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Sci-Fi, Religion, And Silicon Valley’s Quest For Higher Learning

Higher Learning

It was the final night of classes at Singularity University’s March 2013 Executive Program, and we, the students, had been given a valedictory assignment: Predict the future.

For the past six days, the 63 of us had been immersed in lectures on the nearly limitless potential of artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, and bioinformatics, and now the moment had arrived for us to figure out what we really believed and ponder the big questions. Was a transhuman future — the Singularity — really only three decades away, as SU’s chancellor and co-founder Ray Kurzweil had prophesied? Were we really on the brink of a cure for all viruses and an era of radical energy abundance? Would we soon be able to choose to live forever? How many glasses of wine would it take until our group of entrepreneurs, executives, and hippie mystics got impatient and just resolved to build a time machine?

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The Zulu Tribesman Who Wrote The Song In The Jungle

Solomon Linda

Solomon Linda was a Zulu who wrote a melody that earned untold millions for white men but died so poor that his widow couldn’t afford a stone for his grave.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a small miracle took place in the brain of a man named Solomon Linda. It was 1939, and he was standing in front of a microphone in the only recording studio in black Africa when it happened. He hadn’t composed the melody or written it down or anything. He just opened his mouth and out it came, a haunting skein of fifteen notes that flowed down the wires and into a trembling stylus that cut tiny grooves into a spinning block of beeswax, which was taken to England and turned into a record that became a very big hit in that part of Africa.

More at Longform

Spectacular Lightning Show Over The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon inspires many people to photograph its grandiose scale and scenic landscape, but Sedona-based photographer Rolf Maeder has managed to capture a sight less seen — the Grand Canyon being hit by a spectacular thunderstorm. Being drawn to nature, Maeder originally moved to Sedona 13 years ago and left behind his past as a musician in Switzerland. Now, he set out on an adventure to catch a beautiful sunset but was met with something far more eye-catching.

More at My Modern Met

How To Buy A Private Island Online

Private Island

When it comes to establishing your own little island paradise, Nova Scotia may not be the region that first springs to mind. But as a few buddies recently discovered, Canadian wilderness is a lot more affordable—and accessible—than sandbars in the Caribbean or South Pacific. So they bought some of it—through a website.

In a jubilant announcement, a young man named Tynan (former pick-up artist, guru of RV living, devoted minimalist, and founder of SETT, a “high-engagement” blogging platform) described how he and nine other investors had gone in together on a relatively inexpensive island. “Having a random patch of land somewhere holds almost no appeal,” he wrote, “but an island is totally different. An island is like your own little country, with complete control of everything within its borders.

More at The Daily Dot

The Insane Doomsday Weapon America Almost Built

Pluto

The Cold War had plenty of disadvantages for the world as a whole, true, but there was never a better time to be a mad scientist with crazy doomsday devices. No longer limited to freelance work delivering threats to the UN, the Cold War meant governments would actually hire you to make things. Things like Project Pluto.

Now, I’m not saying the scientists who came up with Project Pluto were mad scientists, but there was a pretty high degree of mad science going on in this thing. In some ways, it was the perfect embodiment of Cold War era thinking taken to its utmost extreme. Project Pluto, also known as “the Flying Crowbar,” would have been an incredibly potent weapon. Potent, and also cruel, terrifying, and ultimately uncontrollable.

More at Jalopnik

Why Music Sounds Bad

iPhone Headphones

CNN recently reported on the “death” of the home stereo system, and while that’s an exaggeration, few people – young or old – have “stereos” anymore. CNN was asleep at the wheel on this one; precious few folks have had stereos for decades. Music is now almost always consumed in cars, and over phones and plastic computer or Bluetooth speakers. If there’s an imminent “death” on the horizon, it will surely strike MP3 players and iPods. Phones have already taken over as the portable music players of choice. Do you know anyone who still uses a MP3 player, one that’s not also a phone?

More at CNet

Submarine Surfaces In Milan Street

Submarine Milan

Like the sight of a Ferris wheel in the ocean after Hurricane Sandy, a surfaced submarine in the streets of Milan is just as much a bizarre spectacle. Although, one was caused by a natural disaster, while the other was contrived by an insurance company as part of a marketing campaign labeled “Protect You Life.’ We have to give it up to the Europ Assistance IT insurance group, clever, very clever.

More at Juxtapoz

The Terrifying Fallout Of The Silk Road Shutdown

Silk Road Shutdown

The founder of Silk Road, Ross William Ulbricht, has been arrested. He is accused of money laundering, hacking, narcotics trafficking conspiracy and of (unsuccessfully) hiring a hitman for over $100,000. Millions of dollars in Bitcoins have been seized, and Silk Road has been shut down.

The criminal complaint reveals that over 100 undercover purchases were made by law enforcement agents, giving Silk Road dealers plenty to worry about. But the most intense panic is coming from a specific kind of Silk Road user: the offline drug dealer.

In order to buy something on Silk Road, you first have to transfer funds to your account. Since these funds are Bitcoins, and since Bitcoin transfers are final and permanent, any money held in a Silk Road account is no longer available to the users who deposited it.

More at Buzzfeed

Why We Get Jet Lag (And How To Avoid It)

Jet Lag

Jet lag is, simply, a breakdown in your circadian rhythm caused by rapid travel through multiple time zones. Say, for example, you were to fly from San Francisco to New York City. Your body doesn’t have time to adjust to the three-time-zone difference over the course of the flight, so your body “thinks” that it’s three hours earlier than what your watch says. And until your internal clocks can reset themselves to the local time, you’re left groggy and tired.

The severity of jet lag depends both on the traveler and the trip. North to south trips and shorter (1-2 time zones) east to west trips do not cause as noticeable lag as cross-country flights. Additionally, some people’s circadian rhythms take longer than others to reset. In all, however, the maximum amount of jet lag one could potentially endure is plus or minus 12 hours. Interestingly, adjusting to losing hours (traveling west to east) is significantly harder than adjusting to gaining them (traveling east to west). The former requires roughly 2/3 of a day per time zone crossed to recover from, while the latter demands just half a day.

More at Gizmodo

Mesmerizing Photographs Of A Volcano Erupting In Iceland

Volcano

In 2010, when James Appleton knew that the volcano Eyjafjallajökull was erupting, he made a journey to Iceland to take some photographs.

Although he was facing extreme weather conditions, he believed that taking the risk was worth the potential rewards.

After hitchhiking to the volcano, Appleton managed to take these stunning photos of an eruption with the northern lights gracing the skies.

More at Taxi