(Un)limited Science

From artificial meat to artificial intelligence, from the matter of which we consist to the unseen matter that is all around us, there seem to be no limits in technology or nature. Here are our latest TEDxVienna talks!

Technological limits to break

We eat lots and lots of meat. It used to be very beneficial during our evolution since meat provided our ancestors with a rich source of nutrients helping them survive in times of food scarcity. But these times are gone. Meat consumption has tripled over the past four decades and is even expected to further double until 2050.

This huge amount of meat consumption has lead to livestock breeding on an industrial scale, which brought up a whole lot of new problems we are facing today:

  • It has resulted in 70% of the planet’s land being used for feeding animals instead humans
  • For 15 grams of meat proteins we have to feed an animal 100 grams of vegetable proteins
  • Livestock contributes to 18% of all our green house emissions.

Despite the ethical question alone if eating meat is good or bad, it definitely is bad considering energy efficiency. So bad, that a vegetarian in a hummer is better for the environment than a meat-eater on a bicycle. What should we do then? Becoming a vegetarian would be a possibility, but one which the majority of the world’s population is unlikely to go for though. Another possibility would be to create meat artificially from stem cells, without the need to feed and kill animals.

Mark Post was the first man in human history to have achieved this and created the world’s first hamburger with artificial meat. How he did this and why it may be a good idea to create meat artificially he explained in his talk at TEDxVienna Unlimited:

It seems as if it’s the dawn of a new era in human history, where we enable ourselves to create things artificially which would have been thought technically impossible centuries ago and even god-like millennia ago.

Another very crucial step in our technological co-evolution is the looming possibility of artificial intelligence. Even if it may sound like science fiction at first, it actually is just a question of little time until this particular fiction will turn into real science. Especially if you take into account the accelerating speed of technological development.

Contemplating strong artificial intelligence, there are many reasons to be concerned about. One of the greatest risks in AI-research is the theoretical principle of intelligence explosion (aka technological singularity). It describes the scenario in which AI has become so powerful that it’s able to do any intellectual task given by its designers. One of such tasks could be AI-research itself. So, an AI could be assigned to design a better AI, a successor of itself, which then would be assigned the same task again and thus designing yet a better successor et cetera.

Such a highly autonomous process could change itself from a safe technology to a volatile one very quickly and we may be confronted in a fairly short time frame with an entitiy of super-intelligence, far more powerful and capable than any other AI or any human being. Such AI could spread and replicate itself extremely fast and even further speed up its enhancement cycle while swallowing up more and more resources; like a strain of extremely powerful bacteria.

What are the possibilities of preventing such a disaster? Watch Daniel Dewey‘s talk and let him explain it to you:

Astronomical limits to be amazed

The technological limits we crack are truly astonishing and ground-breaking, yet they still turn pale when being compared to the astronomical dimensions of our sun system, whole galaxies and the universe itself.

Processes of staggering quantities take place when stars are being born, when millions of tons of hydrogen particles gather and concentrate due to gravitational forces as well as when they form stars once their pressure results in temperatures of more than 10 million degrees. After this point is reached, the hydrogen is being converted into helium which again will be converted into carbon and so on – all the way up the periodic table until the elements are converted into iron in the deep cores of stars.

And this is the place where all the iron and many other elements come from. All of them are necessary to form planets and the basis for life. Without it we wouldn’t exist, we are children of the stars.

Be amazed by Jocelyn Bell Burnell‘s talk and the story of all our origins:

All of the matter we experience, all what we can see is called normal or baryonic matter. Why do you have to give it a unique name when it’s all you can see? Because there is more than just ordinary matter. Way more. We call it dark matter and it makes up 95% of all matter in the universe and yet we don’t see and can not even measure it directly, because it rarely interacts with ordinary matter (hence the name dark matter).

It even passes through all of us without the slightest amount of energy loss or disturbance. According to the theories there are billions of dark matter particles rushing through your body this very moment without a smallest interaction. And it accounts for many phenomena observed in astronomy.

For which phenomenon and what important role dark matter plays in modern physics, Neil Ibata provides you with insight:


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Header Image(s) from Pixabay & Gratisography

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