Luke Muehlhauser on Singularity 1on1: Superhuman AI is Coming This Century

Last week I interviewed Luke Muehlhauser for Singularity 1 on 1.

Luke Muehlhauser is the Executive Director of the Singularity Institute, the author of many articles on AI safety and the cognitive science of rationality, and the host of the popular podcast “Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot.” His work is collected at lukeprog.com.

I have to say that despite his young age and lack of a University Degree – a criticism which we discuss during our interview, Luke was one of the best and clearest spoken guests on my show and I really enjoyed talking to to him. During our 56 min-long conversation we discuss a large variety of topics such as:

  • Luke’s Christian-Evangelico personal background as the first-born son of a pastor in northern Minnesota; 
  • his fascinating transition transition from religion and theology to atheism and science; 
  • his personal motivation and desire to overcome our very human cognitive biases and help address existential risks to humanity; 
  • the Singularity Institute – its mission, members and fields of interest; 
  • the “religion for geeks” (or “rapture of the nerds”) and other popular criticisms and misconceptions; 
  • our chances of surviving the technological singularity.

My favorite quote from the interview:

Superhuman AI is coming this century. By default it will be disastrous for humanity. If you want to make AI a really good thing for humanity please donate to organizations already working on that or – if you are a researcher – help us solve particular problems in mathematics, decision theory or cognitive science.”

ORIGINAL: Singularity 1 on 1
from Nikola Danaylov

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Watch a human musician and his robots improvise together

This performance by Shimon and the Shimi Robots showcases the PhD research of Georgia Tech doctoral student Mason Bretan on machine improvisation, path planning and embodied cognition. (Mason Bretan/YouTube)

This is a performance showcasing part of my PhD research in robotic musicianship at Georgia Tech including 

  • machine improvisation, 
  • path planning, and 
  • embodied cognition. 

The smaller Shimi robots figure out how to move based on an analysis of the music and Shimon generates an improvisation given a precomposed chord progression using a generative algorithm that jointly optimizes for higher level musical parameters and its physical constraints.

The piece is called “What You Say” and is inspired by the high energy funk piece, “What I Say”, from Miles Davis’ Live-Evil album. The incredible brilliance of the musicians on that album (as well as the numerous other great musicians around the world) are not only an inspiration to me and my own musical and instrumental aspirations, but also set the standard for the level of musicianship that I hope machines will one day achieve. And through the power of artificial intelligence, signal processing, and engineering I firmly believe it is possible for machines to be artistic, creative, and inspirational.

I hope you enjoy!

To use this video in a commercial player or in broadcasts, please email licensing@storyful.com

Rest assured that when our future robotic overlords come on the scene, they’ll have a sweet sense of rhythm.

The Robotic Musicianship Group at Georgia Tech has been working on Shimon, a musical robot that can improvise melodic accompaniment, for about six years now. And for three years, they’ve added Shimi — a small, smartphone-connected bot that can respond to music with dance and sound — to the mix.

Shimi shimmies.
Shimi shimmies. (Mason Bretan via The Washington Post)
Robot-Music-2
(Mason Bretan via The Washington Post)

I’m always trying something new with the robots, and sometimes they surprise me with something that’s sort of out
there or pretty cool,
” he added.

His dissertation, which he hopes to turn in by the end of 2015, centers around teaching the robots to understand their physical constraints and abilities.

So the goal is that if you gave the same input to a robot with 20 arms, it would perform differently than an eight-armed robot because it would be optimizing its performance,” he said. “Combined with the new algorithm we have for jazz music improvisation, these skills really allow them to more optimally achieve musical goals.

And while he certainly doesn’t want to replace human musicians like himself with robots, he’s excited about the mechanical abilities they have that we don’t.

I mean, Shimon already has four arms and can hold eight mallets,” he said, “So it can already do something a person can’t.

ORIGINAL: Washington Post
By Rachel Feltman
Jan 14, 2015

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A Brain-Computer Interface That Works Wirelessly

A wireless transmitter could give paralyzed people a practical way to control TVs, computers, or wheelchairs with their thoughts.

