by Titan Mikuta
What is the Mind-Body Problem?
The mind-body problem is an unsolved problem concerning the relationship between the body and the mind. How can a conglomeration of atoms eventually incite the existence of metaphysical experience? How can perception be possible? These questions have baffled physicists, neuroscientists, and philosophers since their conception. It is the hard problem of consciousness. It is considered hard, because as opposed to easy problems, the answer will not arise through complete understanding of all relevant mechanisms. Understanding all of the physical mechanics of heat does not describe the felt sensation of holding your hand over a fire. A complete knowledge of the material happenings of the brain does not explain the arising of awareness, of something immaterial. There seemingly exists a gap between mind and matter that is impossible to bridge.
The Knowledge Argument
To better understand this separation between body (physical), and mind (metaphysical), the examination of something known as the knowledge argument is necessary. The knowledge argument, also known as Mary’s room, is a thought experiment meant to argue against physicalism, the view that reality is entirely physical. It goes like this:
The knowledge argument seeks to contradict common Western understandings that we can fully understand reality through the sciences, through material knowledge. The problem with a materialist understanding of the world is that it disregards experience as an aspect of reality and fully prioritizes matter. Matter is a very tricky concept when properly evaluated, as it implies the existence of something behind the sensory data that we perceive.
Imagine a circular table. In the center of the table, there is an apple — an instance of matter. Around this table sits every possible entity that can perceive — birds, bears, fish, worms, dragonflies, humans, ants, aliens, cats, buffalo, etc. They are each observing the object in the center. Due to the fact that each of these animals have different modes and organs for perceiving, a different image of the same object is created within each of them. A dragonfly’s eyes see a drastically different image of an apple than yours do. If I were to pick one of these images, none of them would be the true image of the apple. Our human eyes present us with an image of matter no more accurate than those of a dragonfly, it is simply a different image. Matter is the thing outside of perception that is being looked at. To truly know what the object at the center of the table looks like, you would have to see it without eyes, perceive it outside of perception. This is simply not possible, meaning that an objectively true image of matter does not exist. Perception is the matrix through which matter can be known, and it will be known to be different depending on the sense organs of the sentient creature. This understanding of the elusive nature of the physical world means that some primacy of the metaphysical world of perception must be acknowledged. It would be more accurate to say that we observe perception and sensory data than matter. Western philosophy births the mind body problem by abstracting from perceptual experience with the conception of matter, and then attempting to explain perception using this abstraction. It divides reality into two substances: the mind, and the unperceivable physical world that we assume to exist outside of it.
Western philosophy takes a dualistic stand on the nature of reality, believing the universe to consist of two seemingly unconnectable substances, mind and body. Eastern philosophy proposes a much different approach: mind and body are one and the same. The East has developed a compelling case that reality is non-dual, that there are not two separate substances that are frustratingly unconnectable. It is able to combine mind and matter into one unified whole, by stating that it is impossible for one to exist without the other. If reality didn’t exist, the mind couldn't possibly exist. If the mind did not exist, there would be no conception of reality that existed either. Have you ever seen a world outside of consciousness? If not, that’s okay, because nobody has!
Western, physicalist understandings of reality are what give birth to the mind-body problem. The belief that matter is the primary substance of reality has caused unsolvable problems to arise: how do we use the sciences to explain the subjective qualities of experience? How can matter explain the felt sensation of color, or heat? What role does rational understanding play in revealing the irrationality of existence? The East very early on developed philosophies to understand the impossible nature of reality. The Taoists observed the Tao, the Hindus conceptualized Brahman, monotheisms hypothesized about God. All these concepts speak about the functions of ultimate reality as a unified whole that lies infinitely beyond human understanding. It distills reality into non-numerical oneness. Dualistic Western beliefs cause reality to be viewed as two separate things: the universe, and us. What ensues is societies of glorified apes trying to denote why existence is. Non-dualistic Eastern beliefs see that we are clearly inseparable from the universe, finding relief in an unbreakable inability to understand why we are.
by Dani Cooke
I am not a science or math person; I have no interest in becoming a software engineer or computer programmer. In terms of gender expectations set in academic fields, I fall pretty firmly into the pigeonholed “woman-interested-in-humanities-and-only-humanities” category. There are times when I’ve wished that I didn’t so easily fit these stereotypes—I’m writing this while wearing a soft pink sweater, sitting with my legs crossed delicately, feeling like part of the problem—but despite my best efforts, my academic interests veer strictly toward the liberal arts and other wordy endeavors often associated with femininity. However, visiting Google’s Boulder campus with the Gender, Media, and Technology class, the conversation of women and minorities in the tech industry unavoidably piqued my interest.
