While I was visiting Tokyo last month, we strolled through the Harajuku district and
stumbled upon Hot Toys’ brand new, flagship store, Toy Sapien.
I have never geeked out harder in my entire life.
First of all, life-sized R2-D2, C-3PO and a Terminator T800 greet you at the door. Once I collected myself enough to continue inside, I browsed through shelf after shelf of high-quality models and figurines. Some of these were not only rare, I had no idea they were even in production:
• 1989 Batman, Joker, Batmobile • Luke Skywalker Bespin Outfit • Batman Begins Batman • Predator • Captain America • Iron Man and Iron Monger
Having just seen Prometheus, I was pretty thrilled by this Space Jockey, which has a level of detail that is quite hard to find.
The Dark Knight section was also impressive, featuring a 1:16 scale model of the Tumbler, Bane, Joker, and Scarecrow.
Also of note, there were dozens of life-sized helmets from Star Wars, Star Trek, Aliens, Terminator, a fully-stocked LEGO collection, and plush versions of most action figures.
Seriously, if I had the Yen to blow, I would have picked up that Space Jockey, DeLorean Time Machine, and Dewback faster than you can say “Get away from her, you Bitch.”
The raw excitement of planetary exploration is captured at Celebrate Curiosity, with over 1000 of your fellow explorers, friends, party goers, celebrities, scientists, artists, and space enthusiasts. Join us, as we take a thrilling dive into discovering the possibilities at the cosmic frontier in style!
Our Martian Party kicks off after the first day of Planetfest and spans two floors for an out-of-this world experience! As you mingle with your friends and make new ones along the way, keep your eyes peeled back for space industry persons of interest from Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, and NASA. During the course of the evening, catch sightings and conversations from the most interesting Space Entrepreneurs, Sci-fi Authors, Screen Stars, and Personalities.
Bill Nye the Science Guy at BlackStarr’s Yuri’s Night, April 2012
Whatto expect at Celebrate Curiosity:
Customized t-shirts printed while you wait
Interactive galactic art by Andrea Lofthouse, NASA JPL’s Dan Goods, and others
CEO of The Planetary Society, Bill Nye the Science Guy,SpaceX’s Elon Musk, and hosts breakout talks
Short speaker sessions from prolific space advocates!
Enjoy tasty Martian treats and cosmic drink specials
Interactive video games from GameDesk
Gorgeous Spacecraft models displayed for your enjoyment
Giveaways from the Planetary Society
Get dazzled with spaced out music spun by Ancient Lasers and our Suprise Guest DJ
Dance to the undulating cosmic lights of the Jellypuss
Adorn yourself with a selection of complimentary blinky lights and glowey things
Witness live art in the making, interstellar wall projections, and adult games
Intergalactic Girls passing out Space Swag from the likes of SpaceX, NASA, and more
Delicious Astronaut Icecream and Space food Sticks from Funky Foods
Amazing lightshows with some far-out Tesla Coils!
Don’t forget to show off your Martian themed apparal by taking pictures at one of our two sassy souvenir photo booths
Imagine you want to build a new house or office building. In the past, you would have had to hire an architect, a contractor, a construction company…The entire process would take months – if not years – and construction delays were the name of the game.
A man named Enrico Dini is not only about to revolutionize the way we build houses and office buildings – his technology could potentially cause the largest economic revolution in human history.
Inspired by Gaudi’s architecture, he became a Civil Engineer and, later, began building machines. Yet he soon found that his imagination was constrained by the physical limits of modern construction techniques. Concrete and brick buildings require a certain degree of logistics and manpower, and human engineering errors are often rampant.
Tired of these physical constraints, Enrico invented and patented a full-scale 3D printing method that uses a high-tech glue to bind sand. Enrico’s general concept is fairly similar, however: The printer is installed at the construction site, and using a 3D blueprint designed by the architect, it systematically “prints out” a building.
And get this: the 3D printer could soon also be able to print more 3D printers. His company, Shapeways, is already planning a full-scale sculpture in Pisa, Italy. So in other words, this is all actually happening.
Enrico is only one of many emerging visionaries working on Earth-sculpting technologies. Markus Kayser, who studied 3D Furniture and Product Design at London Metropolitan University, is working on another exciting and revolutionary technology. His newest invention, The Sun Cutter, is a solar powered machine that converts sand into glass-like sctructures. In a world increasingly worried about energy production and shortages of raw materials, the Sun Cutter could be installed in a barren desert to build entire structures – all by itself. This would be hugely important for developing nations or refugees left homeless from a natural disaster.
