David Kirkpatrick

May 31, 2010

Singularity Summit 2010

Via KurzweilAI.net — just the news …

Singularity Summit 2010 returns to San Francisco, explores intelligence augmentation
KurzweilAI.net, May 31, 2010

The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (SIAI) plans to announce its Singularity Summit 2010 conference tomorrow, scheduled for August 14-15 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco.

“This year, the conference shifts to a focus on neuroscience, bioscience, cognitive enhancement, and other explorations of what Vernor Vinge called ‘intelligence amplification‘ (IA) — the other route to the Singularity,” said Michael Vassar, president of SIAI.

Irene Pepperberg, author of “Alex & Me,” who has pushed the frontier of animal intelligence with her research on African Gray Parrots, will explore the ethical and practical implications of non-human intelligence enhancement and of the creation of new intelligent life less powerful than ourselves. Futuristinventor Ray Kurzweil will discuss reverse-engineering the brain and his forthcoming book, How the Mind Works and How to Build One. Allan Synder, Director, Centre for the Mind at the University of Sydney, will explore the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation for the enhancement of narrow cognitive abilities. Joe Tsien will talk about the smarter rats and mice that he created by tuning the molecular substrate of the brain‘s learningmechanism. Steve Mann, “the world’s first cyborg,” will demonstrate his latest geek-chic inventions: wearablecomputers now used by almost 100,000 people.

Other speakers will include magician-skeptic and MacArthur Genius Award winner James Randi; Gregory Stock (Redesigning Humans), Director of the Program on MedicineTechnology, and Society at UCLA’s School of Public Health; Terry Sejnowski, Professor and Laboratory Head, Salk Institute Computational NeurobiologyLaboratory, who believes we are just ten years away from being able to upload ourselves; Ellen Heber-Katz, Professor, Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program at The Wistar Institute, who is investigating the molecular basis of wound regeneration in mutant mice, which can regenerate limbs, hearts, and spinal cords; Anita Goel, MD, physicist, and CEO of nanotechnology company Nanobiosym; and David Hanson, Founder & CEO, HansonRobotics, who is creating the world’s most realistichumanoid robots.

Registration is $385 until June 7.

Full disclosure: KurzweilAI.net is a media partner inSingularity Summit 2010.

Advertisements

Inexcusable

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:13 pm

That’s the only word that applies to the Israeli commando attack in international waters on an aid flotilla heading toward Gaza. I rarely venture into the Israel political and military sphere, mostly because those waters are particularly murky and many others much more capable than me do a great job reporting on and analyzing that area of the world.

I believe in the two-state solution, but I do have two issues with Israeli/US relations. The first is the sheer amount of aid we provide that nation every year with nothing in return but scorn (at least in recent years), and the second is the number — small, but still troubling — of elected US politicians who advocate Israeli policy over US policy when the two conflict. I’m not going to name anyone, but it’s pretty easy to find out with a little searching of the internets.

And back to today’s incident, the nation of Israel needs to take a long look into a mirror and rethink its place in the global community. Facing hostile threats is one thing, conducting commando raids at dawn in international waters is something else altogether.

May 28, 2010

SculptCAD Rapid Artists Project at Rapid 2010

Here’s SculptCAD founder and president, Nancy Hairston, describing the project and the artwork at last week’s Rapid 2010 expo:

And here’s images of the artists’ work at the show’s gallery.

Nanotech and DNA sequencing

Put the two together and you’ve got a solution for a major problem with the genome sequencing technique called nanopore translocation. And yet another application is found for graphene.

From the link:

But how do you measure the electrical properties of a single subunit among many tens or hundreds of thousands?

One of the most promising ideas is to make a tiny hole through a thin sheet of material and measure the amount of current that passes from one side of the sheet to another.

Next, pull a strand of DNA through this hole and measure the current again. Any difference must be caused by the nucleotide base that happens to blocking the hole at that moment.

So measuring the way the current changes as you pull the strand through the hole gives you a direct reading of the sequence of nucleotide bases in the strand.

Simple really. Except for one small problem. Even the thinnest films of semiconducting materials used for this process, such as silicon nitride, are between 10 and 100 times thicker than the distance between two nucleotide bases on a strand of DNA.

So when a strand of DNA passes through the hole, it’s not a single nucleotide base that blocks it but as many as 100. That makes it hard to determine the sequence from any change in the current.

Today, Grégory Schneider and buddies at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience in The Netherlands present a solution to this problem. Instead of a conventional material, this team has used graphene, which is relatively easy to produce in sheets just a single atom thick.

Graphene is like a sheet of chicken wire made of carbon atoms. These guys have drilled holes of various diameters through just such a sheet using an electron beam to smash carbon atoms out of the structure.

The right v. the ACLU

Conor Friedersdorf has a great post at True/Slant on one example of how the right (wrongly) vilifies the ACLU. That’s one thing I’ve always found very, very strange. The ACLU and the Cato Institute walk in virtual lockstep on practically every civil liberties issue. Since civil liberties are the sole focus of the ACLU and Cato is a decidedly right-leaning (actually libertarian) think tank, it seems a bit strange to try and label the ACLU as so anti-right wing. Personally I’m a pretty big fan of both organizations (you can find evidence of that in my blogroll).

