Saturday, June 2, 2012 – WSF: E. O. Wilson, The Internet, Evolution, Innovations, and Entanglement

This was another full day at the World Science Festival.  Teresa went to E. O. Wilson’s “On the Shoulders of Giants” lecture.  Teresa told me that he said that to survive as a species we are going to have to be more altruistic, that group survival and cooperation have been the main factors in the success of our or any species.

Sat next to David Johns, Sports Technology.  They collect and compile detailed statistics on sports that coaches use to analyze the performance of their team and team members.

Internet Everywhere: The Future of  History’s Most Disruptive Technology
This session dealt with both the history of the Internet and its future.  Vinton Cerf, one of the founders of the Internet was there and mentioned that four days days from now Internet Version 6 would go into operation world wide.  We are running out of IP addresses and the new protocol will solve that problem.   Neil Gershenfeld held up a chip and said it was a complete webserver that could be sold for $1, either now or someday, I’m not sure which.  He is advocating an “Internet of Things” in which all of our appliances, devices, houses, car, etc. have their own smarts and connect with each other. Elizabeth Stark has been a leader in the fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which she says will not be good for the Internet as a means of unrestricted communication.  She also mentioned the work of Peter Gabriel who is experimenting with “I2I”, interspecies communication. Also the subject of the digitization of actual materials came up which in theory makes possible the teleportation of those materials.

Innovation Square
We then took a cab over to “Innovation Square” at NYU Polytechnic Instutute.  There were quite a few interesting exhibits.

Here’s a device that can interesting jobs like crawl into pipes.  In this version all segments are doing the same thing, but they can be individually controlled.

Robot with a 360 degree view

This robot get a 360 degree view with only one camera which points down on the mirrored sphere.

There were a variety of robots including those that swim, fly and walk.

It was too windy for the robot that looks and flies like a giant seagull.

Here’s a robot that swims like a jelly fish:

Next we headed over to the Tishman Auditorium for a discussion of evolution.

Why We Prevailed: Evolution and the Battle for Dominance

Most of the discussions I’ve come across have dealt with why we won out over the Neandertals.  At this session it was pointed out that there  were at least four hominid species living at one time.  The other two were the Denisovans who were living in Asia, and a dwarf species who lived on an island in the Pacific.

The discussion covered many factors that entered into the evolutionary story, climate change, asteroid impact, the bottleneck from Africa to Europe/Asia, and language.  Language made it possible to pass on survival skills from generation to generation. Also, the ability to survive as a group, with an interest in each other and the ability to develop a group consensus or identity.

Spooky Actiion: The Drama of Quantum Mechanics
This evening’s session was the highlight of the conference for me.  It was a tour de force of acting and story telling by Brian Greene.  The main topic was the behavior of “entangled particles”.  The mysterious thing is that once they become entangled, the measurement of a property of one particle instantly affects the measurement of the other particle, no matter what the distance between them, the effect apparently traveling faster than light.  The presentation took us through the history of thought on quantum mechanics, using three actors and actual quotes from the scientists.  It included a demonstration of the double-slit experiment which proves the dual nature of particles as both waves and particles, and a demonstration of quantum levitation mentioned in an earlier blog entry.  Most informative for me was a graphic presentation of Bell’s Theorem.  Stuart Bell proposed an experiment that when it was finally carried out, proved conclusively that quantum mechanics reflected reality, and that the so-called “spooky action” is real.

On the way out, I ran into a person and got into a short conversation with him about how great the program was.  It turned out that he was John Plummer the producer of the event, so I was glad to be able to tell him how I felt.

It was a great evening.

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