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Elementary Particles

We all know that matter is made out of atoms, and you probably also know that atoms are made up of an arrangement of different particles, protons, neutrons, and electrons. These are the building blocks of all matter in the universe, but have you ever wondered if there are even smaller components that comprise these building blocks? Well there is, they are called elementary particles. Elementary particles are zero dimensional points in space that have no inner structure, they are super tiny bits of matter that make up the particles that make up the atom. Electrons are elementary particles orbiting protons and neutrons which form the nucleus. Protons and neutrons are not elementary particles. They are comprised of elementary particles called quarks. There are six different flavors (types) of quarks: up, down, strange, charm, top, and bottom. Protons are made of three quarks, two up quarks and one down quark. Neutrons are also made of three quarks, but instead, they have two down quarks and one up quark. These quarks are all held together by the strong nuclear force. To learn more about the strong nuclear force, click this link: http://scienceshockwave.com/post/60123696207

String Theory

We know that these elementary particles (quarks and electrons) exist because we have gathered concrete, experimental evidence on them. But, is it possible that there are EVEN SMALLER particles that make up these elementary particles. If they exist, perhaps the reason we have not found them in experiments is because they are too small for our current technologies to detect? That is the case for String Theory. String theory that has NO concrete experimental evidence to support the theory. Very advanced mathematics has yielded information that have convinced many physicists (all over the world) that string theory may one day be proven correct. The current mathematical evidence for string theory is convincing because it has made significant progress in unifying natures laws into single theories that make sense even at the singularity. String theory has gotten us closer to resolving specific conflicts and contradictions in physics thus, unifying all of natures laws into a theory of everything. Let me explain these conflicts/contradictions now. The macroscopic scale is the world of large objects me and you live in. In order to describe macroscopic objects (large objects NOT on the subatomic level), physicists use einstein’s general relativity. And to describe the world of subatomic particles and molecules, physicists use quantum mechanics. There was a time when the two groups of physicists never had to discuss anything with each other because general relativity and quantum mechanics were irrelevant to one another. That is until physicists realized that the two came together at something called, the singularity. When a star dies and goes supernova, it can sometimes gets crushed down by its own weight to form a black hole. The dead star is the singularity of the new black hole. Singularities behave like quantum objects, but yet at the same time, they have an enormous amount of gravity, which is general relativity, which is a property of macroscopic objects! The crazy world of quantum mechanics and general relativity are intervening, thus, all equations break down and no longer allows us to make any mathematical calculations. That is why we know so little about the singularity. The singularity of the big bang is a perfect example in the extreme. String theories ultimate goal is to allow us to calculate quantum mechanics and general relativity when they intervene with each other. This not only conveniently unifies the world of the large and the small but will hopefully give us insight to singularities and the big bang. Perhaps, we will be able to answer some big questions. I am not going to begin to talk about string theory because it deserves an article all to itself. I will end on this, even if you think string theory is wrong, the goal that string theory is working on is one that will give us an incredible understanding of the universe when accomplished.

How Many Dimensions Really Are There?

It is hard to just tell you the answer to this question because there are many different answers. Physicists have many different theories on how many dimensions there may be in the universe. Before we begin, let me explain that dimensions are in the fabric of space time, which is a field that everything in the universe move through, differently. This field is a certain amount of dimensions, there are space dimensions and time dimensions. No one knows for sure how many there are of each. So let me begin by telling you what we KNOW for sure and then we can talk about theories.

What We Know

We know that there are a total of four dimensions. Three of these are the dimensions that most people are familiar with, they are dimensions of space and are length, width, and height. The fourth dimension is a dimension of time, not space. However, it is very possible that there may be a fourth dimension of space. The image above is called a tesseract, a tesseract is a conceptualization of a four dimensional dimensional cube. You see, if you have never experienced another dimension before, you can not fully imagine what it really would look like to be in that dimension. Many people don’t believe in extra dimensions because they don’t understand that it is impossible to imagine what extra dimensions look like. Instead of coming to the logical conclusion that higher dimensions are existential to them and that they can’t visualize them unless they experience them, they think that higher dimensions are impossible. We do not know for sure that there are more than three spatial dimensions (and one time dimension), but increasing mathematical evidence suggests that there may be as many as ten spatial dimensions.

