This physicist says consciousness could be a new state of matter


16 SEP 2016

Consciousness isn’t something scientists like to talk about much. You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, and despite the best efforts of certain researchers, you can’t quantify it. And in science, if you can’t measure something, you’re going to have a tough time explaining it.

But consciousness exists, and it’s one of the most fundamental aspects of what makes us human. And just like dark matter and dark energy have been used to fill some otherwise gaping holes in the standard model of physics, researchers have also proposed that it’s possible to consider consciousness as a new state of matter.

To be clear, this is just a hypothesis, and one to be taken with a huge grain of salt, because we’re squarely in the realm of the hypothetical here, and there’s plenty of room for holes to be poked.

But it’s part of a quietly bubbling movement within theoretical physics and neuroscience to try and attach certain basic principles to consciousness in order to make it more observable.

The hypothesis was first put forward in 2014 by cosmologist and theoretical physicist Max Tegmark from MIT, who proposed that there’s a state of matter – just like a solid, liquid, or gas – in which atoms are arranged to process information and give rise to subjectivity, and ultimately, consciousness.

The name of this proposed state of matter? Perceptronium, of course.

As Tegmark explains in his pre-print paper:

“Generations of physicists and chemists have studied what happens when you group together vast numbers of atoms, finding that their collective behaviour depends on the pattern in which they are arranged: the key difference between a solid, a liquid, and a gas lies not in the types of atoms, but in their arrangement.

In this paper, I conjecture that consciousness can be understood as yet another state of matter. Just as there are many types of liquids, there are many types of consciousness.

However, this should not preclude us from identifying, quantifying, modelling, and ultimately understanding the characteristic properties that all liquid forms of matter (or all conscious forms of matter) share.”

In other words, Tegmark isn’t suggesting that there are physical clumps of perceptronium sitting somewhere in your brain and coursing through your veins to impart a sense of self-awareness.

Rather, he proposes that consciousness can be interpreted as a mathematical pattern – the result of a particular set of mathematical conditions.

Just as there are certain conditions under which various states of matter – such as steam, water, and ice – can arise, so too can various forms of consciousness, he argues.

Figuring out what it takes to produce these various states of consciousness according to observable and measurable conditions could help us get a grip on what it actually is, and what that means for a human, a monkey, a flea, or a supercomputer.

The idea was inspired by the work of neuroscientist Giulio Tononi from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, who proposed in 2008 that if you wanted to prove that something had consciousness, you had to demonstrate two specific traits.

According to his integrated information theory (IIT), the first of these traits is that a conscious being must be capable of storing, processing, and recalling large amounts of information.

“And second,” explains the blog, “this information must be integrated in a unified whole, so that it is impossible to divide into independent parts.”

This means that consciousness has to be taken as a whole, and cannot be broken down into separate components. A conscious being or system has to not only be able to store and process information, but it must do so in a way that forms a complete, indivisible whole, Tononi argued.

If it occurred to you that a supercomputer could potentially have these traits, that’s sort of what Tononi was getting at.

As George Johnson writes for The New York Times, Tononi’s hypothesis predicted – with a whole lot of maths – that “devices as simple as a thermostat or a photoelectric diode might have glimmers of consciousness – a subjective self”.

In Tononi’s calculations, those “glimmers of consciousness” do not necessarily equal a conscious system, and he even came up with a unit, called phi or Φ, which he said could be used to measure how conscious a particular entity is.

Six years later, Tegmark proposed that there are two types of matter that could be considered according to the integrated information theory.

The first is ‘computronium’, which meets the requirements of the first trait of being able to store, process, and recall large amounts of information. And the second is ‘perceptronium’, which does all of the above, but in a way that forms the indivisible whole Tononi described.

In his 2014 paper, Tegmark explores what he identifies as the five basic principles that could be used to distinguish conscious matter from other physical systems such as solids, liquids, and gases – “the information, integration, independence, dynamics, and utility principles”.

He then spends 30 pages or so trying to explain how his new way of thinking about consciousness could explain the unique human perspective on the Universe.

As the blog explains, “When we look at a glass of iced water, we perceive the liquid and the solid ice cubes as independent things even though they are intimately linked as part of the same system. How does this happen? Out of all possible outcomes, why do we perceive this solution?”

It’s an incomplete thought, because Tegmark doesn’t have a solution. And as you might have guessed, it’s not something that his peers have been eager to take up and run with. Tegmark himself might have even hit a brick wall with it, because he’s never managed to take it beyond his pre-print, non-peer-reviewed paper.

