This Breakthrough Technology Will Change the Way We View Clean Energy Forever

Researchers at George Tech have changed the way we will view clean energy forever, completing the world’s first functioning rectenna and describing it as an antenna that collects light and turns it directly into electricity.

The project is six years in the making.  These optical rectenna (part antenna and part rectifier diode) are composed partly of carbon nanotubes that collect light and convert it into DC current.  They work with any kind of light, sunlight is not required, however when this technology is applied to solar panels they will purportedly get a huge spike in efficiency.

“We could ultimately make solar cells that are twice as efficient at a cost that is ten times lower, and that is to me an opportunity to change the world in a very big way,” said Baratunde Cola, an associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech.

The technology has existed since the 1960’s, but only recently have scientists been able to make them small enough to couple optical wavelengths.  By miniaturizing the rectifier, they are able to capture electromagnetic wavelength oscillations and produce electricity.

This is big.  This is very, very big.  Because of the extremely easy and cheap process in construction, these could quickly change the entire way we harvest energy.

What Your Blood Type Says About Your Personality

What Your Blood Type Says About Your Personality

In Japan, ketsu eki gata or blood type is a popular metric that is used to determine the temperament of people and their suitability for various tasks. They are like the zodiac signs but with a twist: the Japanese take them very seriously and have even made dating services according to blood type!

Furthermore, the blood group question pops up in places such as job interviews, auditions and marriage. To make things even more serious, companies in Japan spend fortunes on researching the correct blood type for a particular product, like soft drinks, chewing gums and even calendars.

This Japanese obsession began in 1972 when a professor of psychology, known as Furukawa Takeji, began to observe evident differences in the temperaments of his students. From his observations, he concluded that children with blood type A were more intellectual, while the most stubborn and temperamental belonged to the B group.

From that moment on, everyone in Japan started focusing on blood groups. They started enjoying great importance as the biological factor that holds to the key to your personality, subsequent compatibility and even future.

Let’s look at some common blood groups and what Japanese research has to say about the people who have them:

Blood Type A

  • It is believed that people with blood type A are quiet, serious and with a good temperament. They have a strong character, are reliable and sometimes even a little stubborn. They are also shy, introverted and have a perfectionist air about them. In addition, they are considered as people who can have the potential habit of lying but at the same time be loyal to their friends and colleagues.
  • People with blood type A know how to keep secrets and oftentimes do not express their feelings to another person. They try to suppress their emotions and try to appear to be strong people but inside, they are fragile and a tad nervous. They tend to be very tough with those who do not share the same strong nature and therefore are surrounded by others with the same disposition. They also tend to be heavy drinkers and quite artistic. An important point about them is that if they are put in a position of power, they become arrogant and rebellious.

Blood type B

  • Those with blood type B are known to be of a curious nature. They are very caring and try to protect the interests of other people, whether they know them or not. They are easily excited but tend to lose interest quickly. They can clearly identify their priorities and often become so involved in their world that they forget that there are other people surrounding them. They have an independent spirit and strong personalities.
  • They also give the image of being happy, full of energy and enthusiasm but many really are quite the opposite inside. They do not specifically like contact with others during difficult times and more often than not won’t care what others think of them. They are extremely passionate about people and things that really matter to them.
  • They are generally curious, enthusiastic, independent, sensitive and unpredictable but also may have tendencies to be superficial, unreliable, selfish, prying, loose and impatient.

Blood type AB

  • They are of the unpredictable variety; distant and tend to take matters to the heart. A great trait about them is they are adept at earning and managing money. As they are a combination of two types of blood so they often have a mixture of personalities: frequently they have two personalities, one for those who are close to them and the other for ones that don’t matter to them very much.
  • They are inclined to be sentimental, with a penchant to deeply reflect on their problems. They have many friends but oftentimes detach themselves from them for the sake of being alone to ponder. They can be very outgoing but shy at the same time. They are also responsible but sometimes they can run into self-made problems.
  • But generally they are efficient, responsive, considerate, cautious, strict, temperamental, easily-offended and judgmental.

