Friday, July 26, 2019

Closed loop

As Asian countries send back western garbage to the country of origin, it may be time to think about recycling differently. From water to plastic, humans have been conditioned to think that the cost of consumption is close to zero. But, unfortunately it is not. In the absence of zero cost energy, perhaps hundreds of years away, consumption of anything is costly for the individual and society. It is time we imposed closed loop as a constraint on all consumption.

Closed loop is a necessary condition for survival for humanity. From inception, humans knew this as there is sufficient evidence that ancient societies implemented closed loop systems, perhaps because of lack of availability of critical ingredients. As they grew richer, lazier and greedy, their actions have started to substantially push costs outside their life horizons. This free rider problem coupled with ignorance has reached a critical state. Unless we figure out how to recycle every unit of consumption, garbage is going to pile up in the neighborhoods and oceans. It is time the best minds in the country focused on this problem - AI and space travel could wait, but garbage cannot. Every county in the country may need to be forced to come up with solutions to implement closed loop within their localities. Every time a drop of water is used and a bottle is opened, the county has to prove a closed loop condition, i.e., the consumed unit is  recycled within a closed loop. Technologies exist but not the knowledge and the will to implement them.

Perhaps returning garbage may provide us the impetus to solve this problem for ever.



Thursday, July 25, 2019

Shape of the brain

Research from the University of Chicago (1) that demonstrates brain scans that show distinct differences between criminals who have committed homicide and those who have not, is interesting. If generalizable, such an observation could provide early indications for behavioral health issues. Mental health, often overlooked and treated separately from physical health harbors significant risks for individuals and society. It is a powerful early diagnostic and until healthcare policies treat an individual holistically and not attempt to segment interventions in convenient and legacy packages, we will continue to slip down the quality to cost ratio.

The complex organ humans carry on their shoulders that is speculated to be a quantum computer, is likely the origin of most disease states. As life sciences companies try to tease out meager therapeutic indexes in an overwhelming ocean of placebo effect, it is clear that no therapy can be effective if it is unable to influence the brain. This energy hungry and inefficient mechanism is finely balanced on a knife edge. It is actually surprising we find billions of properly working samples around the world, given the complex design and high maintenance requirements. Prescriptive medicine has laid down strong demarcations between what can be physically intervened with and those less so. Attempts at "curing," a malfunctioning brain using the same principles of crude chemical interventions have led many astray.

If we can understand the brain electronically and magnetically, it could open up a new avenue for diagnosis and treatment. However, it will require educational institutions, providers and manufacturers to work together. But then, that remains to be a dream.

(1) https://news.uchicago.edu/story/scientists-studied-brains-more-800-prisoners-heres-what-they-found

Sunday, July 21, 2019

HOLiCOW (1)

As Hubble turns in his grave, the younger cosmologists and astrophysicists have been making measurements with the latest toys they are afforded. There are doctoral theses to be published and defended, papers to be churned out, tenures and the ever eluding Nobel prizes to be secured. So, clearly better instruments, measurements and debates will help. And none of the budding brains will ever admit that the theory they are banking on is utterly wrong.

The universe was shrinking to a big crunch a few short decades ago and now, it appears to be "certainly," expanding with ensuing debates on the rate of expansion. They send telescopes and satellites that can measure all sorts of data into space, and perhaps that is the problem. When one gets too much data, it becomes difficult to see noise and given the inherent bias to find something and to confirm and conform, most of the latest crop of scientists take the easiest path possible. The fact that they are finding conflicting data is no surprise but what they have to understand is that no new theory will emanate from data. It takes imagination and pure talent, not the type that is built up in the quadrangle by systematic education. In fact, that will assure that none of these geniuses will ever find the truth.

Physics, based on century old theories and an abundance of inexplicable observations by experimentalists may need a reset. Unfortunately, the contemporary educational systems will not allow that.