Once these technologies are refined and begin to enter the marketplace, entire economic models will have to be rewritten. What will we do with millions of suddenly-unemployed construction workers when machines effectively render them obsolete? This dilemma requires our immediate attention, as it stretches far beyond the worlds of construction and real estate. As more and more human jobs are replaced by technology, the unemployed masses and the world leaders governing them will most likely be ill-prepared for such changes. The economic fallout could be disastrous.
But there is hope. Companies like Organovo are already printing human organs, and even food-printing technologies are next on the horizon. With these new technologies, the would would have enough infrastructure and natural resources to provide billions a quality of life on-par with the United States. The transition towards a post-scarcity society has begun, wether governments and multi-national corporations like it or not.
To sum it all up, the gap between human imagination and the physical world is shrinking. As the architects become the builders, together we could build a utopia from our collective dreams. And as Enrico builds his modern day Tower of Pisa, hopefully we will all take a moment to remember that every building needs a strong foundation.
Have you ever done absolutely nothing for an entire hour?
I mean nothing.
On March 25th, 2012, I did nothing for the first time in my life.
I was invited to the private residence of Edward Arroyo in the hills near Pasadena to experience something called an Isolation Tank. I had known Edward since the Transcendent Man screening party, but I never had a chance to check it out until now. I recently saw him at an Ancient Lasers show, and I realized that, Holy Shit, I still need to do this.
It was a cold, rainy Los Angeles day – which set the perfect mood for introspection. Four of us arrived at his residence, where we were greeted by sandwiches and refreshments. He showed us many artifacts he has collected from around the world, most notably, something called Noah’s Ark – a black, obsidian, boat shaped rock. It only spins clockwise – that is, if you try to spin it the other direction, it vibrates, stops, and corrects itself.
The final stop on the tour was in the back building, where the isolation tank resides. It is basically a large metal chamber, with the interior completely blacked out. There is about ten inches of extremely salty water, which is warmed to the exact same temperature as the human body. The air is also warm, giving the illusion that you are completely submerged in something.
Edward led us back inside the house, where we made final preparations. I was first, so I took a shower, dawned a bathrobe and slippers, and took out my contact lenses (an act that in itself would be enough to render me deprived of all vision). Edward was to play sounds of the ocean and some kind of shamanic-sounding hum in the beginning and at the end, to let me know that one hour had elapsed. One hour is a good initial baseline for time, apparently. I followed Edward out through the rain to the Isolation Tank, and he handed me earplugs, and a couple towels. I think Drew, my drummer, was filming up to this point, but as I was about to get completely naked, they left me alone to take the plunge. I put in my earplugs, threw my robe on a chair, and climbed into the black abyss, closing the door behind me…
At first, it felt like you would expect – floating in the dark. But then I realized how buoyant the water was – it was like what I imagine zero gravity would feel like. If I didn’t know I was in a controlled, completely safe environment, that sensation would have been utterly terrifying. I mean, it was utterly terrifying for a few moments, but I knew what I was getting myself into. I am a sound guy, so I started to focus on the waves/hum noise, and realized how loud my breathing was as it started to fade away. Once it was completely silent, I kind of had a “now what?” feeling, but tried to focus on my breathing. At this point, my body had adjusted to the sensation, but I still felt tense in my neck and in my legs. That’s when I realized I was still actually holding myself up – to some capacity. I released every muscle in my body in one of the single-most refreshing instances I’ve ever had, and just really let go. Bingo. Now it’s time to fuckin’ FLOAT.
(From here on, it’s really hard to describe, but I will try.)
I first started thinking about all of human activities – like bills, my job, my band’s next direction, and things like that. This was probably about ten minutes in, from my estimate. When your brain doesn’t have anything else to do, you do a really good job thinking about things. Really fast, and with laser-sharp focus. It felt that in about five minutes, I had worked-through and addressed my now seemingly-mundane human ‘problems’ in my life. Well, now what do I think about, I thought to myself. I don’t know, why don’t you think about what you’re doing here? What do you want to do? What is all that stuff outside? Who are all those people? Do they matter? It feels like it. What are they? And what are you?
It felt like my eyes were moving deep into my body, like my vision was starting to come from my chest instead of my eyes. And right when I noticed myself slipping into that, I would jolt back awake. It was kind of like being on sleep deprivation at this point, but still remaining incredibly energetic. I started to hear foreign music and loud, thundering sounds – big bass notes and something like a trumpet in the distance. I decided to think about memories and friends from my past, and it was like walking through a party where I knew everyone. Every room was a different memory, and I could walk in and interact with it – bring it back to life. Then I really lost control.
