David Kirkpatrick

September 13, 2010

Singularity University’s Graduate Studies Program student projects

Via KurzweilAI.net — I blogged about today’s webinar last week, and here’s a summary of the student projects from this year’s Singularity University.

From the first link:

Singularity University webinar today: sneak preview

September 13, 2010 by Edito

Former astronaut Dan Barry, M.D., PhD, faculty head of Singularity University, will join Singularity University co-founders Dr. Ray Kurzweil and Dr. Peter H. Diamandis on Monday, September 13, at 9:30am PT/12:30pm ET, in a live video webinar briefing to unveil this summer’s Graduate Studies Program student projects.

The projects aim to impact a billion people within ten years.

A Q&A session will follow the briefing. The briefing is free and is open to media and the public — visit http://briefing.singularityu.org/ to register.

Here are some of the team projects to be profiled in the webinar.

Achieving the benefits of space at a fraction of the cost

The space project teams have developed imaginative new solutions for space and spinoffs for Earth. The AISynBio project team is working with leading NASA scientists to design bioengineered organisms that can use available resources to mitigate harsh living environments (such as lack of air, water, food, energy, atmosphere, and gravity) – on an asteroid, for example, and also on Earth .

The SpaceBio Labs team plans to develop methods for doing low-cost biological research in space, such as 3D tissue engineering and protein crystallization.

The Made in Space team plans to bring 3D printing to space to make space exploration cheaper, more reliable, and fail-safe (“send the bits, not the atoms”).  For example, they hope to replace some of the $1 billion worth of spare parts and tools that are on the International Space Station.

The Cheap Access to Space team is working with NASA Ames and CalTech engineers and scientists on a radical space propulsion system using beamed microwave energy to dramatically reduce the cost of a space launch by a factor of ten.

Solving key problems for a billion people on Earth

Back on Earth, a number of teams are working on solving global problems of waste, energy, hunger, and water.

The three Upcycle teams have developed synergistic solutions to eliminate waste and reduce energy use.

The Fre3dom team is planning to bring 3D printing to the developing world to allow local communities to make their own much-needed spare parts using bioplastics.

The BioMine team is developing environmentally regenerative, safe, efficient and scalable biological methods for the extraction of metals from electronic waste. This is a multidisciplinary team with technical expertise ranging from synthetic biology and chemical engineering to computer science and biotech IP, and they are leveraging exponential advances in bioengineering, functional genomics, bioinformatics and computational modeling.

The i2cycle team focuses on developing global industrial ecosystems by upcycling one manufacturer’s waste (such as glass and ceramics) into raw material for another manufacturer (such as manufacturing tiles), conserving resources and energy in the process.

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The AmundA team is developing a Web-based tool that offers data such as electricity demand and energy resources  to guide suppliers in finding optimum, lower-cost, energy generation solutions.  They hope to  help 1.5 billion potential customers in the developing world gain access to electricity.

The H2020 team is building an intelligent, web-based platform to provide information on water to people. For example, they will use smart phones to crowd-source data about water problems,  such as pollution or shortages, in communities at the “bottom of the pyramid,” and will use AI to match problems with solutions.

The Naishio (“no salt” in Japanese) team, inspired by lecturers such as Dean Kamen, plans to use nanofilters to achieve very low cost and compact, but high-volume desalination. They have a designed a filtration cube measuring just 6.5 inches per side that could produce 100,000 gallons of purified water per day.

The Food for Cities program is planning to grow all the vegetables you need in a box barely larger than your refrigerator, using “aeroponics,” which could feed a billion people healthy food at low cost.

And the Know (Knowledge, Opportunity, Network for Women) team seeks to empower young women across the world by providing them with mentors and resources.

Full disclosure: writer and KurzweilAI editor Amara D. Angelica is an advisor to Singularity University.

September 12, 2010

Mapping the internet

Research out of the San Diego Supercomputer Center and Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) at the University of California, San Diego, in collaboration with the Universitat de Barcelona in Spain and the University of Cyprus.

The release, ahem, article:

SDSC Collaboration Aims to Create First Accurate Geometric Map of the Internet

September 09, 2010

By Jan Zverina

The San Diego Supercomputer Center and Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) at the University of California, San Diego, in a collaboration with researchers from Universitat de Barcelona in Spain and the University of Cyprus, have created the first geometric “atlas” of the Internet as part of a project to prevent our most ubiquitous form of communication from collapsing within the next decade or so.

In a paper published this week in Nature Communications, CAIDA researcher Dmitri Krioukov, along with Marián Boguñá (Universitat de Barcelona) and Fragkiskos Papadopoulos (University of Cyprus), describe how they discovered a latent hyperbolic, or negatively curved, space hidden beneath the Internet’s topology, leading them to devise a method to create an Internet map using hyperbolic geometry. In their paper, Sustaining the Internet with Hyperbolic Mapping, the researchers say such a map would lead to a more robust Internet routing architecture because it simplifies path-finding throughout the network.