From the link:

It’s almost as if the conservative media complex is systematically misleading its audience about the nature of the ACLU, so much so that right-of-center commentators across the Internet spontaneously mocked the organization for failing to intervene on the right side of this case, despite it being precisely the kind of case where the ACLU reliably does exactly what the critics themselves would want.

Perhaps the confusion comes from listening to talk radio hosts and reading blogs that cast all of American politics as a grand struggle between the left and the right, liberals and conservatives, tyranny and liberty. The rank and file, rightly judging that the ACLU operates on the left, automatically concludes that they are the enemy in any case worth caring about.

Awhile back, Jonah Goldberg doubted whether or not there were actually compelling examples of epistemic closure on the right. Well, there you go: an information loop so faulty in explaining the ACLU to its audience that even a blog called Stop the ACLU doesn’t understand what’s going on.

(Hat tip: the Daily Dish)

Seagate’s hybrid hard drive

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:16 am

Combines a standard spinning platter drive (HDD) in 250, 320 or 500 gigabyte versions with four gigs of single-level cell (read: robust) Flash memory. Right now these are just about doubling the cost of standard drives with similar capacity.

The result is a combined drive that approaches the performance of solid state drives, but at a fraction of the price. According to Seagate’s own tests, the Momentus XT is 80% faster than a traditional notebook hard drive, and 20% faster than an ultra high-performance 10,000 RPM HDD.

The speed boost is due almost entirely to the drive’s Adaptive Memory algorithm, which learns which applications and files a user accesses most, and dumps those in the 4 GB of flash memory. Flash has 150 times the access speed of a traditional hard drive, but only 2 times the read/write bandwidth.

The technique of balancing a cache of expensive flash memory, which is great at randomly accessing many small files, with a large hard drive, which is many times cheaper per gigabyte and is good at reading and writing large files, mirrors a similar approach currently being explored in the data center.

Seagate’s hybrid drive. Credit: Seagate.

Here are Amazon links to the 250 GB version, the 320 GB version and the 500 GB version of the Seagate Momentus XT.

Open source robotics

A great idea and ought to really help out robotics hobbyists.

From the link:

Robotics company Willow Garage has started a two-year project to work with institutions from around the world on new applications for its robot: the PR2. Each of 11 teams will work on their own projects, but will share their code with each other and the rest of the world. Everything created will be open-source, meaning others can use the code for their own endeavors. (The PR2 runs on a software platform called Robot Open Source, also developed by Willow Garage.)

May 27, 2010

Nanotech and optics

Very cool findings about light-activated nanoshells.

The release:

Optical Legos: Building nanoshell structures

Self-assembly method yields materials with unique optical properties

IMAGE: Heptamers containing seven nanoshells have unique optical properties.

Click here for more information.

HOUSTON — (May 27, 2010) — Scientists from four U.S. universities have created a way to use Rice University’s light-activated nanoshells as building blocks for 2-D and 3-D structures that could find use in chemical sensors, nanolasers and bizarre light-absorbing metamaterials. Much as a child might use Lego blocks to build 3-D models of complex buildings or vehicles, the scientists are using the new chemical self-assembly method to build complex structures that can trap, store and bend light.

The research appears in this week’s issue of the journal Science.

“We used the method to make a seven-nanoshell structure that creates a particular type of interference pattern called a Fano resonance,” said study co-author Peter Nordlander, professor of physics and astronomy at Rice. “These resonances arise from peculiar light wave interference effects, and they occur only in man-made materials. Because these heptamers are self-assembled, they are relatively easy to make, so this could have significant commercial implications.”

Because of the unique nature of Fano resonances, the new materials can trap light, store energy and bend light in bizarre ways that no natural material can. Nordlander said the new materials are ideally suited for making ultrasensitive biological and chemical sensors. He said they may also be useful in nanolasers and potentially in integrated photonic circuits that run off of light rather than electricity.

The research team was led by Harvard University applied physicist Federico Capasso and also included nanoshell inventor Naomi Halas, Rice’s Stanley C. Moore Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering and professor of physics, chemistry and biomedical engineering.

Nordlander, the world’s leading theorist on nanoparticle plasmonics, had predicted in 2008 that a heptamer of nanoshells would produce Fano resonances. That paper spurred Capasso’s efforts to fabricate the structure, Nordlander said.

The new self-assembly method developed by Capasso’s team was also used to make magnetic three-nanoshell “trimers.” The optical properties of these are described in the Science paper, which also discusses how the self-assembly method could be used to build even more complex 3-D structures.

Nanoshells, the building blocks that were used in the new study, are about 20 times smaller than red blood cells. In form, they resemble malted milk balls, but they are coated with gold instead of chocolate, and their center is a sphere of glass. By varying the size of the glass center and the thickness of the gold shell, Halas can create nanoshells that interact with specific wavelengths of light.

