Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Maladies of Job

I've always had a desire to get a bulldog. One that looks like the lovable bruiser seen above as every time I have encountered one, affection, goofiness and looks designed to kill have enchanted me for years save that the wife would kill me if I got one. With that in mind, reading the sobering NY Times Can the Bulldog Be Saved? has saddened yours truly when pure bred obsession takes the bulldog's gene  pool for a ride in creating a dog cursed with the maladies of Job.

It gets better...

The most telling item however is the mutation of the breed from bull baiting monster to lovable pug as seen in a comparison of what the bulldog used to look like compared to today's.

Circa 1800's

Present Day

Any Questions?

Reducto ad Absurdum

Question: Did any medical company create the gene given the definition seen above or better yet, can something every living thing on this plant possesses be patented? In a sane world, the answer would be a rather obvious no but in today's corporate-controlled world, 40,000 genes have been patented with more to come thanks to a patent office either blindingly stupid, incredibly inept or bought and paid for by parties unknown.

When factored in with the for profit healthcare system the US is saddled with, it's no wonder the leaving of common sense regarding genes and patents has become a no brainer to the max. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Something to Consider

The end-Permian extinction occurred 252.2 million years ago, decimating 90 percent of marine and terrestrial species, from snails and small crustaceans to early forms of lizards and amphibians. “The Great Dying,” as it’s now known, was the most severe mass extinction in Earth’s history, and is probably the closest life has come to being completely extinguished. Possible causes include immense volcanic eruptions, rapid depletion of oxygen in the oceans, and — an unlikely option — an asteroid collision.

While the causes of this global catastrophe are unknown, an MIT-led team of researchers has now established that the end-Permian extinction was extremely rapid, triggering massive die-outs both in the oceans and on land in less than 20,000 years — the blink of an eye in geologic time. The researchers also found that this time period coincides with a massive buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which likely triggered the simultaneous collapse of species in the oceans and on land.

But there's more...

“The rate of injection of CO2 into the late Permian system is probably similar to the anthropogenic rate of injection of CO2 now,” Rothman says. “It’s just that it went on for … 10,000 years.”

Rothman says the total amount of CO2 pumped into Earth over this time period was so immense that it’s not immediately clear where it all came from.

“It’s just not easy to imagine,” Rothman says. “Even if you put all the world’s known coal deposits on top of a volcano, you still wouldn’t come close. So something unusual was going on.”

Phase changes are non-linear, the break from one phase or condition to another (water/ice/steam) is dramatic and powerful, something to consider as we continue to move toward a possible phase transition equal to that of  "The Great Dying", something we can avoid if we have the will to do it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Blade Runner - On Nearing 30

Produced almost 30 years ago, Blade Runner, a dark and mysterious film depicting a dystopian future, continues to haunt us by asking deep questions about humanity, death, the environment and ethics, questions becoming all the more relevant as time goes by...

  • How long have I got?
  • What does it mean to be human anyway?
  • Do we have the right to terminate artificial life much less create it?
  • Do we have the right to survive given what we have done to the environment?
  • Are we better off with all this tech?
  • Can civilization survive in spite of itself?
Questions to ponder, don't you think?

In the Realm of the Possible

Seems a new ecosystem is beginning to happen with the latest entry dealing with batteries, a topic BRT has covered in the past with emphasis on the difficulty of producing cheap, powerful batteris able to be charged ad nauseum and able to be recycled without issue, something considered to be extremely hard to do until now.

"Capacitors store an electrical charge physically and have important advantages: they are lightweight and can be recharged (and discharged) rapidly and almost indefinitely. Plus, they generate very little heat, an important issue for electronic devices. However, they can only make use of about half of their stored charge.

Batteries, on the other hand, store electrical energy chemically and can release it over longer periods at a steady voltage. And they can usually store more energy than a capacitor. But batteries are heavy and take time to charge up, and even the best can’t be recharged forever.

Enter asymmetric capacitors, which bring together the best of both worlds. On the capacitor side, energy is stored by electrolyte ions that are physically attracted to the charged surface of a carbon anode. Combined with a battery-style cathode, this design delivers nearly double the energy of a standard capacitor."

But there's more...

