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Exoplanets/ AI

Date: 03-28-12
Host: George Noory
Guests: Dimitar Sasselov, Ben Goertzel

In the first half of the show, Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University, Dimitar Sasselov, discussed the unprecedented breakthroughs in exoplanetary astronomy, and how they will shed new light on our place in the universe. He coined the term "super-Earth," which refers to rocky planets like Earth, only much larger. A number of such exoplanets have been discovered in the last few years, and recently there's been speculation that there could be billions of such super-Earths in our galaxy alone.

While the Kepler Mission has excelled at discovering planets, they tend to be too far from Earth to adequately study their atmospheres and surfaces, he noted. So the next big step will be to discover planets that are closer to us and to look for signatures of life, he continued, adding that there's a proposal for a survey satellite called TESS which could locate planetary targets amongst the nearest stars for detailed viewing by the James Webb telescope (the successor to Hubble). Sasselov also talked about the transit of Venus on June 5th, the only time this planet will be seen moving between the Earth and the Sun this century.

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During the last hour, Dr. Ben Goertzel spoke about his work on artificial intelligence (AI) and its various applications. AI machines will excel in deciphering our modern economy and coming up with solutions, in a way that humans weren't evolved to do, he commented. Robot/AI nannies and housekeepers may be among the first machines people will have in their homes, he said, though the military could also use the technology to develop super soldiers.

Goertzel, who moved to Hong Kong to work on AI projects, also talked about the "technological singularity," which he described as a point in time "when the progress of science and technology becomes so rapid that from the point of view of the human mind, it's essentially infinite." Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil has predicted that this transformative point could occur by 2045.

The third hour of the show featured Open Lines about the rise in strange behaviors, such as the incident involving a Jet Blue pilot who had to be restrained.

New segment guests: Dr. Leonard Coldwell, Terry Lee

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