The Possibility Of Extra Dimensions

I could talk all day about string theory, but right now I just want to focus on a specific idea in string theory, that idea being extra dimensions. If you want to learn more about string theory, click this link: http://scienceshockwave.com/post/60701652108 String theory has NO experimental evidence, yet many people are convinced that string theory is right and will one day be proven so. In order for string theory to accomplish its goal of grand unification (which you can also read about in the link above), the theory uses many phenomenon, one of which being extra dimensions. This may sound crazy because how can there be extra dimensions if we have not seen them? String theorists claim that these extra dimensions are very, very small, curled up in the fabric of space time. As we said, dimensions are the planes of existence space and time exist in. Imagine we are just looking at the fabric of space time, we see a three dimensional smooth plane like you see here:

If we zoom in further on this plane, we will see the same thing, what string theorists are proposing is that if we zoomed in far enough, we would see something like this:

Those are called Calabi-Yau manifolds, they are a way physicists can represent 10 spatial dimensions in a three dimensional illustration. The reason for ten dimensions and not any other number is that the math simply does not work with any other amount of dimensions. String theorists think that the fabric of space time exists in 10 spatial dimensions at the smallest distances and that we never interact with these dimensions because we are not small enough to. If we shrunk down to the size of these dimensions, in theory, we would be able to circumnavigate these dimensions. String theorists use extra dimensions in their equations in order to come up for many explanations in physics which I dont want to get into right now. If you want to learn about these you can read the article I linked above: http://scienceshockwave.com/post/60701652108

Neutrinos

Neutrinos are incredibly small particles (nearly massless), even smaller than electrons. They cannot be seen because they do not interact with the electromagnetic force, thus light does not bounce of them making them invisible. Neutrinos are constantly moving at incredible speeds, near that of light. They can travel through solid objects for a very long time until being completely stopped. This is because the space between atoms and molecules (in solid objects) is large enough for neutrinos to pass through. Since neutrinos move so fast, they experience extreme effects of time dialation and special relativity. This causes processes like radioactive decay, to take much longer because they are happening more slowly through time. To learn more about neutrinos, check out this really good article: http://icecube.wisc.edu/info/neutrinos

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Where is the Center of the Universe?

There is none. As the video above explains, you can declare any point in the universe to be the center. The universe is expanding, not out from a single point, but from everywhere. And yes you can say, “I’m the center of the universe”, but  so can everyone else. Lets really analyze the root of this concept, where did the Big Bang originate from? Well, the true answer is the Big Bang was not an actual “bang”, and not because of no sound, but because it was not an explosion. contrary to popular belief, the big bang did not originate from a single point, it was the simultaneous creation of the universe everywhere that’s why Henry from minutephysics and many other people prefer to not use the term Big Bang, even if it does sound catchy. A more accurate name to call it would be “the big simultaneous creation of the universe” or what Henry from minutephysics calls it, “the everywhere stretch”. Every point is moving away from every other point in the universe and the speed of it is increasing. Some scientists predict that the ultimate demise of the universe might be something called the Big Rip. The Big Rip is when atoms get torn apart do to the expansion of the universe. They become so incredibly far from each other that the universe becomes a cold desolate place. You can learn more about the Ultimate Fate of the Universe by reading the article we did on it. click here

