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Mark Bruce

Mark Bruce 

A transhumanist and technophile residing in Australia, loving life and avidly looking forward to the future.

Location: Adelaide

Followers: 15,527

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Views: 115,176,117

Cream of the Crop: 04/19/2012

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Most comments: 70

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2016-04-12 13:52:17 (70 comments; 16 reshares; 67 +1s)Open 

Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth by Peter Turchin

This book changed my conception of war, culture, society, cooperation, competition, religion, and memes - to a lesser or greater extent.

The main thrust of Ultrasociety concerns support of new theories of evolutionary group selection to explain the rise and nature of the complex societies we currently find ourselves in, while challenging the standard criticisms of conventional evolutionary group selection. While genetics is of course mentioned, these advanced theories of group selection are based on Multilevel Cultural Selection, the selection of cultural traits, of memes or memeplexes, that lead to the evolution of ever-larger groups better able to compete, better able to cooperate, better able to produce more resources and more equitable societies. And this selection for the... more »

Most reshares: 67

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2016-02-05 13:51:40 (11 comments; 67 reshares; 201 +1s)Open 

The Phenomenon of Self-Organised Criticality

Self-organised criticality is the name given to a phenomena characterised by dynamic systems that possess a critical transition point as an attractor, a state of being on the edge of a phase transition, on the edge of order and chaos, and heavily influenced by local feedback. It is considered a key mechanism by which complexity in natural systems spontaneously arises. I find it to be a beautiful and fascinating phenomena that seems to saturate the dynamics of living systems at all levels of organisation, from individual biomolecules and replication to brain function and consciousness. Wikipedia provides a starting point: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-organized_criticality and some fascinating examples that I’ve had bookmarked for ages and wanted to share include the following.


1. Ubiquity & Adaptive Utility ofC... more »

Most plusones: 201

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2016-02-05 13:51:40 (11 comments; 67 reshares; 201 +1s)Open 

The Phenomenon of Self-Organised Criticality

Self-organised criticality is the name given to a phenomena characterised by dynamic systems that possess a critical transition point as an attractor, a state of being on the edge of a phase transition, on the edge of order and chaos, and heavily influenced by local feedback. It is considered a key mechanism by which complexity in natural systems spontaneously arises. I find it to be a beautiful and fascinating phenomena that seems to saturate the dynamics of living systems at all levels of organisation, from individual biomolecules and replication to brain function and consciousness. Wikipedia provides a starting point: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-organized_criticality and some fascinating examples that I’ve had bookmarked for ages and wanted to share include the following.


1. Ubiquity & Adaptive Utility ofC... more »

Latest 50 posts

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2016-05-01 07:52:15 (4 comments; 9 reshares; 41 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 18/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/05/exoplanet-imaging-dna-nanothermometers.html

Proteins per gene, Exoplanet imaging, DNA nanothermometers, Protein assembly tools, Versatile optogenetics, 3D printing robot spiders, Deep learning, Sensory prosthetic hand, Superfluid helium blackholes, Tissue regeneration.

1. One Gene, Many Proteins
It used to be thought that each gene encoded for and produced just one single protein; this latest ambitious study has blown that paradigm apart and made it very apparent that there is far more nuance and complexity here than first thought https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160426-one-gene-many-proteins/. This thorough study looked at 1,500 human genes, found how many produced multiple proteins, and ran binding studies to 15,000 other proteins to determine whether... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 18/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/05/exoplanet-imaging-dna-nanothermometers.html

Proteins per gene, Exoplanet imaging, DNA nanothermometers, Protein assembly tools, Versatile optogenetics, 3D printing robot spiders, Deep learning, Sensory prosthetic hand, Superfluid helium blackholes, Tissue regeneration.

1. One Gene, Many Proteins
It used to be thought that each gene encoded for and produced just one single protein; this latest ambitious study has blown that paradigm apart and made it very apparent that there is far more nuance and complexity here than first thought https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160426-one-gene-many-proteins/. This thorough study looked at 1,500 human genes, found how many produced multiple proteins, and ran binding studies to 15,000 other proteins to determine whether different proteins from the same gene shared the same or different functions; they generated surprisingly variable results. Different proteins can be formed from the same gene by combining different gene segments (exons) in different sequences. This will ideally be repeated for all genes and proteins. I think the take-away here is simply recognising such seemingly chaotic complexity as a measure of evolutionary robustness.

2. Imaging Exoplanets at 1km Resolution
A new proposal for a space-based telescope positioned 11 times further away than Pluto utilises the gravitational lensing of our Sun to achieve kilometer scale resolution of candidate exoplanets orbiting other stars in our local vicinity https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601331/a-space-mission-to-the-gravitational-focus-of-the-sun/. All you need is (i) a means to block out the Sun’s light, (ii) account for the Sun’s corona, (iii) improve pointing accuracy by an order of magnitude to 0.1 nanoradians, (iv) design a propulsion system able to account for orbital motion, (v) better software and optics to account for blurring, and (vi) filtering light from the planet’s parent star. Do this and you’ll get 10,000 times more light from the exoplanet. Sounds like a worthwhile project. I only wonder about such a telescope being overtaken by technological development during a lengthy commute to 600AU or so.

3. DNA Origami Nanothermometers
Specific DNA sequences can now be used to produce DNA origami structures that are programmed to function as nanothermometers http://www.nouvelles.umontreal.ca/udem-news/news/20160427-chemists-use-dna-to-build-the-worlds-tiniest-thermometer.html. The technique produces DNA structures that fold and unfold at very specific temperatures and adding optical reporter molecules results in 5nm wide structures that produce an easily-detectable signal as a function of temperature. Applications in intra-cellular biology, testing biological machines and enzyme “overheating”, and in nanoelectronics to measure temperatures of very small areas.

4. Advanced Protein-Based Tools
First, a new set of modular proteins has been designed and tested that can be customised to specifically bind arbitrary RNA sequences, and so allowing a versatile mechanism to control and image specific RNAs in the cell http://news.mit.edu/2016/controlling-rna-living-cells-0425. This is a versatile modular code for generating custom proteins able to bind specific RNA sequences from 6 to 18 bases long, with applications in future molecular assembly lines and precise measurements of how often RNA is being translated in the cell. Second, another engineered protein naturally self-assembles carbon buckminster fullerene molecules into ordered lattices and suggests a pathway to proteins able to organise nanomaterials by design http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-04/dc-rca042516.php.

5. More Versatile Optogenetics
Optogenetics is increasingly being used to control pain in test animals by using viruses to functionalise neurons responsible for conveying pain and sensation signals, and then using light - either implanted or in this case external to the skin for peripheral neurons - to turn pain transmission on or off in very localised and specific areas https://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/channels/news/brighter-prospects-chronic-pain-260515. New optogenetics tools now also include the ability to be activated by red light that can penetrate deeper into tissues, and also be combined with other proteins and receptors to drive other cellular processes with light http://ist.ac.at/news-media/news/news-detail/article/red-light-controls-signaling-in-human-cells/6/.

6. 3D Printing with Robot Spiders
A new prototype 3D printing technology involves the use of robotic spiders able to move around with an in-built portable 3D printer, extruding plastic instead of silk in specific patterns to collaboratively build up printed structures - accuracy of localisation is a key hurdle https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601330/robot-spiders-weave-products-from-plastic-in-a-new-spin-on-3-d-printing/. In related 3D printing news the rise of custom-made, personalised, 3D printed medical implants is accelerating and increasing in sophistication https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601305/the-key-to-repairing-your-bones-may-come-out-of-a-printer/.

7. Interesting Deep Learning Developments
A new platform called OpenAI Gym has been launched as a toolkit for developing and comparing reinforcement learning algorithms for applications such as teaching agents to play games and navigate environments https://gym.openai.com/. Movidius has released a neural net accelerator called Fathom on a USB stick that uses only 1 watt of power to run powerful, typically computationally intensive image recognition neural networks with wide applications including allowing every robot to have cutting-edge vision capabilities http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/computing/embedded-systems/movidius-puts-neural-network-on-a-usb-stick. Meanwhile Drive.ai launched from Stanford’s AI Lab to test autonomous vehicle systems based on deep learning http://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/self-driving/driveai-brings-deep-learning-to-selfdriving-cars, and talking of autonomous vehicles self-driving trucks are really building momentum https://www.eutruckplatooning.com/News/495554.aspx?.

8. HAPTIX: The Prosthetic Hand that Can Feel
Here’s a good overview of efforts within DARPA’s HAPTIX program to develop prosthetic hands that allow amputees to regain a sense of touch and sensation, at least through some of the most recent prototypes http://spectrum.ieee.org/biomedical/bionics/creating-a-prosthetic-hand-that-can-feel. The latest prototypes incorporate direct neural interfaces that convey tactile sensory information from sensors located on the prosthetic hand, and resulting in the patient consciously perceiving sensations from those areas as if it were their own hand, and drastically improving sensitive tactile manipulation tasks from 43% to 93% success rate. Slowly getting towards a system that makes the person momentarily forget they lost the hand.

9. Blackholes, Superfluid Helium, & Phonons
New insights into the existence and behaviour of Hawking radiation at Blackhole event horizons are being made with related phenomena involving rapidly rotating superfluid helium and phonons http://www.sciencealert.com/physicists-have-created-a-black-hole-in-the-lab-and-it-could-finally-confirm-the-existence-of-hawking-radiation. The rapidly rotating superfluid helium forms a barrier through which sound waves should not be able to leave, yet the experiment detected phonons, small packets of sound wave energy, leaking out of this sonic blackhole as a sonic analogue to Hawking radiation leaking from a conventional blackhole. The work is undergoing peer review, confirmation, and debate.

10. Regeneration of Brain and Other Tissues
Recent experiments demonstrate that simply inserting a microneedle into the hippocampus of mice with Alzheimer’s Disease helps induce the hippocampus to regenerate, repair damage, and reduce the beta-amyloid plaques characteristic of the disease http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-04/ctco-mii042616.php. Another recent study demonstrates the use of a cocktail of nine different chemicals able to transform skin cells into beating heart or neural stem cells (different cocktail for each), that when transplanted into animals helped to regenerate damage and restore normal function to those organs https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160428152117.htm.

SciTech Tip Jar: http://www.scitechdigest.net/p/donate.html
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2016-04-28 14:17:10 (22 comments; 4 reshares; 30 +1s)Open 

Halo 5: The Clunky Compromised Crapshoot
An overdue rant.

I was running towards where I thought the fighting would be, across a huge expansive map hosting a 24-person multiplayer game when I just stopped, in the middle of a wide open area, and just stared at the screen. Conflicting thoughts swirled through my head as I felt dull, listless, and wondering why the fuck I was bothering. I recognised a profound feeling of boredom, in what was supposed to be a fast-paced next-gen first person shooter. I finally admitted to myself that Halo 5 was simply a shit game in so many obnoxious little ways. 343 Industries had achieved the seemingly impossible by actually managing to make a first person shooter that induced boredom in the player. I put the controller down, leaned over, and turned the console off.

Halo has been a big part of my life over the years and has been my go-to... more »

Halo 5: The Clunky Compromised Crapshoot
An overdue rant.

I was running towards where I thought the fighting would be, across a huge expansive map hosting a 24-person multiplayer game when I just stopped, in the middle of a wide open area, and just stared at the screen. Conflicting thoughts swirled through my head as I felt dull, listless, and wondering why the fuck I was bothering. I recognised a profound feeling of boredom, in what was supposed to be a fast-paced next-gen first person shooter. I finally admitted to myself that Halo 5 was simply a shit game in so many obnoxious little ways. 343 Industries had achieved the seemingly impossible by actually managing to make a first person shooter that induced boredom in the player. I put the controller down, leaned over, and turned the console off.

Halo has been a big part of my life over the years and has been my go-to game ever since the series first launched 15 years ago. I’ve spent uncounted hours in campaign and orders of magnitude more in multiplayer and enjoyed some of the most thrilling, hilarious, and socially enjoyable gaming of my life. No other game comes close to the hold this series and its idiosyncratic gameplay mechanic has held over me. I love the Grand Theft Auto series too, but my time spent playing in those worlds runs a very distant second to Halo.

The final installment on last generation consoles, on the Xbox 360, was Halo 4 and while I still managed to get a lot of hours in and enjoyment out of the game I did feel it was a step backwards for the series and for the core gameplay mechanic in general. Skill was still required, but less so than before, with random events and factors such as encountering opponents with unexpected weapons and armour abilities tending to introduce a large element of luck into encounters in which right place, right time / wrong place wrong time played a noticeable role in deciding outcomes rather than being able to use skill and cunning to make the best of most novel situations.

I’ve played many games on the Xbox One since it launched and in particular fell in love with a competitive first person shooter, Titanfall, for which I clocked up many enjoyable, thrilling, and thoroughly amusing hours. But I maintained a soft spot for Halo and eagerly awaited the release of the latest version - the first for the Xbox One - in 343 Industries’ much anticipated Halo 5. I hoped that 343 would learn from some of the things they did in Halo 4 and engineer Halo 5 to be a significant improvement.

Unfortunately, after clocking up a great many hours I’m left with the inescapable conclusion that they embraced Halo 4’s failings with gusto, massively expanded all the things Halo 4 suffered from and introduced a bunch of new mechanics that together ensure that Halo 5 is and will always be a clunky compromised crapshoot.

For the first time ever a Halo game actually drove me away. I went on hiatus a couple of times for a month or more, but came back to see if anything had changed or been fixed or just to berate myself for being so judgemental and to give it another chance. But over six months since first release of Halo 5 I can finally say with certainty that I will never play the game again.

I actually snapped the game disc in two in order to prevent me from ever even trying to play it again. As bad as it was Halo 5 had a funny addiction quality about it, taunting and luring me back to play it, and yet always leaving me frustrated, annoyed, and disappointed every time I played. I put this down to my history with the franchise and many years enjoyment causing me to keep hoping beyond hope that it would get better. To break this destructive and wasteful cycle the disc itself had to be destroyed.

Observations and General Frustrations

➤ Couldn’t play for 2 days after purchase. To even start playing the game the installation process requires a 9 GB download and for whatever reason, given the time I was able to download and the general strain on servers at launch it was over two days before it finally finished and I was finally able to start playing.

➤ Gameplay just feels clunky and constricted. Of course you’re portrayed as a supersoldier, but in reality have to run around as if you’re a fragile little petal that breaks in a slight breeze. Aside from that the aiming mechanic feels . . . off . . . and wrong for some reason. Some people put this down to the deadzones on the triggers being larger. It feels like you have a much narrower field of view than before, a boxed-in feeling, and much reduced situational awareness - all crucial factors for any FPS. Many people have said that you just need to get used to the new mechanic but this amounts to just easy excuses when the changes made to such a crucial aspect of gameplay were deliberate and worthy of criticism and complaint. Personally I suspect that these myopic changes to the fundamental feel and mechanics of the game were a result of compromises to ensure the game always ran at 60 frames per second; that the entire game was compromised just to achieve this silly and irrelevant technical feat.

➤ The radar or motion sensor has been completely changed and limited to the point of near uselessness. It is very short range and results in constant surprise and should either be turned off completely or restored to the previous Halo setting. What is worse/weird is that it works perfectly through floors and ceilings: somehow the “sensor technology” can’t detect enemies rushing directly towards you yet can perfectly sense those beneath a foot of concrete under you.

➤ Other gameplay annoyances include the vehicle boarding mechanic and hijacking zone making it harder and more random to tackle vehicles, the vehicles themselves suffer from pathetic physics resulting in a light and floaty feeling (worse than previous titles) and the propensity to roll at the drop of a hat, grenades are overpowered mini-nukes, the utterly stupid inclusion of gaps in levels that you can fall to your death through, melee kills after dying (serve lag?), difficulty in knowing from where and which direction you were killed from (especially from distance), and a mongoose quad bike that happens to pack insta-kill cannons. And the invisibility power-up perk is so stupidly overpowered that it beggars belief it was actually included in the game.

➤ Spawning is awful. You can literally spawn after dying and die again within 2 seconds. I’ve seen grenades land at people’s feet as they spawned. I’ve had people spawn right behind me and kill me.

➤ This is the first title to lack a split-screen option for 2 - 4 player action at home in the same room. Previously this feature alone granted the game a wonderfully social aspect, inspired a great many hours of laughter and fun times with friends. It’s absence is profoundly disappointing and is, I suspect, another compromise to eek out a guaranteed 60fps from the game.

➤ My preference for multiplayer gameplay is Big Team Battle (8 vs 8) games and yet the game launched without a BTB list at all. This was finally rectified 4 or so months later.

➤ Some playlists - typically the ones I preferred - were frequently empty or just refused to find me a game to play. This is an example of the game designers compromising on the time to get people into a game vs the risk of latency or lag while playing. But the fact that BTB very quickly became unplayable for me, and occasionally even conventional Team Slayer, refusing to find any players or join me into any game indicates that (i) the matchmaking mechanic is sorely broken or (ii) players had pretty much abandoned the game and the numbers available in the pool were just too low to make a game.

➤ Warzone mode is an epic crapshoot. The maps are too big and you can regularly encounter long stretches of time without finding any opposing players. REQ bonus points (for “purchasing” power weapons, vehicles, and upgrades) accrue to those who need these perks the least. Typically results in games regularly becoming terribly unbalanced that finish with one team double the score of the other; I’ve regularly been in games in which one team has dominating advantages of two tanks plus two banshees and the other team has nothing - at this point there is no point playing and quitting out of the game is the only sensible option. Another consequence is that Warzone results in no predictability for vehicles or weapons on maps, making it impossible to plan any meaningful strategy or tactics.

➤ Warzone maps themselves have generally poor layouts; they have terrible choke points (Stormbreak is the worst) that invariably and regularly result in pointless, repetitive, boring stalemates. But you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t go for these points. Warzone intro and ending cinematic sequences are a terribly boring waste of time; novel and interesting the first three games and then the. same. boring. sequence. and voice. every. single. time. and. killing. the. same. NPC enemies. in. same. base. every. single. time.

➤ The pre-game lobby is crap. The only easily accessible information you have on players are emblems, which mean and convey nothing. Previous titles had player names, which you learned to recognise after a while and could judge good or poor players and also convey a more social aspect. Not anymore. There is also no indication of who is talking or playing music and no way to mute them. At least at first: 4 or so months after launch they finally introduced a mute option.

➤ I quit the campaign “story” after completing just two levels due to it being uninspired, boring, and generally insipid. It was the same old simplistic gameplay: run and shoot and jump through levels and kill fodder enemies and then kill bigger enemies and then wash, rinse, and repeat. Predictable boring AIs. The campaign possessed as much linear appeal as a platformer like Mario on the Super Nintendo but lacked the “richness” of storyline.

➤ At the end of the day Halo 5 is a crapshoot: incorporating random elements and features that make player performance and experience far more contingent on luck than skill compared to previously, and result in players less in control of situations. It is clunky: enforcing poor UI elements such as field of view and aiming mechanics. And it is compromised: pursuing 60fps and other goals at the expense of better more fluid UI and gameplay, local sociality, empty matchmaking lists, and player engagement.

Some people love Halo 5 however.

If you don’t have a fulltime job and play very regularly with a close team that you communicate constantly with via a headset to coordinate cohesive team strategies then Halo 5 works very well. But this is no longer a game for good, casual players looking to wind down and have some fun; for many, only frustration and boredom await. I can’t possibly see how this series can recover.

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2016-04-28 11:12:39 (7 comments; 1 reshares; 21 +1s)Open 

Aggregate Stats Since Joining G+

I logged into Circle Count yesterday out of curiosity and found some surprising aggregate stats since first joining G+ in July 2011 nearly 5 years ago. Turns out I've made 958 public posts and written 459,673 words, which just blows my mind. Could I have written 3 or 4 books in that time? Other stats below include how many +1s, reshares, and comments I've received over that time.

http://www.circlecount.com/ 

Aggregate Stats Since Joining G+

I logged into Circle Count yesterday out of curiosity and found some surprising aggregate stats since first joining G+ in July 2011 nearly 5 years ago. Turns out I've made 958 public posts and written 459,673 words, which just blows my mind. Could I have written 3 or 4 books in that time? Other stats below include how many +1s, reshares, and comments I've received over that time.

http://www.circlecount.com/ ___

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2016-04-24 11:17:48 (4 comments; 26 reshares; 72 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 17/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/04/engineered-artificial-ribosomes.html

Engineered artificial ribosomes, Tantalising EmDrive, Nanomagnet Holograph displays, Hafnium oxide memristors, Rejuvenation genetherapy confirmed, Improved CRISPR, Seawater uranium extraction, Implantable ultrasound communications, Biomimicry brighter LEDs, Actin memory role.

1. Artificial Synthetic Ribosome
Ribosomes in cells take in genetic code and sequentially synthesise a complete protein from specific amino acids that correspond to that code. A new, autonomous molecular machine based DNA has been developed as an artificial synthetic ribosome able to take specific sequence instructions and make new synthetic polymer materials out of different molecules in a similar way... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 17/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/04/engineered-artificial-ribosomes.html

Engineered artificial ribosomes, Tantalising EmDrive, Nanomagnet Holograph displays, Hafnium oxide memristors, Rejuvenation genetherapy confirmed, Improved CRISPR, Seawater uranium extraction, Implantable ultrasound communications, Biomimicry brighter LEDs, Actin memory role.

1. Artificial Synthetic Ribosome
Ribosomes in cells take in genetic code and sequentially synthesise a complete protein from specific amino acids that correspond to that code. A new, autonomous molecular machine based DNA has been developed as an artificial synthetic ribosome able to take specific sequence instructions and make new synthetic polymer materials out of different molecules in a similar way http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2016/04/ribosome-mimic-dna-molecular-machine-polymer-production. The full paper is also worth a look http://sci-hub.io/10.1038/nchem.2495. The system relies on (i) chemistry DNA hairpin sequences attached to specific reactant molecules, and (ii) instruction DNA hairpin molecules with sequences that control the order in which the different monomer reactant molecules are assembled. Autonomous, programmable, atomically precise synthesis of large molecules. In related news another engineered ribosome functions in bacteria to create proteins with beta-amino acids that has never been achieved in live cells before http://news.yale.edu/2016/04/21/new-protein-making-factory-promises-better-medicines.

2. EmDrive and Unruh Radiation
To date six independent experiments have replicated the original EmDrive results by building their own device and measuring a thrust from a hollow cone when microwaves are bounced inside it, all without a suitable explanation for a seeming violation of conservation of momentum. A new theory of inertia suggests inertia is the pressure Unruh radiation exerts on an accelerating body, an effect predicted by General Relativity, and which also explains the acceleration discrepanies in falyby anomalies https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601299/the-curious-link-between-the-fly-by-anomaly-and-the-impossible-emdrive-thruster/. The theory suggests inertia is quantised, predicts flyby anomalies and their discrepancy, predicts the magnitude of thrusts measured in all experiments done so far, and makes two predictions yet to be tested: (i) a dielectric in the cavity will enhance thrust, and (ii) changing cavity dimensions will reverse thrust. It also assumes photons have inertial mass and the speed of light changes in the cavity. Will be interesting to see where this goes.

