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Friday, April 29, 2016

The power of Genetics

DNA  or deoxyribonucleic acid is very important for the existence of life. Genes are strands of DNA. This genes are responsible for our structural and functional features in all living beings.

The field of genetics is a relatively new area of research. Watson and Crick found the structure of DNA in 1953. The structure of DNA resembles a spiral staircase. In 65 years humans have come a long way in this field.

The field of genetics and biotechnology holds a lot of promise. Greater understanding of genes and their function can help humans design their own genes in such a way that they end up being more intelligent species. Humans can potentially change their genes such that they are able to adapt to the conditions of alien planets.

Genetic diseases will be eliminated as well. Humans can potentially become superhumans with greater knowledge of genetics. We can control our height, physique and other physical attributes. It maybe possible to genetic talents in individuals in people who don't posses such genes. 

In short if humans are to branch out across the universe, for that humans have to acquire the knowledge of genetics to adapt their bodies to live in any condition anywhere in the universe. Knowledge is Power. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Why Love

One often wonders why life evolved on earth, why certain compounds in the planet came together and formed a system that would grow, divide and create its own copies and evolve from simple one cell living being to complex multicellular living organisms. 

As organisms grew more and more complex, they developed their neurons into complex neural networks which ultimately evolved into their brains. The brain controlled the various functions of the body both internal and external. The brain connected to various parts of the body through a vast network of neurons. 

This neurons would communicate the information in form of electric impulses to the brain. The brain would send information to appropriate part of the body to take the correct action. If the skin organism touches fire, the neurons attached to the part of the skin would immediately send the signals to the brain , the instinctive intelligence that evolved in the organisms over millions of years would direct them move that portion of body away from the fire. 

Various sense organs developed like the eyes, nose, ears, tongue etc. This organs sent information to the brain about the various happenings around the organism, so that the organism can react to the feedback and take appropriate action for it to survive. 

There is one more evolutionary instinct that developed in almost all living beings in varying degrees. We call that Love. This is more apparent in case of mammals, specially humans. 

Man and woman fall in love and started staying together. Which later evolved into marriage as humans got more civilized. The civilized humans controlled their basic sexual instinct and had sex only with their married partners. Of course in many cases deviations were there when the man or woman had sex with other partners, however 99.9% of the sexual intercourses in humans happened between married partners. The number may vary with country, culture and time period but the proportion of married sex is always much higher.

Since most sexual intercourses happened between married partners, the probability of the female partner getting pregnant with the baby of her married male partner is close to 100%. It is commonly observed that women have more attraction towards love and relationships, they tend to have sex with only those men who would stay with them for a long period of time. This can be easily understood, first of all the man has only one function, release the seamen in the vagina of the female sex partner. 

That is exactly why sexual intercourse evolved in living beings. The seamen contains the sperms that fuses with the egg of the female. Once that happens a baby is conceived in the womb of the female organism. The cells keep dividing fast and slowly different organs are formed. Then after a certain period of time the baby is good enough to come out of womb of the mother and live and grow in the world. 

When a woman gets pregnant she needs someone too look after her during pregnancy, this is where the role of the male partner comes into play, specially during the later and final months of pregnancy. Both parents have a major role in bringing up the baby. The mother's role is very vital in bringing up the baby, specially in case of humans and other mammals. The mammals have mammary glands, the mammary glands produces milk, which is the main food of the baby for the first few month when it needs the utmost care. 

While in case of animals the role of father is limited. In case of civilized humans the role of father is also very important. 

In human beings there is a tendency to be attracted towards men and women other than one's married partner. This happens more in case of men. The reason for this can be understood from the fact that humans have actually evolved for animals. Our ancestors were animals.

Men can potentially be more adulterous than women because evolutionarily speaking a man can impregnate more than one woman in one year, the numbers can potentially go into hundreds. However a woman can become pregnant only once a year. 

In humans and other mammals there exists a bond of love between the mother and newborn. It is this emotion of love that makes the mother take care of the baby. However love is not limited to  mother and child , there is love between father and child, granny and grandsons and granddaughters. 

So it is clear that emotions and feeling have evolved with evolution of life on earth and the main reason for this is the smooth continuity and evolution of living beings. Take example of birds, how passionately they build their nests, take care of their eggs, feed and look after their young ones. The same is true in case of majority of life forms on earth. 

All of us have seen and experience that when we do something we love to, not only we are happy, but at the same time we do the work very efficiently as well. Its people's love for beauty that makes them build beautiful structures, roads, buildings, cities etc. In case of a soldier its his love for the nation( patriotism) that makes him risk his life to protect it.

