Art is often about making you look at regular, day-to-day objects in ways you haven't before. Artist and UNBAG co-founder American Artist has certainly done that with Black Gooey Universe, showing at Brooklyn's HOUSING studio until February 16th. The… Engadget RSS Feed
Our species has long agonized over the concept of human consciousness. What exactly causes it, and why did we evolve to experience consciousness? Now, a new study has uncovered a clue in the hunt for answers, and it reveals that the human brain might have more in common with the universe than we could have imagined.
According to a team of researchers from France and Canada, our brains might produce consciousness as something of a side effect of increasing entropy, a process that has been taking place throughout the universe since the Big Bang.
The concept of entropy is famously confusing, and the definition has evolved over time. Essentially, entropy is a thermodynamic property that refers to the degree of disorder or randomness in a system. It can be summed up as the description of a system’s progression from order to disorder.
The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy can only remain constant or increase within a closed system — a system cannot move from high entropy to low entropy without outside interference. A common example that demonstrates entropy is an ice cube melting — the cube is in a state of low entropy, but as it melts and disorder grows, entropy increases.
Many physicists think that the universe itself is in a constant state of increasing entropy. When the Big Bang occurred, the universe was in a state of low entropy, and as it continues to gradually spread out, it is growing into a higher entropy system. Based on this new study, our brain may be undergoing something similar, and consciousness happens to be a side effect of the process.
The Brain and Disorder
To see how the concept of entropy could be applied to the human brain, the researchers analyzed the amount of order in our brains while we’re conscious compared to when we’re not. They did this by modeling the networks of neurons in the brains of nine participants, seven of whom had epilepsy.
They looked at whether or not neurons were oscillating in phase with one another as this could tell them if the brain cells were linked. They compared observations from when patients were awake, when they were asleep, and when patients with epilepsy were having seizures.
The researchers found that the participants’ brains displayed higher entropy when fully conscious. “We find a surprisingly simple result: normal wakeful states are characterized by the greatest number of possible configurations of interactions between brain networks, representing highest entropy values,” the team wrote in the study.
This finding prompted the researchers to suggest that consciousness might be a side effect of a system working to maximize information exchange. In other words, human consciousness emerges due to increasing entropy.
While the team’s theory is exciting and will likely lead to further research exploring a potential link between human consciousness and entropy, it is far from conclusive. The study’s sample size was exceptionally small, so they’ll need to replicate their results on larger groups and different types of brain states. Still, it provides a fascinating explanation for human consciousness and may be the clue that eventually helps us fully understand the strange phenomenon.
If you like science fiction or concept art, there’s a good chance that you’ve come across ArtStation. Founded in 2014, it proclaims to be a place for artists to show off their work, with artists like Maciej Rebisz, Kim Petersen, Raphael Lacoste, and many others posting their portfolios to the site. Now, the site is going beyond showcasing artwork online: it’s launching a series of art books by authors on the site. Last fall, it released Martin Deschambault’s Project 77, a neat blend of art and science fiction story telling.
One new theory could put some long-standing physics mysteries to rest. A recent astrophysical model suggests that three different types of high-energy “cosmic messenger particles” could all originate from the same phenomenon.
The theory asserts that these particles — ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays, very high-energy neutrinos, and high-energy gamma rays — were potentially all shot into space after jets from supermassive black holes accelerated cosmic rays.
Developed by scientists from Penn State and the University of Maryland, this model is the first astrophysical model of its kind. A paper describing it and its computational basis was recently published in the journal Nature Physics.
Kohta Murase, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, stated in a press release: “Our model shows a way to understand why these three types of cosmic messenger particles have a surprisingly similar amount of power input into the universe, despite the fact that they are observed by space-based and ground-based detectors over ten orders of magnitude in individual particle energy.”
Murase went on to explained that neutrinos and gamma rays, as suggested by the model, are produced naturally by particle collisions as offspring particles of cosmic rays. This means that they “inherit” the energy of their parent particles, explaining why the three cosmic messengers have similar energies.
Cosmic Messenger Particles
Each of these three extreme-energy particles has a host of unique qualities, but all share ultra-high energy levels. Neutrinos are inherently elusive and highly difficult to find, though high-energy neutrinos can and have been detected in the IceCube neutrino observatory in Antarctica. High-energy gamma rays have the highest-known electromagnetic energy. Ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays are mostly atomic nuclei, but sometimes other particles, that travel at a speed close to the speed of light.
The method used by this research team found that this “multi-messenger approach” of the three cosmic messenger particles can be explained by numerical simulations.
“Our work demonstrates that the ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays escaping from active galactic nuclei and their environments, such as galaxy clusters and groups, can explain the ultrahigh-energy cosmic-ray spectrum and composition,” said Ke Fang, a postdoctoral associate at the University of Maryland, in the press release. “Simultaneously, the very high-energy neutrino spectrum above one hundred million mega-electronvolts can be explained by particle collisions between cosmic rays and the gas in galaxy clusters and groups.”
The revelation provided through this model’s simulations serves to resolve previous discrepancies in physics and our understanding of the universe. It is a step towards creating a unifying model of how these three extreme-energy particles are physically connected. This method also pushes forward multi-messenger astronomy, which uses both theory and data from all three particles.
“The golden era of multi-messenger particle astrophysics started very recently,” explained Murase in the press release. “Now, all information we can learn from all different types of cosmic messengers is important for revealing new knowledge about the physics of extreme-energy cosmic particles, and a deeper understanding about our universe.”
Jigsaw puzzles are fun, but they’re also kind of a pain in the butt. First of all you need kind of a lot of space where you can put them together, and if you’re not going to finish a whole puzzle in one sitting then it’s going to be taking up that space until you’re finished. I remember not using our coffee table for a whole month as me and my roommates slowly pieced together a particularly difficult puzzle. Then there’s the problem of losing or bending pieces, which can ruin hours of work. Similar to board games with their many pieces to keep track of, puzzles have benefited greatly from touchscreen devices becoming popular. Sure, it’s not quite the same as doing a puzzle in real life, but you can carry dozens of puzzles with you in your pocket and you’re never going to lose a piece. It’s pretty cool. One of the best digital puzzle apps around is Zimad’s Magic Jigsaw Puzzles [Free] which has been offering literally thousands of puzzles to players for several years now. This week they announced a partnership that piqued our interest as the latest update to Magic Jigsaw Puzzles adds in some of your favorite Cartoon Network personalities. Check it out.
Adventure Time, Steven Universe, The Amazing World of Gumball, Ben 10, and The Powerpuff Girls are all included in this latest update, and more shows are planned for updates in the coming months. Another cool benefit to a digital jigsaw puzzle is that you can choose the number of pieces you want for each picture meaning you can adjust the difficulty to suit your taste. The puzzles in Magic Jigsaw Puzzles range from a simple 12 pieces all the way up to a very tricky 630 pieces. If Cartoon Network stars aren’t your thing, there are thousands and thousands of other types of puzzles for you to choose, or you can upload your own photos and create personalized puzzles. Magic Jigsaw Puzzles is free to download and try and you can either get new puzzles as you go buy using in-game coins earned through watching ads or buying IAP, or you can buy a subscription which basically gives you free reign to the entire collection. I know puzzles might not be the MOST exciting thing in the world for the TouchArcade audience, but I thought this Cartoon Network partnership was pretty cool and figured there might be some jigsaw puzzle lovers out there. So if that describes you, give Magic Jigsaw Puzzles a download for free and check out these new Cartoon Network puzzles.