The Threshold of Intelligent Life

What is 'Intelligent' life? It used to be a very simple question to answer, because we knew very little and assumed a great gap in capability between humanity and the rest of the species living on the planet. Several items have been proposed in the past as key : tool use, art, language, the ability to relate to others. 

What researchers are starting to find is that more varieties of life on Earth than we had previously thought are capable of doing all of these things. 

Not just our closest relatives, but even distant animals such as birds and fish have now been determined to be much more talkative and creative than we had ever given them credit for before.

Okay. Maybe speech and tool use isn't that impressive anymore. What about planning? Some recent videos show animals kidnapping and domesticating dogs (might be a bit disturbing).

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And domestication seems to work.

How about art? There is some question if animals can really appreciate what they are creating, but no question that they are creating it.

So what makes us special? It might only be learned behaviors.

Line-X

You may have read of heard about this stuff already. It's a spray-on plastic coating that lends a very impressive amount of strength to whatever it's sprayed on.

Superlight Aerogel

Aerogel is an amazing material. You can purchase samples of it online for a reasonable price. In compression, it is about as strong as tightly packed sand. When they say it reacts poorly to moisture they aren't kidding - it will melt as you breathe on it, or leave behind a fingerprint from the moisture in your fingers. I showed the sample I purchased to the kids and within a minute of experimenting there was nothing left.

Faster than Light Travel with the Alcubierre Drive

This is a very nice introduction to what you might call a modern warp drive by the very person who came up with the idea.

Problems of energy have been mitigated by an idea of oscillating changes to space, which reduces the requirement to make a bigger change. The ability to create something resembling Alcubierre's field was described by NASA in Warp Field Mechanics 101 and Warp Field Mechanics 102

There are still some things that need to get discovered for this to work as a faster-than-light technology. it presupposes the truth of an idea proposed in Einstein's time by a man named Nathan Rosen, that the compression of space and time is a new dimension of space, and not just some characteristic of the existing 3+1 dimensions. If this extra physical dimension. This dimension must exist for wormholes and the Alcubierre as a faster-than-light device.

Even if this isn't a faster-than-light drive, it is a great way to reach high speeds without the harmful effects of acceleration on the crew.

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