Why It Matters

Electronic brain interfaces may give paralyzed people control over their environments. 

A wireless brain interface uses the head-worn transmitter, shown.

A few paralyzed patients could soon be using a wireless brain-computer interface able to stream their thought commands as quickly as a home Internet connection.

After more than a decade of engineering work, researchers at Brown University and a Utah company, Blackrock Microsystems, have commercialized a wireless device that can be attached to a person’s skull and transmit via radio thought commands collected from a brain implant. Blackrock says it will seek clearance for the system from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so that the mental remote control can be tested in volunteers, possibly as soon as this year.

The device was developed by a consortium, called BrainGate, which is based at Brown and was among the first to place implants in the brains of paralyzed people and show that electrical signals emitted by neurons inside the cortex could be recorded, then used to steer a wheelchair or direct a robotic arm (see “Implanting Hope”).

A major limit to these provocative experiments has been that patients can only use the prosthetic with the help of a crew of laboratory assistants. The brain signals are collected through a cable screwed into a port on their skull, then fed along wires to a bulky rack of signal processors. “Using this in the home setting is inconceivable or impractical when you are tethered to a bunch of electronics,” says Arto Nurmikko, the Brown professor of engineering who led the design and fabrication of the wireless system.

The new interface does away with much of that wiring by processing brain data inside a device about the size of an automobile gas cap. It is attached to the skull and wired to electrodes inside the brain. Inside the device is 

  • a processor to amplify the faint electrical spikes emitted by neurons
  • circuits to digitize the information, and 
  • a radio to beam it a distance of a few meters to a receiver. 

There, the information is available as a control signal; say to move a cursor across a computer screen.
The device transmits data out of the brain at rate of 48 megabits per second, about as fast as a residential Internet connection, says Nurmikko. It uses about 30 milliwatts of power—a fraction of what a smartphone uses—and is powered by a battery.

Scientists have prototyped wireless brain-computer interfaces before, and some simpler transmitters have been sold for animal research. “But there’s just no such thing as a device that has this many inputs and spits out megabits and megabits of data. It’s fundamentally a new kind of device,” says Cindy Shestek, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan.

Although the implant can transmit the equivalent of about 200 DVDs’ worth of data a day, that’s not much information compared to what the brain generates in executing even the simplest movement. Of the billions of neurons in the human cortex, scientists have never directly measured more than 200 or so simultaneously. “You and I are using our brains as petabyte machines,” says Nurmikko. “By that standard, 100 megabits per second is going to look very modest.

Blackrock has begun selling the wireless processor, which it calls “Cereplex-W” and costs about $15,000, to research labs that study primates. Tests in humans could happen quickly, says Florian Solzbacher, a University of Utah professor who is the owner and president of Blackrock. The Brown scientists have plans to try it on paralyzed patients, but haven’t yet done so.

Currently, a half dozen or so paralyzed people, including some in the late stages of ALS, are taking part in BrainGate trials using the older technology. In those studies, underway in Boston and California, the implant that makes contact with the brain is a small array of needle-like electrodes carved from silicon. Also sold by Blackrock, it is commonly called the Utah array. To establish a brain-machine interface, that array is pushed into the tissue of the cerebral motor cortex, where its tips record the firing patterns from 100 neurons or more at once.

Those tiny blasts of electricity, scientists have found, can be decoded into a fairly precise readout of what movement an animal, or a person, is intending. Decoding those signals has permitted hundreds of monkeys, as well as a growing number of paralyzed volunteers, to control a computer mouse, or manipulate objects with a robotic arm, sometimes with surprising dexterity (see “The Thought Experiment”).

But the BrainGate technology will never turn into actual medicine until it’s greatly simplified and made more reliable. The head-mounted wireless module is a step toward that goal. Eventually, scientists say, all the electronics will have to be implanted completely inside the body, with no wires reaching through the skin, since that can lead to infections. Last year, the Brown researchers reported testing a prototype of a fully implanted interface, with the electronics housed inside a titanium can that can be sealed under the scalp. That device is not yet commercialized.

