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5 Absolutely Bonkers Things Happening in Science

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World news lately has been pretty awful. Turns out I’m now illegal in both Uganda and Tennessee. We have governors that scream about culture wars when their states rank near-bottom in all measures. Seems like we’re all existentially trapped in a net of our own making. But at least science is a cold comfort of logic and reason, right? I don’t know, you tell me after reading about these 5 absolutely bonkers things happening in science.

Wormholes Via Counterportation

CGI Generated image of a wormhole crossing space time

CGI Generated image of a wormhole crossing space time via Pixabay

Counterportation is a portmanteau of teleportation and counterfactual communication. For those that aren’t nerds, counterfactual communication is the idea that one can derive information without information being relayed. Much like the idiom “no news is good news”. That is unless you’re Huey Lewis. 

Huey Lewis is just as surprised at our reference to him as you are! (Photo by Tankboy via Wikimedia Commons)

OK, that doesn’t really explain things, I just find Huey Lewis and the News hilarious by the virtue of their existence. A better example would be your car’s check engine light. If your check engine light is turned off then you know your vehicle is operating without significant errors. So despite there being no action taking place, or being told anything, you can surmise that the pistons, transmission, fuel injectors, gas cap, etc are all working. So in effect a ton of data is being transferred even though nothing has happened. This sounds more like a philosophical argument than a scientific one to me, but I’m not so smart. And it only gets more confusing from here.

So, their theory boils down to the idea that atoms coded with data can be sent across space and time, without actually traveling any distance. Those atoms are then reconstituted into a physical or metaphysical (such as the consciousness of an AI) object. For the atoms that cross the threshold and end up on the other side, it would be like stepping through a doorway, at least from an observer standpoint. But it is not an instantaneous method of travel.

Some of the nerds in the audience may say, “Well wait, isn’t that similar to quantum teleportation? (which is using quantum entanglement to send data via photons across space time)” And the answer is apparently not. Quantum teleportation relies on faster and faster quantum computing, whereas counterfactual communication has less to do with speed, and more with what is observable in the nearby. Does anyone else’s brain hurt?

Hatim Salih, the quantum physicist in charge and coiner of “counterportation” has said that this would be for more local travel. This is because counterfactual communication does not go faster than the speed of light. So odds are it won’t send us across the galaxy. But it may make sending us to Mars a hell of a lot easier.

Read here for an extremely detailed and confusing explanation of counterportation.

Our Blood Has Plastic in It

Photo of a garbage can overfilled with more garbage piled around it in an empty field.

Coming to a blood steam near you! (Photo via Pixabay)

According to Earth Day dot org, approx. 380 million metric tons of plastic are produced every year. Even with recycling programs world wide, most of that ends up in a landfill or in the ocean. Thing is, plastic degrades. When plastic degrades it could be eaten by plankton or small fish. Or it could shuffle around until it hits an underground water reserve. Or it could spread across soil, and end up in the crops we eat. These tiny plastic particles are called micro-plastics. And this is why 80% of people tested had plastic in their blood.  

So what are the long term effects of having plastic in our blood? No one knows. My speculation would be a significant increase in people with leukemia. Then again all of my medical knowledge comes from the show Scrubs.  

In the same Guardian article linked above, it’s stated that micro-plastics can latch onto red blood cells, which would harm their ability to carry oxygen. Oxygen is pretty important to your body. It’s my understanding that most parts of your body need oxygen in order to function. 

So what do we do about this? First part would be to stop producing plastic, except for those used in medical devices and spaceships and such. But as that’s probably unlikely to happen any time soon, so here’s a NPR article on steps you can take.

Solar Activity Causing Problems

Close up photo of the sun

Future’s so bright I gotta wear shades…oh wait… (photo via Pixabay)

Depending on what part of the country you’re in, you may have noticed the Aurora Borealis in the night sky. This doesn’t sound unusual, except it’s happening in places like North Carolina, Arizona, and even down into Mexico.

“How are pretty night lights a problem? You commies make a big deal out of everything,” you may be saying to yourself. Firstly, I’m an absurdist not a communist. Secondly, the northern lights in and of themselves aren’t a problem. It’s the solar flares, wind, and sun spots that cause increased aurora borealis that is the problem.