That’s the problem with something like consciousness – if you can’t measure your attempts to measure it, how can you be sure you’ve measured it at all?


More recently, scientists have attempted to explain how human consciousness could be transferred into an artificial body – seriously, there’s a start-up that wants to do this – and one group of Swiss physicists have suggested consciousness occurs in ‘time slices’ that are hundreds of milliseconds apart.

As Matthew Davidson, who studies the neuroscience of consciousness at Monash University in Australia, explains over at The Conversation, we still don’t know much about what consciousness actually is, but it’s looking more and more likely that it’s something we need to consider outside the realm of humans.

“If consciousness is indeed an emergent feature of a highly integrated network, as IIT suggests, then probably all complex systems – certainly all creatures with brains – have some minimal form of consciousness,” he says.

“By extension, if consciousness is defined by the amount of integrated information in a system, then we may also need to move away from any form of human exceptionalism that says consciousness is exclusive to us.”

Here’s Tegmark’s TED talk on consciousness as a mathematical pattern:




Physicists Warming Up the LHC Accidentally Create a Rainbow Universe : WOW and WTF!

After two years of extensive upgrades, the Large Hadron Collider was warming up on March 21 for another round of experiments when a circuit controlling one of its massive magnets shorted out. Dismayed, scientists began repairing the equipment, hoping for a short delay. Just yesterday, CERN announced that the LHC could restart within days.

Then the unexpected happened. As physicists were testing the repairs by zipping a few spare protons around the 17 mile loop, the CMS detector picked up something unusual. The team feverishly pored over the data, and ultimately came to an unlikely conclusion—in their tests, they had accidentally created a rainbow universe.

In a “Rainbow” Universe Time May Have No Beginning

If different wavelengths of light experience spacetime differently, the big bang may never have happened

What if the universe had no beginning, and time stretched back infinitely without a big bang to start things off? That’s one possible consequence of an idea called “rainbow gravity,” so-named because it posits that gravity’s effects on spacetime are felt differently by different wavelengths of light, aka different colors in the rainbow.

Rainbow gravity was first proposed 10 years ago as a possible step toward repairing the rifts between the theories of general relativity (covering the very big) and quantum mechanics (concerning the realm of the very small). The idea is not a complete theory for describing quantum effects on gravity, and is not widely accepted. Nevertheless, physicists have now applied the concept to the question of how the universe began, and found that if rainbow gravity is correct, spacetime may have a drastically different origin story than the widely accepted picture of the big bang.

According to Einstein’s general relativity, massive objects warp spacetime so that anything traveling through it, including light, takes a curving path. Standard physics says this path shouldn’t depend on the energy of the particles moving through spacetime, but in rainbow gravity, it does. “Particles with different energies will actually see different spacetimes, different gravitational fields,” says Adel Awad of the Center for Theoretical Physics at Zewail City of Science and Technology in Egypt, who led the new research, published in October in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics. The color of light is determined by its frequency, and because different frequencies correspond to different energies, light particles (photons) of different colors would travel on slightly different paths though spacetime, according to their energy.

The effects would usually be tiny, so that we wouldn’t notice the difference in most observations of stars, galaxies and other cosmic phenomena. But with extreme energies, in the case of particles emitted by stellar explosions called gamma-ray bursts, for instance, the change might be detectable. In such situations photons of different wavelengths released by the same gamma-ray burst would reach Earth at slightly different times, after traveling somewhat altered courses through billions of light-years of time and space. “So far we have no conclusive evidence that this is going on,” says Giovanni Amelino-Camelia, a physicist at the Sapienza University of Rome who has researched the possibility of such signals. Modern observatories, however, are just now gaining the sensitivity needed to measure these effects, and should improve in coming years.

The extreme energies needed to bring out strong consequences from rainbow gravity, although rare now, were dominant in the dense early universe, and could mean things got started in a radically different fashion than we tend to think. Awad and his colleagues found two possible beginnings to the universe based on slightly different interpretations of the ramifications of rainbow gravity. In one scenario, if you retrace time backward, the universe gets denser and denser, approaching an infinite density but never quite reaching it. In the other picture the universe reaches an extremely high, but finite, density as you look back in time and then plateaus. In neither case is there a singularity—a point in time when the universe is infinitely dense—or in other words, a big bang. “This was, of course, an interesting result, because in most cosmological models, we have singularities,” Awad says. The result suggests perhaps the universe had no beginning at all, and that time can be traced back infinitely far.