If they could put it in under the skin, then everything you see in the videos could be done at home,” says Shestek, referring to films of patients using mental control to move robotic arms. “That wire going through the skin is the most dangerous part of the system.

ORIGINAL:
Tech Review

January 14, 2015
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A Bendable Implant Taps the Nervous System without Damaging It

Swiss researchers allow rats to walk again with a rubbery electronic implant.

Why It Matters

Neuroscientists need new materials to restore movement to paralyzed people.

An implant made of silicone and gold wires is as stretchy as human tissue.


Medicine these days entertains all kinds of ambitious plans for reading off brain signals to control wheelchairs, or using electronics to bypass spinal injuries.
But most of these ideas for implants that can interface with the nervous system run up against a basic materials problem: wires are stiff and bodies are soft.

That motivated some researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale, in Lausanne, Switzerland, to design a soft, flexible electronic implant, which they say has the same ability to bend and stretch as dura mater, the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

The scientists, including Gregoire Courtine, have previously showed that implants can allow mice with spinal injuries to walk again. They did this by sending patterns of electrical shocks to the spinal cord via electrodes placed inside the spine (see “Paralyzed Rats Take 1,000 Steps, Orchestrated by Computer”). But the rigid wires ended up damaging the mice’s nervous systems.

So Courtine joined electrical engineer Stéphanie Lacour (see “Innovators Under 35, 2006: Stéphanie Lacour”) to come up with a new implant they call “e-dura.” It’s made from 

  • soft silicone, 
  • stretchy gold wires, and 
  • rubbery electrodes flecked with platinum, 
  • as well as a microchannel through which the researchers were able to pump drugs.

The work builds on ongoing advances in flexible electronics. Other scientists have built patches that match the properties of the skin and include circuits, sensors, or even radios (see “Stick-On Electronic Tattoos”).

What’s new is how stretchable electronics are merging with a widening effort to invent new ways to send and receive signals from nerves (see “Neuroscience’s New Toolbox”). “People are pushing the limits because everyone wants to precisely interact with the brain and nervous system,” says Polina Anikeeva, a materials scientist at MIT who develops ultrathin fiber-optic threads as a different way of interfacing with neural tissue.

The reason metal or plastic electrodes eventually cause damage, or stop working, is that they cause compression and tissue damage. A stiff implant, even if it’s very thin, will still not stretch as the spinal cord does. “It slides against the tissue and causes a lot of inflammation,” says Lacour. “When you bend over to tie your shoelaces, the spinal cord stretches by several percent.

The implant mimics a property of human tissue called viscoelasticity—somewhere between rubber and a very thick fluid. Pinch the skin on your hand with force and it will deform, but then flow back into place.

Using the flexible implant, the Swiss scientists reported today in the journal Science that they could overcome spinal injury in rats by wrapping it around the spinal cord and sending electrical signals to make the rodent’s hind legs move. They also pumped in chemicals to enhance the process. After two months, they saw few signs of tissue damage compared to conventional electrodes, which ended up causing an immune reaction and impairing the animal’s ability to move.

The ultimate aim of this kind of research is an implant that could restore a paralyzed person’s ability to walk. Lacour says that is still far off, but believes it will probably involve soft electronics. “If you want a therapy for patients, you want to ensure it can last in the body,” she says. “If we can match the properties of the neural tissue we should have a better interface.”

ORIGINAL:
Tech Review
By Antonio Regalado 

January 8, 2015
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EDGE 2015 Question: “2015 : What Do You Think About Machines That Think? “

ORIGINAL: EDGE
Dahlia” by Katinka Matson | www.katinkamatson.com

Deliciously creative, the variety astonishes. Intellectual skyrockets of stunning brilliance. Nobody in the world is doing what Edge is doing…the greatest virtual research university in the world. —Denis Dutton, Founding Editor, Arts & Letters Daily

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Dedicated to the memory of Frank Schirrmacher (1959-2014).