“We compare routing in the Internet today to using a hypothetical road atlas, which is really just a long encoded list of road intersections and connections that would require drivers to pore through each line to plot a course to their destination without using any geographical, or geometrical, information which helps us navigate through the space in real life,” said Krioukov, principal investigator of the project.

Now imagine that a road – or in the case of the Internet, a connection – is closed for some reason and there is no geographical atlas to plot a new course, just a long list of connections that need to be updated. “That is basically how routing in the Internet works today – it is based on a topographical map that does not take into account any geometric coordinates in any space,” said Krioukov, who with his colleagues at CAIDA have been managing a project called Archipelago, or Ark, that constantly monitors the topology of the Internet, or the structure of its interconnections.

Like many experts, however, Krioukov is concerned that existing Internet routing, which relies on only this topological information, is not really sustainable. “It is very complicated, inefficient, and difficult to scale to the rapidly growing size of the Internet, which is now accessed by more than a billion people each day. In fact, we are already seeing parts of the Internet become intermittently unreachable, sinking into so-called black holes, which is a clear sign of instability.”

Krioukov and his colleagues have developed an in-depth theory that uses hyperbolic geometry to describe a negatively curved shape of complex networks such as the Internet. This theory appears in paper Hyperbolic Geometry of Complex Networks, published by Physical Review E today. In their Nature Communications paper, the researchers employ this theory, Ark’s data, and statistical inference methods to build a geometric map of the Internet. They show that routing using such a map would be superior to the existing routing, which is based on pure topology.

Instead of perpetually accessing and rebuilding a reference list of all available network paths, each router in the Internet would know only its hyperbolic coordinates and the coordinates of its neighbors so it could route in the right direction, only relaying the information to its closest neighbor in that direction, according to the researchers. Known as “greedy routing”, this process would dramatically increase the overall efficiency and scalability of the Internet. “We believe that using such a routing architecture based on hyperbolic geometry will create the best possible levels of efficiency in terms of speed, accuracy, and resistance to damage,” said Krioukov.

However the researchers caution that actually implementing and deploying such a routing structure in the Internet might be as challenging, if not more challenging, than discovering its hidden space. “There are many technical and non-technical issues to be resolved before the Internet map that we found would be the map that the Internet uses,” said Krioukov.

The research was in part funded by the National Science Foundation, along with Spain’s   Direcção Geral de Ensino Superior (DGES), Generalitat de Catalunya, and by Cisco Systems. The Internet mapping paper as published in Nature Communications can be found here. The Physical Review E paper can be found here.

September 11, 2010

Remember

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:46 am

That image is not easy to look at, but I think it’s important to remember what it meant for America and to protect this date from demagogues and politicization. This event brought international terrorism to U.S. soil in a manner that dwarfed all previous attempts, and in consequence it, at least for a while, united all citizens of America.

The aftermath of what happened to U.S. polity and policy after 9/11 can be debated, but for a few weeks in September 2001, this was truly a nation united.

Here is bit from a comment on a blog post of mine from February 2, 2008 (the post from January 31) on how I felt on September 11, 2001:

Sure that Tuesday morning I was blindingly angry. I was woken in a vacation condo on the beach in Panama City Beach, Florida, to hear the World Trade Center towers were both struck by planes. When the media began reporting celebrations in Afghanistan I immediately thought of bin Laden (didn’t think of al Qaeda per se, but I was aware of bin Laden pre-9/11). My next thought was we should nuke that country back from its then (and now) Middle Age society to the Stone Age, or maybe to time before humans walked in Afghanistan.

That was my heart. I feel no less strongly about Islamic terrorism today than I did at that moment. I do know I think the US did very well for itself before 9/11, and to me nothing occurred that warrants changing our fundamental approach to the world.

September 10, 2010

Deceptive robots

Via KurzweilAI.net — Not too sure if I like this idea. Seems like we’re already heading down the path of breaking Asimov’s robotic laws with a lot of milbots in development and practice.

From the link:

We have developed  algorithms that allow a robot to determine whether it should deceive a human or other intelligent machine and we have designed techniques that help the robot select the best deceptive strategy to reduce its chance of being discovered,” said Ronald Arkin, a Regents professor in the Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing.

The results of robot experiments and theoretical and cognitive deception modeling were published online on September 3 in the International Journal of Social Robotics. Because the researchers explored the phenomenon of robot deception from a general perspective, the study’s results apply to robot-robot and human-robot interactions. This research was funded by the Office of Naval Research.

