Thursday, December 27, 2007

One Screen...

"The limitations of the small screen will appear less pronounced as coexistence with big screens becomes commonplace. The Web’s widespread availability on mobile devices, in addition to desktop and laptop computers, will change the way people talk about the Web itself; emphasis will shift from Web sites to the services or content they offer." - Tim Berners-Lee

Sounds like Sun Computer's prescient mantra, The Network is the Computer doesn't it where ubiquity and transparency will rule not only with display consistency of content and services but also in terms of how people will work with systems in general.

In five years, when one logs into any device, the system, in effect, will become that person's computer complete with preferences and access to his or her content. This will happen because one, the web forces companies to open up their code or die (Verizon etc., etc.) and two, WiMax promises to provide universal access to the net 24/7 thus freeing people from the static wired confines of today's digital environment with it's emphasis on locally stored content with little or no direct access to the net.

"Hey Hey Rock & Roll" - Chuck Berry

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Touched by His Noodly Appentage

Here ye, here ye, Flying spaghetti Monster defeats anti-evolution FL school board

To whit: "The Ledger (a local Fl. newspaper) followed up with another story a week later where it polled all school board members on the issue and reported that five of seven school board members declared a personal belief in the concept of intelligent design, and four of those five board members said they would like to see intelligent design taught in Polk schools as an alternative to evolution. One of those four board members, Margaret Lofton, made her views on the topic quite clear:

"If it ever comes to the board for a vote, I will vote against the teaching of evolution as part of the science curriculum," Lofton said. "If (evolution) is taught, I would want to balance it with the fact that we may live in a universe created by a supreme being as well.""

"...soon after the Ledger story appeared, Polk school board members were deluged with e-mails demanding that Flying Spaghetti Monsterism's version of intelligent design be taught in the classrooms alongside evolution and the "alternative" ID theory. "

God I love this country and yes, The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is taking donations today. Don't be left out, donate and you shall be saved.

Useless But Interesting Info

To avoid snakes and other nasties, "ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) and rock squirrels (Spermophilus variegates) apply snake scent to themselves by picking up pieces of shed snakeskin, chewing it and then licking their fur."

Interesting eh?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sexy Robot

1927 - Metropolis, the great Fritz Lang movie describing a dytopian future started it off by introducing the notion of sexy robots (Fembot) and the impact this tech could have on society. Erotic, powerful and elegiac, Metropolis is a film that stays with you forever.

1985 - Robert Abel Associates creates Brilliance, an ad promoting, of all things, canned food but with a twist. Sexy Robot, the first hottie in CG makes her debut with state-of-the art wizardry that predates the motion capture tech that made Gollum a hit in Lord of the Rings.

2007 - Phillips does an ad about shavers with SR 2 as protagonist.

2007 - Sexy Robot becomes reality, sort of. Check out her moves on YouTube by clicking on the graphic below.

Why the history? Because...

Love & Sex with Robots, a scholarly dissertation by David Levy, lays out a scenario that's more than plausible given that tech is accelerating at double exponential rates. "Levy argues that as machines advance, our consideration for them will grow inevitably more tender. Today, you watch your Roomba scurrying around your filthy floor, digging its nose into your grime, and you hardly pause to consider its soul; the robot vacuum is a slave, and you are its master.

But by pulling off the splendid computational trick of anticipating and fulfilling your every psychic and emotional need, machines will eventually capture your love -- and indeed could prove more deserving objects of our affection than the pets, children and spouses who currently fly about our lives. Someday people may even walk arm-in-arm down the aisle with descendants of today's robo-vacuums. In the same way they've conquered our factories, Levy says, robots will conquer our hearts."

Good start point for a sitcom if you ask me.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Back to the Future

Ah, the search for permanence has been a goal for mankind since the Egyptians made embalming an art form for the afterlife over 5000 years ago. The same applies for film as digital film makers are finding it to be an evasive, expensive thing to do in preserving "film" for future generations. "To store a digital master record of a movie costs about $12,514 a year, versus the $1,059 it costs to keep a conventional film master.

Much worse, to keep the enormous swarm of data produced when a picture is “born digital” — that is, produced using all-electronic processes, rather than relying wholly or partially on film — pushes the cost of preservation to $208,569 a year, vastly higher than the $486 it costs to toss the equivalent camera negatives, audio recordings, on-set photographs and annotated scripts of an all-film production into the cold-storage vault.

All of this may seem counterintuitive. After all, digital magic is supposed to make information of all kinds more available, not less. But ubiquity, it turns out, is not the same as permanence."

The issue of digital permanence has been discussed before in BRT in The Long Now but, as stated in the article, solutions are coming that will eliminate the storage problem for Hollywood once and for all. When that time comes, the question to ask is...Should Batman & Robin be preserved or should it be allowed to die a digital death, thus sparing future generations the pain of watching the Governator mangle the role of Dr. Freeze or seeing George Clooney turn Batman into Hollywood stud muffin No. 1.

