A soul might very well exist, but we, as physicists, try to measure and quantify everything. So far, no one has been able to create an experiment to do this for the soul. Efforts have been made to weigh the body after death, but each time we find no evidence of a soul. So a soul may very well exist, but it is not a testable theory.
The job market of the future will consist of those jobs that robots cannot perform. Our blue-collar work is pattern recognition, making sense of what you see. Gardeners will still have jobs because every garden is different. The same goes for construction workers. The losers are white-collar workers, low-level accountants, brokers, and agents.
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There are so many wonders awaiting us. If we can upload memories, then we might be able to combat Alzheimers, as well as create a brain-net of memories and emotions to replace the internet, which would revolutionize entertainment, the economy, and our way of life. Maybe even to help us live forever, and send consciousness into outer space.
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It's humbling to realise that the developmental gulf between a miniscule ant colony and our modern human civilisation is only a tiny fraction of the distance between a Type 0 and a Type III civilisation - a factor of 100 billion billion, in fact. Yet we have such a highly regarded view of ourselves, we believe a Type III civilisation would find us irresistible and would rush to make contact with us. The truth is, however, they may be as interested in communicating with humans as we are keen to communicate with ants.
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The strength and weakness of physicists is that we believe in what we can measure. And if we can't measure it, then we say it probably doesn't exist. And that closes us off to an enormous amount of phenomena that we may not be able to measure because they only happened once. For example, the Big Bang. ... That's one reason why they scoffed at higher dimensions for so many years. Now we realize that there's no alternative...
"Did God have a mother?" Children, when told that God made the heavens and the earth, innocently ask whether God had a mother. This deceptively simple question has stumped the elders of the church and embarrassed the finest theologians, precipitating some of the thorniest theological debates over the centuries. All the great religions have elaborate mythologies surrounding the divine act of Creation, but none of them adequately confronts the logical paradoxes inherent in the question that even children ask.
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Once again, my colleague Stephen Hawking has upset the apple cart. The event horizon surrounding a black hole was once though to be an imaginary sphere. But recent theories indicate that it may actually be physical, maybe even a sphere of fire. But I don't trust any of these calculations until we have a full-blown string theory calculation, since Einstein's theory by itself is incomplete.
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Chances are, the aliens will not want to land on our backyard, or even the White House lawn, with their flying saucers. They may have tiny, robotic self-replicating probes which can reach near light speed and can proliferate around the galaxy. So instead of the Enterprise and huge star ships, the aliens might actually send tiny probes to explore the universe. One might land on our lawn and we won't even know.
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Srinivasa Ramanujan was the strangest man in all of mathematics, probably in the entire history of science. He has been compared to a bursting supernova, illuminating the darkest, most profound corners of mathematics, before being tragically struck down by tuberculosis at the age of 33... Working in total isolation from the main currents of his field, he was able to rederive 100 years' worth of Western mathematics on his own. The tragedy of his life is that much of his work was wasted rediscovering known mathematics.
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In altre parole, uno degli scopi fondamentali delle emozioni e¨ fornirci una scala di valori, in modo da poter scegliere che cosa e¨ importante, costoso, bello o prezioso. In assenza di emozioni tutto ci sembrerebbe uguale, quindi ci ritroveremmo nella situazione paralizzante di non riuscire a compiere una scelta. Gli scienziati stanno quindi cominciando a capire che le emozioni, lungi dall'essere un lusso, sono uno dei fondamenti dell'intelligenza.
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Beyond work and love, I would add two other ingredients that give meaning to life. First, to fulfill whatever talents we are born with. However blessed we are by fate with different abilities and strengths, we should try to develop them to the fullest, rather than allow them to atrophy and decay. We all know individuals who did not fulfill the promise they showed in childhood. Many of them became haunted by the image of what they might have become. Instead of blaming fate, I think we should accept ourselves as we are and try to fulfill whatever dreams are within our capability. Second, we should try to leave the world a better place than when we entered it. As individuals, we can make a difference, whether it is to probe the secrets of Nature, to clean up the environment and work for peace and social justice, or to nurture the inquisitive, vibrant spirit of the young by being a mentor and a guide.
