Friday, August 31, 2007

Smart Dust

Smart Dust is coming as "Researchers at I.B.M laboratories say they have made progress toward storing information and computing at the level of individual atoms.". The first paper deals with the storing of information at atomic level while the other details success in building a single molecule switch "replicating the behavior of today’s transistors."

To read a more detailed article about IBM's research, click on the image below.

At the same time IBM published these papers, HP is designing "a circuit called a field programmable gate array, or F.P.G.A., using molecular-scale components as the configuration circuitry, an approach that will save tremendous space in the chip design."

Click on the image to get Physorg's take on the IBM achievement.
It's a good read.

What this means is that supercomuters the size of dust motes becomes feasible like this will be EVERYHERE.

Something to think about, n'est pas?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Life in the Slow Lane

Life in the slow lane has become the way the US does broadband in comparison with Japan as discussed in the excellent Washington Post article titled Japan's Warp-Speed Ride to Internet Future. Using competition and savvy government regulations, the Japanese enjoy broadcast quality full screen video on the net, something that is entirely foreign to web users in the US. Demographics and physical constraints aside, what is needed from this writer's perspective is unfettered competition, net neutrality and a technically competent and courageous FCC to get the US moving toward a web future that has promise. The tech is here to make it happen, the political will and vision to make it happen is not. The choice is up to us to make a difference as we mover further into the 21st century.

Here's a blurb from The Huffington Post on the same topic spiked with political commentary.

How to Leave Iraq

A must read from Baseline as this special report details just how daunting it will be to leave Iraq after a war that never should have happened in the first place.

Six Million Dollar Man

Remember the old Six Million Dollar Man series where astronaut Steve Austin, gravely injured, was rescued by scientists who could "build him better" with prosthetics that gave him super human strength, speed and sight. Not bad for a show that ran in the early 70's given the fact pc's did not exist and Intel was just starting out making chips that would change how the world does business.

Thirty some years later, the Six Million Dollar Man, in terms of prosthetic capability, still remains fiction but there's hope...Rocket Man is coming based on radical research, funded by Darpa, to build prosthetics that can actually do something using rocket power as researchers have learned how to fit this tech into the form factor of a bionic arm without blowing up the user. "Our design does not have superhuman strength or capability, but it is closer in terms of function and power to a human arm than any previous prosthetic device that is self-powered and weighs about the same as a natural arm," said researcher Michael Goldfarb, a roboticist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

"It has about 10 times as much power as other [robotic] arms," Goldfarb said"

Click here to see a video on this outrageous device.

If this scales, Terminator and Transformer technology, from the power perspective, could become reality.

The other part of the equation, however, depends on how to use this power to make the prosthetic "feel real". To accomplish this, scientists at the University of Utah intend "to develop a "peripheral nerve interface." The implanted device would relay nerve impulses wirelessly from what's left of a limb to a computer worn on the person's belt. From there, the signals would be routed to a bionic arm and back to the remainder of the amputated arm, where they would then flow naturally back to the brain."

Hey Steve, wanna race?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wealth of Nations

Just found an awesome resource (The Product Space and the Wealth of Nations) that tracks the economic health of nations using physics, biology and network analysis as research tools to determine how efficiently countries develop products for export, a key factor in finding out the value of any given country. In his article titled Milton Freeman, meet Richard Feyman, writer Tim Hartford describes how "Two physicists, Cesar Hidalgo and Albert-László Barabási, and two economists, Bailey Klinger and Ricardo Hausmann, have been drawing unusual pictures of economic "space" (on their site) that promise a deeper understanding of the biggest question in economics: why poor countries are poor."

When one visits the WON site, the different kind of visualizations used to build the WON model shows just how intense the research has been to enable these people to come up with a viable approach that really explains, in objective terms, why some nations cut it while others don't.

To see source information on WON, click on the Center for Complex Network Research
You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Money As Dept

A must see to learn about the Fed's place in the US. After viewing this, learn how Money As Dept gave rise to entities like the Fed. This information, in my opinion, should be part of Economics 101, a required course that must be taken in both High School and College before one graduates from either institution. To see the end result, catch this riff from George Carlin.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Enemy of the State II

What me worry? Don't worry, we have you under "unlimited" surveillance without the protection of search warrants as "Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records, Democratic Congressional officials and other experts said."

If this doesn't make you feel more secure then perhaps this news blurb will...

Or this. or this or this

We are on a very slippery slope as chaos theory proves that tipping points are not linear. The day before a pond freezes over, 50% of the water is ice free. The same chaotic process has happened regarding unlimited surveillance (starting with 9/11) as seen by acts of Congress (Patriot Act etc., etc.) and the cooperation of the press to sell "Protecting the Homeland from Terrorists" at the expense of civil liberties. (Goebbels would be proud.)

