Authors@Google: Michael Hanlon

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 05.03.2010

>> So good afternoon, everyone. And welcome to another Outstanding Authors@Google
talk. Today, we have the distinct privilege of hosting
Michael Hanlon to our podium today.
He's a preeminent science writer currently serving as the science
editor for the Daily Mail over in the United Kingdom.
And he's the author of such super cool books as "The Science Behind the
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" and "The Real Mars."
Today, he'll be speaking from his most recent book, which is "Ten
Questions That Science Can't Answer." And we also have, you know, copies of his
penultimate, most recent book, "The Eternity", if you want to take
a perusal later on. As Googlers, we always have our eyes on the
future, and Michael helps us understand the state of the art and the
state of the future. So after the talk, we'll have time for some
brief Q&A. Please feel free to use the mic to improve
our recording for YouTube. Without further ado and please join me in
welcoming Michael. Thank you.
MICHAEL HANLON: Good morning, everybody. Thank you for having me, thank you for coming.
>> Thank you for using Webex. Visit our website at
>> Just ignore that.
MICHAEL HANLON: I'll go ahead and ignore that. I found it amusing that I found it so hard
to find this building today. Irony and so forth.
Yes, thank you for having me. As Cliff said, I'm a science writer.
I'm not a scientist, which is a big difference. People often get them confused.
You probably won't be confused after you've heard me wittering on for a
few minutes. A couple of years ago, three years ago now,
my publisher came to me and she said, "It would be very good if you could
write a book about mysteries," because not being a scientist
is often a good perspective to -- to look at the big field, look at the
big questions, that kind of fall between the gaps, from the very profound
to the very ridiculous. And I said, "Well, how many?"
And she said, "How many have you got?" So I thought well, I started thinking and
I thought well, there's about 26 big ones, you know, time, consciousness,
the usual ones and some less usual ones as well.
And she said, well, it should really be like your principles, you know.
Here are my principles. Here are ten of them and if you don't like
them, here are ten more. So only a very foolish author writes himself
out of a sequel, so I just picked ten.
I wanted to look at some of the really great mysteries, the things
which science seems to be incapable of really addressing properly.
And there's a great quote from G.K. Chesteron -- the poet only asks to
get his head into the heavens, it is the magician, or the scientist or
whoever, who seeks to get the heavens into his head and it is -- and it
is his head that splits. I think that's very true.
The more you think about some of these things, the more your head does
start to hurt. It's pretty clear over the last hundred years,
science alone has all the interesting questions but, happily, not
all the answers. There is still great mystery here.
And as we shall see, this is not the case a hundred years ago.
People thought that science was just about to get it all sewn up.
And then along came all sorts of troublesome characters like Einstein
and the quantum physicists and so on. Why isn't this working?
Bridget Bardot is not supposed to be there nor is that fat person.
It's good to see the Google computers working so well.
One big, great mystery -- fishy things about the universe, for example.
I'm not going to be run through the chapters one by one cause that
would be dull and predictable. I'm just going to skittle around the book.
The fact the universe exists -- if you want to upset a cosmologist, you
sort of ask them why it's there at all. It's very fishy indeed.
Why did the universe go to the bother of existing when clearly not
existing would have been far easier? Another very strange thing about the universe
is it's conscious. We know that's so.
I know it's so and at least one little bit of it is conscious -- me.
This is quite staggeringly strange. Most thing are not self-aware.
But we here on earth are, probably we share the earth with several
billion animals, most of them probably are self-aware too.
This is very, very odd. These are sort of big -- these are big profound
questions. And also I've got a chapter in my book, which
is maybe slightly less profound question, which is, why are people
so fat? Now, this is a photograph I took last week
in my country. We've been having some very warm weather on
the beach. And this is more or less a typical person
now in my country. This is a fattest person actually I could
find in Britain last week. This person was sitting next to me on the
plane from Seattle the other day.
So maybe this is typical of the North American continent.