Whereas it is too soon to know if these scenarios might describe the truth, they are intriguing. “This paper and a few other papers show there could be a rightful place in cosmology for this idea [of rainbow gravity], which is encouraging to me,” says Amelino-Camelia, who was not involved in the study, but has researched frameworks for pursuing a quantum theory of gravity. “In quantum gravity we are finding more and more examples where there is this feature which you may call rainbow gravity. It is something that is increasingly compelling.”

Yet the concept has its critics. “It’s a model that I do not believe has anything to do with reality,” says Sabine Hossenfelder of the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics. This idea is not the only way to do away with the big bang singularity, she adds. “The problem isn’t to remove the singularity, the problem is to modify general relativity in a consistent way, so that one still reproduces all its achievements and that of the Standard Model [of particle physics] in addition.”

Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, who first suggested the idea of rainbow gravity along with Joao Magueijo of Imperial College London, says that, in his mind, rainbow gravity has been subsumed in a larger idea called relative locality. According to relative locality, observers in different locations across spacetime will not agree on where events take place—in other words, location is relative. “Relative locality is a deeper way of understanding the same idea” as rainbow gravity, Smolin says. The new paper by Awad and his colleagues “is interesting,” he adds, “but before really believing the result, I would want to redo it within the framework of relative locality. There are going to be problems with locality the way it’s written that the authors might not be aware of.”

In the coming years researchers hope to analyze gamma-ray bursts and other cosmic phenomena for signs of rainbow gravity effects. If they are found, it could mean the universe has a more “colorful” history than we knew.


“Rainbow universes were pure speculation before this happened,” said Jessica Czerniski, the CERN physicist who was overseeing the warm-up procedures. “We had some solid math backing us up, of course, but none of us ever dreamed we would live to see this day.”

An inside look at the LHC’s CMS detector
First proposed back in the early 2000s, the theory of rainbow gravity posits that different wavelengths of light are affected by gravity in different ways. Rainbow universes are thought to be a natural result of rainbow gravity, but with the peculiar qualities of not having distinct beginnings. In other words, rainbow universes have been around since forever, which has physicists stumped over the “creation” at the LHC.

“When I first saw the paper posted on the arXiv [a site for scholarly publications], I almost spit out my coffee,” said Randall Pattinson, a professor of physics at the Princeton University. “Rainbow gravity has some real physics behind it, but actually seeing evidence of it? It’s like finding an original edition Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper that your daughter wanted for her birthday. It’s almost too good to be true.”

Technicians close to the CMS detector reported hearing a loud noise, something of a cross between screeching metal and tearing cloth. In a thick haze that hung over the magnet, initially thought to be smoke from the short circuit, they saw a shimmering halo that spanned the full spectrum of visible light which vanished after a few seconds. Scientists studying the CMS data later confirmed the anomaly lasted for about 2.6 seconds.

Czerniski and her team would like to repeat the conditions that led to the appearance of the rainbow universe, though only after carefully analyzing the current CMS data. “We’d like to ensure that there aren’t any unanticipated consequences from attempting to create a more stable version of the rainbow universe,” she said, acknowledging that CERN is aware of the public’s concerns over its experiments. (When the LHC was first started, some people feared the powerful accelerator would create a black hole here on Earth.)

A visualization of the data captured by the CMS detector
Among the curiosities Czerniski and her colleagues need to sort out is an artifact in the data that, when recreated in three-dimensions, appears to be the ghostly outline of a dolphin. At first they thought it was merely the computer’s desktop wallpaper bleeding through a transparent window, but after confirming the terminal’s settings, they dove deeper into the data. Subsequent analysis suggested the apparition is real as it registered at five sigma.

Should the CERN team be successful in creating another rainbow universe, proof of a rainbow gravity could force physicists to rethink the origins of the universe—the Big Bang theory, for example, would likely be thrown out. But such a confirmation could also finally bridge general relativity with quantum mechanics.

“We’re literally on the edge of our seats,” Czerniski said. “If this pans out, maybe we’ll finally be able to convince the international community to build the space-based particle accelerator we’ve been hoping for. There’s a perfect spot on the International Space Station for it—right next to the dolphin module that was installed last year.”

Wormhole Created in Lab Makes Invisible Magnetic Field: Amazing!

magnetic wormhole

A new device can cloak a magnetic field so that it invisible from the outside. Here, a picture of how the wormhole would work.
Credit: ordi Prat-Camps and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Ripped from the pages of a sci-fi novel, physicists have crafted a wormhole that tunnels a magnetic field through space.

