Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future


This is a post from Wait but Why which took forever to write. The post is as long as Old Man & the Sea, well almost. But, if you want to understand (really understand) what Elon Musk is up to these days and understand human brain better as a bonus, please invest some time reading it.

Not only is Elon’s new venture—Neuralink—the same type of deal, but six weeks after first learning about the company, I’m convinced that it somehow manages to eclipse Tesla and SpaceX in both the boldness of its engineering undertaking and the grandeur of its mission. The other two companies aim to redefine what future humans will do—Neuralink wants to redefine what future humans will be.

The mind-bending bigness of Neuralink’s mission, combined with the labyrinth of impossible complexity that is the human brain, made this the hardest set of concepts yet to fully wrap my head around—but it also made it the most exhilarating when, with enough time spent zoomed on both ends, it all finally clicked. I feel like I took a time machine to the future, and I’m here to tell you that it’s even weirder than we expect.

The complete article

Tim Urban — Wait but Why

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Girls Like Them Long

Thanks to that boring lecture on Charles Darwin in high school, most of us assume that giraffes’ long necks are to help them reach food in the tops of trees. Well, to be fair, this is indeed the most preferred hypotheses by scientists all around.

But a few scientists think the necks have more to do with something more basic – SEX.

Today’s Needull is an interesting 1996 research paper from The American Naturalist journal that I came across inadvertently.

Around 15 million years ago, antelope-like animals were roaming the dry grasslands of Africa. There was nothing very special about them, but some of their necks were a bit long. Within a mere 6 million years, they had evolved into animals that looked like modern giraffes, though the modern species only turned up around 1 million years ago. The tallest living land animal, a giraffe stands between 4.5 and 5 metres tall – and almost half that height is neck.

Most people assume that giraffes’ long necks evolved to help them feed. If you have a long neck, runs the argument, you can eat leaves on tall trees that your rivals can’t reach. But there is another possibility. The prodigious necks may have little to do with food, and everything to do with sex.

Disclaimer: The views in this paper are not accepted by all evolutionary biologists. Most still believe that giraffe necks are a result of the scarcity of food. The necks-for-sex hypothesis by Simmons and Scheepers remains highly contentious and there are also multiple published evidence for the competing-browsers hypothesis.

P.S: As suggested in comments by our reader WeggieBoy, ‘the notion of long necks evolving in giraffes is classically Lamarckian more than Darwinian’. The reason why I have mentioned Darwin is because that is exactly what is taught in most high schools.

Full Paper Here

Related Article Here

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A Retiree Discovers an Elusive Math Proof—And Nobody Notices


Many discoveries and inventions come from amateurs and freelancers. This is one such inspiring story.

Upon seeing the proof, “I really kicked myself,” Richards said. Over the decades, he and other experts had been attacking the GCI with increasingly sophisticated mathematical methods, certain that bold new ideas in convex geometry, probability theory or analysis would be needed to prove it. Some mathematicians, after years of toiling in vain, had come to suspect the inequality was actually false. In the end, though, Royen’s proof was short and simple, filling just a few pages and using only classic techniques. Richards was shocked that he and everyone else had missed it. “But on the other hand I have to also tell you that when I saw it, it was with relief,” he said. “I remember thinking to myself that I was glad to have seen it before I died.” He laughed. “Really, I was so glad I saw it.”

The complete article

Natalie Wolchover — Wired

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The Next Darwin

Both science and religion say that life stemmed from matter. But what if someone comes around saying that if you give him a random clump of atoms, and if he shines light on it for long enough, he will give you back a plant.

Crazy, right?

If you haven’t heard of Dr. Jeremy England and his theories, I can assure you (from my own experience of transitioning from ignorance to fascination) that after reading today’s Needull, you are henceforth going to forever track his studies.

Popular hypotheses credit a primordial soup, a bolt of lightning and a colossal stroke of luck. But if a provocative new theory is correct, luck may have little to do with it. Instead, according to the physicist proposing the idea, the origin and subsequent evolution of life follow from the fundamental laws of nature and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.”

To keep it unbiased and open-ended, today’s Needull, a 2015 interview published in OZY, is not an article on any of his theories but more about the person himself, someone who is being touted by leading biophysicists as the next Charles Darwin. Once you are done with this short Needull about him, just gear yourself to get lost in the intricate maze of Google searches, looking for truth in his groundbreaking theories.

Full Interview Here

OZY – Meghan Walsh

Youtube Video: lecture by Dr. England on ‘What is Life?’

Bonus Read: Read more about Dr. England in Scientific American

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The Almost-Proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem


Fermat’s Theorem continues to remain one of the biggest open problems in Mathematics. The needull discusses one big flaw in all the proposed solutions to the theorem.

Except there was a catch. As my story “New Number Systems Seek Their Lost Primes” describes, by expanding the number system to include new values, mathematicians lost something essential: unique prime factorization. Primes are the atoms of a number system — its fundamental building blocks — and unique prime factorization ensures that any number, such as 12, can be expressed uniquely as a product of primes: 2 x 2 x 3. The expanded number systems used to solve Fermat’s Last Theorem yielded competing prime factorizations, making these systems an ultimately shaky basis on which to construct a proof.

“Even today, in many false proofs of Fermat’s Last Theorem found by amateurs, somewhere or other this is the mistake — they’re assuming in some of these bigger number systems that numbers can be uniquely decomposed into primes,” said Manjul Bhargava, a mathematician at Princeton University. “It’s so counterintuitive to think that could fail for a bigger number system, but it sometimes does.”

The complete article

Kevin Hartnett – Quanta

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Longer heat waves, heavier smog go hand in hand with climate change


Living in New Delhi and facing one of worst urban pollution, I should be bracing up for a long and hot summer.

In this analysis, they saw that extreme weather and pollution events clustered into multi-day episodes that tended to be spatially connected. This means that the episodes typically affected grid squares that were adjacent to each other or contiguous. The researchers saw that the weather tended to drive several types of extreme events at once, with problems often coinciding or happening adjacent to each other in either space or time.

The complete article

Roheeni Saxena — Ars Technica

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What makes a person magnetic and why we should be wary


Why do some people seem to have charisma and others don’t? This needull tries to look at this scientifically. The needull also discusses why we should be cautious of someone with charisma.

Campolo had long believed that was true. “I was convinced charisma flowed directly from God,” he told me. “It was a gift.” As he began to lose his faith, he said, “I passed through every stage of apostasy on my way to heresy, I slowly left my ability to believe in all this stuff.” He began to preach that charisma may be something you’re born with, but it wasn’t supernatural; you could employ it at will. “You can use it to get women in bed, you can use it to win people down the aisle for Jesus, or you can use it to sell insurance,” Campolo said. What’s more, it was a quality that could, at least in part, be learned and perfected.

The complete article

Adam Piore — Nautilus

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