And a couple weeks ago I went to France, and I took a picture of this
person and she as actually the fattest person I could find in France.
So there are -- there are some differences which transcend class and
wealth and are slightly mysterious. And in fact, there is a doctor working over
in Maryland who thinks there are some very odd things about the obesity
epidemic that we've seen which has really taken off since 1980.
Odd things include the fact that calorie input into people like
Americans, British people, who are getting fatter and fatter has
actually gone down since then, and the amount of calories burned off in
exercise has actually gone up, and yet we keep getting fatter.
What's the cause? Is it something wierd that we're doing like
eating high fructose corn syrup? That's been labelled as one thing.
Some people have suggested a virus. This doctor in Maryland is suggesting there
might be a viral component to obesity.
People laughed at him, and then they will remember the case of the --
the stomach ulcers which, of course, everyone knew was caused by
stress, until somebody won a Nobel Prize for proving otherwise.
Swallowed some bacteria and got a stomach ulcer as a result.
Another question I look at in the book concerns the sentience of
animals. Again, it's very interesting from a sort of
science/history perspective for several centuries, over millennia, really,
science and the popular view of animal sentience were loggerheads.
We tend to think of the old style world as being very cruel, very
heartless nature, bred in tooth and claw, and the Middle Ages as being
very brutal. But actually people are very surprised to
hear that in Medieval Europe, for example, animals were considered sentient.
This was considered to be the, the default explanation for their
behavior. In fact in several countries, in Switzerland
in 1316, a pig was put on trial for murder and I think it was acquitted.
In Hamburg in the 15th century, some rats were put on trial for causing
the plague. And actually they were guilty, but they had
some very good lawyers, being rats, and they got off too.
[LAUGHTER] So the idea in the 16th century that an animal
was sentient, had rights, had responsibilities and could act
as an independent, sentient conscious agent was not seen as being at all
surprising. And, of course, now we kind of think the same
thing, but there was a gap between about the end of the 17th century
and the middle of the 20th century when the idea is first promulgated
by this man. This is -- who is this?
You're all Google, you should all know who this is.
Anybody? Nobody knows who this is.
This is René Descartes, he's one of the most famous people in history.
automata. He used to do things like put red hot pokers
up their bottoms and write about their responses saying, you know, I'm
not being cruel. This is the just the response of a machine,
effectively, to -- to what looks like pain, but there's no actual pain
being -- going on. And it strangely -- this was an idea that
took hold in science. This was seen as the standard enlightenment
view of animal sentience, there wasn't any.
And right into the 20th century, we had men like B.F.Skinner, who's
actually too boring to show a photograph of. He was the arch-behaviorist.
And he put pigeons in boxes and rats and taught them how to peck at
things in a certain order. And he said basically the brain was just a
box. You had stimulus in and responses out, and
he actually tried to bring his daughter up in a skinner box until she
was taken away by child welfare.
[LAUGHTER] Actually, that didn't happen.
This is a photograph of a sentient being. This is my late dog, who was called Twiglet.
She died about three years ago. And I'm pretty sure she was sentient.
She certainly did funny things like hiding socks.
And she would be able to do things like recognize certain makes and
models of car. Of course, she could have been a completely
-- zombie. She could have been just a machine behaving
as though she was sentient and intelligent, but I -- I tend to use the
principle of ducks. If it walks and quacks and swims and flies
like a duck, it probably is a duck.
And now we're quite happy to accept that creatures like this -- this
person was sitting on the other side of me on the plane from Seattle.
[LAUGHTER] And even creatures like this are sentient.
And in fact, just a couple of weeks ago, there was a fascinating
experiment done with this chap. This is a slime mold, and they gave it a maze
to find. They put it so whatever slime molds eat.
I don't know what slime molds eat. Something even worse than slime molds, I suppose.
[LAUGHTER] At one end of the maze and the slime mold
was actually able to find its way through this maze faster than a rat.
And no one has any idea how. It was even faster than the CEO of most hedge
[LAUGHTER] Another question from slime molds to time.
