minsky (MIT Lab) believed in exploring neural nets and self organising systems and the approach of throwing things together to see how it self-organises into intelligence. Both approaches are needed: the logical, mathematically precise, neat approach – and – the probabilistic, self-organising, fuzzy, learning approach, the scruffy. They have to come together. Theorem proving without any explorative aspect probably wont succeed. Purely Neural net based simulations can’t represent semantics well, need to combine systems with full semantics and systems with the ability to adapt to complex environments.

James Newton-Thomas (time 09:57)
james.newton-thomasJames has been playing with Neural-nets and has been disappointed with them not being thinks that Augmentation is the way forward. The AI problem is going to be easier to solve if we are smarter to solve it. Conferences such as this help infuse us with a collective empowerment of the individuals. There is an impediment – we are already being dehumanised with our Ipad, where the reason why we are having a conversation with others is a fact about our being part of a group and not about the information that can be looked up via an IPad. We need to careful in our approach so that we are able to maintain our humanity whilst gaining the advantages of the augmentation.

General Discussion (time 12:05):
David Chalmers: We are already becoming cyborgs in a sense by interacting with tech in our world. the more literal cyborg approach we are working on now. Though we are not yet at the point where the technology is commercialization to in principle allow a strong literal cyborg approach. Ben Goertzel: Though we could progress with some form of brain vocalization (picking up words directly from the brain), allowing to think a google query and have the results directly added to our mind – thus bypassing our low bandwidth communication and getting at the information directly in our heads. To do all this …
Steve Omohundro: EEG is gaining a lot of interest to help with the Quantified Self – brain interfaces to help measure things about their body (though the hardware is not that good yet).
Ben Goertzel: Use of BCIs for video games – and can detect whether you are aroused and paying attention. Though the resolution is very course – hard to get fine grained brain state information through the skull. Cranial jacks will get more information. Legal systems are an impediment.
James NT: Alan Snyder using time altering magnetic fields in helmets that shut down certain areas of the brain, which effectively makes people smarter in narrower domains of skill. Can provide an idiot savant ability at the cost of the ability to generalize. The brain that becomes to specific at one task is doing so at the cost of others – the process of generalization.

Ben Goertzel, David Chalmers, Steve Omohundro - A Thought Experiment

Ben Goertzel, David Chalmers, Steve Omohundro – A Thought Experiment

Blockbuster Science! Tech investors reward ‘Breakthough Science’

Blockbuster Science! Its an awesome approach to incentivizing scientists – it’s great that people are applauding for stuff that really matters! People cheer at most ridiculous and inconsequential things – why not funnel this energy into science?

Next step, create high production shorts for real world advances in science (with a tinge of flair) – much like they do to promote blockbuster movies. NY Times stated : “Scientists don’t have the power of celebrities in American society. The Breakthrough Prize tries to change that”

Anne Wojcicki

Biologist Anne Wojcicki attends the 2016 Breakthrough Prize Ceremony

Yuri Milner

Entrepreneur and Investor Yuri Milner

“Yuri Milner, the Russian billionaire, and his high-tech Silicon Valley friends have awarded $29.5 million to seven scientists, a high school student, and a huge team of physics researchers for their varied science achievements.

Milner’s third annual Breakthrough Prizes were financed by his foundation with contributions from Sergey Brin of Google and his wife, 23&Me founder Anne Wojcicki; Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook; and Jack Ma of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Other prizes went to Ed Boyden, now at MIT, who was Deisseroth’s partner at Stanford developing optogenetics; Helen Hobbs, a University of Texas physician who discovered the roles that variant genes play in cholesterol and lipid levels leading to heart disease; John Hardy, a neuroscientist at University College in London, who discovered genetic mutations in the amyloid genes causing Alzheimer’s disease; and Svante Pääbo, the famed anthropologist at Germany’s Max Planck Institute, who sequenced the genes of Neanderthals and discovered traces of the vanished humans called Denisovans.” said David Perlman at SF Gate.

Yuri Milner did an inspiring interview with New Scientist on the positively huge impacts of fundamental research in science on society. ” If you go far enough into the future, a fundamental discovery leads to some new technology.”, said Yuri Milner.

Ed Boyden develops new strategies for analyzing and engineering brain circuits, using synthetic biology, nanotechnology, chemistry, electrical engineering, and optics to develop broadly applicable methodologies that reveal fundamental mechanisms of complex brain processes. A major goal of his current work is the development of technologies for controlling nerve cells using light – a powerful new technology known as optogenetics that is opening the door to new treatments for conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and mood disorders.

Ed Boyden develops new strategies for analyzing and engineering brain circuits, using synthetic biology, nanotechnology, chemistry, electrical engineering, and optics to develop broadly applicable methodologies that reveal fundamental mechanisms of complex brain processes. A major goal of his current work is the development of technologies for controlling nerve cells using light – a powerful new technology known as optogenetics that is opening the door to new treatments for conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and mood disorders.

Ed Boyden is on the closing Breakthrough Prize Panel Discussion hosted by Yuri Milner.

Will the breakthrough accomplishments in science one day outshine a season winning slam dunk?

Athletic heroes loom large in our imagination – though how often do we stop to think about brilliant scientists and the wonderful things they have achieved that make positive tractable difference in our lives and the world around us?

Elon Musk founder of Tesla and SpaceX said: “It is important to celebrate science and to create role models for science that kids want to emulate.. For the benefit of humanity, we want breakthroughs in science that help us improve standards of living, cure disease, make life better… I’d rather a super-smart, creative kid went into developing breakthrough technologies that improve the world rather than, say, went to Wall Street.”

I see this as a positive sign of a general warming to Enlightenment values and the idea that significant civilizational progress in improving the human condition through science.

BlockBuster-Science---Yuri-Milner

Lawrence Krauss – An update on Cosmology – How Big Bang Gravitational Waves Could Revolutionize Physics!

Lawrence Krauss – An update on Cosmology and thoughts on Education – Cosmologist with Attitude

How Big Bang Gravitational Waves Could Revolutionize Physics! Lawrence is well known for his critical thinking and promotion of science. He has appeared on Q & A among other shows. Lawrence Krauss is Director of the ASU Origins Project at Arizona State University and Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Physics.
Described by Scientific American as a unique scientific ‘public intellectual’, Krauss is a renowned theoretical physicist as well as one of the most well-known advocates for science worldwide. In addition to over 300 scientific publications, He has written nine books for a general audience, including the international bestsellers The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe From Nothing, with translations into over 20 languages. His research has focused on the intersection on cosmology and elementary particle physics, including general relativity and quantum gravity, the early universe, the origin of mass, neutrino astrophysics, and the long term future of the universe. He is the winner of numerous international awards, and is the only physicist to have received the major awards from all three US physics societies. In 2012, he was awarded The National Science Board’s Public Service Award for his many contributions. He frequently appears on TV and radio and contributes to newspapers and magazines, and is the subject of a new full-length feature film, The Unbelievers, which follows Krauss and Richard Dawkins around the world as they discuss science and reason.

The evening was put on by the Vic Skeptics & was held at Graduate House Conference Centre, 220 Leicester Street Carlton on Friday 29 August with proceedings beginning at 6:30pm.

Lawrence Krauss Vic Skeptics

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