In the future, robots capable of deception may be valuable for several different areas, including military and search and rescue operations. A search and rescue robot may need to deceive in order to calm or receive cooperation from a panicking victim. Robots on the battlefield with the power of deception will be able to successfully hide and mislead the enemy to keep themselves and valuable information safe.

“Most social robots will probably rarely use deception, but it’s still an important tool in the robot’s interactive arsenal because robots that recognize the need for deception have advantages in terms of outcome compared to robots that do not recognize the need for deception,” said the study’s co-author, Alan Wagner, a research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

September 9, 2010

The public is a bit wary of synthetic biology

I’m a boundary-pusher in scientific research — I love nanotechnology, stem cell research, genetic research, robotics applications, and of course, I love the promise of synthetic biology. This poll finds only one-third of of surveyed adults want to see the field banned until it’s better understood, but a majority do want to see more government oversight.

The release:

The Public Looks At Synthetic Biology — Cautiously

WASHINGTON, DC: Synthetic biology—defined as the design and construction of new biological parts, devices, and systems or re-design of existing natural biological systems for useful purposes—holds enormous potential to improve everything from energy production to medicine, with the global market projected to reach $4.5 billion by 2015. But what does the public know about this emerging field, and what are their hopes and concerns? A new poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by Hart Research Associates and the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center finds that two-thirds of Americans think that synthetic biology should move forward, but with more research to study its possible effects on humans and the environment, while one-third support a ban until we better understand its implications and risks. More than half of Americans believe the federal government should be involved in regulating synthetic biology.

“The survey clearly shows that much more attention needs to be paid to addressing biosafety and biosecurity risks,” said David Rejeski, Director of the Synthetic Biology Project. “In addition, government and industry need to engage the public about the science and its applications, benefits, and risks.”

The poll findings reveal that the proportion of adults who say they have heard a lot or some about synthetic biology has almost tripled in three years, (from 9 percent to 26 percent). By comparison, self-reported awareness of nanotechnology increased from 24 percent to 34 percent during the same three-year period.

Although the public supports continued research in the area of synthetic biology, it also harbors concerns, including 27 percent who have security concerns (concerns that the science will be used to make harmful things), 25 percent who have moral concerns, and a similar proportion who worry about negative health consequences for humans. A smaller portion, 13 percent, worries about possible damage to the environment.

“The survey shows that attitudes about synthetic biology are not clear-cut and that its application is an important factor in shaping public attitudes towards it,” said Geoff Garin, President of Hart Research. Six in 10 respondents support the use of synthetic biology to produce a flu vaccine. In contrast, three-fourths of those surveyed have concerns about its use to accelerate the growth of livestock to increase food production. Among those for whom moral issues are the top concern, the majority views both applications in a negative light.

The findings come from a nationwide telephone survey of 1,000 adults and has a margin of error of ± 3.1 percentage points. This is the fifth year that Hart Research Associates has conducted a survey to gauge public opinion about nanotechnology and/or synthetic biology for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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The report can be found at: www.synbioproject.org

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars of the Smithsonian Institution was established by Congress in 1968 and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. It is a nonpartisan institution, supported by public and private funds and engaged in the study of national and world affairs.

September 8, 2010

Singularity University to announce session breakthroughs September 13

Via KurzweilAI.net — I blogged about one of the breakthroughs yesterday, and the university leader’s are going to announce the entire group next Monday.

From the first link:

Singularity University to Unveil Breakthrough Solutions for ‘Global Grand Challenges’ at Sept. 13 Briefing

September 8, 2010 by Editor

This summer, 80 students from 35 nations were challenged to apply innovations in exponentially advancing technologies to solve some of the world’s “grand challenges” with a focus on food, water, energy, upcycle, and space industries.

On Monday, September 13, at 9:30am PT/12:30pm ET, in a webinar briefing, Singularity University co-founders Dr. Ray Kurzweil, Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, and faculty head Dr. Dan Barry will unveil for the first time multiple solutions in each problem space, each aiming to impact a billion people within ten years.

A Q&A session will follow the briefing. The Briefing is open to media and the public, but space is limited. You can visit http://briefing.singularityu.org/ to register for the webinar briefing.

Singularity University (SU) is an interdisciplinary university whose mission is to assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies in order to address humanity’s grand challenges. With the support of a broad range of leaders in academia, business and government, SU hopes to stimulate groundbreaking, disruptive thinking and solutions aimed at solving some of the planet’s most pressing challenges. SU is based at the NASA Ames campus in Silicon Valley. For more information, go to www.singularityu.org and follow SU on Twitter and Facebook.

September 7, 2010

Happy second birthday, Chrome!

Filed under: Business, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:41 pm

Well, belated birthday since last Thursday marked the second anniversary of Chrome’s release. Count me among the very satisfied users of Google’s browser war entry.

