A proposed empirical scale of consciousness from dead to superhuman.
I have an essay in Aeon magazine on the possibility that machines might become conscious without our realizing it and possible ways to test for that. A huge variety of physiological and behavioral tests of consciousness might be adapted to machines, and Spanish AI researcher Raúl Arrabales Moreno and his colleagues have systematized them as […]
Shine a laser on a nonlinear optical crystal to get streams of entangled photons.
The number-one question that people ask me when I talk about nonlocality is: how are entangled particles created? I didn’t say much about this in the first edition of my book because the details don’t matter for my overall argument, but since everyone wants to know, I figure I should elaborate. (I’ve also added an […]
Consumer GPS now achieves an accuracy of a few meters, good enough to spot mapping errors and geological changes.
A couple of weeks ago, I was writing up a description of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, and I thought I’d compare the warping of spacetime to the motion of Earth’s tectonic plates. Nothing on Earth’s surface has fixed coordinates, because the surface is ever-shifting. Same goes for spacetime. But then it struck me: if […]
Look for answers in the winning essays of the third Foundational Questions Institute essay contest.
Last week, the Foundation Questions Institute announced the winners of its third essay contest, which Scientific American co-sponsored. (I helped to decide on the question, judge the essays and hand out the awards at the World Science Festival in New York City.) The essay question was, “Is Reality Digital or Analog?” Is nature, at root, […]
Space shuttle Endeavour soars into space on its 16-day, STS-134 mission to the International Space Station.
Editor’s note: Updated at 12:15 P.M. KENNEDY SPACE CENTER—The space shuttle Endeavour took off on its final flight Monday morning at 8:56 A.M. Eastern time. The takeoff came after a nail-biting final hour as technicians had to do some last-minute repairs to the shuttle’s heat tiles and clouds filled the sky above Cape Canaveral. In […]
NASA engineers troubleshoot Endeavour’s electrical problems.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER—When NASA scrubbed the shuttle Endeavour‘s final launch here on Friday, engineers said there was a best-case and a worst-case scenario. Well, guess what: it was the worst case. The trouble began when an electric heater for the hydraulics system failed to turn on. When engineers opened the hatch into the left aft […]
An excited yet wistful space reporter gets ready for the second-to-last shuttle launch.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER—If I’d jumped, I could have touched the belly of the Discovery. Of course, I would have then been escorted unceremoniously from the Orbiter Processing Facility. But I was that close. What a strange mix of thrill and melancholy it was to see those heat-shield tiles, the swoop of the delta wing, and […]
An experiment that used to fill a basement lab now fits on an endtable.
DRESDEN, Germany—How cool would it be not just to read about the craziness of quantum mechanics, but to see it—even better, do it—for yourself? Several years ago I asked virtuoso experimental physicist Paul Kwiat whether he could develop a simple demonstration anyone could do at home, and he and his undergraduate student Rachel Killmer came […]
For some, the online world is more real than the physical world.
When l was an astronomy teaching assistant in grad school, some of my students would look through the telescope eyepiece at Saturn, pull back as if they didn’t know what to make of it, look again, and ask: “That’s really Saturn? It’s not a picture? A projection?” Some insisted on looking down the telescope tube […]