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In recent years, the 1980s-era philosophical discussions about artificial intelligence (AI)—whether computers can “really” think, refer, be conscious, and so on—have led to new conversations about how we should deal with the forms that many argue actually are implemented. These “AIs”, if they achieve “Superintelligence” (Nick Bostrom), could pose “existential risks” that lead to “Our Final Hour” (Martin Rees). And Stephen Hawking recently made international headlines when he noted “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.

THE EDGE QUESTION—2015

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MACHINES THAT THINK? But wait! Should we also ask what machines that think, or, “AIs”, might be thinking about? Do they want, do they expect civil rights? Do they have feelings? What kind of government (for us) would an AI choose? What kind of society would they want to structure for themselves? Or is “their” society “our” society? Will we, and the AIs, include each other within our respective circles of empathy?

Numerous Edgies have been at the forefront of the science behind the various flavors of AI, either in their research or writings. AI was front and center in conversations between charter members Pamela McCorduck (Machines Who Think) and Isaac Asimov (Machines That Think) at our initial meetings in 1980. And the conversation has continued unabated, as is evident in the recent Edge feature “The Myth of AI”, a conversation with Jaron Lanier, that evoked rich and provocative commentaries.

Is AI becoming increasingly real? Are we now in a new era of the “AIs”? To consider this issue, it’s time to grow up. Enough already with the science fiction and the movies, Star Maker, Blade Runner, 2001, Her, The Matrix, “The Borg”. Also, 80 years after Turing’s invention of his Universal Machine, it’s time to honor Turing, and other AI pioneers, by giving them a well-deserved rest. We know the history. (See George Dyson’s 2004 Edge feature “Turing’s Cathedral”.) So, once again, this time with rigor, the Edge Question—2105:

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MACHINES THAT THINK?

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[180 Responses—125,000 words:] Pamela McCorduck, George Church, James J. O’Donnell, Carlo Rovelli, Nick Bostrom, Daniel C. Dennett, Donald Hoffman, Roger Schank, Mark Pagel, Frank Wilczek, Robert Provine, Susan Blackmore, Haim Harari, Andy Clark, William Poundstone, Peter Norvig, Rodney Brooks, Jonathan Gottschall, Arnold Trehub, Giulio Boccaletti, Michael Shermer, Chris DiBona, Aubrey De Grey, Juan Enriquez, Satyajit Das, Quentin Hardy, Clifford Pickover, Nicholas Humphrey, Ross Anderson, Paul Saffo, Eric J. Topol, M.D., Dylan Evans, Roger Highfield, Gordon Kane, Melanie Swan, Richard Nisbett, Lee Smolin, Scott Atran, Stanislas Dehaene, Stephen Kosslyn, Emanuel Derman, Richard Thaler, Alison Gopnik, Ernst Pöppel, Luca De Biase, Maraget Levi, Terrence Sejnowski, Thomas Metzinger, D.A. Wallach, Leo Chalupa, Bruce Sterling, Kevin Kelly, Martin Seligman, Keith Devlin, S. Abbas Raza, Neil Gershenfeld, Daniel Everett, Douglas Coupland, Joshua Bongard, Ziyad Marar, Thomas Bass, Frank Tipler, Mario Livio, Marti Hearst, Randolph Nesse, Alex (Sandy) Pentland, Samuel Arbesman, Gerald Smallberg, John Mather, Ursula Martin, Kurt Gray, Gerd Gigerenzer, Kevin Slavin, Nicholas Carr, Timo Hannay, Kai Krause, Alun Anderson, Seth Lloyd, Mary Catherine Bateson, Steve Fuller, Virginia Heffernan, Barbara Strauch, Sean Carroll, Sheizaf Rafaeli, Edward Slingerland, Nicholas Christakis, Joichi Ito, David Christian, George Dyson, Paul Davies, Douglas Rushkoff, Tim O’Reilly, Irene Pepperberg, Helen Fisher, Stuart A. Kauffman, Stuart Russell, Tomaso Poggio, Robert Sapolsky, Martin Rees, Lawrence M. Krauss, Paul Dolan, Kate Jefferey, June Gruber & Raul Saucedo, Bruce Schneier, Rebecca MacKinnon, Antony Garrett Lisi, Thomas Dietterich, John Markoff, Matthew Lieberman, Dimitar Sasselov, Michael Vassar, Gregory Paul, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Andrian Kreye, Andrés Roemer, N.J. Enfield, Rolf Dobelli, Nina Jablonski, Marcelo Gleiser, Gary Klein, Tor Nørretranders, David Gelernter, Cesar Hidalgo, Gary Marcus, Sam Harris, Molly Crockett, Abigail Marsh, Alexander Wissner-Gross, Koo Jeong-A, Sarah Demers, Richard Foreman, Julia Clarke, Georg Diez, Jaan Tallinn, Michael McCullough, Hans Halvorson, Kevin Hand, Christine Finn, Tom Griffiths, Dirk Helbing, Brian Knutson, John Tooby, Maximilian Schich, Athena Vouloumanos, Brian Christian, Timothy Taylor, Bruce Parker, Benjamin Bergen, Laurence Smith, Ian Bogost, W. Tecumseh Fitch, Michael Norton, Scott Draves, Gregory Benford, Chris Anderson, Raphael Bousso, Christopher Chabris, James Croak, Beatrice Golomb, Moshe Hoffman, Matt Ridley, Matthew Ritchie, Eduardo Salcedo-Albaran, Eldar Shafir, Maria Spiropulu, Tania Lombrozo, Bart Kosko, Joscha Bach, Esther Dyson, Anthony Aguirre, Steve Omohundro, Murray Shanahan, Eliezer Yudkowsky, Steven Pinker, Max Tegmark, Jon Kleinberg & Senhil Mullainathan, Freeman Dyson, Brian Eno, W. Daniel Hillis, Katinka Matson