From the link:

The first beta of Google Chrome made its debut on September 2, 2008, and most reviewers instantly lauded its streamlined, minimalistic design. PCWorld blogger J.R. Raphael noted, “Calling the design of Chrome’s interface streamlined is an understatement. The program barely looks like a program, and the vast majority of your screen space is devoted to the site you’re visiting — with no buttons or logos hogging space.”

Google’s hallmark is a clean, uncluttered interface — remember what search engines looked like before Google came along? — that many of its search rivals have tried to emulate. Since the launch of Chrome, Google’s browser rivals have tried to copy its minimalistic look, with varying degrees of success. Whether they succeed or not, I applaud the effort — and I thank Chrome for reminding others that we’re browsing the Web in order to look at a Web site, not to look at a browser.

From the department of, “no duh” …

… I’ll let this bit from KurzweilAI.net speak for itself:

Magic mushrooms reduce anxiety over cancer

September 7, 2010

Source: New Scientist Health, Sep 6, 2010

The active ingredient of magic mushrooms,  psilocybin, has been shown to reduce anxiety and improve mood in people with cancer. researchers from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center have found.

Volunteers reported feeling less depressed and anxious two weeks after receiving psilocybin. Six months later, the level of depression was significantly lower in all volunteers than it had been before the treatments began.

(Dohduhdah/Wikipedia Commons)

Read original article

September 5, 2010

The GOP’s demographic problem

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:25 pm

The Republican Party can legitimately lick its chops getting ready for the upcoming midterms. It would take more than an epic collapse of public opinion to keep November from being an absolute bloodbath for Democrats. Looking down the road, however, things are little more bleak, and the darkest spot is the demographic reality of the United States electorate in the coming decades.

After serious outreach during the first Bush 43 term (largely orchestrated by Karl Rove), the GOP has done nothing to court the Latino vote and a whole lot to alienate Hispanics of all ages. It’s no stretch to say the Republican Party has absolutely destroyed at least three generations of a bloc that otherwise would be fairly sympathetic to a socially conservative pro-business message.

Take a moment to think about all the ways the GOP has turned on Latinos — starting with the extreme immigration stances around the nation — and then ponder these numbers:

  • 62% of Hispanics are under the age of 34.
  • 33% of Hispanics will be under the age of 18.
  • In Texas, California, New Mexico, Hawaii and the District of Columbia, the white portion of the population is already a minority (representing less than 50%).
  • At the DMA, level there will be 19 markets where the minority is the majority. In 15 of them, the dominant minority is Hispanic; in two markets the dominant minority is Black, and in Hawaii, of course, it’s the Asian/Pacific Islander.
  • By 2020, minorities are expected to account for 40% of the country.

See a little problem there? Now the figures above came from an Ad Age blog post and not a political consultant, but that should be cause for even more concern because marketers are not going to fudge demographic numbers since doing so would only serve to reduce the effectiveness of marketing efforts. Political numbers on the other hand are about as reliable as a weather forecast. Pretty much any demographic numbers coming from a political source have been massaged to placate someone. Maybe not massaged a whole lot, but you can bet the numbers have been skewed one way or another.

Going back to the Ad Age piece, Isaac Mizrahi, co-author on a paper covering  how the 2010 census is going to affect marketing, was quoted thusly, ” … in today’s economy, marketing to ethnic minorities may possibly be the competitive advantage they need.” I think we all know the answer to the question of how the GOP has been marketing to minorities, particularly Hispanics. Couple the last six years or so of Republican rhetoric excoriating Latinos with the latest iteration of hard nativism sweeping the party and the long-term prospects of the GOP don’t look so good. Will the 2010 election cycle be the last hurrah for the current GOP? Demographic numbers say yes.

September 3, 2010

Cool nanotech image — a 2-water molecule thick ice crystal

Researchers used graphene to trap the room-temperature ice on a mica surface.

Atomic force micrograph of ~1 micrometer wide × 1.5 micrometers (millionths of a meter) tall area. The ice crystals (lightest blue) are 0.37 nanometers (billionths of a meter) high, which is the height of a 2-water molecule thick ice crystal. A one-atom thick sheet of graphene is used to conformally coat and trap water that has adsorbed onto a mica surface, permitting it to be imaged and characterized by atomic force microscopy. Detailed analysis of such images reveals that this (first layer) of water is ice, even at room temperature. At high humidity levels, a second layer of water will coat the first layer, also as ice. At very high humidity levels, additional layers of water will coat the surface as droplets. Credit: Heath group/Caltech

Hit the link for the full story on this image.

Balancing national security and privacy on the internet

An interesting breakdown on the current state of online privacy versus national security.