Blood type O

  • People with blood type O are outgoing, expressive and passionate. They can easily motivate a group and thus are good leaders. They have been blessed with a strong presence and are not afraid to bet as they know they will win. They also tend to very benevolent and generously contribute towards the welfare of others.
  • They are natural athletes and obsessively look for the win which, at times, makes them appear very boring and self-absorbed. They can be seen as sociable, persistent and reliable but have a tendency to not tolerate or accept their mistakes. Creative and popular, they love to be the center of attention and give the illusion of having a lot of confidence in themselves.
  • They are generally enthusiastic, generous, independent, flexible, idealistic, athletic, competitive and adaptable. But sometimes they are clueless, jealous, selfish and unreliable.

In conclusion, blood groups are one of the chief variants among individuals on a biological level. That and their role in reacting to various molecular stimuli differently is what makes them potential architects of our personality.

by LJ Vanier

Teenager Invents Cancer Detection Device, But Noone Will Patent it; Here’s Why

A few years ago Jack Andraka invented a revolutionary way to detect ovarian, pancreatic, and lung cancer. Hailed as one of the most monumental breakthroughs in science. This teenager was in the spot light of a huge media explosion, as he beat out 1,500 contestants to win the grand prize at the Intel International Science Fair with his invention. Taking home $100,000 in prize money, this teenage took center stage. But now, it’s been three years since this inventionthat determines test results in five minutes and costs as little as three cents.

Cancer is known to be a multi-billion dollar industry and everyone knows there is high corruption in the pharmaceutical as it involves large sums of money.

In recent years, there have been many alleged cover ups of important cancer cures and many articles have been written on these findings. You can look at them here

Jack was asked what the current status of his new way to detect cancer was. He answered by saying ,”Right now it’s in pre-clinical trials, we tested it on a lot of different patients and we’re in talks with a bunch of different biotech companies, so just trying to get through the process. It’ll probably be on the market in the next five to ten years, hopefully.”

Since it has been three years since Jacks revolutionary invention, it can be speculated that the big players in the industry are stalling. The excuse being given is that a “product like this need to go through extensive testing which can take anywhere between 5-10 years.

Jack was recently interviewed by about the delay in his product hitting the market ”When I created the test I was 14 and naïvely thought it could get on the market in a few months! I didn’t realize at the time (although my mentor did tell me) how much work needs to be done on a medical device before it can get to market. That’s how it should be- don’t want to get a product to people until it has been worked up well! I’m hearing from labs around the world who are working on similar sensors so I’m sure it will get to the people who need it- the sooner the better! It’s not important to me who brings the idea to market as long as it can help reduce the mortality of this terrible disease.”

Medical companies and organizations already under scrutiny about the medicinal use of marijuana to cure cancer, are under the spotlight again with this invention.

No more stalling, it’s time for this miraculous invention to help the people who need it.

by LJ Vanier

What Does Your Eye Colour Say About You?

What Does Your Eye Colour Say About You?

Did you know that no two people have the exact same eye colour? Your eye colour reveals more about you and your genes than you could have ever thought possible. Here is the science and the lineage of how you get those baby blues, or almond browns.

Check this out!

eye color5

Physicist Admits CERN is Used to Find Black Holes and Extra Dimensions

CERN is currently in the process of cranking up the Large Hadron Collider — the largest machine man has ever built — to 13TeV, the highest known energy level humans have ever used in a particle collider experiment in known modern history.

What are they searching for? According to this hipster physicist in skinny jeans over at CERN, “things like dark matter, dark energy, super symmetry, quantum black holes, large extra dimensions”…

Everything you need to know about what CERN is doing can be summed up in the short statements of this CERN physicist at the LHC, which he finishes in a rather blasé tone with, “We don’t know what we’re going to find at 13 TeV at the LHC.”

Dark Energy, Black Holes, Other Dimensions? CERN Scientist Sums Up What They’re Doing at CERN

Via Energy Fanatics 

Research Shows Thoughts and Perceptions Can Change Our DNA

By Guest Writer Pao L. Chang| For decades, most scientists and cell biologists thought that our genes mostly control our reality, life, and health. Nowadays, some cell biologists are finding strong evidence that our genes are only one part of the complex system of the human body that controls our reality, life, and health. One well-known cell biologist is Dr. Bruce H. Lipton.

Dr. Lipton is also a researcher of epigenetics, the study of changes in organisms caused by “modification of DNA, protein, or RNA, resulting in changes to the function and/or regulation of these molecules, without altering their primary sequences.” In simple terms, epigenetics modifies gene expression but does not alter the primary genetic code itself.