3. Nanomagnet Pixels for Holographic Displays
Wide-angle 3D holographic displays have been developed that are powered by nanomagnets http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-04/tuot-npt041916.php. The nanomagnets in these displays are referred to as magneto-optic spatial light modulators; a laser focused on the surface defines the display pixel size, pixel switching occurs in 10 nanoseconds, with pixel size and pitch in this demonstration being 1 micrometer, and enabling a 30 degree viewing angle. A nice advance in spatial light modulators towards the goal of glasses-free holographic video displays.

4. Hafnium Oxide Memristors as Synapses
New memristors made of thin-film hafnium oxide and via conventional production processes show promise as artificial synapses in brain-like chips http://phys.org/news/2016-04-physicists-electronic-synapses-neural-networks.html. Demonstrations show the memristors reproducing electrical signalling behaviour as observed in biological synapses, including spike-timing-dependent plasticity, long-term potentiation, and long-term depression. Next step will be to incorporate these hardware prototypes into larger brain-like chips.

5. Rejuvenation Gene Therapy Confirmed Against Aging
BioViva has confirmed Liz Parish’s experimental gene therapy, undertaken last year for disabling myostatin and extending teleomeres, successfully extended the telomeres of the cells that were analysed (white blood cells) from 6.71kb to 7.33kb and so effectively removing an average of 20 years worth of telomere shortening http://bioviva-science.com/2016/04/21/first-gene-therapy-successful-against-human-aging/. As always an N=1 should be taken with a grain of salt; the company has received an injection of funding and repeatability will be key in convincing skeptics of the result. The same techniques could be used to target the Per2 gene, leading to rejuvenation of the mammalian immune system and prolonged lifespans http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=163209&CultureCode=en.

6. Single DNA Base Read/Writes Via CRISPR
A newly developed version of CRISPR can be targeted to specific sites in the genome and instead of cutting the DNA, precisely change one DNA base for another in order to correct precise single-base mutations or misspellings https://www.statnews.com/2016/04/20/clever-crispr-advance-unveiled/. This again reduces the risk of off-site target effects and provides an elegant way to make edits, provided the group can further improve the tool to be capable of all 12 basepair swaps (currently does 2). A protein nanopore array has been used for real-time single-base electronic DNA sequencing http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-04/cuso-cet042116.php. The nanopores incorporate a DNA polymerase protein that synthesises a complementary DNA strand as the strand of interest is passed through the pore; each of the four different nucleotides added incorporates a distinct tag that facilitates clearer and more accurate electrical signals that allow the sequence to be reconstructed.

7. Improvements in Extracting Uranium from Seawater
There are lots of efforts to extract useful elements from seawater with Uranium being of particular interest given the oceans collectively hold 4 billion tons of Uranium. Significant advances are being made with seawater extraction of Uranium via novel adsorbent materials that can now achieve 5.2 grams of Uranium per kilogram of adsorbent after 49 days in seawater, and with more recent tests showing 6 grams after 56 days https://www.ornl.gov/news/advances-extracting-uranium-seawater-announced-special-issue. There would be many benefits to achieving economical Uranium (and other metals) extraction from seawater.

8. Ultrasonic Data Transmission Through Flesh
Ultrasonic signals can now be used to transmit data through meat at 30 mbps, enough for HD video http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/biomedical/devices/ultrasonic-signals-transmit-data-through-meat-at-hd-video-quality. Current implanted medical devices are usually limited to much lower data rates, but having wireless data transmission via ultrasound able to deliver HD video offers a number of benefits including live-streaming video from swallowed camera-pills, easily managing large firmware updates to implanted devices, and others. Next step is animal studies and confirmation of the effect of bone structures on data rates.

9. Biomimicry for Brighter LEDs
The amount of light emitted by LEDs was boosted by 60% by carefully shaping the outer surface of the LED to mimic the structure of a firefly’s lantern http://gizmodo.com/scientists-made-leds-60-percent-brighter-by-copying-fir-1771979185. This essentially amounts to forming a nanostructured lens on top of the LED and these structures reduce the difference in refractive index between the material body and air, allowing more light to be emitted. This opens up the possibility for more power-efficient LEDs, but I’m also wondering if they can flip it and improve the efficiency of photodetectors and photovoltaics?

10. The Role of Actin in Memory
New models suggest that actin, the protein that helps to control cell shape, is responsible for the formation of long-term memories http://news.rice.edu/2016/04/18/thanks-actin-for-the-memories/. This concerns studies of the energy landscape of proteins and how actin filaments pull upon and stabilise certain proteins to form longer, more stable, and insoluble prion-like fibers. This offers another piece of evidence for the biological role of prion-like proteins, and also suggests a healthy role for some types of protein aggregates in cells, which are often considered a sign of disease and malfunction. This provides a mechanism for synaptic structures to last many years, if not decades, although the transition from short-term memory to this form of long-term memory is not yet known.

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2016-04-17 08:26:20 (15 comments; 15 reshares; 60 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 16/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/04/neocortical-sequence-memory-neural.html

Neocortical sequence memory, Neural bypass for movement, 3D printed ovaries, Human tissue textiles, Noisy CPUs, Smartphone satellite messaging, CRISPR edited mushrooms, Sticky wearable display, Full duplex radio, SpaceX ship landing.

1. Neocortical Sequence Memory
Numenta have presented a tantalising new theory of how networks of neurons in the neocortex learn sequences that explains (i) why neocortical neurons have thousands of synapses that are segregated onto different parts of the cell, and (ii) how neocortical column arrangement can form a powerful sequence memory http://numenta.com/press/numenta-researchers-discover-how-the-brain-learns-sequences.html. The new models are vastly different to current artificial... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 16/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/04/neocortical-sequence-memory-neural.html

Neocortical sequence memory, Neural bypass for movement, 3D printed ovaries, Human tissue textiles, Noisy CPUs, Smartphone satellite messaging, CRISPR edited mushrooms, Sticky wearable display, Full duplex radio, SpaceX ship landing.

1. Neocortical Sequence Memory
Numenta have presented a tantalising new theory of how networks of neurons in the neocortex learn sequences that explains (i) why neocortical neurons have thousands of synapses that are segregated onto different parts of the cell, and (ii) how neocortical column arrangement can form a powerful sequence memory http://numenta.com/press/numenta-researchers-discover-how-the-brain-learns-sequences.html. The new models are vastly different to current artificial neuron models and deep learning models, and exhibit powerful properties including high fault tolerance, continuous unsupervised learning, and the ability to learn complex sequences. Such models, if validated, will greatly accelerate the development of machine intelligence. In related news certain neural circuit mapping tools are now 20 times more powerful http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-04-brain-tool-powerful-previous-version.html.

2. Neural Bypass Links Brain to Hand
A new neural bypass system uses a brain implant to record signals from the motor cortex, then decodes and sends these to a sleeve of electrodes that stimulate the appropriate forearm muscles, and can do this with an accuracy that allows the person with spinal injury to pick up a bottle or hit the right chord on guitar hero http://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/bionics/now-theres-a-way-around-paralysis-neural-bypass-links-brain-to-hand. With just 96 electrodes sampling 30,000 times per second, machine learning algorithms separate signal from noise in order to correctly encode the correct signals to be sent to the arm electrodes and muscles. With higher-density electrodes and better interfaces with distant muscle neurons we might be well on the way to providing natural, remote brain-body and brain-machine movement.

3. 3D Printed Ovaries Work in Mice
When new ovaries 3D printed with a new technique were implanted into mice they were able to successfully give birth to live healthy pups http://singularityhub.com/2016/04/10/this-3d-printed-prosthetic-ovary-restores-female-fertility-in-mice/. Comprised of a cross-linked biomaterial scaffold and seeded with ovarian follicles the implants were completely innervated by blood vessels, restored the animal’s hormone cycle, and produced eggs that could be fertilised. Human trials and therapies will commence once induced pluripotent stem cell technology can reliably produce the necessary oocytes and support cells needed to seed the scaffold.

4. Textile Techniques for Human Tissue Fabrication
Leading on from 3D printed ovaries, studies of different textile manufacturing techniques have determined which processes are ideal for engineering tissues needed for organ repair and implant http://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2016/0407-methods-used-to-create-textiles-also-could-help-manufacture-human-tissues-2/. The processes tested included the standard electrospinning technique, as well as meltblowing, spunbonding, and carding, all of which exceeded the cost-performance of electrospinning. The main driver for exploring these techniques is the requirement for industrial scale up of these engineered tissues, for example the need to produce 100s of meters of tissue material with consistent and reliable properties.

5. Engineering Noisy CPUs
DARPA-funded Singular Computing is producing CPU chips that deliberately perform mathematical operations incorrectly to a small extent, outputting 2.01 when performing 1 + 1 for example https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601263/why-a-chip-thats-bad-at-math-can-help-computers-tackle-harder-problems/. This fuzzy output turns out to be an asset when processing noisy, messy data and resulting in lower-power computation while software is still able to produce a useful result. Applications include radar imaging, 3D information from stereo photos, deep learning, and others. Demonstrations of object tracking in video performed 100 times faster on these error prone chips and consumed only 2% of the power of a conventional processor.

6. Smartphone Satellite Messaging
Higher Ground has developed a smartphone case called StaPaq that communicates to the phone via bluetooth while packing a satellite communications antenna that allows basic text messaging and email via satellite from remote locations lacking standard network connectivity http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/telecom/wireless/could-satellite-messaging-startup-higher-ground-bring-down-the-911-system. There are concerns with spectrum interference and antenna power density at close range, but there is a genuine use-case and benefits for people in remote areas, and also for remote sensors and intermittent reporting monitors as part of the Internet of Things. In related news Facebook unveiled ARIES, a wireless antenna array that can deliver data communications to devices dozens of miles away http://www.wired.com/2016/04/facebooks-massive-new-antennas-can-beam-internet-miles/.

7. CRISPR Edited Mushroom Available for Sale
Mushrooms whose genomes have been edited with CRISPR can be cultivated and sold without further regulatory interference http://www.nature.com/news/gene-edited-crispr-mushroom-escapes-us-regulation-1.19754. This is the first CRISPR-edited organism to receive such a green light; the mushroom was edited to disable 6 genes and this resulted in an increased resistance to browning. The mushroom made it through regulatory oversight because the only edits involved disabled genes and didn’t include the introduction of foreign or novel genes from other organisms.

8. Wearable Display Adheres to Skin
A skin-like microns-thick organic LED display can stick comfortably to the skin and display information from similarly wearable sensors http://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/devices/this-wearable-digital-display-just-sticks-on-your-skin. With further development one might imagine higher resolution displays capable of images and more dense information such as a replacement for a smartwatch as a form of temporary stick-on tattoo, a full-body version of which would be a pretty impressive / magical sight.

9. Low Power Full Duplex Radio
Building on work and prototypes first demonstrated last year a low-power full-duplex radio chip has been demonstrated that can transmit and receive signals on the same frequency at the same time using a single antenna http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/telecom/wireless/new-full-duplex-radio-chip-transmits-and-receives-wireless-signals-at-once. The promise is that mature rollout of such a chip would double the data capacity of existing technology. This breakthrough required a novel hardware solution involving the exact arrangement of transistors on the chip as well as an echo-cancelling receiver. The current chip should work for WiFi but will need to have its power capacity boosted to facilitate longer distance mobile communications.

10. SpaceX Lands Rocket on Drone Ship
At the start of the week we got to bear witness to SpaceX achieve yet another remarkable milestone in drastically reducing the cost to reach orbit by successfully launching a Falcon 9 rocket 200km into space, deploying an inflatable habitat in space, then re-entering the atmosphere and landing on a drone ship out at sea http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/04/like-a-boss-falcon-soars-into-space-and-lands-in-the-ocean/. Landing out at sea is more fuel efficient. If it passes firing tests the same rocket will be relaunched by June with the company offering a 30% price saving to customers.

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2016-04-16 02:50:41 (46 comments; 5 reshares; 23 +1s)Open 

Recent Politics

Perhaps the best, regular, and most engaging political coverage I’ve ever found bar none is Dave Rubin’s +The Rubin Report the YouTube channel of which has quickly become one of my favourites and a regular go-to source. I’d like to share why that is and also provide some insight into my current political views and how they came to be that way - the first such post I’ve done on politics in over 5 years. Decent chance I'll regret it. I agonised over which of Dave’s videos to share here but chose this one because (i) the call to action at the end inspired me to be more vocal, (ii) the critiques of the far left RE terrorism are applicable to critiques of the far left RE other things, and (iii) it’s just a great public statement in general.

Some of the things I absolutely love about the show include the incredible diversity of people he has on tointerview, ... more »

Recent Politics

Perhaps the best, regular, and most engaging political coverage I’ve ever found bar none is Dave Rubin’s +The Rubin Report the YouTube channel of which has quickly become one of my favourites and a regular go-to source. I’d like to share why that is and also provide some insight into my current political views and how they came to be that way - the first such post I’ve done on politics in over 5 years. Decent chance I'll regret it. I agonised over which of Dave’s videos to share here but chose this one because (i) the call to action at the end inspired me to be more vocal, (ii) the critiques of the far left RE terrorism are applicable to critiques of the far left RE other things, and (iii) it’s just a great public statement in general.

Some of the things I absolutely love about the show include the incredible diversity of people he has on to interview, the mostly balanced nature of the discussions, the fact that the guests are allowed to talk and say their piece, the exposure to different opinions and viewpoints that I wouldn’t otherwise encounter, the useful rhetoric and argumentative tools that you pick up, the fact that Dave helps a person open up and I find myself both agreeing with some of what they say and disagreeing with other bits, and that Dave is just a really likeable, honest guy who’d be cool to hang out and have a drink with. Although he is just as likely to prefer a joint instead.

It probably helps that my political alignment is similar to Dave’s in the sense of a classical liberal with libertarian leanings. Freedom of speech and expression is sacrosanct, fundamental, and the foundation upon which all we hold dear is built.

I first came across the channel when he interviewed Sam Harris. This was a while after the Ben Affleck affair on the Bill Maher show in which Affleck absolutely embarrassed himself with obnoxious, misleading, and utterly ludicrous attacks on Harris. I’m a fan and supporter of Harris and have long considered him one of the most rational, courageous, and carefully precise thinkers currently serving the public sphere. The interview with Dave is excellent and probably Harris’ best response to the Affleck affair and other matters.

Interestingly the Affleck abuse of Harris (like similar treatment by The Young Turks that I now can’t tolerate), a well-intentioned liberal attacking a well-grounded intellectual liberal, marked the first time I became acutely aware of a stark and ugly division in the left, something that had apparently been building for years.

A lot of the focus of the show over the past 6 months has been to hammer home and expose issues to do with the radicalised far left, which is replete with special interest groups who espouse inherently authoritarian and fascist ideologies but paradoxically believe they are progressive. Nothing could be further from the truth of course and Rubin recasts these efforts with a more suitable term first used by Maajid Nawaz, that of the Regressive Left, and making a very good case for political horseshoe theory with the extreme left and extreme right having far more in common with each other (like authoritarianism) than anyone else along the spectrum including classical liberals, libertarians, or other moderates.

Some examples of regressive left, fascist ideologies include things like third wave feminism, social justice warriors, Islamophobia, rape culture, modern identity politics, safe spaces, trigger warnings, microaggressions, and political correctness in general, which is perhaps the foundation for them all.

On political correctness the late George Carlin said it best: Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkhUivqzWv0

What these movements, these ideologies all have in common is the authoritarian desire to control, censor, and block free speech, while sharing rhetoric that involves rampant use of logical fallacies including anecdotal evidence, black and white examples, cherry-picked data, and most commonly an appeal to emotion used to drive a baseless culture of outrage and offense. At its worst this results in a culture of shaming and witch-hunting, and a deplorable infantilisation of both our youth and our discourse in general. Such ideologies serve only to make society less equal, and less equitable while boosting societal divisiveness, bizarrely threatening to reverse the hard-won progress we’ve collectively made previously in making everyone more equal and more equitable.

In general everyone along the spectrum has good hearts and means well; everyone wants a better world. Yet as the regressive left seeks to censor debate and reach for that elusive pseudo moral superiority with which to bash everyone else with, it instead grasps fascism in all its intolerant glory. What annoys me most at times with this growing facet of our political spectrum are things such as a denial of biology, a confirmation bias that recasts everything to fit the narrative, and the unshakable faith-based conviction that all who disagree are bigots that must be silenced. If nothing else it has opened my mind to the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of moral and cultural relativism. Few things sadden me as much as seeing free speech blocked, censored, and silenced on University campuses, those supposed bastions of the enlightenment.

Some memorable interviews include:
Note all interviews are also available in shorter sections addressing specific topics.

Sam Harris
On Affleck fallout, Islam, and being continually misrepresented
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQqxlzHJrU0

Christina Hoff Sommers
One of the most prominent feminist academics on the planet
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RNaspc5Ep4

Mike Cernovich
Convinced me that Trump is a good bet for President over Hillary purely on establishment shake-up grounds. Although Sanders is still my first choice and I hope he succeeds in his bid.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K03gRy6qjKY

Milo Yianopolous
Provocateur; but I tend to agree with his message and methods
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FvADt-mJ_o and
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiA0P9iELAA

Ben Shapiro
Confrontingly conservative, hammers the irrelevancy of feelings in public / social policy decisions
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Qrlnn35gBo

John McCain
Presented surprisingly well and articulately
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSB8CYXcchw

Gad Saad
Jovial evolutionary psychologist and liberal political commentator
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jq1utGg0PUY

Douglas Murray
Political commentator on free speech and Islam
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oX914A6dbbs

All of this was playing in the back of my mind recently while reading Peter Turchin’s excellent book Ultrasociety concerning the rise of cultures, states, and societal institutions that are ever-more cooperative, ever-more equitable, ever-more trusting, productive, and wealthy. And all driven by competition between different cultural groups that has, historically, been unfortunately characterised by war. The key passages that come to mind here are those concerning the common features of empires (that their dominant cultures) that fall: (i) enrichment of elites, (ii) rampant inequality in wealth, and (iii) rising demands of special interest groups - all of which contributes to the evaporation of trust, a decline in cooperation and the weakening of the state and culture that helped make the existence of productive wealth and special interests even possible in the first place.

I fear that there are real parallels here to our current situation, that the rise of special interest groups, small distinct subcultures that don’t integrate with and are divisively toxic to the broader culture that supports them, are like tumours slowly festering and sending out toxic signalling molecules to the surrounding support tissue. Hyperbole? Sure. But in this view the rising influence of far left fascist interest groups are as potentially damaging to our society’s future well being as are the depredations of extreme elite enrichment and inequality. Dealing with this intolerance is becoming doubly important given the growing technological pressures (such as pervasive surveillance) for our society to develop values and institutions that boost wisdom and enshrine forgiveness and tolerance.

To finish off this part Rubin Report recommendation, part rant that some are sure to judge me by, I’ll share a good recent piece by Status 451, All Aboard The Shame Train, that overviews some of the recent growing intolerance and fascism that I’ve alluded to: https://status451.com/2016/04/05/all-aboard-the-shame-train/

For now, I'm going back to the science and tech I love so dearly.

Edit: Clarification over Sanders / Trump confusion___

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2016-04-14 05:15:08 (4 comments; 4 reshares; 17 +1s)Open 

Just attended the Rodney Brooks Public Lecture: The Future of Robotics and AI

Rodney Brooks, of Roomba, Rethink Robotics, Baxter, Sawyer fame gave a public lecture at Flinders University this afternoon and I was lucky enough to attend. Rodney received his Bachelors degree from Flinders before travelling to the USA to complete a PhD and launch his stellar career, and still has family in Adelaide.

Sawyer's design was influenced by Apple apparently: Apple dictates that employees at Chinese factories where iPhones are made must have a 2-foot by 2-foot by 5-foot workspace, and so Sawyer was designed to fit that workspace.

He enjoyed the latest The Martian movie because the little robot he worked on Sojourner made an appearance o_0

Rodney believe's that the future is one of human-machine partnership; 600,000 manufacturing jobs in USA remain... more »

Just attended the Rodney Brooks Public Lecture: The Future of Robotics and AI

Rodney Brooks, of Roomba, Rethink Robotics, Baxter, Sawyer fame gave a public lecture at Flinders University this afternoon and I was lucky enough to attend. Rodney received his Bachelors degree from Flinders before travelling to the USA to complete a PhD and launch his stellar career, and still has family in Adelaide.

Sawyer's design was influenced by Apple apparently: Apple dictates that employees at Chinese factories where iPhones are made must have a 2-foot by 2-foot by 5-foot workspace, and so Sawyer was designed to fit that workspace.

He enjoyed the latest The Martian movie because the little robot he worked on Sojourner made an appearance o_0

Rodney believe's that the future is one of human-machine partnership; 600,000 manufacturing jobs in USA remain unfilled and are perfect for robots so they won't take away jobs (personally I wasn't convinced). His projections for the future are a bit conservative with regard to robot roll-out and capability; key problems that need solving are Mobility (difficult terrain), Messiness (object mapping and recognition), and Manipulation (better hands with Mechanics, Sensors, Algorithms, and Materials). Wasn't that enamoured with deep learning advances and thinks they are a long long way from human capabilities of generalisation.

My contribution: At the end of the talk someone asked about his thoughts on nanobots, Rodney started by saying "Ever since that guy . . . you know . . . engines of creation . . . " and I shouted out "Drexler" . . . "Yeah that's the guy, Eric Drexler . . ." Rodney is actually more optimistic for the next 20 years RE nanobots given recent demonstrations than he had been for the previous 20 years; science and tech advances appear to have won him over.
___

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2016-04-12 13:52:17 (70 comments; 16 reshares; 67 +1s)Open 

Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth by Peter Turchin

This book changed my conception of war, culture, society, cooperation, competition, religion, and memes - to a lesser or greater extent.

The main thrust of Ultrasociety concerns support of new theories of evolutionary group selection to explain the rise and nature of the complex societies we currently find ourselves in, while challenging the standard criticisms of conventional evolutionary group selection. While genetics is of course mentioned, these advanced theories of group selection are based on Multilevel Cultural Selection, the selection of cultural traits, of memes or memeplexes, that lead to the evolution of ever-larger groups better able to compete, better able to cooperate, better able to produce more resources and more equitable societies. And this selection for the... more »

Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth by Peter Turchin

This book changed my conception of war, culture, society, cooperation, competition, religion, and memes - to a lesser or greater extent.

The main thrust of Ultrasociety concerns support of new theories of evolutionary group selection to explain the rise and nature of the complex societies we currently find ourselves in, while challenging the standard criticisms of conventional evolutionary group selection. While genetics is of course mentioned, these advanced theories of group selection are based on Multilevel Cultural Selection, the selection of cultural traits, of memes or memeplexes, that lead to the evolution of ever-larger groups better able to compete, better able to cooperate, better able to produce more resources and more equitable societies. And this selection for the large, complex, and equitable societies we now have was driven by war. The arguments, supporting historical data, and predictions are incredibly compelling and provide profound insights and a new and very useful way of looking at the world we live in and the direction we are headed.

