Saturday, October 9, 2010


Consciousness is variously defined as subjective experienceawareness, the ability to experience "feeling", wakefulness, or the executive control system of the mind. It is an umbrella term that may refer to a variety of mental phenomena. Although humans realize what everyday experiences are, consciousness refuses to be defined, philosophers note (e.g. John Searle in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy):
"Anything that we are aware of at a given moment forms part of our consciousness, making conscious experience at once the most familiar and most mysterious aspect of our lives."
—Schneider and Velmans, 2007
Consciousness in medicine (e.g., anesthesiology) is assessed by observing a patient's alertness and responsiveness, and can be seen as a continuum of states ranging from alert, oriented to time and place, and communicative, through disorientation, then delirium, then loss of any meaningful communication, and ending with loss of movement in response to painful stimulation.
Consciousness in psychology and philosophy typically means something beyond what it means for anesthesiology, and may be said in many contexts to imply four characteristics: subjectivity, change, continuity, and selectivity. Philosopher Franz Brentano has suggested intentionality or aboutness (that consciousness is about something). However, within the philosophy of mind there is no consensus on whether intentionality is a requirement for consciousness.
Consciousness is the subject of much research in philosophy of mindpsychologyneurosciencecognitive science,cognitive neuroscience and artificial intelligence. Issues of practical concern include how the presence of consciousness can be assessed in severely ill or comatose people; whether non-human consciousness exists and if so how it can be measured; at what point in fetal development consciousness begins; and whether computers can achieve a conscious state.
The word "conscious" is derived from Latin conscius meaning "1. having joint or common knowledge with another, privy to, cognizant of; 2. conscious to oneself; esp., conscious of guilt". A related word was conscientia, which primarily means moral conscience. In the literal sense, "conscientia" means knowledge-with, that is, shared knowledge. The word first appears in Latin juridical texts by writers such as Cicero. Here, conscientia is the knowledge that a witness has of the deed of someone else.
René Descartes (1596–1650) is generally taken to be the first philosopher to use "conscientia" in a way that does not seem to fit this traditional meaning. Descartes used "conscientia" the way modern speakers would use "conscience." In Search after Truth he says "conscience or internal testimony" (conscientia vel interno testimonio).
Shortly thereafter, in Britain, the neo-Platonist theologian Ralph Cudworth used the modern meaning of consciousness in his "True Intellectual System of the Universe" (1678) and associated the concept with personal identity, which is assured by the repeated consciousness of oneself. Cudworth's use of the term also remained intertwined with moral agency. While there were no elaborate theories of consciousness in the seventeenth century, there was an awareness of the idea of consciousness. Cudworth was the first English philosopher to make extensive use of the noun "consciousness" with a specific philosophical meaning.
Twelve years later, Locke in Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) connected consciousness with personal identity. Locke argued that being the same person from one time to another was not dependent upon having the same soul or same body, but instead the same consciousness. Locke defined consciousness as “the perception of what passes in a man’s own mind.” Locke had much influence on the 18th Century view of consciousness: in Samuel Johnson's celebrated Dictionary (1755), Johnson uses this definition of "consciousness."

How Liquid Body Armor Works

The basic idea behind body armor hasn't changed very much in the past few thous and years. First, armor stops weapons or projectiles from reaching a person's body. Second, it diffuses the weapon's energy so that the final impact causes less damage. While it's not effective in every situation, armor can generally help protect people from serious injury or death, especially against the right weaponry.
Over the years, people have had to develop stronger and more advanced armor to protect against increasingly sophisticated weapons. However, in spite of these improvements, modern body armor still has some of the same shortcomings as ancient forms of armor. Whether it's made from metal plates or layers of fabric, armor is often heavy and bulky. Many types are rigid, so they're impractical for use on arms, legs and necks. For this reason, medieval suits of plate armor had gaps and joints to allow people to move around, and the body armor used today often protects only the head and torso. 
One of the newest types of body armor, though, is both flexible and lightweight. Oddly enough, this improvement comes from the addition of liquid to existing armor materials. While it's not entirely ready for combat, laboratory research suggests that liquid body armor has the potential to be a good replacement for or supplement to bulkier vests. Eventually, soldiers, police officers and others may be able to use it to protect their arms and legs.
The two primary types of liquid body armor currently in development both start with a foundation of DuPont Kevlar, commonly used in bulletproof vests. When a bullet or a piece of shrapnel hits a Kevlar vest, the layers of material spread the impact over a large surface area. The bullet also stretches the Kevlar fibers, expending energy and slowing down in the process. The concept is similar to what happens when a car air bag spreads the impact and slows the movement of a person's torso during a collision.
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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Scientists teach robots how to trick humans