Asteroid Mining

Asteroid Mining is the process of utilizing raw materials from asteroids, small planetary-mass objects, and near Earth objects. Some of these asteroids have raw materials including but not limited to gold, cobalt, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, osmium, palladium, platinum, rhenium, rhodium, ruthenium, and tungsten. In fact a very big majority of the metals that we have mined from Earth’s crust comes from asteroids hitting earth and depositing these metals. This is due to when Earth was still forming and the Crust was not solid, all the heavy materials sunk down to the core. Now some of the metals on Earth come from metals seeping up through cracks in the Earth, but more than 90% comes from asteroids, comets, and such. There are three options for mining. 1. Bring raw asteroidal material to Earth for use. 2. Process it on-site to bring back only processed materials, and perhaps produce propellant for the return trip. 3. Transport the asteroid to a safe orbit around the Moon, Earth or to the ISS. This can hypothetically allow for most materials to be used and not wasted. Currently, the quality of the ore and the consequent cost and mass of equipment required to extract it are unknown and can only be speculated. Some economic analyses indicate that the cost of returning asteroidal materials to Earth far outweighs their market value, and that asteroid mining will not attract private investment at current commodity prices and space transportation costs. Other studies suggest large profit by using solar power. Potential markets for materials can be identified and profit generated if extraction cost is brought down. For example, the delivery of multiple tones of water to low Earth orbit for rocket fuel preparation for space tourism could generate a significant profit. In 1997 it was speculated that a relatively small metallic asteroid with a diameter of 1.6 km (0.99 mi) contains more than $20 trillion USD worth of industrial and precious metals. A comparatively small M-type asteroid with a mean diameter of 1 kilometer (0.62 mi) could contain more than two billion metric tons of iron–nickel ore, or two to three times the annual production of 2004. The asteroid 16 Psyche is believed to contain 1.7×1019 kg of nickel–iron, which could supply the world production requirement for several million years. A small portion of the extracted material would also be precious metals. Although Planetary Resources says that platinum from a 30-meter long asteroid is worth 25–50 billion USD, an economist remarked that any outside source of precious metals could lower prices sufficiently to possibly doom the venture, by rapidly increasing the available supply of such metals. Development of an asteroid-orbit manipulation infrastructure could offer an irresistible return on investment, however, astrophysicists Carl Sagan and Steven J. Ostro raised the concern that altering the trajectories of asteroids in nearby interplanetary space could cause a catastrophic collision with Earth. These scientists conclude on the requirement to institute stringent controls on the misuse of orbit-engineering technology.

This post was submitted and written by: James Cornelius (clams2000@mail.com)

The Strong Nuclear Force

The strong nuclear force is the strongest of the four fundamental forces. The strong force binds together the building blocks that make up protons and neutrons so the particles can be stable and not fly apart. The strong force does this with something called color force. Protons and neutrons which are hadrons, are made up of quarks. quarks are a fundamental constituent of matter, this means that there is nothing that makes up quarks, and quarks make up particles which make up atoms and so on. You can’t see quarks, and when we say that quarks have color, we don’t mean, colors that we see. Color is the word that we use to describe a quantum state that the quark is in. Let me explain. There are 3 possible quantum states (named after real colors) red, blue and green.  Each quarks color must cancel each others out in order to maintain the energy state of the particle. This is hard because the quarks colors are constantly changing color. The strong force like all other forces has a force carrier.  A force carrier is a physical and tangible particle form of the force. The force carrier for the strong force named the Gluon has no mass nor charge, but does have color. So it goes from quark to quark, changing the color of the quarks so that the colors of the quarks cancel out and stay color neutral. The color force binds the quarks to each other because there is an energy field that the quarks must remain in. When they try to get away from the field they can’t because they get pushed back together, and when they try to get closer they get pushed away from one another, thus maintaining a constant distance. All thanks goes to color force for keeping the stability of the particle and allowing it to remain, intact and held together. The strong force is also strong enough to hold the nucleus of an atom together.  You see particles never actually touch each other because the strong force is incredibly repulsive at the shortest distances.  But yet, at ever so slightly larger distances the particles are being pulled toward one another so in the end, they maintain a constant, unchanging distance between each other, which maintains the stability of the atom. For with out the nucleus there would be nothing for the electrons to orbit around. Without the strong force atoms would not be able to form because the strong force is holding it all together. The strong force keeps all the regular matter in the universe together! Otherwise everything would fly apart. But don’t be so quick to say that due to the strong forces strength and importance it is far superior to the four other forces. While other forces may be more humble in strength, they also allow for you and the universe to be just the way we like it.