If I knew what time was -- if I knew what I was supposed to say next I
would have a Nobel Prize. What is time?
No one knows. I think -- a few awkward facts about time.
No one knows what it is why it is or if it is even there at all.
I'm sure being smart, you've all read lots of ideas of block time
versus flowing time, Einstein's view of time, the past, present, and
future all being equivalent. And people like Arthur Eddington viewing that
time is like a river. Why do we -- why do we remember the past and
not the future? Why is the past set in stone and the future
is up for grabs? I think one of the nicest little explanations
of why time is weird came from a poet Austin Dobson, who wrote,
"Time goes you say, oh no. Alas time stays, we go.
Or else were this not so, what need to chain the hours for youth were
always ours? Time goes, you say.
Ah, no." I think this is nice because it kind of suggests
that the way we view time, the way we view that time is flowing
through us may be wrong. It may be us that's flowing through time.
And increasingly a lot of psychologists speak to this -- there's stuff
about this in my book -- think, think that our perception of time,
psychological time is probably something quite distinct from physics
time. And I think because we use the same word for
the two things, we may be being confused.
Nothing in known physics corresponds to the passage of time.
Most physical properties like space, for example, you can go up and
down, you can go backwards and sideways and forwards and reversible --
time doesn't work like that. It goes from states of low to high entropy;
nothing else works quite like that. Another question -- I'm rattling through these
-- can I live forever, please?
There's lots of people in this particular part of the world who make a
lot of money persuading shareholders to buy stocks in their companies,
that produces sort of gene therapy, immortality pills, and so on.
So far, sadly, none of this has worked. This person who we'd all like to emulate this
-- anyone know who this is?
This is Jeanne Calment. She is the world record holder to date for
longevity. She died in Arles, in France, in August 1997
at the age of 122 years and 314 days -- very cross that she missed
her 123rd birthday. Now lots of people out there think that in
a few years, a few decades, we're all going to be living this long.
She was actually very fit and healthy towards the end.
She gave up cycling when she was 116, and she gave up smoking at 118 on
the advice of her doctor who said it was bad for her.
[LAUGHTER] Her response to her doctor was not -- is not
recorded. She learned to use e-mail before she died,
and she knew Vincent Van Gogh and was actually propositioned by him
as a child. That's an extraordinary life, if you think
about it, to have been -- to have Vincent Van Gogh ask you to go to bed
with him while drunk and to have sent an e-mail.
I cannot imagine there's any other human being that has bridged two
worlds quite like that. A really nice story about Jeanne Calment is
that when she was in her 80s, she did a deal with a family lawyer,
her husband had died and her lawyer had said, well, you live in a lovely
apartment in Arles. You know, one of these grand old, turn of
the 18th century, French buildings -- obviously French -- in Arles,
I'll tell you what. I'll give you a lot of money for it and you
can live in it rent free until you die.
And this, this arrangement was still in place when the lawyer's
grandson died.
[LAUGHTER] So a very, very nice way to stick two fingers
up to Mr.Death. Why did she live so long?
We don't know. Why do these things live so long?
This is a sea anemone, among the stupidest of creatures on earth.
But they have got one thing right, they have live a very long time.
I spoke with the marine biologist once that's there's a good chance
they study sea anemones, that they may be effectively immortal.
Of course, sea anemones die, they get eaten by fish, and they get
knocked off rocks by storms and waves and things.
But actually if you put a sea anemone in a nice tank and you give it
its nutrients and its food, and you don't freeze it or put sea
anemone-eating things in there, they don't seem to age.
Their cells don't age. They keep on replicating as needs must.
And they might be somewhere, some little crevice on the Great Barrier
Reef, there might have well be a 10,000-year old sea anemone out there.
Maybe death is the price we pay for not being sea anemones.
So far, this isn't coming up on the screen for some reason --
There are several tricks doctors have come up with, to live a long time.
One is to starve. I once spent an entertaining evening with
a professor, Roy Walford. He was professor at UCLA.