It now felt like a DJ had showed up to the party and started remixing my brain. Memories, ideas, people, music, visual images…all started to get the mashup treatment, and I actually felt my brain using itself as its own sensory input. Like someone plugged a power strip into itself. I heard a voice say “He hasn’t started using his lungs yet”, which was pretty creepy (perhaps some kind of connection to being in the womb?). It felt like a bunch of people were above me, looking down, but there was no down, just out. I started to feel really guilty about things, but kind of ‘as everyone’. That as humans, we aren’t using all the tools we’ve been given properly, and that we are letting someone down. That there is some big thing we are supposed to do.
The ocean sound started to creep up and I started to sink back into myself. I was expecting to get that horrible sleep-paralysis feeling when I came back, but I had never actually gone to sleep…so I tried moving a finger. Moving one single finger a quarter of an inch after not having a body feels indescribable. I clenched my fist, one at first, then the other, and wiggled my toes. Yep, I’m in this body again. I slowly sat up in the tank, both exhausted and completely rejuvenated at the same time. I pushed open the door, and as my pupils shrank back into tiny black dots, I looked around for someone. Still alone. I blindly reached for a towel, and stumbled out into the real world again. Catching a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror on the way out had a certain completing-the-journey quality to it. After taking a shower to get the salt off, I sat around the outdoor firepit where everyone was. I tried my best not to talk about the experience as not to influence theirs, but I think that lasted about ten seconds.
After all four of us had gone in the isolation tank for one hour each, we all had completely different experiences and explanations – but we all agreed it was one of-if-not-the-single-most life-changing feelings we’d ever felt. And seriously, the way you physically feel afterwards is like getting a massage, doing a full workout, and getting 8 hours of sleep all at once.
Edward showed us the concept video for Floatspace, his next endeavor. He wants to set up isolation tanks for public and commercial use, and we talked about all the new possibilities that would arise. What if you could skype with other people while inside the chamber? What about virtual or augmented reality systems? If I could have, I would have invested a cool million right then and there.
With our journey complete, we thanked Edward I think about a hundred times before we climbed back into the car. The quality of sleep I had that night was unrivaled, and I was able to partially slip back into that floating feeling. This morning I woke up an hour before my alarm clock.
To sum it all up, go do this. I feel embarrassed that I haven’t done this before. Until you try it, you won’t understand what I’m talking about.
Karl Schroeder wrote a little book in 2001 called Ventus – a hard-sci-fi story that will undoubtedly be most remembered for its radical new theory about life on Earth…that gives us an insight into what life might be like after science.
Those of you who’ve read my novel Ventus may recognize “The Successor to Science” as the title of a fictional paper referred to in that book. The paper introduces the reader to the concept of thalience. As originally intended, thalience was an attempt to look past science to see what discipline would come after it–hence the title “A Successor to Science.”
You’re forgiven if you’re bewildered–after science? How does that make sense? Am I saying that science is just a cultural phenomenon, a fashion? No. But it is something that exists in a particular historical context, and the question I was asking with thalience was whether science might produce some new kind of activity that, while not replacing it, could be viewed as an offspring of equal value to us.
Let’s back up a bit. In Ventus I invented a new word, and gave several definitions for it–quite deliberately, because I believe that ambiguity is the life-force of words. The word is acutally defined now on Wikipedia, but the two definitions given there are only half-right. Vinge asked me whether the word has to do with distributed sensor nets–because the Winds of Ventus are a system of massively parallel nanotech AIs–and I said yes at the time, but didn’t expand on what that implied. If your eyes haven’t glazed over yet, bear with me; you may find what follows interesting.
What if you could separate the activity of science from the human researchers who conduct it?Automate it, in fact? Imagine creating a bot that does physics experiments and builds an internal model of the world based on those experiments. It could start out as something simple that stacked blocks and knocked them over again. Later models could get quite sophisticated; and let’s say we combine this ability with the technology of self-reproducing machines (von Neumann machines). Seed the moon with our pocket-protector-brandishing AIs and let them go nuts. Let them share their findings and refine their models.
So far so good. Here’s the question that leads to the notion of thalience: if they were allowed to freely invent their own semantics, would their physical model of the universe end up resembling ours? –I don’t mean would it produce the same results given the same inputs, because it would. But would it be a humanly-accessible theory?