Genes Do Not Control Our Lives as Much as They Say

In the following video, Dr. Lipton explains that the types of gene functions we are born with are not permanent but can be changed by our perception. Certain geneticists also suggest that gene expressions can be altered using the science of epigenetics. Through many years of research, Dr. Lipton found that genes do not significantly cause health conditions or control our lives.

For example, there are no specific genes that cause obesity; genes are NOT the causes of obesity because they are correlated to obesity. The word correlation means “mutual relation of two or more things, parts, etc.” According to Dr. Lipton the word correlation means “a relationship existing between phenomena or things”. In other words, the cause of something in the body is not limited to genes, because everything in the body is interconnected as a whole.

The Environment and Consciousness Field Also Affect Gene Expression

It is very important to know that the composition of the environment, which is made up of the environment in the body and the environment of the world in which you live in, and the information in the quantum and consciousness field also play a major role in gene expression. In other words, you are not only genetically determined but are also environmentally determined. Here is a great quote that explains why this is the case:

When a gene product is needed, a signal from its environment, not an emergent property of the gene itself, activates expression of that gene. ~ H.F. Nijhout

It is important to know that genes are like blueprints and therefore they can not switch themselves on and off. It is also important to know that your thoughts, beliefs, and perception also affect the behavior of your genes. If you want to learn how genes work at a deep scientific and spiritual level, you need to watch the following video.

Here is a synopsis of the video:

Recent advances in cellular science are heralding an important evolutionary turning point. For almost fifty years we have held the illusion that our health and fate were preprogrammed in our genes, a concept referred to as genetic determinacy. Though mass consciousness is currently imbued with the belief that the character of one’s life is genetically predetermined, a radically new understanding is unfolding at the leading edge of science.

Cellular biologists now recognize that the environment, the external universe and our internal physiology, and more importantly, our perception of the environment, directly controls the activity of our genes.

Bruce Lipton: Genes Don’t Control Your Reality! Your Perception Controls Genes!

About the Author

PL Chang, is  the author and founder and His main goal is to empower you with knowledge that is beyond the conventional paradigm to help free your mind and increase your spiritual well-being to a whole new level.

Computer Coding Found in the Fabric of Space: We Exist in the Matrix

The possibility that the reality we experience may be an illusion is quite improbable to a lot of people. This is so because we believe that we are the makers of our own destiny, we control the things we do in our life. Personal freedom is an integral portion of today’s social fabric. People want to be independent and assured with the notion of being the ultimate decision-makers. However, one of the most interesting theories in physics, the Holographic Principle, asserts that all of this may not be true.

event_consciousness1The idea that our universe is basically a hologram has originated in the early 1990s. Then the scientists studying space believed that our reality basically results from a holographic projection of some data intrinsic to space. And that something or someone, is sending in this data encoded in some form of electrical pulses that our brain decodes into solid 3-dimensional objects. Some contemporary scientists discredit this theory because of the nascent affair of computers back then. The computers were the dream machines, and scientists were eager to hold their mysterious nature responsible for much of what had gone unexplained prior to their discovery and subsequent maturity.

However, as we have started understanding the true potential of computers in recent years – quantum calculations, complex iterative solutions to equations and, mostly importantly, 3D imagery, the idea that our reality may just be a holographic projection is seemingly looking more plausible than ever.

hologramTo simplify this notion, take out your credit or debit card. It will more than likely have a shiny sticker on it. This is a hologram. Try tilting your card from side to side while keeping your eyes fixed on the hologram. Yes, you will get an illusion of a 3-dimensional object from this 2-dimensional body. This is how holograms work. They basically trick your mind into thinking that there is a 3D object in front of you. This leads to an interesting question: is our observance of a hologram a mere optical illusion or is our brain is short-wired to respond to certain visual data in a particular manner?

Well according to James Gate Jr., a theoretical physicist at the University of Maryland, the latter is true. While working on the equations pertaining to the superstring theory – a scientific theory that aims to explain all the forces in nature through the vibration of theoretical strings, Gates discovered something very
interesting: computer code. Yes, according to Gates there were patches of 0s (off) and 1s (on) embedded in the said equations. A sort of a pulsing binary code that runs our computers. Gates, in a scientific panel discussion, further went on to say this sort of code is known as “doubly-even self-dual linear binary error-correcting Computer-Code-Black-Holeblock codes”, or in less specific terms, a code designed to remove errors in computer transmissions.

