Will recent advances in AI result in a paradigm shift in Astrobiology and SETI?

Time line for the evolution of life on Earth. Data from Lyon et al, 2014 and

Joe Gale, Amri Wandel, Hugh Hill
The steady advances in computer performance and in programming raise the concern that the ability of computers would overtake that of the human brain, an occurrence termed “the Singularity”. While comparing the size of the human brain and the advance in computer capacity, the Singularity has been estimated to occur within a few decades although the capacity of conventional computers may reach its limits in the near future. However, in the last few years, there have been rapid advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI). There are already programs that carry out pattern recognition and self-learning which, at least in limited fields such as chess and other games, are superior to the best human players. Furthermore, the quantum computing revolution, which is expected to vastly increase computer capacities, is already on our doorstep. It now seems inevitable that the Singularity will arrive within the foreseeable future. Biological life, on Earth and on extraterrestrial planets and their satellites, may continue as before, but humanity could be ‘replaced’ by computers. Older and more advanced intelligent life forms, possibly evolved elsewhere in the universe, may have passed their Singularity a long time ago. Post Singularity life would probably be based not on biochemical reactions but on electronics. Their communication may use effects such as quantum entanglement and be undetectable to us. This may explain the Fermi paradox or at least the “Big Silence” problem in SETI.
Read more at https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1910/1910.03944.pdf


A Mini-Introduction To Information Theory

Edward Witten
This article consists of a very short introduction to classical and quantum information theory. Basic properties of the classical Shannon entropy and the quantum von Neumann entropy are described, along with related concepts such as classical and quantum relative entropy, conditional entropy, and mutual information. A few more detailed topics are considered in the quantum case.
Read more at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1805.11965.pdf

Scientists invent a thermometer for the nanoscale

The IBM lab responsible for inventing the scanning tunneling microscope and the atomic force microscope has invented another critical tool for helping us understand the nanoworld.

Accurately measuring the temperature of objects at the nanoscale has been challenging scientists for decades. Current techniques are not accurate and they typically generate artifacts, limiting their reliability.
Motivated by this challenge and their need to precisely characterize the temperature of new transistor designs to meet the demand of future cognitive computers, scientists in Switzerland from IBM and ETH Zurich have invented a breakthrough technique to measure the temperature of nano- and macro-sized objects. The patent-pending invention is being disclosed for the first time today in the peer-review journal Nature Communications, “Temperature mapping of operating nanoscale devices by scanning probe thermometry.”

A History of Invention
In the 1980s, IBM scientists Gerd Binnig and the late Heinrich Rohrer wanted to directly explore a surface’s electronic structure and imperfections. The instrument they needed to take such measurements didn’t exist, yet. So they did what any good scientist would do: they invented one. It became known as the scanning tunneling microscope (STM), opening the door to nanotechnology. Just a few years later, the invention was recognized with the highest of honors, the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1986.

More than 30 years later IBM scientists continue to follow in the footsteps of Binnig and Rohrer and with their latest invention.
Dr. Fabian Menges, an IBM postdoc and co-inventor of the technique said, “We started back in 2010 and simply never gave up. Previous research was focused on a nanoscale thermometer, but we should have been inventing a thermometer for the nanoscale—an important distinction. This adjustment led us to develop a technique which combines local thermal sensing with the measuring capability of a microscope—we call it scanning probe thermometry.”

How it Works: A Scanning Probe Thermometry

The most common technique to measure temperature on the macroscale is to bring a thermometer into thermal contact with the sample. This is how a fever thermometer works. Once it’s placed under our tongue it equilibrates to our body temperature so that we can determine our temperature at a healthy 37 degrees C. Unfortunately, it gets a little more challenging when using a thermometer to measure a nanoscopic object.

For example, it would be impossible to use a typical thermometer to measure the temperature of an individual virus. The size of the virus is too small and the thermometer cannot equilibrate without significantly disturbing the virus temperature.
To solve this challenge, IBM scientists developed a single scan non-equilibrium contact thermometry technique to measure the temperature of nanoscopic objects using a scanning probe.

As the scanning probe thermometer and the object cannot thermally equilibrate at the nanoscale, two signals are measured simultaneously: a small heat flux, and its resistance to heat flow. Combining these two signal the temperature of nanoscopic objects can then be quantified for an accurate result.

From left to right, IBM scientists Nico Mosso, Bernd Gotsmann, Fabian Motzfeld and Fabian Menges in the Noise Free Lab with the scanning probe thermometer.

From left to right, IBM scientists Nico Mosso, Bernd Gotsmann, Fabian Motzfeld and Fabian Menges in the Noise Free Lab with the scanning probe thermometer.

IBM scientist Dr. Bernd Gotsmann and co-inventor explains, “The technique is analogous to touching a hot plate and inferring its temperature from sensing the heat flux between our own body and the heat source. Essentially, the tip of the probe is our the hand. Our perception to hot and cold can be very helpful to get an idea of an objects temperature, but it can also be misleading if the resistance to heat flow is unknown.”
Previously, scientists weren’t accurately including this resistance dependence; but only measuring the rate of the thermal energy transfer through the surface, know as heat flux. In the paper, the authors included the effects of local variations of thermal resistance to measure the temperature of an indium arsenide (InAs) nanowire, and a self-heated gold interconnect with a combination of a few-miliKelvin and few-nanometer spatial resolution.
Menges adds, “Not only is the scanning probe thermometer accurate, it meets the trifecta for tools: it’s easy to operate, simple to build, and very versatile, in that it can be used to measure the temperature of nano- and micro-sized hot spots that can locally effect the physical properties of materials or govern chemical reactions in devices such as transistors, memory cells, thermoelectric energy converters or plasmonic structures. The applications are endless.”

Noise Free Labs
It’s no coincidence that the team began to see improvements in the development of the scanning probe thermometer 18 months ago when they moved their research into the new Noise Free Labs—six meters underground at the Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center on the campus of IBM Research-Zurich.
This unique environment, which shields the experiments from vibration, acoustic noise, electromagnetic signals and temperature fluctuations, helped the team achieve sub-milliKelvin precision.
“While we had the benefit of this unique room, the technique can also produce reliable results in normal environment,” said Menges.

Next Steps
“We hope the paper will produce both a lot of excitement and relief for scientists, who like us, have been searching for such a tool,” said Gotsmann. “Similar to the STM, we hope to license this technique to tool manufacturers who can then bring it to market as an additional function to their microscopy product line.”

Read more at: phys.org  and nature.com

Tesla vs. Edison: A Mythical Rivalry

Nikola Tesla with his coil in 1896. Credits: Electrical Review

Nikola Tesla with his coil in 1896. Credits: Electrical Review

The figure of the mad scientist, the eccentric genius, no longer belongs exclusively to Einstein. In the last two decades, the public fascination with the figure of Nikola Tesla has enlarged the myth to such an extent that it now exceeds the unquestionable achievements of this great Serbian inventor. In popular culture, Tesla is seen as an unsung hero whose merits were not sufficiently recognized. And in this mythical story appears a greedy villain named Thomas Edison, who first does his best to prevent Tesla’s success and later tries to smother his recognition …
… Read more at www.bbvaopenmind.com