David Kirkpatrick

May 6, 2011

Graphene paper

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:51 am

Pretty cool.

From the link:

A scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image of graphene oxide papers and an analytical model showing the layered structures of graphene sheets, the intralayer and interlayer crosslinks, and an atomic representation of the bridging structure (credit: Yilun Liu et al.)

Scientists at Tsinghua University in Beijing have calculated from first principles what a sheet of graphene might be like.

It’s currently only possible to make graphene in tiny scraps. So they suggest ways to stack these sheets and bond them together to make something larger.

Their model predicts the links between graphene layers will increase the distance between them, thereby reducing the density to about half that of graphite. So graphene paper is not only going to be strong but also very light.

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November 26, 2010

Barcoding mouse embryos …

… and people are next.

Sounds pretty creepy, but it seems there’s some actual utility in the process to aid in vitro fertilization right now.

From the link:

Scientists from Spain’s Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), along with colleagues from the Spanish National Research Council, have successfully developed an identification system in which mouse embryos and oocytes (egg cells) are physically tagged with microscopic silicon bar code labels. They expect to try it out on human embryos and oocytes soon.

The purpose of the system is to streamline in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer procedures. If egg cells and embryos can be quickly and easily identified, then things should run much smoother, and success rates should be higher.

The research, published online in Human Reproduction, represents a first step towards designing a direct labeling system of oocytes and embryos. The objective was to develop a system that minimizes risks when identifying female gametes and embryos during in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer procedures, to reduce the phases of the clinical process requiring control and supervision by two embryologists.

 

November 18, 2010

Rare earth mineral news

I’ve blogged about this more than once, but if you need the ultra-quick version — China supplies pretty much the entire world with rare earth minerals, elements that are used to manufacture vital electronics and computing parts, because it’s been doing so very, very cheaply for a long time. Recently the nation has used its rare earth monopoly as an economic bludgeon, most notably against Japan and the United States.

We know the U.S. and Australia, among other countries, have rare earth element resources. Now that we know just how rare earth rich the U.S. is, it’s time to seriously ramp up domestic production and get off the cheap Chinese teat.

From the fourth (and last) link:

Approximately 13 million metric tons of rare earth elements (REE) exist within known deposits in the United States, according to the first-ever nationwide estimate of these elements by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The report describes significant deposits of REE in 14 states, with the largest known REE deposits at Mountain Pass, Calif.; Bokan Mountain, Alaska; and the Bear Lodge Mountains, Wyo. The Mountain Pass mine produced REE until it closed in 2002. Additional states with known REE deposits include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

“This is the first detailed assessment of rare earth elements for the entire nation, describing deposits throughout the United States,” commented USGS Director Marcia McNutt, Ph.D. “It will be very important, both to policy-makers and industry, and it reinforces the value of our efforts to maintain accurate, independent information on our nation’s natural resources. Although many of these deposits have yet to be proven, at recent domestic consumption rates of about 10,000 metric tons annually, the US deposits have the potential to meet our needs for years to come.”

REE are a group of 16 metallic elements with similar properties and structures that are essential in the manufacture of a diverse and expanding array of high-technology applications. Despite their name, they are relatively common within the earth’s crust, but because of their geochemical properties, they are not often found in economically exploitable concentrations.

November 3, 2010

A 3D printed car?

Filed under: Business, et.al., Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:57 pm

Yes.

From the link:

The Urbee — an electric/liquid-fuel hybrid that will get the equivalent of over 200 mpg on the highway and 100 MPG in the city — is the first prototype car ever to have its entire body 3D printed, according to a Stratasys press release.

All exterior components — including the glass panel prototypes — were created using Dimension 3D Printers and Fortus 3D Production Systems, using fused deposition modeling (FDM), an additive rapid prototyping process in which a plastic filament is liquefied and extruded to form layers of a model.

 

October 26, 2010

World’s largest solar installation coming to California

Via KurzweilAI.net — That’s some serious solar capacity.

US approves world’s biggest solar energy project in California

October 26, 2010 by Editor

The U.S. Department of Interior approved on Monday a permit for Solar Millennium, LLC to build the largest solar energy project in the world — four  plants at the cost of one billion dollars each — in southern California.