I was incredibly fortunate to stumble across this book and have the opportunity to distill and consider its contents.

There are interesting and at first counterintuitive lessons here, such as the most important technology invented by our species after language was ranged, or thrown, weapons. This is because ranged weapons levelled physical ability and prowess, allowed dominant alpha males to be dispatched much more safely, and by doing so empowered the development of group egalitarianism and more cooperative groups of early humans.

The key and most important lesson however is that within-group competition destroys cooperation within the group, making it less cohesive and more likely to fall to another group, and between-group competition enhances cooperation within the group, boosting cohesion and making the group more likely to resist or destroy another group. Groups that develop rules, values, and institutions that boost cooperation within the group, that develop cooperative cultures, will overwhelmingly tend to outcompete those that do not or those that do so poorly. Cooperation is the key to success; a large group will always prevail over a small group due to sheer numbers and basic logistical superiority enabling terrifying staying-power.

Despite being against war, and making a case for war itself trending to extinction, Ultrasociety tends to suggest that an appropriate rephrasing of Bruce Springsteen’s classic lyrics would be: “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing everything we cherish and hold dear.”

Cultural selection as presented even makes a case for the value of organised religion. War and conflict between groups can drive the creation of large, complex states of millions of people but within-group cooperation at this scale is inherently fragile. Monotheistic religions arose because they served as a wonderful binder and glue to enforce and maintain cooperation during times of peace, helping to create institutions that facilitated trust between people. In small groups everyone knows and watches everyone else; in big groups with religion everyone is known by and watched by a God.

Looking forward, with religion having served its purpose and in the obvious absence of gods, I wonder what institutions we will create to fill this gap? Will we welcome pervasive transparent surveillance or will we be able to adequately implement blockchain technology to replace our ailing institutions and guarantee an even stronger level of trust between people? The lessons from Ultrasociety are also important for those considering or running a business, or marshalling any collective group towards a worthwhile goal.

Perhaps most provocatively, Ultrasociety makes a compelling, if unstated case against the philosophies of moral and cultural relativism. Not all cultures are equal; some cultures are better than others, and this can be measured empirically. Those cultures falling behind would be wise to adopt and improve upon the institutions of those more successful cultures if they are to avoid extinction.

Selected excerpts:

The theory of cultural multilevel selection says that this evolution is only possible when societies compete against each other, so that those lacking the right institutions fail. The costly institutions of complex societies manage to spread and propagate because the societies that possess them destroy those that don’t.

It was competition and conflict between human groups that drove the transformation of small bands of hunter-gatherers into huge nation-states. Not to put too fine a point on it, it was war that first created despotic, archaic states and then destroyed them, replacing them with better, more equal societies. War both destroys and creates. War is a force of destructive creation, a terrible means to a remarkable end.

Nevertheless, this brutal, murderous force can also be creative. By eliminating poorly coordinated, uncooperative, and dysfunctional states it creates more cooperative, more peaceful, and more affluent ones.

Here’s how war serves to weed out societies that “go bad.” When discipline, imposed by the need to survive conflict, gets relaxed, societies lose their ability to cooperate. A reactionary catchphrase of the 1970s used to go, “what this generation needs is a war,” a deplorable sentiment but one that in terms of cultural evolution might sometimes have a germ of cold logic. At any rate, there is a pattern that we see recurring throughout history, when a successful empire expands its borders so far that it becomes the biggest kid on the block. When survival is no longer at stake, selfish elites and other special interest groups capture the political agenda. The spirit that “we are all in the same boat” disappears and is replaced by a “winner take all” mentality. As the elites enrich themselves, the rest of the population is increasingly impoverished. Rampant inequality of wealth further corrodes cooperation. Beyond a certain point a formerly great empire becomes so dysfunctional that smaller, more cohesive neighbors begin tearing it apart. Eventually the capacity for cooperation declines to such a low level that barbarians can strike at the very heart of the empire without encountering significant resistance. But barbarians at the gate are not the real cause of imperial collapse. They are a consequence of the failure to sustain social cooperation. As the British historian Arnold Toynbee said, great civilizations are not murdered — they die by suicide.

The 30 years in America since about 1985 were a giant social experiment. What would happen if ideologies extolling extreme individualism and elevating self-interest as the sole basis on which to organize society were to gain the upper hand? The results are in: a decline of social cooperation at all levels of American society, resulting in a decreased ability to get the job done.

Complex human societies, including our own, are fragile. They are held together by an invisible web of mutual trust and social cooperation. This web can fray easily, resulting in growing social dysfunction. When cooperation is lost, a typical result is a wave of political instability and internal conflict and, in extreme cases, outright social collapse.

Social theorists have a name for smart people motivated solely by greed and fear — “rational agents.” It turns out that a group consisting entirely of rational agents is incapable of cooperation. In particular, such people will never manage to put together a fighting troop.

In fact, no matter what others do, a rational agent’s best course of action is always to defect. In a tribe of rational agents, all will feel this way, and therefore none will go out to meet the enemy. They’ll all pretend to be sick — until they are dragged out of bed and killed by their enemies.

Although societies differ in their tolerance of inequality (especially if it’s justified by high performance), there is always a point beyond which unequal division of rewards ceases to seem legitimate. When people feel that they are not getting their fair share, they begin to withdraw their cooperation. In a baseball team in which one player — the superstar — earns 10 times as much as his mates, the other players begin to slack off. As a result, baseball teams with highly unequal payrolls win fewer games than teams in which rewards are distributed more equitably. This is despite the fact that the more unequal teams have extremely strong players.

Teamwork pays. A single hunter can spend a lot of effort chasing down a rabbit, and get only a pound or two of meat to show for it at the end of the day. When a team of hunters brings down a buffalo, they will divide among themselves close to a thousand pounds of meat—perhaps a hundred pounds each. Economists call this kind of arithmetic “increasing returns to scale” — when a group working together can significantly increase each individual’s payoff, compared with what they would get working on their own.

In particular, high-trust societies tend to be more successful — better governed, more economically productive, simply nicer places to live and to visit.

Natural selection can simultaneously act on individuals within groups, and on whole groups. Within each tribe, cowards do better than brave men, on average increasing every generation. But at the same time, cowardly tribes are eliminated by courageous ones. Which of these processes will be stronger depends on many details: just how great is the cost of bravery?

Generally speaking, the capacity for culture should evolve (assuming that such pre-adaptations as sophisticated cognitive abilities are in place) when the environment changes too fast for genetic adaptation to work, but slowly enough for information accumulated by previous generations to be useful. If environmental change is faster than that, you are better off learning everything yourself, even though it’s risky and inefficient. Some aspects of the modern environment are changing very rapidly indeed.

As a corollary, while competition between teams creates cooperation, competition among players within a team destroys it. In other words, to succeed, cooperative groups must suppress internal competition. Equality of group members is, therefore, a very important factor in promoting group cohesion and cooperation, which translates into the capacity of the group to win against other groups.

Remember, the raw stuff of evolution is variation. When different teams, firms, ethnic groups, or whole societies are allowed (even encouraged) to experiment with different ways of doing things, it becomes possible to see what works best. Then best practices can be selected, either by the process of blind evolution, or by conscious choice. However, after that it would be a mistake to force everybody to do things the same way, because that would stop evolution in its tracks. You never know if there’s an even better solution just around the corner — or a danger that your training never prepared you for.

A coalition of punishers armed with stones (remember that stoning is one of the most ancient forms of capital punishment) or, better, with spears and bows and arrows, can easily dispatch an upstart with little risk to themselves. The killing power of projectile weapons is what made men equal, and drove the evolution of egalitarianism, thanks to our collective ability to control and subdue aggressive, physically powerful males.

This effect is known as Lanchester’s Square Law, because during each round of engagement, the proportion of casualties inflicted by an army on its adversary is the square of its numerical advantage. The moral of this mathematical digression is that, on flat plains, with warriors using projectile weapons, any numerical superiority that an army can achieve over its enemy is magnified out of all proportion. In other words, Lanchester’s Square Law yields an enormous return to social scale.

This means that under conditions of intense warfare and a real existential threat to groups that are defeated, we should expect a strong selection not only for larger size, but also for effective military hierarchies. However, the more effective a military hierarchy is, the more power it has. There is a principle in Sociology known as the Iron Law of Oligarchy. It says that all forms of organization, regardless of how democratic or autocratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop into oligarchies. Power corrupts.

Why was cultural group selection the key to the transition from forager to farmer? Because you cannot switch to farming when everybody else in your community is foraging. The whole group needs to shift together. It requires a new set of cultural norms and institutions shared by all. The most important such institution would have been property rights over the food that you have grown.

The logic of cultural group selection also explains why agriculture was adopted in spite of its huge health costs. Groups of poorly nourished — perhaps even chronically sick — farmers were able to exterminate healthy and tall foragers simply by force of numbers. So individual fitness (both in the evolutionary sense and in the everyday sense of physical condition) declined, but evolutionary group fitness increased, and that is what drove the whole process.

Just as cows breed more cows, wealth breeds more wealth. The Matthew Principle means that economic inequality always increases. Short of a destructive war or a revolution that expropriates from the rich, economic inequality can only be kept in check by some kind of periodic redistribution, such as progressive taxes on wealth and inheritance.

Around 2,500 years ago, we see qualitatively new forms of social organization — the larger and more durable Axial mega-empires that employed new forms of legitimation of political power. The new sources of this legitimacy were the Axial religions, or more broadly ideologies, such as Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and Confucianism (and later Christianity and Islam). During this time, gods evolved from capricious projections of human desire (who as often as not squabbled among themselves) into transcendental moralizers concerned above all with prosocial behavior by all, including the rulers. The Axial religions introduced several innovations that enabled post-Axial states to increase the scale of social cooperation. In other words, universal religions expand the circle of cooperation beyond the ethnolinguistic group; they work as a glue that holds together diverse groups in multiethnic empires.

So large groups in which belief in a moralistic, all-knowing punisher became rooted would be more cooperative than the atheistic ones. In small-scale societies, people behaved prosocially because they were being watched by acquaintances and neighbors. In large-scale anonymous societies they had to be good because gods watched them.

In Norenzayan’s words, “watched people are nice people.” It doesn’t matter whether the watchers are your friends and neighbors or supernatural beings (or even “Big Brother,” as in our modern societies). As long as people are watched, they behave nicely. And groups of people who behave nicely to each other win over groups that don’t. Sincere belief in supernatural moralistic punishers is particularly important because of the way it can restrain the powerful. A monarch may not care very much what peasants think of him, but he would think twice before crossing an all-knowing omnipotent god.

Available here: http://www.amazon.com/Ultrasociety-Years-Humans-Greatest-Cooperators-ebook/dp/B0185P69LU

The Secret of Our Success by Joseph Henrich also looks good and along similar lines to Ultrasociety.
___

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2016-04-10 08:50:02 (11 comments; 18 reshares; 67 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 15/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/04/gut-bacteria-therapeutics-large.html

Gut bacteria therapeutics, Large cortical maps, Metal foam applications, Plastic proteins, Stem cell regeneration, Nanocrystal ink transistors, Elegant brain navigation, Harmonic gear improvements, Smartphone blood tests, Carbon nanotube advances.

1. Reprogrammed Gut Bacteria Therapeutics
Synologic is seeking to launch a range of living therapeutics comprising engineered gut microbes http://news.mit.edu/2016/startup-synlogic-reprogramming-gut-bacteria-living-therapeutics-0405. The bacteria are intended to correct metabolic disorders that cause major diseases by providing augmented metabolic capabilities in the gut or otherwise complement functionality that may have been lost in other organs. These are metabolic... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 15/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/04/gut-bacteria-therapeutics-large.html

Gut bacteria therapeutics, Large cortical maps, Metal foam applications, Plastic proteins, Stem cell regeneration, Nanocrystal ink transistors, Elegant brain navigation, Harmonic gear improvements, Smartphone blood tests, Carbon nanotube advances.

1. Reprogrammed Gut Bacteria Therapeutics
Synologic is seeking to launch a range of living therapeutics comprising engineered gut microbes http://news.mit.edu/2016/startup-synlogic-reprogramming-gut-bacteria-living-therapeutics-0405. The bacteria are intended to correct metabolic disorders that cause major diseases by providing augmented metabolic capabilities in the gut or otherwise complement functionality that may have been lost in other organs. These are metabolic thermostats, regulating levels of ammonia or amino acids in the first examples, and seeking to treat things like inflammatory bowel disease in future, and possibly even things like lactose and gluten intolerance. Such a platform might be used not only for disease treatment but enhancement too. This is especially interesting given recent studies demonstrating gut bacteria regulating brain structure and function https://www.theguardian.com/science/neurophilosophy/2016/apr/05/gut-bacteria-brain-myelin and suggesting gut bacteria modification might actually impact intelligence.

2. Largest Network of Cortical Neurons Mapped
The largest network map of connections between neurons in the cortex has been published, another important milestone in the field of connectomics https://www.alleninstitute.org/what-we-do/brain-science/news-press/press-releases/research-largest-network-cortical-neurons-date-published-nature. This work is increasingly building tools to reverse engineer the brain and discover relationships between circuit wiring and neuronal and network computations, identifying modular architectures and functionally specific connectivity between neurons. This work comprised a 100 terabyte 3D data set, specifically analysing neurons in the visual cortex that responded to particular stimuli such as horizontal bars on a screen.

3. Composite Metal Foam Applications
The development of composite metal foams has developed in interesting directions, with the latest demonstration showing a 1-inch thick composite metal foam easily withstanding the impact from a high-power armour-piercing bullet, indeed the bullet turns into dust on impact - see the video https://news.ncsu.edu/2016/04/metal-foam-tough-2016/. In addition these metal foams are significantly lighter than normal metal plate, effectively shield x-rays, gamma rays, and neutron radiation, and handle fire and heat twice as well as bulk metals.

4. Versatile Plastic Proteins
Cyanuric chloride is a molecule being used as the base for a platform materials technology able to create a huge range of synthetic plastic proteins http://www.pnnl.gov/news/release.aspx?id=4266. This base molecule is used to produce a wide range of monomers with different side chains (functional groups) like amino acids, the monomers can be linked together in specific sequences as desired, and the chemistry facilitates predictable non-covalent bonds able to fold the polymer into desired shapes (like a protein). The benefits are the ability to create a much larger library of stable monomers, and potentially longer, larger polymer chains and more diverse folded shapes with novel functions - even replacing or mimicking protein drugs if needed. The benefits are these materials are much more stable, longer-lived, and resistant to protein-type degradation than normal proteins.

5. Next Generation Stem Cell Tissue Regeneration
A new stem cell technique reprograms bone and fat cells into induced multipotent stem cells (iMS) that have the ability to regenerate multiple tissue types in mice http://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/health/medical-scientists-develop-%E2%80%98game-changing%E2%80%99-stem-cell-repair-system. Once human iMS cells have been demonstrated as safe and effective in mice then human trials with the new cells may begin in 2017. The transformation procedure seems quite straightforward, and involves treating the cells with the compound 5-Azacytidine and platelet-derived growth factor. This looks fascinating for regenerating and repairing damaged or diseased tissues, but I wonder if it will also rejuvenate simply aged tissues? In related news the genes driving natural regeneration in animals have been mapped and counterparts have been found in humans https://today.duke.edu/2016/04/genetrees.

6. Nanocrystal Ink Transistors
Different spherical nanoparticles with the necessary electrical properties were dispersed in liquids to make inks, and a library of four of these inks can be used to lay down precise patterns to form transistors and other electrical components on flexible surfaces https://news.upenn.edu/news/penn-engineers-develop-first-transistors-made-entirely-nanocrystal-inks. This is a low-power, low-temperature fabrication technique and a good example of additive manufacturing process for creating logic gates, integrated circuits, and other electronics. It is also nicely modular as individual inks and nanocrystals can be independently developed and optimised to achieve better results. In related news precisely layered quantum dots enhance light-to-current energy conversion https://www.bnl.gov/newsroom/news.php?a=11829.

7. Brain Location Tracking with Natural Logarithms
It has been known that brains use grid cells to keep track of their physical location, but the mechanism by which grid cells encode and decode this information has now been deciphered for the first time http://www.upenn.edu/spotlights/penn-researchers-theory-brains-location-tracking-cells-use-transcendental-number-system. Grid cells use a transcendental number system based on the mathematical constant ‘e’ with different sized grids acting as the equivalent of tens, hundreds, and thousands in a decimal number, and with different sized grids found in ratios of ‘e’. To find ‘e’ lurking in the brain’s codes like this is pretty powerful and I wonder where else in the brain it might be found; it turns out that this is the most efficient way to encode the most amount of information with the least amount of cells and so it shouldn’t be too surprising the evolution figured this out a long time ago. This system works for animals navigating a predominantly 2D environment, but for those navigating 3D you only need a slightly different factor of ‘e’ to achieve the same.

8. Improvements for Harmonic Gears
Harmonic gears have the same size, weight, and form factor regardless of gear ratio, allowing flexible design revisions and reduction ratios of 30:1 to 160:1 being common; as a bonus developments in materials technology should allow harmonic gears to maintain their exceptional torque capacity while realising a 30% reduction in weight http://nextbigfuture.com/2016/04/stronger-metals-will-make-lighter-and.html. Prime benefits and applications here appear to be in robotics and prosthetics, for which you might want this analogue self-powered smart skin http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=43084.php.

9. Portable, Personal, Smartphone, Blood Testing
Cor is launching a product to bring blood chemistry testing via spectroscopy to the home http://www.gizmag.com/cor-blood-chemistry-health-tracker/42608/. The system uses (i) single-use cartridges that have a fine needle to take surface level blood samples, (ii) a reader unit then takes the cartridge and analyses the sample via vibrational spectroscopy, (iii) data is sent to the cloud for processing, (iv) results are returned to the person via a smartphone app. The first tests will include cholesterol, glucose, fibrinogen, and triglycerides. It is great to see this space increasingly heating up and I’m sorely tempted to back Cor’s Indiegogo campaign.

10. Latest Interesting Carbon Nanotube Tech
First, wafer-scale uniformly-aligned high-density carbon nanotube films are now being produced, which can be patterned by standard photolithography methods, and which have produced transistors, LEDs, photodetectors, and polarizers http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/materials/wafer-scale-nanotube-film-is-finally-here. Second, carbon nanotubes have been used as nanoreactors to produce long (micrometer), stable one-dimensional carbon chains known as carbyne within the nanotubes; carbyne’s mechanical properties exceed all known materials http://phys.org/news/2016-04-proof-stable-ultra-long-1d-carbon.html. Finally, carbon nanotubes have been confirmed as the fastest proton conductors ever discovered http://phys.org/news/2016-04-tiny-tubes-fast-lane.html.

SciTech Tip Jar: http://www.scitechdigest.net/p/donate.html___

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2016-04-07 14:56:17 (16 comments; 20 reshares; 94 +1s)Open 

Paywalling Publicly Funded Knowledge Should be Illegal

Good coverage from The Washington Post on Alexandra Elbakyan's effort to liberate and make free 50 million scientific journal articles from their private vaults https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/this-student-put-50-million-stolen-research-articles-online-and-theyre-free/2016/03/30/7714ffb4-eaf7-11e5-b0fd-073d5930a7b7_story.html.

Like Aaron Swartz before her, Elbakyan is an ideological trail-blazer. Her website, https://sci-hub.io/ continues to add more scientific journal articles every day under the core mission of removing all barriers in the way of science. This should be permanently bookmarked by everyone.

There are issues anyway with the scientific peer-review process and this is complicated by the fact that legacy journals seem like dinosaurs in the modern age, at risk of hindering progress and the... more »

Paywalling Publicly Funded Knowledge Should be Illegal

Good coverage from The Washington Post on Alexandra Elbakyan's effort to liberate and make free 50 million scientific journal articles from their private vaults https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/this-student-put-50-million-stolen-research-articles-online-and-theyre-free/2016/03/30/7714ffb4-eaf7-11e5-b0fd-073d5930a7b7_story.html.

Like Aaron Swartz before her, Elbakyan is an ideological trail-blazer. Her website, https://sci-hub.io/ continues to add more scientific journal articles every day under the core mission of removing all barriers in the way of science. This should be permanently bookmarked by everyone.

There are issues anyway with the scientific peer-review process and this is complicated by the fact that legacy journals seem like dinosaurs in the modern age, at risk of hindering progress and the free dissemination of knowledge. Hopefully SciHub survives and evolves to better help with these issues.

Some of these issues have been covered by +Jesse Powell in a number of different posts, e.g.
(1) Editorial failures https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JessePowell_ad_astra/posts/QgNDLBrPX7w
(2) Unlocking papers https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JessePowell_ad_astra/posts/KeKVwLUNM2h
(3) Open peer review https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JessePowell_ad_astra/posts/AZ1gK5XbvyX___

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2016-04-07 12:18:17 (15 comments; 41 reshares; 128 +1s)Open 

The Accelerating Feedback Loop Between Brain Mapping and Machine Learning

Quanta has yet another great article providing a relatively detailed overview of the current state of brain mapping advances, machine learning advances, and the accelerating feedback between the two helping to drive progress forward https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160406-brain-maps-micron-program-iarpa/.

It covers the Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks program run by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, one of whose goals is to Revolutionize machine learning by reverse engineering the algorithms and computations of the brain. Indeed, machine learning algorithms they will develop based on the neural connection diagrams they uncover will be tested against pattern recognition tasks.

One challenge will be dealing with the enormous amounts of data the research produces —1... more »

The Accelerating Feedback Loop Between Brain Mapping and Machine Learning

Quanta has yet another great article providing a relatively detailed overview of the current state of brain mapping advances, machine learning advances, and the accelerating feedback between the two helping to drive progress forward https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160406-brain-maps-micron-program-iarpa/.

It covers the Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks program run by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, one of whose goals is to Revolutionize machine learning by reverse engineering the algorithms and computations of the brain. Indeed, machine learning algorithms they will develop based on the neural connection diagrams they uncover will be tested against pattern recognition tasks.

One challenge will be dealing with the enormous amounts of data the research produces — 1 to 2 petabytes of data per millimeter cube of brain. The teams will likely need to develop new machine-learning tools to analyze all that data, a rather ironic feedback loop of its own.

"By building machines that think, these researchers hope to reveal the secrets of thought itself." and as the great Richard Feynman said. "What I cannot create, I cannot understand."___

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2016-04-06 14:44:00 (12 comments; 7 reshares; 31 +1s)Open 

The Potential for Blockchains to Replace the State

Launching off from Thomas Hobbs' metaphor of the state and its interconnected system of institutions and social governance as a Leviathan, an artificial being whose capabilities far exceed those of any individual, we have a very interesting hypothesis for whether blockchain technology might eventually evolve into a Leviathan of its own, essentially exerting decentralised governance and force over a constituent population http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/Danaher20160331.