"No one knows, do one?" - Fats Waller

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rogue Waves

We all hear about Rogue Waves, the monsters that appear out of nowhere to overturn ships in seconds. "One account describes the appearance of a giant wave trough which onlookers likened to a "hole in the sea", followed by a twelve-story-tall "wall of water." To further compound the mystery, some such waves have been said to appear mid-ocean, and often in calm weather."

Using non linear optics and noise as a start point in conducting wave propagation in crystals, scientists think they may know what causes these waves to appear. "...physicists in the US and Germany have managed to produce equivalent optical rogue waves by launching laser pulses into photonic-crystal fibres. Having performed computer simulations of the optical system, the researchers suggest that optical rogue waves, and therefore oceanic rogue waves, are seeded by noise.

"How is this analogous to the ocean? Just like a photonic-crystal fibre, the ocean is a non-linear medium. It also has a lot of noise, produced, among other things, by the bombardment of wind. “The mathematics that describes optical wave production is extremely similar to that which describes water waves in the deep sea,”

Awesome research, insightful thinking to the max. Ain't science grand?

50 Years Since Sputnik

To waste time but learn about the history of space exploration, one could do far worse than clicking the graphic to check out the NYTimes' piece titled, naturally, 50 Years Since Sputnik. The interactive graphic(s) is very cool and works somewhat like Simile's Timeplot or Timeline.


Sunday, December 16, 2007


Check out this entertaining and informative video about stuff and the process that's involved in making it. As most people know, there are inherent costs to every activity man does without exception because in producing anything (cars, computers, carrots, clothes etc., etc.), energy is expended and something is changed as a result. Previously, the trade off of cost vs. benefit in producing stuff was not a big deal because there was always "easy" access to plentiful resources that enabled companies to produce stuff without a care in the world (Impact on people's lives and their environment was never considered but that's yesterday's news, right?). This laissez faire approach to doing business no longer works due to the fact resources are dwindling and the environment is deteriorating, conditions that make the "Instant gratification isn't fast enough philosophy" a losing proposition at best.

Tech is both a cause and a cure for the current disease of shop, buy and throw away stuff at ever accelerating rates, something that cannot be sustained as seen by the looming Long Emergency the world is beginning to experience as we pass peak oil and move toward a society that has no access to cheap and plentiful energy, the "stuff " civilization needs in order to survive.

"When the winter came the Grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer.

Then the Grasshopper knew...
It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.
- The Ant & the Grasshopper

The Dark Side

In a well written article titled "Wider Spying Fuels Aid Plan for Telecom Industry", the New York Times describes how the BA is trying "to persuade Congress to pass legislation protecting companies from lawsuits for aiding the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program.

But the battle is really about something much bigger. At stake is the federal government’s extensive but uneasy partnership with industry to conduct a wide range of secret surveillance operations in fighting terrorism and crime."

The implication of this action is frightening because if the BA gets what it wants, legalized, Enemy of the State type technology can be applied to every person in the US without restriction. (See The 700 Club, Enemy of the State I and EOTS II for more information)

Any questions?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Goldilocks Zone

Remember Goldilocks & The Three Bears, the tale where a little girl chances upon the bears' house and samples the porridge...

"At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge. Goldilocks was hungry. She tasted the porridge from the first bowl. "This porridge is too hot!" she exclaimed. So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl. "This porridge is too cold," she said So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge. "Ahhh, this porridge is just right," she said happily and she ate it all up."

Well the same may be true according to the conditions life (as we know it) needs in order for it to exist. To that end, researchers have established a theoretical habitable zone (based on earth of course) and mapped it to Glese 581 where scientists discovered "two new planets orbiting the M star Gliese 581 (a red dwarf), with masses of at least 5 and 8 Earth masses. Given their distance to their parent star, these new planets (now known as Gliese 581c and Gliese 581d) were the first ever possible candidates for habitable planets. "

When this is combined with the notion Europa might harbor life (Jupiter's moon may have a liquid ocean due to the heat generated by tidal forces caused by Jupiter's gravitation.) living via chemosynthesis, scientists are beginning to believe life may be far more common then previously thought.

Addendum: Click on the artwork above to view Physorg's blurb on Europa's ocean or click here to read the article from Science Times. Interesting info to be sure.

"Life finds a way." - Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park.

Messing with Mother Nature

Jurassic Park gave us a lesson in messing with Mother Nature but that was fiction while the negative impact open net salmon fish farms is having on wild salmon is not. To quote: "Sea lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) are naturally occurring parasites of wild salmon that latch onto the fishes’ skin in the open ocean. The lice are transmitted by a tiny free-swimming larval stage. Open-net salmon farms are a haven for these parasites, which feed on the fishes’ skin and muscle tissue. Adult salmon can survive a small number of lice, but juveniles headed from the river to the sea are very small, thin-skinned, and vulnerable. In the Broughton Archipelago, the juvenile salmon must run an 80-kilometer gauntlet of fish farms before they reach the open ocean. "

The possible danger using this tech to farm other wild species (tuna halibut etc., etc, .) could be immense if problems like this crop up as man cannot know all the interconnected relationships that species like salmon have with the environment in which they live. "Scientists expect a 99% collapse in another four years, or two salmon generations, if the infestations continue."