From the link:

In the wake of revelations that the US military network was compromised in 2008, and that US digital interests are under a relative constant threat of attack, the Pentagon is establishing new cyber security initiatives to protect the Internet. The Pentagon strategy–which is part digital NATO, part digital civil defense, and part Big Brother–may ruffle some feathers and raise concerns that the US Internet is becoming a military police state.

The mission of the United States Department of Defense is to provide military forces needed to deter war and protect the security of the nation. The scope of that mission includes emerging threats and the need to deter cyber war and protect the digital security of the nation as well. To fulfill that mission in an increasingly connected world, and with a rising threat of digital attack, the Pentagon wants to expand its sphere of influence.

This really is a tough issue. Certainly you want the nation to be safe, but at the same time the internet is largely a borderless “pseudo-nation” and clamping down too hard — not unlike the great firewall of China — can stifle much of what makes the net great. No easy answers here, but dramatically increasing the power of the government — particularly the military — over the private sector is not an acceptable solution.

Beautiful space image — Supernova 1987A

Sometimes when I run a “beautiful space image” post the beauty is in the awe-inspiringness of the image, and other times the photo might not be much to look at, but it is just amazing on its own merits.

And then sometimes it really is just beautiful.

From the third link, enjoy …

A team of astronomers led by the University of Colorado at Boulder is charting the interactions between Supernova 1987A and a glowing gas ring encircling the supernova remnant known as the “String of Pearls.” Credit: NASA

Also from the link:

The team detected significant brightening of the emissions from Supernova 1987A, which were consistent with some theoretical predictions about how supernovae interact with their immediate galactic environment. Discovered in 1987, Supernova 1987A is the closest  to Earth to be detected since 1604 and resides in the nearby , a  adjacent to our own Milky Way Galaxy.

The team observed the supernova in optical, ultraviolet and near-infrared light, charting the interplay between the  and the famous “String of Pearls,” a glowing ring 6 trillion miles in diameter encircling the supernova remnant that has been energized by X-rays. The gas ring likely was shed some 20,000 years before the supernova exploded, and  rushing out from the remnant have been brightening some 30 to 40 pearl-like “hot spots” in the ring — objects that likely will grow and merge together in the coming years to form a continuous, glowing circle.

September 2, 2010

Meet the new boss …

Filed under: Business, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:14 am

… not even close to same as the old boss (with apologies to the Who.)

Get ready to bow down to your robotic overlord supervisor.

From the link:

Remember the Segway? It never quite revolutionized transportation, but a similar mobility technology now underpins this tele presence robot, called Anybot. It glides on two wheels around an office or factory to let workers videoconference with the boss, who can control the contraption from a remote keyboard.

To my mind it looks more like a cop from a 80s-era science fiction movie more than anything:

Product: Anybot

Cost: $15,000

Availability: November

Source: www.anybots.com

Company: Anybots

Food for not so easy thought

Everyone thought the biggest threat from China was the sheer volume of Treasuries held by that nation and the potential stranglehold it has over the U.S. economy. Realistically that has never been a real issue because as such a heavy investor in the U.S. economy, China has a vested interest in our financial sector remaining strong.

Now squeezing us on manufacturing vital elements of computing and electronics by taking complete control over rare earth metals is a different angle of attack altogether. You know the U.S. government is taking this very seriously when it has both the energy department and the DoD on the job.

The release:

China’s monopoly on 17 key elements sets stage for supply crisis

China’s monopoly on the global supply of elements critical for production of computer hard disc drives, hybrid-electric cars, military weapons, and other key products — and its increasingly strict limits on exports — is setting the stage for a crisis in the United States. That’s the topic of the cover story of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN Senior Editor Mitch Jacoby and Contributing Editor Jessie Jiang explain that the situation involves a family of chemical elements that may soon start to live up to their name, the “rare earths.” China has virtually cornered the global market on them, and produces most of the world’s supply. Since 2005, China has been raising prices and restricting exports, most recently in 2010, fostering a potential supply crisis in the U.S.

The article describes how the U.S. is now responding to this emerging crisis. To boost supplies, for instance, plans are being developed to resume production at the largest U.S. rare-earth mine — Mountain Pass in southern California — which has been dormant since 2002. The U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Defense are among the government agencies grappling with the problem.