He took part in the Biosphere 2 project in the Arizona desert, I think
in the 80s. And he came up with the notion -- he was a
biologist -- he came up with the notion of calorific restriction.
And he said that he put a load of rats on a very restricted calorie
diet, down to about a third of their normal intake, but maintaining the
nutrients and the vitamins and so on. And they lived quite a lot longer than rats
fed on a regular diet. So he started an experiment on himself.
And I went to see him in his house in Venice Beach in L. A., and he was
about -- at the time he was about 70, and he was eating 900 killer
calories a day, which really isn't very much. He looked terrible.
He had dinner, which was a bowl of rice and a glass of water.
And sadly, he died a couple of years later. I don't say that to be nasty and funny, just
that it didn't seem to do him any good.
And he started a club, on online club, the calorific restriction club.
And the sort of devotees of Roy Walford are starving themselves to long
life. And one suspects it's not going to work.
Another one is exercise. Um, as a journalist, we are bombarded with
health scares and health stories and health advice, and you have to
just write it all and hope it's all true.
And of course none of it is, really. But one of the things that does seem to be
good is -- is exercise, physical exercise.
Humans are very good at running. One of the things you're taught as a child
is that homo sapiens was a weak feeble animal on the African plain, you
know, we were capable of being outrun and out-eaten by more or less
anything, but that's actually not true.
The one thing humans are better at than any other large mammal is
running. This is not widely appreciated.
Not over short distances, of course, but over long distances, we're
better than antelopes, elephants, horses, you name it.
And that -- we have tremendous stamina. And one of the things our bodies seem to be
very, very geared up to do is running.
And people running a lot is definitely very good for them.
And it's very hard to have any sort of concrete evidence on longevity,
obviously, with humans, because we live so long anyway.
But that seems to be a good thing. Another thing is to choose your parents carefully.
[LAUGHTER] Try and find some parents who made a hundred
if you can. It's excellent and then time travel comes
into that. If you go back and become your own mother
or father, you can probably have more say in the matter.
Another good way of reducing your chance of dying young is to spend the
ages of 17 to 22 in a locked room, if you're a male.
This is actually a nasty little death spike at this age.
Car crashes in the West, violence across a lot of the world.
In some societies, particularly some of the troubled societies in South
America, for example, whole digit, single digit percentages of young
men are killed between the ages of 15 and 20 through violence,
through violent acts. Thinking of some of the tribes in Peru and
Brazil. And this is a very dangerous time.
It's the testosterone surge. Young men become very stupid, very aggressive,
very violent towards each other.
It's actually quite a good way of getting mates and getting your DNA
out in the world, but it's not so great for longevity.
You can worry about telomeres. Lots of people talk about telomeres, I think
partly because they like the word.
It sounds kind of sexy and science-y. The problem with telomeres is that actually
in some species the telomeres get longer as they get older.
Sea gulls. Sea gulls don't live forever, and we don't
really know why. If you see this word or this term on a bottle
of anything, usually it's best to ignore it.
Especially if you see the word "quantum" combined with it on the bottle
of anything. I was chatting to Roger Highfield -- not chatting.
I was reading a letter by Roger Highfield who I know, who's
the editor of New Scientist a couple weeks ago, and he was saying how
if they put the word "quantum" on the cover of New Scientist, they
sell 16 percent more copies that week.
He didn't really know why. And that led somebody to ask him, well, what
word can you put on the cover where you less copies per week?
And the answer was potato.
[LAUGHTER] And they're now going to run a experiment
where they read a story about quantum potatoes on the front cover.
[LAUGHTER] Another thing you need to live quite a long
time is luck. Avoiding falling things, avoiding falling
objects, avoiding those 17- to 22-year old men when you're -- when you're
a bit older. By the way, the greatest chance of being killed
by a 17- to 22-year old man is if you are also a 17- to 22-year old
man. The people who are -- have most reason to
be frightened of these people -- and they really are terrible human beings,
most of them -- are themselves, which is perhaps a consolation.