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[On the practical applications of particle physics research with the Large Hadron Collider.] Sometimes the public says, 'What's in it for Numero Uno? Am I going to get better television reception? Am I going to get better Internet reception?' Well, in some sense, yeah... All the wonders of quantum physics were learned basically from looking at atom-smasher technology... But let me let you in on a secret: We physicists are not driven to do this because of better color television... That's a spin-off. We do this because we want to understand our role and our place in the universe.
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After that cancellation [of the Superconducting Super Collider in Texas, after $2 billion had been spent on it], we physicists learned that we have to sing for our supper... The Cold War is over. You can't simply say 'Russia!' to Congress, and they whip out their checkbook and say, 'How much?' We have to tell the people why this atom-smasher is going to benefit their lives.
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Something as superfluous as "play" is also an essential feature of our consciousness. If you ask children why they like to play, they will say, "Because it's fun." But that invites the next question: What is fun? Actually, when children play, they are often trying to reenact complex human interactions in simplified form. Human society is extremely sophisticated, much too involved for the developing brains of young children, so children run simplified simulations of adult society, playing games such as doctor, cops and robber, and school. Each game is a model that allows children to experiment with a small segment of adult behavior and then run simulations into the future. (Similarly, when adults engage in play, such as a game of poker, the brain constantly creates a model of what cards the various players possess, and then projects that model into the future, using previous data about people's personality, ability to bluff, etc. The key to games like chess, cards, and gambling is the ability to simulate the future. Animals, which live largely in the present, are not as good at games as humans are, especially if they involve planning. Infant mammals do engage in a form of play, but this is more for exercise, testing one another, practicing future battles, and establishing the coming social pecking order rather than simulating the future.)
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A hundred years ago, Auguste Comte, ... a great philosopher, said that humans will never be able to visit the stars, that we will never know what stars are made out of, that that's the one thing that science will never ever understand, because they're so far away. And then, just a few years later, scientists took starlight, ran it through a prism, looked at the rainbow coming from the starlight, and said: "Hydrogen!" Just a few years after this very rational, very reasonable, very scientific prediction was made, that we'll never know what stars are made of.
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It would take a civilization far more advanced than ours, unbelievably advanced, to begin to manipulate negative energy to create gateways to the past. But if you could obtain large quantities of negative energy-and that's a big 'IF'-then you could create a time machine that apparently obeys Einstein's equation and perhaps the laws of quantum theory.
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Physicists often quote from T. H. White's epic novel The Once and Future King , where a society of ants declares, 'Everything not forbidden is compulsory.' In other words, if there isn't a basic principle of physics forbidding time travel, then time travel is necessarily a physical possibility. (The reason for this is the uncertainty principle. Unless something is forbidden, quantum effects and fluctuations will eventually make it possible if we wait long enough. Thus, unless there is a law forbidding it, it will eventually occur.)
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Recent brain scans have shed light on how the brain simulates the future. These simulation are done mainly in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the CEO of the brain, using memories of the past. On one hand, simulations of the future may produce outcomes that are desirable and pleasurable, in which case the pleasure centers of the brain light up (in the nucleus accumbens and the hypothalamus). On the other hand, these outcomes may also have a downside to them, so the orbitofrontal cortex kicks in to warn us of possible dancers. There is a struggle, then, between different parts of the brain concerning the future, which may have desirable and undesirable outcomes. Ultimately it is the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex that mediates between these and makes the final decisions. (Some neurologists have pointed out that this struggle resembles, in a crude way, the dynamics between Freud's ego, id, and superego.)
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These computer simulations try only to duplicate the interactions between the cortex and the thalamus. Huge chunks of the brain are therefore missing. Dr. [Dharmendra] Modha understands the enormity of his project. His ambitious research has allowed him to estimate what it would take to create a working model of the entire human brain, and not just a portion or a pale version of it, complete with all parts of the neocortex and connections to the senses. He envisions using not just a single Blue Gene computer [with over a hundred thousand processors and terabytes of RAM] but thousands of them, which would fill up not just a room but an entire city block. The energy consumption would be so great that you would need a thousand-megawatt nuclear power plant to generate all the electricity. And then, to cool off this monstrous computer so it wouldn't melt, you would need to divert a river and send it through the computer circuits. It is remarkable that a gigantic, city-size computer is required to simulate a piece of human tissue that weighs three pounds, fits inside your skull, raises your body temperature by only a few degrees, uses twenty watts of power, and needs only a few hamburgers to keep it going.