Hopefully, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will force the White House to defend it's policies where "The king can do no wrong..." files directly in the face of the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment. (Here's another take on the case.)

"One never knows do one?" - Fats Waller

Star Maker

In 1937, Olaf Stapledon wrote Star Maker, one of the greatest books ever written. In it, he discusses the inner workings of the universe that is remarkably prescient with references to artificial/collective intelligence, genetic engineering, extraterrestrial civilizations and the universality of life. In essence, the book is awe inspiring but why talk about a work written seventy years ago? In two words, inorganic life.
Seems that "some" forms of extraterrestrial life may be inorganic (not containing carbon) living in plasmas, "essentially the fourth state of matter beyond solid, liquid and gas, in which electrons are torn from atoms leaving behind a miasma of charged particles." whereby interstellar dust, under the right conditions, forms DNA type strands, replicate and evolve in similar fashion to the carbon based life-forms found here on earth. When this expanded idea of life is looked at in relation to Arthur C. Clark's masterwork, 2001, (Life living on the surface of stars as seen by Dave on his journey to the infinite.) the notion of different kinds of life existing outside the bounds of the carbon construct becomes feasible, especially when articulated by profound thinkers like Stapeldon and Clarke and confirmed by this discovery of plasma generated "life".

At the same time inorganic "life" has been discovered comes the idea of panspermia, or the concept that life on earth "began inside comets and then spread to habitable planets across the galaxy. "If this is the case for comets and plasma based life-forms, then we are definitely NOT ALONE.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Levitation, the stuff of sci fi, Star Wars and Star Trek fame, is no longer fiction. It appears that manipulating the Casimir Effect, (a force from nothing) by placing a "Perfect Lens of negative refractivity." between two surfaces enable objects to levitate, something that, heretofore was considered to be the stuff of science fiction. Applications of this tech could be endless with the first entering the realm of nanotech where objects of vanishingly small size could be manipulated in ways impossible to even think about before the advent of this technology.

Even though this research is in it's infancy, the notion of scaling this up to real world size is not out of the question as this tech is at the same level of development as that of invisibility another concept formerly believed to be another fanciful notion until now.

"To boldly go...." - Star Trek

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Form Factor II

Ion batteries will be a thing of the past as flexible energy storage technology has made a giant step forward with the "new nanocomposite paper developed by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Infused with carbon nanotubes, the paper can be used to create ultra-thin, flexible batteries and energy storage devices for next-generation electronics and implantable medical equipment. Credit: Rensselaer/Victor Pushparaji

Using cheap materials, scientists have created a battery that also can be a supercapacitor, able to be driven by human sweat or blood as needs warrant. Additionally, said "paper" can be shaped and configured to power many different types of gadgets because the tech is extremely rugged and can scale to meet large energy requirements without a problem. Once the manufacturing process is mastered, nanocomposite paper will change how "portable" systems will be built as society movers further into the 21st century.

'Nuff said.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Enemy of the State

Remember Enemy of the State, (the 1998 thriller starring Will Smith, Gene Hackman and Jon Voight) where Will Smith, a hip, young labor lawyer unwittingly becomes the target of the NSA, tracked 24/7 by satellite and bugs (in TVs, clothes, phones & fire detectors) and hounded by ruthless NSA agents only to be saved by an old ex agent who wants back pay for services rendered long ago. Fast paced, intelligent, well edited and driven by a superb cast, the flick eerily echoes what is happening today, an all seeing surveillance keyed to everyone who lives in the good old USA.

Remember The Office of Total Information Awareness, the 2002 data mining thriller conceived by John Poindexter, the ex Naval officer of Iran Contra fame, whereby said agency would be able to "...provide intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials with instant access to information from Internet mail and calling records to credit card and banking transactions and travel documents, without a search warrant."

The Bush Administration pushed hard to make this real because it "...could be the perfect storm for civil liberties in America,'' said Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington ''The vehicle is the Homeland Security Act, the technology is Darpa and the agency is the F.B.I. The outcome is a system of national surveillance of the American public.'' Congress shut the TIA initiative down but like Frankenstein, tech does not die, it just mutates and moves on as needs warrant.

In 2004, Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card visit John Ashcroft, the ailing Attorney General, to restart domestic wiretapping without the need of FISA. Ashcroft resists because he knows it's illegal but he's recovering from emergency Gall Bladder surgery and James Comey is the acting AG (which short circuit's the Gonzales/Card attempt to get Ashcroft to sign off on the restart) but the BA wants what it wants and re-certifies the program without legal justification.

Needless to say, the furor over the visit (and the end result of doing domestic spying without FISA) has sparked an ongoing constitutional crisis over what constitutes privacy and the role of the executive branch regarding this very important matter. (Here's the real reason for confrontation). Note: Since 2004, the NSA has been reassembling TIA data mining tech with the help of companies like AT&T.

