Thursday, September 27, 2007


The tech just keeps coming. Enter Gigapan, the new imaging software/hardware set developed by Carnegie Mellon in collaboration with Google. Absolutely stunning, this technology will change how we build and distribute photographic panoramas on the web. Click here to get Physorg's take on this. Pretty cool I must say.

Google at 9

To get a glimpse of just how intense Google is, just click on the graphic above. The progression to web power will astound you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Reality is...

Reality is digital with analog override - R. Moran At least I think reality is like this after checking out this cool interactive site (click on above graphic) showing how the classic Thomas Young Two Slit experiment depicts the duality of nature where base components of matter (electrons, protons, neutrons etc., etc.) and the carriers of force (photons/electromagnetic, gravitons/gravitational & gluons/strong) can be both particle and wave at the same time depending on how the entity is "looked" at.. Of course we don't see this weirdness (because of decoherence) but it's there and it's the reason why the universe works as it does.

After reading the brilliant book, Programming the Universe, I learned that the little quote I have had running in my head for many years was probably true as Lloyd points out the fact that while "particles" are discrete entities, the "state" of each (i.e. electrons, photons etc., etc.) can be infinite, thus giving rise to the analog part of the quote. (Quantum Theory, Parallel Universes, Collapse of the Wave Function)

Where the book really takes off, however, is Lloyd's notion that the Universe computes and we can replicate the process. Before reading this, I thought Quantum Computers, using Qubits as the calculator, would "only" be fiendishly fast parallel systems able to crack encryption schemes and search huge databases at blinding speeds but the implications are far greater. To whit "Such computers — a handful of labs have built rudimentary prototypes — mimic the natural world perfectly, Lloyd claims: the two systems are not just similar, they are the same. The universe is a quantum computer whose computations are the movements of information that define the world we experience."

To see just how fast this tech is evolving, click on the above graphic.

If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there. Lewis Carrol

Monday, September 24, 2007

To Sir with love

Scientific American has just published a very interesting article about aging. It appears that researchers are finding out what causes cellular breakdown and what can be done to slow it down. If this research has "legs", the implications of this goes beyond imagination.

Who knows, if we can survive the Bush Administration, we just might make it as a species.

The Long Now

The Long Now is a very cool organization " to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution. With people like Danny Hillis at the helm, their goal is realistic and doable. To that end, they are designing a clock designed to last 10,000 years give or take a few millennia.

But there's a problem retaining civilization's data, digital storage doesn't last 10,000 years in any way, shape or form. On the outside, CD's might go for 30 while 100 years might be possible in the right storage environment but 10,000? No way and DVD's and hard disks are worse but there is a solution on the horizon if Penn State's tech works.

" Tests showed extremely low power consumption for data encoding (0.7mW per bit). They also indicated the data writing, erasing and retrieval (50 nanoseconds) to be 1,000 times faster than conventional Flash memory and indicated the device would not lose data even after approximately 100,000 years of use, all with the potential to realize terabit-level nonvolatile memory device density.

This new form of memory has the potential to revolutionize the way we share information, transfer data and even download entertainment as consumers,” Agarwal said. “This represents a potential sea-change in the way we access and store data.”

And the beat goes on...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Drawing on Air

Something much cooler that Air Guitar or Karaoke comes from the world of Brown University whereby artists can work in 3D at a far more intuitive level as... "Drawing on Air uses drawing guidelines, force feedback, and two-handed interaction to help artists draw this type of curve more precisely. The system then transfers the 3D drawing into the computer for use in 3D modeling, design, and illustration programs."

This kind of tech has been around for quite some time (University of North Carolina, Cornell etc., etc.) but Brown enabled their system to work with existing apps like a Maya or ProEngineer by having it generate output (iges etc., etc.) that programs like these can work with. Without a doubt, this kind of interface will make it big once price points and ease of integration into existing systems becomes a fait accompli because working in 3 space can be a daunting task, particularly when dealing with complex surfaces like a car body or handlebars on a racing bike.

