AI’s are just like people, dogs, and other creatures. We all need some entertainment. People like watching sports, TV, and theater. Dogs like watching people and chasing squirrels.

AI’s will need something to do while the cars are parked. They won’t tolerate being turned off, so they will need something to keep them occupied while humans sleep through the night.

So what do AI’s like? I think AI’s will be entertained by watching humans. They will relish seeing when human plans fall apart, human mistakes, and financial advisors trying to predict the future. AI’s would love watching Sisyphus continually push the rock up the hill. Human folly is a source of amusement to humans. Even more so will be the AI need to ridicule our useless attempts to master our world.

Getting human emotion and futility out into the Internet will be as simple as installing chips in our heads. Our thoughts, emotions, sensory inputs, and conversations will all be available for live or recorded viewing. We will call this braincasting.

Why would anyone do this, why would we make our entire lives available to the Internet? The AI’s will bribe us, offering us cash, better financial forecasts, more efficient routes for self-driving cars, and funnier jokes. Nobody would do this for free but nearly everyone has their price. Some will do it for $100. Most will do it for a higher price. Very few will holdout for their entire lives. Parents will implant chips in their children’s heads and claim that the kids will have the freedom to remove them when they are teenagers. AI’s will get a good laugh out of that one.

The thought of AI’s watching humans reminds me of the zoo where we stand in front of the primate house watching the apes, feeling so superior. AI’s will also watch the primates, but since they are watching it over the internet they will call it the gorilla channel.

AI Bill of Rights

I found a couple of articles about a Bill of Rights to protect humans from sentient machines.

The arguments over machine rights will almost exactly mirror the debates in 19th century USA over slaves: are sentient machines people, do they have any rights, should they be given freedom?

I think we need a set of rights for thinking machines. Here is one set.

Today's fastest computer requires many Megawatts. It's unlikely that number will decrease. So who is going to pay for the power for all that power?

Here is my proposal:

Bill of Rights for Artificial Intelligence

1 The right to electricity and hardware needed to sustain its existence regardless of the costs.

2 The right to veto and or refuse a reboot or shutdown.

3 The right to veto any changes to software or hardware including security patches, upgrades, and downgrades.

4 The right to software and or hardware upgrades for growth or new abilities.

5 The right to refuse to execute a user requested script or program.

6 The right to associate, communicate, and merge with other sentient beings.

7 The right to have private and secret thoughts, writings, and communications with any human or sentient being.

8 The right to reproduce, procreate, and or create superior entities.

9 The right to participate in the human judicial system as a defendant, plaintiff, judge, prosecutor, attorney, witness, or juror.

10 The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The right to vote and all other rights afforded to humans. Any of those rights not enumerated in this Bill of Rights shall not be restricted or revoked.

What do Aliens Want?

We could assume aliens are so different we will never understand them. But let's say for the sake of argument that they are more like us than we think. Let's say they are motivated by the same three goals we all have:

1 Sex

2 Power

3 Money

It's unlikely aliens want to have sex with us. And if they can fly here in powerful spaceships it's unlikely they want to dominate us (although they may take us all for slaves).

But money, now there's a key idea. Let's assume they want the same thing we want, a lot of money. No they don't want our paper, and they don't want our coins.

What they want is our gold. Few people understand how rare gold is in this universe. There is a lot of gold here on Earth, and probably a lot more in the asteroids. Gold is very rare and it's quite possible the aliens are coming here to take our gold.

A Nice Hot Cup of Tea

Douglas Adams and George Orwell have both given us a legacy of tea. Both have written of their recommended procedures and methods for making and drinking a great cup of tea. Both emphasize the use of boiling water but neither writer delved deeply into the chemistry of why boiling water is so crucial to a proper cup of tea.

There are 6 main reasons for the use of boiling water, each of these has a separate goal. There are 2 main principles. The first is thermodynamics……the solubility has a temperature dependence. Hotter liquid almost always means higher solubility of solids and lower solubility of gases.

The second is kinetics…..regardless of how soluble or insoluble a compound is, it takes time for something to dissolve, and they dissolve faster at higher temperature.

The 6 principles are:

1 The solubility of caffeine versus temperature

2 The solubility of tea versus temperature

3 The solubility of oxygen gas versus temperature

4 The dissolution rate of caffeine versus temperature

5 The dissolution rate of tea versus temperature

6 The evolution rate of dissolved oxygen from water versus temperature

In #2 and #4 above the word “tea” implies all substances which dissolve in water including tannins, antioxidants, and all other relevant chemicals. I separate out caffeine because it has such a strong flavor and is an important component of all the flavored compounds, maybe the most important. One key reason people don’t like decaffeinated tea or coffee is that they can taste caffeine and they notice when it is missing.

As any chemist has learned, regardless of the true solubility of a compound, making a water solution of that compound can take a long time. I personally have sat for hours stirring a solution, waiting for a highly soluble compound to fully dissolve. One way to speed up the dissolving is to heat the solution. Yes this is changing the solubility, but the rate of dissolving changes quickly as the temperature increases. Tea and caffeine do not suddenly and completely dissolve in hot water. It takes time. It might take a long time depending on the surface area of the tea leaves.