The interesting hook here is the nature of trust. The state, with its institutions and social governance helps solve and coordinate (and enforce) problems of trust between individuals who wish to enter into contracts, and including the default social contract as well as more complex contracts.

Of course, one of - if not the - main reasons... more »

The Potential for Blockchains to Replace the State

Launching off from Thomas Hobbs' metaphor of the state and its interconnected system of institutions and social governance as a Leviathan, an artificial being whose capabilities far exceed those of any individual, we have a very interesting hypothesis for whether blockchain technology might eventually evolve into a Leviathan of its own, essentially exerting decentralised governance and force over a constituent population http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/Danaher20160331.

The interesting hook here is the nature of trust. The state, with its institutions and social governance helps solve and coordinate (and enforce) problems of trust between individuals who wish to enter into contracts, and including the default social contract as well as more complex contracts.

Of course, one of - if not the - main reasons blockchain technology exists is to solve the very same issues of trust between two individuals that may be strangers. However it does this in a decentralised fashion rather than the centralised model of the state.

For this hypothesis to become reality it requires a mature Internet of Things technological ecosystem in which pretty much everything is connected to the IoT and can crunch / send / receive relevant blockchain code.

If everything becomes susceptible to this type of control, we have a technological platform for implementing Leviathan. We won’t need governments, laws and civil institutions anymore. Everything can be managed through the technological infrastructure.

Once this infrastructure exists then one can imagine setting up a Decentralised Autonomous Corporation running on the blockchain and enforcing its contracts, agreements, and control over any physical assets it has been granted, even perhaps those of an enforcement nature.

Fascinating.

I can't remember who first shared this with me; might have been +John Verdon? In any case, thanks!___

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2016-04-06 14:00:15 (12 comments; 4 reshares; 27 +1s)Open 

Is Medical Tourism in Your Future?

FightAging has an interesting proposal on putting together a "Group Purchasing" organisation for medical tourism in order to realise economies of scale and reduce the price of a hypothetical rejuvenation therapy for individuals. See here: https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/03/developing-the-art-of-group-buy-medical-tourism-100-people-traveling-to-pay-10-20000-for-a-rejuvenation-therapy/#comment-23855

BioViva has already blazed a trail in this regard, albeit with a single individual, but the exact same therapies are essentially available for anyone who can afford them. While prices can be expected to decline, such therapies are affordable now for probably most in the first world with an interest in such things as part of a group purchasing strategy.

Of course the benefits here mainly to do with accessibility: getting... more »

Is Medical Tourism in Your Future?

FightAging has an interesting proposal on putting together a "Group Purchasing" organisation for medical tourism in order to realise economies of scale and reduce the price of a hypothetical rejuvenation therapy for individuals. See here: https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/03/developing-the-art-of-group-buy-medical-tourism-100-people-traveling-to-pay-10-20000-for-a-rejuvenation-therapy/#comment-23855

BioViva has already blazed a trail in this regard, albeit with a single individual, but the exact same therapies are essentially available for anyone who can afford them. While prices can be expected to decline, such therapies are affordable now for probably most in the first world with an interest in such things as part of a group purchasing strategy.

Of course the benefits here mainly to do with accessibility: getting the therapies now rather than a decade or more in future and exploiting one's informed consent to circumvent glacial, vested, precautionary dinosaurs known as regulatory agencies. And being content to travel to more liberal locations if necessary.

The things that might be available in the near future include better stem cell therapies, a range of gene therapies including follistatin and myostatin, version 1 senescent cell clearance and amyloid clearance, and others that are worth investigating further.

I agree with others in the comment thread that bio-hackers will be able to replicate and copy many therapies that are developed by larger biotechs and also will slowly but surely begin producing their own therapies. Indeed this is something that I would like to devote my time and energies to.

However I disagree that such "open source" or DIY efforts wouldn't be able to profit handsomely from this, and along similar lines to the main thrust of this current proposal; I do agree they might profit from books too, and perhaps "Dallas Buyers Clubs". Once you've copied or otherwise developed a therapy you could just set up a shell in some other country, producing and selling it from that other jurisdiction in which the proprietor does not have patent rights. The FDA only regulates sale of therapies into the USA for example.

And so people might travel to that jurisdiction to access it. Alternatively they might order it online and you ship it to them just like an online pharmacy today. The proprietor might try to sue the customers in countries in which they have patents, but this is unlikely given the difficulty in policing this. And would be made more difficult if paid for in some digital currency. This is like a Pirate Bay model for disease and enhancement therapeutics.___

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2016-04-03 08:26:55 (10 comments; 26 reshares; 71 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 14/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/04/cell-programming-language-mini-personal.html

Cell programming language, Mini personal pharmacy, Hereditary epigenetics mechanism, IBMs neuromorphic computer, MEMS gravity sensor, Repurposed glucose monitors, Bacteriophages vs amyloids, Automating patch clamping, Biological nanomotor structures, Vision processing units.

1. Programming Language for Cells
A new programming language allows people to program a desired cellular function such as detecting and responding to some environmental condition, and then have the program automatically generates or compiles the DNA sequence that can be inserted into the cell to achieve that function http://news.mit.edu/2016/programming-language-living-cells-bacteria-0331. The proof of concept generated bacteria with... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 14/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/04/cell-programming-language-mini-personal.html

Cell programming language, Mini personal pharmacy, Hereditary epigenetics mechanism, IBMs neuromorphic computer, MEMS gravity sensor, Repurposed glucose monitors, Bacteriophages vs amyloids, Automating patch clamping, Biological nanomotor structures, Vision processing units.

1. Programming Language for Cells
A new programming language allows people to program a desired cellular function such as detecting and responding to some environmental condition, and then have the program automatically generates or compiles the DNA sequence that can be inserted into the cell to achieve that function http://news.mit.edu/2016/programming-language-living-cells-bacteria-0331. The proof of concept generated bacteria with genetic circuits able to respond to three different inputs and respond in different ways and also the largest biological circuit ever created. The design interface will be made available on the web and work will continue to enable the program to compile for species of organisms beyond simple bacteria to include gut bacteria and yeast and potentially higher organisms.

2. Mini Personal Portable Pharmacy
A compact system the size of a refrigerator can be configured to locally produce a variety of drugs on demand including Benadryl, Lidocaine, Valium, and Prozac, and is itself a evolution of an earlier system that was much larger and more complex http://news.mit.edu/2016/portable-pharmacy-on-demand-0331. See image #1 of this post. The group plan to shrink the device by another 40% (another further reduction will get it to desktop scale), and also expand the range of drugs that can be synthesised to include more complex molecules. On demand decentralised production of drugs and other chemicals (like the chemputers I’ve covered previously) is a powerful paradigm with numerous benefits that I can’t wait to see mature and roll out.

3. Mechanism for Hereditary Epigenetic Changes
A mechanism for how epigenetic changes to DNA can be passed onto subsequent generations has been elucidated that depends on small RNA molecules and newly discovered genes that work to turn epigenetic transmissions on and off https://www.aftau.org/weblog-medicine--health?=&storyid4704=2261&ncs4704=3. These mechanisms dictate what epigenetic responses will be inherited and for how long, or how many generations they will be active for. This is very interesting support for many prior studies showing that environmental stress of certain forms can influence the activity of certain genes in subsequent generations. I’m wondering what novel uses this could be used for in synthetic biology applications?

4. IBM’s Latest Neuromorphic Computer
IBM announced the development of a new Scale-up Synaptic Supercomputer based on their TrueNorth architecture to deliver 16 million neurons and 256 million synapses, all for a cool $1 million and consuming just 2.5 watts http://nextbigfuture.com/2016/03/neuromorphic-supercomputer-has-16.html and there is more news on IBM’s resistive computing technology http://nextbigfuture.com/2016/04/bms-resistive-computing-could.html. The main link to Modha’s blog has a lot more detail for those interested. In related news new low-power chips running neural networks developed by large commercial interests are aiming to bring powerful pattern recognition and deep learning applications to mobile platforms (& see #10) http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/embedded-systems/bringing-big-neural-networks-to-selfdriving-cars-smartphones-and-drones.

5. Tiny MEMS Gravity Sensor
A tiny MEMS gravity sensor has been developed that measured the Earth’s tides - the movement of the Earth’s crust due to the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun - via detecting 16nm movements of its main silicon mass http://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/fossil-fuels/stampsized-gravity-meter-could-have-big-impact-on-oil-exploration. The group are working to make the device more sensitive and shrink it (and related equipment) further into something the size of a tennis ball. One might imagine higher resolution gravity maps performed by drones, as well as easier surveying of geological features and volcanoes for example.

6. Detecting Other Diseases with Glucose Monitors
Standard, cheap, portable glucose monitors are being repurposed to detect other diseases http://phys.org/news/2016-03-glucose-diseases.html. The latest approach works by using functionalised liposomes filled with enzymes that produce glucose, that are designed to burst open in the presence of a target molecule and so release the enzymes and cause an increase in glucose in the test solution. The proof of concept demonstrated accurate detection of the thrombin protein, which can indicate heart disease. Repurposing such a basic technology like a glucose monitor in this fashion makes for a pretty compelling platform.

7. Bacteriophage Proteins Treat Amyloid Diseases
The M13 bacteriophage is a type of virus that only infects bacteria and never human cells, but which turns out to have key proteins on its coat that tightly bind to and subsequently dissolve a wide range of amyloid proteins in the brain that are characteristic of a wide range of different diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and others like prion diseases http://nextbigfuture.com/2016/03/neurophage-pharma-may-be-able-to-treat.html. Simply delivering the virus nasally was enough to dissolve amyloid plaques in rodents, leading to an 80% reduction, and refining the proteins into a better drug has resulted in a candidate that should be more effective and safer in humans and should soon undergo human trials.

8. Automated Robots to Record Neuronal Activity in Brains
The technique known as neuronal patch-clamping, in which individual neurons are securely contacted in order to measure in fine detail the internal activity of an individual neuron, is known as the finest art in neuroscience. It is very labour intensive but the first automated system for whole-cell patch-clamping has now been developed, which should help to drastically speed up progress in this space http://www.nature.com/news/robots-record-brain-activity-inside-neurons-1.19675?WT.mc_id=GPL_NatureNews. Experienced humans average success rates of 20% - 60%, with the new device currently averaging 33%, but with additional developments, refinements, and improvements can be reasonably expected surpass humans at some point.

9. Biological Nano-motors and Nano-tubes
Electron cryotomography has allowed imaging at 2 - 5nm resolution to capture unprecedented structural details of bacterial flagella and pili motor cell-wall spanning protein complexes, considered to be the strongest molecular motors in existence https://www.caltech.edu/news/close-view-bacterial-motors-50189. This gives functional knowledge of how such motors apply additional torque propel the cell forward, or actively disgorge a protein rope that can motor can then haul the cell along and through viscous and dense environments; this should prove useful for efforts to build stronger and artificial versions. A new class of peptoid molecules have also been shown to reliably and robustly self assemble into long nanotubes of well defined “stepped” diameters http://newscenter.lbl.gov/2016/03/28/peptoid-nanotubes/.

10. Vision Processing Units for Mobile Chips
Much as a CPU can off-load heavy-duty graphical processing to an on-chip GPU to speed up the process and save power, dedicated and specialised VPUs or vision processing units are being developed and proposed to do the same thing for real-time image processing http://www.digit.in/general/the-rise-of-vpus-giving-eyes-to-machines-29561.html. See image #2 of this post. Early versions of VPUs have been used in DJI’s Phantom drones and Google’s Project Tango technology. We can expect our smartphones and other devices to make VPUs much more common in future as they help power a range of incredibly useful navigation, augmented reality, tracking, environment mapping, eye tracking, object classification, and machine learning applications, and also naturally enable performance boosts for computational photography applications. Regarding a type of computational photography, this method to convert black and white images to colour was too good not to share http://richzhang.github.io/colorization/.

SciTech Tip Jar: http://www.scitechdigest.net/p/donate.html
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2016-04-02 14:45:47 (9 comments; 2 reshares; 48 +1s)Open 

Bees at 240fps

I captured some photos and videos while walking through the Wittunga Botanic Garden a short drive from home today, including a few clips shot at 240fps with my Nexus 6P of bees flying around this flower. The Google Photos App on Android has some pretty powerful and user-friendly create options for albums, edited images, stories, and movies and let me quickly create this short clip that combines the two best slow-mo segments I was able to capture, and the App also automatically added the music and filter.

At some points you can actually make out the individual wing flaps of the bees, something that I just find amazing being able to do on your smartphone. 

Bees at 240fps

I captured some photos and videos while walking through the Wittunga Botanic Garden a short drive from home today, including a few clips shot at 240fps with my Nexus 6P of bees flying around this flower. The Google Photos App on Android has some pretty powerful and user-friendly create options for albums, edited images, stories, and movies and let me quickly create this short clip that combines the two best slow-mo segments I was able to capture, and the App also automatically added the music and filter.

At some points you can actually make out the individual wing flaps of the bees, something that I just find amazing being able to do on your smartphone. ___

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2016-03-27 09:16:52 (12 comments; 28 reshares; 76 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 13/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/03/crispr-vs-hiv-transdermal-drug-implant.html

Living factories, CRISPR vs HIV, Transdermal drug implant, Tiny RFID chip, Smallest genomic organism, Perfect graphene nanoribbons, New neuroprosthetics, Machine learning developments, Smartphone sensor extensions, Plasma printing nanoparticles.

1. Living Factories via Synthetic Biology
Nature has a good review article concerning the rise of synthetic biology and its use in developing living factories able to produce a huge array of products and materials http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v531/n7594/full/531401a.html. Examples include yeast that produces pain-killing pharmaceutical drugs, implanted encapsulated immune cells that produce signalling molecules for psoriasis, cellular sensors that detect and... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 13/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/03/crispr-vs-hiv-transdermal-drug-implant.html

Living factories, CRISPR vs HIV, Transdermal drug implant, Tiny RFID chip, Smallest genomic organism, Perfect graphene nanoribbons, New neuroprosthetics, Machine learning developments, Smartphone sensor extensions, Plasma printing nanoparticles.

1. Living Factories via Synthetic Biology
Nature has a good review article concerning the rise of synthetic biology and its use in developing living factories able to produce a huge array of products and materials http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v531/n7594/full/531401a.html. Examples include yeast that produces pain-killing pharmaceutical drugs, implanted encapsulated immune cells that produce signalling molecules for psoriasis, cellular sensors that detect and respond to metabolites in the blood, bacteria that produce engineered spider silk for textiles, and others that produce biofuels and plastics. Also discusses rationale for moving away from model organisms to those optimised for production, and the exciting possibilities and power of moving to cell-free systems for bioproduction. The growing importance of standard software, standard bioparts, standard gene circuits to help with reliability and repeatability in the field is also outlined.

2. CRISPR Shuts Down HIV
CRISPR has been used to disable HIV DNA in human T-cell genomes, and these cells (i) didn’t produce virus to infect other T-cells and (ii) were protected from reinfection after subsequent exposure to HIV http://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-have-removed-hiv-dna-from-human-immune-cells-using-new-gene-editing-technique. The group hopes to improve accuracy before moving into human trials. But overall this is very promising as a platform demonstration for the ability of CRISPR to deactivate pathogenic DNA from cells and so cure chronic viral infections such as HIV, HPV, HSV, and HCV for example.

3. Living Transdermal Implant for Antibody Production
A small, thin implantable capsule has been developed that comprises two permeable membranes held by polypropylene frame and containing a hydrogel loaded with cells engineered to produce recombinant anti-amyloid antibodies http://www.kurzweilai.net/transdermal-implant-releases-antibodies-to-trigger-immune-system-to-clear-alzheimers-plaques. When implanted in mice with Alzheimer's the capsule prevented the immune system from attacking the cells or device, allowed passive exchange of nutrients and wastes, and successfully produced antibodies that dramatically reduced amyloid plaques in the brain. This is a very interesting platform for smart engineered cell therapies applicable across a wide range of applications.

4. Smallest RFID Chip
Hitachi has launched the smallest RFID chip ever produced, measuring just 0.15mm by 0.15mm and 7.5 microns thick http://thefutureofthings.com/3221-hitachi-develops-worlds-smallest-rfid-chip/. This is really getting towards smart dust. Each chip can store 128-bits of read-only memory, and might be useful in a range of logistics, tracking, counterfeiting, and other applications.

5. Minimal Organism syn3.0
Craig Venter’s group has created the smallest viable organism genome, building on work released in 2010 dubbed syn1.0 to create organism syn3.0 with just 473 genes https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160324-in-newly-created-life-form-a-major-mystery/. Painstakingly whittling down the genome of model organism Mycoplasma genitalium (517 genes / 580kilobases) to arrive at the minimal genome required to survive. The big surprise is that up to a third of the genes have unknown functions (the rest are for DNA maintenance, RNA production and translation to protein, and cell membrane maintenance). There appears to be different ways to have a core set of instructions. In related news excellent work has unveiled the structure and function of fundamental gene transcription machinery http://newscenter.lbl.gov/2016/03/23/unlocking-the-secrets-of-gene-expression/.

6. Fabricating Perfect Graphene Nanoribbons
By using specific precursor molecules, perfect graphene nanoribbons with straight defect-free zigzag edges have been fabricated for the first time http://www.mpip-mainz.mpg.de/4567880/PM2016_4. The narrower such perfect graphene nanoribbons are the bigger their electronic bandgap, and they come with the added bonus of each edge conducting electrons in perfect, opposite spins. In related work repeated crumpling and wrinkling of graphene sheets leads to not only workable bandgaps but compressed graphene materials that retain extreme flexibility and electrical conductivity for energy storage and computational applications http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/materials/crumpling-graphene-repeatedly-adds-a-new-wrinkle.

7. Trio of New Neuroprosthetics
First, a new chip has been implanted into mice brains where it directly senses levels of dopamine and is able to adjust these levels on the fly by electrically stimulating certain neurons to produce more http://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/devices/implantable-chip-measures-and-adjusts-dopamine-levels-in-mouse-brain, basically functioning like a thermostat for dopamine rather than temperature, and possibly being able to replace certain drugs for humans for disease or enhancement. Second, a new DARPA program called Targeted Neuroplasticity Training is seeking to use peripheral nerve stimulation in order to enhance general learning processes in the brain http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2016-03-16. Finally, novel headphones containing twin electrode patches for targeted direct current stimulation of the brain are being used for boosting learning of motor skills https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601054/brain-zapping-headphones-could-make-you-a-better-athlete/.

8. Trio of Machine Learning Advances
First, Google made its Cloud Machine Learning service generally available to everyone as part of the Google Cloud Platform, and allowing people to use the same tools that power products like voice recognition, Google Now, and Google Photos https://cloudplatform.googleblog.com/2016/03/Google-takes-Cloud-Machine-Learning-service-mainstream.html, which will hopefully help accelerate the development of powerful new applications in this space. Second, machine learning systems are making progress on human lip reading and being able to infer speech in the absence of any audio data if the speaker’s lips are visible for a range of applications https://www.uea.ac.uk/about/-/read-my-lips-new-technology-spells-out-what-s-said-when-audio-fails. Finally, DARPA’s latest Grand Challenge is a machine learning competition for collaborative adaptation in optimising spectrum allocation and generally improving wireless communications http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2016-03-23.

9. Trio of Smartphone Sensor Extensions
First, a new MEMS-based sensor platform plugs into the USB port of smartphones to provide highly sensitive gas sensors capable of exhaled breath analysis to detect volatile organic compounds indicative of certain diseases http://phys.org/news/2016-03-sensitive-electronic-biosniffers-diseases-biomarkers.html. Second, new company Clarius has launched a wireless portable ultrasound device for accurate ultrasound imaging via smartphones http://www.androidpolice.com/2016/03/21/clarius-introduces-a-wireless-portable-ultrasound-for-android-and-ios/. Finally, a $10 infrared laser can grant smartphones accurate depth sensing and range-finding, even outdoors http://news.mit.edu/2016/phone-based-laser-rangefinder-works-outdoors-0325.

10. Plasma Printing with Nanoparticles
Nanoparticles and related materials can now be printed onto arbitrary surfaces including crumbled paper and cloth via a new plasma printing process https://www.aip.org/publishing/journal-highlights/printing-nanomaterials-plasma. This removes the problems of inkjet printing of nanoparticles including needing a liquid form and unable to print on flexible 3D surfaces and also works at low temperatures. The proof of concept used carbon nanotubes, printed onto paper to form simple chemical and biological sensors. Multi-nozzle designs are planned, as well as large-area capabilities. I’m thinking it’d be interesting to see printed large-area quantum dot solar panels or LEDs.

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2016-03-25 05:55:23 (4 comments; 3 reshares; 32 +1s)Open 

My Cryocrastination Needs to be Rectified

Tim Urban has a very good, and very detailed overview of cryonics and brain preservation http://waitbutwhy.com/2016/03/cryonics.html. Tim discusses the arguments against and rebuttals for cryonic preservation, the past, present, and future state of the cryonics industry and cryonics technology, and addresses common misconceptions and related fallacies.

Those of you familiar with cryonics will likely still find it worthwhile with several novel points / arguments. For example I learned the new term "cryocrastination", basically the shortsighted procrastination to sign up to a cryonic preservation plan "one day".

Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

My Cryocrastination Needs to be Rectified

Tim Urban has a very good, and very detailed overview of cryonics and brain preservation http://waitbutwhy.com/2016/03/cryonics.html. Tim discusses the arguments against and rebuttals for cryonic preservation, the past, present, and future state of the cryonics industry and cryonics technology, and addresses common misconceptions and related fallacies.

Those of you familiar with cryonics will likely still find it worthwhile with several novel points / arguments. For example I learned the new term "cryocrastination", basically the shortsighted procrastination to sign up to a cryonic preservation plan "one day".

Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. ___

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2016-03-23 13:34:33 (11 comments; 18 reshares; 82 +1s)Open 

Ideas for These Amazing Polymagnets

Destin's wonderful video of these printable Polymagnets did the rounds this week and if you were living under a rock you should definitely give it a watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IANBoybVApQ.

I went to buy a bunch of these magnets from Polymagnet but the ones I wanted were sold out. Their website provides a bunch of information in addition to purchase options, but this page in particular has some additional cool (and short) video animations that make it very clear what some of the benefits and capabilities are http://www.polymagnet.com/polymagnets/. In summary the benefits include:

(i) much stronger magnetic fields close to the magnet surface,
(ii) variable fields with custom repulsion and attraction distances from surface
(iii) variable fields with auto-alignment of magnet surfaces (surfaces “fall” andacc... more »

Ideas for These Amazing Polymagnets

Destin's wonderful video of these printable Polymagnets did the rounds this week and if you were living under a rock you should definitely give it a watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IANBoybVApQ.