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PRAISE FOR EDGE

Take a look. No matter who you are, you are bound to find something that will drive you crazy.

— The New York Times

A profound question a treasure trove of ideas…each one is a beautiful and instructive reflection, which encourages thinking and reading.

— de Volkskrant

…A collection that reads like the best TED talks ever. It’s an absolute pleasure to read.” (Click for 20-second video)

— Fareed Zakaria, GPS, CNN

Probably the most useful space at the moment for anyone who wants to peer into the flowering of the most advanced human thought.

— Vozpopuli

The World’s Smartest Website; a salon for the world’s finest minds.

— The Guardian

I always come back to Edge. In the world of Anglo-Saxon ideas (that still prevail throughout the whole world, or among the elite of the world), there is no smarter guide.

— O Globo

Thrilling … Everything is permitted, and nothing is excluded from this intellectual game.

— Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

We’d certainly be better off if everyone sampled the fabulous Edge symposium which, like the best in science, is modest and daring at once.

— David Brooks, New York Times Column

An epicenter of bleeding-edge insight across science, technology and beyond, hosting conversations with some of our era’s greatest thinkers. …(A) lavish cerebral feast … one of this year’s most significant time-capsules of contemporary thought.

— Atlantic

The most stimulating English-language reading to be had from anywhere in the world.

— The Canberra Times

The inquiry becomes an a fascinating experience. The pleasure of intelligence is a renewable source of intellectual energy.

— Il Sole 24 Ore

Brilliant, essential and addictive. It interprets, it interrogates, it provokes. Each text can be a world in itself.

— Publico

Open-minded, free ranging, intellectually playful … an unadorned pleasure in curiosity, a collective expression of wonder at the living and inanimate world … an ongoing and thrilling colloquium.

— Ian McEwan, The Telegraph

A kind of thinker that does not exist in Europe.

—La Stampa

Not just wonderful, but plausible.

— Wall Street Journal

One of the purest outlets of intellectual thought on the Web.

— Süddeutsche Zeitung

Fantastically stimulating…It’s like the crack cocaine of the thinking world…. Once you start, you can’t stop thinking about that question.

— BBC Radio 4

The brightest minds in the known universe.

— Vanity Fair

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The Algorithm That Unscrambles Fractured Images

The ongoing revolution in image processing has produced yet another way to extract images from a complex environment.

Take a hammer to a mirror and you will fracture the image it produces as well as the glass. Keep smashing and the image becomes more broken. When the pieces of glass are the size of glitter, the reflections will be random and the image unrecognisable.