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The real bottleneck is software. Creating software can be done only the old-fashioned way. A human -sitting quietly in a chair with a pencil, paper and laptop- is going to have to write the codes... One can mass-produce hardware and increase it's power by piling on more and more chips, but you cannot mass-produce the brain.
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In science fiction, telepaths often communicate across language barriers, since thoughts are considered to be universal. However, this might not be true. Emotions and feelings may well be nonverbal and universal, so that one could telepathically send them to anyone, but rational thinking is so closely tied to language that it is very unlikely that complex thoughts could be sent across language barriers. Words will still be sent telepathically in their original language.
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Wormholes were first introduced to the public over a century ago in a book written by an Oxford mathematician. Perhaps realizing that adults might frown on the idea of multiply connected spaces, he wrote the book under a pseudonym and wrote it for children. His name was Charles Dodgson, his pseudonym was Lewis Carroll, and the book was Through The Looking Glass.
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...the laws of physics, carefully constructed after thousands of years of experimentation, are nothing but the laws of harmony one can write down for strings and membranes. The laws of chemistry are the melodies that one can play on these strings. the universe is a symphony of strings. And the "Mind of God," which Einstein wrote eloquently about, is cosmic music resonating throughout hyperspace.
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A hundred years ago, Auguste Compte, ... a great philosopher, said that humans will never be able to visit the stars, that we will never know what stars are made out of, that that's the one thing that science will never ever understand, because they're so far away. And then, just a few years later, scientists took starlight, ran it through a prism, looked at the rainbow coming from the starlight, and said: "Hydrogen!" Just a few years after this very rational, very reasonable, very scientific prediction was made, that we'll never know what stars are made of.
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Although humans have existed on this planet for perhaps 2 million years, the rapid climb to modern civilization within the last 200 years was possible due to the fact that the growth of scientific knowledge is exponential; that is, its rate of expansion is proportional to how much is already known. The more we know, the faster we can know more. For example, we have amassed more knowledge since World War II than all the knowledge amassed in our 2-million-year evolution on this planet. In fact, the amount of knowledge that our scientists gain doubles approximately every 10 to 20 years.
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The most likely possibility, favored by current data, is that the universe will die in Ice, not Fire. However, personally I believe that trillions of years from now, we (if we are still around) will have the technology to leave the universe, perhaps in an interdimensional life boat, and move to a warmer universe.
If all our common-sense notions about the universe were correct, then science would have solved the secrets of the universe thousands of years ago. The purpose of science is to peel back the layer of the appearance of the objects to reveal their underlying nature. In fact, if appearance and essence were the same thing, there would be no need for science.
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Like music or art, mathematical equations can have a natural progression and logic that can evoke rare passions in a scientist. Although the lay public considers mathematical equations to be rather opaque, to a scientist an equation is very much like a movement in a larger symphony. Simplicity. Elegance. These are the qualities that have inspired some of the greatest artists to create their masterpieces, and they are precisely the same qualities that motivate scientists to search for the laws of nature. LIke a work of art or a haunting poem, equations have a beauty and rhythm all their own.
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The most complex object in the known universe: brain, only uses 20 watts of power. It would require a nuclear power plant to energize a computer the size of a city block to mimic your brain, and your brain does it with just 20 watts. So if someone calls you a dim bulb, that's a compliment.
Think of all the nonsense you had to learn in psychology courses. None of which was testable. None of which was measurable. We had behaviorism, Freudian psychology, all of these theories that you learn in psychology. Totally untestable. Now, we can test it, because physics allows us to calculate energy flows in the brain.
The human mind has a desire to know its place in the universe and the role we play in the tapestry of life. This is actually hardwired into our brains, the desire the know our relationship to the universe. This was good for our evolution, since it enabled us to see our relationship to others and to nature which was good for our survival. And it is also what drives our curiosity to understand the universe.