The computer programmer who gave our class a tour cited two schools of thought when it comes to why only 20% or so of software engineers are women. “It’s easy,” he explains, “to blame it on a ‘pipeline issue,’ saying that fewer women want to become software engineers or work in STEM.” The truth, in his experiences, is that unconscious bias and deep-seated toxic masculinity have pushed women out of STEM fields, sometimes before they even get the chance to begin exploring them.
Google, a tech giant which is unavoidable in our everyday lives, has taken a number of initiatives to avoid this bias. They have removed given names from the initial application process so that the gender of the applicant is not immediately apparent when their qualifications are being evaluated. In project teams, members and managers are constantly reevaluating their processes to create a culture where issues of identity can be brought up and the true representative nature of teams can be questioned. Outreach initiatives like “Girls Who Code” seek to empower and recruit women in the field. Employee Resource Groups like “Women at Google,” “Gay-glers,” and the “Black Googlers Network” seek to connect and support employees at Google who may identify with minority groups and implement some of these transformation ideas.
So, why should companies like Google care? Why does it matter that women aren’t as represented in the tech industry? Put simply by a member of the panel of “Googlers” with whom we spoke, “There is hard research that says diverse teams make better products. If we have everyone represented at the table, we will build products that are more accessible to everybody.”
There is no denying that women are underrepresented in the STEM workforce. While women receive about 50.3% of science and engineering bachelor’s degrees, they make up only 29% of the science and engineering workforce (National Girls Collaborative Project). From both social justice and purely productivity-based standpoints, many agree that more inclusivity in the tech industry can only be a good thing.
The push to include women in STEM is, of course, not isolated to Google alone—it’s a global movement. Some organizations set the lofty goal of “50/50 by 2020”—50% of people in the industry being women. Whether or not that goal is met, the future of women in tech is headed in a positive direction and gaining momentum by the minute.
by Elliot Marks
These are photos of the blood red wolf moon that appeared on the 20th of January. The way that the light refracts off of the side of the Earth causes the moon to appear red.
by Sam Andrews
The discussion of the possibility and the implications of the existence of extraterrestrial life are far too often relegated to the realms of science fiction. Specifically, arguments for belief in the existence of life outside of Earth have often been portrayed or treated as ridiculous, unfounded, or just plain nerdy. The first two of these descriptors could not be further from the truth (what can be said for the third, I’m unsure). While it is unlikely that all life outside of Earth is made up of short, green, bug-eyed men flying around in UFOs, or monstrous, jet-black xenomorphs that drool acid and birth out of human stomachs, according to basic probability as well as the findings of modern astrophysics, it is nearly guaranteed that aliens do exist.
In order to understand how probable it is that we are not alone in the universe, one must first comprehend exactly how large the universe is. Seeing as it may very well be impossible for the human mind to fathom the vastness of space, this must be represented mathematically. The observable universe, as far as we have been able to measure, is roughly 8.8x1023 kilometers from “edge” to “edge” (mind you, the observable universe is generally considered to be miniscule compared to the entirety of the universe). In more relative terms, roughly 880,000 Milky Ways, 2.2x1019 Earths, or 4.8x1026 of you could fit in a single file line across the observable universe. Seeing as the universe is a sphere, simple use of the equation V=(4/3)πr3shows that the observable universe could fit 3.57×10x17 Milky Way galaxies, 5.58×1057 Earths, or 5.79×1079 (five quinvigintillion, seven hundred ninety quattuorvigintillion) of you inside it. The point is that the universe is like, pretty big.
