A Higgs mass, fixed by hypothetical “axion” particle?

Natalie Wolchover, for Quanta Magazine: What if the Higgs mass, and by implication the laws of nature, are unnatural? Calculations show that if the mass of the Higgs boson were just a few times heavier and everything else stayed the same, protons could no longer assemble into atoms, and there would be no complex structures — no…

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Aligning machine intelligence with human values

Quanta Magazine’s Natalie Wolchover interviews computer scientist Stuart Russell about the future of artificial intelligence: You could say machines should err on the side of doing nothing in areas where there’s a conflict of values. That might be difficult. I think we will have to build in these value functions. If you want to have a domestic robot in…

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Designing stormtroopers, then and now

Vanity Fair’s Bruce Handy talks to costume designer Michael Kaplan about his experience with costume design, and how things have changed since his original stint with Blade Runner: I think I was the only one who read the script and felt that it should have an old Sam Spade, old gumshoe kind of feeling. When I…

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ILM: an oral history

Alex French and Howie Kahn, for Wired: Industrial Light & Magic was born in a sweltering warehouse behind the Van Nuys airport in the summer of 1975. Its first employees were recent college graduates (and dropouts) with rich imaginations and nimble fingers. They were tasked with building Star Wars’ creatures, spaceships, circuit boards, and cameras. It…

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People with similar views mimic each other’s speech patterns

Monique Patenaude, for the University of Rochester’s NewsCenter: As social creatures, we tend to mimic each other’s posture, laughter, and other behaviors, including how we speak. Now a new study shows that people with similar views tend to more closely mirror, or align, each other’s speech patterns. In addition, people who are better at compromising…

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Spacetime as the reaction of quantum action

Jennifer Oulette, for Wired: It is common to speak of a “fabric” of space-time, a metaphor that evokes the concept of weaving individual threads together to form a smooth, continuous whole. That thread is fundamentally quantum. “Entanglement is the fabric of space-time,” said Swingle, who is now a researcher at Stanford University. “It’s the thread…

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Building No Man’s Sky’s life-sized digital universe

A lot of ink is being spilled about this lovely indie game, and surely the technology behind it is notable, regardless of the actual gameplay. Raffi Khatchadourian, for the New Yorker: To build a triple-A game, hundreds of artists and programmers collaborate in tight coördination: nearly every pixel in Grand Theft Auto’s game space has…

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But how will we really reach the stars?

As important as dreaming about exotic EM engines—perhaps even more so—is thinking about various more feasible technologies. After all, those are the technologies we’ll actually develop first. Astronomer Alastair Reynolds explores these questions in an article for Reuters: That said, any civilization willing to contemplate an interstellar expedition at close to the speed of light might…

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On the terraforming of Mars with microbes

LSU microbiologist Gary King, writing for Popular Mechanics: If we want to grow life in the watery-subsurface of Mars, King says, the opening move is identifying the right spot to start. The scant amount of subsurface water recently discovered does not suddenly transform Mars into a fertile Eden. However, “there’s no reason to suspect that the entirety of…

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In Lifeline, the sole survivor of a spaceship crash relies on you for survival

Laura Hudson for Boing Boing: As counterintuitive as it sounds, there’s something about interacting with Taylor through text messages that can feel very intimate, perhaps because we’ve grown so accustomed to communicating our most personal thoughts with our friends through texts—and waiting for their responses with bated breath. While some mobile games intentionally frustrate players…

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Stellar stagecoaches, and interstellar possibilities

Brian McConnell, writing for Centauri Dreams: A spaceship that is mostly water will be more like a cell than a conventional rocket plus capsule architecture. Space agriculture, or even aquaculture, becomes practical when water is abundant. Creature comforts that would be unthinkable in a conventional ship (hot baths anyone?) will be feasible in a spacecoach. Meanwhile,…

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Interview: Lola VFX team discusses digital makeup

fxguide’s interviews are technical and in-depth, and this one’s no different. This time out, Mike Seymour visited Lola VFX to interview several members of their team to discuss, among other things, their fine facial work on films such as Benjamin Button, The Social Network, and the Captain America movies. But I have to say, one of my favorite parts is this aside:…

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The linguistic mor-fuckin-phology of English infixation

Chi Luu, for JSTOR Daily: In expletive infixation, common obscene expletives or their milder variants, such as fucking/fuckin, freaking, flipping, effing, goddamn, damn (and bloody/blooming in British and Australian English contexts) are inserted productively into words to express a stronger vehemence. absolutely: abso-fucking-lutely, abso-bloody-lutely, abso-goddamn-lutely, abso-freaking-lutely Minnesota: Minne-fucking-sota fantastic: fan-bloody-tastic We can see how different expletives can be inserted…

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Synesthesia, and tasting sounds

Kate Samuelson, for Motherboard: [James] Wannerton has a rare form of synaesthesia known as lexical-gustatory synaesthesia, meaning that his taste and hearing senses do not operate independently of each other. As a result, for Wannerton every word and every sound has a distinctive flavour. Although the words and sounds do not usually bear any relation…

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