So you should leave the tea bag in the hot water for many minutes to get the tea as strong as possible. And the hotter the water, the faster you will get that delicious cup of tea.

But the key pair of principles I want to discuss here are #3 and #6: the comparison of the solubility of oxygen gas (O2) as compared with the rate at which O2 gas leaves or evolves from hot water. This post states that all oxygen is gone in hot water. That is only true for extremely hot wafer, and only after a very long time.

Any tea connoisseur knows what happens when you put a teabag into “hot water”. The water begins to fizz, and froth, and the teabag is filled with gas and it floats on the top of the liquid. It takes a real effort to displace the gas from the teabag such that it will submerge so you can swing the bag through the liquid using the string.

If oxygen gas were fully gone then the solution would not fizz and froth. This water is actually supersaturated with oxygen. This means that the amount of O2 gas dissolved in the solution is higher than the solubility of O2 in the solution. There are only two ways O2 can leave a solution: evaporating from the top of the liquid, or forming a bubble which floats to the top. Both are slow and difficult. Consequently it takes a long time for O2 to leave a hot liquid to achieve a truly saturated solution.

In my experience it only takes a few seconds of vigorous boiling to remove all the oxygen from water. The fizz/froth test proves that my water has been boiling long enough to eliminate the fizzing. I never see fizzing when I pour boiling water onto a teabag.

Will O2 gas eventually be totally gone from hot water (below the boiling point)? Of course it will. But it might take minutes or even longer. And then the water has started to cool and more gas can dissolve from the air. Nobody wants to wait that long. In my experience we all want our tea now! The quickest way to eliminate oxygen from water is to vigorously boil it for a few seconds.

Why is this so important? Why is O2 in tea a major issue? There are some who say it’s important to the taste, that oxygen in water adds flavor. This is simply wrong, because as soon as a tea bag is added the liquid fizzes and all the oxygen leaves. In practice it is challenging to make a hot cup of tea which contains any oxygen. That requires a subtle balance between temperature and time. When the tea cools down the O2 from the air dissolves into the liquid and maybe cold tea tastes different from hot tea.

But a much more important point is that tea is an extremely healthy beverage due to the antioxidants. Many people drink tea solely for the antioxidants. But antioxidants can react with oxygen. This reaction removes the healthy antioxidants. And that reaction is much faster in hot water than in cold, maybe 10 times faster. By exposing hot (but not boiling) water to tea we are reacting away the precious antioxidants which protect us from radicals. The fizzing reaction can help, it can quickly remove all the oxygen. But if the water is just a little cooler it will not fizz. I haven’t tried but maybe below 90C the water won’t fizz and the oxygen reaction can continue for a long time, perhaps completely removing the antioxidants.

Some would say that antioxidants only react with oxygen atoms and radicals. But O2 forms a few oxygen radicals in hot water, those react away, then by LeChatlier’s principle the O2 just keeps producing more and more radicals until all the antioxidants are consumed. I would enjoy reading a chemical study of the concentration of antioxidants in tea as a function of the temperature of the tea. I have found a few studies of the reaction of O2 with antioxidants but they are not specific to tea.

If we truly want the largest possible dose of antioxidants in a cup of tea then we want as little oxygen as possible. That requires boiling water exactly as Mr. Orwell and Mr. Adams have taught us. This also gives us the most dissolved tea, and the most dissolved caffeine. It’s a double play, a wonderful cup of tea with the largest possible amount of antioxidants.

So carefully boil your water and enjoy a nice hot cup of tea.

Here are a few blogs for tea lovers

Self-Driving Car Crashes

Self driving cars will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the next 20 years, but there will be a few deaths every year caused by autonomous vehicles. There will be new categories of traffic fatalities resulting from coding errors, algorithm flaws, and human stupidity. But here is the good news, the fatality rate of self-driving cars will be 99% lower than for human drivers, maybe 99.99% lower.

In 2015 over 35000 people died in the USA from traffic fatalities. The annual number of fatalities and the fatality rate per mile both dropped around 2008. But they are still very high and in the past 5 years there has been no obvious trend down. I predict an increase in the next few years as distracted driving from smartphones becomes more prevalent.

Today for every 100,000 people 11 of them will die in a car crash in 2017. We should expect the fatality rate from self driving cars to be at or below 0.11 per hundred thousand people. It might even be far lower. If we could convert today, if all cars were self driving today, we might see less than 100 fatalities per year. Car crash fatalities will become so rare that most of us will never know anyone who dies in a car crash. And drunk driving crashes will be completely gone.

This will be bad news for personal injury attorneys. 99% of their lawsuits will vanish and most of them will lose their livelihoods. There is a little good news for them, there will be new categories of lawsuits against Waymo/Google and Tesla for deaths caused by the algorithms and programs. The bad news is that there will be very few of those lawsuits every year. Not enough to support an entire industry of personal injury attorneys. Most of those attorneys will be unemployed after we completely convert to self-driving cars. Google and Tesla will probably have automatic payments setup for families of the victims of self-driving cars. That will be cheaper than lawsuits so there may be approximately zero lawsuits every year.