“Nanoshells were already among the most versatile of all plasmonic nanoparticles, and this new self-assembly method for complex 2-D and 3-D structures simply adds to that,” said Halas, who has helped develop a number of biological applications for nanoshells, including diagnostic applications and a minimally invasive procedure for treating cancer.

###

Additional co-authors of the new study include Rice graduate students Kui Bao and Rizia Bardhan; Jonathan Fan and Vinothan Manoharan, both of Harvard; Chihhui Wu and Gennady Shvets, both of the University of Texas at Austin; and Jiming Bao of the University of Houston. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Department of Defense, the Robert A. Welch Foundation, the Department of Energy and Harvard University.

PhysOrg covers this story here.

More nanotech medical treatment

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:23 pm

Both via KurzweilAI.net, and both as a follow-up to my previous post on killing tumors with gold nanoparticles.

First up is using carbon nanotubes as a radiotherapy delivery system:

Nanocapsule delivers radiotherapy
PhysOrg.com, May 26, 2010

Oxford University chemists have encapsulated radionuclides within carbon nanotubes and set new records for highly concentrated in vivo radiodosage, while demonstrating zero leakage of isotopes to high-affinity organs, such as the thyroid.


Artist’s rendition of nanocapsules (Gerard Tobias)
Read Original Article>>

And second is using nanoporous particles as a molecular therapy deliver system to tumors:

Nanoporous Particles Deliver Novel Molecular Therapies to Tumors
PhysOrg.com, May 26, 2010

Using nanoporous silicon particles, two teams of investigators have created drug delivery vehicles capable of ferrying labile molecular therapies deep into the body, creating new opportunities for developing innovative anticancer therapies.
Read Original Article>>

Killing tumors with gold nanoparticles

Via KurzweilAI.net — The latest in fighting cancer with nanotechnology.

Self-Assembling Gold Nanoparticles Use Light to Kill Tumor Cells
PhysOrg.com, May 26, 2010

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have developed a method for creating supramolecular assemblies of gold nanoparticles that function as highly efficient photothermal agents for delivery to tumors, using a laser beam to heat the nanoparticles above 374 degreesC, the temperature at which explosive microbubbles form.
Read Original Article>>

Fallout from the financial meltdown and bailout

Lehman Brothers Holdings is suing JP Morgan Chase.

From the link:

Lehman claims JP Morgan “siphoned off” billions of dollars of assets in the days leading up to its bankruptcy.

JP Morgan was Lehman’s main short-term lender before its September 2008 collapse. It is accused of contributing to the failure by demanding $8.6bn of collateral as credit markets tightened.

JP Morgan has called the lawsuit “ill-conceived”.

Apple’s market cap passes Microsoft

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:01 pm

Interesting. Probably not all that meaningful, but interesting.

From the link:

On Wednesday, Apple’s market capitalization edged past its longtime rival’s as investors made official what consumers have long suggested: Microsoft is no longer the industry’s alpha dog.

Just last month, Microsoft’s market cap exceeded Apple’s by about $25 billion, but now Apple is in the lead by nearly $3 billion.

Sestak-Gate

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:25 pm

This is some real inside baseball, but the issue is beginning to really percolate amongst some of the more fact-challenged areas on the right. The “issue” is did the White House offer Joe Sestak a White House position in exchange for quitting the Pennsylvania US Senate Democratic primary against Arlen Specter (a primary Sestak ended up winning), and if the Obama administration did so was that act illegal.

Jon Chait has been doing a bang-up job covering this “scandal” here, here and here (and I probably missed some older posts, that’s just the last three days.)

From the last link, here’s Chait’s very concise summation on why this is a complete non-starter and is being trumped up by those who are either very fact-challenged, or maybe just simply disingenuous:

I’ll keep saying this: A job offer is not a quid pro quo to get somebody out of a race. It is getting somebody out of a race. Accepting one job means you cannot run for another. It happens all the time — the White House appointed John McHugh Army Secretary in part to get him out of New York’s 23rd Congressional District. It offered Judd Gregg a cabinet slot in order to get him out of the Senate. This is completely routine, neither illegal no immoral nor especially unusual. Can’t we wait to appoint a special prosecutor until there’s at least some possibility of underlying illegal behavior?

The constant hammering on demonstrably false or outright wrong “facts” from quite an embarrassing many on the right is what has really turned me off of the GOP and right wing commentary over the last year or so. We need honest political debate in this country right now, not attacks built on misinformation or lies designed purely to score political points with a dwindling base. I thought the Republican Party was on something of an upswing this year, but clearly it’s still just thrashing about in death throes. Any success this November might be the worst possible thing for the long-term viability of the GOP brand and influence.

Renewable power and the US electric grid

Seems like a bit more compatible than once thought. At least for the western power grid.

From the link:

More than a third of the electricity in the western United States could come from wind and solar power without installing significant amounts of backup power. And most of this expansion of renewable energy could be done without installing new interstate transmission lines, according to a new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, CO. But the study says increasing the amount of renewables on the grid will require smart planning and cooperation between utilities.