Couple this story about robots clever enough to intentionally deceive humans with another recent story about people seeking to create self-aware A.I. that could “exceed human intelligence,” and you have a larger picture of the near-future that is either fascinating or frightening.
While creating deceptive intelligent machines has obvious applications for war, what about creating deceptive machines for sex? Hmmm … Some people might find that too much like real human relationships, eh?
Or realistic android politicians that lie and everything. That might be pointless — except that robots can be switched off.
… But I digress.
From an article at The Daily Mail:
It sounds like something straight out of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
But, in a chilling echo of the computer Hal from the iconic film, scientists have developed robots that are able to deceive humans and even hide from their enemies.
An experiment by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology is believed to be the first detailed examination of robot deception.
The team developed computer algorithms that would let a robot ‘decide’ whether it should deceive a human or another robot and gave it strategies to give it the best chance of not being found out.
The development may alarm those who are concerned that robots who are able to practice deception are not safe to work with humans.
But researchers say that robots that are capable of deception will be valuable in the future, particularly when used in the military.
Robots on the battlefield with the power of deception will be able to successfully hide and mislead the enemy to keep themselves and valuable information safe.
‘Most social robots will probably rarely use deception, but it’s still an important tool in the robot’s interactive arsenal because robots that recognise the need for deception have advantages in terms of outcome compared to robots that do not recognise the need for deception,’ said the study’s co-author, Alan Wagner, a research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute.
The results were published online in the International Journal of Social Robotics.
 Source: ; September 11, 2010.

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In traditional Chinese culture, qi (simplified Chinese: 气; traditional Chinese: 氣; Mandarin Pinyin: qì; Wade–Giles: ch'i; Jyutping: hei; is an active principle forming part of any living thing.

Pronounced /ˈtʃiː/ in English; [tɕʰî] in Standard Mandarin; Korean: gi; Japanese: ki; Vietnamese: khí, pronounced [xǐ])

The approximate english pronunciation of chi, like chee in cheese, should also be distinguished from the pronunciation of chi, the greek letter, which is with a hard k sound. like c in car, and a long i, similar to other greek letters phi, psi, xi.

It is frequently translated as "energy flow," and is often compared to Western notions of energeia or élan vital (vitalism) as well as the yogic notion of prana. The literal translation is "air," "breath," or "gas" (compare the original meaning of Latin spiritus "breathing"; or the Common Greek πνεῦμα, meaning "air," "breath," or "spirit"; and the Sanskrit term prana, "breath").


References to things analogous to the qi taken to be the life-process or “flow” of energy that sustains living beings are found in many belief systems, especially in Asia. In Chinese legend, it is Huang Di (the Yellow Emperor) who is identified as the one who first collected and formalized much of what subsequently became known as traditional Chinese medicine.

Philosophical conceptions of qi from the earliest records of Chinese philosophy (5th century BC) correspond to Western notions of humours. The earliest description of qi in the current sense of vital energy is due to Mencius (4th century BC).

Manfred Porkert described relations to Western universal concepts:

Within the framework of Chinese thought no notion may attain to such a degree of abstraction from empirical data as to correspond perfectly to one of our modern universal concepts. Nevertheless the term qi comes as close as possible to constituting a generic designation equivalent to our word "energy". When Chinese thinkers are unwilling or unable to fix the quality of an energetic phenomenon, the character qi 氣 inevitably flows from their brushes.

The ancient Chinese described it as “life-force” and for good reason. They believed chi permeates everything and links the parts of our surroundings together. The Tai Chi practitioner and Acupuncturist are said to understand chi energy. They likened it to the flow of energy around and through the body, linking each part forming a cohesive and functioning unit. By understanding its rhythm and flow they believe they can guide exercises and treatments to give us stability and longevity.

Although the concept of qi has been very important within many Chinese philosophies, over the centuries their descriptions of qi have been varied and may seem to be in conflict with each other. Understanding of these disputes is complicated for people who did not grow up using the Chinese concept and its associated concepts.[citation needed] Until China came into contact with Western scientific and philosophical ideas (primarily by way of Catholic missionaries), they knew about things like stones and lightning, but they would not have categorized them in terms of matter and energy. Qi and li (理, li, pattern) are their fundamental categories much as matter and energy have been fundamental categories for people in the West. Their use of qi (lifebreath) and li (pattern, regularity, form, order) as their primary categories leaves in question how to account for liquids and solids, and, once the Western idea of energy came on the scene, how to relate it to the native idea of "qi". If Chinese and Western concepts are mixed in an attempt to characterize some of the problems that arise with the Chinese conceptual system, then one might ask whether qi exists as a "force" separate from "matter", whether qi arises from "matter", whether "matter" arises from qi, or whether qi really exists at all.