I thought I'd do a chapter on the stupid. Partly because I -- I feel an affinity with
them. And he said, going through his notes, trying
to find where he is -- this isn't really a science question.
It's a social science question. As we all know, social science isn't real
thinking of any kind, really. But it's a nice little question.
I wrote -- I wrote a piece in a British political magazine a few years
ago called just this, "What Are we Going to Do With the Stupid?"
And it strikes me that, um, that section of society which is too bright
to be basically dysfunctional, but too stupid to be basically
functional is an important sliver of society is ignored by politicians,
the public, the media, everybody. These are the people who are -- don't fall
into the category of being looked after.
They're not -- they're not mentally disabled. And yet increasingly, in a more and more knowledge-based
society, they fall between the cracks in the paving stones.
They're not able to keep up. And the problem is exacerbated by the fact
that we strive towards a meritocracy.
And a meritocracy is seen to be good. It's better than having a society run by Dukes
and Earls and Kings and Queens, where the people at the top are there
through accident of birth.
That doesn't seem fair. It doesn't seem fair that the CEOs of companies
should be the sons of the last CEOs.
That doesn't seem fair. Much fairer, surely, to select through ability
and hard work. And you know, this place is probably the shining
example of it. I don't suppose there's anyone seriously who
works here who is dumb. The problem with a meritocracy, although it
seems very fair, is what happens to the poor people without any merit?
We just don't ask this question: What are we going to do with them?
The left traditionally pretends they don't exist, and says all we need
to do is education and they are all be Einstein or work at Google or
whatever. The right says, well, you know, to hell with
[LAUGHTER] And these aren't satisfactory solutions because,
um, you know, sorry. Just said that.
If we have a society where stupid people don't count, where people who
-- with all the best will in the world, with all the education thrown
at them, with all the good will and with all the effort made to improve
their lot -- cannot find a place in society, you end up with problems.
You end up with crime. You end up with dissatisfaction.
You end up with psychological malaise. And I argue in my book that a hundred years
ago, although there was much wrong with the world a hundred years
ago and I would far rather live now than then for millions of reasons,
we did at least have the idea then that people of all abilities had
some merit. And people who weren't able to contribute
maybe intellectually, we could find something else for them to do.
And particularly in my country, the idea that children who are not
academic are worthless is growing. The exams are set up for people to fail, if
you think about it. And we think a lot about what we do with the
kids who pass these exams; we don't think too much about what we do with
the kids who fail these exams.
And I think that's a shame. This is a rather big jump to one of the chapters
in my book on dark energy and dark matter.
Now, this is a photograph I took yesterday of some dark energy.
[LAUGHTER] And this is a photograph I took the day before
of some dark matter. I'm sure you all are perfectly familiar with
these, with these chaps. Very problematic.
I was in Geneva a few weeks ago looking at -- looking at them trying to
turn the LHC on for with the ninth time. I think the last time it was screwed up, some
pigeon dropped a baguette into one of the transformers, and they had
to turn it off because they were worried about it exploding.
And, of course, this is, of course, the time travellers from the future
screwing things up. So we don't -- so we don't muck around too
much with causality. And when I asked this of them, they just gave
a thin smile. We don't know what dark matter and dark energy
yet are. One of the nicest numbers in science is 10
to the power of 120, which is the observed and calculated discrepancy
between the -- main parameters of dark energy, what you see and
what there should be there. And that is quite a large number, as I'm sure
you know. It's even bigger than google.
It's -- what is it? Trillion -- quintillion googles.
And that's a big discrepancy. So we're on the case but we're not there yet.
I have a big chapter on ET -- not just, you know, where are the aliens?
But the more fundamental in that, really, you know, what is life?
Is the universe alive? I'm sure you all know this is the 50th anniversary
of SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
And not a million miles from here, there is an outfit called SETI
Institute which is working on this. They would be astrobiologists.