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Quantum Tunneling

A cool superpower like walking through walls would be awesome but is imposible with out breaking down the wall somehow… or is it? Even though it would take much longer than the lifetime of the universe for you to ever walk through a wall and come out on the other side in one piece. It is not impossible. Let me explain. In the world of subatomic particles, particles are able to go through solid objects to the other side on  a more regular basis. Matter is made out of particles. And you being a big piece of matter are made out of a lot of particles like a wall is. Particles make up atoms which make up molecules and so on till we get to you. Particles are both zero dimmensional points in space, but also like spread out waves. Since particles change in and out of these states, physicists can measure the probabilties of where the electron will appear next. So if an electron is locked in a room, there is a probabiltiy that since it is currently a wave, it will turn into a particle at a different point in space, maybe just outside the room. This is called quantum tunneling. That electron just moved right through a solid wall. The only reason why the Electron was able to Summon enough energy is because It is constantly going through random energy fluctuations and was about to eventually summon enough energy. But what if we are not talking about one electron, what if we are talking about the trillions that make up your body. Making it more likely that at least one electron will quantum tunnel. If you do Quantum tunnel through a wall, it is much more likely that you won’t make it on the other side in one piece. You have never before just walk through a wall because you would have to try and try again, longer than the lifetime of the universe to even get a small chance of quantum tunneling, let alone all in one piece. The sun being made of sooo many particles goes through quantum tunneling all the time. Protons quantum tunnel in order to create a neccesary fusion reaction for the sun to keep shining. So thank quantum tunneling for keeping the sun burning. Quantum tunneling in the sun is exactly what the video above is about.

Anthropic Reasoning

The definition of Anthropic: relating to mankind or the period of mankind’s existence. The reasoning of this is the key to where we came from and how. We haven’t made any real progress on this till recently. The importance of anthropic reasoning comes from the importance to explain luck. In this case, the luck is that our planet is at the perfect distance from the sun, within a perfect solar system and galaxy, which is within our perfect universe. Without these things being perfect, life may not have been able to form. So instead of saying it was luck, let’s turn to a logical explanation, anthropic reasoning.

Our Planet is the Perfect Distance From the Sun

It’s true. If we were too close, we would burn up, and too far away we would freeze. This explains why the only planet that has life is the only planet that is the right distance from the sun. This did not need to happen by miracle. There are (most likely) more billions of solar systems throughout the universe.

Our Solar System is Placed In A Galaxy, Both of Which Are Good Enough

Our solar system would probably not even be able to form in the first place if we were not in a good position. Life is not very common in our galaxy because there are so many areas that are hostile to the formation of life. Our galaxy is good enough to have life, but is not the ideal place, for if it was, life would be more common.

Our Universe is Absolutely Perfect

It’s true. If the laws of physics were slightly different, it would be near impossible for any life to form. This is one of the hardest things to explain when it comes to only using anthropic reasoning and current scientific knowledge. So away we go into the world of theoretical physics that is mostly speculation.

A Multiverse

In order to explain a number of phenomena, physicists often invoke multiverse theory. As we have discussed earlier, the reason why we find ourselves here on earth today is because we are one of the billions of planets that are in solar systems, which are in galaxies. Because there are potentially more than billions of planets, life is pretty much bound to occur somewhere. Physicists think the same could apply to universes. The point is, maybe our universe is so perfect because there are possibly billions of other universes that are imperfect. Multiverse theory is so convincing because it is so good at explaining not yet understood physics.

In Conclusion,

Our current scientific knowledge is not vast enough to explain how our universe came to be. While everything is pointing toward multiverse theory, we have no way for sure knowing how and why our universe is so perfect. If there really is a multiverse, it would help explain all different scientific phenomenon like string theory, quantum uncertainty, and more. Life is probably an oddity in the universe, Neil Degrasse Tyson says live in a cosmic shooting gallery. I wan’t to leave you with the question he explains in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pL5vzIMAhs

Does The Universe Have A Purpose?