What is interesting is this leads one to infer that what we experience may just be the product of signals from a virtual reality generating computer network being broadcasted by some entity from the edge of space. An easier way to imagine this would be like living in the film, Matrix, where everything in the human experience is being generated by a farm of super computers.

So, how can a computer generate 3-dimensional objects from nothing but code? The answer lies in how the computer is wired
to work. For example, you are viewing a 3D object on your screen or are playing a computer game, you see all those solid objects without a problem. Meanwhile, behind the scenes the Central Processing Unit (CPU) is reading instructions off of your hard disk, fabric of spaceprocessing them and then sending them over to the Graphical Processing Unit (GPU), which renders the 3-dimensional objects we see on the screen. So, in essence the computer is creating an illusionary experience from nothing but pulses of electrical energy – a myriad of zeroes and ones.

Therefore, can we say that our brain also functions as a computer and decodes the sensory information in front of it in a way to give us an illusion of living in this reality? While, in fact, there is nothing but flashes of light around? So, if this is true and we were able to escape our reality, and its definition of space and time, we just might see our world as a collection of pulses of weird light.

Pao Chang, a spiritualist, thinks that our reality is, in fact, a mere illusion. In his book, entitled Staradigm, he presents an interesting take on how reality works:

“The core structures of reality work similar to how a computer works. A computer communicates and operates through the use of binary codes, which are codes that consist of ones (on) and zeros (off). Binary codes are very simple but with the right combinations they can help computers create magnificent things.

For example, when we paint a picture using a computer software, the core state of the colors and shapes in the picture are basically binarymade of ones and zeros. We do not see our picture as ones and zeros, because the central processing unit (CPU) and its counterparts process the binary codes as colors and shapes. The greatest thing about binary codes is that there are no limits to their combinations. …

The simple process of using binary codes to create things within the hardware of computers is very similar to how God creates our external reality or material world. The material world works very similar to a virtual reality. At its core, the material world is made of only light (energy) that flashes on and off to create energy codes.”

So, what does this theory entail? Well, it may help in proving the existence of an intelligent creator, God. That the reality we experience is being created and dispatched from somewhere far across the expanse of space while we are mere participants in the show. On the other hand, we just might be test-tube babies for a superior extraterrestrial race that is projecting this reality on us. In both cases, we just might not be living in a tangible reality we think we are living in. We might be blankly staring at a PowerPoint presentation while experiencing everything that we think we are actively taking part in. In short, our reality may just be a very elaborate illusion.

by LJ Vanier

New Study Finds That Friends Share Similar DNA

by LJ Vanier| Friends are great. You share so much with them: interests, likes, perhaps even your latest crush! But now scientists are finding that best friends share much more than social and psychological traits – they even share genes!

Does Our DNA have a language Part IIScientists at Yale and University of California, San Diego have found that we share a considerable amount of genetic material with our friends – close to 1% of the assembled DNA. It may seem small to many but in genetics, this value is practically off the charts! For some perspective, you also share 1% of your genetic code with your fourth cousins. This is when you share a great-great-great-grandparent. So, it looks like we seek out close friends who resemble our family.

To figure this crazy factoid out, scientists examined around 2,000 people in a racially and ethnically homogenous area. Usually, this
is not the greatest way to conduct scientific studies, but in this case it is good because it rules out a tendency to befriend people who share the same race. Continuing with the control group, they looked at around 1,300 pairs of friends and examined 1.5 million markers of gene variation within them. Continue reading “New Study Finds That Friends Share Similar DNA”

The Fountain of Youth Has Been Found

The Fountain of Youth Has Been Found

For many people, aging and withering away is one of the biggest fears in their lives. No wonder mankind’s history has been punctuated with futile quests for the fountain of youth. Well, as it turns out the secret to a longer life might be linked to a simple enzyme in the human body known as telomerase.

Under normal conditions, the cells in our body have a perpetual need to be repaired or even regenerated. The blueprints for these processes is locked inside the DNA which is basically a big How to guide for the body when it comes to running its operations.

However, much like a book, the information the DNA holds is locked up, or more aptly zipped in. For the cell to access this information it has to be translated into a protein language that is only possible when the DNA is unzipped and the information is extracted. The gigantic molecule is then zipped back up again. To have a more in-depth understanding of this process, you can go back to a previous series we did on the DNA’s structure and function here.

