Showing posts from January, 2020

Organoids and Boltzmann Brains

One of the more fascinating and creepy events in biology over the past twelve years has been the development of cerebral organoids, sometimes called mini-brains, in a petri dish.  Biologists have learned how to transform regular cells, for example skin cells, into pluripotent stem cells and in turn transform these into neural stem cells and grow them in vitro.   These clumps of grey matter spontaneously organize themselves into something like mini-brains, developing axons and dendrites, developing neural connections, and sending each other electrical neural signals.  These organoids clearly have the potential to teach a lot about brain development, brain function, and brain disease. They also pose deep ethical questions.  Nobody thinks that these organoids are conscious - yet - but the potential is there.  Experimenters are already plotting to make them more brain like by providing them with blood supplies and sensory inputs. Quanta takes a look at the nascent ethical concerns: 

Pants on Fire

The big news from Tuesday's debate was the post-debate confrontation where Elizabeth Warren accused Bernie Sanders of calling her a liar.  So was he lying or she?  I don't know, but my guess is that it was a far more familiar phenomenon, a misunderstanding - she thought he told her a woman couldn't win and he didn't think he told her any such thing.  The fact that this happened a couple of years ago makes it more likely that memories have been reshaped in the meantime. In any case, I mostly blame Warren.  She is the one who chose to escalate to nuclear weapons, saying Bernie said a "Woman couldn't win."  Pretty clearly, this is an attack that can hardly go unanswered.  If he said it, why is it just coming out now?  If he said it, or some version of it, what was the context? If you decide to bring a gun to what had previously been a pretty civil conversation, you really shouldn't be surprised if you wind up with a bullet hole. Advantage Biden.