Over the years, I've done a lot of posts speculating about alien civilizations. My take is generally that while extraterrestrial life may be prevalent in the universe, complex life is rare, and intelligent civilization producing life is profoundly rare. This seems evident from our own history, where simple life appears to have started as soon … Continue reading Aliens and intergalactic spheres of influence
A couple of weeks ago, I shared Ars Technica's first article in a series on quantum mechanics that promised to be math and philosophy free. So far, the author, Miguel Morales, has stuck to that promise. Today he published the third installment. This one focuses on the size of particle, and why that's far from … Continue reading Ars Technica’s series on quantum mechanics: How big is a particle?
Given recent events here in the US, there have been a lot of statements made about our political future, often with implicit or explicit comparisons to one of the most famous societies in antiquity: the Roman Republic. Often the narrative is, once a democratic norm has been shattered, it puts us on an irreversible course … Continue reading The decline of the Roman Republic
(Warning: neuroscience weeds) I've discussed global workspace theories (GWT) before, the idea that consciousness is content making it into a global workspace available to a vast array of specialty processes. More specifically, through a neural competitive process, the content excites key hub areas, which then broadcast it to the rest of the specialty systems throughout … Continue reading The location of the global workspace
Philip Goff has an article in Scientific American, looking at one popular rational for the multiverse, the anthropic principle, or argument from fine tuning: We exist, and we are living creatures. It follows that the universe we live in must be compatible with the existence of life. However, as scientists have studied the fundamental principles … Continue reading Doubting fine tuning
Miguel Morales at Ars Technica is beginning a new introductory guide on quantum mechanics, one he promises won't require any math. If you've watched some of us wrangle over the implications of QM and wondered just what the heck we were so worked up about, this looks like it will be a good series for … Continue reading Ars Technica has a new series on quantum mechanics (no math)
Those of you who've known me a while may remember that I dislike accepting philosophical labels. For example, although the labels "materialist" or "physicalist" are more or less accurate descriptions of what I think, they often seem to imply an ideological rigidity I'm not comfortable with. My attitude toward these labels somewhat resonates with Neil … Continue reading Scientific theories and prescriptive vs descriptive instrumentalism
I often say that consciousness lies in the eye of the beholder, a notion that many dislike and often push back against. To be clear, I do think that for any precise definition of "consciousness", there is a fact of the matter about whether it exists and what has it. Many respond by offering up … Continue reading Hierarchy of consciousness, January 2021 edition
Julia Galef has been a bit quiet lately. Her YouTube channel has been dark for along time, and even her podcast, Rationally Speaking, has slowed down for a while, so it's good to see this from her. In it, she discusses a letter from Charles Darwin to one of his critics, one that actually thanked … Continue reading Darwin’s letter to a critic
In a somewhat whimsical podcast episode, Sean Carroll explores the physics and "rules" of time travel. Probably the first two thirds explore the physics. Carroll notes that if time travel under general relativity is at all possible, it would more likely involve a spaceship attempting to navigate some kind of closed timelike curve than stepping … Continue reading The rules of time travel?