The project is expected to generate up to 1,000 Megawatts of energy, enough electricity to annually power more than 300,000 single-family homes, more than doubling the solar electricity production capacity of the U.S.

Once constructed, the Blythe facility will reduce CO2 emissions by nearly one million short tons per year, or the equivalent of removing more than 145,000 cars from the road. Additionally, because the facility is “dry-cooled,” it will use 90 percent less water than a traditional “wet-cooled” solar facility of this size. The Blythe facility will also help California take a major step toward achieving its goal of having one third of the state’s power come from renewable sources by the year 2020.

The entire Blythe Solar Power Project will generate a total of more than 7,500 jobs, including 1,000 direct jobs during the construction period, and thousands of additional indirect jobs in the community and throughout the supply chain. When the 1,000 MW facility is fully operational it will create more than 220 permanent jobs.

Adapted from materials provided by Solar Millennium, LLC.

 

 

 

October 25, 2010

One terabit optical ethernet

Coming to a point-of-presence near you in the near future.

From the link:

Researchers with the Terabit Optical Ethernet Center (TOEC) at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) are aiming for 1 Terabit Ethernet over optical fiber — 1 trillion bits per second — by 2015 and 100 Terabit Ethernet by 2020. Partnering with TOEC as founding industry affiliates are Google Inc., Verizon, Intel, Agilent Technologiesand Rockwell Collins Inc.

Ethernet is constantly evolving, but soon — in as little as five years, according to some estimates — it won’t be able to keep up with the speed and bandwidth required for applications like video and cloud computing, and distributed data storage. “Based on current traffic growth, it’s clear that 1 Terabit per second trunks will be needed in the near future,” says Stuart Elby, Vice President of Network Architecture for Verizon.

Current Ethernet technologies can’t be pushed much past 100 Gigabits per second — the speed that’s beginning to be implemented now — mainly because of the amount of power needed to run and cool the required systems, says Daniel Blumenthal, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UCSB and Director of TOEC. Large data centers can consume as much power as a small city. New generations of Ethernet need to be much more energy-efficient and cost-effective, or the power problem will limit Ethernet development, crippling the growth of key U.S. industries and technologies.

 

October 18, 2010

DARPA’s shooting for the stars

Literally.

From the link:

NASA Ames Director Simon “Pete” Worden revealed Saturday that NASA Ames has “just started a project with DARPA called the Hundred Year Starship,” with $1 million funding from DARPA and $100K from NASA.

“You heard it here,” said Worden at “Long Conversation,” a Long Now Foundation event in San Francisco. “We also hope to inveigle some billionaires to form a Hundred Year Starship fund,” he added.

“The human space program is now really aimed at settling other worlds,” he explained. “Twenty years ago you had to whisper that in dark bars and get fired.” (Worden was in fact fired by President George W. Bush, he also revealed.)

But these ambitious projects will need whole new concepts for propulsion, Worden advised. “NASA needs to build a true starship, probably using electric propulsion, probably also using solar energy and nuclear energy.

Microwave thermal propulsion (Kevin Parker)

 

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 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

Lasing nanoparticles around the room

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:30 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — This is a pretty astounding feat.

From the link:

Researchers from Australian National University have developed the ability to move particles  over distances of up to 1.5 meters, using a hollow laser beam to trap light-absorbing particles in a “dark core.” The particles are then moved up and down the beam of light, which acts like an optical “pipeline.”

“When the small particles are trapped in this dark core very interesting things start to happen,” said Professor Andrei Rode. “As gravity, air currents, and random motions of air molecules around the particle push it out of the center, one side becomes illuminated by the laser while the other lies in darkness. This creates a tiny thrust, known as a photophoretic force that effectively pushes the particle back into the darkened core. In addition to the trapping effect, a portion of the energy from the beam and the resulting force pushes the particle along the hollow laser pipeline.”

Practical applications for this technology include directing and clustering nanoparticles in air, micro-manipulation of objects, sampling of atmospheric aerosols, and low-contamination/non-touch handling of sampling materials for transport of dangerous substances and microbes in small amounts, he said.