After one recognizes this, part of the Drake equation can be used to determine whether or not alien life exists. The Drake equation is: N = R* • fp • ne • fl • fi • fc • L. where N= the number of civilizations that we can potentially contact, R= the formation rate of stars in our galaxy at the current time, fp= the fraction of those stars with planets, ne = the fraction of those planets which develop a suitable environment for life, fl= the fraction of those planets that actually do develop life, fi= the fraction of those species that develop intelligence, fc= those intelligent species which develop interstellar communication, and L= the length of time that these societies exist on average. Of course, we do not know, fl, fi,fc, or L and so we set our own variable: in this case, we can assume one in a million regarding our fractions, and the length of time for which life has existed on Earth for the average length of time which life exists. For our galaxy specifically, according to stats taken from NASA, there are three stars formed in our galaxy yearly, seventeen percent of stars hold planets in orbit, and forty percent of those planets exist within the goldilocks zone. One can then make the following calculations:
This shows that if we consider ourselves to be one in a million (which is relatively self-centered), it is likely that at least 714 planets support alien life, and we can potentially communicate with none of them, currently. However, using our set variable for intelligent life that exists, the value we receive is less than one, when we know that at least one intelligent species exists in the Milky Way (humans), and thus, we can infer that the ratio of either planets that support life to total planets, or life that becomes intelligent to all life forms, is significantly higher (and thus more probable) than we assumed. When these calculations are applied to the total size of the universe, the calculated number of intelligent species with the capability of communication becomes unimaginably high. Essentially, not believing in alien life is a decision contrary to evidence.
As Carl Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Two possibilities exist: we are either alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”
While it is extremely probable that unknown life forms exist, there is not a 100% chance. There is always the possibility that we are alone. If we are not alone, then we stand to gain immeasurable quantities of knowledge through communication. If we are alone, then it is our duty to understand, explore, treasure, and love all that this life has to offer us—for if we don’t, no one else will.
by Sam Andrews
Unless you've been living underneath a large boulder, you have probably heard of Elon Musk. Founder, lead designer, and CEO of SpaceX, Co-founder and CEO of Tesla, Co-Founder and CEO of Neuralink, CEO of The Boring Company, Chairman of SolarCity, the list goes on. Elon Musk is possibly the greatest leader of the technology industry that is alive and working today. If his long list of influential businesses isn't enough to convince you that Elon Musk is incredible, than perhaps his extra-terrestrial escapades will convince you.
When NASA ended the Space Shuttle program in 2011, the transport of American astronauts into pace fell upon (and still largely relies upon) the Russian space program.
This indebts the U.S to Russia, both morally and financially. The same fate also befell the transportation of goods into space or a significant period of time. It was only when the U.S. began to call upon corporations like Boeing and SpaceX that this relationship between the two countries changed. Musk spearheaded the corporate transportation of goods into space, and in just a few years, he has been able to further the world’s ability in space technology, even successfully designing reusable rockets, something that worldwide space agencies have been dreaming of for decades.
I believe that I am speaking for the majority of the world when I say that this man deserves our utmost respect, and yet I do not believe that we as a people are giving him that. I believe that the people of the world have been strongly disrespectful to Mr. Musk, and the worst part is that most people don't even know it. Mr. Musk has recently launched the Falcon Heavy Rocket, which is the most powerful of our time, and is planning on testing the even larger “Big Falcon Rocket” in 2019, and yet no one even has the respect to call these rockets by their name, they always say FH or BFR.
The entire point of naming “Big Falcon Rocket” isn't because the word "falcon" is awesome (although it is)—it’s because falcon sounds like [a certain expletive]! The heaviest rocket of all time is (expletive) heavy! The biggest rocket of all time is (expletive) big! Say it out loud! Say “I’m a falcon idiot if I call The Big Falcon Rocket the BFR!”
“Now, I know what you're thinking, but Sam, what if I didn't know that I was being terrible!” Well that's actually not your fault, but you know whose fault it is? It’s the fault of the public: everyone who did know and chose to continue down their evil path anyway, anyone and everyone who chose to spread their ignorance. Elon Musk is a super genius who is pushing humanity into space even when the very people meant to lead us have given up, and we can't even let him have his joke, we can’t even show him the littlest bit of gratitude, if you knowingly do this, then you are what's wrong with the world, if you don't want to be an ingrateful bucket of slime, join the revolution! Show some gratitude! Call the Big Falcon Rocket by its name, and be Falcon wonderful.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you've probably heard of something called binary. Binary is (essentially) the basic language computers think in. A normal processor inside of a computer is made up of transistors. A transistor is a small grouping of atoms that can either have a positive or a negative charge. Thus, a computer thinks in binary (either positive or negative) charges.