DNA: Key to our ancestor’s memories?So here is the catch, as the DNA is unzipped a small portion of its ends is truncated. To prevent the loss of critical genetic information, the DNA has caps at these ends that basically encode nothing but gibberish. Known as telomeres, they prevent the cells from going down a spiral of aging because of the corruption of relevant information in the DNA.

Now, shouldn’t the telomeres run out in a few years with the amount of repair work going on in our body? This is where telomerase comes in. This enzyme is concerned with the repair of shortening telomeres. Until one attains middle age, the levels of telomerase in the body are appreciable. Beyond that, this amount of telomerase undergoes a gradual decline which is reflected in the aging and degradation processes our body goes through. Ultimately, the telomerase is deactivated in numerous critical cells, resulting in death.

This leads to a very important question. So, in essence if we supplement the levels of telomerase in our body, can we achieve a longer lifespan? If the results in mice are to be believed then this might just be true.

Robert DePinho, a cancer geneticist at Harvard, recently conducted a study in which a group of mice was genetically engineered to lack telomerase. What he observed in these mice was premature aging in the form of neurodegradation, osteoporosis and infertility. Consequently, most of the mice died an early death.

However, when telomerase was introduced in the form of a supplement, known as 4-OHT, the mice population dramatically bounced back. Fertility was regained, organs recovered from their decrepit state and even the brain increased in size. This goes on to show criticality of telomerase in the countering of the aging process.

These results can be extrapolated to humans by utilizing a simple physiological phenomenon – cancerous cells. In cancer cells, the enzyme telomerase is highly active. Consequently the cells are almost immortal. They multiply rapidly and don’t die easily unless subjected to extreme forms of therapy like radiation and chemo.

So, does the cancerous cells’ durability mean that we can slow down or reverse the aging process by a controlled supplementation of telomerase in our systems? It can’t be conclusively said. However, the research is very promising in this regard and we may have a definitive answer in the next few decades.

5 Mind Boggling Facts About Space

5 Mind Blowing Facts About Space

We have always been fascinated by the unknown so there is a reason behind our continued infatuation with space. That dark, night sky dotted with twinkling star has a gravitational pull of its own.

Here are 5 facts that would add to your enthrallment with the vastness of space. So, the next time when you look up to the night sky, your mind is asking even more questions.

  1. Dark space

There is a reason we gave the name ‘space’ to this large celestial region that we knew nothing about. We may not have known it at that time but only 5% of our space is made up of tangible bodies – like planets, stars and asteroids. The rest constitutes of a weird combination of dark matter and dark energy.

The dark matter is kind of a misnomer because there are no protons, neutrons and electrons in it – it isn’t matter in the classical sense. We can’t quantify or prove its presence but it has to be there for the space to exist.

  1. Astronomically huge

Normal units of measurements proved to be too small for the ever-increasing void that is space. So, a new unit of length, called a light year, was established to gauge distances there. One light year roughly equates to 6 trillion miles. And it has been found that the universe that we can actually observe is about 93 billion light years in size.

We use the word observe because our astronomical equipment can observe the bodies at the far ends of this reach because light has had the time to reach our planet from there. Now imagine what we cannot yet observe.

  1. Quirky Quasars

Quasars are formed when clouds of gas orbiting a black hole, generate enough friction to emit light. They are a regular occurrence in space. However, astronomers have found a group of about 73 quasars that are absolutely huge.

Their structures are billions of light years across and cannot be explained by the general theory of relativity. That is, according to the current human knowledge they should not exist, but they do. What secrets does this giant system house, we may never know.

  1. Bling planets

Diamonds are formed when pure carbon is subjected to punishing conditions of temperature and pressure. In 2004, a giant collapsed star with a huge amount of carbon on it was found floating 50 light years away from Earth.

According to theory it should have had about 10 trillion carats of diamond on it. But it was later proven that no such amount of diamonds existed on that star. On the other hand, the possibility of planets having a core of solid diamond isn’t preposterous. Unlike Earth, if some planet has a lot of carbon constituting it then the conditions of the core can convert the ambient carbon to diamond with ease.

  1. Falling Inside a Black Hole

We all know that a black hole forms when a star dies and collapses in on itself, leaving behind an extremely dense mass of unprecedented gravitational pull. But what will happen if a person were to fall inside a black hole?