The NREL findings provide a strong counterargument to the idea that the existing power grid is insufficient to handle increasing amounts of renewable power. As California and other states require utilities to use renewable sources for significant fractions of their electricity, some experts have warned that measures to account for the variability of wind and solar power could be costly. At the extreme, they speculated, every megawatt of wind installed could require a megawatt of readily available conventional power in case the wind stopped blowing. But the NREL findings, like other recent studies, suggest that the costs could be minimal, especially in the West.

“The studies are showing the costs are a lot lower than what people thought they were going to be,” says Daniel Brooks, project manager for power delivery and utilization at the Electric Power Research Institute. Even if wind farms had to pay for the necessary grid upgrades and backup power themselves, they could still sell electricity at competitive rates, he says.

Deepwater Horizon clearinghouse

If you’re looking for information on what is an absolute Gulf of Mexico ecological disaster from BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore oil well, hit this link for very thorough coverage from a news source with something of a dog in this fight — the Houston Chronicle.

Romanesque monuments …

… in virtual 3D. Very cool use of 3D modeling and visualization.

The release:

Virtual Romanesque monuments being created

IMAGE: Taking laser scanner data with the Church of Valberzoso (Palencia, Spain).

Click here for more information.

“With this methodology an exact model of the monuments or places of interest can be obtained in a virtual way”, Pedro Martín-Lerones, co-author of the study and researcher at the Cartif Foundation in the Technological Park of Boecillo (Valladolid), explains to SINC.

The project, which has been published in the Journal of Cultural Heritage, makes it possible to create three-dimensional plans with colour images of historical and artistic places of interest. The data is recorded by laser scanners that take the maximum number of geometric measurements from a minimum number of positions.

“This ensures that accuracy is maintained, whilst also reducing the time spent on field work, because generally more shots are usually taken than are needed”, comments the researcher, who also explains that a three-dimensional model of the monument is produced “with millimetric accuracy, in comparison to the centimetric nature of conventional 2D templates”.

IMAGE: 3-D model photo of the Valberzoso Church (Palencia, Spain).

Click here for more information.

The data provided by the laser scanner is complimented by images captured by photographic cameras. This information is processed using two specific software programs developed by the researchers themselves: one which superimposes the information in colour of the photographs onto the three-dimensional model, and another that generates the final plans in 3D in a timeframe that is 40% quicker than the traditional method.

Martín-Lerones highlights the many ways this study can be applied: “It makes it easier to draw up intervention projects, as well as preservation and renovation projects on churches or other buildings, in addition to its potential uses for popularizing –on the internet, for example- the monuments in 3D”.

Information that is thousands of times better

The team has tested the methodology in five churches in the old Merindad de Aguilar de Campoo, located between the provinces of Palencia, Burgos and Cantabria. Of all those digitalized, the Palencian church of Valberzoso turned out to be one of the most representative, thanks to its artistic value, state of preservation and accessibility.

“There, it can be observed that by using three-dimensional measurement of a place of cultural interest the result is that the quantity of information captured is thousands of times better than what is obtained from conventional methods, whilst the time spent on field work is reduced by around 75%”, Martín-Lerones points out.

In the Merindad de Aguilar de Campoo the highest number of Romanesque artistic monuments in the world can be found. Since 2005, it has been declared a Heritage Site by UNESCO and it is presenting an application for European Heritage again this year.

###

References:

Pedro Martín Lerones, José Llamas Fernández, Álvaro Melero Gil, Jaime Gómez-García-Bermejo, Eduardo Zalama Casanova.
“A practical approach to making accurate 3D layouts of interesting cultural heritage sites through digital models”.
Journal of Cultural Heritage 11 (1): 100, 2010.
Doi: 10.1016/j.culher.2009.02.007.

May 26, 2010

Graphene as quantum dots

Nanoelectronics is a major — and important — field right now, and graphene and its cousin graphane are very important materials research components. Both of the nanomaterials are getting a lot of  hype, particularly graphene, but there’s far too much smoke for there not to be at least a little fire. It’s exciting to keep watch on the news to see the breakthroughs as they happen, and eventually cover real-world, market-ready uses for graphene and graphane.

The release:

Graphane yields new potential

Rice physicists dig theoretical wells to mine quantum dots

Graphane is the material of choice for physicists on the cutting edge of materials science, and Rice University researchers are right there with the pack – and perhaps a little ahead.

Researchers mentored by Boris Yakobson, a Rice professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of chemistry, have discovered the strategic extraction of hydrogen atoms from a two-dimensional sheet of graphane naturally opens up spaces of pure graphene that look – and act – like quantum dots.

That opens up a new world of possibilities for an ever-shrinking class of nanoelectronics that depend on the highly controllable semiconducting properties of quantum dots, particularly in the realm of advanced optics.

The theoretical work by Abhishek Singh and Evgeni Penev, both postdoctoral researchers in co-author Yakobson’s group, was published online last week in the journal ACS Nano and will be on the cover of the print version in June. Rice was recently named the world’s No. 1 institution for materials science research by a United Kingdom publication.

