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NLN

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  1. Hi folks. A bit of shameless self-promotion here, but I hope you'll find that it's worth it. I just finished an interview with Daniel Everett, a linguist with Illinois State University who has attracted a storm of controversy with this theory of language that contradicts Chomsky's Universal Language. The implications are profound for cognitive science, and for defining what makes us human. Machines Like Us interviews Daniel Everett I'd also like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a prosperous new year. All the best, Norm Nason
  2. NLN

    [Q] Gravity

    In layman terms, gravity is a natural phenomenon by which objects with mass attract one another. In everyday life, gravity is most commonly thought of as the agency which lends weight to objects with mass. Gravitation compels dispersed matter to coalesce, thus it accounts for the very existence of the Earth, the Sun, and most of the macroscopic objects in the universe. It is responsible for keeping the Earth and the other planets in their orbits around the Sun; for keeping the Moon in its orbit around the Earth, for the formation of tides; for convection (by which hot fluids rise); for heating
  3. In the recent election, California State ballot Proposition 8--eliminating same-sex marriage--posed complex ethical, legal, religious, and scientific questions. Proposition 8 is the California State ballot proposition that would amend the state Constitution, to limit marriage to unions between a man and a woman--overturning a recent California Supreme Court decision that had recognized same-sex marriage in California as a fundamental right. The official ballot title language for Proposition 8 was, "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry." On the day after the election, the results r
  4. I thought you folks might be interested in reading An Atheist's Creed, by physicist Mano Singham. It's an exceptional piece.
  5. I am of the frame of mind that, yes, HAL was conscious. And, just to be pedantic, HAL was featured in Aurhur C. Clarke's book before he was featured in Stanley Kubrick's film. That's not quite accurate. Kubrick and Clarke co-wrote the screenplay for 2001 before the book was written, then Clarke wrote the book while the movie was being filmed. A rift grew between Clarke and Kubrick at the time, because Kubrick insisted that the book not be released until after film was completed. This Wikipedia page discusses the issue.
  6. Was HAL, the computer featured in Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey, a sentient being, or merely the product of "brute force" computation? Since his debut in 1968, HAL has served as the guidepost for artificial intelligence research. More than any other character in fiction, he has represented the enormous potential of the field, and has helped to launch the carriers of many an AI researcher. Calm, rational, and eerily human, HAL would certainly pass the Turing test. But was he actually a conscious being -- an emergent byproduct of some robust future algorithm -- awake and aware o
  7. Your question is a good one, Tim. Human beings continue to evolve, but we are beginning to control our own evolution at a pace that far exceeds that of natural evolutionary processes. For instance, it is thought that sickle cell anemia evolved as a defense against malaria in certain regions of Africa. This adaptation naturally evolved over the course of thousands of years, and yet modern medicine will probably allow us to eliminate malaria from our genome in the present generation. We humans are beginning to control our own evolution. Soon, technology will allow us to become whatever we
  8. When I was in the sixth grade (longer ago than I care to admit), the elementary school I attended administered a program that has benefited me ever since. Not long before graduating, a single week was set aside to prepare departing students for their move up the ladder of higher education. For five days we no longer attended a single classroom, but rather six, as would later be the case in Junior High, High School and College. Separate teachers instructed us on a variety of topics: Music, History, Art, Science, Literature, and, my favorite—Critical Thinking. This class was taught by Mr. Anders
  9. Yes, the "Four Horsemen" talk is excellent. I think you'll get a kick out of this parody as well.
  10. I meant that atheism is the lack of belief in god. It is not a belief in-and-of-itself.
  11. We mustn't forget that atheism isn't "something"; it is the lack of something (i.e., religion).
  12. In this interview, molecular biologist Johnjoe McFadden speaks about cognition, synthetic life and artificial intelligence. An excerpt: "The basic problem is that our subjective experience of consciousness does not correspond to the neurophysiology of our brain. When we see an object, such as a tree, the image that is received by our eyes is processed, in parallel, in millions of widely separated brain neurons. Some neurons process the colour information, some process aspects of movement, some process texture elements of the image. But there is nowhere in the brain where all these disparate
  13. The link I included along with the post contains all the citations you'll need. ;)
  14. The universe’s clock has neither a start nor finish, yet time is finite -- according to a New Zealand theorist. The theory, which tackles the age-old mystery of the origin of the universe, along with several other problems and paradoxes in cosmology, calls for a new take on our concept of time -- one that has more in common with the “cyclic” views of time held by ancient thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle and Leonardo da Vinci, than the Christian calendar and Bible-influenced belief in “linear” time now so deeply imbedded in modern western thinking.
  15. A new interview with evolutionist/atheist Mano Singham can be found here. To quote him: "Once you concede the idea of a god, you have ceased to think rationally in that area of your life, and are prey to those who preach extreme forms of religion. Of course, most people do not go so far, but that is because most people are not really that religious, though they say and act like they are. In the TV show House, someone asks the title character whether he is an atheist and he replies "Only on Christmas and Easter. The rest of the time it doesn't seem to matter." I think he is right. Most peopl
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