In All Probability, You Are a Boltzmann Brain

You are a disembodied brain floating, for a brief instant, in the vastness of the universe. Your memories and perceptions are the result of the random coming-together of subatomic particles from an enormous sea of stuff that used to be the universe. So, nothing that you see around you is real, nothing you remember really happened.That is to say, you are a Boltzmann brain.

And that is more likely than what you believe to be true, that you are an autonomous, independent being living on the third planet from the Sun in one of the spiral arms of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Why? Because there are many more Boltzmann brains than there are real people, so the probability is that you are one. 
What is a Boltzmann brainHow do you imagine the end of the universe? Exploding supernovae, planets shattering into pieces, black holes sucking up the remnants of erstwhile galaxies?

Apparently not. The end of the universe will be a formless, lifeless, soup of particles where nothing happens. This is the ine…

The Milky Way May Contain Dozens of Alien Civilizations

Scientists calculate that there could be around 30 Communicating Extraterrestrial Intelligences (CETI) in our galaxy.In the 16th century, Nicolaus Copernicus demonstrated that the Earth was not the centre of the solar system. Astronomers, since then, have show our solar system to be a tiny part of our galaxy, the Milky Way, which is, in turn, only a pin prick in the billions or trillions of galaxies that make up the Universe.
Earth is thus a minuscule part of creation. And it is this insignificance that leads to the Principle of Mediocrity, which says that the Earth holds no special position in the universe. Consequently, among the billions of stars and the planets circling them, there will be other Earth-like planets on which intelligent life has also developed. 
There is no reason to believe otherwise - if life can develop here, life, even intelligent life, can develop elsewhere, too. It's just that we haven't detected it, yet.
It is this sort of thinking that have led scientis…

Superforecasting Outperforms Military Intelligence Experts

Forecasts from Intelligence agencies are used to inform key government decision making. Getting it wrong can lead to disastrous consequences.
Superforecasting, which aims to improve the accuracy of prediction, was born out of academic research and supported by the U.S. government’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) following the failure of intelligence services to correctly predict world events.
The Iraq war The invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and cost billions of dollars.

The decision to invade was based, at least in part, by the belief by intelligence agencies that Iraq had a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.

These WMDs were, it was said, an imminent threat to US friends and allies in the Middle East and Europe, and a future threat to the United States, itself.

As we all know now, that was not the case.

The search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq turned up nothing. There were no WMDs. The intelligence…

Could there be Hydrogen Breathing Aliens?

At the time of writing over 4000 known exoplanets have been discovered. This is the first step to identifying potentially habitable worlds and so where the search for extra-terrestrial life begins.
If you are looking for life outside our solar system, it makes sense to try and identify worlds similar to our own. After all, we know that life can develop on Earth, so looking for Earth like planets gives us the best chance of finding life that is similar to us.
Detecting exoplanets
The K2 spacecraft and its predecessor Kepler have provided NASA with information about many of these potential homes for life. They tend to be many light years away and so it is unlikely that we will visit them any time soon, or that any alien life will make it here either.
“Right now we know, for the first time, that small planets are very common,”: 
But as Sara Seager, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an exoplanet research pioneer has said, “Right now we know, for the first tim…

Covid-19 and Vitamin D Deficiency - Is There a Link?

Academic studies find a correlation between the severity of Covid-19 infection and vitamin D levels Patient studies in The Philippines and Indonesia, and a longitudinal study in Ireland have found a correlation between the severity of Covid-19 infection and levels of vitamin D.
The problem is that, while there are plausible theories why adequate vitamin D levels might protect patients, there is no provable link.
The Philippines and Indonesian studies made actual measurements of vitamin D levels in patients who had the Covid-19 infection and found that severe levels of infection were often accompanied by low vitamin D levels.
The Irish research found correlations between the severity of Covid-19 infection and vitamin D levels in various European countries.
It should emphasized that papers that describe the first two studies are only pre-publications, not having been peer-reviewed at the time of writing. In contrast, the paper on the longitudinal study was published in the Irish Medical…

Bacon Increases the Risk of Cancer but Should We Worry?

Bacon, sausages and other processed meat may increase your chance of getting cancer but some scientists say that there's no need to worry. It's a question of personal or public health.

On the 17th of April, 2019, under the headline "KILLER RASHER", the UK's Sun newspaper explained that eating just 25g of processed meat a day increased your risk of bowel cancer.

And yet, a few months later, on 1st October, the same newspaper told bacon-loving Brits that their favorite breakfast was safe to eat after all,"NO IFS OR BUTTIES*"?

The first headline was prompted by research done at Oxford University which warned of the increased cancer risk of eating processed and red meat. It was covered in all the major news outlets.

The staple of the traditional English breakfast, we were told, will increase the instance of bowel cancer by nearly 20%.

A little later, though, another team of scientists headed by a Canadian academic, had produced a rival report that stated t…

Should Robots Pay Tax?

Around half of all tax receipts come from payroll taxes. So where will tax revenue come from if robots take all the jobs? There is no dispute that AI, robots, automation generally, can do more and more jobs that used to be done by humans. Inevitably, that trend will continue.

Sounds great - the work still gets done but we all have more leisure time.

But this means that, unless new types of jobs are created, fewer people will have productive work in the future. Which means they won’t be paying income tax!

Worse still, those who can no longer work will need to be supported by social security payments or something like a universal basic income. This will create an enormous fiscal challenge for the government.
The country runs on income tax Income taxes make up a very large proportion of government income and without it the government would have much less to spend. In the US and in the UK, for example, payroll taxes (including National Insurance contributions in the UK) make up about hal…