Graphene has become the Flat Stanley of materials. The one-atom-thick, honeycomb-like form of carbon may be two-dimensional, but it seems to be everywhere, touted as a solution to stepping beyond the limits of Moore’s Law.

Graphane is simply graphene modified by hydrogen atoms added to both sides of the matrix, which makes it an insulator. While it’s still technically only a single atom thick, graphane offers great possibilities for the manipulation of the material’s semiconducting properties.

Quantum dots are crystalline molecules from a few to many atoms in size that interact with light and magnetic fields in unique ways. The size of a dot determines its band gap – the amount of energy needed to close the circuit – and makes it tunable to a precise degree. The frequencies of light and energy released by activated dots make them particularly useful for chemical sensors, solar cells, medical imaging and nanoscale circuitry.

Singh and Penev calculated that removing islands of hydrogen from both sides of a graphane matrix leaves a well with all the properties of quantum dots, which may also be useful in creating arrays of dots for many applications.

“We arrived at these ideas from an entirely different study of energy storage in a form of hydrogen adsorption on graphene,” Yakobson said. “Abhishek and Evgeni realized that this phase transformation (from graphene to graphane), accompanied by the change from metal to insulator, offers a novel palette for nanoengineering.”

Their work revealed several interesting characteristics. They found that when chunks of the hydrogen sublattice are removed, the area left behind is always hexagonal, with a sharp interface between the graphene and graphane. This is important, they said, because it means each dot is highly contained; calculations show very little leakage of charge into the graphane host material. (How, precisely, to remove hydrogen atoms from the lattice remains a question for materials scientists, who are working on it, they said.)

“You have an atom-like spectra embedded within a media, and then you can play with the band gap by changing the size of the dot,” Singh said. “You can essentially tune the optical properties.”

Along with optical applications, the dots may be useful in single-molecule sensing and could lead to very tiny transistors or semiconductor lasers, he said.

Challenges remain in figuring out how to make arrays of quantum dots in a sheet of graphane, but neither Singh nor Penev sees the obstacles as insurmountable.

“We think the major conclusions in the paper are enough to excite experimentalists,” said Singh, who will soon leave Rice to become an assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. “Some are already working in the directions we explored.”

“Their work is actually supporting what we’re suggesting, that you can do this patterning in a controlled way,” Penev said.

When might their calculations bear commercial fruit? “That’s a tough question,” Singh said. “It won’t be that far, probably — but there are challenges. I don’t know that we can give it a time frame, but it could happen soon.”

###

Funding from the Office of Naval Research supported the work. Computations were performed at the Department of Defense Supercomputing Resource Center at the Air Force Research Laboratory.

May 25, 2010

This does not help …

… everyone out there still dealing with a rough economic situation.

From the link:

Led by increases in prices for meat and dairy products, the overall cost of items in the FOX Business shopping cart rose sharply in April — the sixth time food basket prices have increased in the last seven months.

The April increase — 56 cents, or 0.8% — was the largest month-month jump since August 2008.

A seven atom transistor

Via KurzweilAI.net — We are heading toward the terminus of physical computing components. Can’t get a whole lot smaller than seven atoms.

Quantum leap: World’s smallest transistor built with just 7 atoms
PhysOrg.com, May 24, 2010

The world’s smallest precision-built transistor — aquantum dot of just seven phosphorus atoms in a single silicon crystal — has been created by scientists from the UNSW Centre for Quantum Computer Technology and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

At present, the length of a commercial transistor gate is about 40 nanometers (billionths of a metet). The new device has features about 10 times smaller at 4 nanometers.


Template of the quantum dot device showing a central hole where seven phosphorus atoms are incorporated
Read Original Article>>

Even more on social media and privacy

And this one isn’t just limited to Facebook.

Social networking sites may be sharing a lot more of your identifying data with their advertisers than you realize.

From the link:

A report in the Wall Street Journal indicates that a number of social networking sites (including Facebook, MySpace, and Digg) may be sharing users’ personal information with advertisers. Since the Journal started looking into this possible breach of privacy, both Facebook and MySpace have moved to make changes.

The practice is actually a somewhat defensible one–and most of the companies involved did try to defend it–in which the advertisers receive information on the last page viewed before the user clicked on their ad. This is common practice all over the web, and, in most cases, is no issue–advertisers receive information on the last page viewed, which cannot be traced back to the user. In the case of social networking sites, the information on the last page viewed often reveals user names or profile ID numbers that could potentially be used to look up the individuals.

Depending on what those individuals have made public, advertisers can then see anything from hometowns to real names.

The Journal interviewed some of the advertisers who received the data (including Google’s (GOOG) DoubleClick and Yahoo’s (YHOO) Right Media), who said they were unaware of the data and had not used it.

For some reason I find that last claim from DoubleClick and Right Media a bit hard to believe.

Third party Facebook privacy fix

Filed under: et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:57 pm

If you use Facebook, running this tool is a pretty good idea. It’ll at least let you find out exactly what parts of your profile are exposed where and to whom. With the steady diet of privacy setting changes that require opting-out instead of opting-in, you might be surprised where your Facebook information stands in the public/private online sphere.