In the past few years, there has been an effort to create a quantum computer. A quantum computer's processor is not made up of transistors but instead of qubits. A qubit can be a one or a zero like a normal transistor, but it can also be in something called a superposition. In other words, it can be in a state that is neither one or zero but is also both at the same time.
A quantum computer can do certain calculations (such as calculating prime numbers) that a normal computer cannot do. Another property of quantum processors is that due to the nature of the qubits and how they interact with each other, whenever you add another qubit to the system, the speed of the computer doubles. In theory, a quantum processor that consists of three hundred qubits would be more powerful than all of the working computers in the world right now.
In the quest for the first quantum computer, Google has now beat the competition. Let's start with some background information. By the end of last year, Google successfully created a 49-qubit quantum computer. Only four months into 2018, they have already outmatched themselves. Recently, Alphabet Inc., the owner of Google, unveiled that they successfully created a 72-qubit quantum processor. That means that we have taken a much closer step to making quantum computers faster than normal computers, otherwise known as the quantum supremacy.
So, what are the implications of this? Well, experts have stated that there will probably not be a world where everyone's computers run on qubits, as they are just too fragile. Another implication is on the topic of encryption. Right now, the easiest way to break an encryption in a computer without actually having a key is to keep trying different keys really fast. A quantum computer could, in theory, try every encryption at once.
So, does a quantum computer affect you? Yes. Is it a good or a bad thing? I would say good because we can use the technology to better understand our universe. Who knows, maybe there will be yet another breakthrough in the field.
Mike Hughes, a 61 year-old limousine driver, is determined to prove that the Earth is flat.
Hughes is building a steam-powered rocket that is planned to launch him 1,800 feet in the sky. When he reaches the apex of the launch, he will take a picture of Earth, to prove to the world that our planet is flat.
Hughes was planning to launch on November 25, but the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, told him that he could not launch his rocket on public land, despite his claims that the organization told him a year ago that he could launch it. A spokeswoman from the BLM said that they had no record of him speaking with them and that Hughes had not applied for the needed permit to hold a special recreation event on public land. That same day, Hughes filmed a YouTube video in which his rocket broke down in his driveway. Hughes admits that he does not know very much about rocket science, although he has tried to build a few rockets. His first manned rocket went up about a quarter-mile over Winkelman, Arizona, and ended with him in a walker for 2 weeks. That launch was only a fourth of the distance of the planned launch, and it was based on calculations that used round-earth technology. Intriguingly, Hughes only recently joined the Flat Earth Society, after finding it hard to raise funds for his flight.
He will not have an easy time launching, however, as the Earth is not flat. Numerous credible scientists, including Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Elon Musk, have pointed out obvious evidence that Earth is spherical. We don’t even need high-tech inventions or advanced knowledge of our planet to know that the earth is not flat. Lunar eclipses would look very different if the earth was flat. There’s also the fact that the sun rises at different times on different parts of the Earth, due to the globe being round.
So we can agree that the rocket will fail, whether it is canceled, malfunctions while mid-air, or ignites on the ground. Whatever happens, it will undoubtedly be entertaining.
by Elijah Potter
What is bitcoin?
Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency, was made by Satoshi Nakamoto. Now, what is a cryptocurrency? A cryptocurrency is a form of currency that is based on blockchain technology. Each bitcoin is actually a encryption that is currently worth over 12,000 USD. A blockchain is a record of every bitcoin transaction ever. This method of accounting makes it so that there can be no duplicate bitcoins. The only way to acquire a Bitcoin is to (1) buy a bitcoin from someone, (2) sell something for Bitcoin, or (3) mine bitcoins.
What is “bitcoin mining”?
Bitcoin mining is basically selling your computing power (in exchange for bitcoins) to run the blockchain. The measurement that you get paid for are blocks. When you solve a block you get 12.5 bitcoins. This number halves every time 210,000 blocks are rewarded, which is about every 4 years. Since you have a very low chance of getting the exact encryption code to get a block by yourself, miners have devised ways to link processors. These links are called “pools”. Some of the biggest pools are: Slush’s Pool, Nicehash and BitFury. With these pools, you usually get your payment based on your contribution to finding the encryption minus a small fee for being in the pool.