“This device can transmit the magnetic field from one point in space to another point, through a path that is magnetically invisible,” said study co-author Jordi Prat-Camps, a doctoral candidate in physics at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain. “From a magnetic point of view, this device acts like a wormhole, as if the magnetic field was transferred through an extra special dimension.”

The idea of a wormhole comes from Albert Einstein’s theories. In 1935, Einstein and colleague Nathan Rosen realized that the general theory of relativity allowed for the existence of bridges that could link two different points in space-time. Theoretically these Einstein-Rosen bridges, or wormholes, could allow something to tunnel instantly between great distances (though the tunnels in this theory are extremely tiny, so ordinarily wouldn’t fit a space traveler). So far, no one has found evidence that space-time wormholes actually exist. [Science Fact or Fiction? The Plausibility of 10 Sci-Fi Concepts]

The new wormhole isn’t a space-time wormhole per se, but is instead a realization of a futuristic “invisibility cloak” first proposed in 2007 in the journal Physical Review Letters. This type of wormhole would hide electromagnetic waves from view from the outside. The trouble was, to make the method work for light required materials that are extremely impractical and difficult to work with, Prat said.

Magnetic wormhole

But it turned out the materials to make a magnetic wormhole already exist and are much simpler to come by. In particular, superconductors, which can carry high levels of current, or charged particles, expel magnetic field lines from their interiors, essentially bending or distorting these lines. This essentially allows the magnetic field to do something different from its surrounding 3D environment, which is the first step in concealing the disturbance in a magnetic field.

So the team designed a three-layer object, consisting of two concentric spheres with an interior spiral-cylinder. The interior layer essentially transmitted a magnetic field from one end to the other, while the other two layers acted to conceal the field’s existence.

The inner cylinder was made of a ferromagnetic mu-metal. Ferromagnetic materials exhibit the strongest form of magnetism, while mu-metals are highly permeable and are often used for shielding electronic devices.

A thin shell made up of a high-temperature superconducting material called yttrium barium copper oxide lined the inner cylinder, bending the magnetic field that traveled through the interior.

magnetic wormhole device
A new device has created a magnetic wormhole, in which a magnetic field enters one end and seems to pop out of nowhere on the other side.
Credit: Jordi Prat-Camps and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

The final shell was made of another mu-metal, but composed of 150 pieces cut and placed to perfectly cancel out the bending of the magnetic field by the superconducting shell. The whole device was placed in a liquid-nitrogen bath (high-temperature superconductors require the low temperatures of liquid nitrogen to work).

Normally, magnetic field lines radiate out from a certain location and decay over time, but the presence of the magnetic field should be detectable from points all around it. However, the new magnetic wormhole funnels the magnetic field from one side of the cylinder to another so that it is “invisible” while in transit, seeming to pop out of nowhere on the exit side of the tube, the researchers report today (Aug. 20) in the journal Scientific Reports.

“From a magnetic point of view, you have the magnetic field from the magnet disappearing at one end of the wormhole and appearing again at the other end of the wormhole,” Prat told Live Science.

Broader applications

There’s no way to know if similar magneticwormholes lurk in space, but the technology could have applications on Earth, Prat said. For instance, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines use a giant magnet and require people to be in a tightly enclosed central tube for diagnostic imaging.

But if a device could funnel a magnetic field from one spot to the other, it would be possible to take pictures of the body with the strong magnet placed far away, freeing people from the claustrophobic environment of an MRI machine, Prat said.

To do that, the researchers would need to modify the shape of their magnetic wormhole device. A sphere is the simplest shape to model, but a cylindrical outer shell would be the most useful, Prat said.

“If you want to apply this to medical techniques or medical equipment, for sure you will be interested in directing toward any given direction,” Prat said. “A spherical shape is not the most practical geometry.”

So Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Is Actually Getting Kinda Serious


Quadro Multirotor


There are some strange relatives in the helicopter family. Small quadrotor drones are the most popular recent addition, but there have been human-carrying cousins for decades. These aborted hoverbikes took the unusual step of putting an exposed pilot safely above the craft’s spinning blades. Not content with those flying human blenders, some human-carrying multicopters aim to sit the pilot almost level with the rotors. Check out this project man-carrying multi-copter from Quadro UAS:

Despite the low flight in the video, this project is hardly haphazard experimentation. The vehicle makers document the math behind the decision. The vehicle uses 16 rotors, arranged in clusters of four, powered by electric engines. A lightweight passenger (no heavier than 134 lbs) sits in the center. Autonomous drone flight software steers the craft. Like other human-lifting multirotors, it’s a work in progress, promising short flights for light people willing to overcome their fear of nearby spinning blades.

