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Science

Free Will and Turing-completeness of the Brain

Posted in Chemistry, Computer Science, Philosophy, Physics, Science, Technology, Transhumanism, Uploading on February 22nd, 2007 by leodirac – 9 Comments

In this essay, I’m going to explore the question “If the human brain is Turing complete, what does that imply about the existence of free will?” And moreover, what does that mean about the ability to upload our consciousness into computers? First, a little computer science background. Turing completeness is the idea that a computing system has the same capabilities as a universal Turing machine. This theoretical machine moves along a long tape which has various symbols on it that the machine can read and write. The machine itself is always in one internal state, but will change to different…

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100% Chance of Rain in Seattle

Posted in Chemistry, Geography, Humor, Science, Seattle on December 15th, 2006 by leodirac – 1 Comment

I’ve had my own system for interpreting that “chance of rain” numbers that meteorologists use to predict weather. Along the lines of how people say eskimos have 137 different words for snow, here in Seattle, rain isn’t a simple yes/no thing. I wrote about it here a little while ago. The basic idea is that the % chance of rain is actually the % chance that a random person on the street would consider the current weather to be “rain.” I’ve also long believed that in Seattle it’s impossible to get over about 98% chance of rain because some die-hard…

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New York bans Trans-fats

Posted in Chemistry, Cooking, Science, Societal Values on December 10th, 2006 by leodirac – Comments Off on New York bans Trans-fats

I’m a little slow to re-report this, but but I find it fascinating so I want to share it in case you missed it. New York City has banned the use of trans-fats in restaurants. They’ve done this almost completely (a few exceptions for things like donut shops) and very quickly (by middle of next year) and extremely decisively. I find this amazing for a couple of reasons. First, it drives home the artificial nature of trans-fats. I’ve thought of them as similar to saturated fats in a lot of ways — things that are everywhere but should be avoided….

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Breaking Bridges

Posted in Ego, Science, Structural Mechanics on December 8th, 2006 by leodirac – 1 Comment

Last night I had a great time at a local O’Reilly event building a bridge out of popsicle sticks with a few good friends. The rules were pretty simple: you get 1,000 popsicle sticks and some hot glue guns to build a bridge that spans a 15″ gap in 30 minutes. Then we try to break them by standing on them. At first blush, very similar to a contest my junior high science teacher used to do, and that happen all over the place. But there are a number of subtleties in the execution of the competition that greatly effected…

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More detailed critique of Quantum Communication Paper

Posted in Ego, Humor, Physics, Science on December 1st, 2006 by leodirac – Comments Off on More detailed critique of Quantum Communication Paper

Yesterday I got all excited about a journal article indicating the possibility of faster-than-light communication through quantum entanglement. But I got excited before fully reading the article, and once I had I wrote a quick comment apologizing for the false alarm. It’s not a peer-reviewed article, and it’s not very scientific. I actually spent hours digging through their references trying to understand what they were saying, and wrote a longish post to a mailing list about it, so I figure I might as well share the analysis here. First, a minor quip from page 3 where they confuse atomic number…

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Faster Than Light Communication?

Posted in Physics, Science on November 30th, 2006 by leodirac – 3 Comments

I haven’t had a chance to fully digest this article yet, but it looks like somebody’s figured out a way to use quantum entanglement to communicate useful information. Seems to me that there’s a fair bit of grandstanding going on, not the least of which is the title of the article: Intercontinental quantum liaisons between entangled electrons in ion traps of thermoluminescent crystals The fact that they shipped an entangled crystal across the pacific to perform the experiment sounds like pure drama to me. The interesting part is that they seem to have found a mechanism to do something to…

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