This is a better question than it might at first appear, because even we can produce mutually irreconcilable theories that successfully describe the same things: quantum mechanics and relativity, for instance. Their worldviews are incompatible, despite the fact that together they appear to accurately describe the real world. So it’s at least possible that non-human intelligences would come to different conclusions about what the universe was like, even if their theory produced results compatible with our models.
This little thought-experiment asks whether we can turn metaphysics into a hard science; and this becomes the first interesting meaning of the world thalience: it is an attempt to give the physical world itself a voice so that rather than us asking what reality is, reality itself can tell us. It is possible that thalient systems will always converge on a model of the universe that is comprehensible to humans; if so, then we will actually have a means of solving what were once considered philosophically imponderable questions–such as, what is the world really made of? How much of our understanding of the universe is subjective, and is truely objective knowledge even possible? A thalient system could tell us.
In Ventus, of course, the thalient system has lost the ability to communicate with humans; but the end of the novel holds out the hope that some sort of bridge can be constructed. Strangely, this bridge appears in the form of politics, rather than as a meeting of minds through Reason or Mathematics.
But there’s a further meaning to the term. If you were to automate science, and reap the rewards, what would you be left doing? Twiddling your thumbs while the AIs solve all the big problems? Well, not necessarily. The last definition of thalience involves the exciting possibility that, yes, multiple equally valid physical models of the universe are possible. Not one true “theory of everything” but many, perhaps an endless number of them. In this case, the conclusions we reach about our place in the universe when we understand quantum mechanics and relativity–or, for that matter, Newtonian physics–are accidental, by-products of the subjective side of objective research. So here is the grandest definition of thalience: it is the discipline that chooses among multiple successful scientific models based on which ones best satisfy our human, aesthetic/moral/personal needs. In other words, given two or more equally valid models of the universe, thalience is the art of choosing the one with the most human face. It is the recovery of the natural in our understanding of the Natural.
The ability to create non-human intelligences that can ask the same questions we ask leads to the possibility not just of answering ancient questions, but of turning science into the precursor of a new human activity. If thalient entities can create accurate models of the world that are different from our own, you may no longer be faced with the dilemma of taking either a religious, comforting view of the universe, or an objective and scientific–but not humanly satisfying–view. Thalience would consist in taking science’s results as raw material for building new mythologies–and possibly religions–which would differ from all previous ones in that they would all be scientifically, objectively true.
Now maybe you can see how science could have a successor: thalience would use objective truth as an artistic medium and merge subjectivity and objectivity in a creative activity whose purpose is the re-sanctification of the natural world. To believe in an uplifting and satisfying vision of your place in the universe, and to know that this vision is true (or as true as anything can be) would be sublime. Thalience would be an activity worthy of post-scientific humanity, or our own biological or post-biological successors.
Arthur C Clarke called him “some kind of genius.” I recently got the chance to interview Bill Lauritzen, the author of The Invention Of God – which is a fascinating book that looks at how religion began – and how our ancestors interpreted the natural world as something supernatural.
What was the origin of your beliefs and how were you raised as a child? Did that affect how you feel about religion and science?
I was lucky because I never went to church as a child and my parents were agnostic, so that helped me to have an open-minded belief system. It made me very curious about religion – because I wasnt exposed to it. My father was a business man and my mother was a journalist, both fairly well educated. Niether one went to college however, my mother was self – educated, and that had a big influence on me. She was a very curious person.
What led you down this path as your got more curious? Any singular event?
One important event of great significance was in 1992. I went to a total eclipse in Hawaii, and I was more impressed by the volcanic structure of the island and seeing the lava turn into solid ground before my eyes – that had a big influence on me. It eventually led me to explore other volcanoes around the world and I realized how important they are in religion and mythology. In Hawaii, you can walk right up to the lava flow – there were no park rangers holding you back. Hawaiian volcanoes are called shield volcanoes, and later on I visited cone volcanoes – which are more explosive – in Southeast asia and Indonesia. One volcano in particular was Krakatoa, which exploded violently in 1883. The Child of Krakatao is now growing and will eventually explode. These are things the ancient people saw, and this affected their mythology and their worldview.
So your line of thinking is that we didn’t have the tools to explain natural phenomena?
We didnt have the elaborate, sophisticated science. Ancient people were proto-scientists. They didnt even have a word for religion. Their proto-science…It was a model of the world around them, and that developed later into alchemy…And finally into chemistry and physics.
