M Thomas Apple Author Page

Science fiction, actual science, history, and personal ranting about life, the universe, and everything

Tech visionaries are needed. Scientists are more important.

September 1, 2020
MThomas

I get the attraction of people like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. They have big ideas. They’re enthusiastic, ecstatic, even. They’re great at simplifying difficult concepts and promoting tech to the lay person.

But they’re not creators. They’re “visionaries.”

I.e., salespersons.

Is that a bad thing? Of course not. I was in computer sales once. It was hard. Only the charismatic are good at it. But I didn’t have the knowledge and ability to make the products I was selling, let alone the power to innovate.

Sticking a chip in a person’s brain and sending thousands to the Moon or Mars sound cool. Possible, even.

But science isn’t sales. Someone might die.

Small difference.

We need visionaries, but scientists are more important. Maybe if they talked to each other…

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53987919

Meet Arisa, our local “inforobo”

July 16, 2020
MThomas

IMG_2770

This is Arisa, the “Information Robot.” It was recently installed at Yamato-Saidaiji, a Kintetsu Railway station in Nara City that I travel through to go to work.

Actually, today I went through the station on my way to renew my driver’s license. Interacting with the robot was much easier.

She (oops, I mean “it”?) can speak four languages (Japanese, English, Mandarin, and Korean) at the touch of a panel. But the functionality is still only limited to basic phrases about where to change trains and which platform to use. Still, it’s a first step (toward replacing human-controlled info booths, so get started learning programming, kiddos!).

SpooQy-1 action at a distance!

June 30, 2020
MThomas

“In the future, our system could be part of a global quantum network transmitting quantum signals to receivers on Earth or on other spacecraft,” says Aitor Villar, lead author of the study. “These signals could be used to implement any type of quantum communications application, from quantum key distribution for extremely secure data transmission to quantum teleportation, where information is transferred by replicating the state of a quantum system from a distance.”

OK, OK, so it’s not the first time quantum entanglement has been demonstrated. But it sure is the smallest. Only 20 cm by 10 cm!

Now we only need a few thousand of these things and a way of somehow making tangled photons actually carry encrypted messages…

(Sorry, thinking of the SF novel I should have published by now…still figuring out the last two chapters!)

See more at New Atlas (note: I seriously doubt the CubeSat actually looks like that picture when it’s doing its thing).

How should we treat sentient robots—if they existed?

June 14, 2020
MThomas

Asimo

One day, maybe sooner than we think, a consideration of the ethics of the treatment of rational, sentient machines might turn out to be more than an abstract academic exercise.

From last June, but still a worthy topic for debate, particularly as the use of robots increases for retirement homes, nursery school programs, hotel reception lobbies… (also the topic of a short story I wrote in 2000 but still haven’t published outside of a grad student journal…)

https://www.universal-sci.com/headlines/2019/6/18/ethics-of-ai-how-should-we-treat-rational-sentient-robots-if-they-existed

Forget Mars, Head to Europa?

February 7, 2020
MThomas

960x0

“I think we’ve got a better chance of having slightly higher forms of life on Europa, perhaps similar to the intelligence of an octopus.”

Hmm. Maybe. It seems more like that any life would be of the microscopic or worm-like variety. But we still have to get out there first to find out…

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericmack/2020/02/06/alien-life-on-jupiter-moon-europa-a-sure-bet-space-scientist-says/?fbclid=IwAR0E86oW8Gi37WJluYC4O-DwjinzuNyuMZp96YYQY-eGfuapTZhyZYksxGU#250f65893cb3

Super Bowl 2020: All the space-themed commercials

February 2, 2020
MThomas

“Being able to get humans on Mars and actually collecting one of these samples would be such an incredible moment, I would kind of hope it would almost bring us back to the moon days of everyone being glued to the TV.”

Um. Well. OK. TV is dead so we’ll all be watching it streamed on our smartphones, but the point is taken.

And how much did they pay for this? 💰 👽 📺

— Read on http://www.livescience.com/amp/super-bowl-space-commercials.html

Artificial intelligence-created medicine to be used on humans for first time

January 31, 2020
MThomas

“This year was the first to have an AI-designed drug, but by the end of the decade all new drugs could potentially be designed by AI.”

Philip K Dick would have had a field day with this. Imagine what will happen once we start ingesting nanobots…

I, for one, welcome our AI drug overlords.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-51315462

Have some Proxima Centauri with ESPRESSO

January 20, 2020
MThomas

“Proxima is our closest neighbor in an immense universe. How could we not be charmed by it?

Well, the planet may or may not exist (the confirmation data won’t be publicly available for another couple years).

And it is most likely not inhabitable — despite being dubbed a “Super-Earth” (which really only refers to size and not whether it’s “Earth-like” or not).

Still, regardless of these facts, the most important part of this article in Scientific American is the science:

“We tried different tools to prove ourselves wrong, but we failed. However, we have to keep the doors open to all possible doubt and skepticism.

Yes, the astronomers tried to prove their own discovery was a mistake. That’s how it works, folks. Challenge your assumptions, not jump to conclusions. Continue Reading

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