From the link:

About a week ago, as frustration with Facebook and its privacy settings reached its pinnacle, Matt Pizzimenti, a software engineer and cofounder of Olark.com, launched ReclaimPrivacy.org, a site that scans your Facebook settings and warns you of what information you’re exposing to the public.

“I felt that [Facebook’s] navigation was too complicated to explain to my less-technical friends and family, so I built this tool to help them quickly see their privacy settings and change them,” Pizzimenti says.

May 24, 2010

Phoenix Mars Lander, RIP

Like this release hot from the inbox explains, the Phoenix Mars Lander exceeded its planned useful life by a gigantic margin.

The release:

Phoenix Mars Lander Does Not Phone Home, New Image Shows Damage

PASADENA, Calif., May 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has ended operations after repeated attempts to contact the spacecraft were unsuccessful. A new image transmitted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows signs of severe ice damage to the lander’s solar panels.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)

“The Phoenix spacecraft succeeded in its investigations and exceeded its planned lifetime,” said Fuk Li, manager of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Although its work is finished, analysis of information from Phoenix’s science activities will continue for some time to come.”

Last week, NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter flew over the Phoenix landing site 61 times during a final attempt to communicate with the lander. No transmission from the lander was detected. Phoenix also did not communicate during 150 flights in three earlier listening campaigns this year.

Earth-based research continues on discoveries Phoenix made during summer conditions at the far-northern site where it landed May 25, 2008. The solar-powered lander completed its three-month mission and kept working until sunlight waned two months later.

Phoenix was not designed to survive the dark, cold, icy winter. However, the slim possibility Phoenix survived could not be eliminated without listening for the lander after abundant sunshine returned.

The MRO image of Phoenix taken this month by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, camera on board the spacecraft suggests the lander no longer casts shadows the way it did during its working lifetime.

“Before and after images are dramatically different,” said Michael Mellon of the University of Colorado in Boulder, a science team member for both Phoenix and HiRISE. “The lander looks smaller, and only a portion of the difference can be explained by accumulation of dust on the lander, which makes its surfaces less distinguishable from surrounding ground.”

Apparent changes in the shadows cast by the lander are consistent with predictions of how Phoenix could be damaged by harsh winter conditions. It was anticipated that the weight of a carbon-dioxide ice buildup could bend or break the lander’s solar panels. Mellon calculated hundreds of pounds of ice probably coated the lander in mid-winter.

During its mission, Phoenix confirmed and examined patches of the widespread deposits of underground water ice detected by Odyssey and identified a mineral called calcium carbonate that suggested occasional presence of thawed water. The lander also found soil chemistry with significant implications for life and observed falling snow. The mission’s biggest surprise was the discovery of perchlorate, an oxidizing chemical on Earth that is food for some microbes and poisonous to other forms of life.

“We found that the soil above the ice can act like a sponge, with perchlorate scavenging water from the atmosphere and holding on to it,” said Peter Smith, Phoenix principal investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “You can have a thin film layer of water capable of being a habitable environment. A micro-world at the scale of grains of soil — that’s where the action is.”

The perchlorate results are shaping subsequent astrobiology research, as scientists investigate the implications of its antifreeze properties and potential use as an energy source by microbes. Discovery of the ice in the uppermost soil by Odyssey pointed the way for Phoenix. More recently, the MRO detected numerous ice deposits in middle latitudes at greater depth using radar and exposed on the surface by fresh impact craters.

“Ice-rich environments are an even bigger part of the planet than we thought,” Smith said. “Somewhere in that vast region there are going to be places that are more habitable than others.”

NASA’s MRO reached the planet in 2006 to begin a two-year primary science mission. Its data show Mars had diverse wet environments at many locations for differing durations during the planet’s history, and climate-change cycles persist into the present era. The mission has returned more planetary data than all other Mars missions combined.

Odyssey has been orbiting Mars since 2001. The mission also has played important roles by supporting the twin Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. The Phoenix mission was led by Smith at the University of Arizona, with project management at JPL and development partnership at Lockheed Martin in Denver. The University of Arizona operates the HiRISE camera, which was built by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., in Boulder. Mars missions are managed by JPL for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

For Phoenix information and images, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/phoenix

Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO
PRN Photo Desk photodesk@prnewswire.com
Source: NASA

Web Site:  http://www.nasa.gov/

May 21, 2010

Synthetic biology and ethics

Any regular readers of this blog know where I stand on this issue. (Hint: I’m a pretty big fan of synthetic biology.)

From the first link, the release:

Press Release: Moral Issues Raised by Synthetic Biology Subject of Hastings Center Project

Project completes third workshop as news of first synthetic bacterial genome announced

(Garrison NY) A Hastings Center workshop examining moral issues in synthetic biology completed its third meeting as the J. Craig Venter Group announced that it had created the first viable cell with a synthetic genome. “Synthetic biology certainly raises deep philosophical and moral questions about the human relationship to nature,” according to Gregory Kaebnick, a Hastings Center scholar who is managing the project. “It’s not clear what the answers to those questions are.  If  by ‘nature’ we mean the world around us, more or less as we found it, we may well decide that synthetic biology does not really change the human relationship to nature—and may even help us preserve what is left of it.”

