Walter Pitts and Neural Nets

Pitts is one of the least studied geniuses of the early information age. See also Wikipedia, Nautil.us. Cabinet Magazine: There are no biographies of Walter Pitts, and any honest discussion of him resists conventional biography. Pitts was among the original participants in the mid-century cybernetics conferences, though he began his association with that group of …

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20 years of GATTACA (1997)

 A 20 year lag between science fiction and reality… not bad! Embryo selection, but no additional engineering: Geneticist (Blair Underwood): Keep in mind, this child is still you — simply the best of you. You could conceive naturally a thousand times and never get such a result … According to this discussion, an offer of …

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CNGB: China National Gene Bank

Unbeknownst to me I’ve been skyping with a collaborator who has been working from this location. SCMP: China opens first national gene bank, aiming to house hundreds of millions of samples China’s first national gene bank, claimed to be the largest of its kind in the world, officially opened on Thursday to store and carry …

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If

Every day, we propagate the E. coli populations in the long-term evolution experiment (LTEE) by transferring 0.1 ml of the previous day’s culture into 9.9 ml of fresh medium. This 100-fold dilution and regrowth back to stationary phase—when the bacteria have exhausted the resources—allow log2 100 = 6.64 generations (doublings) per day. We round that …

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And with that I’ll take both good and bad questions…

When scientists give talks/seminars/colloquia/presentations/speeches/lectures/lessons/defenses/instructions, questions are welcomed, and (probably to give themselves time to think), they often start by stating that that is a good question. What they don’t do is designate a question as dumb or stupid, because that’s offensive, and scientists are frail like quails when it comes to their intellects. “Good” questions: …

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What Was I Thinking?

The LTEE has run for over 10,000 days and almost 67,000 generations. It’s time to shut it down, as of today. It’s been a hell of a lot of work, and we have almost nothing to show for it. As some astute commentators have noted around the web, the creatures in the flasks are still …

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Everything is Heritable

  The figure above comes from the paper below. A quick glance shows that for pairs of individuals: 1. Increasing genetic similarity implies increasing trait similarity (for traits including height, cognitive ability, years of education) 2. Home environments (raised Together vs Apart; Adoptees) have limited impact on the trait (at least in relatively egalitarian Sweden). …

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Step Acuity

Please help me with a little science experiment. Measure your Step Acuity (SA) and report it here. Your SA is the number of steps before you hit a mark that you know whether you will hit the mark with your right or left foot. As you are walking down the street, choose a mark (a …

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Some Wrinkles in Time

Today is another milestone for the E. coli long-term evolution experiment—the LTEE, for short. I did the 10,000th daily transfer today at about noon. [Yours truly, doing the 10,000th LTEE transfers. Technician Neerja Hajela is keeping a close eye on me, and with good reason. Photo by Thomas LaBar.] Some of you will remember we …

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Heroes

Heroes play a crucial role by showing us what we, individually and collectively, can accomplish and demonstrating that we can do great things despite long odds. Heroes play a crucial role by showing us what we, individually and collectively, can accomplish and demonstrating that we can do great things despite long odds. For many Americans …

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Ratchets Within Rachets

For those interested in political philosophy, or Trump’s travel ban, I recommend this discussion on Scott Aaronson’s blog, which features a commenter calling himself Boldmug (see also Bannon and Moldbug in the news recently ;-) Both Scott and Boldmug seem to agree that scientific/technological progress is a positive ratchet caught within a negative ratchet of societal and …

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Asking for a Skeptic Friend

I sometimes get email from people asking, in one way or another, whether our long-term evolution experiment (LTEE) with E. coli provides evidence of evolution writ large – new species, new information, or something of that sort. I try to answer these questions by providing some examples of what we’ve seen change, and by putting …

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Baby Universes in the Laboratory

This was on the new books table at our local bookstore. I had almost forgotten about doing an interview and corresponding with the author some time ago. See also here and here. The book is a well-written overview of some of the more theoretical aspects of inflationary cosmology, the big bang, the multiverse, etc. It also …

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Oppenheimer on Bohr (1964 UCLA)

Oppenheimer on Bohr (1964 UCLA) I came across this 1964 UCLA talk by Oppenheimer, on his hero Niels Bohr. Oppenheimer: Mathematics is “an immense enlargement of language, an ability to talk about things which in words would be simply inaccessible.” I find it strange that psychometricians usually define “verbal ability” over a vocabulary set that …

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Are quanta particles or waves?

Are quanta particles or waves? The title of this post is an age-old question isn’t it? Particle or wave? Wave or particle? Many have rightly argued that the so-called “wave-particle duality” is at the very heart of quantum weirdness, and hence, of all of quantum mechanics. Einstein said it. Bohr said it. Feynman said it. …

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The Gulf is Deep (Heinlein)

  The novella Gulf predates almost all of Heinlein’s novels. Online version. The book Friday (1982) is a loose sequel. Wikipedia: Gulf is a novella by Robert A. Heinlein, originally published as a serial in the November and December 1949 issues of Astounding Science Fiction and later collected in Assignment in Eternity. It concerns a secret society …

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Why you should hire me (feat. Hamilton)

[Anna writes..] I think I’d really enjoy being a costume designer, Broadway superstar, or Olympic gymnast. Unfortunately, I don’t exactly have the credentials for those positions. ​ Over here in reality, I will soon be “moving out of higher education in search of new challenges and opportunities” (thanks, Jobs on Toast). So I’m currently putting …

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Toward A Geometry of Thought

Apologies for the blogging hiatus — I’m in California now for the holidays :-) In case you are looking for something interesting to read, I can share what I have been thinking about lately. In Thought vectors and the dimensionality of the space of concepts (a post from last week) I discussed the dimensionality of the space of …

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Matt Townsend Show (Sirius XM)

I was on this show last week. Click the link for audio. We Are Nowhere Close to the Limits of Athletic Performance (16:46) Dr. Stephen Hsu is the vice president for research and a professor of theoretical physics at Michigan State University. His interest range from theoretical physics and cosmology to computer science and biology. …

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Can Life emerge spontaneously?

It would be nice if we knew where we came from. Sure, Darwin’s insight that we are the product of an ongoing process that creates new and meaningful solutions to surviving in complex and unpredictable environments is great and all. But it requires three sine qua non ingredients: inheritance, variation, and differential selection. Three does …

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The only eyeliner in the room

[Anna writes…] “You don’t look like a tromp-around-in-the-woods type.” ​ It was 2012, and after four years in an Environmental Studies undergraduate program and a few summers spent in various eco-jobs, I was more than familiar with the expected look. Luckily, the boy commenting was a cute prospective graduate student from Washington D.C. at my grad …

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Three Lectures on AdS/CFT

MSU postdoc Steve Avery explains AdS/CFT to non-specialists (i.e., theoretical physicists who do not primarily work on string theory / quantum gravity). Steve is applying for faculty positions this fall — hire him! :-) AdS/CFT on this blog. See also Entanglement and fast thermalization in heavy ion collisions: application of AdS/CFT to collisions of heavy ions …

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