Imagine yourself standing before a black hole. You will observe it as a circle of utter darkness that has a strangely warped rim of light. This light has emanated from the distant stars and as it passes besides the black hole, the hole’s immense gravitational pull bends its path.

As you get pulled towards the black hole, you are going to pick up speed under its extremely strong gravitational acceleration. Such increase in speed would put quite a lot of stress on your body and it would start to disintegrate even before you reach the event horizon (or working boundary) of the black hole.

So, humans are physiologically incapable of surviving the gravitational pull of a black hole. However, it is still fascinating to imagine what would happen if one made it through. Would we transported back in time or to another dimension? Either of the two is entirely possible owing to the physics involved in the creation and functioning of black holes.

Science of the Soul : Coming Full Circle

Science of the Soul Coming Full Circle

One of the foundations of modern science is that if something cannot be measured, cannot be observed and verified, it may as well not exist. Science at least attempts to deal with tangible things, such as Newtonian physics, while less tangible things, like the human mind, start to create problems. Scientists strive to be objective, but the human mind is subjectivity itself.

There’s debate as to whether the study of the mind, psychology, even qualifies as science. It doesn’t help that a lot of what used to masquerade as good psychology is verifiably false. Many of Freud’s theories were never proven, but that didn’t stop psychologists from treating them like objective facts. That’s how religions get created, not how science is supposed to work.

Now science wants to be objective while the mind itself is biased, and it can’t help but be biased. Because of this, science tries to steer clear of the human mind as much as possible, while simultaneously being wholly dependent upon the human mind. Science itself was born from the mind, and science itself has no objective existence, it only “exists” within human minds. It’s purely subjective objectivity, but that thought creates so much cognitive dissonance within most scientists that they can’t help but ignore it.

The trees, the rocks, planet Earth, the Universe, they are what they are, while science is a method for figuring out what they are and how they work. There’s a belief that science will lead us to this ultimate truth, this Unified Theory that will explain the base nature of the Universe. The problem is that for every question science answers, two more questions arise. Instead of making the Universe less mysterious, the Universe keeps becoming more mysterious. Primitive, simplistic ideas keep being dispelled, while more and more we get this image of a Universe that’s unimaginably complex. The more we know, the more we realize how much we don’t know. If nothing else, it’s good job insurance for scientists.

Now, back to one of the fundamentals of science, that if something can’t be measured, it may as well not exist, at least as far as science is concerned. Compare that to what was discovered through the double-slit experiment, and recently re-confirmed: that reality doesn’t exist until you measure it. That can’t just be coincidence, that for something to be “real”, at least as far as science is concerned, it has to be measurable, and now science has discovered that reality doesn’t exist until it’s measured. Science has come full circle, and that ought to be mind-blowing to scientists, but it’s another one of those things that creates cognitive dissonance, conflicting thoughts. Science wants answers, yet this opens up all sorts of questions.

One of the obvious questions is, what’s reality before it’s measured? Of course, Lao Tzu already addressed this thousands of years ago:

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

That’s what science just discovered! To name something, you must qualify and quantify it, which is what measurement is. Then it can be known, and then it can be shared with others, it can be told. The Tao te Ching described one of the fundamentals of quantum physics thousands of years before quantum physics even existed! Difficult to believe that’s mere coincidence.

Beyond the measured reality is the Tao, and I could write a whole book about the Tao without ever actually capturing what the Tao is. It’s easier to describe it by what it isn’t, it’s not what you can know. The Tao has plenty of other “names” as well, I like to call it the Unknowable. Many people know it as God, and in the New Age it’s often called Source. Of course, the names are all just fingers pointing at the Moon, don’t get so caught up in the finger that you miss what it’s pointing at. When you see the Moon, who cares about the finger?

The Tao isn’t something you can grasp with your mind, it’s fundamentally unscientific, it’s the realm of the mystic. I know there’s many scientists who want to steer clear of mystical things, what they often call “woo”, but it’s very difficult to separate mysticism and science. The father of modern science, Newton, was an alchemist and a theologian. The Big Bang theory, the prevailing theory about the origin of the Universe, came from Georges Lemaitre, a Catholic priest who was inspired by Christian theology. Then there’s Max Planck, whom quantum physics originated from:

“As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”

I like science, as a quest for knowledge it’s a beautiful thing, and science has certainly proven its usefulness. However, it’s currently being used as a tool by militaries, governments and major corporations to further their own wealth and power. Where science used to be largely controlled by universities, it’s now mainly controlled by private businesses. It’s no longer a quest for truth, but a quest for more money.