I went to buy a bunch of these magnets from Polymagnet but the ones I wanted were sold out. Their website provides a bunch of information in addition to purchase options, but this page in particular has some additional cool (and short) video animations that make it very clear what some of the benefits and capabilities are http://www.polymagnet.com/polymagnets/. In summary the benefits include:

(i) much stronger magnetic fields close to the magnet surface,
(ii) variable fields with custom repulsion and attraction distances from surface
(iii) variable fields with auto-alignment of magnet surfaces (surfaces “fall” and accelerate down a magnetic well
(iv) variable fields with orientation-dependent attraction and repulsion

Technium Pointers

Two of the defining features that are common across the entire Technium and the evolution of technology generally are (i) modularity and the ability to combine different technologies and the phenomena they control in myriad different ways, and (ii) geometry and the ability to form the same technology into different forms and structures in order to exploit the same phenomena differently.

Both are important but in this case I want to focus on geometry. A useful example technology to consider is a particle accelerator, which combines a number of different technologies in such a way to control electric and magnetic fields in a manner that allows subatomic particles to be accelerated to high velocity. The first particle accelerators were linear accelerators that were limited by distance: keep laying down accelerator pipe to get higher exit velocity. It didn't take long to come up with the idea to change the geometry of this design to loop the straight track in on itself to create a cyclotron (spiral) or a synchrotron (circle) like the LHC. Such designs are no longer limited by distance but by the power of the magnet technology and the precision of their control.

A Few Ideas

First off, please share your own ideas in the comments and please critique any errors you see in my own. So, with these novel magnet possibilities in mind and the benefits of novel geometries in technology enabling new applications let’s see what we come up with.

Cylinder
Imagine a cylinder in which the main tube is all one north pole and the ends both south poles, how does this behave? What about a hollow cylinder in which the inner surface is all north and the outer all south? What about a hollow cylinder in which the inner surface is patterned with a self-aligning surface along its length and into which you insert a smaller magnet patterned with a complimentary self aligning surface: would this be like a bullet, accelerating along the length of the tube before exiting ballistically? How strong would the magnetic field need to be in order to match conventional gun muzzle velocity?

Replace the “bullet” with a similarly patterned rod and could you position and anchor this to form a shock absorber for car tyres for which no surfaces touch? What about a cylinder patterned with spiraling (helix) north-south domains along its length, what function could that have when partnered with a similar cylinder to transmit rotational force?

What about megnetically patterned inner and outer cylinders that work together like a specific key and lock respectively; a lock that would be very difficult to pick given it might have the equivalent of over 1,000 “tumblers.”

What would be the value of a mechanical acoustic speaker in which a base magnet is rotated back and forth rapidly, causing an inner magnet to rise up and down vibrating a sheet, instead of the usual mechanism of electrical induction coil plus magnet?

Disk
Imagine a disk patterned along its edge with regular north-south domains; paired with another similar disk this could form a cog force transmission system. Although torque would be low; high torque would cause slippage I’m thinking. What about convenient and improved “air” bearings in which aligned disks and cylinders didn’t touch and could rotate rapidly without friction?

Sphere
Imagine a sphere whose entire surface is patterned in magnetic north poles; unless you’re very close to the surface, wouldn’t this be the equivalent of a magnetic monopole? What benefits or function would there be to playing with the dynamics of multiple magnetic monopoles?

Imagine such a perfect magnetic monopole sphere, placed inside a hollow magnetic sphere whose inner surface was also patterned with the same north pole such that the inner hollow surface and the smaller sphere within mutually repelled one another, forever suspending the smaller sphere in space, not touching any surface.

If the outer sphere had a hole in it, through which you could shine a laser onto the inner sphere and measure the reflected signal, and the entire apparatus was evacuated to vacuum, couldn’t this form a sensitive gravitational wave detector like LIGO?

With the air evacuated to vacuum of our floating inner sphere within a sphere setup, would rapid rotation of the outer sphere and similar laser measurements (say timed pulses through tiny outer sphere holes), constitute an interesting and novel apparatus by which to test the Mach Effect? How would you determine if any rotation of the inner sphere was caused by the magnetic field or just by mass?

Torus
Imagine a hollow donut torus (hollow cylinder curved until ends joined) the inner encircling tube of which is patterned with looped self-alignment domains, essentially setting up a continual / looping magnetic gradient, and into which is placed a small ball magnet patterned with opposite self-alignment domains that causes it to accelerate around and around the inner tube like a particle in a particle accelerator along the magnetic gradient. What velocity would it reach (in air or vacuum) and at what point would it overcome the repulsion to strike the outer surface? What if the inner portion of the torus was removed (hollow cylinder cut in half with semi-circle ends, then curved and ends joined) and the same ball magnet was allowed to accelerate but this time it was anchored via cable to a rotating rod at the centre of the torus to prevent it striking the torus surface?

Change the ball magnet for a slightly smaller torus that is patterned similarly on its outer edge and placed inside the larger hollow torus to rotate freely as per above. Would its final velocity be limited by its structural integrity / strength rather than overcoming repulsion and impacting the wall? What rotational velocity might the rotating ring / torus reach? Would this be useful as a flywheel? What other purposes would it have?

What Are Your Ideas?
___

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2016-03-23 11:15:05 (22 comments; 4 reshares; 43 +1s)Open 

Favourite Web Comic?

After XKCD one of my favourite web comics is Oglaf http://oglaf.com/, which I find consistently humorous but I should warn of occasional frequent NSFW content. Share the love: what are some of your favourite web comics? 

Favourite Web Comic?

After XKCD one of my favourite web comics is Oglaf http://oglaf.com/, which I find consistently humorous but I should warn of occasional frequent NSFW content. Share the love: what are some of your favourite web comics? ___

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2016-03-20 11:27:41 (7 comments; 25 reshares; 82 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 12/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/03/low-energy-switches-chicken-dinosaur.html

Low energy switches, Chicken dinosaur legs, Neuroprosthetic hacks, Fullerene molecular surgery, MinION DNA sequencer, Drones with LIDAR, Working memory insights, Sonar phone input, Quantum causality, Osteoporosis stem cells.

1. Zeptojoule Switching
Tests of new nanomagnet arrays demonstrate switching or polarity flips consuming just 6 zeptojoules of energy, or 3x10^-21 joules http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/semiconductors/devices/zeptojoule-nanomagnetic-switch-supports-fundamental-limit-of-computing. This happens to just be double the Landauer Limit, considered the smallest amount of energy needed to store or reset a bit of information as part of an irreversible computation. Current computers aren’t anywheren... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 12/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/03/low-energy-switches-chicken-dinosaur.html

Low energy switches, Chicken dinosaur legs, Neuroprosthetic hacks, Fullerene molecular surgery, MinION DNA sequencer, Drones with LIDAR, Working memory insights, Sonar phone input, Quantum causality, Osteoporosis stem cells.

1. Zeptojoule Switching
Tests of new nanomagnet arrays demonstrate switching or polarity flips consuming just 6 zeptojoules of energy, or 3x10^-21 joules http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/semiconductors/devices/zeptojoule-nanomagnetic-switch-supports-fundamental-limit-of-computing. This happens to just be double the Landauer Limit, considered the smallest amount of energy needed to store or reset a bit of information as part of an irreversible computation. Current computers aren’t anywhere near this level of energy efficiency, but this is the first time this Landauer limit test has been performed in a real system that has computational relevance.

2. Growing Dinosaur Legs on Chickens
Genetic manipulation of chicken embryos to inhibit the expression of a single gene resulted in the birds (which did not reach hatching stage) growing leg bones that are anatomically similar to dinosaur leg bones http://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-have-grown-dinosaur-legs-on-a-chicken-for-the-first-time. This was done as a study in evolutionary mapping of changes to gene networks but it accompanies recent work that used similar techniques to grow dinosaur feet on chickens and also dinosaur beaks on chickens. I’d love to see a real, live chickenosaurus!

3. Neuroprosthetic Memory & Sensory Hacks
Rats with Alzheimer’s have difficulty remembering recent experiences, however memories of these recent experiences can be activated by stimulating certain brain circuits via optogenetics http://news.mit.edu/2016/retrieve-missing-memories-early-alzheimers-symptoms-0316. This evidence suggests that these memory problems are specifically a recall problem, and not a storage problem, and also suggesting ways to help develop treatments in future. Rats with electrodes from 4 infrared sensors inserted into brain regions that receive whisker input can adapt with 3 days to sensing and reacting to infrared light signals in the environment https://www.newscientist.com/article/2080671-rats-learn-to-sense-infrared-in-hours-thanks-to-brain-implants/. How long before the first human claims infrared sensing?

4. Fullerene Encapsulated Molecules via Molecular Surgery
Two water molecules have been placed inside a C70 fullerene cage for the first time, in a process dubbed molecular surgery in which precise chemistry is used to first open part of the fullerene shell, water is forced in, and then the process chemically reversed to restore the carbon bonds and reform the fullerene shell http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2016/03/fullerene-traps-water-dimer-hydrogen-bond-study. Interesting technique with a range of new materials possibilities and opportunities to study quantum confinement, intermolecular interactions, and the use of these structures as “nanolaboratories.”

5. Latest on MinION DNA Sequencer
The MinION nanopore DNA sequencer has been in use for a year now, with a new device being shipped this month along with an accompanying DNA data analytics service called Metrichor to provide bioinformatics services http://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/devices/portable-dna-sequencer-minion-help-build-the-internet-of-living-things. The company behind MinION hopes to trigger the growth of an “Internet of Living Things” and ultimately to distribute these DNA sequencing units - that plug into computers via USB - to consumers everywhere; sample preparation is still complex however and to address this for people not trained in lab techniques they are also developing a product called VolTRAX as a portable sample prepping device.

6. Drones with LIDAR and Novel Architectures
The cost of LIDAR continues to drop with Scanse now offering a new compact LIDAR unit for use on drones and robots to enable cost-effective autonomy and 3D laser mapping http://www.gizmag.com/scanse-sweep-lidar/42328/. The device isn’t solid state (there are competing efforts towards this) and still relies on mechanical sweeping of beams to build up a local map, is plug-n-play, and can power object detection, tracking, environment mapping, and navigation, however the recently launched TeraRanger One may provide even more convenient distance and navigation tools http://www.teraranger.com/products/teraranger-one/. In related news the Aerotain Skye is one of the more novel and interesting drone designs I’ve seen with novel propellor placement and orientation for navigation, a genuine “eye” in the sky that has to be seen http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/robotics/drones/cebit-2016-the-aerotain-skye-could-be-your-friendly-floating-camera-drone.

7. A Better Understanding of Working Memory
The old model of short-term working memory, in which you might hold a number in mind, has been overturned with new evidence suggesting that sporadic coordinated bursts of neuronal firing are key, a finding made possible with more detailed and finer-grained measurements http://news.mit.edu/2016/bursts-neural-activity-brain-working-memory-0317. Different bursts at slightly different times allow different items to be held in working memory and separate from each other. These bursts create waves of coordinated activity in the gamma frequency, and the group suggests these hallmarks might also be important in related cognitive functions such as attention. It also sounds like they’d be important for consciousness generally.

8. Touch Input to Smartphone via Sonar
A new finger-based input method for smartphones and smartwatches utilises sonar; the speaker of the device emits inaudible sound waves, echoes from the surroundings are recorded by the device’s microphone and can can calculate the location and movement of a finger nearby to within 8mm and is accurate enough to interact with and control the device http://www.washington.edu/news/2016/03/15/smartwatches-can-now-track-your-finger-in-mid-air-using-sonar/. Seems like a very cool interface technology that probably has a range of applications beyond these obvious ones; I wonder how long until it is available in consumer devices?

9. Messing with Quantum Causality
Moving from using atoms as qubits that have two stable energy states, a recent experiment has examined qutrits as atoms that have three stable but different energy states http://www.sciencealert.com/new-quantum-computer-model-takes-advantage-of-a-loophole-in-causality. Qutrits are typically first given enough energy to get to the middle or second energy state before given a different packet of energy to reach the third or highest state; however the qutrits manage to achieve this even when the order of energy packets is reversed. While there are suggestions that this demonstrates violations of conventional causality, I do wonder if there are other explanations and avenues for exploring this. In related news another group claims to have demonstrated a classical version of information teleportation http://www.uni-jena.de/en/Research+News/FM160304_Teleportation_en.html.

10. Stem Cell Treatment for Osteoporosis
A simple, single injection of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) has proven remarkably effective in reversing and treating osteoporosis in mice https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/03/towards-a-stem-cell-treatment-for-osteoporosis.php. Mice with age-related osteoporosis had declining MSC levels, and 6 months (quarter lifespan) after the MSC injection all signs of osteoporosis were reversed and replaced with healthy functional bone structure. The group are hoping this can enter human clinical trials sooner rather than later.

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2016-03-15 14:00:23 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 47 +1s)Open 

8x Telephoto Lens for Phone

Following the arrival and testing of the little macro (and other) clip-on lenses I had another unit arrive last week, the clip-on 8x optical zoom or telephoto lens. It was $8 from Ebay http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/271938747699.

Here's an example of the test shot I captured over the weekend. This is a tree in my garden and - very unusually - at this moment it was packed with native Australian Rosella birds squawking a racket.

Top photo is what the phone camera would normally capture; bottom left is the view with the clip-on 8x telephoto lens attached, standing from about the same spot.

You certainly see and capture detail you would always miss with a phone camera. But this big clip-on lens is a bit fiddly and needs a little more practice than the others, especially getting used to the twist-focus band to make sure the thing... more »

8x Telephoto Lens for Phone

Following the arrival and testing of the little macro (and other) clip-on lenses I had another unit arrive last week, the clip-on 8x optical zoom or telephoto lens. It was $8 from Ebay http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/271938747699.

Here's an example of the test shot I captured over the weekend. This is a tree in my garden and - very unusually - at this moment it was packed with native Australian Rosella birds squawking a racket.

Top photo is what the phone camera would normally capture; bottom left is the view with the clip-on 8x telephoto lens attached, standing from about the same spot.

You certainly see and capture detail you would always miss with a phone camera. But this big clip-on lens is a bit fiddly and needs a little more practice than the others, especially getting used to the twist-focus band to make sure the thing you're capturing is actually in focus.

Can't go wrong for $8 and you get what you pay for of course. ___

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2016-03-14 04:30:25 (5 comments; 3 reshares; 33 +1s)Open 

Against Interminable Arguments

Another interesting post on SlateStarCodex http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/03/06/against-interminable-arguments/, covering rational norms, productive discussion vs interminable arguments, the need to respond, defending the self, new-comers vs those who've been there before, the lure of long-form discourse, and the benefits of niceness.

Also directly relevant to Google+, because I feel that a similar dynamic has grown and taken place here over the years - in a good sense, for me at least.


Against Interminable Arguments

Another interesting post on SlateStarCodex http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/03/06/against-interminable-arguments/, covering rational norms, productive discussion vs interminable arguments, the need to respond, defending the self, new-comers vs those who've been there before, the lure of long-form discourse, and the benefits of niceness.

Also directly relevant to Google+, because I feel that a similar dynamic has grown and taken place here over the years - in a good sense, for me at least.
___

2016-03-13 13:06:15 (17 comments; 6 reshares; 39 +1s)Open 

Fascinating Analysis of AlphaGo & Parallels with General AI Issues

Many thanks to +Matthew J Price for grabbing the original text below and to +Darius Gabriel Black for sourcing and sharing it in the first place. This makes for fascinating reading - for me at least - especially with the new and concrete examples for issues regarding hard take-off AI scenarios.

------------------------------------------------------------------

+Eliezer Yudkowsky​ on the book of faces:

//(Long.) As I post this, AlphaGo seems almost sure to win the third game and the match.

At this point it seems likely that Sedol is actually far outclassed by a superhuman player. The suspicion is that since AlphaGo plays purely for probability of long-term victory rather than playing for points, the fight against Sedol generates boards that can falsely appear to a human tob... more »

#AlphaGo  

https://m.facebook.com/yudkowsky/posts/10154018209759228___Fascinating Analysis of AlphaGo & Parallels with General AI Issues

Many thanks to +Matthew J Price for grabbing the original text below and to +Darius Gabriel Black for sourcing and sharing it in the first place. This makes for fascinating reading - for me at least - especially with the new and concrete examples for issues regarding hard take-off AI scenarios.

------------------------------------------------------------------

+Eliezer Yudkowsky​ on the book of faces:

//(Long.) As I post this, AlphaGo seems almost sure to win the third game and the match.

At this point it seems likely that Sedol is actually far outclassed by a superhuman player. The suspicion is that since AlphaGo plays purely for probability of long-term victory rather than playing for points, the fight against Sedol generates boards that can falsely appear to a human to be balanced even as Sedol's probability of victory diminishes. The 8p and 9p pros who analyzed games 1 and 2 and thought the flow of a seemingly Sedol-favoring game 'eventually' shifted to AlphaGo later, may simply have failed to read the board's true state. The reality may be a slow, steady diminishment of Sedol's win probability as the game goes on and Sedol makes subtly imperfect moves that humans think result in even-looking boards.

For all we know from what we've seen, AlphaGo could win even if Sedol were allowed a one-stone handicap. But AlphaGo's strength isn't visible to us - because human pros don't understand the meaning of AlphaGo's moves; and because AlphaGo doesn't care how many points it wins by, it just wants to be utterly certain of winning by at least 0.5 points.

If that's true, the case of AlphaGo is a helpful concrete illustration of these concepts:

*

- Edge instantiation. https://arbital.com/p/edge_instantiation/

Extremely optimized strategies often look to us like 'weird' edges of the possibility space, and may throw away what we think of as 'typical' features of a solution. In many different kinds of optimization problem, the maximizing solution will lie at a vertex of the possibility space (a corner, an edge-case).

In the case of AlphaGo, an extremely optimized strategy seems to have thrown away the 'typical' production of a visible point lead that characterizes human play. Maximizing win-probability in Go, at this level of play against a human 9p, is not strongly correlated with what a human can see as visible extra territory - so that gets thrown out even though it was previously associated with 'trying to win' in human play.

*

- Unforeseen maximum. https://arbital.com/p/unforeseen_maximum/

Humans thought that a strong opponent would have more visible territory earlier - building up a lead seemed like an obvious way to ensure a win. But 'gain more territory' wasn't explicitly encoded into AlphaGo's utility function, and turned out not to be a feature of the maximum of AlphaGo's actual utility function of 'win the game', contrary to human expectations of where that maximum would lie.

*

- Instrumental efficiency. https://arbital.com/p/efficient_agent/

The human pros thought AlphaGo was making mistakes. Ha ha.

AlphaGo doesn't actually play God's Hand. Similarly, liquid stock prices sometimes make big moves. But human pros can't detect AlphaGo's departures from God's Hand, and you can't personally predict the net direction of stock price moves.

If you think the best move is X and AlphaGo plays Y, we conclude that X had lower expected winningness than you thought, or that Y had higher expected winningness than you thought. We don't conclude that AlphaGo made an inferior move.

Thinking you can spot AlphaGo's mistakes is like thinking your naked eye can see an exploitable pattern in S&P 500 price moves - we start out with a very strong suspicion that you're mistaken, overriding the surface appearance of reasonable arguments.

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- Convergence to apparent consequentialism / explanation by final causes.

Early chess-playing programs would do things that humans could interpret in terms of the chess-playing program having particular preferences or weaknesses, like "The program doesn't understand center strategy very well" or (much earlier) "The program has a tendency to move its queen a lot."

This ability to explain computer moves in 'psychological' terms vanished as computer chess improved. For a human master looking at a modern chess program, their immediate probability distribution on what move the chess algorithm outputs, should be the same as their probability distribution on the question "Which move will in fact lead to a future win?" That is, if there were a time machine that checked the (conditional) future and output a move such that it would in fact lead to a win for the chess program, then your probability distribution on the time machine's next immediate move, and your probability distribution on the chess program's next immediate move, would be the same.

Of course chess programs aren't actually as powerful as time machines that output a Path to Victory; the actual moves output aren't the same. But from a human perspective, there's no difference in how we predict the next move, at least if we have to do it using our own intelligence without computer help. At this point in computer chess, a human might as well give up on every part of the psychological explanation for any move a chess program makes, like "It has trouble understanding the center" or "It likes moving its queen", leaving only, "It output that move because that is the move that leads to a future win."

This is particularly striking in the case of AlphaGo because of the stark degree to which "AlphaGo output that move because the board will later be in a winning state" sometimes doesn't correlate with conventional Go goals like taking territory or being up on points. The meaning of AlphaGo's moves - at least some of the moves - often only becomes apparent later in the game. We can best understand AlphaGo's output in terms of the later futures to which it leads, treating it like a time machine that follows a Path to Victory.

Of course, in real life, there's a way AlphaGo's move was computed and teleological retrocausation was not involved. But you can't relate the style of AlphaGo's computation to the style of AlphaGo's move in any way that systematically departs from just reiterating "that output happened because it will lead to a winning board later". If you could forecast a systematic departure between what those two explanations predict in terms of immediate next moves, you would know an instrumental inefficiency in AlphaGo.

This is why the best way to think about a smart paperclip maximizer is to imagine a time machine whose output always happens to lead to the greatest number of paperclips. A real-world paperclip maximizer wouldn't actually have that exactly optimal output, and you can expect that in the long run the real-world paperclip maximizer will get less paperclips than an actual time machine would get. But you can never forecast a systematic difference between your model of the paperclip maximizer's strategy, and what you imagine the time machine would do - that's postulating a publicly knowable instrumental inefficiency. So if we're trying to imagine whether a smart paperclip maximizer would do X, we ask "Does X lead to the greatest possible number of expected paperclips, without there being any alternative Y that leads to more paperclips?" rather than imagining the paperclip maximizer as having a psychology.

And even then your expectation of the paperclip maximizer actually doing X should be no stronger than your belief that you can forecast AlphaGo's exact next move, which by Vingean uncertainty cannot be very high. If you knew exactly where AlphaGo would move, you'd be that smart yourself. You should, however, expect the paperclip maximizer to get at least as many paperclips as you think could be gained from X, unless there's some unknown-to-you flaw in X and there's no better alternative.

*

- Cognitive uncontainability. https://arbital.com/p/uncontainability/

Human pros can't predict where AlphaGo will move because AlphaGo searches more possibilities than human pros have time to consider. It's not just that AlphaGo estimates value differently, but that the solution AlphaGo finds that maximizes AlphaGo's estimated value, is often outside the set of moves whose value you were calculating.

*

- Strong cognitive uncontainability. https://arbital.com/p/strong_uncontainability/

Even after the human pros saw AlphaGo's exact moves, the humans couldn't see those moves as powerful strategies, not in advance and sometimes not even after the fact, because the humans lacked the knowledge to forecast the move's consequences.

Imagine someone in the 11th century trying to figure out how people in the 21st century might cool their houses. Suppose that they had enough computing power to search lots and lots of possible proposals, but had to use only their own 11th-century knowledge of how the universe worked to evaluate those proposals. Suppose they had so much computing power that at some point they randomly considered a proposal to construct an air conditioner. If instead they considered routing water through a home and evaporating the water, that might strike them as something that could possibly make the house cooler, if they saw the analogy to sweat. But if they randomly consider the mechanical diagram of an air conditioner as a possible solution, they'll toss it off as a randomly generated arcane diagram. They can't understand why this would be an effective strategy for cooling their house, because they don't know enough about thermodynamics and the pressure-heat relation.