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ARTICLE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE “Securing the Supply of Rare Earths”

This story is available at http://pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/88/8835cover.html

Cool space image — galaxy NGC 4666

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:05 am

Enjoy

This visible light image, made with the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, shows the galaxy NGC 4666 in the center. It is a starburst galaxy, about 80 million light-years from Earth, in which particularly intense star formation is taking place. The starburst is thought to be caused by gravitational interactions with neighboring galaxies, including NGC 4668, visible to the lower left. A combination of supernova explosions and strong winds from massive stars in the starburst region drives a vast outflow of gas from the galaxy into space — a so-called “superwind”. NGC 4666 had previously been observed in X-rays by the ESA XMM-Newton space telescope, and these visible light observations were made to target background objects detected in the earlier X-ray images. This picture, which covers a field of 16 by 12 arcminutes, is a combination of twelve CCD frames, 67 megapixels each, taken through blue, green and red filters. Credit: ESO/J. Dietrich

Hit the link up there for more about NGC 4666, and a (sorta cheesy) video of its location in space. And for even more info, here’s the release.

September 1, 2010

Neal Stephenson’s “The Mongoliad”

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:30 am

Via KurzweilAI.net — This sounds like a very cool venture from one of my long-time favorite science fiction authors.

From the link:

Writer Neal Stephenson unveils his digital novel The Mongoliad

September 1, 2010

Source: VentureBeat, Aug 31, 2010

[+]

Author Neal Stephenson has launched Subutai, which has developed the “PULP platform” for creating digital novels, using a new model for publishing books in which authors can add additional material like background articles, images, music, and video. There are also social features that allow readers to create their own profiles, earn badges for activity on the site or in the application, and interact with other readers..

Their first book  is Stephenson’s The Mongoliad, about the Mongol invasion of Europe.

Stephenson has been credited for inspiring today’s virtual world startups with his novel Snow Crash.

Read original article

The new EPA auto fuel economy label

With hybrids and electric cars becoming more commonplace, the old miles-per-gallon rating just doesn’t cut it for fuel efficiency comparison shopping. So in steps the Environmental Protection Agency with a brand new label. Not sure exactly how clear this is at first glance, but it does offer more than just MPG information.

From the link:

All new cars and light-duty trucks sold in the U.S. are required to have a label that displays fuel economy information that is designed to help consumers make easy and well-informed comparisons between vehicles. Most people recognize the current label (or “window sticker”) by the gas tank graphic and city and highway Miles Per Gallon (MPG) information. EPA has provided fuel economy estimates in City and Highway MPG values for more than 30 years (see how fuel economy has changed).

EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are updating this label to provide consumers with simple, straightforward energy and environmental comparisons across all vehicles types, including electric vehicles (EV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), and conventional gasoline/diesel vehicles. The agencies are incorporating new information, such as ratings on fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions, and other air pollutants, onto the label as required by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007.

The agencies are proposing two different label designs (see right) and are eager to gather public input. Specifically, which design, or design features, would best help you compare the fuel economy, fuel costs, and environmental impacts of different vehicles.  Submit a comment on the proposed labels.

For more information on the proposed fuel economy label redesign, please see the Proposed Rule, the proposed labels, and related documents.

And all that info isn’t enough, here’s the EPA’s release on the new labels.

(Hat tip — Potential Energy blog at Technology Review)

August 31, 2010

RIP — Oxford English Dictionary, print edition

Filed under: Business, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:54 pm

This rest-in-peace notice is a bit premature because the Oxford University Press hasn’t officially announced the demise of the printed OED, but it does heavily prognosticate by the time the third edition is ready for print it’s likely to be an online-only affair. I still sort of regret passing up buying a reduced price second edition of the OED back a few years ago.

From the link:

By the time the lexicographers behind the century-old Oxford English Dictionary finish revising and updating its third edition — a gargantuan task that will take a decade or more — publishers doubt there will be a market for the printed form.

“At present we are experiencing increasing demand for the online product,” a statement from the publisher said. “However, a print version will certainly be considered if there is sufficient demand at the time of publication.”

Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press, told The Sunday Times in an interview he didn’t think the newest edition will be printed. “The print dictionary market is just disappearing. It is falling away by tens of percent a year,” he said.

August 27, 2010

SculptCAD Rapid Artists Project at TEDxSMU

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about the SculptCAD Rapid Artists Project. The initial exhibition of the digitally created artwork occurred back in May at the Rapid 2010 trade show. Now the exhibit moves to Dallas for the TEDxSMU event on September 14, 2010.

From the link:

September 14, 2010 | TEDxSMU Rapid Artists Salon + Exhibit Opening

TEDxSMU is partnering with SculptCAD’s Rapid Artists program for the opening of the first art exhibit of its kind. Fourteen Dallas artists have diverged from their typical mediums to learn to sculpt using digital sculpting programs, and the final renderings of their creations were subsequently produced using ground-breaking 3D printing processes in materials from bronze to plastic.

On September 14, the exhibit will open at One Arts Plaza with an evening event co-produced by TEDxSMU and SculptCAD. Please join us to see the exhibit and hear TEDxTalks from several of the artists involved with the project and visit with the artists one-on-one about the pieces and their inspiration.

