Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Nick Bostrom

Potpourri

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* Jacob Remes explains May Day.

* My Joss Whedon zombie essay from PopMatters is out in Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion today. Last night I submitted my abstract for the upcoming Politics of Adaptation conference on Cabin in the Woods, drawing me ever closer to total Joss Whedon scholarly completism.

* Roundtable on Non-Western SF, at Locus.

* A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that “liking” a Facebook post is not free speech. To repeat my own Twitter quips, yeah, because it doesn’t cost money.

* New polling shows Amendment One will likely pass after all.

* al Qaeda’s discovered our only weakness: our insatiable love of porn.

On May 16 last year, a 22-year-old Austrian named Maqsood Lodin was being questioned by police in Berlin. He had recently returned from Pakistan via Budapest, Hungary, and then traveled overland to Germany. His interrogators were surprised to find that hidden in his underpants were a digital storage device and memory cards.

Buried inside them was a pornographic video called “Kick Ass” — and a file marked “Sexy Tanja.”

Several weeks later, after laborious efforts to crack a password and software to make the file almost invisible, German investigators discovered encoded inside the actual video a treasure trove of intelligence — more than 100 al Qaeda documents that included an inside track on some of the terror group’s most audacious plots and a road map for future operations.

* Hungry for good nerd press, Netflix is teasing it might resurrect Jericho.

* Five anarchists arrested by FBI for trying to blow up Cleveland bridge with fake bombs given to them by FBI.

* Aetna, according to the report, cited exclusions and said it would not cover the claim because Scott developed breasts after she changed sexes. N.J. transgender woman wins battle with insurance company to have mammogram covered.

* …legal chicanery has reached such high levels that the SEC is toying with the idea of going after it directly.

* And somebody page Nick Bostrom: Entire Observable Universe Modeled Using French Supercomputer.

Friday Night!

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The gravity in this place is different. I’ve spoken to others who’ve traveled out here, too, and returned home safely. When you become one of them, you learn quickly that you share a language others can’t understand. Xeni Jardin, on diagnosis.

* On a less life-changing note, I’m devastated that I can’t attend this panel on Brecht and the Muppets.

* Nate Silver: No, this time there might really be a brokered convention. Ezra Klein: Newt Gingrich will not be the Republican nominee — even if it means a brokered convention. 21 reasons Newt Gingrich won’t be the Republican nominee for president. Romney goes after Newt’s sci-fi plans for moon colonies and space mirrors. (Meanwhile, Steve Benen goes after Romney’s apparent belief in cold fusion.) Desperate Romney PAC panics, unloads on Newt:

But what I found truly remarkable was the message Romney’s allies put together. Consider the areas of attack: foreclosures, flip-flops, immigration “amnesty,” climate change, and finally, “Newt supported a health care mandate … the centerpiece of ‘Obamacare.’” The spot then relies on a George Will column.

This is just astounding. Does Mitt Romney’s Super PAC know anything about Mitt Romney? He supports foreclosures; he’s the most shameless flip-flopper in a generation; he’s too big a coward to take a stand on immigration; he used to believe in climate change and supported cap and trade; and George Will thinks Romney is “a recidivist reviser of his principles,” who seems to “lack the courage of his absence of convictions.”

More at Gawker’s Brief Guide to Conservatives Freaking Out over Newt Gingrich.

NYU to offer classes on Occupy Wall Street.

* Another David Graeber interview.

* Bookstores are becoming mere showrooms for Amazon.com. More at MetaFilter, including some commentary on tomorrow’s “Price Check” Day.

Dan Frommer explain the new Twitter.

* Tor brings to my attention Nick “Simulation Argument” Bostrom’s Letter from Utopia (2006-2010).

* The headline reads, “World Watches as Norway Runs Out of Butter.”

Norwegians have eaten up the country’s entire stockpile of butter, partly as the result of a “low-carb” diet sweeping the Nordic nation which emphasizes a higher intake of fats. “Sales all of a sudden just soared, 20 per cent in October then 30 per cent in November,” said Lars Galtung, the head of communications at TINE, the country’s biggest farmer-owned cooperative.

* And io9 has a exhaustive list of the rules of magic. Study hard. You never know.

The Edge Annual Question 2009

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Written by gerrycanavan

January 1, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Hoping There’s Not Life on Mars

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But I hope that our Mars probes discover nothing. It would be good news if we find Mars to be sterile. Dead rocks and lifeless sands would lift my spirit.

Nick Bostrom turns his usual probabilistic method on the search for extraterrestrial life in Technology Review.

From these two facts it follows that the evolutionary path to life-forms capable of space colonization leads through a “Great Filter,” which can be thought of as a probability barrier. (I borrow this term from Robin Hanson, an economist at George Mason University.) The filter consists of one or more evolutionary transitions or steps that must be traversed at great odds in order for an Earth-like planet to produce a civilization capable of exploring distant solar systems. You start with billions and billions of potential germination points for life, and you end up with a sum total of zero extraterrestrial civilizations that we can observe. The Great Filter must therefore be sufficiently powerful–which is to say, passing the critical points must be sufficiently improbable–that even with many billions of rolls of the dice, one ends up with nothing: no aliens, no spacecraft, no signals. At least, none that we can detect in our neck of the woods.

Now, just where might this Great Filter be located? There are two possibilities: It might be behind us, somewhere in our distant past. Or it might be ahead of us, somewhere in the decades, centuries, or millennia to come…

Written by gerrycanavan

May 1, 2008 at 2:58 am