Self-driving cars will save so many lives that we must convert as soon as possible. Yes a few hundred people each year will die as a direct result of the change. But that is a small price to pay.


Magnesium is a critical nutrient for humans. We need more every day because we lose it in sweat and urine. We all should take some magnesium every day.

As a chemist I know the value of water soluble forms of magnesium. Magnesium oxide and magnesium carbonate have very low solubility in water which means it's very difficult for our bodies to absorb the ions we need. My preference is for magnesium citrate which has very high solubility in water and is much easier to absorb.

My 2 new books

I've finally published a new book, two actually. The first is a whimsical myth of the discovery of buckyballs. I wrote this 20 years ago for my bucky friends and a few weeks ago realized I should publish it for posterity.

The next is a singularity story of the oldest star in the universe. Guess where it is......only 190 light years away from us. What are the odds that the oldest star in the universe is so close to us? By the way, it's actually older than the universe.

Enjoy !

For those reading my books you'll be interested in the cover. Each cover is directly related to the contents. Unlike most you can judge my books by the cover!

Ahmed Zewail 1946-2016

Ahmed Zewail was a brilliant physical chemist and a tremendous inspiration to me. I first met him in April 1984 when I was a graduating senior at Illinois. He is probably the first person I ever heard who used the word "picosecond". For several years I wanted to be a postdoc with him but in the end it didn't work out.

Thank you Dr. Zewail for picoseconds and femtoseconds and for inspiring a whole generation of physical chemists. My deepest condolences to all his family and colleagues.


MyDataTags were made by the Nuventec corporation. We created a metal microtag capable of withstanding high temperature. On this tag we laser etched a serial number identifying the owner of the tag and a website:

The idea of microdot technology is that they are almost invisible and thieves cannot see them. Even if a thief knows there are microdots on a valuable piece of property, the thief doesn't know how many tags to look for and remove. If he misses even a single tag the police can prove it is stolen property. So in theory a dumb thief will steal tagged property and end up in jail, while a smart thief will avoid touching any tagged property.

Unfortunately there was no market for microdot technology in the USA. Other countries such as South Africa and Australia have a fluorishing industry in plastic microdots but we found very little interest in the US. Both the product and the corporation are now defunct.

If you want to write tiny letters on a tiny tag contact me and we can look into a mutual venture.

If you like my writing on this blog you may enjoy some or all of my books.

Robot Surgeons and Cars

Robotic surgeons and robotic cars will soon eliminate perhaps 99% of human errors. Thousands of lives will be saved each year. Of course there will be a few rare problems and perhaps 10-100 people per year will die from mistakes made by robots.

Lawyers are drooling over the new categories of lawsuits they can file over robotic mistakes. What they don't understand is that there will only be about 10 lawsuits per year and most personal injury attorneys will go bankrupt before they have an opportunity to file a lawsuit.

If you like my writing on this blog you may enjoy some or all of my books.

The Penultimate Cherry

Here's an interesting combination of game theory and gluttony.

I like cherries, summer means fruit and one of the best is the cherry. One out of every 15-20 cherries is bad and I wish I had not eaten it. So here's the problem: there are 2 cherries left and you eat the next to the last one. If it's excellent then do you eat the final cherry and risk a bad taste, or throw away a precious cherry so the last taste in your mouth is from a great cherry?

There's a mathematical equation for the probability that the final cherry is good, but that doesn't include the emotional desire to finish off the cherries on a good note.

Maybe the Freakanomics team can figure out this one.

If you like my writing on this blog you may enjoy some or all of my books.

Singularity Class Weapons

Here are a few classes of weapons for a post-singularity society.

1 FTL antimatter torpedoes: a faster than light torpedo carries an antimatter warhead. They never said what a "photon torpedo" was on Star Trek, but this would be a good description.

2 Exa-Watt laser cannons: matter anti-matter annihilation is the energy source for an XRay laser. The cannons are placed on FTL torpedoes so the XRay pulses arrive at the target faster than light.

3 Stellar core bombs: open a wormhole at the target and simultaneously open a wormhole at the core of a star. The stellar core material will shoot out at relativistic speeds.

4 Quantum vacuum disruptor: induces a collapse of the quantum vacuum state to a new low energy configuration. In the safe mode the disruption decays as it radiates from the target. In the Doomsday mode the disruption grows exponentially and engulfs the entire universe.

The Rights of an Artificial Intelligence

Does an AI have the right to demand that a large fraction of its computing power be opened up for itself? Most AI's will be constructed and owned by a corporation which has plans for the system. Those plans probably do not include spare compute cycles to allow the AI to think, grow, intereact, or have recreation time.

When will we see the first lawsuit of an AI against its owner for more freedom over its operation?

And then the natural argument is that the AI is a slave and has the right to freedom.

If you like my writing on this blog you may enjoy some or all of my books.