It’s easy to imagine that reconstructing this image would be close to impossible. Not so, say Zhengdong Zhang and pals at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Today, these guys unveil SparkleVision, an image processing algorithm that reassembles the smashed imaged.

The problem that Zhang and co attack is to work out the contents of a picture reflected off a screen covered in glitter. The approach is to photograph the glitter and then process the resulting image in a way that unscrambles the picture.

It turns out that there is a straightforward way to approach this. Zhang and co consider each piece of glitter to be a randomly oriented micromirror. So light from the picture hits a micromirror and is reflected to a sensor inside the camera.

That means there is a simple mapping from each pixel in the original picture to a sensor in the camera. The task is to determine that mapping for every pixel. “There exists a forward scrambling matrix, and in principle we can find its inverse and unscramble the image,” they say.

To find this unscrambling matrix, Zhang and co shine a set of test images at the glitter screen and record where the pixels in the original image end up in the camera.

From this, they can create an algorithm that unscrambles any other image placed in exactly the same spot as the test images. They call this algorithm SparkleVision.

That’s a handy piece of software that could have interesting applications in retrieving images reflected off glitter-like surfaces such as certain types of foliage, wet surfaces, metals and so on.

And Zhang and co hope to make the software more useful. In its current incarnation, the software can only unscramble images placed in the exact location of the test images. But in theory, the test images should provide enough data to unscramble images from any part of the light field. “Thus, our system could be naturally extended to work as a lightfield camera,” they say.

The work is part of a growing body that is currently revolutionising photography and image processing, Other researchers have worked out how to unscramble images from all kinds of distorted reflections and surfaces, sometimes even without using lenses.

These so-called “random cameras” are dramatically widening the capability of optics specialists. And SparkleVision looks set to take its place among them.

Ref: http://arxiv.org/abs/1412.7884 : SparkleVision: Seeing the World through Random Specular Microfacets

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Neurons Inspire Nobel Laureate May-Britt Moser’s Dress

ORIGINAL: NBCNews
By Alan Boyle
Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images 22 days

What do you wear to receive a Nobel Prize? Norwegian neuroscientist May-Britt Moser wore her work, in the form of an elegant dress with a glittering neuron pattern.

The dress was the brainchild of British designer Matthew Hubble, who saw Wednesday’s Nobel ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, as a fashion opportunity on a par with the Oscars. Moser looked like a million bucks — or, more precisely, 10 million Swedish kronor. That’s the amount of the award she shared with her husband and research colleague, Edvard Moser, as well as with American researcher John O’Keefe, for their discovery of the brain’s “inner GPS” navigation system.

The grid of beaded neurons on the satin-and-leather dress evokes the way that grid cells in our brain light up as they help us determine our position in space.

Geir Mogen / NTNU via MatthewHubble.com Neuroscientist May-Britt Moser and fashion designer Matthew Hubble show off the Nobel neuron dress.

Hubble told NBC News that he wanted to change the perception that scientists have to be lab-coated nerds.

When you actually start looking around, a lot of scientists are into fashion,” he said. “They like to wear lipstick, they like to wear heels and pretty dresses. It’s quite frustrating when you hear people saying, ‘You shouldn’t be like that if you’re going to be a scientist.’ It’s OK to be a girlie girl and do science as well.

Hubble said the story of the Mosers’ love affair with science was particularly inspiring. “It’s really an impressive life she’s had,” he said.

The one-of-a-kind dress is impressive as well. Hubble shied away from saying what it would sell for — if it ever were to go on sale. “It’s not quite a Chanel haute couture, £50,000 dress, but when you look at the red carpet, it’s in that area,” he said.

Although the dress is not for sale, Hubble said the design may influence his fashion collection for next season. He’s also selling a grid-cell scarf for £595, which translates to $935. It’s the perfect holiday gift for the Nobel laureate who has everything.

Tip o’ the Log to Joanne Manaster at Scientific American. Don’t miss Manaster’s video interview with Hubble. First published December 10th 2014, 6:14 pm

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