Click here for more on the Rapid Artist Project.

Tuesday, September 14
6:00-8:00pm | presentations at 6:30
One Arts Plaza Lobby
1722 Routh Street, Dallas, TX 75201

Tickets: $15 in advance / $20 the week of or at the door (pending availability)

Head below the fold for the official release on this event plus images of artwork from the project. (more…)

US military hacked in 2008

Hacked by a compromised USB thumb drive. Just goes to show you can worry all day about technical threats and software backdoors and plain old network hacking, but all those assets out in the wild — people’s heads with sensitive passwords, unattended laptops, USB drives, et al. — can be hard to lock down and are usually the easiest way into a network.

From the link:

It was a USB drive loaded with malware.

That’s how U.S. defense networks were compromised in 2008, according to U.S Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, who today offered the first official confirmation of a data breach that led to restrictions on the use of removable USB drives in the military.

In an article written for Foreign Affairs magazine, Lynn said the breach occurred when a single USB drive containing malicious code was inserted into a laptop computer at a U.S. base in the Middle East. The malware, placed on the drive by a foreign intelligence agency, was uploaded to a network run by the U.S. Central Command.

The malware then spread — undetected — on both classified and unclassified systems, essentially establishing a “digital beachhead” from which data could be transferred to servers outside the U.S, “It was a network administrator’s worst fear: a rogue program operating silently, poised to deliver operational plans into the hands of an unknown adversary,” Lynn wrote.

Here’s additional coverage of this story.

Update 8/30/10: And even more coverage. Looks like the actual threat was very low-level and involved the W32.SillyFDC worm.

August 26, 2010

The Printed Blog Bloggers Network

Filed under: et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:51 pm

I’m pleased to announce this blog is now part of The Printed Blog Bloggers Network. This means some of my posts will be available in the new weekly print subscription magazine. Hit the link up there to subscribe and actually get to hold some of the best of the blogosphere in your hands.

Be sure to follow The Printed Blog at Twitter here twitter.com/theprintedblog, and like The Printed Blog at Facebook here facebook.com/theprintedblog.

August 25, 2010

Quantum entanglement and free will

A little more closely related than you might think.

From the link:

In practical terms, this means that there can be no shared information between the random number generators that determine the parameters of the experiments to be made, and the particles to be measured.

But the same also holds true for the experimenters themselves. It means there can be no information shared between them and the particles to be measured either. In other words, they must have completely free will.

In fact, if an experimenter lacks even a single bit of free will then quantum mechanics can be explained in terms of hidden variables. Conversely, if we accept the veracity of quantum mechanics, then we are able to place a bound on the nature of free will.

That’s an interesting way of stating the problem of entanglement and suggests a number of promising, related conundrums: what of systems that are partially entangled and others in which more than two particle become entangled.

Free will never looked so fascinating.

August 24, 2010

Tuesday video fun — Roger Federer’s ball control

Filed under: et.al., Sports — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:07 pm

Tennis ball control, that is.

Enjoy …

Readability

Filed under: et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:34 pm

No, no the kind of readability that describes a well-turned phrase, but instead a JavaScript you put in your bookmarks (ideally a bookmark bar for ease of use) that turns a jumbled web page into a simple, clean interface to the main content on that site. You can even ratchet up the font size to make reading easier on the eyes if need be.

I use Readability regularly and heartily recommend this free online tool. Next time you’re faced with a page full of ads, menus, tables and who knows what else, you’ll be happy a clean, easy-to-read page is mere click of a bookmark away. Readability is an arc90 laboratory experiment.

From the link:

Readability™ is a simple tool that makes reading on the Web more enjoyable by removing the clutter around what you’re reading.

August 23, 2010

A tip for seekers of ET life — look for AI

Via KurzweilAI.net — I think is very sound advice. Of course even though I wholeheartedly support the efforts of SETI and other science-based searches for extraterrestrial life, I’m pretty skeptical we are going to come across any ET intelligence, biological or artificial.

Alien hunters ’should look for artificial intelligence’

August 23, 2010

Source: BBC News — Aug 22, 2010

The odds favor detecting alien AI rather than biological life because the time between aliens developing radio technology and artificial intelligence  would be short, says SETI Institute senior astronomer Seth Shostak.

He also says that artificially intelligent alien life would be likely to migrate to places where both matter and energy — the only things he says would be of interest to the machines — would be in plentiful supply. That means the SETI hunt may need to focus its attentions near hot, young stars or even near the centers of galaxies.

Photo of Allen Telescope Array: SETI Institute

Update 8/25/10: Here’s more on this story from PhysOrg.