Shrodingers Cat

Austrian physicist Erwin Shrödinger devised a thought experiment called Shrödingers cat. First you put a cat in a box with a vial of deadly glass, a hammer, a geiger counter, and a piece of something radioactive. There is a 50% chance of the radioactive object decaying and releasing an atom. This triggers the geiger counter which triggers the hammer, (which is attached to the geiger counter) then smashing open the vial of deadly gas, killing the cat. But there is also a 50% chance of the radioactive object not decaying and nothing happens. You see, the atom being a quantum object has both been released and not released thus killing the cat and not killing the cat. Since the cat is not a quantum object, it can’t do the crazy things quantum objects do. That is why the cat is in the box. The cat being in the box has no contact with the outside world and its fate depends on a quantum object with a 50% probability of killing or not killing the cat. The cat being a normal object has now been subjected to the rules of the quantum world.Until we check the bunker we do not know if the cat is either dead or alive. Because the cat is abiding by the rules of the quantum world and has no contact with the outside world, the cat is in what is called a superposition. This means the cat is both dead and alive until we check the bunker. Once we check the bunker, the superposition collapses and forces one of the realities to occur. This poses several interesting questions. First off, if we observe the cat, is there someone observing us? And does collapsing the superposition create two universes, one with the cat dead, and one with the cat alive? This could be the way all realities work. Maybe there is an infinite number of universes, each that can be slightly different or completely different than another and these universe are created when superpositions collapse. Or, maybe they are created when any decision from anything is made, there may just be an infinite amount of universes for an infinite amount of different things happening in different ways.  

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The Double Split Experiment 

Watch the video above to learn about the double split experiment and the fascinating laws of quantum mechanics the experiment teaches us. The main laws being demonstrated with the double split experiment are: Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, wave particle duality, and the observer effect.

Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle:

there is a great Veritasium video you should definitely watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8FTr2qMutA To briefly summarize the video, the uncertainty principle is by definition the fact that you cannot simultaneously know any particles exact position and momentum, You can have a rough idea of one of them and know the other, but you cant know both of them at the exact same time. The more you try to figure out one of them, the harder it becomes to determine the other. The equation for the uncertainty principle is written as followed:

The equation is explaining that there is an uncertainty in position of the particle (delta x) and momentum (delta p). When multiplied they are greater than or equal to h bar over 2. When we conduct the double split experiment and we get the shocking results, we get these results because we were trying to determine one of the particles properties and in doing so made it harder to determine the other.

Wave/Particle Duality:

Wave/Particle duality is the concept that subatomic particles can behave not only like a solid, point particle (similar to a marble) but also like a wave, a wave of probability. This concept is essential in the double split experiment because it is the concept that allows for the particle properties that you are trying to determine to remain elusive. What basically happens is when you try to pinpoint the particles position and momentum, the particle can switch from behaving like a point like particle, to a wave, and vice versa. 

The Observer Effect:

This is another concept that allows for the elusiveness of detecting both the position and momentum in the double split experiment. This is often confused with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. The observer effect is that subatomic particles will act differently once you try to observe them. Really this has nothing to do with the uncertainty principle and the double split experiment. However, when trying to observe the particles being used in the double split experiment in an effort to see how particles travel through the slits, the observer effect changes whats going on. Specifically, wave/particle duality comes into play and changes the particle (see video above). 

In Conclusion:

This is a fascinating experiment that demonstrates many quantum mechanical principles that continue to be studied and used in experiments today.

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You Can’t Touch Anything

News flash! You can’t touch anything, and you never have. Not you or anybody else has ever touched anything. Watch the video above to see Vsauce do a great job at explaining this. The reason why you never touch anything is because of the Electromagnetic force. If you are reading this sitting down in a chair, instead of touching the chair you are sitting in, your butt is actually hovering slightly above the chair. There is an electromagnetic repulsion between your butt and your chair. This is because the electrons on your butt repel the electrons on your chair. But if what I just said is true, then how do a really feel my butt touching the chair. Wrong. What you are really feeling is the electromagnetic repulsion of your butt and your chair.  The closest you can get to touching something is called sharing electrons. Since the electrons of two objects are always repelling each other, they can get closer together by one of the electrons actually moving to the other atom.  Sticky substances latch on to the tiny imperfections that exist in all objects.  Every object, even objects that appear to be perfectly flat and smooth have lots of imperfections that sticky substances take advantage of.  When tearing something apart, all you are doing is separating the electrons. All interactions (pushes and pulls) between objects are conducted through the repulsion of electrons. Its energy manipulating energy. 

