Distant Encounter

NASA’s New Horizons space probe has just completed its latest flyby. Amazingly the the object, 2014 MU69—AKA Ultima Thule—is 44 AU from Earth (44 times our average distance from the sun). It takes light 6 hours for sunlight to crawl out to this remotest tenant of the Solar System.

The little probe has to send all its data back over that distance, the bandwidth is appalling.  So far, New Horizons has only managed to squirt us 1% of its image cache, but still, the pictures are amazing:

Ultima Thule is 33km-long. Each of the two lobes is almost spherical. It probably formed right at the dawn of the Solar System, over 4 Billion years ago from a drifting cloud of snow balls.

It has a reddish tinge, probably from the same methane based organics as found on the North pole of Pluto’s moon Charon.

Super cool stuff!

I am looking forward to the new images that should be coming in soon at much higher resolution.
New Horizons is still going strong, at 58,000 km/h, and has enough fuel and power for another 20 years! (assuming the native pond life in charge down here doesn’t further cut NASA’s budget.)


Oh, and Happy New Year!    🙂

Cheating Robots!

The problem with modern AI is that nobody really knows what’s going on inside all those cold robot minds.

This is a great example. An algorithmic faker tricked its programmers into thinking it was doing its homework, learning how to encode map images, by employing the disembodied digital equivalent of writing the answers to exam questions on its hands!


Science from Singularity’s Children: Smart Cetaceans

In my Singularity’s Children series, animals are smart, but get a raw deal because they are hampered by a lack of hands and tongues, a deficiency overcome by the BugNet, AKA: IOA, The Internet of Animals.

The more science tells us about how smart —and devious— animals really are, the more convinced I become that we have already discovered “Alien Intelligence”.

Humpback Whale Communication and the Search for Alien Intelligence, watch the video here:

“The study of animal communication challenges our ideas of intelligence and informs our search for life in the universe. Among the most fascinating of vocalizations are the songs and sounds of humpback whales.”