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Programming, speculative fiction, science, technology
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Center For Inquiry

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CIMG7053 S chats with Colin

My then-husband S (left) found common ground with Colin, as they both used to be graduate students in particle physics. Colin gave a talk on high energy physics at the Center For Inquiry Austin meeting on August 13, 2007.

CIMG7053 S chats with Colin

CIMG7041 Colin and Jennifer Bown

I am tempted to put a bubble above Colin's head: "My detector was thiiiis big!" :-) Colin and his wife Jennifer socialize before Colin's talk on high energy physics at the Center For Inquiry Austin on August 13, 2007.

CIMG7041 Colin and Jennifer Bown

Richard Dawkins at UT Austin, March 2008

CIMG9042 Robin Elizabeth "Liz" Cornwell, a psychology professor at Colorado University Colorado Springs, and Richard Dawkins

On March 19, 2008 Richard Dawkins, the famous evolutionary biologist and popularizer of science, gave a public lecture at the University of Texas in Austin; it was preceded by a reception hosted by the Center of Inquiry Austin. Though I didn't have a chance to exchange more than a few sentences with Dawkins at the reception, I formed some kind of impression of him as a person. For example, he speaks in perfect phrases and is hip on technology. (Though I bet he would never use the word "hip". :-)) His lecture topics I found familiar, even though I haven't read his books where he expounds on them. I guess I've absorbed his ideas by osmosis. The questions the audience asked revolved around whether atheists should adopt an in-your-face or a conciliatory tone with general public; some of the questions were more unusual. (Would you ask a well-known skeptic to support his reasoning with astrology? :-)) Then someone asked what Dawkins thinks of transhumanist visions. Finally, a concept he wanted us to take away from this lecture, if it was the only thing we would take away: why evolution is NOT equal to random chance.

When a skeptic's Sense Of Wonder meets the realities of science

P1120014 The dark ages: waiting for galaxies and stars - a slide from Center For Inquiry Austin cosmology lecture

What armchair "scientists" get out of reading popular science magazines or websites? Mostly they get excited about "out there" speculation that gets batted on wired.com or io9.com. Holographic universe. Preferred direction in the universe.

What a real astrophysicist's answer to "what do you think about this?" is: nothing.

Center For Inquiry Austin discussion on technological Singularity, 11/09/2011

P1110959 Mike Ignatowski (right) was the moderator of the discussion on technological Singularity at the CFI Austin monthly disc

10 people were at the discussion. Some have heard more about the concept of the Singularity, others less. Moderator Mike Ignatowski described two common Singularity scenarios. They are:

-- "hard takeoff": a computer develops human-level AI, and then within a few hours doubles, quadruples it, etc., and very soon becomes intelligent beyond our comprehension and takes over the world;

-- "soft takeoff" -- technological advance is gradual enough so any given human does not lose comprehension of what's happening; however, in a few hundreds of years the society and technology nonetheless changes so much that it's incomprehensible to a modern-day human.

We examined some of those scenarios and objections to them.