Stop kicking the robots before they start kicking us

Boston Dynamics is a robotics company owned by Google. They make robots and then release videos demonstrating what these robots can do. They are the kind of videos that make you wonder if Boston, or any city, stands a chance.

Earlier this week, Boston Dynamics showed off its newest creation: Spot, an agile, autonomous robot with four hydraulic legs and a sensor head to help it move across rough terrain. The video shows Spot walking through the company’s office, moving at a steady pace across the gray gingham carpet, past two office dudes looking at office papers and talking office talk.


Spot is quieter than its bulkier predecessors. It makes a low-level whirring sound as it pads along. Spot starts to seem like some kind of roaming office equipment / pet — the R2-D2 to atelepresence robot’s C-3P0. That is, until a guy in a hoodie pops out and kicks Spot in the guts. The kicker retreats back behind the translucent office divider with a hint of a smile. Spot buckles at the knees and makes a winding down sound, but keeps its balance. Six seconds later, Spot is outside and — blammo! —the same guy kicks Spot, hard, to try to knock it over again. This time Spot skids on the concrete like it’s ice, but continues to stay upright.

According to its creators, Spot could eventually help with search and rescue, mapping, or accessing disaster zones. Kicking does not sound like the primary threat to Spot in any of those scenarios. The fact that Boston Dynamics is masterful at its job makes it worse. Spot looks more like an animal than a machine. It feels like watching a dog get kicked. And that is from my human perspective.


Have you ever heard of “unfriendly AI“? It’s the idea that machines capable of greater-than-human intelligence don’t have to be antagonistic towards humanity to want to destroy it. One way to ensure “unfriendly AI”? Releasing a video so the Spot of the future can watch some scrubby scientist kicking its grandmother. Four words: Please stop kicking robots. And wipe that smile off your face while you’re sealing our doom.

Laser pulse shooting through a bottle and visualized at a trillion frames per second | Amazing!

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And here is how it is done!

We have built an imaging solution that allows us to visualize propagation of light at an effective rate of one trillion frames per second. Direct recording of light at such a frame rate with sufficient brightness is nearly impossible. We use an indirect ‘stroboscopic’ method that combines millions of repeated measurements by careful scanning in time and viewpoints.

The device has been developed by the MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture group in collaboration with Bawendi Lab in the Department of Chemistry at MIT. A laser pulse that lasts less than one trillionth of a second is used as a flash and the light returning from the scene is collected by a camera at a rate equivalent to roughly 1 trillion frames per second. However, due to very short exposure times (roughly one trillionth of a second) and a narrow field of view of the camera, the video is captured over several minutes by repeated and periodic sampling.

For more info visit………

Music: “Rising” by Kevin MacLeod (…)

This physicist has built a supercomputer from old PlayStations

A home-made PlayStation 3 supercomputer is 3,000 times more powerful than any desktop processor, and is being used to study black holes.

Next time you upgrade your gaming console for the latest model, there may be a better option than simply throwing the old one away – you can use it for science instead.

Guarav Khanna, a black hole physicist at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in the US, has managed to build a powerful and extremely cheap supercomputer using old PlayStation 3s (PS3s), and he’s used it to publish several papers on black holes.

His research focusses on finding gravitational waves, which are curvatures in space-time that ripple out from a violent astrophysical event, such as two black holes colliding. They were first predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, but no one has been able to observe them.

To try to work out more about the mysterious waves, Khanna needed a supercomputer – a system that can crunch numbers at least 10 times better than a regular computer – to model what happens when black holes smash together, but unfortunately supercomputers are getting increasingly costly. So back in 2009, Khanna decided to make his own instead, as he told Laura Parker from the New York Times.

“Science has become expensive,” Khanna told Parker. “There’s simply not that much money going around, either at the university or the federal level. Supercomputing allows scientists to make up for the resources they don’t have.”

In theory, a supercomputer basically involves linking many standard computers together via a network. But instead of using regular laptops, Khanna decided to go a cheaper option, and link up PS3s. Their main benefit was that they allow users to install their preferred operating system on the console, and they retail for around US$250.

To help with his research, Sony donated four consoles to the experiment, and Khanna and the university bought another 12.