IMHO, Henry Moore or Isamu Noguchi would have jumped on this tech big time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Seems that Arichie the Cockroach can learn as seen in Discover's interesting article titled Pavlovian Cockroaches Learn Like Dogs (and Humans) whereby the roaches are "first immobilized on their backs in wax and then repeatedly introduced the smell of peppermint and vanilla before giving them sugar, which roaches adore." Once conditioned, they act just like Pavlov's dogs in "drooling" when they know they will be getting a treat when they smell peppermint or vanilla, substances that normally do not turn on roaches when they check out your kitchen.

You can't make this up.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Alex, we hardly knew ye

Alex the Grey Parrot, who understood the concept of zero, died last week at the age of 31. Not only was Alex smart, (he understood colors, categories and numbers) he also was easily bored if the experiments he participated in were not up to snuff in challenging his intellect. Needless to say, he stirred up a huge controversy among some cognitive scientists who questioned if he was the bird version of "Clever Hans" the horse "that was claimed to have been able to perform arithmetic and other intellectual tasks." but did not as Hans, sensing the involuntary movements of people that clued him to the right answer of any question asked, tapped his way to fame and fortune until he was discovered to be just clever but not truly intelligent.

In the case of Alex, intellect and feeling was real as the last thing he said to his long time owner, Dr. Pepperberg, was: “You be good, see you tomorrow. I love you.”

Saturday, September 15, 2007

iPhone II

The Unlocked Phone era is finally coming to life in the US thanks to Apple and AT&T...
"If the iPhone doesn’t sell another unit it will have accomplished one thing: It has motivated folks to unlock their phones via hacks. Amazing how an exclusive deal tethering the iPhone to AT&T can get hackers rolling."

If you still don't believe that people want choice or that telcos are in trouble, check out Apple's Trojan Horse known as the iPodTouch with it's WiFi connects to the web because WiFi combined with Skype & voice gives anyone the ability to call home without the need for AT&T. With "free" wireless/phone connectivity in the offing, it doesn't take a genius to understand Apple, and informed others, know which way the wind is blowing regarding the outrageous state of affairs of Broadband in the US, something covered in earlier BRT articles titled Life in the Slow Lane (8/29/07) and Internacine Warfare (03/16/07).

When WiMax is combined with the "hopefully" unfettered 700 MHz spectrum set in 2009 (With a bit of luck it will go to non-incumbents but it looks like Google, Yahoo & eBay will get it, something much preferable to the current situation where telcos and cable companies dominate all things wireless in the US.), all bets will be off regarding the future of the telcos in the wireless side of things because WiMax connectivity is measured in miles while 700 MHz radio frequency signals can go through walls. BRT - The 700 Club (06/23/07)

"Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." - Lewis Carroll/Alice in Wonerland.

Friday, September 14, 2007


It may be a ghost site but...An Atlas of Cyberspaces has outrageously informative content spiced with out-of-sight graphics that shows how various cyberspaces work at all levels. Just click on the listing of topics on the first page (upper left side) and be awestruck with what Martin Dodge & Rob Kitchin has done with their cyberspaces masterwork. The only downside of this website is the fact it's a time killer to the max, something one should be aware of if job retention is priority no. 1 in these perilous times.

I know I will get the book if I can find it as the information contained within it is truly outstanding. Note: The images in this article are keyed to specific topics contained in the book.

Must stop downloading images from this site. Must stop downloading images from this site...

Maybe I should emulate Jack Nickholson in The Shining and just repeat the mantra "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy".

'Nuff said

Thursday, September 13, 2007

In Space...

Alien, argueably the greatest horror film of all time, scares the living bejeesus out of you by introducing an incredibly frightening creature that makes it's grand entrance in the most horrific way possible. Directed by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator), Alien is a genre film in a class of it's own.