Robot Invasion Welcomed in Japan

By Hiroko Tabuchi 

TOKYO — Could it be that the Japanese view of robots as friendly helpers — and not as the rebellious, violent machines that populate much of Western science fiction — is rooted in the Shinto religion, which blurs the boundaries between animate and inanimate? To the Japanese psyche, this theory goes, a humanoid and sentient robot may simply not feel as creepy or threatening as it does in other cultures.

David Guttenfelder and I quickly found ourselves wrestling with questions like this after we embarked on a yearlong project to chronicle Japan’s robot obsession. What started as an amusing technology story soon evolved into an exploration of Japanese attitudes, culture and religion.
The robotics engineers we met were philosophers, pondering questions that boggled our minds. Can robots have a conscience? If so, how do you prove it? What does a robotic future, where humans and robots live side by side, look like? And when will it arrive?
“I’m fascinated by the topic, impressed by the science and engineering, and was blown away by some of the Japanese robot developers,” David wrote. “But I’m skeptical about robots and human connection. I think that my photos on this topic are dark and occasionally funny for that reason.”
As we chronicled more and more robots and their creators, it dawned on us: nobody in Japan really has any idea what the robotic future will be.
So imaginations have run wild — in many different directions.
We watched robots working as receptionists, serving tea, running errands as hospital aides and spoon-feeding the elderly.
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Closest Encounter with Jupiter until 2022

Dr. Tony Phillips

Been outside at midnight lately? There's something you really need to see. Jupiter is approaching Earth for the closest encounter between the two planets in more than a decade--and it is dazzling.
The night of closest approach is Sept. 20-21st. This is also called "the night of opposition" because Jupiter will be opposite the sun, rising at sunset and soaring overhead at midnight. Among all denizens of the midnight sky, only the Moon itself will be brighter.
The view through a telescope is excellent. Because Jupiter is so close, the planet's disk can be seen in rare detail--and there is a lot to see. For instance, the Great Red Spot, a cyclone twice as wide as Earth, is bumping up against another storm called "Red Spot Jr." The apparition of two planet-sized tempests grinding against one another must be seen to be believed.
And what was that flash? Amateur astronomers have recently reported a surprising number of fireballs in Jupiter's atmosphere. Apparently, many small asteroids or comet fragments are hitting the giant planet and exploding among the clouds. Researchers who have studied these events say visible flashes could be occurring as often as a few times a month.Also, Jupiter's trademark South Equatorial Belt (SEB) recently vanished, possibly submerging itself beneath high clouds. Researchers say it could reappear at any moment. The dramatic resurgence would be accompanied by a globe-straddling profusion of spots and cloudy swirls, clearly visible in backyard telescopes.
Finally, we mustn't forget the moons of Jupiter because they are also having a close encounter with Earth. These are planet-sized worlds with active volcanoes (Io), possible underground oceans (Europa), vast fields of craters (Callisto), and mysterious global grooves (Ganymede). When Galileo discovered the moons 400 years ago, they were no more than pinpricks of light in his primitive spy glass. Big, modern amateur telescopes reveal actual planetary disks with colorful markings.
It makes you wonder, what would Galileo think?
Answer: "I'm getting up at midnight!"
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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Electromagnetic Pulse

The term electromagnetic pulse (sometimes abbreviated EMP) is a burst of electromagnetic radiation that results from an explosion (especially a nuclear explosion) and/or a suddenly fluctuating magnetic field. The resulting electric and magnetic fields may couple with electrical/electronic systems to produce damaging current and voltage surges.

In military terminology, a nuclear bomb detonated hundreds of kilometers above the Earth's surface is known as a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) device. Nuclear electromagnetic pulse has three distinct time components that result from different physical phenomena. Effects of a HEMP device depend on a very large number of factors, including the altitude of the detonation, energy yield, gamma ray output, interactions with the Earth's magnetic field, and shielding of targets.
The fact that an electromagnetic pulse is produced by a nuclear explosion was known since the earliest days of nuclear weapons testing, but the magnitude of the EMP and the significance of its effects were not realized for some time.
During the first United States nuclear test on 16 July 1945, electronic equipment was shielded due to Enrico Fermi's expectation of an electromagnetic pulse from the detonation. The official technical history for that first nuclear test states, "All signal lines were completely shielded, in many cases doubly shielded. In spite of this many records were lost because of spurious pickup at the time of the explosion that paralyzed the recording equipment." During British nuclear testing in 1952–1953 there were instrumentation failures that were attributed to "radioflash," which was then the British term for EMP.
The high altitude nuclear tests of 1962, as described below, increased awareness of EMP beyond the original small population of nuclear weapons scientists and engineers. The larger scientific community became aware of the significance of the EMP problem after a series of three articles were published about nuclear electromagnetic pulse in 1981 by William J. Broad in the weekly publication Science.