The gap between the 11th century and the 21st century isn't just the computing power to consider more alternatives. Even if the 11th century saw the solutions we used, they wouldn't understand why they'd work - lacking other reasons to trust us, they'd look at the air conditioner diagram and say "Well that looks stupid."

Similarly, it's not just that humans lack the computing power to search as many moves as AlphaGo, but that even after AlphaGo plays the move, we don't understand its consequences. Sometimes later in the game we see the consequences of a good move earlier, but that's only one possible way that Sedol played out the game, so we don't understand the value of many other moves. We don't realize how much expected utility is available to AlphaGo, not just because AlphaGo searches a wider space of possibilities, but because we lack the knowledge needed to understand what AlphaGo's moves will do.

This is the kind of cognitive uncontainability that would apply if the 11th century was trying to forecast how much cooling would be produced by the best 21st-century solution for cooling a house. From an 11th-century perspective, the 21st century has 'magic' solutions that do better than their best imaginable solutions and that they wouldn't understand even if they had enough computing power to consider them as possible actions.

Go is a domain much less rich than the real world, and it has rigid laws we understand in toto. So superhuman Go moves don't contain the same level of sheer, qualitative magic that the 21st century has from the perspective of the 19th century. But Go is rich enough to demonstrate strong cognitive uncontainability on a small scale. In a rich and complicated domain whose rules aren't fully known, we should expect even more magic from superhuman reasoning - solutions that are better than the best solution we could imagine, operating by causal pathways we wouldn't be able to foresee even if we were told the AI's exact actions.

For an example of an ultra-complicated poorly understood domain where we should reasonably expect that a smarter intelligence can deploy 'magic' in this sense, consider, say, the brain of a human gatekeeper trying to keep an AI in a box. Brains are very complicated, and we don't understand them very well. So superhuman moves on that gameboard will look to us like magic to a much greater extent than AlphaGo's superhuman Go moves.

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- Patience.

A paperclip maximizer doesn't bother to make paperclips until it's finished doing all the technology research and has gained control of all matter in its vicinity, and only then does it switch to an exploitation strategy. Similarly, AlphaGo has no need to be "up on (visible) points" early. It simply sets up the thing it wants, win probability, to be gained at the time it wants it.

*

- Context change and sudden turns. https://arbital.com/p/context_change/

By sheer accident of the structure of Go and the way human 9ps play against superior opponents - namely, giving away probability margins they don't understand while preserving their apparent territory - we've ended up with an AI that is apparently not being superhumanly dangerous until, you know, it just happens to win at the end.

Now in this case, that's happening because of a coincidence of the game structure, not because AlphaGo models human minds and hides how far it's ahead. I mean, maybe Deepmind deliberately built this version of AlphaGo to exploit human opponents, or a similar pattern emerged from trial-and-error uncovering systems that fought particularly well against human players. But if the architecture is still basically like the October AlphaGo architecture, which seems more probable, then AlphaGo acts as if it's playing another AlphaGo; that's how all of the internal training worked and how all of its future forecasts worked in the October version. AlphaGo probably has no model of humans and no comprehension that this time it's fighting Sedol instead of another computer. So AlphaGo's underplayed strength isn't deliberate... probably.

So this is not the same phenomenon as the expected convergent incentive, following a sufficiently cognitively powerful AI noticing a divergence between what it wants and what the programmers want, for that AI to deceive the programmers about how smart it is. Or the convergent instrumental incentive for that AI to not strike out, or even give any sign whatsoever that anything is wrong, until it's ready to win with near certainty.

But AlphaGo is still a nice accidental illustration that when you've been placed in an adversarial relation to something smarter than you, you don't always know that you've lost, or that anything is even wrong, until the end.

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- Rapid capability gain and upward-breaking curves. https://intelligence.org/files/IEM.pdf

"Oh, look," I tweeted, "it only took 5 months to go from landing one person on Mars to Mars being overpopulated."

(In reference to Andrew Ng's claim that worrying about AGI outcomes is like worrying about overpopulation on Mars.)

The case of AlphaGo serves as a possible rough illustration of what might happen later. Later on, there's an exciting result in a more interesting algorithm that operates on a more general level (I'm not being very specific here, for the same reason I don't talk about my ideas for building really great bioweapons). The company dumps in a ton of research effort and computing power. 5 months later, a more interesting outcome occurs.

Martian population growth doesn't always work on smooth, predictable curves that everyone can see coming in advance. The more powerful the AI technology, the more it makes big jumps driven by big insights. As hardware progress goes on, those big insights can be applied over more existing hardware to produce bigger impacts. We're not even in the recursive regime yet, and we're still starting to enter the jumpy unpredictable phase where people are like "What just happened?"

*

- Local capability gain. https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/The_Hanson-Yudkowsky_AI-Foom_Debate

So far as I can tell, if you look at everything that Robin Hanson said about distributed FOOM and everything I said about local FOOM in the Hanson-Yudkowsky FOOM debate, everything about AlphaGo worked out in a way that matches the "local" model of how things go.

One company with a big insight jumped way ahead of everyone else. This is true even though, since the world wasn't at stake this time, Deepmind actually published their recipe for the October version of their AI.

AlphaGo's core is built around a similar machine learning technology to Deepmind's Atari-playing system - the single, untweaked program that was able to learn superhuman play on dozens of different Atari games just by looking at the pixels, without specialization for each particular game. In the Atari case, we didn't see a bunch of different companies producing gameplayers for all the different varieties of game. The Atari case was an example of an event that Robin Hanson called "architecture" and doubted, and that I called "insight". Because of their big architectural insight, Deepmind didn't need to bring in lots of different human experts at all the different Atari games to train their universal Atari player. Deepmind just tossed all pre-existing expertise because it wasn't formatted in a way their insightful AI system could absorb, and besides, it was a lot easier to just recreate all the expertise from scratch using their universal Atari-learning architecture.

The October version of AlphaGo did initially seed one of the key components by training it to predict a big human database of games. But Demis Hassabis has suggested that next up after this competition will be getting Deepmind to train itself in Go entirely from scratch, tossing the 2500-year human tradition right out the window.

More importantly, so far as I know, AlphaGo wasn't built in collaboration with any of the commercial companies that built their own Go-playing programs for sale. The October architecture was simple and, so far as I know, incorporated very little in the way of all the particular tweaks that had built up the power of the best open-source Go programs of the time. Judging by the October architecture, after their big architectural insight, Deepmind mostly started over in the details (though they did reuse the widely known core insight of Monte Carlo Tree Search). Deepmind didn't need to trade with any other Go companies or be part of an economy that traded polished cognitive modules, because Deepmind's big insight let them leapfrog over all the detail work of their competitors.

Frankly, this is just how things have always worked in the AI field and I'm not sure anyone except Hanson expects this to change. But it's worth noting because Hanson's original reply, when I pointed out that no modern AI companies were trading modules as of 2008, was "That's because current AIs are terrible and we'll see that changing as AI technology improves." Deepmind's current AI technology is less terrible. The relevant dynamics haven't changed at all. This is worth observing.

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- Human-equivalent competence is a small and undistinguished region in possibility-space.

As I tweeted early on when the first game still seemed in doubt, "Thing that would surprise me most about #alphago vs. #sedol: for either player to win by three games instead of four or five."

Since Deepmind picked a particular challenge time in advance, rather than challenging at a point where their AI seemed just barely good enough, it was improbable that they'd make exactly enough progress to give Sedol a nearly even fight.

AI is either overwhelmingly stupider or overwhelmingly smarter than you. The more other AI progress and the greater the hardware overhang, the less time you spend in the narrow space between these regions. There was a time when AIs were roughly as good as the best human Go-players, and it was a week in late January.

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2016-03-13 07:33:55 (7 comments; 27 reshares; 96 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 11/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/03/advanced-protein-nanomaterials-powerful.html

Advanced protein nanomaterials, CRISPR enhancements, Milligram gravity measurements, Powerful magnetogenetics, Busting bacterial drug resistance, Texture sensing bionics, Deep learning grasping, Reconfigurable nanomaterials, 2D material applications, Regenerating eye lenses.

1. Improved Nanotechnology with Advanced Protein Design
A new platform of combinatorial protein evolution can quickly produce protein pairs from billions that very tightly bind each other, and these can subsequently be used either on their own or bound to nanoparticles (such as gold) to enable and direct the self-assembly of ordered, robust materials with novel properties http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=42804.php. In the case of... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 11/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/03/advanced-protein-nanomaterials-powerful.html

Advanced protein nanomaterials, CRISPR enhancements, Milligram gravity measurements, Powerful magnetogenetics, Busting bacterial drug resistance, Texture sensing bionics, Deep learning grasping, Reconfigurable nanomaterials, 2D material applications, Regenerating eye lenses.

1. Improved Nanotechnology with Advanced Protein Design
A new platform of combinatorial protein evolution can quickly produce protein pairs from billions that very tightly bind each other, and these can subsequently be used either on their own or bound to nanoparticles (such as gold) to enable and direct the self-assembly of ordered, robust materials with novel properties http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=42804.php. In the case of nanoparticle-protein structures, adding an excess of one of the proteins to the solution can cause the spontaneous disassembly of the material. This is a promising platform for atomically precise fabrication, and potentially more powerful than DNA origami, with the group moving onto multiple-component assemblies and control of 3D orientation of large assemblies. Applications across materials science, from catalysts to LEDs. In related news, new and better models of DNA folding should help with the design of DNA origami structures http://engineering.tamu.edu/news/2016/03/07/dna-flexibility.

2. Further Enhancements to CRISPR Technology
A new modification to CRISPR involves small changes to the guide RNA component of the system, a simple extension by 5 basepairs, which resulted in much greater efficiency for gene targeting and knockouts http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-03/ttuh-rec030116.php. This further reduces error rates and off-target effects, and when combined with other approaches should help make the system more specific and safer for use in humans.

3. Measuring the Gravity Between Milligram Masses
It might surprise some but the lightest masses ever to have their gravitational force of attraction between them measured is 90 grams. A new proposal seeks to use modern MEMS springboards to measure the attractive gravitational force between two test masses weighing only milligrams, offering an improvement of three orders of magnitude https://www.technologyreview.com/s/600932/how-to-measure-the-gravitational-field-of-a-quantum-object/. Isolating internal and external vibrations will be crucial, difficult, but achievable, and an important advance for probing ever smaller gravitational fields.

4. Advances in Magnetogenetics
Optogenetics involves transferring genes for light sensitive channel proteins into neurons and then controlling those neurons with pulses of light. In a similar way magnetogenetics involves transferring genes for magnetic proteins conjugated to proteins able to activate the cell https://news.virginia.edu/content/uva-scientists-use-synthetic-gene-and-magnets-alter-behavior-mice-fish. The recent advance was used to turn on neurons in mice and zebrafish via controlling an external magnetic field; for example mice with the gene installed in the pleasure centers of their brains preferentially visited a part of their cage where a magnetic field was located and switched on. Unlike light for optogenetics, magnetic fields can easily penetrate the brain.

5. Busting Bacterial Drug Resistance
Tarocin A and Tarocin B are compounds that have been found to target a different component of bacterial cell walls that, on their own, don’t kill bacteria; however when bound to conventional antibiotics the combination kills bacteria, even those that are resistant to those antibiotics, and so far in clinical samples and infected mice (humans soon hopefully) https://www.newscientist.com/article/2080180-mrsa-superbugs-resistance-to-antibiotics-is-broken/. This is a nice, elegant approach to potentially resurrect many antibiotics for which pathogenic bacteria such as MRSA have developed resistance to. To prevent the development of subsequent resistance to these new combinations the group hope to introduce a third molecular component. In related news some bacteria appear to exhibit a type of collective group memory http://www.eawag.ch/en/news-agenda/news-portal/news-detail/news/bakterien-koennen-kollektives-gedaechtnis-entwickeln/.

6. Bionic Finger Provides Tactile Feeling to Amputee
An amputee with electrodes wired into nerves in his arm has been able to feel surface textures via an artificial bionic finger https://actu.epfl.ch/news/amputee-feels-texture-with-a-bionic-fingertip/. The sensors on the finger translated differences in texture into pulsed signals similar to those that would be normally delivered to the nervous system, with the amputee able to distinguish between rough and smooth surfaces 96% of the time, and quoted as providing a similar sensation to that of the normal hand. The test was repeated with non-amputees and temporary (less invasive) electrodes implanted in the skin to successfully convey tactile information at least 77% of the time.

7. Deep Learning Grasping for Robotics
Google’s new deep learning system for training robotic grasping objects provides continuous feedback as a type of “hand-eye coordination”, getting progressively better at observing its own gripper and correcting / adjusting gripper motions in real-time to increase the chances of a successful grasp on an arbitrary object http://googleresearch.blogspot.com.au/2016/03/deep-learning-for-robots-learning-from.html. And there are other related research systems using deep learning techniques to boost robot performance in complex object grasping and manipulation tasks http://vcresearch.berkeley.edu/bakarfellows/profile/pieter_abbeel. In related deep learning news and following the preliminary announcement a couple months ago, AlphaGo officially defeated the reigning world Go champion this week https://deepmind.com/alpha-go.html.

8. Reconfigurable Nanomaterials
First, the orientation of magnetism in a new class of materials comprised of thin layers of perovskites can be precisely controlled at will, and offering interesting spintronics and other applications https://www.utwente.nl/en/news/!/2016/3/477452/nanotechnologists-at-ut-make-orientation-of-magnetism-adjustable-in-new-materials. Second, a different technique based on thermal scanning probe lithography uses a hot nanotip to heat and cool thin-films of ferromagnetic and antiferromagnetic materials and offering a different way to reconfigure magnetic nanopatterns at will http://asrc.cuny.edu/2016/03/09/riedo-magnetic-nanopatterns/. Finally, in related news a flexible metamaterial can be stretched and tuned to reduce the reflection of a wide range of radar frequencies http://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2016/03/04/meta-skin.

9. Interesting 2D Materials Advances
First, a new graphene water filter removes anything larger than 1nm and is prepared by a novel and apparently scalable process http://www.eng.monash.edu.au/news/shownews.php?nid=11&year=2016. Second, the company Graphenano claims to have developed a graphene polymer battery that achieves 1,000 Wh / kg that would boost a the range of a Tesla Model S from 334 km to >1,000 km http://nextbigfuture.com/2016/03/spanish-company-graphenano-claims.html. Finally, a novel lens 6.3nm thick made from nine layers of molybdenum disulphide and shaped into a lens with a focused ion beam possesses exceptional optical properties http://www.anu.edu.au/news/all-news/worlds-thinnest-lens-to-revolutionise-cameras.

10. Stem Cells Regenerate Human Eye Lens
A human clinical trial with 12 patients successfully regenerated eye lenses damaged by congenital cataracts in all cases http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressrelease/stem_cells_regenerate_human_lens_after_cataract_surgery_restoring_vision. The procedure involved (i) new minimally invasive surgery to remove the damaged lens while leaving the lens capsule intact, and (ii) methods to stimulate latent lens epithelial cells to regrow the a healthy lens able to restore vision. Great demonstration of using latent stem cells in the body to heal; we’ll hopefully see more of this in future.

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2016-03-10 12:58:08 (1 comments; 4 reshares; 22 +1s)Open 

Ethereum and Bringing Blockchains into the Physical World

Here's a good updated overview post of Ethereum from yesterday https://coincenter.org/2016/03/what-is-ethereum/ that is really useful to help explain blockchains and Ethereum to others who have little familiarity with distributed ledgers and bitcoin generally.

And in exploring Ethereum in more detail lately I've acquired a bunch of ETH (Ethereum "currency") too.

That Ethereum post includes a link to Slock.it, via https://slock.it, which I find utterly fascinating and the reason for sharing this post. I've attached their intro ~3min video below that is worth a watch. Slock.it are starting with basic physical locks to connect the Ethereum blockchain to the physical world, but with a broader vision to build this out as a generic Internet of Things platform. The applications and... more »

Ethereum and Bringing Blockchains into the Physical World

Here's a good updated overview post of Ethereum from yesterday https://coincenter.org/2016/03/what-is-ethereum/ that is really useful to help explain blockchains and Ethereum to others who have little familiarity with distributed ledgers and bitcoin generally.

And in exploring Ethereum in more detail lately I've acquired a bunch of ETH (Ethereum "currency") too.

That Ethereum post includes a link to Slock.it, via https://slock.it, which I find utterly fascinating and the reason for sharing this post. I've attached their intro ~3min video below that is worth a watch. Slock.it are starting with basic physical locks to connect the Ethereum blockchain to the physical world, but with a broader vision to build this out as a generic Internet of Things platform. The applications and possibilities here sound pretty exciting.

Finally, thanks to +Rick Heil for sharing this Ethererum resource https://www.reddit.com/r/ethtrader/comments/45shqc/boneheads_ethereum_news_to_come_updated/ summarising some of the many projects, tools, services, and corporations currently being built and tested on Ethereum.
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2016-03-06 13:49:23 (5 comments; 31 reshares; 82 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 10/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/03/biomolecule-computers-finding-dna.html

Biomolecule computers, Finding DNA modifications, Enhanced learning device, Sophisticated quantum dots, Molecular legos, Synthetic biology containment, Quantum factoring, Sperm in a dish, Deep learning materials, Gravity wave transportation. 

1. Computers Made of Biomolecules
A prototype hybrid biological computer has been demonstrated in which a grid of etched channels is coated with myosin (or kinesin) proteins that use ATP to shuttle actin (or microtubule) protein cylinders around the grid and through different gates http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-02/mu-blb022616.php. Using these biomolecules or nanostructures to shuttle information around the chip is an incredibly energy efficient means to perform... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 10/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/03/biomolecule-computers-finding-dna.html

Biomolecule computers, Finding DNA modifications, Enhanced learning device, Sophisticated quantum dots, Molecular legos, Synthetic biology containment, Quantum factoring, Sperm in a dish, Deep learning materials, Gravity wave transportation. 

1. Computers Made of Biomolecules
A prototype hybrid biological computer has been demonstrated in which a grid of etched channels is coated with myosin (or kinesin) proteins that use ATP to shuttle actin (or microtubule) protein cylinders around the grid and through different gates http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-02/mu-blb022616.php. Using these biomolecules or nanostructures to shuttle information around the chip is an incredibly energy efficient means to perform computations; having demonstrated simple computations with the prototype the group hope to scale-up the architecture to create full-scale functional general computer. 

2. Discovering New DNA Modifications
A new DNA sequencing and detection method is able to identify novel DNA modifications such as epigenetic tags and other chemical alterations quickly and accurately for the first time instead of chance as has usually been the case, and throws up interesting new methods of DNA regulation and control that we may not have been aware of http://news.mit.edu/2016/regulate-protect-dna-modifications-0229. In related news there is renewed discussion of the role of an epigenetic “clock” in organism aging http://nextbigfuture.com/2016/03/epigenetic-clock-controls-aging.html. 

3. Enhanced Learning via tDCS
Low current electrical brain stimulation via transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can improve the learning and retention of complex real-world skills http://www.hrl.com/news/2016/0210/. In this study commercial and military pilots had their brain activity measured, and this pattern was transmitted to student pilots in a flight simulator who subsequently demonstrated improved piloting abilities. It’ll be interesting to see whether this is generally applicable and can be expanded to far broader areas. In related news a new wireless brain computer interface allows monkeys to navigate a wheelchair around an environment with their thoughts http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/robotics/medical-robots/monkeys-navigate-wheelchair-with-their-thoughts. 

4. Growing Sophistication of Quantum Dots and Nanolights
Nature has a good feature / overview article on the state of development of various quantum dot technologies and their applications http://www.nature.com/news/the-nanolight-revolution-is-coming-1.19482. There’s the typical crystalline semiconductor quantum dots of course and efforts to resolve toxicity concerns, as well as semiconducting polymer p-dots that emit light when they aggregate, AIE-dots comprised of molecules that only emit light when tightly packed, and finally lanthanide upconversion particles that accumulate low energy light and emit high energy light. A range of applications in displays, biosensors, photovoltaics, general sensors, and others are discussed. 

5. Self Assembled Molecular Legos
Using electrospray ion beam deposition, spraying a solution of peptides onto a surface over 1,000s of volts results in ultrapure uncontaminated surfaces on which the peptides self assemble to form regular patterned, atomically precise 2D monolayers http://www.mpg.de/10315424/nanotechnology-selforganized-molecule-lego. Different peptides allow different patterns and chemical properties to be engineered into the surface; such an array might serve as an atomically precise grid for attaching other (e.g. DNA origami) components. In related news organic dye molecules are being made to self assemble atomically precise 2D monolayer arrays of photovoltaic sheets https://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/short/article/32977/. 

6. Controlling Cells via Peers
A new method for controlling the spread and containment of engineered bacteria and other microbes involves engineering the cells to be dependent on collective survival http://pratt.duke.edu/news/engineered-swarmbots-rely-peers-survival. In this case the cells are engineered to (i) produce a molecule and (ii) when that molecule is in high enough concentrations also produce an antibiotic resistance protein; so long as the bacteria stick together in a high-antibiotic environment they survive. This is demonstrated as a platform that could use any number of signals to control the spread and survival of engineered bacteria. 

7. Proof of Concept Quantum Factoring
Five atoms confined in an ion trap comprise a simple quantum computer able to implement Shor’s Algorithm to find the prime factors of a number, in this case the number 15 http://news.mit.edu/2016/quantum-computer-end-encryption-schemes-0303. The system created by the group is designed to be scalable and extensible and so should enable the building of much larger systems able to factor much larger and more interesting numbers. If this is accomplished then modern cryptographic systems and security will be at risk as large factors form the basis of encryption. 

8. Creating Sperm in a Dish
The latest work directed towards creating artificial sperm and eggs has resulted the the production of rudimentary mouse sperm and the subsequent use of these sperm to successfully fertilise mouse eggs and create healthy offspring http://www.nature.com/news/researchers-claim-to-have-made-artificial-mouse-sperm-in-a-dish-1.19453. This involved reprogramming mouse embryonic stem cells to create primordial germ cells and then incubating these with testicular tissue and other factors to turn them into rudimentary sperm that were directly injected into eggs. The result is controversial and still to be replicated. 

9. Creating New Materials with Machine Learning
A new machine learning system can automatically scan millions of theoretical compounds for novel properties and useful qualities that might be synthesised for a beneficial purpose http://today.uconn.edu/2016/03/building-a-better-mousetrap-from-the-atoms-up/. The group concentrated on certain polymers and created a complex sample of 238 different polymers, calculating their bulk structures and electrical properties to use as training data for the machine learning system, that was then able to accurately predict and calculate the properties of novel polymer combinations, optimising structures for certain desired properties. In related news new company Nervana launched a deep learning cloud service that anyone can use to build computer models that learn http://fortune.com/2016/02/29/nervana-deep-learning/. 