Without love life would have existed, but it won't have evolved to the levels of humans or mammals . Hence in all spiritual and philosophical books love has been given great importance and even scientifically speaking it is a very vital emotion of life. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

GNU/LINUX in different shapes and sizes

GNU/LINUX is a Free Software. Free Software is not necessarily zero cost software. Free Software allows the user freedom to copy, modify and distribute the original and the modified versions of the software. This freedom has allowed developers across the world to work on GNU/LINUX, since the source code is easily available and the developers are legally allowed to modify the source code.

Over the years developers across the world have come up with different distributions of GNU/LINUX in all shapes and sizes. Users of propriety software like Windows or Macintosh do not have any freedom to modify the software, since the source code is not available at all. 

For Windows and Macintosh users, the hardware of your system has to be upgraded to the current standard to install the latest version of the Operating System. With GNU/Linux users can find a latest distribution that fits their hardware. 

Even if you have a Pentium 2 or a Pentium 3 computer you have Linux distributions like Damn Small Linux and Puppy Linux that will fit your system requirements. In fact you can use Damn Small Linux even on a old i386 computer. 

If you have a 12 year old Pentium 4 computer, you can chose to install Lubuntu operating system which is a knocked down version of the most popular GNU/LINUX distro - Ubuntu for low power computers. For Raspberry Pi we have Pidora, Raspbian operating systems. They are Fedora and Debian operating systems optimised for the resources provided by Raspberry Pi. Raspberry Pi is low cost computer made with the intention of popularising programming among school students. It has been a world wide superhit. Today various Raspberry Pi models are available between $5 to $35.

With operating systems like Windows and Macintosh your hardware becomes obsolete within a few years. However with GNU/Linux you are likely to find a distribution that support your hardware. This becomes possible only because GNU/Linux is a free software.

(I will expand this article soon.)

Friday, April 22, 2016

It is possible to live on Mars

Humans have this natural tendency of exploring new places. We evolved in Africa and slowly over a period of time explored and settles across the entire world. For the last 6 decades, humans have been exploring space. We have now managed to send spacecrafts across all the planets of solar system. It is very likely in some time humans are going to try and live in one of the planets. 

The planet that may be inhabited by the humans in the future is Mars. According to this ted talk it is possible for humans to go to Mars and survive there. Initially humans have to live controlled environment. Later on by Terra farming the planet, the conditions of Mars can be made suitable for human habitation without any need for any external devices like space suits or air chambers.

Currently the Martian atmosphere is primarily composed of carbon dioxide. It is 100 times thinner than earth. Mars contains friezed carbon dioxide in the poles. By focusing the sun rays on the frozen carbon dioxide with the help of solar sail the sold carbon dioxide can be sublimated into carbon dioxide gas. Over a period of time the atmosphere of Mars will become much thicker and warmer because carbon dioxide is a heat trapping gas. 

The temperature of Mars is very low. The global average temperature of Mars is -63 degree Celsius. As the proportion of carbon dioxide increased and the atmosphere becomes thicker, the planet will get a lot warmer. 1% to 60% of Martian soil comprises of water in frozen state. With increase in atmospheric temperature and rise in temperature this water will melt into liquid water. There would be water flowing across the surface of Mars in form of rivers, lakes etc. 

Then vegetation would grow on Mars and this plants along with micro-organisms like Algae from earth will work to convert the the carbon dioxide of Mars into oxygen. At that time farming can be done on Mars. Humans then would no longer depend on Earth for food.

The mentioned TED video also mentions that with knowledge of genetics we will able able to change our genes in such a way that we are able to self evolve ourselves to survived on Mars.  

There was a time when Mars had a much thicker. The thicker atmosphere of Mars resulted in presence of liquid water on the planet. There were rivers, deltas, lakes on Mars. However solar winds and weak magnetic field of Mars led to stripping away of the Martian atmosphere.

It is important that we the humans must make efforts to branch out to other planets. In case earth is hit by an asteroid, the entire human civilization may vanish without a trace. All the knowledge that we have gained over centuries would disappear. If the human race or variants of human race are spread over the entire cosmos, extinction in one planet won't lead to extinction of humanity.

Travelling to other planets and living in other planets has been a dream of humans. We are getting closer and closer to realizing our dreams.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Humans and Machines of the future - 1

Artificial Intelligence(AI) is a relatively new field of technology closely linked to computer science. In its short period of existence AI has progressed a lot. Initially AI was all about making computer solve mathematical problems and then make it speak a few words. 

By 1997, the technology was advanced enough to beat a reigning world chess champion, Gary Kasperov was beaten by IBM's the then supercomputer Big Blue. This year Google's AlphaGo beat a South Korean master of Go. The game of Go, played in South Korea, Japan and China is very complex and it has almost infinite number of potential configurations.