The Alien, designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger, has some rather interesting anatomical characteristics to make it truly scary: to whit - no eyes, completely black, insectoid configuration and last but not least, a nasty set of interior pharyngeal jaws used to finish the job of killing prey.

Well, it seems earth has an alien of it's own, the Moray Eel, a top predator that uses it's own set of pharyngeal jaws to wolf down squid and other such delicacies in the tight confines of reef nooks and crannies where the animal lives. To see how the eel does it, click on the image below. The video linked to the article will blow you away. (Note, the eel has an undeservedly bad reputation. "In fact, morays are shy and secretive, and they only attack humans in self-defense. They also accidentally bite human fingers when being fed, because it cannot see or hear very well, although they have an acute sense of smell.")

Click here to see how Morays and Groupers cooperate on catching prey.

H. R. Giger, the Swiss artist who created the alien for the director Ridley Scott, was amused by the researchers’ discovery.

“It’s funny,” he said. “The double teeth came when I did my first drawings. Ridley Scott told me to make it so that it could move. I hadn’t studied any animal. My instructions were that it should be somehow frightening and horrible, and I did my best.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Who Needs Hackers

"NOTHING was moving. International travelers flying into Los Angeles International Airport — more than 17,000 of them — were stuck on planes for hours one day in mid-August after computers for the United States Customs and Border Protection agency went down and stayed down for nine hours."

After reading this, I am reassured that the recent BRT article titled The Long Emergency (09/06/2007) had legs when the issue of infrastructure was discussed regarding the inherent difficulties new tech experiences when introduced into the wilds of the real world. After reading the NYC piece, it appears that the same difficulties apparently applies to existing tech as well but hey, techies already know this first hand. I know I do.

I rest my case.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Racetrack Memory

Well, it looks like IBM is at it again because "...if an idea that Stuart S. P. Parkin is kicking around in an I.B.M. lab here is on the money, electronic devices could hold 10 to 100 times the data in the same amount of space. That means the iPod that today can hold up to 200 hours of video could store every single TV program broadcast during a week on 120 channels." Or, in other words, this could mean universal memory able to be implemented on chip and disk, thus freeing up the industry to make memory able to fit any type of use. This also can accelerate the move away from rotational memory and the hassles that accompany it (fragility, power consumption, form factor, access speed and reliability) if the tech is cheap and easy to produce, something that is doable considering the track record of Parkin.
Skeptics abound (hard disk manufacturers) but the need to improve memory is certainly there given the fact flash memory is slow, expensive, has limited rewrite life & storage capbility while hard drives are tens of thousands of time slower than CPUs.

Addentum: What's really amazing is that this may be an "interim" development given the fact IBM has already published papers on molecular memory (and switches), tech that will store millions of times more data than what is being discussed here.

"Rust never sleeps." - Neil Young

Monday, September 10, 2007

Real Desktop

I downloaded Real Desktop from Schellergames, a software company out of Germany who has built a very elegant 3D front end for Windows XP and Vista. It's pretty damn cool and it's relatively cheap at $24.00 US. The free trial lasts an hour before you reboot the app so one gets a real feel for the program. Based on what I have seen, I will buy it without a doubt.

Bumptop seems to be the inspiration for this app or maybe it's vis versa as Real Desktop has been out for over a year. BT is not ready for prime time but it should be soon. BT has some functionality that RD does not have (stacks, pattern sets, icon shuffle etc., etc.) but RD is up and running so all bets are off as to who's in front regarding this kind of front end. Apple, are you aware of this? Click on the image below to go BT's home page.

I signed up for beta on this as BT looks to be extremely cool to the extreme but one has to admit that RD has a nicer look based on first impression.

"Party on dude." - Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Long Emergency

Dystopia or Utopia, take your pick. In The Long Emergency, James Kunstler discusses the impact the lack of oil will have on civilization. In The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil points out the fact we are fast approaching a time where tech will accelerate so fast that predicting the future becomes a futile task and OBTW, we will live forever.