More info: Australian National University news

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

Low cost desalination for potable water

Via KurzweilAI.net — A theoretical device from the recently concluded Singularity University. This sounds like a fresh water solution with real promise.

From the first link:

Our approach leverages advances in 3 exponentially growing fields: synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and solar energy.  Synthetic biology is a factor because synthetic molecules are currently being developed that can create ionic bonds with sodium and chloride molecules, enabling fresh water to pass through a nanofilter using only the pressure of the water above the pipe.

Nanotechnology is relevant for reverse osmosis, because using thinner filter further reduces the amount of pressure required to separate fresh water from salt water. A filtration cube measuring 165mm (6.5 inches) per side could produce 100,000 gallons of purified water per day at 1 psi. Finally, as advances in solar energy improve the efficiency of  photovoltaics, the throughput of solar pumps will increase significantly, enabling more efficient movement and storage of fresh water.

Although the individual components described above have not advanced to a point where the solution is possible at present, we were able to speak with leading experts in each of these areas as to the timeline for these capabilities to be realized.

Synthetic molecules capable of bonding with sodium and chloride molecules have already been created, but have not yet been converted to an appropriate form for storage, such as a cartridge. This is expected to occur in the next 2-3 years. Filters are currently in the 10-15nm range, and are expected to reach 1nm over the next 3-5 years. As with the synthetic molecules, 1nm tubes have been built; just not assembled into a filter at this point. Photovoltaics are currently approximately 12% efficient, but it is anticipated that 20% efficiency is achievable in the next 5 years.

A possible implementation of our Naishio solution. The pressure from the water volume is sufficient to propel fresh water across the membrane (A), and photovoltaics (D) generate all the energy needed to pump water from the repository (C) to the water tank and circulator (E). Sensors (B) communicate between the solar pump and membrane to regulate the water level and ensure it doesn’t become contaminated. (Image: Sarah Jane Pell).

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 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

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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

August 31, 2010

Google and Arcade Fire showcase HTML5

Filed under: Arts, Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:10 am

Via KurzweilAI.net — The link down there with “Chrome Experiment” as an anchor text is broken, try this instead to check out the interactive video.

From the first  link:

Google Shows Off Chrome, HTML5 With Interactive Music “Experience”

August 31, 2010

Source: ReadWriteWeb, Aug 30, 2010

Google has released its latest “Chrome Experiment” in the form of a music video “experience” that shows off the power of tools like HTML5 and Google products like Chrome, Maps and Street View, using real-time graphics rendering and real-world imagery pulled from Google Maps satellite and Street View imagery from your own home town.

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Opens up an exciting new media form. Highly recommended. – Ed.

Read original article

August 27, 2010

Oil spill news

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:18 pm

Came across two interesting news items on oil spills. One is on a technology developed by MIT researchers on cleaning up surface oil after a spill and the second involves the BP Deepwater Horizon spill and how microbes may be cleaning at least the oil in deep water plumes.

From the second link:

Microbes may become the heroes of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by gobbling up oil more rapidly than anyone expected. Now some experts suggest we ought to artificially stimulate such microbes in stricken marshland areas to aid their cleanup.

Evidence published this week shows that deep-water microbes in the Gulf may be rapidly chewing up BP’s spilled crude. This could sway federal authorities to use petroleum-digesting microbes or fertilizer additives that can stimulate naturally occurring bacteria for future spills. Such measures were originally rejected for the BP spill.

From the first link, the story on MIT’s oil spill clean-up tech comes from KurzweilAI.net:

MIT researchers unveil autonomous oil-absorbing robot

August 27, 2010 by Editor

Researchers at MIT have created a robotic prototype that could autonomously navigate the surface of the ocean to collect surface oil and process it on site.

The system, called Seaswarm, is a fleet of vehicles that may make cleaning up future oil spills both less expensive and more efficient than current skimming methods.

The Seaswarm robot uses a conveyor belt covered with a thin nanowire mesh to absorb oil. The fabric, previously featured in a paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, can absorb up to twenty times its own weight in oil while repelling water. By heating up the material, the oil can be removed and burnt locally and the nanofabric can be reused.

The Seaswarm robot, which is 16 feet long and seven feet wide, uses two square meters of solar panels for self-propulsion. With just 100 watts, the equivalent of one household light bulb, it could potentially clean continuously for weeks.