All 16 were then loaded up with Linux and linked over the Internet – the result was a processor that could speed up calculations by a factor of nearly 10 compared to an ordinary computer. He published the results of the make-shift supercomputer in thejournal Parallel and Distributed Computing Systems in 2009.

He used that first device to model the behaviour of gravitational waves and publish several papers on the phenomenon, but since then he’s now made an even more powerful model, as Parker reports.

In 2010, the US Air Force Research Laboratory in New York found out about Khanna’s PS3 supercomputer, and decided to make their own out of 1,760 consoles, pictured below, in order to process radar image surveillance.

playstationsUS Department of Defense

As a thank you, the US Department of Defense donated 176 additional PS3s to Khanna and his team. They now house their supercomputer in a refrigerated shipping container, designed to carry milk. This model is as powerful as 3,000 desktop computers, and only cost around US$75,000 to make – a ridiculously cheap amount for a supercomputer.

Although PS3s have their limitations – the memory is much smaller than traditional supercomputers, for example – their supercomputer is continuing to grow in power and has helped not only Khanna with his research, but other scientists around the university. The team will add another 220 PS3s to the system by 2015.

The next project Khanna wants to work on is creating a supercomputer out of PC graphics cards, which are equally low-cost but as powerful as around 20 PS3 consoles.

“The next supercomputer we’re going to build will probably be made entirely of these cards,” Khanna told Parker. “It won’t work for everything, but it will certainly cover a large set of scientific and engineering applications, especially if we keep improving on it.”

LHC, ready to delve even deeper than ‘God particle’ as it switches back on at double power

‘Atom smasher’ has been undergoing £97 million of upgrades since 2012, and could be ready to solve mysteries around dark matter and dark energy

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider is set to be switched back on in March — hoping that a £97 million upgrade could push it to even greater discoveries, after it found the “God particle” in 2012.

The second three year run of the huge atom smasher will begin in March 2015. The Large Hadron Collider has been switched off since its last run finished in 2012.

The world’s largest particle collider has been undergoing a £97 million upgrade since then, as scientists comb through the data found during the last run.

It is being cooled back down ready for the switch on, and is almost at its operating temperature of 1.9 degrees above absolute zero, or about minus 271.25 degrees Celsius. Scientists are also testing out the equipment and earlier in December activated one of the magnets required to fire atoms around the collider.

Nobel laureate Professor Peter Higgs at the Science Museum, London, ahead of the opening of the the museum's new Nobel laureate Professor Peter Higgs at the Science Museum, London, ahead of the opening of the the museum’s new “Collider” exhibition, which gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and Cern particle physics laboratory in Geneva

Scientists are now gearing up to turn both on at once, in 2015. That will produce collisions of a scale never achieved by any accelerator in the past, equivalent with 154 tons of TNT.


The extra power will allow the CERN’s numerous experiments to look into deep mysteries of the universe, such as dark matter.

The Large Hadron Collider was used in 2012 to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson, known as the God particle, which explains the very beginning of the universe.

UK’s first ‘mobile’ phone: It weighed 11lbs, cost £4,600

This is the UK's first mobile phone - it weighed 11lbs and cost £4,600

This would not have fallen foul to #bendgate (Picture: PA)

It was the size of a breeze block, had 30 minutes of talk time and cost £1,650 – the equivalent of £4,600 in today’s money.

But the Vodafone VT1 Transportable was about as groundbreaking as air travel when it was unveiled 30 years ago.

The first mobile phone call – from Michael Harrison to his father, Sir Ernest Harrison, the first Chairman of Vodafone – was made on this contraption on 1 January, 1985 from Parliament Square in London.

MORE: Schoolchildren are asked to describe life before mobile phones – apparently, we lived in black and white and had no TVs

The Transportable weighed 11lbs and gave you a heady 30 minutes’ action from a 10-hour charge.

Downside? No way you’d have fit this beast in your back pocket. Upside? #bendgate would never have happened.

In homage, Vodafone have made a VT1 ad in the style of today’s gadgetporn phone ads:

And in our own homage, here’s a few of our favourite brick phone moments from a time when we thought we were so damn cool and hi-tech.


…and we’ll leave you with this gem, the scene from Saved By The Bell that gave us the classic brick diss ‘you’ve got a Zack Morris phone’.

80s film and TV moments with a mobile phone BRICK PHONES
Sure ain’t no iPhone 6 (Picture: Saved By The Bell)