Idea-A-Day: Headphone mic caterpillars.

If you've ever been on a phone call with somebody using an external headphone/mic outside on a windy day, you've been distracted and annoyed by the wooshing sound of the wind.

If you've seen boom mics used on windy video shoots, you've seen the "dead cat" covers they use to block the sound of wind.

Peanut-butter, meet chocolate.

These little wind breakers could look like caterpillars that clip on to your earphone's built-in microphone pod.

* Looks like a fuzzy caterpillar (optionally realistic qualities/names, e.g. The Monarch)
* Clips above the microphone pod.
* Clip can also be used to attach to shirt.
* Cord can be wrapped around clip for storage.
*  “Caterpillar” inverts inside-out as a “cocoon” pouch around the wrapped headphones, making it easy to safely store them in your pocket.

Dark Matter is Alien AI

Just to prove that Everthing-Box really will be filled with thoughts of all types, I’m going to start with a fun one that’s meant to be more play than serious deliberation. And then I’m going to mess with that approachability by writing about something that requires a passing familiarity with some fairly esoteric topics. If you’re not familiar with terms like The Singularity, computronium, dark energy, dark matter, and matrioshka brains, you may have to do some background reading first. A list of references will be available at the bottom.


I’ve figured out the secret behind Dark Matter (and Dark Energy).

It’s aliens.

Yes, I realize this sounds far out-there.

To begin, let’s think of this all as a guided thought experiment. Like series of questions and explorations. It's an exposition of ways this premise might be true, rather than anything even slightly resembling a rigorous proof.

If nothing else, it could be an interesting premise for a sci-fi story.

The best way to understand the beginning of my proposition might be to read Charles Stross' Accelerando. I really can't recommend it highly enough. If you don't have a few hours to do that, I'll give you the important slices for this exercise.

Humans are on an inevitable path, racing ever-faster towards merger with technology, which is part of what people mean when they talk about The Singularity. That merger will see a premium being put on information gathering, data storage, energy usage, and processing power. As our capabilities increase, we will get better and better at making the basic components of processors and data storage out of more and more materials. The sci-fi community has largely started to refer to this process as converting matter into "computronium." It’s not too hard to find some very smart people who believe, with very good reasons, that this path towards augmented intelligence - and then completely “virtual” intelligence, is inevitable for humanity.

If there are indeed other intelligent species in the universe (again, there are very good reasons to believe this is true), they too must march down a similar path - ultimately converting all mass/energy at their disposal into computronium to run the OS that is their existence. Intelligent species either die off before advancing sufficiently, or inevitably tear apart asteroids, moons, and planets to feed their need for more computronium, using it to ring their sun to gather all power available to them (see Dyson Sphere/Cloud).

In his book Accelerando, C. Stross adopts the premise that there will not only be single shells around stars, but a series of shells, such that each layer absorbs high-energy, uses it for processing, and discards waste heat outwards. The next shell is optimized to use that waste heat as the energy that drives the processes within it, ultimately creating a series of nesing-doll-like processing regions. Robert Bradbury dubbed these concentric spheres a “matrioshka brains." While others have proposed similar ideas before and since, I've come to like this term - probably through Stross' influence.

This processing imperative necessarily drives the refinement of technology that does an impeccable job of absorbing all energy that strikes it. And what does this look like from afar?

It looks black. The absence of light and electromagnetic emissions. Dark. Matter.

That alone is a good start to the theory. But when we start to think about what life would be like for one of these brains, we realize that within their insular world of data availability, data from outside sources becomes increasingly precious. Their full-spectrum energy-absorption capability certainly aids this goal at first. And then they realize (or hypothesize) that there are certainly nearby matrioshka brains, who also crave outside information, and to control more processing power.

In short, the have a strong cannibalistic urge, and they quickly find themselves in an arms war to both infect/take over nearby brains, and simultaneously shield themselves from detection from any of their neighbors. So they put those nearly infinitely intelligent shells to work figuring out how to cloak themselves. How to not only absorb the light from their own star, but to bend that of nearby stars around themselves so that they don’t show up as black silhouettes against a star field, but rather as, well, nothing. What little energy they might have captured from that faint electromagnetic impacts that they route around themselves is more than off-set by the security that comes from such cloaking.

Any who don’t take such precautions are instant targets for attack, and then taken over by brains who are a bit more opportunistic.

But apparently the physics of the universe has some rules they haven’t yet learned to bend to their goals. Gravity isn’t quite as manipulable as the electromagnetic spectrum. So while they can look completely transparent to outsiders through the elctromagnetic (EM) spectrum, they still have gravitational effects that are measurable.

With enough practice, maybe they’ll figure out how to shield even those. Maybe some already have - and at least are able to make those gravitational effects seem more disperse than their source.

Assuming all this is true, surely even these processes must account for entropy. Where does the “waste heat” necessary to fulfill the 2nd law of thermodynamics go, if it’s not radiated through the EM spectrum?

I think it’s helpful to look at what happens in a traditional system when energy is added and particles heat up - they exert force upon one another and move apart, faster and faster. Which is exactly what we see in dark energy. We see gravitational lensing which belies more mass than we can see, yet something still acts to push everything apart - as if it were all being heated by waste energy that acts on the level of gravitons.

Maybe that’s an intentional balancing of the pull of “dark matter” to mask their location. Maybe it’s a side effect/waste heat analog of all the work being done by the brains. Or maybe the brains are actively contributing to it, defending themselves from each other by the only way means they have available when fighting invisible enemies - putting as much distance between themselves and their neighbors as they can.

But one thing is for certain. Dark matter and dark energy are Alien AI. And one day, we will be too.
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