Using swarm behavior, the units will use wireless communication and GPS and manage their coordinates and ensure an even distribution over a spill site. By detecting the edge of a spill and moving inward, a single vehicle could clean an entire site autonomously or engage other vehicles for faster cleaning.

MIT researchers estimate that a fleet of 5,000 Seaswarm robots would be able to clean a spill the size of the gulf in one month. The team has future plans to enter their design into the X-Prize’s $1 million oil-cleanup competition. The award is given to the team that can most efficiently collect surface oil with the highest recovery rate.

By autonomously navigating the water’s surface, Seaswarm proposes a new system for ocean-skimming and oil removal. Video: Senseable City Lab

More info: MIT news

August 24, 2010

This is where tablet e-readers can really shine

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:39 am

Via KurzweilAI.net — Textbooks!

From the link:

Replacing a Pile of Textbooks With an iPad

August 24, 2010

Source: New York Times — Aug 23, 2010

A new company called Inkling hopes to break the standard textbook model and help textbooks enter the interactive age by letting students share and comment on the texts and interact with fellow students, using an iPad.

Other features include interactive graphics within a book and the ability to search text, change the size of the type, purchase individual chapters of books, highlight text for others to see, and take pop quizzes directly within the app.

Photo: Inkling

Read original article

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.

August 20, 2010

Is the US in danger of losing its nanotech hegemony?

Via KurzweilAI.net — Not just yet, but there are a number of countries putting money and other resources into nanotechnology. One place the United States could stand to see a lot of improvement is commercializing the nanotech developments going on right now.

From the link:

U.S. Risks Losing Global Leadership in Nanotech

August 20, 2010 by Editor

The U.S. dominated the rest of the world in nanotech funding and new patents last year, as U.S. government funding, corporate spending, and VC investment in nanotech collectively reached $6.4 billion in 2009. But according to a new report from Lux Research, countries such as China and Russia launched new challenges to U.S. dominance in 2009, while smaller players such as Japan, Germany and South Korea surpassed the United States in terms of commercializing nanotechnology and products.

The report, titled “Ranking the Nations on Nanotech: Hidden Havens and False Threats,” compares nanotech innovation and technology development in 19 countries in order to provide government policymakers, corporate leaders and investors a detailed map of the nanotech’s international development landscape. Overall, the report found global investment in nanotech held steady through the recent financial crisis, drawing $17.6 billion from governments, corporations and investors in 2009, a 1% increase over 2008’s $17.5 billion. Only venture capitalists dialed back their support, cutting investments by 43% relative to 2008.

“Part of what motivated our research was the emerging possibility that ambitious new government funding in Russia and China represented a threat to U.S. dominance in nanotech innovation,” said David Hwang, an Analyst at Lux Research, and the report’s lead author. “But while the field certainly gained momentum in both countries as a result of the increased funding, both countries have economic and intellectual property protection issues that prevent them from being real threats just yet.”

To uncover the most fertile environments for technology developers, buyers, and investors, Lux Research mapped the nanotech ecosystems of select nations, building on earlier reports published from 2005 through 2008. In addition to tracking fundamentals, such as the number of nanotech publications and patents issued, the report also inventoried direct and indirect spending on nanotech from government, corporate and venture sources. Among its key observations:

  • The U.S. continues to dominate in nanotech development… for now. Last year saw the U.S. lead all other countries in terms of government funding, corporate spending, VC investment, and patent issuances. But its capacity to commercialize those technologies and leverage them to grow the economy is comparatively mediocre. U.S. competitiveness in long-term innovation is also at risk, as the relative number of science and engineering graduates in its population is significantly lower than it is in other countries.
  • Other countries stand to get more bang for their nanotech buck. Japan, Germany, and South Korea continued their impressive trajectories from 2008, earning top spots in publications, patents, government funding, and corporate spending. Compared to the U.S., all three also remain more focused on nanotech and appear more adept at commercializing new technology. The relative magnitude of the technology manufacturing sectors in these three countries are the world’s highest, meaning their economies stand to benefit the most from nanotech commercialization.
  • Russian and Chinese investment in nanotech yields slow progress. While both governments launched generous nanotech investment programs last year, the technology hasn’t gained momentum in either country’s private sector, both of which have a history of skimping on R&D. The relative lack of momentum was further underscored by the abysmal number of new nanotech patents for either country last year.

