Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for December 1, 2019

in rsslog •  9 days ago 

A discussion of the benefits and risks of Tesla's cars with "autopilot" navigation; A desktop experiment to observe emergent properties from quantum mechanical systems; A Viking ship burial has been identified in Norway; An argument that scientists should refrain from advancing "Multiverse theories"; and a Steem essay linking to a project that puts linux in your browser


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  1. Tesla’s Autopilot Could Save the Lives of Millions, But It Will Kill Some People First - Unlike other manufacturers of autonomous vehicles, Tesla has begun shipping a limited version of the product, dubbed autopilot, to customers. Autopilot is intended for use only on limited access highways, and only with the drivers' hands on the wheel, in readiness to reclaim control. This has the benefit that training data is collected at scale, in a process referred to as, "fleet learning". However, human operators tend not to follow the safety instructions. In practice, human operators are giving up control while they attend to other matters, ranging from applying makeup and reading news to romantic encounters. Tesla's autopilot has logged some 1.6 billion miles, and during that time it has doubtless saved many lives by eliminating common human errors. However, other operators have been killed by faulty decision-making, and there's no statistical consensus on how it stacks up overall. The article suggests that a regulatory practice that's similar to the one used for drug safety screening may be an appropriate way to balance the risks and rewards. h/t Communications of the ACM (but their link is broken)

  2. How a tabletop experiment could test the bedrock of reality - Discussing a new paper by Adam R. Brown and colleagues, this article says that according to theory, space and time are properties that emerge out of of a deeper quantum reality. In order to get closer to understanding that mechanism, theorists have devised an experiment to observe another emergent property of quantum systems. This experiment is compared to the transmission of voice through air, where the fluid dynamics are far to complex for precise simulation by computer, but nature manages to perform the task efficiently. In this hypothetical scenario, a message is transmitted into a quantum system, at which point it is scattered randomly throughout the quantum mesh, but it eventually refocuses and emerges from the other side, without any obvious focusing mechanism. The experiment involves three steps: (i) establishing quantum entanglement; (ii) inserting the message into one half of the entangled mesh; and (iii) manipulating the "back half" of the system in a way that causes the message to reemerge. As-of now, the idea is just a thought experiment, but with the rapid pace of advances in quantum physics, it may be possible in the not-too-distant future. As an aside, one of the collaborators is Leonard Susskind, described as the "father of string theory".

  3. New ship burial found in Norway - Using high resolution and large scale georadar techniques, researchers have identified a Viking ship burial at Edøy in Møre and Romsdal County in Norway. Thus far, there are only three known Viking ship burial sites that are well-preserved, so researchers expect to be able to gather new information at this site. Consistent with other ship-burial sites, the ship is buried just below the top-soil, and researchers believe that the 40 foot (13 meter) ship was covered with a 60 foot (18 meter) mound. It is estimated that the ship is more than 1,000 years old, and the ends of the ship appear to have been damaged by farmers' plows. h/t archaeology.org

  4. Multiverse Theories Are Bad for Science - In this article, John Horgan discusses the idea of a Multiverse as an explanation for the odd particle/wave duality of quantum physics. According to this idea, there are an infinitude of universes, with new ones being created every time that quantum objects collide and force the collapse of their respective wave functions. Horgan compares the belief in a multiverse to a belief in God, saying that there's no way to prove or disprove the existence of other universes, so the idea is untestable - and therefore unscientific. He also contends that it does damage to the field's credibility when respected scientists advance these ideas as-if they were physical rather than metaphysical.

  5. STEEM Linux in your browser - In this post, @steevc draws our attention to the jor1k project, which offers a linux virtual machine inside your browser. Here is the demo. This is really cool! (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @steevc.)


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Cheers for the mention. The march of technology is fascinating with pros and cons along the way.

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