People are wise to be skeptical of this kind of science. Science isn’t being used to discover what’s best for humans and their environment, instead the major driving force is corporate profits. Just like with politics, the influence of money has proven over and over again to be a corrupting influence, yet scientists as a whole seem to be okay with this. Of course, they get paid more, so it’s not really a mystery as to why many support that system.

A scientific study can say what’s best for the average person, the only problem is, there’s no such thing as the average person. Even if something is proven to be good for most people, there’s no guarantee it’s good for you. Science attempts to disregard the anecdotal and the subjective, but the problem with this is that our whole lives are anecdotal and subjective. It’s a fact that no human being has ever even seen this objective world that science is so concerned with. Obviously we have this shared experience, but the true nature of it remains a mystery to the limited mind.

Can We Learn Empathy From Robots? MIT Researcher Is Giving It a Try

Earlier this summer, a robot killed an employee at a Volkswagen factory in Germany. The victim, a 22-year-old man, was installing the machine when it reached out and crushed him against a metal plate he was standing in front of.

As the first robot-related death at a German workplace, the incident has brought up new legal questions about robots. Now prosecutors have to decide whom, if anyone, to bring charges against.

“I’d like to find out if we can change people’s habits around empathy by using robots.”

Kate Darling, a research specialist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, says these types of questions will become more common as our dependence on technology grows. Darling and a team of other researchers at MIT study the legal and social implications of robot-human interactions.

At a workshop in Geneva two years ago, she and her team observed how people treated Pleo robots—advanced machines that react to external stimuli, shaped like cute baby dinosaurs. First they asked participants to name the robots and play with them. Once they were done, she asked them to torture and kill the machines. Most people hesitated.

Because the experiment was not conducted in a controlled environment, Darling couldn’t draw any definitive conclusions from it. But those initial observations inspired her to create similar experiments in a more controlled environment to test the that role empathy plays in our interactions with robots.

In Darling’s recent experiments, participants work with hexbugs—small, cockroach-shaped robots that can move on their own. First, people observe the robot bugs for a certain amount of time and then they smash them. Some are told a backstory about the hexbugs—a story that attributes lifelike qualities to the machines.

Darling found that those who were given a backstory often hesitated longer to strike the hexbugs than those who were not. She says this trend highlights people’s natural tendency “to empathize with things that they perceive as lifelike.” This, she says, can be a problem and has the potential to lead to dangerous—even life-threatening—situations.

Recently I spoke with Darling about her work with robots. I wanted to know what she’s learned about the human capacity to feel empathy for machines and what laws she thinks should be put in place when it comes to robots and their place in our society. This interview has been lightly edited.

Nur Lalji: What is the relationship between empathy and giving robots humanlike qualities?

“We’re seeing that people respond to robots like animals.”

Kate Darling: What happened in our experiment is that the people who have high empathic tendencies responded hugely to the framing. So they didn’t much care about the object when it was just an object. But when it was named Frank and had a backstory, that had a huge effect on the high-empathy people. The low-empathy people didn’t care either way.

It’s an interesting relationship. Empathic people respond very strongly to framing.

Lalji: So even highly empathic people didn’t hesitate as much to strike the bug when it didn’t have a name and personal story? Does that mean the physicality of a robot doesn’t matter as much as framing?

Darling: We have other studies planned to look at physicality. It’s hard because we were using robots that looked like cockroaches. Depending on how people feel about cockroaches—most people either dislike them or absolutely hate them—that can mess up the results.

We need to play around with different robotic designs and see how that influences people’s reactions. But the one thing that we could say is that framing did have an impact for the hexbugs.

Lalji: What’s an example that people are familiar with that shows us the effects of anthropomorphizing?

Darling: There are these boxy things in hospitals that just deliver medicines, and they found out that the nurses, doctors, and employees are much more receptive to them when they name the machines. Putting a license plate on one of the machines that says “Emily” will cause people to bond with them and forgive their mistakes more easily.

Lalji: Could you talk about your own research on empathy? Have you drawn any conclusions from your experiments?