NASA has an astrobiology institute now, which a cynic would say is the
30th thing -- it's the 30th things which do not exist.
To which a astrobiologist I know said, well, what about history?
That's the 30th things which did not happen by people who were not
there. And the great thing about academics is they
are often so mature. So one way to find intelligence if they --
aliens, if they're out there is to use machines like this.
This is the Arecibo radio dish in Puerto Rico. It's a rather spectacular thing, actually.
It's built in a natural bowl in the mountains. And SETI, the SETI Institute, borrows time
on this. When it was publicly funded, partially, by
NASA until the 1980s, it used to get more time.
We don't actually know whether the world, as in the universe, looks
like this place on average or whether it looks more like this place on
average. I took this photograph around three weeks
ago. Could anybody tell me where I'm standing?
[PAUSE] Okay.
I was standing on Pluto. You should be able to tell because that is,
of course, Pluto's moon Charon over there, and the very small sun
over there is a dead giveaway.
This is not a photograph of Pluto. This is an artist's rendition of Pluto because,
of course, no one has actually been there.
Pluto is maybe typical of objects in the universe, more icey-spheres, a
long way away from their parent stars. There may be more of these than there are
grains of sand in all the beaches of earth.
We don't know if the universe is like this -- this is the Star Wars
cantina, a rather poor rendition of it because I couldn't get a
copyright-free version of the original one. This is a photograph taken on Gliese 581 d,
which is the -- an exoplanet discovered a few years ago, which
last year or the year before last was calculated to have an orbit
around its star which put it in the so-called habitable zone, which
is the zone at which liquid water should be able to exist on its surface.
That isn't a star with a hole in it, that's actually Gliese 581 c
eclipsing -- partially eclipsing the parent star.
And we don't know if this just a ball of rock like Pluto with some ice
on it or indeed some water, and whether there are rather nice creatures
like this on the surface. This is a still taken from a small Canadian
art house movie which was released a few weeks ago, I don't know if
it's come to the U.S. yet. It's actually got some quite nice special
effects, so I would advise you to go and see it.
I've forgotten the name. But as you can see, this planet has some rather
nice, rather cool scenery, floating islands, which I'm told
were modelled on the scenery you see around Cape Flattery on the Washington
state coast. Well, surprising, that there are actually
fewer than 20 tenured scientists in the world at the moment working
on the question of the origin of life here on earth.
Forget space; we don't even know how life began on earth.
And I think we have to really sort this one out before we stand much
hope of finding out whether there's life elsewhere. And I've certainly got the word 42 on my screen
which shouldn't be there.
But never mind, if you try and find out why it's there.
[LAUGHTER] Chapter in my book, I'm told here, on life,
the universe and everything.
What is reality, really? Philosophers and college students have been
arguing about this with their coffee late at night for years and decades
and centuries. No one has really come up with a answer.
The only person who has had a go was Douglas Adams, of course, who said
the answer was 42. Um, and according to a mutual friend, he just
thought of it while sitting in his garden, drinking tea, and he
just thought the number 42 sounded cool, and it didn't have a seven in
it , which all kind of pretentious numbers normally do.
But it -- what's amazing is Douglas Adams' fan club have been looking
for samples of 42 in nature ever since. It was just a random number.
But the idea that you might be able to boil down the deep secret of the
universe to one number is very, very -- very, very, very nice.
This is a picture of the universe yesterday. This is what it looks like.
This is the Hubble's deep field which is majestic. If you think each one of these galaxies is
around a hundred thousand light years across -- and a hundred thousand
light years is quite a long way, even not in traffic.
And the universe that we see now is seven orders of magnitude larger
than the universe we saw 90 years ago, which is a good stat.
When Hubble, Edwin Hubble in 1926 realized that the nebulae, or some of
the nebulae, were actually island universes, he called them, galaxies
outside the Milky Way. People started racing around trying to measure
the distances to these things.
And it was clear that we had the universe wrong, in terms of its size
by seven orders of magnitude, which is a big leap.