10. FTL Spacetime Routes via Gravity Waves
Here is an interesting theoretical proposal to use gravity waves to create a spacetime geometry between two locations that allows faster-than-light traversal between the two locations compared to or as observed by distant observers http://nextbigfuture.com/2016/02/creating-spacetime-shortcuts-with.html. This attempts to provide a third theoretical option to fast-than-light travel that is consistent with General Relativity, in addition to the more commonly known Alcubierre Drives and Lorentzian Wormholes. Of course, the proposal suffers along with its peers the requirement for truly astronomical sources of energy and no known means by which to achieve this. Interesting nonetheless. 

SciTech Tip Jar: http://www.scitechdigest.net/p/donate.html ___

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2016-03-03 13:39:28 (3 comments; 26 reshares; 69 +1s)Open 

Startup Tips & Quotes for Work and Life

I was going through some old archives the other day and came upon this list of quotes and excerpts I'd collected from an old blog called The Startup Daily that I used to follow but which closed many years ago. I thought I'd share my clippings here because I found them interesting again, still relevant after so many years, and applicable to life and work in general outside of startups and business.

It’s important to regularly ask yourself why you do what you do.
When you don’t have a clear answer, your work is not at its best and your focus is easily diverted from what matters most. Reflecting on Your Purpose Regularly Keeps You Motivated and Protects Against Distractions. A clearly written statement of purpose can act as your compass. It encourages and motivates you to push yourself, and gives you a reason tosay... more »

Startup Tips & Quotes for Work and Life

I was going through some old archives the other day and came upon this list of quotes and excerpts I'd collected from an old blog called The Startup Daily that I used to follow but which closed many years ago. I thought I'd share my clippings here because I found them interesting again, still relevant after so many years, and applicable to life and work in general outside of startups and business.

It’s important to regularly ask yourself why you do what you do.
When you don’t have a clear answer, your work is not at its best and your focus is easily diverted from what matters most. Reflecting on Your Purpose Regularly Keeps You Motivated and Protects Against Distractions. A clearly written statement of purpose can act as your compass. It encourages and motivates you to push yourself, and gives you a reason to say no to distractions that threaten to steal your focus. When the work you are doing is uncomfortable or unnatural, referring to your statement helps to remind you why you should push through the discomfort.

Study Everyday Situations with an Eye Towards Improving Them
Don’t wait for somebody else to tell you what products to develop and what problems to solve. To find a challenge worthy of your time, look no further than the points of friction in your own life. Become a nitpicker. Identify all the little things that are inconvenient or broken in the world around you. Then, instead of just accepting them, pick one and commit to doing something about it. Life’s little problems are an entrepreneur’s opportunities.

Most Successful Products First Languish in the Marketplace, Missing One Crucial Ingredient
“The greatest opportunities around new technologies are not in making things possible, but in solving the myriad little problems that prevent widespread adoption.” The Sony ebook reader was first released in the U.S. over a year before the Kindle. It was lightweight, used the same E Ink display technology, and was similar to the Kindle in almost every way. But it was missing wireless connectivity and the backend that enabled one-click access to the impressive Amazon catalog. Buying and loading new content was a major hassle, and the product floundered. While Sony was in the business of making e-book readers, Amazon was in the business of solving the customer’s problem of buying and reading books, even when the solution meant going outside the device. To find the missing element, try creating a hassle map. List every step, decision, hassle, and potential for making mistakes involved in using your product or service. The key to unlocking the market is probably on that list. The hassles most likely to be overlooked are outside of the obvious functionality of the product, but inside the experience of using the product.

The Stuff You Learn Along the Way Is Ten Times More Valuable than What You Could Learn Beforehand
Many people postpone their plans because they don’t yet know the details of what they will create, how to get where they are going, or how the industry they will be entering works. A little preparation is helpful, but don’t overdo it. You don’t need to be an expert in everything that you might face in the future. You don’t need a plan for every contingency. And you don’t need to gain the approval or permission of industry insiders. Everything that you really need to know can be learned along the way.

Start Before You’re Ready
When launching a new business, project, or initiative, be careful about spending too much time preparing. Don’t fall into the trap of analysis paralysis. The hard part of creating something new is not getting adequately prepared, the hardest part is getting started.

Improve Your Business by Just One Percent Each Week
Most of us have a vision for our business that is far grander than the current reality. But the scope of work required to realize that vision can be immobilizing. It’s hard to know where to start and what to do next. Employees and customers are often threatened by drastic changes. And if you take on too much, too fast and fail to deliver, then your efforts may backfire. Small changes are more manageable, give you time to perfect each step before moving on, and allow you to stay flexible. Your customer’s needs will change and your vision for the business will change, so don’t plan your one percent too far in advance. Reevaluate the next improvement each week. By taking one step at a time, you are able to respond to changing conditions and you avoid being locked into a stale vision. If you improve by just one percent each week, your business will be 50% better after a year.

Don’t Judge the Significance of a New Innovation by the Quality of Early Implementations
The first automobiles were noisy, expensive, and required constant maintenance. The early Internet was not very useful. The first mobile computing devices were extremely limited and barely mobile.To properly gauge the potential of a new technology, you must see past the flaws in early versions. Ask yourself what this experience might look like if it was 10x faster, smaller, cheaper, or better.

You Can Encourage a Desired Behavior by Giving Feedback as if They Were Already Behaving that Way.
People feel compelled to act in ways that are consistent with how others see them. Providing feedback—even false feedback—modifies someone’s self-image, making them more likely to confirm the perception they believe other people already have of them.

Whatever your idea is, someone else has probably already thought of it.
Anyone Can Steal Your Idea, But They Can’t Steal Your Passion or Execution. When you keep your ideas secret to protect them, you are hurting your chances of connecting with people who can help you make them a reality. Experienced investors know this. It’s why they don’t back ideas, they back teams they believe in. Everyone has ideas. It’s the ability to execute that’s priceless.

Your Real Competition Is the Extreme Clutter of the Marketplace
Your competition is no longer just the other offerings in your category. In today’s environment, there is a bigger concern. Every day our choices are increasing in complexity. The number and scope of the products, services, features, advertising messages, and delivery channels that we are subjected to are rapidly growing. Ironically, most companies react to this by adding more clutter. You cannot fight clutter with more clutter. You must find or create your own “white space” to stand out.

Mainstream Customers Will Not Feel Comfortable Unless They Can Compare Your Offering With Something Else
Unlike early adopters, mainstream customers need to feel that they are buying into a mature market, and competition validates that market. Yet in a new market that competition isn’t likely to exist. 
If you don’t have any competition, create some. Look outside of your category to find alternatives that the customer can compare your offering with. By defining the competition you can select for the criteria you want to win by.

For something to go viral there should be a built-in incentive for each user to invite new users.
Small adjustments to the sharing mechanism can have a big impact on how quickly something spreads. If each user brings a single new user you will have linear growth; if each user brings two new users you will have exponential growth. Of course the first step is to have a great product that is worth sharing, bad products do not go viral.

Start Your Presentation by Talking About the Audience
Telling a story is a great way to start. Just make sure the story is about something the audience cares about—like themselves or people just like them. Asking the audience a question is another good way to start. As long as it’s relevant to the audience, and not a meaningless question like “Who wants to be more successful?” Whatever you do, don’t start a presentation by talking about yourself. ___

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2016-03-02 12:14:34 (2 comments; 13 reshares; 61 +1s)Open 

Summary of Recent Rejuvenation & Longevity Science Updates

H+ Magazine has a good summary update on a wide range of recent research projects advancing rejuvenation biotechnologies and longevity interventions. This covers everything from blunt tools like metformin, rapamycin, and resveratrol, to intermediates like immune-boosters and parabiosis-mimics, and also more advanced interventions such as senolytics, organ regenerators, thymic anti-involutants, telomere extenders, mitochondrial reformatting, and cross-link breakers.

Here: http://hplusmagazine.com/2016/03/01/29485/

Worth checking out if only for the spike of optimism from all of this activity, but also for the references and links to more detailed information on each of the programs.

Also, slightly (un)related, those interested in this stuff will probably also be interested in nootropics... more »

Summary of Recent Rejuvenation & Longevity Science Updates

H+ Magazine has a good summary update on a wide range of recent research projects advancing rejuvenation biotechnologies and longevity interventions. This covers everything from blunt tools like metformin, rapamycin, and resveratrol, to intermediates like immune-boosters and parabiosis-mimics, and also more advanced interventions such as senolytics, organ regenerators, thymic anti-involutants, telomere extenders, mitochondrial reformatting, and cross-link breakers.

Here: http://hplusmagazine.com/2016/03/01/29485/

Worth checking out if only for the spike of optimism from all of this activity, but also for the references and links to more detailed information on each of the programs.

Also, slightly (un)related, those interested in this stuff will probably also be interested in nootropics generally, and Scott Alexander has an interesting post and survey results on nootropics here: http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/03/01/2016-nootropics-survey-results/ ___

2016-03-01 09:12:38 (18 comments; 2 reshares; 24 +1s)Open 

A Line Between Your Identity & Another's Memory?

I was pondering the future possibility of directly uploading skills and memories the other day while cleaning the pool. As you do.

I didn't always know how to take care of a pool of course. It was something I had to learn to do; the process, the tools, the methods, the testing, the chemistry, the little things to look out for and the little things to fix.

This goes for any new skill or knowledge of course.

I wondered about the alternative to encountering such a novel problem and dealing with it by tapping into the network and immediately having that memory or skill integrated into my brain. Not just the sense of knowing this knew knowledge and skill as an external thing to be known and acted upon. But integrated to such an extent that I knew it intuitively, knew it without thinking about it,... more »

A Line Between Your Identity & Another's Memory?

I was pondering the future possibility of directly uploading skills and memories the other day while cleaning the pool. As you do.

I didn't always know how to take care of a pool of course. It was something I had to learn to do; the process, the tools, the methods, the testing, the chemistry, the little things to look out for and the little things to fix.

This goes for any new skill or knowledge of course.

I wondered about the alternative to encountering such a novel problem and dealing with it by tapping into the network and immediately having that memory or skill integrated into my brain. Not just the sense of knowing this knew knowledge and skill as an external thing to be known and acted upon. But integrated to such an extent that I knew it intuitively, knew it without thinking about it, essentially performing someone else's knowledge, someone else's skill . . . without knowing how or why I knew it.

This would of course be very quick and extraordinarily convenient. It would be powerful; seductively tempting to do the same with every new skill and piece of knowledge.

But would we lose something in the process? Would this lessen or demean our sense of Self? What would it say about our identity? Especially if you take it to extremes in which every skill and every piece of knowledge about the world in your head was uploaded there, like Trinity's helicopter pilot knowledge in The Matrix, copied from someone else's network, someone else's identity? Who are you in this scenario?

When all you have, uniquely, are your memory of life events? And even these might be added and deleted and altered and swapped, possibly with, and possibly without your knowledge. Does you and your lose all meaning in this situation? Does the collective then reign supreme? Can our memes, which we gave birth to, then be said to have succeeded in engineering their environment to their "purposes" as homo sapiens has its own environment?___

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2016-02-29 13:46:45 (4 comments; 16 reshares; 58 +1s)Open 

How To Grow Almost Anything

HTGAA http://bio.academany.org/ is a synthetic biology program directed by George Church and is part of the growing "academany" and the distributed network of FabLabs around the world. Like the 3D printing FabLabs and the associated courses for How to Make Almost Anything, the idea is to provide (i) an engaging curriculum for people to quickly pick up knowledge and skills, and most importantly (ii) access to a laboratory for people to put those skills and new knowledge to work in making - or in this case growing - something new.

There are a bunch of participating laboratories around the world and I am very interested in setting up an Australian node for this program. Which makes a lot of sense because it is something I've been tinkering with and thinking about doing in my garage anyway.

Classes

I mean, with... more »

How To Grow Almost Anything

HTGAA http://bio.academany.org/ is a synthetic biology program directed by George Church and is part of the growing "academany" and the distributed network of FabLabs around the world. Like the 3D printing FabLabs and the associated courses for How to Make Almost Anything, the idea is to provide (i) an engaging curriculum for people to quickly pick up knowledge and skills, and most importantly (ii) access to a laboratory for people to put those skills and new knowledge to work in making - or in this case growing - something new.

There are a bunch of participating laboratories around the world and I am very interested in setting up an Australian node for this program. Which makes a lot of sense because it is something I've been tinkering with and thinking about doing in my garage anyway.

Classes

I mean, with free classes, guidelines, and course materials on topics including DNA Nanostructures, Biofabrication & Additive Manufacturing, Genome Engineering, Gene Drives & Synthetic Ecosystems,_ and Engineering the Human Gut Microbiome, who wouldn't want to get stuck in and do this stuff!?

See: http://bio.academany.org/doc/classes

Inventory

HTGAA also provides a very helpful resource for sourcing cheap, accessible equipment for putting a laboratory together that will allow you to do these things, for example (i) a DIY generic lab equipment guide, and (ii) How to set up a molecular laboratory for $1,000 from Ebay.

See: http://bio.academany.org/doc/inventory

EDIT:
Easily Accessible Genetic Parts

AddGene provides easily accessible genetic parts for people, including CRISPR / Cas9 constructs as needed. See: https://www.addgene.org/ (via https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601156/the-scientific-swap-meet-behind-the-gene-editing-boom/)___

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2016-02-29 07:56:47 (3 comments; 3 reshares; 17 +1s)Open 

Joy Flight & Fleur de Peau Light Show

Elise and I had a big day on Saturday and covered a lot of ground around Adelaide, enough for me to make this little 3 minute highlight clip :)

We started the day with a low altitude joy flight on a little 4-seater plane that proved to be much bumpier than either of us expected, but we were rewarded with some nice views over Adelaide that we'd never seen nor appreciated before. This included the mangroves where we'd gone fishing and kayaking previously, as well as Adelaide Oval where we were headed later that night. Funnily enough on approach to land, listening to the air traffic control chatter we heard the pilot say "Nah, not going to be able to make it from here." and then he did a loop of the air field before coming in a second time to land.

We ended the day at Adelaide Oval to watch the launch of the... more »

Joy Flight & Fleur de Peau Light Show

Elise and I had a big day on Saturday and covered a lot of ground around Adelaide, enough for me to make this little 3 minute highlight clip :)

We started the day with a low altitude joy flight on a little 4-seater plane that proved to be much bumpier than either of us expected, but we were rewarded with some nice views over Adelaide that we'd never seen nor appreciated before. This included the mangroves where we'd gone fishing and kayaking previously, as well as Adelaide Oval where we were headed later that night. Funnily enough on approach to land, listening to the air traffic control chatter we heard the pilot say "Nah, not going to be able to make it from here." and then he did a loop of the air field before coming in a second time to land.

We ended the day at Adelaide Oval to watch the launch of the Adelaide Festival of the Arts (run in parallel with the Fringe Festival and incidentally every other festival. For those that don't know, this time of year is referred to as "Mad March" in Adelaide because for some reason my city decides to host every event for the year at once). The launch was performance Group F and their show A Fleur De Peau, a light, audio, projection, and fireworks show. Aside from the fireworks I felt they were a little drowned out in the stadium as we were too far removed from the stage; otherwise the glow-suits were pretty cool, the beats and bass were impressive, the synchronised flames and lights were well done and the fireworks were some of the best I've seen in a long time.

The video is ~90 seconds flight + ~90 seconds light show and fireworks.

___

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2016-02-28 12:44:47 (4 comments; 3 reshares; 58 +1s)Open 

Support for Bohmian Mechanics & Quantum Determinism

A recent experiment presents evidence as additional support for Bohmian Mechanics and similar hidden variables interpretations of quantum mechanics. This doesn't rule out other interpretations of course, but the new work does overturn a 1992 experiment that aimed to refute Bohmian Mechanics.

Popular overview of the work: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2078251-quantum-weirdness-may-hide-an-orderly-reality-after-all/

The new work shows that the act of sending one of an entangled pair of photons through a double-slit apparatus causes the other photon to change its polarisation mid-flight, to the point where you can no longer predict with certainty the polarisation fate of one with regard to the other.

[1] Paper: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/2/e1501466
[2] Wikipedia:... more »

Support for Bohmian Mechanics & Quantum Determinism

A recent experiment presents evidence as additional support for Bohmian Mechanics and similar hidden variables interpretations of quantum mechanics. This doesn't rule out other interpretations of course, but the new work does overturn a 1992 experiment that aimed to refute Bohmian Mechanics.

Popular overview of the work: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2078251-quantum-weirdness-may-hide-an-orderly-reality-after-all/

The new work shows that the act of sending one of an entangled pair of photons through a double-slit apparatus causes the other photon to change its polarisation mid-flight, to the point where you can no longer predict with certainty the polarisation fate of one with regard to the other.

[1] Paper: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/2/e1501466
[2] Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Broglie%E2%80%93Bohm_theory___

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2016-02-28 12:21:44 (3 comments; 2 reshares; 37 +1s)Open 

Very Cool Android Experiments

The Android Experiments page provides a bunch of cool and innovative applications for you to check out and play with https://www.androidexperiments.com/.

The image below is from the Selfie x Selfie app, and I've also played with Tilt, Elements, Material Life, and Spheretones, on my phone and also the very cool Time Mesh on my watch. I'd also love to build and play with the IOIO Rover, which looks like a much improved version of a remote telepresence robot I built 3 or 4 years ago now. Although mine did have a cannon!


Very Cool Android Experiments

The Android Experiments page provides a bunch of cool and innovative applications for you to check out and play with https://www.androidexperiments.com/.

The image below is from the Selfie x Selfie app, and I've also played with Tilt, Elements, Material Life, and Spheretones, on my phone and also the very cool Time Mesh on my watch. I'd also love to build and play with the IOIO Rover, which looks like a much improved version of a remote telepresence robot I built 3 or 4 years ago now. Although mine did have a cannon!
___

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2016-02-28 04:55:37 (8 comments; 34 reshares; 94 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 09/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/02/precise-dna-motors-next-gen-atlas.html

Precise DNA motors, Next gen Atlas, Commercial deep learning, DARPA electro-optic chip, Sophisticated CRISPR tools, Quantum dot solids, Low power WiFi, Artificial organs, Cancer imaging & targeting, Stabilising proteins. 

1. DNA Origami Atomically Precise Molecular Motors
Self assembled DNA origami structures can now be formed into atomically precise molecular motors 40nm in size that include a spinning crank, an axel bearing, and a container to hold the two together http://phys.org/news/2016-02-nanoscale-rotary-apparatus-tight-fitting-3d.html. The device is currently driven around by random thermal motions but the group are investigating mechanisms to provide driving power and unidirectional control; a future... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 09/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/02/precise-dna-motors-next-gen-atlas.html

Precise DNA motors, Next gen Atlas, Commercial deep learning, DARPA electro-optic chip, Sophisticated CRISPR tools, Quantum dot solids, Low power WiFi, Artificial organs, Cancer imaging & targeting, Stabilising proteins. 

1. DNA Origami Atomically Precise Molecular Motors
Self assembled DNA origami structures can now be formed into atomically precise molecular motors 40nm in size that include a spinning crank, an axel bearing, and a container to hold the two together http://phys.org/news/2016-02-nanoscale-rotary-apparatus-tight-fitting-3d.html. The device is currently driven around by random thermal motions but the group are investigating mechanisms to provide driving power and unidirectional control; a future array of such devices, functionalised, might drive specific synthesis and assembly reactions. In related news self assembled DNA origami structures have been used to package / disguise cancer drugs and deliver them inside of drug resistant cells https://news.osu.edu/news/2016/02/23/dnatrojan/, and DNA origami rods bound to gold nanoparticles form a hinge that can be opened and closed with light http://www.mpg.de/10319146/nanoplasmonic-dna-nanostructure-light. 

2. Next Gen Atlas Robot
Boston Dynamics has demonstrated its next generation bipedal Atlas robot http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/next-generation-of-boston-dynamics-atlas-robot. The new Atlas is shorter, lighter (82kg), electrically powered, hydraulically actuated, self-balancing (quite a sight to see in the video), untethered, all-terrain, and overall a big improvement on the old Atlas. Be sure to watch the video if you haven’t seen it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVlhMGQgDkY. 

3. Commercial Deep Learning for Images and Sounds
Google launched their Cloud Vision API as a service for anyone to use for high throughput automated image analysis for things like object labelling, text extraction, sentiment labelling, specific content filtering, and other features and represents an effort to enable applications to see, hear, and make information in the world more useful http://googlecloudplatform.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/Google-Cloud-Vision-API-enters-beta-open-to-all-to-try.html, and Google has also launched PlaNet, able to determine where in the world almost any photo was taken without using geotagged data http://gizmodo.com/googles-new-ai-can-tell-where-your-photo-was-taken-with-1761125788. Landr launched an automatic music mastering service developed with machine learning algorithms that allows artists to upload their songs and quickly and cheaply master the audio to improve the tracks http://www.canadianbusiness.com/innovation/startups-to-watch-montreal-landr/. 

4. DARPA’s Electronic Photonic Chip
DARPA unveiled its most advanced electronic photonic chip http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2016-02-19, a microprocesor that intimately combines electronic and photonic components to speed up chip operation and interchip communication. Some of the main innovations in this chip include the design and arrangement of the optical waveguides for simultaneously shuttling potentially hundreds of different wavelengths of light. 

5. Very Sophisticated CRISPR Tools
The Boomerang system represents yet another powerful advance in the sophistication and effectiveness of the CRISPR genome editing system http://sg.idtdna.com/pages/decoded/decoded-articles/synthetic-biology/decoded/2016/02/08/boomerang-targeting-cancer-treatments-to-cancer-cells. Boomerang extends the CRISPR platform with powerful new tools, in this case providing a molecular switch that requires the presence of two distinct cellular signals to turn on, and once activated can be linked to produce a variety of outcomes as desired including (i) diagnostics to determine the presence of certain cells, (ii) reporter molecules to label and make visible certain cells, (iii) molecules or enzymes to induce cell death, (iv) molecules or enzymes to induce a range of cell behaviours. For example, you might infect every cell of an organism with this machinery and only those cells that expressed two cancer signals would be killed. In related news new software algorithms help to quickly design more effective CRISPR constructs http://spectrum.ieee.org/biomedical/diagnostics/software-helps-gene-editing-tool-crispr-live-up-to-its-hype. 

6. Quantum Dot Lego Solids
For the first time quantum dot nanocrystals have been controllably synthesised into larger crystals to form atomically coherent square superlattices http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-02/cu-qds022416.php. These 5nm quantum dot crystals aren’t just connected by ligands but can now be fused and connected directly to each other to enable superior electrical, optical, and energy properties. These are referred to as atomically coherent quantum dot solids. The only hurdle remaining for pushing this platform forward to produce truly amazing materials is forming uniform, identical quantum dots as atomic differences in quantum dot size and composition lead to defects. 

