Ep 252: From gas and dust, to all of us



From gas and dust, to all of us

The general idea is simple—a cloud of gas and dust collapses in on itself, driven by gravity, until roughly in the middle of it, our sun began to shine. But the details are somewhat odd, especially when we compare our solar system to what we’re able to observe of planets around other stars. What triggered the original collapse? Why does our sun spin so slowly? Where did the earth’s water come from? How and why did our solar system end up with nice stable, nearly circular orbits that gave life on earth billions of years of relative peace? There’s plenty of room for competing theories and interesting side trips as we take a look at the birth of our sun and planets.
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Ep 251: making the ingredients



making the ingredients

Before our planet could form, all the stuff one would like to make a planet out of had to be made. Starting with hydrogen and helium, stars had to cook up the rest of the periodic table over a nice long period. Toss in some explosions and collisions, and everything we’re made of was ready to make us. But, all those giant stars couldn’t even get started, if it weren’t for a quirk of how the tiniest pieces of the universe interact. But hey, what’s a little quantum physics amongst friends?
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Ep 250: Just after the beginning



Just after the beginning

The standard model of cosmology has been worked out, slowly and painfully and oh so very carefully. Only trouble is, some recent observations don’t quite match what the theory predicts. Join us for a timeline of the early universe, and some of what doesn’t quite match what we were expecting.
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Ep 249: Figuring out the neighborhood



Figuring out the neighborhood

From the surface of Earth, the sun and moon look to be about the same size. Other planets are tiny specks of light, and everything seemingly spins around us. But that’s not what our solar system is really like. So, how did we find out what was where, and which way things were moving?
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Ep 248: The matter of dark matter



The matter of dark matter

From the rotation of our own Milky Way galaxy, to the expansion of the universe, much of the night sky is moving in ways we can’t quite explain. To plug the wholes in our understanding we have dark energy and dark matter. We don’t actually know what they are, but they can still surprise us.
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Ep 247: In the beginning, part 2: the lost episode



In the beginning, part 2.

After covering history and background in the last episode, we can relax and play with the strange ideas and concepts surrounding the theory of the big bang. The event horizon around our universe, the way that time flows differently depending on where you are, how parts of the early universe may have run away and become impossible to observe, and even a theory we propose with no math and fewer reasons.
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Ep 246: In the beginning, part 1.



In the beginning, part 1.

Before 1923, the universe was thought to be static and eternal, unchanging and without beginning or end. Its size was likely just a few tens of thousands of lightyears across, with one large island of stars, our galaxy, the Milky Way. Discoveries showed us that the universe is much larger than we thought, and is getting bigger all the time. The universe seems to have had a beginning, and might even, one day, come to an end. Join us for a talk about how we got notions like the big bang and the expanding universe.
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Ep 245: Logical, not biological



Logical, not biological

Evolution strategies, genetic algorithms, artificial neural networks—they’re all AI methods that were inspired by nature. But what about other methods that have nothing to do with the brain or natural selection, or anything of the sort. Today, we take a quick look at a few AI algorithms that are logical without imitating the biological.
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Ep 244: Bits and brains and bots



Bits and brains and bots

If we could look closely at every last cell in your brain, and learn enough to simulate them on a computer, would a detailed enough simulation of your brain think? Today, we talk about artificial neural networks—an AI method that is very loosely based on how biological brains work. A bit of history, a bit of confusion, and a bit about how our latest batch of digital organisms might use one.
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Ep 243: Genetic algorithms and evolution on fast-forward



Genetic algorithms and evolution on fast-forward

The dorg, the latest batch of digital organisms, will one day be placed in a little world to work out their destiny. The notion is to try and coax them into becoming intelligent. They aren’t ready yet. There’s a bunch of coding that Brad has to finish first. In the meantime, they’ve been tuned and tested with a genetic algorithm. Today, we talk about genetic algorithms and how they can be used to speed up evolution, and point the dorg in what will hopefully turn out to be the right direction.
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