There hadn't been a leap that big since -- since the old earth going round
the sun business in the 15th century. Um, the universe may be even bigger than that.
This, of course, is Schrödinger's cat -- actually, it looks more like
sort of Schrödinger's cat turning into Schrödinger's dog.
I'm sure you'll all aware of the quantum paradoxes. What happens to a -- in a quantum dictated
event? Do you end up with two of the objects acting
-- behaving -- existing simultaneously?
The cat that walks out is it the original cat?
So on and so forth. And all this, together with some other fun
stuff, has led to the idea of the many worlds hypothesis, which has become
respectable to cosmology now.
There are actually four levels of multi-verse which cosmologists talk
about. One, this level one, that I like to think
of as the kind of brute force multi-verse which is simply the universe we
see is just a tiny part of a massively, almost infinitely, inflated super-cosmos.
Same laws of physics everywhere. Infinite space.
This means actually that if this holds, which eminent astronomers,
cosmologists think it does, the mass of inflation seems to suggest that
this is inevitable, that 10 to the 10 to -- I think it's 10 to the 10
to the 120 light years away, there is an identical room to this with an
identical me and an identical you all sitting here, being given this
talk with maybe one word differently. Level two is the Stanford sort of multi-verse.
Andrei Linde, who a Russian emigree cosmologist, very clever chap.
He's come up with this idea of post-inflationary bubbles, little
daughter universes splitting off from ours, maybe black holes.
Level three, the many worlds of quantum physics. Every time you have a quantum event, you have
a whole new universe, one where Hitler won World War II, one where there
was no World War II at all.
And level four, which I think is perhaps the most interesting one,
which is whole different conceptual universes. Things like, I'm sure you've all heard of
the matrix universe, the idea that the world we see around us might be a
simulation. People maybe not a hundred meters from here
are working with some very powerful computers, and the big question is,
is it possible to simulate consciousness, for example, in a computer?
If it is, then we shall do it fairly soon, probably.
And we shall do it more than once. We shall do it millions of times probably
billions of times. And we simulate the weather, when we run weather
forecasts. If you go NOAA or to the UK Met office, they
run simulations of 10 to the 9, 10 to the 15 simulations sometimes,
over days. And if it's possible to simulate even a smart
part of the universe, you don't need to do the whole thing, in a machine
including consciousness, and you do this trillions of times over, the
chances are that we are living in one of these simulations, so say
some people, which is weird and disturbing.
When faced with arguments like this, some people click their head in
the sand. There was a lecture, famous lecture given
by Carl Sagan once. And he was talking about cosmology and weird
things, and a lady put her hand up at the end of the talk and said, that,
it's just the earth. You're completely wrong, Dr. Sagan, the earth
doesn't float around in space.
It sits on the back of a turtle. He said, well, you know, what does a turtle
sit on then? She said, it's turtles all the way down.
And she may have been quoting somebody else. I think it's all very exciting.
1900, Lord Kelvin, inventor of the Kelvin temperature scale, there is
nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise
measurement. Meanwhile, in a patent library in Switzerland,
a young man who was rather clever was beavering away and coming
up with some ideas which would blow that out of the water.
We don't want to retreat into -- into theology, I think, theism --
I think there's nothing wrong with deism. The idea that there might be, ah, there might
be some -- something fishy, something about the whole set up.
But traditional response to the great mysteries is to invoke this chap
to which the answer is always well, why not believe in this chap as
well? Thank you all very much.
>> There we are. Now we actually have sound plugged in.
So, um, my one question was, um, what's the 11th question?
Were there any ones that were cut from the book that you'd wanted to
include in like a bonus director's cut or --
MICHAEL HANLON: No, no. The 11th question comes in the next book which
is The Next Ten Questions Science Can't Answer Yet, which
I'm -- I'm working on now. I'm not going to tell you.
>> All right. I guess that wraps up our questions then.
So thank you very much. It was a great talk.
MICHAEL HANLON: Thank you all very much.