What would happen if history could be rewritten as casually as erasing a blackboard? Our past would be like the shifting sands at the seashore, constantly blown this way or that by the slightest breeze. History would be constantly changing every time someone spun the dial of a time machine and blundered his or her way into the past. History, as we know it, would be impossible. It would cease to exist.
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It would take a civilization far more advanced than ours, unbelievably advanced, to begin to manipulate negative energy to create gateways to the past. But if you could obtain large quantities of negative energy-and that's a big "IF"-then you could create a time machine that apparently obeys Einstein's equation and perhaps the laws of quantum theory.
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Modern thinking is that time did not start with the big bang, and that there was a multiverse even before the big bang. In the inflation theory, and in string theory, there were universes before our big bang, and that big bangs are happening all the time. Universes are formed when bubbles collide or fission into smaller bubles.
As Heinz Pagels has said, The challenge to our civilization which has come from our knowledge of the cosmic energies that fuels the stars, the movement of light and electrons through matter, the intricate molecular order which is the biological basis of life, must be met by the creation of a moral and political order which will accommodate these forces or we shall be destroyed. It will try our deepest resources of reason and compassion.
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Physicists often quote from T. H. White's epic novel The Once and Future King, where a society of ants declares, "Everything not forbidden is compulsory." In other words, if there isn't a basic principle of physics forbidding time travel, then time travel is necessarily a physical possibility. (The reason for this is the uncertainty principle. Unless something is forbidden, quantum effects and fluctuations will eventually make it possible if we wait long enough. Thus, unless there is a law forbidding it, it will eventually occur.)
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After that cancellation [of the Superconducting Super Collider in Texas, after $2 billion had been spent on it], we physicists learned that we have to sing for our supper. ... The Cold War is over. You can't simply say "Russia!" to Congress, and they whip out their checkbook and say, "How much?" We have to tell the people why this atom-smasher is going to benefit their lives.
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Sometimes the public says, 'What's in it for Numero Uno? Am I going to get better television reception? Am I going to get better Internet reception?' Well, in some sense, yeah. ... All the wonders of quantum physics were learned basically from looking at atom-smasher technology. ... But let me let you in on a secret: We physicists are not driven to do this because of better color television. ... That's a spin-off. We do this because we want to understand our role and our place in the universe.
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I vowed to myself that when I grew up and became a theoretical physicist, in addition to doing research, I would write books that I would have liked to have read as a child. So whenever I write, I imagine myself, as a youth, reading my books, being thrilled by the incredible advances being made in physics and science.
What I do for living, working on something called string theory which we think may answer the fundamental question: Are there other universes? Can you go through a black hole? Can you warp the fabric of space and time and meet your mother before you were born? These are all questions that in principle string theory should be able to answer.
Beyond work and love, I would add two other ingredients that give meaning to life. First, to fulfill whatever talents we are born with. However blessed we are by fate with different abilities and strengths, we should try to develop them to the fullest, rather than allow them to atrophy and decay. ... Second, we should try to leave the world a better place than when we entered it.
One problem with politics is that it is a zero sum game, i.e. politicians argue how to cut the pie smaller and smaller, by reshuffling pieces of the pie. I think this is destructive. Instead, we should be creating a bigger pie, i.e. funding the science that is the source of all our prosperity. Science is not a zero sum game.
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Today, your cell phone has more computer power than all of NASA back in 1969, when it placed two astronauts on the moon. Video games, which consume enormous amounts of computer power to simulate 3-D situations, use more computer power than mainframe computers of the previous decade. The Sony PlayStation of today, which costs $300, has the power of a military supercomputer of 1997, which cost millions of dollars.
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For most of human history, we could only watch, like bystanders, the beautiful dance of Nature. But today, we are on the cusp of an epoch-making transition, from being passive observers of Nature to being active choreographers of Nature. The Age of Discovery in science is coming to a close, opening up an Age of Mastery.
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In physics, one of the most exciting areas is in nanotech. With computers exhausting the power of silicon, Silicon Valley could become a Rust Belt, unless we can find replacements, such as quantum computers and molecular computers. To be a leader in any field, one has to have a great imagination. Sure, we have to know the basics and fundamentals. But beyond that, we have to let our imagination soar.
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