(1) https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/07/debate-intensifies-over-speed-expanding-universe



Sunday, July 14, 2019

Cricket wins again

As England lifts the 2019 world cup in cricket for the first time, the fans of the sport around the world, approaching 3 billion, immerse in joy and sadness, depending on which side one was on. But that does not matter as the game wins hands down for those at the home of cricket and those around the world glued to televisions and short wave radios witnessed an absolute gem of a game. The game has lifted the psyche of the weak and the weary, the quiet and humble, the mathematicians and ballet watchers, the ones escaping boredom and those who do not have time to be bored, the historians and those who recently arrived, the islands that suffered from terrorism and those who attempt to pull themselves up from decade long wars, the ones who are reaching for each other's throats and those who remain far from each other, those who are exiting and those who do not want to, the gun less and those less so, men and women, and everybody else.

Such is the power of twenty yards of dirt and a white ball that travels at 100 miles/hour that it brought tears, laughter and pin drop silences to an oval shaped real estate at the heart of London. There two countries clashed, neither of which has won the cup yet, for pride and enjoyment. Those from the South, trying to wash away the scars of recent horrors in their beautiful island, wanted it bad as it had escaped them just 4 years ago. The larger host, with an inexplicable absence on top of the table in a dozen attempts, had to arrive. The gravity of the occasion was palpable. As the drama unfolded in unpredictable English weather, as the umpires revealed themselves to be purely human, as luck began to make a significant influence on eventual outcome, hearts were broken and unbounded joy erupted. As the winner and the loser thanked each other, it was clear we have a sport for the future, where winning is not everything and losing is just the start.

As we await a world that is civilized and humble - a world that understands there is more to life than ego, power and showmanship, we do have a sport that shows signs of how to reach it.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The inverted U of closed biological systems

Many have been worried about the existential threats to humanity – asteroids, climate change and ignorant leaders. However, there could be a more systemic and possibly unavoidable threat as long as Earth and its inhabitants continue to be a closed system. It is difficult to hypothesize based on a single observation of the emergence of life in the universe but the theory of evolution appears unassailable. Just as the accepted big bang theory in cosmology that seems to explain a lot after the point of origination but not the event itself, evolution seems to explain most observed biological specimens and their interactions but not the origination of life itself.

The accepted principle of evolution – the survival of the fittest – seems to be fine-tuned to optimize in short horizons. This is understandable as the survival of a species depends on adaptation to the present conditions and not a set of forecasted and uncertain conditions in the future. Thus, evolution creates fitter biological entities in the short run. It has led to more complex entities over time, the reasons of which are less clear. It is possible that the process is driven by underlying laws of physics, that has an arrow of complexity in biological entities aligned with that of time. This may be a side effect of unilaterally increasing entropy in the universe.

Thus, biological entities on Earth have been increasing in complexity. However, more complex entities also seem more fragile – with single cell organisms showing highest level of robustness and the latest iteration in complexity, the human, showing the lowest. In the past, we see several cycles where catastrophic events eliminated complex entities and returned the system to a much simpler state, albeit with differing initial conditions. This implies two things – closed biological systems in steady state will create more and more complex specimens and unavoidable and random catastrophic events will wipe out the more complex members and return the system to a simpler state at regular intervals.

Closed biological systems, thus, may have an inverted U curve on complexity and that may repeat over time. Humans, arguably the most complex in the contemporary system, could be primed for extinction in any large event. What have not been observed in the past are self-destructive internally generated events that humans appear to be very capable of initiating. So, the probability of cataclysmic events now is a lot higher than the past.  The laws of physics may be driving complexity of entities in a closed system higher over time, the laws of nature may be building complex but more fragile systems over time and in the presence of a catastrophic event, internal or external, the most complex entities are removed returning the system to a simpler state with different initial conditions.

The Earth may be due for a reset. This could also provide an alternative explanation for the Fermi Paradox.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Weird stars and aliens

As astrophysicists find weird observations, the fallback position for an explanation appears to be the presence of aliens (1). It is about time, as green women have so far failed to show themselves in spite of the space agency's assertion that they would be found before 2020. So, it is important to speculate about the presence of aliens on anything one could not explain by status quo theories and expectations. What the "smart humans," appear to be missing is that civilizations that could run circles around nearby hydrogen furnace would be so technologically advanced that either they make contact or hide from the low life.