“Ranking the Nations on Nanotech: Hidden Havens and False Threats,” is part of the Lux Nanomaterials Intelligence service. Clients subscribing to this service receive ongoing research on market and technology trends, continuous technology scouting reports and proprietary data points in the weekly Lux Research Nanomaterials Journal, and on-demand inquiry with Lux Research analysts.

More info: Lux Research

Ray Kurzweil on exponential growth and reverse engineering the brain

Via KurzweilAI.net — At the conclusion of a longer blog post refuting PZ Myers characterization that he “doesn’t understand the brain,” Ray Kurzweil concludes with a very salient point on exponential versus linear thinking and why many of seemingly fantastic predictions (from the coming of the Singularity on down) may not be so unreachable after all.

From the link:

Halfway through the genome project, the project’s original critics were still going strong, pointing out that we were halfway through the 15 year project and only 1 percent of the genome had been identified. The project was declared a failure by many skeptics at this point. But the project had been doubling in price-performance and capacity every year, and at one percent it was only seven doublings (at one year per doubling) away from completion. It was indeed completed seven years later. Similarly, my projection of a worldwide communication network tying together tens and ultimately hundreds of millions of people, emerging in the mid to late 1990s, was scoffed at in the 1980s, when the entire U.S. Defense Budget could only tie together a few thousand scientists with the ARPANET. But it happened as I predicted, and again this resulted from the power of exponential growth.

Linear thinking about the future is hardwired into our brains. Linear predictions of the future were quite sufficient when our brains were evolving. At that time, our most pressing problem was figuring out where that animal running after us was going to be in 20 seconds. Linear projections worked quite well thousands of years ago and became hardwired. But exponential growth is the reality of information technology.

We’ve seen smooth exponential growth in the price-performance and capacity of computing devices since the 1890 U.S. census, in the capacity of wireless data networks for over 100 years, and in biological technologies since before the genome project. There are dozens of other examples. This exponential progress applies to every aspect of the effort to reverse-engineer the brain.

August 18, 2010

Ratcheting up data storage density

Via KurzweilAI.net —  ratcheting data density up a lot!

World record data density for ferroelectric recordin

August 18, 2010 by Editor

Scientists at Tohoku University in Japan have recorded data at a density of 4 trillion bits per square inch,  a world record for the experimental ferroelectric data storage method, and about eight times the density of today’s most advanced magnetic hard-disk drives.

The data-recording device uses a tiny cantilever tip that rides in contact with the surface of a ferroelectric material. To write data, an electric pulse is sent through the tip, changing the electric polarization and nonlinear dielectric constant of a tiny circular spot in the substrate beneath. To read data, the same tip detects the variations in nonlinear dielectric constant in the altered regions.

“We expect this ferroelectric data storage system to be a candidate to succeed magnetic hard disk drives or flash memory, at least in applications for which extremely high data density and small physical volume is required,” said Tohoku University scientist Dr. Yasuo Cho.

Existing data storage technologies also continue to improve. Disk drive maker Seagate, for example, has said it can envision achieving a density of 50 trillion bits per square inch.

“Actual Information Storage with a Recording Density of 4 Tbit/inch^2 in a ferroelectric recording medium” by Kenkou Tanaka and Yasuo Cho will appear in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

More info: American Institute of Physics news

August 11, 2010

Advancing substrate-independent minds

Filed under: et.al., Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:24 am

Via KurzweilAI.net — if you are into futurism at all this blog post at KurzweilAI is worth the time for a full read.

Here’s a taste from the link:

What might brains and minds look like in the future? It can be difficult to manage and organize ideas from many highly specialized fields of expertise that must necessarily converge to answer this intriguing question. Not only must one consider the areas of brain imaging, neuroscience, and cognitive psychology, but also artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, computational hardware architectures, and philosophy.