Nor is it clear that the questions raised by synthetic biology are new ones. According to Thomas H. Murray, president of The Hastings Center and the project’s principal investigator, “We have come up against similar problems in other domains—most notably, in work on nanotechnology and gene transfer technology—but synthetic biology poses them especially sharply and pressingly.”

The Hastings Center has been at the forefront of interdisciplinary research into ethical issues in emerging technology. The synthetic biology project is funded by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation . Project participants include synthetic biologists, bioethicists, philosophers, and public policy experts. The Center’s work is part of a comprehensive look at synthetic biology by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Other participants in the initiative are the J. Craig Venter Institute and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Here’s the release on the Venter Institute’s bacterial cell controlled by a synthetic genome. Head below the fold for the full text. (more…)

Quantum information sent over 16 kilometers

A major distance breakthrough in “teleporting” quantum entanglement.

From the link:

Scientists in China have succeeded in teleporting information between photons further than ever before. They transported quantum information over a free space distance of 16 km (10 miles), much further than the few hundred meters previously achieved, which brings us closer to transmitting information over long distances without the need for a traditional signal.

Quantum teleportation is not the same as the teleportation most of us know from science fiction, where an object (or person) in one place is “beamed up” to another place where a perfect copy is replicated. In quantum teleportation two photons or ions (for example) are entangled in such a way that when the  of one is changed the state of the other also changes, as if the two were still connected. This enables  to be teleported if one of the photons/ions is sent some distance away.

Tesla Motors gets big boost from Toyota

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:26 am

Try a $50 million investment on for size.

From the link:

The heads of Tesla Motors Inc. and Toyota Motors Corp. surprised the auto world Thursday by announcing a partnership to develop and build electric cars at a recently shuttered auto plant in the San Francisco Bay area.

Akio Toyoda, CEO of the world’s largest automaker, said Toyota will invest $50 million in Tesla when the company begins selling stock to the public, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk said his company will purchase the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. factory, known as Nummi, in Fremont where the Model S electric sedan will be built.

”We’re going to create electric cars together,” Musk told a news conference at Tesla’s office in Palo Alto. ”It’s a great honor to work with a company like Toyota, one of the automobile leaders of the world and one I’ve personally long admired.”

May 20, 2010

The latest supercomputer concept — atomtronic computers

This is a really wild idea, and truly once we are able to manipulate individual atoms in this way supercomputing will only be one of the amazing things that’ll be happening.

From the link:

“The emerging field of atomtronics aims to construct analogies of electronic components, systems and devices using ultracold atoms,” say Ron Pepino and pals at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder Colorado.

Today, they outline their vision for atomtronics, show how it works and explain why it could shape the future of information processing.

The idea is to manipulate neutral atoms using lasers in a way that mimics the behaviour of electrons in wires, transistors and logic gates. Over the last decade or two, physicists at NIST and elsewhere have become masters at creating optical lattices in which atoms can be pushed pulled and prodded at will.

But this kind of optical lion taming has limited appeal so Pepino and co have begun a program to put tame atoms to work.

The problem is that atoms don’t behave like electrons so building the atomtronic equivalent of something even as straightforward as a simple circuit consisting of a battery and resistor in series, requires some thinking out of the box.

Pepino and co say that transferring atoms from one reservoir to another is a decent enough analogy and that this transfer can take place thorugh an optical lattice in which atoms tunnel at a uniform rate. That’s their simple circuit analogy.

Ray Kurzweil at H+ Summit

Via KurzweilAI.net — Sounds like an interesting talk.

Kurzweil to discuss the brain at H+ Summit
KurzweilAI.net, May 20, 2010

Ray Kurzweil will keynote the H+ Summit, to be held June 12-13 at Harvard University, with a talk on “The Democratization of Disruptive Change.”

The talk will focus on understanding the brain: Where are we on the roadmap to this goal? What are the effective routes to progress — detailed modeling, theoretical effort, improvement of imaging and computational technologies? What predictions can we make? What are the consequences of materialization of such predictions – – social, ethical?

“According to my models, we are only two decades from fully modeling and simulating the human brain,” said Kurzweil. “By the time we finish this reverse-engineering project, we will have computers that are thousands of times more powerful than the human brain. These computers will be further amplified by being networked into a vast worldwide cloud of computing. The algorithms of intelligence will begin to self-iterate towards ever smarter algorithms.

“This is how we will address the grand challenges of humanity, such as maintaining a healthy environment, providing for the resources for a growing population including energy, food, and water, overcoming disease, vastly extending human longevity, and overcomingpoverty. It is only by extending our intelligence with our intelligent technology that we can handle the scale of complexity to address these challenges.”