"But how many times can you recharge their novel asymmetric capacitor? Nobody knows; so far, they haven’t been able to wear it out. “We’ve achieved over 127,000 cycles,” Rogers said."

When looking at this innovative way to developing an elegant portable power source, one sees a distributed approach to building a sustainable future beginning to blossom thanks to the net and the commonality of file formats enabling researchers and technologists to share information in ways considered to be impossible to do just one year ago. A partial list of disciplines used in creating products similar in concept to the battery project described above includes quantum theory, AI, robotics, biotech, nano-tech and computation.

A tiny sampling of tech using input from these and other disciplines not listed include:
  • 3D fabbing
  • Thin film solar
  • Artificial photosynthesis
  • Using light to treat cancer
  • Using heat with gold nanoparticles to treat cancer
  • Flexible, transparent displays
  • Spintronics
  • Graphene capaciters
  • Graphene batteries
  • Smart Dust
  • Quantum computers
  • Bots
  • Smart phones
  • Pad computers
  • Smart prosthetics
  • Electric cars
  • etc., etc., etc.,
"If an elderly but distinguished scientist says that something is possible, he is almost certainly right; but if he says that it is impossible, he is very probably wrong." - Arthur C. Clarke

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Organic proteins reminds one of party favor curls raised to absurd limits where everything appears chaotic yet is anything but. The "party curl" seen above is the circadian protein, the controlling entity of internal biological clocks ranging from fruit fly and bacteria to humans and whales.

Now that said protein has been identified, profound implications based on this research may happen sooner rather then later as seen by the fact cancer cells use a different time frame when dividing from that of normal tissue, something difficult to readily identify without issue until now.

The toolmaker never knows how his tools will be used. - Anonymous


The NY Times strikes again. This time it's Trap!t, a new search engine dedicated to finding articles keyed to subject matter, something yours truly will use when looking for nuggets of gold to inspire me to comment on and make connections to other topics that, in labrinthian ways, make sense when trying to ascertain the impact said tech or science may have on any given aspect of civilization.

Trapit is like a much-improved RSS feed that learns what you like so it can personalize search results. Pick a topic and Trapit will cull the Web sites of blogs, magazines and newspapers to show you both the most recent and most relevant results. Then, based on what you read and what you tell Trapit you like and dislike by clicking thumbs up or thumbs down, it will adjust your search results using machine learning. If you search for Thanksgiving recipes but only click on those for vegan dishes, you will stop seeing turkey recipes, for instance.

Seen below is a trap!t for science, tech and society. Pretty cool way results are displayed I must say.

Disruptive - To the Max

I love disruptive tech, you know, the kind able to shake things up in ways impossible to predict, especially to the established powers at be in any given industry. Seems 3D printing, a technology BRT has talked about often, will do the same for copyright, the bane of all things digital when raised to the absurd limits it now resides at in the US courtesy of the late unlamented Sonny Bono, who died while allegedly playing football on skis.

It appears copyright does not readily apply to "useful" things like objects able to be copied via 3D printing, the tech that will change everything relative to manufacturing as we move toward a contracting economy where all things local applies.

A recent research paper published by the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, Calif., titled “The Future of Open Fabrication,” says 3-D printing will be “manufacturing’s Big Bang.” as jobs in manufacturing, many overseas, and jobs shipping products around the globe are replaced by companies setting up 3-D fabrication labs in stores to print objects rather than ship them.

The disregard for copyright smoothes the way for this shift. Downloading music online prospered because it was quicker and easier to press a button than go to a store to buy a CD. Given the choice to download a mug, or deal with Ikea on a Saturday afternoon, which one do you think you would choose?

Works for me.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Great Equalizer

Death and the loss of power are the two great equalizers in America because both care not for money and status when one experiences one or the other during the short journey called life. In Redding, the October storm from hell dumped 12" of wet heavy stuff on us rubes, knocking out power, bringing down trees and canceling the myriad events every small town has regarding Halloween and all things relating to apple and pumpkin picking. Now that the storm has past (the town is still without power), one readily sees it matters not how big your house is or how large your bank account may be because without juice, the 17th century beckons with a vengeance.

In telling this tale of modest woe, the question to ask is, how did our ancestors fare without electricity and the benefits it brings to all of us. Food for thought, don't you think?