In the past, the transferal of minds into computer-based systems has been rather vaguely referred to as “uploading.” However, those hoping to advance this multidisciplinary field of research prefer to use the  term Advancing Substrate Independent Minds (ASIM), to emphasize a more scientific, and less science-fiction approach to creating emulations of human brains in non-biological substrates. The term ASIM captures the fact that there are several ways in which hardware and software may be used to run algorithms that mimic the human brain, and that there are many different approaches that can be used to realize this end goal.

August 9, 2010

Bill Gates on educating yourself online

Filed under: et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:49 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — This sounds great, and actually does sound feasible given the sheer quantity and quality of transcripts and video of incredible lectures (TED talks, anyone?), but I do wonder if this might be the educational equivalent of representing yourself in court, you know the old, “a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.”

Bill Gates: In Five Years The Best Education Will Come From The Web

August 9, 2010

Source: TechCrunch — Aug 6, 2010

“Five years from now on the web for free you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world,” says Bill Gates. “It will be better than any single university.”

He believes the $50,000 a year university education could be done via the web for as little as $2,00

August 6, 2010

The Singularity and rationality

Via KurzweilAI.net

Singularity and Rationality: Eliezer Yudkowsky speaks out

August 5, 2010 by Thomas McCabe

Eliezer Yudkowsky is a Research Fellow at the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence and founder of the community blog Less Wrong. We discussed his coming talk at the Singularity Summit on August 15, his forthcoming book on human rationality, his theory of “friendly AI,” and the likelihood of the Singularity and how to achieve it.

What are you working on currently?

I’m working on a book on human rationality. I’ve got… let me see… 143,000 words written so far. There’s been a lot of progress lately in fields contributing to human rationality, and it hasn’t made its way down to the popular level yet, even though it seems like something that should be popularizable. The second part of the book is on how to actually change your mind, and all the various biases that have been discovered that prevent people from changing their minds. Also, with reference to the Singularity, we’ve discovered in practice that you can’t just sit down and explain Singularity-related things to people without giving them a lot of background material first, and this book hopes to provide some of that background material.

Singularity Irrationality

What’s the most irrational thing you’ve heard regarding the Singularity?

That’s sort of a fuzzy question, because as the word “Singularity” gets looser and looser, the stuff you hear about it gets more and more irrational and less and less relevant. For example, for the people who think that the invention of hallucinogens was a Singularity… I forget who exactly that was [Terence McKenna].

The Singularity Institute once received an email saying, “This entire site is the biggest load of navel gazing stupidity I have ever seen. You are so naive, and clueless as to the inherent evil that lurks forever. A machine is no match for Satan.” I don’t know if that counts as the *most* irrational thing people have said about the Singularity, but…

In terms of what the public accepts as the Singularity, I think that the sort of more naive, “Well, people are still walking around in their biological bodies even after there are superintelligences around, and they’re just sort of being cool and futuristic but it hasn’t completely shattered life as we know it” — that sort of conservatism — may be the silliest thing. I think that’s a failure to understand superintelligence as something that becomes real and will have a real effect on the world.

(more…)

July 22, 2010

FTC’s “hot news doctrine”

Via KurzweilAI.net —  this is the first I’ve heard of this Federal Trade Commission proposal. As you can imagine, I don’t like it at all.

Google Tells FTC Enforcing “Hot News” Would Create a Hot Mess

July 22, 2010

Source: New York Times — July 21, 2010

The  Federal Trade Commission’s proposed “hot news doctrine” — legislation that would prevent others from reporting the same facts as a traditional publisher for a period of time after a news event — “would not only hurt free expression … [but] make it virtually impossible for aggregators such as Google News and Yahoo News to function the way they currently do, publishing excerpts from news stories without explicit permission from media outlets,” Google public policy director Pablo Chavez said.

The “hot news doctrine” would also partially cripple KurzweilAI’s news coverage. – Ed.

Read original article

July 14, 2010

Exercise improves your mental health

Via KurzweilAI.net — regular exercise provides many, many benefits and it’s not surprising improved mental health is among them. Since you’re reading this in front of a computer, take a few minutes sometime today to at least go on a brisk walk. Personally I do a bit of physical exercise, but nothing like I did when I was much younger. Now I completely swear by a 30 minute to hour daily workout on the Wii Fit Plus. For some reason I enjoy the idea of having a virtual trainer guiding my workout. It has something of “the future has arrived” science-fictiony feel to it for me.