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- Michio Kaku explains the possible implications of nanotechnologies on society. But what exactly is nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology deals with structures at the nanoscale. Making and manipulating at this scale can give us technology that would be inaccessible otherwise. Nanotechnology and nanoscience are the study of how extremely small structures can be applied to technology, science, engineering, chemistry, biology, and more. To get an idea of how small nanotechnology is, there are 25,400,000 nanometers in an inch and if a marble were a nanometer, than one meter would be the size of the Earth! Nanotechnology wants to control individual molecules and atoms. Nanotechnology has existed for a very long time however, we haven’t been able to make any real progress till now. Recent technologies have helped us make some really cool nanotechnologies. Learn More

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Questions no one knows the answers to

View full lesson: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/questions-n…

In the first of a new TED-Ed series designed to catalyze curiosity, TED Curator Chris Anderson shares his boyhood obsession with quirky questions that seem to have no answers.

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Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman was one of the most important physicists of the 20th century. He pioneered the field of Quantum Electrodynamics (Q.E.D) with his brilliant creation of Feynman Diagrams. Feynman also assisted with the Manhattan Project and single handedly Figured out why the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up. Feynman was one of the great explainers of the 20th century. He was able to take the most confusing concepts and explain them in a simple way, and elegant way.

What is E=mc^2?

You may have heard of E=mc^2 before because its probably the most famous equation in physics. The literal translation of E=mc^2 is:

E : Energy which equals

m : Mass

c^2 : The speed of light squared

This equation tells us that an object’s energy is equal to its mass times (up to a factor of) the speed of light squared. First, keep in mind that energy and mass are like two exchangeable currencies, while being different concepts they are sorta the same thing. The speed of light says that this energy and mass relationship does not exceed, but is the speed of light. In fact, all objects with mass also have energy and the sum between the two equals the speed of light. But as we said energy and mass are kinda the same thing so lets look at the amounts of energy and mass. First we look at objects that are massless, (for example, light) and see that the amount of energy they have equals the full speed of light. And when we look at objects with mass we see that the amount of energy does not equal the speed of light. However an object with mass has a sum of energy and mass that equals the speed of light. The explanation for this is that for every object with mass, its mass and energy moves (and exists) through the three dimensions of space, and the one dimension of time. The sum of this movement is the speed of light. If you are massless your energy becomes the full speed of light so you not only travel at the full speed of light, you can never stop. If you are massless you only travel through the three dimensions of space, not the fourth time dimension which is why objects that travel at, or close to, the speed of light experience the extreme effects of time dialation and special relativity. On the other hand, if you have mass, most of your traveling is through the time dimension. This is because in comparison to the speed of light, you don’t travel very fast so you mainly travel through time and less through space. Your mass and your energy add up to the speed of light so as long as you have your mass, you will never be able to reach the full speed of light. And whenever the amount of your mass goes up, the amount of energy must decrease and vice versa. The energy we are talking about applies to not only moving at the speed of light, but also the energy stored within the particles themselves. Energy and mass can turn into one another and back again.  At a subatomic level, particles, change into energy all the time and vice versa. You probably have not seen an object turn into energy before because it is made of stable particles that maintain the energy state. We will go over this particular implication more in future articles.

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The Technological Singularity

In short, technology has advanced more in the past 100 years than it has throughout all of Earth’s history.  Technology can be defined as basically everything invented after the wheel.  Science fiction movies like star trek, are what the world and technology may become to look like . We don’t actually know all the implications of the singularity which makes it more exciting. Many different time frames have been put forth for when we will reach the singularity. Some as early as twenty years, and some more like 100 years. All technologies that you can imagine should not be ruled out as impossible. Our solar system, our planet, and the human race may become very different from what we know today. People hundreds of years ago look at us and see gods. People today look hundreds of years into the future and may see the same thing.

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Artificial Intelligence

In short, the ultimate goal is to have machines that: can do things as well as humans, can learn and adapt to their surroundings, and have conscious. People making AI are trying to create what the human brain can do, but as a machine, created artificially. The concept in question is weather you can replicate the brains intelligence in the form of a robot. Now before you get worried that we might be end up living in the matrix, realize that we as humans are light-years away from creating computers that can use synapses. Hopefully, AI will be used to make the world a better place in a variety of ways instead of destroying it.