Darling: We were essentially able to establish whether participants had high or low empathic tendencies based on their interactions with the robots, which is cool.

I’d like to find out if we can change people’s habits around empathy by using robots, in the same way animal therapy is used with children or innursing homes. If we could use robots like animals and have a positive influence on people’s empathic responses to others, that would be amazing.

On the flip side, I’m also interested in whether people can become desensitized or have less empathy because of robots. What does it mean if someone brutalizes a robot that is very lifelike?

Lalji: Can you give an example of how we might benefit from thinking about robots like animals?

Darling: The best example I can think of is that most states have laws where, if there are cases of animal abuse in the household and there are children in the same household, then that animal abuse automatically triggers a child-abuse investigation.

“There are times when we should use robots strictly as tools.”

If this behavior really does translate the way we think it does in that context, then it might translate from robots to animals or from robots to children as well. We’re seeing that people respond to robots like animals. So if people were brutalizing their robots at home, we may want to keep an eye on their animals and children.

Lalji: You also talk about the “android fallacy” in your work—the idea we shouldn’t mistake robots for anything but tools. Could you expand on that?

Darling: We’re seeing people respond to robots as though they were some lifelike thing, in between an object and an animal. There’s this one camp that says this is awesome—we can create great engagement with people and there are all these other uses in education and health contexts.

Then there’s the other camp that says it’s bad—we should prevent people from seeing robots this way. Neil Richards and Bill Smart are two people in the robot law community that have argued that this is bad. They say if we treat robots as something other than the tools then that idea will bleed over into legal regulations.

My sense is that it depends. We have a lot of categories for different types of robots. In some cases it might make sense to encourage anthropomorphizing them and maybe the law should reflect that. We could create different legal structures to deal with the fact that people are treating these robots as something other than a tool.

On the other hand, there are times when we should use robots strictly as tools and discourage anthropomorphizing—like in the context of military robots. In that case, it can be inefficient or dangerous to anthropomorphize robots.

Lalji: When you talk about military use are you referring to demining robots? Could you expand on why anthropomorphizing them can be dangerous?

Darling: A woman named Julie Carpenter did her Ph.D. thesis on this. She studied these bomb disposal robots that are used in the military. It turns out that soldiers really bond with them and sort of treat them like pets.

“People are realizing that they feel for these robots.”

P.W. Singer’s book Wired for War has some anecdotes of people risking their lives to save these robots, which is really concerning. These robots aren’t supposed to engage you emotionally. These robots are supposed to be bomb-disposal tools. They detonate land mines. You don’t want people hesitating for even a second to use them the way they’re supposed to be used.

Lalji: Is there a way to create robots that are not shaped in any recognizable way? Would that be a solution?

Darling: I think that’s probably helpful. One issue is that a lot of robots look very similar to animals. Animals have evolved over many years to perfectly interact with the world and nature, so their body structure is a great model for robots. It would be sad to make robots less efficient because we have to design them in a way that’s not as evocative to us.

As far as the military goes, our research shows that it would help if they had policies in place where the robots were only described in non-personified terms, and where soldiers were trained to not personify them. That would make the soldiers feel a little less empathy toward robots.

But on the other hand, I think the big driver of our emotional responses in this area is the movement of the robots. I’m not sure how much we can mitigate those effects, honestly. I think the first step is to be aware that they exist. We’re slowly getting there.

People used to think I was completely crazy, and now my research is getting more attention and is getting taken seriously. I think the military is aware of these problems. There was also the video Boston Dynamics released with a new robot called “Introducing Spot,” which looked kind of like a dog. In the video, someone kicks the robot and it sparked all of this outrage about how Spot was being abused.

Lalji: Yeah, I remember that. I think PETA even released a statement, right?

Darling: Yeah, that got some attention. People are realizing that they feel for these robots, and they are wondering what it will be like when we have them all over the place. People are warming to the idea, but I still wish people were talking about it seriously.

Lalji: What do you hope for in the future regarding robot technology and your own work?

Darling: I wish that people would start talking about this seriously, so we can lay the foundation for how we’re going to deal with this as a society. We should figure this out soon, so we won’t need to regulate things after the fact.

The main thing I want to get across to people is that this is not science fiction. It’s something that’s happening right now with the very primitive technology that we have. These issues won’t go away.

We’re going to have more and more of this technology, and people should be excited about it because it’s cool. And they should also take it seriously.