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The Dominant Life Form In The Cosmos Is Probably Superintelligent Robots

Cosmos

If and when we finally encounter aliens, they probably won’t look like little green men, or spiny insectoids. It’s likely they won’t be biological creatures at all, but rather, advanced robots that outstrip our intelligence in every conceivable way. While scores of philosophers, scientists and futurists have prophesied the rise of artificial intelligence and the impending singularity, most have restricted their predictions to Earth. Fewer thinkers—outside the realm of science fiction, that is—have considered the notion that artificial intelligence is already out there, and has been for eons.

More at Motherboard

The World’s Goofiest Looking Spider Is Actually A Brutal Ninja

Assassin Spider

Among Inspector Gadget’s many strange features—teeth that fly around on their own (go, go gadget teeth) and a flower that pops out of his hat (go, go gadget flower) and of course gadget Spanish translation—it’s his telescoping neck that seems to most defy conventional biology. But it’d be hard to argue that a super-long neck doesn’t come in handy in a pinch.

Just ask the bizarre assassin spiders of Australia, South America, and Madagascar, with their craning necks and enormous jaws and general what-in-the-what-now appearance. These beauties (also known appropriately enough as pelican spiders) hunt other spiders, and by deploying their jaws out 90 degrees from their necks, they can impale prey, inject venom, and let them dangle there to die, all without getting bitten themselves. It’s a bit like the school bully holding a nerd at arm’s-length while the poor kid swings hopelessly at the air.

More at Wired

Could A Computer Think Up As Many Unique Snowflakes As Nature?

Snowflakes

No one can prove that no two snowflakes are alike. Sure, each one starts off the same way—as hexagonal crystals form out of water molecules—but changing temperatures and humidity levels cause them to grow different arms in different ways at different angles. And there’s no way to track the shape, size, and intricate design of every snowflake that has ever drifted or will drift to Earth. So, snowflakes remain a natural, fleeting, beautiful phenomenon.

Yet, if humans can’t comprehensively catalogue real snowflakes, maybe a computer could? And if nature can presumably create countless permutations of the six-pronged snowflake, could something man-made—given the right algorithmic tools—do the same?

More at The Atlantic

Why The Workday Should Be 10–6 Not 9–5

Office Work

If you’ve ever wished you didn’t have to get to work until later in the morning, you’re not alone. A new study shows that those who start work later also get more sleep. And that’s led some health experts to suggest that pushing back the workday could be a good idea.

Roughly 40 percent of Americans are sleeping less than they should. And a new study, published in the journal SLEEP, found that the main thing people were doing instead of sleeping was working. “It was evident across all sociodemographic strata no matter how we approached the question,” study co-author Mathias Basner, a sleep psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania, said in an email.

More at Vox

Sexual Cannibalism Is Even More Twisted Than You Thought

Sexual Cannibalism

Of all the insane mating behaviors in the natural world—and boy, are there some weird ones—few are more gruesome than sexual cannibalism. This behavior is widely seen in insects and arachnids, and involves the female eating her mate after they copulate, and sometimes even before it.

The evolutionary benefits of lining up a fast meal post-fertilization are evidently numerous, given how many species participate in this behavior. But the finer biological mechanics of sexual cannibalism are still being figured out. Case in point: a study published today in The Pro​ceedings of the Royal Society B claims to be the first to provide empirical proof that a high level of pheromone deception is at play in some these cases of fatal attraction.

More at Motherboard

The Most Ingenious Racetrack Gambler Of Our Time

Horse Racing

Indus Valley is an unremarkable horse, or so punters thought when it ran in the 4.25 at Kempton Park, a racetrack on the outskirts of London, on January 22nd 2014. Given that it had been beaten by an aggregate of 104 lengths in its previous four outings—and had not competed at all for two years—odds of 25-to-1 seemed generous. Indus Valley won. Two earlier, minor races at other English tracks that Wednesday had featured unlikely comebacks by mounts that had been out of action for months. The 6.25 at Kempton Park delivered a final surprise. Low Key—an aptly named horse given its lack of pedigree, more so since it was running its first race since being castrated—finished well ahead of the pack. Obscure midwinter horse-racing is often unpredictable; still, what were the odds of four horses who had not won a race between them since 2010 all triumphing on the same day?

More at The Economist

How Disney Was Hustled Into Making The Trippiest Movie About Computers Ever

Computers Are People Too

When you think about the early 80s, a few things probably come to mind: gauzy impressions of synthesizers, Hollywood blockbusters, and computers, all filtered through the saturated lens of degraded VHS tape. Computers are People, Too!, a Disney documentary about computer art released in 1982, might just be the defining artifact of this period. At the very least, it’s certainly the strangest.

More at Motherboard

The Scale And Beauty Of These Animals’ Mass Migration Will Stop You In Your Tracks

Mass Migration

These awesome pics will literally stop you in your tracks. And it’s not surprising when you think it’s thousands and thousands of each animal type we’re talking about. Be it for the changing of seasons, the foraging of food or the reproduction of their young, the immense scale of it, together with the determination and grit exposed will surely arouse the reverence from viewers towards the majesty of the animal kingdom.

More at Lost At E Minor

How To Buy A Greek Island

Greek Island

It’s the ultimate dream property of the superrich: your own Greek island, drenched in sunshine and surrounded by turquoise water.

Traditionally, these islands have rarely come up for sale, staying in the same families from one generation to the next. But Greek’s private-island property market is perking up, bolstered by growing interest from foreign investors, a drop in prices and changes to Greek tax laws. Some 20 privately owned Greek islands are currently up for sale.

More at The Wall Street Journal

The Internet’s One True Religion

Universal Life Church

Last year my friends Jeff and Veronica sat me down and asked if I would do them the honor of officiating their wedding. Jeff was my college roommate and had been a groomsman when I got married a few years prior. I agreed immediately and quickly went into logistics mode: I’d have to plan the ceremony, write a speech, and do some kind of registration to transform myself from a dude in jean shorts drinking beers in Jeff and Veronica’s living room into someone the state of Texas deemed worthy of performing a ceremony uniting two people in holy matrimony.

I thought back to my own wedding. It was officiated by a close family friend, someone my parents had known since before I was born. She did a great job; by the end of her speech, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. I called her up and asked for advice. Recounting the process she went through preparing for the ceremony, one of the steps caught my ear—going online and becoming ordained as an official minister of the Universal Life Church. It was quick, painless, and only cost a few bucks.

More at The Kernel