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Scientists Say the Laws of Physics May Be Changing

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A new scientific study says the universe may actually change its own laws of physics to achieve stability and evolution, called "The Autodidactic Universe."

You know the old saying: the only thing constant is change.

But we’d wager most people don’t think that line applies to the actual rules of the universe itself. As it turns out, though, researchers at Microsoft, along with scientists at Brown University and even one expert who consulted for Disney’s “Wrinkle in Time” think the laws of physics might actually be slowly changing, complicating our quest to understand the cosmos.

Popular Mechanics published a lengthy explainer this week about a paper, titled “The Autodidactic Universe” and published earlier this year, in which the team argued for that precise mind-bending hypothesis. An autodidact, of course, is someone who learns without a mentor or teacher — and, these researchers say, the universe itself may be one.

“We ask whether there might be a mechanism woven into the fabric of the natural world, by means of which the universe could learn its laws,” the authors wrote in the paper, which has not yet been peer reviewed.

Over time, the theory goes, the universe has sought stability. PopMech draws parallels to animal evolution, too. There are no trilobites or dinosaurs anymore, but cats and dogs have survived because they adapted to the environment around them — and the cosmos may have done the same.

In an early version of the universe, for example, Newton’s laws of gravity — that all matter in the universe attracts other matter with a force directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers — might not have been true yet.

“Over time, that system will teach itself, and some fundamental laws will arise, and that’s really what they’re talking about [in the paper],” Janna Levin, a professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University who wasn’t involved in the research, told PopMech. “If the universe can compute with a given set of algorithms, then maybe it can do the same kind of thing we see in artificial intelligence, where you have self-learning systems that teach themselves new rules. And by rules, in cosmology we mean laws of physics.”

The paper’s authors also acknowledge their own skepticism and wrote their conclusions with caution, cautioning that their work is only a baby step in the formation of a new theory and requires additional research.

“Of course, this is just a first step,” the authors write. “There are varied potential spin-offs from our approach.”

It’s mind-bending to imagine that the laws of physics might learn and adapt over time. But it reminds us that the universe is stranger than we’ll ever know.

More on the wide world: Here’s Everything You Wanted to Know About the Cosmos

The post Scientists Say the Laws of Physics May Be Changing appeared first on Futurism.

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samuel
30 days ago
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Cambridge, Massachusetts
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jepler
30 days ago
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Untestable nonsense. Philosophy at best.

There's a history of western philosophers & scientists finally seeing the universe as it is: As a mirror of the latest human invention. You know, the universe is "like clockwork" a few centuries ago. This week, it's "like machine learning". I am sure someone has written it's "like a blockchain", or if they haven't, they will soon.
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
denubis
30 days ago
Take a look at Idhe and Selinger's book on Epistemology Engines -- my old prof was talking about this sort of thing two decades ago. https://www.nature.com/articles/35017666 is a nice short form

I Was So Blind

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Recently, a man named Andre Abrams reportedly brandished a flamethrower over a parking dispute. That’s rather nuts, though Abrams indicates he was driven to it:

“This family, how could I say this — the worst thing that could ever happen to a neighborhood,” Abrams said. “They’ve had issues with other residents, and it needs to be brought to light.”

Brought to light? Or set alight?

Anyhow, this article has taught me some things. I now know that it is apparently legal to buy and posses a flamethrower almost everywhere in America.

“You’ve probably wondered if you can own a flamethrower, and guess what? You can!” the company said in a promotional video last year. “No permits or licenses needed.” It said the devices are legal to buy and own in every state except Maryland or California.

I had not previously wondered if I could own a flamethrower, because I simply assumed I could not. How foolish of me! Now I’ve learned something new and exciting! Still, however, I’m sure that flamethrowers are prohibitively expensive, right?

The XM42 Lite costs just $599

Oh. Oh my. That’s frighteningly affordable. It also looks both amazing and ridiculous:

A ridiculous-looking flamethrower

Aside from the need to sign a legal waiver and the likelihood of severe burns, the biggest drawback I see is giving money to a company called “Prepper Gun Shop”. Still, I can’t say I’m not tempted.

Link: https://www.clickorlando.com/news/florida/2021/12/10/florida-man-used-flamethrower-to-settle-parking-dispute-police-say/

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samuel
33 days ago
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Looks like a propane accumulator, which means this is a good way to light a whole lot of propane on fire very quickly.
Cambridge, Massachusetts
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jepler
33 days ago
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> the biggest drawback I see is giving money to a company called “Prepper Gun Shop”.
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm

The Non-Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

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Explosions from the Attack on Pearl Harbor, shown from a Japanese plane's view

So, here’s something I didn’t really fully notice until after it was over: December 7, 2021 (Tuesday) was the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Usually, whole 10x number anniversaries of major world events are done to death. The 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor (just five years ago) certainly was, so much so that the recent Pearl Harbor-related stories of most newspapers pull up mostly stories from that date. But the 80th? Not much at all.