What is a Bitcoin wallet?
In order to own a bitcoin, you must have a wallet. Since a bitcoin is a file, it must be held by some sort of hard drive. Most people use a bitcoin wallet because it is blocked by some kind of firewall and it is an easy way to send bitcoins to other people over the internet. Here is my bitcoin wallet address: 36AFsrM5fwjtqb8QrEAV8c6GHS5YdW12wh. If someone has a bitcoin address, you can send bitcoins there, but you cannot take them.
How can I mine Bitcoins with my existing computer?
The easiest tool for mining bitcoins with a CPU and/or GPU is Nicehash. Here is the link to the download page. If you want to mine bitcoins right now and you have a windows machine, follow each of the following steps:
**Disclaimer: some of the terms in the following may be unfamiliar to you. If this is true, Google it. If you don’t have a great processor, then it is not worth it to mine.**
Choose a Nicehash Version. Choose one of the softwares based on your hardware. If you have a AMD graphics card, choose Nicehash Legacy which is under the section labeled AMD. If you have an NVIDIA graphics card or have integrated graphics choose Nicehash Miner 2 which is labeled NVIDIA.
Benchmark your processor. If you used Nicehash Miner 2 open it from the start menu and click “Hardware Details” and click “Benchmark”. The software will begin trying all the algorithms to see which one is the most efficient for your processor. If you chose Nicehash Legacy, click on the box “Benchmark”. Then make sure that all the boxes are checked and click start. The software will begin trying all the algorithms to see which one is the most efficient for your processor. Once this is complete, go onto the next step.
Make a Bitcoin Wallet. The best wallet you can use without paying money is Wirex. This is an online service that can function as a wallet. The awesome feature of this wallet is that you can pay $10 to get a physical card that can be used at ATM’s and such. Follow the instructions to create and enter your account. After entering your account, click on the button that is titled “Bitcoin Account”. Under the string of random letters and numbers there is a copy button. Click it and your address is copied to your clipboard. Keep it copied for the next step!
Start Mining. Paste your Bitcoin wallet address into the field that says “wallet”. Then simply click start. Your processor will start mining and after a few minutes you will get an estimate on how many bitcoins you will make per day.
by Ari Dor
I can’t believe how much RGB (Red, Green, Blue) lighting has made it into the PC world, the meme world, and the decoration world.
This is one of the many custom PCs that is 100% outfitted with RGB memory, fans, peripherals (e.g. mouse, keyboard), and headphones. More color, more power, more money. Purely lipstick on a pig: the RGB lighting makes it look slightly better, but it is completely and utterly useless. The reason I can even have a view and opinion on this is my personal encounters with hardcore RGB lighting in PCs, light bulbs, and bedframes.
My friend Peter recently built his own custom PC with mostly RGB cooling products that I have seen firsthand. For light bulbs, there is a remote control light bulb that I installed in my lamp, because (1) why not, (2) my dad said I could if I found batteries for the remote, and (3) I wanted to have more experience with RGB so that my opinion on it could have more validity. Now, the one you’ve been waiting for: the bedframe. I installed an LED strip along the bottom and back of my bed. What I got out of it was a couple of “holy sh*t’s and a few “oh my gods” from my family.
Fast forward to now, I don’t regret it as much as I thought I would. After playing around a bit and falling asleep a few nights with ambient light, my whole perspective changed. Haha, I’m just kidding. Not very much changed. I’m into RGB lighting, but only as long as it doesn’t go overboard. For the PC example, RGB fans make the computer look good, but the addition of RGB headphones makes it go into the great deep depths of terrible RGB decoration.
by Elijah Potter
Some researchers at the University of Buffalo have created a way for a computer to use your heart as a form of biometric identification using a type of radar generally used for far away objects. They have successfully created the hardware and software using a specific heart’s movement, and its size and shape to unlock a computer or other device. After originally unlocking the device, the heart is continually monitored, so if someone else takes the first person’s place, it locks.
One of the amazing things about this technology is that it doesn't work on dead people. Now, you may be thinking: "Will this hurt my heart?" The answer is no, the signal strength is 8 milliwatts, less than 0.2% than that of a Wi-Fi signal, which contains no health threat.