What took nature millions of years, in case of computers and robots we are able to do in a few decades. Robotics is closely linked to Artificial Intelligence. Robots are used in different industries to do routine manufacturing work. Robots are widely used in manufacture of electronics, automobiles, food packaging etc. There are robots in International Space Station that work as assistants of astronauts. Such rapid growth in AI, opens up lots of possibilities.

If the robot is a learning system,it would constantly evolve itself from experience. It would be possible to create robots that will create their copies, Self Replicating Robots. Robots are much better suited to survival in space and other planets as compared to humans.

So in the future, for space exploration all humans would need to do is send this highly intelligent robots on different planets and from the resources available there, they would create more robots. In this way these robots will fill the entire cosmos. 

These robots are going to send the all the information about the universe back to the earth. They will conduct all kinds of experiments as per the instructions provided to them or they may even use their own intelligence and experience to design the experiments. The rate at which AI has grown over the years, it is very much possible that artificial intelligence may surpass human intelligence. 

Computers are going to get faster and faster. Going by Moore's law every 18 to 24 months the processing power of microprocessors doubles. So in the next 20 years one can expect computers to have over 1000 times more processing power than the processors available today, in 40 years they will be a million times faster, in 60 years they will be more than a billion times faster, with a billion times more memory, a billion times more storage. Such high computing power can surely make robots more intelligent than humans. 

So are we the humans, prepared to let this intelligent machines become the more dominant life forms across the universe? Here lies a danger -- this advanced machines might make us slaves. Scientist Stephan Hawking has already warned about AI taking over humanity in the future. So what can humanity do to overcome a situation where it becomes a pet of the machine?

The answer many believe lies in becoming one with the machines. In other words man and machine will unite in the future. We will become half humans and half robots. The machine part of us will let us travel across different planets and stay there no matter what the temperatures or conditions may be. The human part of us will take advantage of the faculties of mind that is beyond logic like intuition, emotion etc. 

It is a very well known fact that genes control the physical, behavioural aspect of human beings. With better knowledge of genetics, the future humans may be far more advanced than the present day humans.

Even before we knew about the existence of genes or DNA humans were genetically modifying plants and animals. Many fruits, vegetable and crops that we see today have come into existence due to selective breeding done by humans.

Corn won't have existed the way it is, had it not been for humans. Many species of animals were created by humans by cross breeding species found in different geographical locations. 

The knowledge of genes can make this process faster and may help us take quantum leaps in the evolution of our and other species. It will be very interesting to see the final product that comes out when this advanced humans are integrated with advanced Artificially Intelligent machines.

The final outcome may be far beyond our imagination, we may end up being nothing but obsolete beings, like the primate that were the ancestors of today's monkeys and humans. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Humans, Robots and Humanoids

“Space the final frontier”, this are the words of the famous TV sitcom Star Trek. The TV programme was about a team of astronauts from earth on a mission to explore other planets around the universe. Probably in 1960s and 1970s people thought that the next big thing would be space travel and in a few decades people would be visiting other planets. 

However space travel is a great challenge. The human body is not fit to survive in space, it has to be encapsulated in a specialized suit that maintains the proper temperature and air pressure. In space there is no oxygen, so astronauts have to carry their own oxygen cylinders to space. It is a great challenge for the human body to survive in zero gravity of space. 

Physiological changes start to happen when humans go to space. In the absence of any gravity, the human body starts losing muscle very fast. Even eating food, urinating and defecating is challenging in the zero gravity environment in space. 

So the best contenders for space exploration are not humans but robots built by humans that can survive in those situations, they will produce their own energy from sunlight. These are going to be no ordinary robots. They will be learning, self improving and self replicating robots. 

In place of humans it will be the robots that would visit the various corners of the universe, make detailed study of the place and then come back to earth give the information to the humans. But humans can go one step further. Instead of robots, humans in the future can evolve themselves into humanoids by becoming half humans/half robots. 

The form of these humanoids will be such that they will be able to survive in any condition as robots. At the same time, being half humans,the humanoids will have the intelligence, intuition and innovation of human beings. It will also have the emotions and spirit of humans. 

Self replicating robots have tremendous potential, one transforms into two, two to four, four to eight. In this way over a period of time the cosmos would be full of robots from the earth, they will send information about other planets and galaxies to humanoids on earth.

Once humans and machines integrate, it will be possible for the newly formed humanoids to exist in space, it will be possible for humanoids to survive for long periods of time while travelling through space. Becoming humans to humanoids would be a great step of self evolution. From being earthly creatures we would become beings of the Universe. 

Many scientists like Sir Stephan Hawkings have warned that artificial intelligence may in the future overtake human beings. If this becomes true, then we would become creators of a species that will be way more powerful than us. Since the robots of the future are going to be self learning machines, they may evolve to other forms in the future. 

However it remains to be seen how intuition and emotions can be incorporated into a machine. Alternatively an intelligent machine may be able to acquire intuition and emotions during its evolution.