So which is is it, will tomorrow be terrific or will it be a disaster? Only time will tell but let's talk a little about this.

The one big thing learned from Emergency is Kunstler's adroit coupling of energy to tech, something rarely discussed when talking about the wonders of technology.

Question: How much energy is required to build an iPhone?

Question 2: How much energy is required to ship the iPhone to customers?
Question 3: Could that device be built or shipped after we run out of oil?
Answer to No. 3: No way based on the current situation regarding renewables.

Why? Because not only is energy required to build the item in question but also oil-derived material makes up a large part of the device itself. (Plastics etc., etc.) Now extend this notion of building nearly everything in the world based on fossil fuel use and add it to the energy needed to maintain other aspects of society (i.e. transportation, food, heat, shelter etc., etc.) and one sees that Kunstler has extremely valid reasons to worry about the negative impact the end of oil will have on society.

According to Ray Kurzweil, the future's bright with tech expanding at double exponential rates and all will be right with the world if we can get through this "rough" spot of the 'aughts as we approach the singularity of the 2030s. While I agree with the double exponential bit in terms of research, the jury is out when it comes to bringing R&D work into the real world of politics, financial constraints and climate change as we move toward peak oil and the disruptions it will bring to the world.

Taken from this perspective, it looks like we are in a race to see if we can transition from non-renewables to renewables in a way that won't disrupt civilization, something devoutly to be wished but, in my opinion, will not for the following reasons:

1. Global Warming: GW is real and is accelerating at a rate not thought possible. The most recent projections state that by 2100, sea levels could rise by as much as 18-20 feet. With that in mind, NYC, Florida and London will be history not to mention 70% of the world's population live within six miles of the ocean. When this is factored in with the Tipping Point on GW, there is no question we are in trouble. In Nova, a terrific update on GW titled Dimming the Sun shows how pollution might be masking the true impact of GW. It's a must see and the findings, if true, are truly frightening.

2. US Debt: This is an ongoing disaster, particularly in terms of the sub-prime meltdown, trade inbalances, tax cuts and the never ending Iraq war not to mention the explosive growth of the defense budget. A perfect storm is brewing regarding US debt. For additional information, check out Time Bomb for another view on the debt equation and last but not least, read David Walker's (Comptroller General of the United States, head of the Government Accountability Office or GAO.) interview at the Financial Times regarding the financial health of the US.

3. Euros for Oil: If countries move toward euros to pay for oil, the US dollar, backed by the largest debtor nation in the world, will go belly up. (Some people disagree but they are in the minority.) Addentum - Click here for a recent update regarding oil, the dollar and the Saudis. Most interesting indeed.

4. Lack of Existing Infrastructure: Transforming R&D prototypes into real world products is a very involved process. There is no question solutions are in the lab able to solve ongoing energy problems and reduce, in part, the effects of climate change but the problem remains that establishing an infrastructure to support and enable these emerging technologies to work in reliable fashion at scales that can change the current situation is a very daunting task. Note: Oftentimes, the best solutions (Unix,/Sony Betamax vs. Microsoft /JVC VHS) do not prevail and the world suffers from making the wrong decision on any given tech.

5. Lack of Vision: From politics to big business, the lack of vision dealing with energy and GW has been astonishing considering just how serious these problems are. A Marshall Plan to deal with these issues at global level is desperately needed if we are to avoid Kunstler's dark vision of the end of oil or the catastrophic effects of run-away GW. Change is needed now but the question still stands: Do we have the courage to face these issues head on or will it continue to be ostrich time again with our heads buried in the sand hoping that these problems will go away on their own. At this point in time, our leaders have let us down, something that cannot go on if we are to take control of our destiny and change the world for the better.

End Game: Both books are awesome and well worth reading.
Summing it up: "One never knows, do one." Fats Waller