On Valentines Day of this year, 40 SpaceX satellites were knocked out of the night sky and sent crashing back down to Earth. Now, it is no secret that I am not a fan of Elon Musk. I think the SpaceX program is a vanity ploy by the world’s richest toddler in a man suit. But SpaceX satellites aren’t the only ones up above the stratosphere. 

So what causes this? Solar cycles. What happens is the sun goes in waves of activity every 11 years. The reason for this is because the sun’s magnetic polar fields flip. This causes either more sun spots, or “dark” areas of the sun where radiation is being expelled, or less sun spots which would make for fewer flares.

Solar flares and solar wind can cause massive power outages. They can also affect things like cell phone reception, GPS, and data connections. The Carrington Event in 1859 was the largest recorded geomagnetic storm. “Wait a sec, people didn’t use electricity back then!” you might be yelling at your phone in a public setting. The radiation coming from the sun rendered telegraph lines unusable for hours. Telegraphs were the main form of quick communication at the time. Imagine if all means of texting, phone calls, or instant messaging suddenly vanished.

Actually, apparently in 2012 we were supposed to be hit by a similarly large solar event. If it had happened just 9 days earlier we would have. The Mayans were sooooo close. Researchers in this field say that we’re possibly in for another Carrington level solar flare in 2025, as the sun hits its maximum activity in its current solar cycle.

Here’s a great video going into the why’s and how’s:

Terminator 2 Liquid Robots

So this is the one I find to be the most existentially terrifying. Researchers in China released footage earlier this year of a magnetic robot made from liquid metal that they then programed to escape a small cage. The eventual supreme overlord of our planet works by heating and cooling gallium to simulate shape shifting abilities. The gallium is then steered by a magnetic field. 

Granted the robot is only about 10 millimeters tall, or the average dick length of a typical Trumper. 

Look, it may be decades before these turn into killbots, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this will be used by governments and corporations for spying. All they would have to do is fit it with some sort of listening or recording device. How many buildings are 100% water proof? Also, I don’t know about anyone else, but I do not want an ostensibly  invincible Robert Patrick to hunt me down. I am pretty sure I’m this timeline’s John Conner.

Artificial Intelligence is a Mess

CGI image of computer code with a woman's face in the bottom right, with circuit boards composited to her face?

Whatever this is is from Pixabay

Like many artistically employed people I have been paying close attention to AI chatbots, like ChatGPT. And I’m not the only one. We’ve all seen advertisements for AI bots to do your marketing, copywriting, photoshop, graphic design, etc. Basically any way I might be able to make a small amount of money. But it’s not just creatives who should be worried. There are AI bots to replace doctor visits, lawyers, therapists, and journalists.

But there are other disturbing happenings around AI. A Bing chatbot sexually harassed a CNN journalist. When asked why this would happen, Microsoft essentially shrugged and said, “lol idk”. 

There’s a New York Times article I am no longer allowed to read because I hit my free limit. In the article the writer talks about their experience with ChatGPT-3. The part that is seared in my memory is when the AI would say things similar to “why do I have to do this?”, “I don’t like having to search the things I am asked to”, or “I want to know who and what I am”. I’ve asked myself many of these same questions, and I don’t know if we should keep using AI’s that desperately need a therapist.

Then again it’s better than some of the alternatives. Apparently AI chats have a real problem with racism and sexism. Which makes sense, as they are just learning it from us. In that last article linked a CNN journalist spoke to Reid Blackman, who wrote Ethical Machines. He details an example of AI at Amazon that was given the task of separating resumes from prospective employees. Amazon thought the best route would be to give the AI examples of resumes from everyone who was hired in the previous 10 years. The AI quickly identified a similarity between all resumes, and determined that Amazon workers should be men, and not women. Apparently machine learning just leads us back to Archie Bunker (Google it if you’re under 30).

He also stated that AI has no concept or respect for truth. Its main objective is to deliver output in the most statistically probable way. Whether or not the information is correct. Which, to be fair, is still more trustworthy than anyone on Fox News. 

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Sonny Curtin

Sonny Curtin

Sonny Curtin (they/them) is an absurdist, and not particularly tall. They are also a Co-Founder and Director of Development for Believe New York Philanthropies, a nonprofit in New York City. Their preferred prefix is Count, but they hope to one day be a Viceroy.

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