Kurzweil will also discuss his upcoming book, How the MindWorks and How to Build One, and examine some of the most common criticisms of the exponential growth of information technology.

The H+ Summit is a two day event that explores how humanity will be radically changed by technology in the near futureVisionary speakers will explore the potential of technology to modify your body, mindlife, and world.

SculptCAD Rapid Artist — Shane Pennington

This post is the sixth in an ongoing series highlighting the artists behind the SculptCAD Rapid Artists Project. (Hit this link for all posts related to the project.)

Shane is a contemporary artist in Dallas, Texas.  He has exhibited his work internationally in Sydney, Australia at the Paddington Contemporary Gallery and domestically at Gallery Works in Aspen, Colorado, HCG Gallery in Dallas, and his own SP Studio in Dallas, Texas.

How did you get involved with the RAPID Artists project?

I met Nancy Hairston at one of my art exhibits.  She liked my work and asked me to participate in the SculptCAD RAPID Artists Project.

Is this your first experience with 3D/digital sculpting technology and tools?

Yes.

How have these technologies changed the way you approach your process?

The technology has expanded my creative process because it has given me immediate access to materials and design in a virtual world.   Such an expansive library of options has expanded my thought process as well.  Many of the functions in the software allow you to create structures and shapes that would not be easy to create on a standard project.

Are these digital tools having an effect on the work you are creating? Are the tools aiding/adding to/hindering the process?

I have had a positive experience using the digital tools.  I did not know what to expect but as I became more familiar with the software, I was also becoming more cognizant of what tools and options I had at my fingertips.  The possibilities seem limitless.

What are your thoughts on the SculptCAD Rapid Artists Project?

I think it was an amazing project and experience.  I plan on using this technology more in my work now and in the future.

Looking beyond the project, what do you have coming up in the near future art-wise? Do you have any shows or projects planned?

I have site specific installations scheduled in Toronto, Montana, and Sydney.  I also have two upcoming shows in June and July in Dallas.

How can people interested in your work get in touch with you?

Website: www.shanepennington.com

email: bluesky00@airmail.net

phone: 214 564 6980

Do you have any final thoughts on the Rapid Artists Project?

Way to go!! Thanks to all that were involved and made this possible.  Special thanks to the Milwaukee School of Engineering and the University of Louisville and Forecast 3D for the printing of the SLA resin sculpture pieces. And a big thank you to Nancy Hairston and Kevin Atkins at SculptCAD for all their support within the project! … it has opened up an entire new creative realm and medium for turning ideas into art.

Here’s the digital model of Shane’s SculptCAD Rapid Artist piece:

"Darwin's Theory" by Shane Pennington, digital model

Specifications on “Darwin’s Theory” and a statement on the piece from Shane:

Darwin’s Theory,  H 40 in x W 36 in x L 30 in, 2010, Artist: Shane Pennington
I am creating a tree and roots out of SLA White Resin to comment about the environment and the scarcity of natural rescues.  The top of the piece will be stylized cartoonish in nature and the roots will be a combination of real tree roots and synthetic roots.  Trees are the metaphor of this idea in this piece and the possibility of our need to synthetically recreate them in the future.

Head below the fold for more of Shane’s work. (more…)

May 19, 2010

OK Go and Earl Greyhound

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:18 pm

Caught OK Go and Earl Greyhound last night at the Granada Theater in Dallas (sorry, but I completely missed the opening third act) and the show was great. OK Go had some recent issues with their previous label — EMI — and the current state of the recording industry, and are (at least for) now one of those DIY bands out there working without major label support and have formed their own label, Paracadute Recordings. And, at least for now the move has done nothing to lower the quality, bells or whistles of the tour. Bells — literally. They performed one song solely on handbells. Made generous use of a confetti cannon as well, plus played a great set.

Here’s a video shot at the show:

The very pleasant surprise from the show was discovering Earl Greyhound, a three-piece that puts the “power” in power trio. Imagine combining psychedelic/acid rock a la Pink Floyd before Syd Barrett was institutionalized and grunge reminiscent of Soundgarden. Great stage presence and impressively heavy.

Here’s a video for Earl Greyhound’s “S.O.S.”:

Be sure to check these guys out.

Head below the fold to see OK Go playing “What to do” on handbells. (more…)

May 14, 2010

Good news everyone, unemployment is rising

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:40 pm

Here’s the story behind that counterintuitive header:

It sounds dreadful. After drifting down consistently since last fall, the unemployment rate has suddenly shot up again, from 9.7 percent in March to 9.9 percent in April. But don’t despair: A rising unemployment rate is actually one of the best signs yet that the economy is bouncing back.

The unemployment rate rose for the right reason. Instead of shedding jobs, employers added 290,000 jobs in April, the strongest showing since 2007. The reason the unemployment rate went up is that a lot more people are suddenly looking for work. The government said that the labor force swelled by 805,000 people in April. That’s more than three times the number of new jobs, so the proportion of people looking for a job but unable to find one went up. Still, that big increase in the labor force marks an important shift in sentiment among people on the fringes of the economy.

Older Posts »