Exercise reduces anxiety and depression

Exercise can ameliorate anxiety and depression-like behaviors induced by an adverse early-life environment by altering the chemistry of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that regulates stress responses, researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have found.

In the study, rats were divided into groups and either isolated from their mothers for controlled periods of time to induce stress or given normal maternal contact. Half were given access to a running wheel. In addition to being more anxious, animals that were subjected to stress early in life had higher levels of stress hormones and fewer steroid receptors in the part of the brain controlling behaviour.

“Both the anxious behaviour and the levels of hormones in these rats were reversed with access to the exercise wheel,” said UNSW Professor of Pharmacology Margaret Morris.

“We know that exercise can elevate mood, but here we are seeing chemical changes that may underpin this improvement. One of these is increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps nerve cells grow.

“Many neurological diseases appear to have their origins early in life. Stress hormones affect the way nerve cells grow in the brain. This discovery may be giving us a clue about a different way to tackle a range of conditions that affect mood and behaviour,” she said.

More info: University of New South Wales news

Here’s the PhysOrg take on this story.

Cool computer technology — an invisible mouse

Via KurzweilAI.net — um, what’s to say here. This is just amazingly cool. Can’t say the tech is totally there from a user standpoint — one commenter mentioned the lag time would be disconcerting at this stage of technology — but the proof-of-concept is utterly amazing.

An invisible computer mouse

MIT Media Lab researchers have developed Mouseless, an invisible computer mouse that costs about $20 to build.

It uses an infrared (IR) laser beam and an infrared camera. The laser beam module creates a plane of IR laser just above the surface the computer sits on. The user cups their hand, and the laser beam lights up the hand that is in contact with the surface. The IR camera detects those bright IR blobs using computer vision. The change in the position and arrangements of these blobs are interpreted as mouse cursor movement and mouse clicks.

More info: Fluid Interfaces Group | MIT Media Lab

Here’s a video of the no-mouse mouse in action (feel free to ignore the attempt at cleverness with the Tom and Jerry cartoon intro.)

July 12, 2010

YouTube supports 4K resolution video

Filed under: Arts, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:19 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — to put that resolution in perspective, it doubles IMAX’s resolution.

Source: CNET News/Web Crawler — July 9, 2010

YouTube has announced that its player now supports 4k, a standard resolution for films that measures 4096×3072 pixels (requiring special equipment to view).

As YouTube Engineer Ramesh Sarukkai explained in the announcement on YouTube’s official blog, “4K is nearly four times the size of 1080p,” and it dwarfs even Imax, which projects films in the slightly smaller 2k format, with its 2048?1080-pixel resolution.

Read original article

July 9, 2010

Humanity as a giant superorganism

Filed under: et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:21 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — Are we turning into the Borg? (just kidding, there.)

Technology is weaving humans into electronic webs that resemble big brains — corporations, online hobby groups, far-flung N.G.O.s, suggests author Robert Wright. “And I personally don’t think it’s outlandish to talk about us being, increasingly, neurons in a giant superorganism; certainly an observer from outer space, watching the emergence of the Internet, could be excused for looking at us that way…. If we don’t use technology to weave people together and turn our species into a fairly unified body, chaos will probably engulf the world — because technology offers so much destructive power that a sharply divided human species can’t flourish.”

July 7, 2010

Toward perfect 3D data storage

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:19 am

Via KurzweilAI.net — You can find the news below, and this is the first taste of the new KurzweilAI format after the site relaunch this past Monday.

A Step Closer to Perfect 3-D Data Storage

July 7, 2010

(ESRF)

The ultimate in holographic (three-dimensional) data storage–a chemically pure crystal composed solely of fluorescent proteins that can be read and reversibly switched between at least two different states using nothing but light from lasers–is being developed in preliminary research by an international group of scientists.

Such a crystal would represent something approaching the theoretical limit of data density in a storage medium: each bit would be represented by a single molecule.

Read original article

Topics: Computers/Infotech/UI | Physics/Cosmology

Source: Technology Review — July 6, 2010

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