Before electricity, volcanoes were one of the few sources of light in the world. You had lightning, the sun and moon, fire, and volcanoes. Primitive man tried to fit all this together into some whole cohesive theory, and basically came up with fire, air, earth, and water as a primitive science – which then led to the periodic table that we have today.
What are your theories about prophets – the people that claimed they spoke to God?
Well, it’s possible they thought the volcano was a God of the underworld, because they saw lava turning into land, and the land becoming fertile and growing things – they saw this happen, so they might have assumed it was a creator.
Have you thought that were might be an impending war between science and religion?
Nobody knows the future, but certainly there is conflict going on between the religious right and the rest of us, and I dont know that it will result in violence, but I do see social upheaval – primarily due to the great wealth inequalities, and as a result of the policies of the previous administrations. Again, nobody can predict it, but it will be interesting. People need to demistify these myths and defeat the fundamentalists.
Whats the best way to educate people in a way that doesn’t offend them, and still allows them to be spiritual, but to not be ostracized by their families and community?
My original intent with the book was not to offend people, but I don’t know how well it does that because I’m not reading it from a religious viewpoint. I don’t know that religion will ever be replaced with something else – I’m beginning to think that some form of religion is inevitable, and it is possible we could replace it with something more rational. That’s something im exploring right now. There are a lot of serious scientists trying to figure out why religion exists in the first place and why it evolved.
Do you see artificial intelligence becoming something like a God?
That is possible, of course people who know what AI is, I don’t think they are going to worship them. Perhaps common people would, and it is possible AI could declare itself a form of religious leader. Our concept of God keeps evolving, and you can always trump somebody elses concept of God by creating a bigger concept of God. Someone says Big Bang, then someone says “Well who created that?” We are here to do the best we can and develop models for the world around us…and to predict the best we can what will happen.
Have you done any research about ancient contact with extraterrestrials?
Of course, I’ve done research in that area, and the people who propose those ideas usually get all the publicity, but the books debunking their claims, they don’t get any publicity at all. People are always looking for an easy way out – that some mothership will come down and take us away. Its easier to believe in something like that than to study science and physics and make a breakthrough yourself. And then, who knows, actually build a starship. That would be the way to go – instead of waiting for somebody to rescue you from your situation.
Why is religion more popular than science?
Think about how many Christian bands and Christian radio stations there are. How come there are no atheist or science radio stations? Religion pays no taxes, which is ridiculous. It is also a lot easier to understand – its pretty simple. There’s one book to read instead of a thousand. It takes hard work to learn science. Church, you know, you just show up every Sunday, sing some songs, and go out to lunch afterwards
Do you think that scientists are too busy actually working on science to care about marketing? Or are there too many disparate branches of science to create a centralized message?
Science is more complex to understand, so I dont know that science will ever have that level of popularity. Every once in a while, they make a breakthrough and simplify things like Newton did, but it still takes a lot of work to understand it.
When you think about religion, it’s actually a very intelligent idea as a concept in history – have you ever thought that religious leaders are actually very intelligent and are good at the science of making people believe things?
I don’t consider them true scientists – because they dont have high ethical standards in reporting facts and results. They are more like really good businessmen. It’s never the uneducated people at the top.
What is your opinion on the future of education?
Good question. I see our country’s true salvation is education, not religion. We need to start using the internet more, and make it avaible to everyone in the inner cities. That may be my next book. It is a key thing that will keep our country strong and I dont think we are doing nearly enough in that realm.
William Lauritzen is a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He received a B.S. in psychology and graduated near the top 1% of his class. He was named “The Outstanding Graduate” in both psychology and philosophy. The Air Force sent him to an accelerated program to get a master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology at Purdue. At the age of 22, he received a master’s degree in Industrial Psychology from Purdue, specializing in Human Engineering Design. He was assigned to design and evaluate cockpits for jet aircraft, which he did for two years.
He wrote a paper on the Buckminsterfullerence molecule in 1994, and has created several innovative designs and insightful articles which combine cognitive science, mathematics, geometry, geodesic domes, archeology, anthropology, geology, oceanography,education, ancient Egypt, economics, and other subjects.
His designs include a new way of presenting and teaching the English alphabet (still under development), a new number system (a base-12 color-coded number system with new symbols), an educational word game (still under development), and Spacehenge.
Lauritzen teaches summers for the Center for Talented Youth of Johns Hopkins University. He lives in Los Angeles and New Mexico.