Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Disney's Tomorrowland has been a showcase for new technology. Honda's ASIMO is the result of 20 years' research into robot mobility. The robot was demonstrated for us at Tomorrowland. ASIMO follows instructions, recognises faces, negotiates stairs and dances. With its backpack and helmet-like head, it looks (intentionally?) like a Space traveller. From the Enchanted Tiki Room to Star Tours, Disneyland has always featured robots.

Today's search for supernovae is mostly conducted by machines. The Hubble Space Telescope, and even many Earth-based telescopes, operate automatically. Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys produced images of milllions of galaxies. Only a computer could search through all these images to locate supernovae. Human contribution was limited to programming the computers and telescopes, not coming up with original theories.

Machines still break down and need fixing. Currently Hubble's ACS is down, possibly indefinitely. Other items on Hubble are already scheduled to be repaired on the next servicing mission. That mission is currently scheduled to launch September 11, 2008. It will be the last flight of shuttle Atlantis.

Researchers live in dread of losing grants, tenure or position. Someday robots will be able to replace most cosmologists. They will regurgitate anything programmed into them, even strings and "dark energy." They will write unoriginal papers which will be automatically cited many times, ensuring them safe positions.

The fastest and sleekest computers are simply number-crunchers. The human mind, due to some process that no one can understand, can think of original ideas. Computers may never be able to come up with new Theories on their own. Humans: if you want to ensure your own future, be original.
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Blogger CarlBrannen said...

Someday robots will be able to replace most cosmologists.

Few people realize the truth of this.

1:16 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

HI Carl, your input is most valuable. The real work in the world is done by the "pluggers," those who repair and build things. I suspect many of us have better ideas than the "cosmologists."

1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Riofrio-

My name is Robin Amer and I'm a producer for Open Source ( a nationally syndicated public radio show hosted by Christopher Lydon, formerly of NPR's The Connection. I hope this finds you well.

I'm writing because I'm working on a show scheduled for next week on the subject of "what to do in space." (Is space a future wasteland or a future gold mine? What are the most interesting, innovative, or unconventional projects in the works or on the horizon? What role, if any, should private space exploration play? What should be our motivations for space exploration, and should they be different than they were in the past?) If you want you can read more about the show here:

I've been reading your blog this week, and I was hoping I might be able to speak with you to get your take on some of these questions and talk to you about possibly having you on the show as a guest.

If you think you might be interested, please give me a call at the number below or send me your number and a good time to talk.

Thanks so much. I look forward to hearing from you.


Robin Amer
Open Source
robin at radioopensource dot org

12:16 PM  

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