Beautiful space image — the Earth from the moon

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:48 am

Well, really this one isn’t very beautiful at all aesthetically, but as a human achievement it is utterly amazing. This is the first image of the Earth taken from the moon’s distance by United States Lunar Orbiter I on this day (August 23) in 1966.

File:First View of Earth from Moon.jpg

The world’s first view of Earth taken by a spacecraft from the vicinity of the Moon. The photo was transmitted to Earth by the United States Lunar Orbiter I and received at the NASA tracking station at Robledo De Chavela near Madrid, Spain. This crescent of the Earth was photographed August 23, 1966 at 16:35 GMT when the spacecraft was on its 16th orbit and just about to pass behind the Moon. Reference Numbers: Center: HQ / Center Number: 67-H-218 / GRIN DataBase Number: GPN-2000-001588

August 20, 2010

Friday video fun — “AT-AT DAY AFTERNOON”

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:12 pm

I know this one has made the rounds for a while now, but it’s too cool to pass up forever. Plus I haven’t done a “video fun” post in a while.

(Hat tip for pushing me to posting: Michael Brower)

Don’t piss off a writer

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:58 pm

Especially if they work in television.

Tread lightly honorable blog reader or, er, well, you know.

From the link:

After several seasons of disappointing reviews, writers on the USA network’s mystery series “Psych” decided to get revenge. They crafted an episode involving a psychotic killer doctor. The deranged murderer’s name? Ken Tucker, who in real life is the mild-mannered, 57-year-old TV critic for Entertainment Weekly magazine.

“It was never ‘Dr. Tucker’ or just ‘Ken.’ It was always ‘Did Ken Tucker eviscerate the body?'” says USA original programming chief Jeff Wachtel.

Hell hath no fury like a TV writer scorned.

And:

The practice isn’t all puerile payback. A sharp pen and the threat of an unappealing storyline can help TV writers keep a production—and the egos involved—in check. In popular imagination, Hollywood is a place where luminous actors reign supreme and the brains behind the operation are secondary.

In reality, crossing a TV writer is “suicide,” says actor Ed O’Neill, who played sad-sack dad Al Bundy on “Married with Children” and now plays the patriarch on “Modern Family.” “I’ve heard many stories of someone getting brutally murdered on a show because they insisted on a bigger trailer,” he says.

August 19, 2010

Yoga improves your mood

I have no doubt about this research. This year I’ve become a huge pusher of Wii Fit Plus, and I regularly do about a thirty minute yoga workout on the balance board. I’m as flexible as I’ve ever been, and according to this research my mood is better and I have less anxiety for my efforts. All I know is it’s pretty fun and more than a little bit cool to work out with an on-screen trainer putting you through the paces.

From the second link, the release:

New study finds new connection between yoga and mood

Boston, MA—Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found that yoga may be superior to other forms of exercise in its positive effect on mood and anxiety. The findings, which currently appear on-line at Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, is the first to demonstrate an association between yoga postures, increased GABA levels and decreased anxiety.

The researchers set out to contrast the brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels of yoga subjects with those of participants who spent time walking. Low GABA levels are associated with depression and other widespread anxiety disorders.

The researchers followed two randomized groups of healthy individuals over a 12-week long period. One group practiced yoga three times a week for one hour, while the remaining subjects walked for the same period of time. Using magnetic resonance spectroscopic (MRS) imaging, the participants’ brains were scanned before the study began. At week 12, the researchers compared the GABA levels of both groups before and after their final 60-minute session.

Each subject was also asked to assess his or her psychological state at several points throughout the study, and those who practiced yoga reported a more significant decrease in anxiety and greater improvements in mood than those who walked. “Over time, positive changes in these reports were associated with climbing GABA levels,” said lead author Chris Streeter, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at BUSM.

According to Streeter, this promising research warrants further study of the relationship between yoga and mood, and suggests that the practice of yoga be considered as a potential therapy for certain mental disorders.

###

Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health.

Thoughts on the “internet kill switch” …

from Paul Kocher, CEO of Cryptography Research.

Here’s part of the intro, hit the link for Kocher’s thoughts:

That’s what activists are saying is one potential outcome of the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act. The so-called “Internet Kill Switch” is not actually an outcome of that bill, by the way – some commentators have compared this meme to the “death panels” myth that almost derailed the healthcare bill.

But the fact remains that the president has broad power under the 1934 Telecommunications Act to restrict “wire communications” during a time of war – and that includes the Internet. So even under existing laws, an off switch for the United States’ most important information conduit is, in theory at least, only one over-eager lawmaker in chief away from reality.

Paul Kocher, current CEO of Cryptography Research, is a legend in the field of security – one of the engineers behind SSL 3.0 and an innovator in a host of other areas. Recently I interviewed him on the subject; here’s what he had to say about the so-called “Internet Kill Switch.”

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