The inexplicable dimming and brightening of HD 139139 (1) do not appear to fit with what humans have found and know. Hence they argue there could be aliens there as the first instinctual reaction. Ego and ignorance have the same fingerprint for those harboring the former will never let go of what they thought they knew and those suffering from the latter will never ask questions. Such is the state of science that new entrants to the field shall be brainwashed to believe in what is "known," and trained to fit observations to the accepted theory. It will be anathematic to challenge the status quo as doctoral defenses, tenures, and even careers will be lost in the courtyard, surrounded by ivy walls.

The two axes, the desire to prove life exists elsewhere as proclaimed by those "in the know," and the requirement to fit data to theory (and not dream of a different theory), hold humanity back. As science deteriorates to a level of comedy and speculation, there are real costs to humanity. Sending a billion $ "dragonfly," to the famous moon of Saturn is not an accomplishment, just a revelation that technology has not advanced enough to delegate the source as lifeless. Shooting robots at planets and satellites is not really science, it is engineering gone bad.

It is an intellectual zoo. Most do not want to let go of a theory that is over a century old. And, they are surrounded by engineers, standing ready to prove anything that is hypothesized - aliens and all.

(1) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/astronomers-dont-know-what-to-make-of-this-incredibly-bizarre-star/

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Water, water everywhere, but…


The recent drought in India that has resulted in one of the major cities, Chennai, effectively running out of water just as Cape Town did last year, is a cause for concern. The proposed solutions appear to focus on water availability and they are likely misguided. The blue planet has plenty of water, but it is brine. So, it is not lack of water that humans should focus on but rather how to remove salt and other impurities from this abundantly available resource on Earth.

Just like many other contemporary problems, this could also be solved by cheap energy. With an efficient Hydrogen furnace in close proximity, an advanced civilization would have reached technology that can emit zero cost energy. Unfortunately, humans are still clinging on to the concept of unearthing and burning highly toxic Carbon for their tactical needs. For humanity to advance, it has to set a goal on close to zero cost energy production as that will solve many problems threatening their very existence, including rising temperatures.

However, policy-makers and politicians are not sufficiently schooled on how the complex habitat react in non-linear ways and why feel-good actions are ineffective. For example, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the current levels will have no measurable effect on outcomes. That window has been closed a long time ago. So, all the noise around policies and accords world over is just that, noise. Of course, it makes many feel good that they are doing “something.”

The more important thing to focus on is technology – how to terraform Earth back to its original condition. There are plenty of ideas available but it will take resources and a focus on research and development. And, R&D should move into exotic and untried options, not conventional ones to simply suck the bad stuff out and sequester it underneath. On a planet suffering from plate tectonics and idiotic human actions, it is unlikely that the bad stuff will stay down for long.

Advanced R&D is sorely needed not only to mend a broken planet but also to assure its inhabitants have life-giving fresh water forever.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Quantum pipe-dream

Quantum computing (1), possibly the only leap humans could take to reach many of their overblown expectations in Artificial Intelligence and elsewhere, is a pipe-dream. Humans are likely to find extra-terrestrial life before they will be able to parade sufficient number of q-bits to make practical computing. And, the ETs have been hiding so effectively from the space agency that they are unlikely to show up for many decades.

To make quantum computing possible, educational institutions need to redesign their curricula bottoms up. Spending years of learning Newtonian and even relativistic Physics does not lead to insights in the quantum world. The fact that most gravitate toward the "knowable," perhaps because of the ease of achieving doctoral degrees and tenures, does not mean that it is the right way to go. Meanwhile, they are building bigger and longer tunnels all around the world, smashing particles against each other to find new ones, listening to gravity waves by hanging mirrors and in their spare time, shooting robots at nearby planets and satellites to find the ever-elusive ETs. All of these activities are misguided. The latest theory postulates complete ignorance of humans and it is just that most do not want to think about it.

Humility could help humans reach the next stage. Backfilling darker matter and energy to hang onto to the contemporary faulty theories is symptomatic of the deterministic era. As the particle zoo grows faster than popping corn kernels in a popcorn maker and the water bodies way below the Earth's surface sit waiting for the particles that are unlikely to show up, humans have to admit ignorance.

It is time to wipe the slate clean and start-over. Initial conditions set a century ago may provide useful guidance.


(1) https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-problem-with-quantum-computers/