August 3, 2007, the Democratic Congress acts "tough" by giving Bush more than what he asked for regarding surveillance.

In David Brin's Earth, Tit for Tat is the watchword for keeping technology in check whereby the watched can watch the watcher. Why can't we do the same?


"Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend — all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as "a virtual, centralized grand database." You Are a Suspect - William Safire, NYT November 14, 2002

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Guerilla Wi-Fi

Meraki, a startup that sells a very sophisticated $50 Wi-Fi transmitter ($5 MIPS/memory chip with high-end firmware), intends to "put a Billion More People Online." using code that self organizes networks. With this capability, a single "DSL Internet connection (spread across a mesh network composed of other Minis) can accommodate 50 simultaneous users. " When muliple DSLs are employed, the network scales to handle hundreds of connects without a problem because of the Mini's ability to act both as a router or repeater based on its links to the web.The cost is nominal, people love it and ISPs are happy because the minis are intuitive to set up and work as advertised. When the 700mhz spectrum comes on line, (Hopefully with Google's $4 billion offer to keep it open) Meraki's goal of one billion new users may be just the start point for something "really big."

"A journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step." - Mao Zedong

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Form Factor

REAL portable computing is coming now that flexible OLEDs (Organic Light Emitting Diode) are getting ready to enter the marketplace once the bugs are ironed out regarding brightness, reliability, longevity and heat dispersion etc., etc. as they promise to revolutionize every aspect of computing with their thinness, flexibility (obviously) and low power requirements vs LEDs, which are difficult to produce, require beaucoup power and are rigid (glass substrate).

Interesting enough, Red Planet, a pretty decent 2000 sci fi flick (with good special effects) starring Val Kilmer and Carrie-Anne Moss, shows what a device would look like equipped with a flexible display and it's one everyone would want. When OLEDs are combined with capacious solid state memory, fast processor and an interface similar to the iPhone/Minority Report, a smart brick comes to mind because without moving parts, power requirements will drop like a stone, reliability would greatly improve and the devices will be able to handle physical abuse that would kill today's portable systems. When WiMax and open access to RF becomes real (let's hope the FCC doesn't blow it but...), these devices will be everywhere.

Addentum. Sony's entry's not bad either.

'Nuff Said

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Mind Games

A truly great article is making the rounds causing people to think about the mind and how it works. Who's Minding the Mind? delves into the subconscious and how it influences conscious thinking in ways that will astound anyone who reads the piece.

"In a recent experiment, psychologists at Yale altered people’s judgments of a stranger by handing them a cup of coffee.

The study participants, college students, had no idea that their social instincts were being deliberately manipulated. On the way to the laboratory, they had bumped into a laboratory assistant, who was holding textbooks, a clipboard, papers and a cup of hot or iced coffee — and asked for a hand with the cup.

That was all it took: The students who held a cup of iced coffee rated a hypothetical person they later read about as being much colder, less social and more selfish than did their fellow students, who had momentarily held a cup of hot java."

And..."psychologists led by Aaron Kay, then at Stanford University and now at the University of Waterloo, had students take part in a one-on-one investment game with another, unseen player.

Half the students played while sitting at a large table, at the other end of which was a briefcase and a black leather portfolio. These students were far stingier with their money than the others, who played in an identical room, but with a backpack on the table instead.

The mere presence of the briefcase, noticed but not consciously registered, generated business-related associations and expectations, the authors argue, leading the brain to run the most appropriate goal program: compete. The students had no sense of whether they had acted selfishly or generously."

Almost quantum like, the subconscious mind's perception of reality causes the conscious mind to alter course in ways that cannot be predicted yet the SC/C pattern is forever locked in and nothing can be done to alter the process. Chaos works the same way in always teasing out deterministic behavior out of seemingly random events without fail in phenomena ranging from river flows and planetary orbits to the motion of a pendulum. Very cool and very though provoking to be sure.

In reading something as good as this encourages further research as to learning how the mind may work as a physical system and Henry Stapp, a highly respected quantum physicist working out of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, just might have the answer but before checking out his new book, a short detour into Quantum Darwinism may be required as this provides the basis for Stapp's take on brain processes.

Wojciech Zurek, a young Polish physicist, is the guiding light behind Quantum Darwinism, a theory that articulates how reality may work and how we make sense of it. His pdf titled Decoherence and the Transition from Quantum to Classical—Revisited is an elegant explanation that can understood by lay people like myself, something truly impressive given how mathematically challenged I am.

As one would think, Henry Stapp's book discusses quantum theory at length and how it applies to the brain, no small accomplisment given just how deep both topics are. Check out the in-depth review by Allan Combs and Jeffery Martin to see why Stapp is a player in both areas of cutting edge research.

Click on the Mindful Universe cover to get details about the book.

"The Devil's in the Details" - old English proverb