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Amit Kotwal
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This is a good explanation of why the Juceiro press is so expensive - they basically built an Apple-quality shell over a precision high-power machine tool and used it to squeeze fruit. Which is acquired through a complicated supply chain in special packages, that being the only thing you can load into it.

This article, with a teardown of the device, provides a nice combination of "wow, how beautifully built!" with "what the hell were you thinking?!" Since the result was a ludicrously expensive machine that solves a problem no-one has. 

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Music and visualization - in 256 bytes.


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Normally, DNA is transcribed to RNA, and the RNA is used to make proteins. This is how DNA does pretty much everything it does, and it changes at the speed that DNA changes - slowly, over generations. Faster adaptation is handled by the system that reads out the DNA: only activating certain genes if the temperature is above some limit, or if some other chemical is present, which may have been generated in turn by the same process elsewhere in the body or in the past. Thus the body can communicate with itself.

There's another, lesser-understood mechanism, called RNA editing: mechanisms alter the RNA after it's read out from the DNA, before it's used to make proteins. Most species barely do this, and it's not clear if it's used for anything meaningful at all; in humans and mice, it mostly edits RNA which is later thrown out.

But not so among the coleoids. Recent research has shown that the intelligent cephalopods - the octopus, the squid, and their ilk - use this type of editing extensively, and in very active areas of RNA. In fact, their DNA structure seems to have gradually evolved to optimize for this, leaving large stretches of DNA unchanged over time so that RNA optimizing software can work against a known, fixed background.

It's far from clear why this is happening, or if it's connected to the coleoids' intelligence. But the RNA editing system could be just as flexible a mechanism for changing protein expression as DNA changes, but able to evolve far more rapidly.

There seem to be at least three major, distinct intelligence groups on Earth: the mammals (who developed large, hard-shelled brains, very likely to optimize for social behavior), the corvids (who have much smaller brains with completely different wiring which nonetheless seem to give them cognitive sophistication on a par with the most complex mammals), and the coleoids (with their quasi-autonomous arms and squishable brains that seem so suited to thriving unarmored in the sea, and developing great cognitive complexity despite living only a few years). These represent three independent evolutions of intelligence, extremely different in all the details but surprisingly similar in many outcomes. And especially in the case of the coleoids, they seem to represent a much wider group of anatomical and biological adaptations, to create truly alien intelligences.

I think we've been ignoring the significance of this for a while. There are literally multiple alien intelligences here with us on this planet, which have evolved quite separately but to similar ends. This may say something about the prevalence of the "cognitive generalist" adaptation as a whole in a wide range of ecosystems - and suggest that if planets are as widespread as we're seeing, and life is not an astronomically rare development (as astronomical prevalence of amino acids and the like suggests), then the universe may both be a lot weirder than we thought, and a lot more studyable simply by examining the range of phenomena we encounter here. 

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For everyone nostalgic about film (which does not include me)

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Comment if you get it (or not).

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