No doubt, this is a Wicked Problem writ large.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Very Fine Line

Everywhere you go, you are seeing up close imagery of the body. The picture above depicts a " 3-D visualization of interacting cadherin molecules in their native arrangement. Known molecular structures of cadherins (grey and red ribbons) are fit into the electron tomogram (multicolour) of the complex. (Credit: Achilleas Frangakis, EMBL)

Addendum, Click here to see The Guts of a Cell, Frozen in Time from Technology Review.

Not only are scientists getting "up close and personal" in the imaging department but people are also "taping" how cells operate in real time as seen by these two Science Daily articles titled Lasers Improve Scientists' Understanding Of Complex Proteins and The Molecular Post Office Inside the Cell

Implications of this ability to see the invisible knows no bounds.

“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English). - Lewis J. Carroll

I Sing the Body Electric

I Sing the Body Electric is not only is a great poem by Walt Whitman but also is scientifically true based on experiments done at the nanoscale regarding cellular electricity. "Using novel voltage-sensitive nanoparticles, researchers have found electric fields inside cells as strong as those produced in lightning bolts." Said research is being done to learn about cancer and how disease develops.

Interestingly enoungh, nanotech is also being used to "feel" cells as cancer cells tend to be softer when scientists used an atomic force microscope to do the deed. "Aggressive cancer cells are about 70 percent softer than normal cells, according to research from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). The UCLA researchers are the first to mechanically probe the physical properties of live cancer cells taken directly from a patient."

Common sense combined with imagination driven by inquiry using advanced tech as the primary investigative tool has become the norm in learning how reality works. - RM

You gotta love it.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Going Ballistic & Then Some...

Going Ballistic applies not only to people getting REALLY ANGRY but also to a new way of processing information. As per the article written in Science Times titled Radical Computing Chip Bounces Electrons Around Like Billiard Balls, chip designers from the University of Rochester are working on a new way to crunch bits. Enter the Ballistic Deflection Transistor, a device that "adds a new twist by bouncing the electrons into their chosen trajectories—using inertia to redirect for "free," instead of wrestling the electrons into place with brute energy."

By building chips in this fashion, compute speeds will dramatically rise while greatly reducing power requirements because electrons can be guided and not corralled in getting them to do the right thing.

Taking the bouncing ball concept a little further could involve using Graphene, a monolayer of carbon as this unique material is not only mechanically very strong, it also "can act as an atomic-scale billiard table, with electric charges acting as billiard balls."

Last but not least, scientists created the first tunable gap semiconductor using graphene. The reason for the excitement? "A semiconductor with a “tuneable” gap that can be changed externally – by applying a voltage, for example – could lead to new types of electronic devices, notably lasers where the wavelength of the light could be dialled-up with great precision. "

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

10 Big Ideas...

Clive Cooksons of the Financial Times wrote a terrific piece titled Numbers + Symbols = Confusion or "The 10 big ideas we should all understand."

They are: (Comments are my own)

1. Evolution - Darwin has it right & Cookson's definition is one of the best that's out there.
2. Genes & DNA - 20,000 genes fit inside 46 chromosomes to make up the human genome
3. Big Bang - Researchers are pretty sure about this but how it happened is still up for grabs. Dark matter, dark energy, M-Theory, Quantum Loop Gravity etc., etc., etc.
4. Relativity - "What's it like to ride on a beam of light?" - Einstein
5. Quantum Mechanics - "Anyone who says he understands quantum mechanics, doesn't." - Richard Feyman
6. Radiation - It's everywhere including nukes
7. Atoms & Nuclear Reactions - Atoms are the building blocks of chemistry and there's two kind of nuclear reaction - fission/splitting atoms and fusion/fusing them. i.e. nuclear power plants, - fission, the sun - fusion
8. Molecules & Chemical Reactions - Molecules consist of atoms (H20), chemical reactions involve changes in energy. Organic chemistry includes carbon as a component.
9. Digital Data - All computers do is count by twos (binary/0&1). Because of this, information can be stored, processed and distributed as needs warrant.
10. Statistical Significance - The ability to ferret out meaningful information from a mountain of data. In most cases, it involves determining the relationship of two or more different skeins of data used in scientific experiments, examaning ongoing business trends like the Stock Market or searching for information via Google.

Any Questions? If not, go to Cookson's article, it's a good read.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Planet of the Apes

After reading this, perhaps some of the GOP presidential candidates should rethink their opposition to evolution as young chimps are better at math then we are. "No one can imagine that chimpanzees-young chimpanzees at the age of five-have a better performance in a memory task than humans. Here we show for the first time that young chimpanzees have an extraordinary working memory capability for numerical recollection-better than that of human adults tested in the same apparatus, following the same procedure."

Hey, maybe chimps are descended from us. It's certainly more plausible than earth being 6000 years old according to one Archbishop James Ussher. who "published a chronology that purported to time and date Creation to the night preceding October 23, 4004 BC.

Now all we have to find out is if an infinite number of monkeys can type out Hamlet if given enough time. According to Seth Lloyd, the possibility could arise if said monkeys typed on a computer and not a typewriter. Read Programming the Universe to learn why.