This is anecdotal, but, I think, indicative: in my RSS feeds, which are filtered by me but pretty comprehensive, there’s just one news story about Pearl Harbor, and it’s not really about the anniversary, but about the US military ending its efforts to fully identify the dead in the wreckage. Then there’s one (bad) op-ed from the NYT that I won’t link to, and an essay by Joyce Johnson in the New York Review of Books. That’s it. No living memory or reprise of historicization in the newspapers, no passing thoughts in the week’s political blogs. It’s like the anniversary didn’t happen.

I won’t say whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, partly because I don’t know (you can make honest cases either way!) and partly because it’s not my job, but it seems worth noting that it is a thing that’s happening. No event, no matter how global, how deadly, or how significant in subsequent world affairs is so universally relevant that every anniversary is a platform for public memory.

Pick an event: the atom bomb detonation at Hiroshima, the assassination of JFK, the moon landing, 9/11. I will bet you that however elaborate their 50th or even 75th anniversaries might be, the 80th will be correspondingly muted. There will then be a spike of interest around the 100th, and then it will fade into semi-obscurity until the 150th or 200th anniversaries roll around.

That just seems to be how time works: once an event no longer defines the living memory of a significant portion of the population, it becomes an item of historic interest, and/or an item of trivia. Some dates may live in infamy, but none of them will live forever.

Tags: anniversaries   history   memory   Pearl Harbor   World War 2
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chrisamico
33 days ago
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Boston, MA
acdha
40 days ago
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Washington, DC
samuel
40 days ago
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Cambridge, Massachusetts
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How to make an Ames square

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Used to find the center of a circle, this shopmade tool is useful in setup for spindle turning on the lathe.
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samuel
82 days ago
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Genius idea to find the center of a workpiece
Cambridge, Massachusetts
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In Case I Don’t Write Here Again

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This blog is almost 22 years old, and in all that time I’ve been solid about posting regularly — until this recent dry spell.

I skipped the summer. Last post was in June. There was just one that month, and just one in May.

I have an explanation: while my health and physical circumstances are unchanged and, happily, fine, I have not felt the drive to write here that I always felt.

I never, in all these years, had to push myself. I’d get an idea and I would be compelled to write it up and publish it. It was always that simple.

But I haven’t felt that way in many months, and I’m not sure I will again.

Maybe this is temporary, and there will be hundreds more posts to come.

But I kind of think not, because there’s a bigger issue: I expect and hope that eventually I will no longer be a public person — no blog, no Twitter, no public online presence at all.

I have no plan. I’m feeling my way to that destination, which is years off, surely, and I just hope to manage it gracefully. (I don’t know of any role models with this.)

Anyway. In case I don’t write here again — in case these are the last words of this blog — thank you. I loved writing here, and you are why.

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samuel
104 days ago
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I remember when Mark Pilgrim, Python extraordinaire and original author of the feed parser used by NewsBlur since day one, deleted his blog and code. I have @codinghorror's tweet in mind when remembering that the guy's not dead, he's just offline.
Cambridge, Massachusetts
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sirshannon
105 days ago
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.

All-civilian Inspiration4 returns to Earth after SpaceX mission to orbit

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The all-civilian Inspiration4 crew is back on Earth after their three-day mission in orbit.

The big picture: The launch and landing of this fully amateur, private space crew marks a changing of the guard from spaceflight being a largely government-led venture to being under the purview of private companies.


What's happening: Inspiration4 launched on Wednesday and came back in for a splashdown within their SpaceX Dragon capsule in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast on Saturday.

  • "On behalf of SpaceX, welcome back to planet Earth," a SpaceX mission controller said after splashdown.
  • "Thanks so much, SpaceX," commander of the mission Jared Isaacman said upon landing. "It was a heck of a ride for us."

Catch up quick: The mission was thought up by billionaire entrepreneur Isaacman.

  • Chris Sembroski was chosen as part of a raffle that anyone could enter, while Hayley Arceneaux — a physician assistant at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital who was treated by the hospital as a child — was chosen by her employer to fly.
  • Sian Proctor was selected as part of a reality TV-style competition for entrepreneurs and became the first Black woman to serve as the pilot of a spacecraft.
  • During their time in space, the four crew members spoke to their families, some of the kids at St. Jude, Bono and Tom Cruise as well as performed science experiments and gazed out of the cupola, a huge bubble window flown for the first time on this mission.

The bottom line: Inspiration4's successful launch and landing mark a huge win for SpaceX as the company works to bring about a future where millions of people are living off-Earth.

🎧 Go deeper: Listen to the new season of Axios' How it Happened: The Next Astronauts going inside Inspiration4 here.



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samuel
122 days ago
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Biggest news of the day
Cambridge, Massachusetts
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