7. WiFi at 10,000 Times Less Power
A new WiFi system allows devices to transmit data at 11 megabits per second using 10,000 times less power than would normally be required http://www.washington.edu/news/2016/02/23/uw-engineers-achieve-wi-fi-at-10000-times-lower-power/. The system basically works from a main, central transmission unit broadcasting WiFi that draws power from the mains supply, while other devices within range simply reflect these signals, transmitting packets as they do so. This enables true passive WiFi devices and so is a genuine breakthrough technology for Internet of Things applications and distributed ubiquitous sensors. 

8. Artificial Organ Innovations
First, tissues including ear, bone, and muscle can be printed at human scale and when implanted form functional tissues and a blood supply http://www.wakehealth.edu/News-Releases/2016/Scientists_Prove_Feasibility_of_%E2%80%9CPrinting%E2%80%9D_Replacement_Tissue.htm. Second, the development of artificial kidneys based on silicon nanofilter chips powered by blood flow with arrays of nanofilters for removing certain molecules and hosting living kidney cells to provide other important filtration functions http://www.medgadget.com/2016/02/artificial-kidney-made-of-nanofilters-and-living-cells-to-replace-dialysis.html. Finally, functional liver tissue can now be 3D printed and which closely resembles real liver tissue with a combination of different cells and metabolic functions, and which is intended for a range of applications including high throughput drug screening http://universityofcalifornia.edu/news/uc-san-diego-lab-prints-3-d-functioning-liver-tissue. 

9. Imaging Cancers and Reprogrammed Skin Cells vs Cancer
Reprogramming skin cells into induced neural stem cells and delivering them into the brain results in these cells seeking out and killing cancer cells in the brain and boosting survival rates for glioblastoma by between 160% and 220% http://uncnews.unc.edu/2016/02/24/unc-chapel-hill-researchers-make-groundbreaking-discovery-use-skin-cells-to-kill-cancer/; the group hope to further boost the effectiveness of the cells’ cancer killing abilities. In related news cancer cells can be accurately imaged and visualised in 3D, providing further insights and stunning images http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-02/cp-ci3021716.php. 

10. Preventing Proteins from Unfolding
New work suggests that proteins can be reinforced with covalently bonded polymers such as PEG to prevent unfolding and significantly boost mechanical stability http://phys.org/news/2016-02-protein-unfolding.html. While only demonstrated in certain protein structures (alpha sheets) and yet to be demonstrated generally, I see this as a useful tool for stabilising and improving the performance of protein-based biomaterials and solutions of enzymes for drug or production purposes. 

SciTech Tip Jar: http://www.scitechdigest.net/p/donate.html___

2016-02-23 13:11:46 (30 comments; 3 reshares; 43 +1s)Open 

Random Idle Thoughts, Posed as Questions, Shared from a Year Old Google Keep Note

Are there are no absolute quantities, only relative quantities? And does this imply there are no infinitesimal or infinite quantities in nature?

Because a computer is always dependent on its clock-rate, does this mean that no computation can glean insights into the fundamental nature of time?

Are mass and charge not real THINGS? Are they just labels we assign to properties that things in our universe appear to have when we MEASURE them interacting relative to other things?

Analogue phenomena can be modeled digitally. But at the hardware level the digital processing relies on analogue components. But at the atomic level the analogue components are digital. Is reality analogue below the atomic level, it being impossible for discrete units to measure analogue phenomena whose... more »

Random Idle Thoughts, Posed as Questions, Shared from a Year Old Google Keep Note

Are there are no absolute quantities, only relative quantities? And does this imply there are no infinitesimal or infinite quantities in nature?

Because a computer is always dependent on its clock-rate, does this mean that no computation can glean insights into the fundamental nature of time?

Are mass and charge not real THINGS? Are they just labels we assign to properties that things in our universe appear to have when we MEASURE them interacting relative to other things?

Analogue phenomena can be modeled digitally. But at the hardware level the digital processing relies on analogue components. But at the atomic level the analogue components are digital. Is reality analogue below the atomic level, it being impossible for discrete units to measure analogue phenomena whose variations are smaller than the dimensions of the discrete units? Do further discrete digital units underlie this analogue continuum?

Just because the equations governing our most successful physical theories produce elegant, final solutions in extreme conditions, does it actually mean those solutions can physically exist or are physically realisable? Their physical existence has not been proven so might there be other physical phenomena and properties that prevent the physical evolution of a system from ever actually reaching those solutions?

#shitilayawakeatnightthinkingabout ___

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2016-02-21 12:38:55 (17 comments; 4 reshares; 44 +1s)Open 

A Little Video I Made

Here's a little video I made of ants on my driveway, using my Nexus 6P smartphone capturing video at 240fps slow-motion while sporting a $2 clip-on 19x macro lens I bought on Ebay. I've never seen ants like this, at this scale, in my own yard, as they attend to a fallen comrade. The little guy who appears at 0:59 provides the most interesting behaviour I think. Watching this it's easy to forget that they move much faster, which is why I included the section at the start to provide a benchmark of scale and speed.

Looks great blow up full-screen at 1080p.

It was handheld footage and would have benefited from a tripod and the lenses themselves can't help but blur the edges of the image, while the focal plane for the 19x macro is pretty narrow itself. 

A Little Video I Made

Here's a little video I made of ants on my driveway, using my Nexus 6P smartphone capturing video at 240fps slow-motion while sporting a $2 clip-on 19x macro lens I bought on Ebay. I've never seen ants like this, at this scale, in my own yard, as they attend to a fallen comrade. The little guy who appears at 0:59 provides the most interesting behaviour I think. Watching this it's easy to forget that they move much faster, which is why I included the section at the start to provide a benchmark of scale and speed.

Looks great blow up full-screen at 1080p.

It was handheld footage and would have benefited from a tripod and the lenses themselves can't help but blur the edges of the image, while the focal plane for the 19x macro is pretty narrow itself. ___

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2016-02-21 06:26:50 (11 comments; 26 reshares; 88 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 08/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/02/cancer-immunotherapies-radio.html

Cancer immunotherapies, Radio invisibility mesh, Sophisticated robot hand, Nanostructured glass memory, Biosensing plasmonic interferometry, Implantable antennas, DNA insertion protocols, Neuromorphic silicon cochlea, Amazing drone applications, Variable negative stiffness. 

1. Latest Results for Cancer Immunotherapies
Cancer immunotherapies that involve reprogramming a person’s own immune cells to attack and destroy cancer cells continue to be developed to ever-greater effectiveness and sophistication. Latest clinical trial results show a long sustained multi-year remission (I wonder when they can claim “cure”?) in 27 out of 29 patients originally expected to live 3 monthshttps:... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 08/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/02/cancer-immunotherapies-radio.html

Cancer immunotherapies, Radio invisibility mesh, Sophisticated robot hand, Nanostructured glass memory, Biosensing plasmonic interferometry, Implantable antennas, DNA insertion protocols, Neuromorphic silicon cochlea, Amazing drone applications, Variable negative stiffness. 

1. Latest Results for Cancer Immunotherapies
Cancer immunotherapies that involve reprogramming a person’s own immune cells to attack and destroy cancer cells continue to be developed to ever-greater effectiveness and sophistication. Latest clinical trial results show a long sustained multi-year remission (I wonder when they can claim “cure”?) in 27 out of 29 patients originally expected to live 3 months https://www.fredhutch.org/en/news/center-news/2016/02/immunotherapy-remission-blood-cancer-AAAS-riddell.html. Cancer immunotherapy platforms like this lend themselves to being repurposed to treat a wide range of conditions including cancer clearance and removing senescent cells. The group hope to move from blood into lung and breast cancers next. 

2. Copper Mesh Provides Radio Invisibility
A simple mesh of regularly spaced 4mm copper cubes forms sheets that are invisible to long wavelengths such as radio waves regardless of propagation direction http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/semiconductors/materials/metallic-mesh-becomes-invisible-to-antenna-signals. Radio waves pass through the material completely unaltered as if it wasn’t there. Applications include better protective shielding for antennas, to protect antennas from observation and damage, as well as tuning the specific frequency of interest so that only that band can pass through to be received and transmitted by the antenna. The group believe they can adapt the design to microwaves, terahertz, and possibly the infrared. 

3. Sophisticated Biomimetic Anthropomorphic Robot Hand
This is without doubt the most incredible robot hand I’ve seen http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/medical-robots/biomimetic-anthropomorphic-robot-hand. Made from 3D printed plastics, laser-cut rubber, springs, cables, and motors, this robotic hand can impressively mimic natural human hand structure, function, and motions - check out the video to see it mimic a human hand movement in real time. A great prototype platform for further development for robotics and prosthetics. 

4. Nanostructured Glass Memory Could Last Billions of Years
New nanostructured glass memory discs can have data written to them in 5 dimensions (3D location + orientation + size) using femtosecond lasers, and achieving a memory capacity of 360 Terabytes in a form thermally stable up to 1,000 degrees C and potentially lasting billions of years http://www.southampton.ac.uk/news/2016/02/5d-data-storage-update.page. The pattern recorded in the glass can then be read out using an optical microscope and polariser. Prototypes were made to store famous important documents. 

5. Plasmonic Interferometry & Biosensors
Newly developed plasmonic interferometers no longer need expensive complicated coherent light sources; not needing coherent light is a game changing paradigm shift for the field and is enabled by incorporating fluorescent atoms integrated directly into the tiny hole at the centre of each interferometer https://news.brown.edu/articles/2016/02/plasmons. Each concentric interferometer on the surface of the chip can be tuned to be sensitive to particular fluids or compounds and producing distinct signals if a particular chemical is present or not - very promising for cheap, quick, easy, reliable biosensing applications. 

6. Better Implantable Antennas & Radios
A new injectable / implantable antenna radio measuring 1cm long and 1mm wide can efficiently transmit radio signals half a meter away and through 3cm of tissue http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/biomedical/devices/injectable-radios-to-broadcast-from-inside-the-body, with transmission bursts being powered by a tiny capacitor that is drip-charged by a tiny battery. The group has designed their system in a modular fashion, to be in and out with other systems for different applications, e.g. temperature, pH, pressure, etc. 

7. Rapid Protocol Development for Inserting DNA into Cells
A simple new microfluidic device enables rapid screening for the correct electroporation conditions required to open up membrane pores in different types of cells and organisms in order to introduce DNA and other molecules successfully into cells without killing the cells http://news.mit.edu/2016/microfluidic-device-dna-insertion-bacteria-genetic-engineering-0219. Simple proofs of concept each time with fluorescent molecules or antibiotic resistance genes allows rapid screening for cells successfully engineered with the technique. 

8. Neuromorphic Silicon Cochlea
A silicon cochlea, using just 55 microwatts of power to run, processes sound as a neuromorphic auditory system in a similar fashion to humans http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/biomedical/devices/silicon-cochlea-mimics-human-hearing. The system possesses two independent ears, each sensitive to 64 channels (humans have 1,000 or so) and can efficiently filter out different channels. More channels and integration with neuromorphic imaging systems are planned. I’m wondering if you could use this in smartphone SOCs for better speech recognition and ultimately better human hearing prosthetics? 

9. Recent Advances in Drone Applications
We had several interesting drone advances this week. First, the Russian military now have an autonomous / remote-operated drone that carries an RPG / missile launcher to seek and destroy tanks and other targets https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b93H5U6bcVI. Second, Dronebox is a set-and-forget platform for storing a drone out in the field in a protective box that recharges the drone (solar power) and communicates to home base, allowing the drone to perform autonomous sentry duty patrols around the box on a daily basis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8NJLtcJy_Q. Third, a deep neural image recognition network allows drones to autonomously follow and navigate forest and mountain trails for patrol and search-and-rescue purposes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umRdt3zGgpU; the training method is pretty cool and long-term applications for this are amazing. Finally, we have dextrous flying drones equipped with a flexible manipulator arm for grasping, carrying, and interacting with the environment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7l3pF8K_ow. 

10. Dynamically Variable Negative Stiffness
A dynamically active variable negative stiffness system has been developed with millisecond actuation times and capable of 100x stiffness changes http://www.hrl.com/news/2016/0219/ and be sure to check the video. This is interesting for robotic biomimicry applications seeking to impart onto robots the benefits humans enjoy from a wide range of variable stiffness structures present in our joints and muscles that help us accomplish a much wider range of strength and precision tasks than would otherwise be possible. It’ll be interesting when we start to see advances like this become more prevalent in robotics. 

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2016-02-18 13:21:19 (12 comments; 2 reshares; 56 +1s)Open 

Apps I'd Like to Buy or Build

Here's a few ideas for apps that I'm not aware of existing and if I had the time I'd like to have a go at building myself. Do you have ideas for similar types of apps you want but don't exist yet?

Converser
Base / default mode floats conversational topics to a widget on phone or watch or glass. Conversational topics / themes can be preset in app beforehand depending on the situation you plan to be in and think you'll need prompting / conversation ideas. Topics updated with most recent news feeds. Example: (i) you're on a date and in an awkward silence or else part of a circular boring conversation, quick glance, gem of an idea or two on watch, change topic and go, (ii) you're in an interview and have a complete mental blank on what questions to ask, (iii) you're at a networking event and struggling to... more »

Apps I'd Like to Buy or Build

Here's a few ideas for apps that I'm not aware of existing and if I had the time I'd like to have a go at building myself. Do you have ideas for similar types of apps you want but don't exist yet?

Converser
Base / default mode floats conversational topics to a widget on phone or watch or glass. Conversational topics / themes can be preset in app beforehand depending on the situation you plan to be in and think you'll need prompting / conversation ideas. Topics updated with most recent news feeds. Example: (i) you're on a date and in an awkward silence or else part of a circular boring conversation, quick glance, gem of an idea or two on watch, change topic and go, (ii) you're in an interview and have a complete mental blank on what questions to ask, (iii) you're at a networking event and struggling to make small talk with people you're just meeting, etc.

Advanced mode is always-on active listening, continually floating new dynamic topics and questions up for display depending on what is being said and discussed that instant.

Aurgument
Base / default mode: you tap a quick heirarchical topic / argument tree while in an argument with someone over some fairly well known topic, as you know in the back of your mind you've previously read killer counter-arguments to what they're saying but at this instant you just can't remember / articulate them, so you tap into the app for key words / phrases to jog your memory so you can respond appropriately in conversation. Further taps open up full details on the argument, relevant evidence in support, well-known counters, etc. Could be fed by a rational community wiki that builds ever-more-succinct, ever-more-robust arguments to common fallacies. For example: (i) you're debating someone on intelligent design, or (ii) dealing with anti-vaccine scum, or (iii) historical events.

Advanced mode is always-on active listening, continually floating new arguments dynamically up for display depending on what is being said and discussed that instant.

Watch-Pad
Simple exploitation of AndroidWear watch touch screen to allow swipe and tap navigation of Virtual / Augmented reality applications being used on Gear VR / Cardboard, etc. More advanced than simple magnetic headset button tap, with swiping, zooming, pinching, tapping, and double-tapping, custom gestures for certain functions, etc.

Spectrophotometer
Spectrophotometers are used to measure absorption or transmission wavelengths through typically liquid samples. They can cost up to $2,000 or more. Typical use case: OD600 measurement shines light through a sample of growing bacteria, measuring the optical density of the solution with a light wavelength of 600nm, to find the point at which the bacteria are in log phase growth and ready for transformation / genetic tinkering. Simple app to do this with a smartphone light intensity sensor, plus a 3D printed cartridge that sits over the sensor, into which you position your bacterial sample, and a 600nm LED (+ resistor + 9v battery) shines light through to the sensor. Make same measurements for <$3 instead of $2,000.

Collective Adventure Stories
Simple social app for collective creativity story writing with groups or 2 or more people contributing sections, either structured or randomly unstructured, just text or images and text. Probably aimed at a younger demographic, possibly educational to get kids interested in reading / writing more fiction. Single thread stories can be read by anyone. Multi-thread stories can be contributed to by anyone as another thread / fork or read by anyone as a never-the-same-story twice choose your own adventure story.
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2016-02-15 13:47:41 (4 comments; 0 reshares; 46 +1s)Open 

Playing with $2 Fisheye Clip-on Phone Lens

Still playing with my new clip-on phone lenses, this time with the super fisheye lens but just the three photos for now. The first shot is the view from just below the light bulb in a large spare room that now appears small. The second shot is my (failed) attempt at a modern day version of this classic self-portrait by M. C. Escher https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand_with_Reflecting_Sphere and using the Paper Camera app to apply custom sketch filtering. 

Playing with $2 Fisheye Clip-on Phone Lens

Still playing with my new clip-on phone lenses, this time with the super fisheye lens but just the three photos for now. The first shot is the view from just below the light bulb in a large spare room that now appears small. The second shot is my (failed) attempt at a modern day version of this classic self-portrait by M. C. Escher https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand_with_Reflecting_Sphere and using the Paper Camera app to apply custom sketch filtering. ___

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2016-02-14 04:45:36 (6 comments; 32 reshares; 98 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 07/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/02/brain-preservation-win-stent-bci-dna.html

Brain preservation win, Stent BCI, DNA nanocage chemistry, Cell transformation mastery, Gravity waves confirmed, Electron fluid on graphene, Laser boosts superconductivity, Better GPS, Artificial capillary networks, Protein nanoneedles. 

1. Long Term Structural Brain Preservation
The brain preservation prize has been claimed by a new aldehyde-stabilised cryopreservation procedure that proves that near perfect, long term structural preservation of intact mammalian brains is possible, with every neuron and synapse appearing to be captured even after freezing and thawing http://www.brainpreservation.org/small-mammal-announcement/. This is a very big step towards validating cryonics and cryogenic preservation for life... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 07/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/02/brain-preservation-win-stent-bci-dna.html

Brain preservation win, Stent BCI, DNA nanocage chemistry, Cell transformation mastery, Gravity waves confirmed, Electron fluid on graphene, Laser boosts superconductivity, Better GPS, Artificial capillary networks, Protein nanoneedles. 

1. Long Term Structural Brain Preservation
The brain preservation prize has been claimed by a new aldehyde-stabilised cryopreservation procedure that proves that near perfect, long term structural preservation of intact mammalian brains is possible, with every neuron and synapse appearing to be captured even after freezing and thawing http://www.brainpreservation.org/small-mammal-announcement/. This is a very big step towards validating cryonics and cryogenic preservation for life extension, stasis, and future uploading applications. 

2. Stentode is a Less Invasive BCI
A DARPA team has created an electrode-laden stent as a neural recording device that, like similar conventional stents, is designed to be introduced through blood vessels in the neck to reach capillaries in the desired region of the brain in order to record neural firing and function as a less invasive brain computer interface http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2015-02-08. Proof of concept successfully measured motor cortex signals in sheep and human studies are planned for 2017. In related news we had a new design for an implanted wireless power device for BCIs http://www.kurzweilai.net/powering-brain-implants-without-wires-with-thin-film-wireless-power-transmission-system. 

3. DNA Nanocages Accelerate Enzyme Function
Self-assembled DNA origami nanocages have been formed in which enzymes are confined and localised along with their substrate molecules and serving to both accelerate the rate of enzymatic reactions and shield the enzymes from typical degradation processes https://asunow.asu.edu/20160210-chemical-cages-new-technique-advances-synthetic-biology. More complex cages and scaffolds in future might allow more sophisticated enzyme cascades that could perform a wide range of useful functions; another small step on the path to atomically precise fabrication. 

4. Mogrify is a Cell Transformation Algorithm
Mogrify is a new algorithm that draws on a large database of human cell and tissue types and, according to the research team, is able to predict the optimal set of factors required to transform any cell type into any other cell type http://www.sciencealert.com/new-algorithm-points-the-way-towards-regrowing-limbs-and-organs/page-2. Initial studies have confirmed this but more are needed and it is expected to become more accurate over time as more data is acquired. 

5. Gravity Waves Confirmed
In the biggest news of the week the existence of gravity waves has been confirmed by the LIGO experiment, and made possible after a large and expensive detector sensitivity upgrade https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160211-gravitational-waves-discovered-at-long-last/. The finding was confirmed by two separate, correlated detection events at two different LIGO detectors whose signal profiles matched theoretical models and predictions, and believed to be caused by a black hole merger in which three times the mass of our sun was converted into gravitational wave energy. Setting up LIGO detectors in India, Japan, and other sites will help cement gravity wave astronomy and allow pinpointing of gravity wave sources. 

6. Liquid Nature of Graphene Electrons
The surface electrons on ultra-pure graphene surfaces have been observed acting like a collective fluid describable by hydrodynamics, with individual electrons behaving like massless relativistic objects https://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2016/02/metal-that-behaves-like-water. Energy injected into the system flowed across many electrons, like a wave through water. Such a fluid allows for simulating and experimenting with black hole physics and other high energy environments. It’d be interesting to know what the other properties are for the waves in this fluid; if frictionless then energy and charge transfer without losses might be possible. 

7. Laser-Boosted Superconductivity
Work to boost superconducting transition temperatures with lasers continues with a new class of fullerene materials in which laser pulses induce superconductivity at minus 170 degrees Celsius instead of minus 250 degrees Celsius without the laser https://www.mpg.de/9949877/superconductivity-fullerenes-light-induced. It is hoped that additional work helps to unveil a general mechanism by which this phenomena can be controlled at ever-higher temperatures. In related news endohedral fullerenes (fullerene cages with a single atom trapped inside) are now available commercially http://arstechnica.co.uk/science/2015/12/oxford-company-now-selling-endohedral-fullerenes-priced-at-110-million-per-gram/. 

8. Consumer GPS to Centimeter Accuracy
Newly reformulated algorithms for calculating GPS position are much more efficient and look set to enable mobile and wearable devices to achieve centimeter-level positional GPS accuracy http://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/34932. The technique combines measurements from a GPS unit, an inertial measurement unit, and an internal navigation system. This should prove useful for phones, drones, and internet of things applications. 

9. Better Artificial Capillary Networks for Engineered Organs
Using a $40 cotton candy machine allows researchers to spin out special hydrogels into threads that are comparable to normal capillaries and which form three dimensional microfluidic networks able to facilitate the transport of fluids, nutrients, and oxygen through bulk materials http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2016/02/cotton-candy-machines-may-hold-key-for-making-artificial-organs/. The proof of concept artificial organ structures were able to keep cells throughout the structure alive and well for much longer than other approaches and provide a promising platform on which to develop better-performing artificial organs. 

10. Retractable Protein Nanoneedles
Protein nanoneedles are found in bacteria where they are used to puncture cell membranes. These structures, which rapidly extend from a coil to a needle and back again depending on changes in pH past a threshold, are being engineered as a tool in synthetic biology as an alternative mechanism to deliver material such as genes into cells http://wyss.harvard.edu/viewpressrelease/245. However, these little actuators might be commandeered en masse to create functional and responsive materials at the nanoscale, for example (i) helping to build little motors for tiny devices, (ii) altering the shape and properties of a material, or (iii) being used in controlled chemical and enzymatic production processes e.g. combined with #3 above offers interesting possibilities. 

SciTech Tip Jar: http://www.scitechdigest.net/p/donate.html___

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2016-02-13 13:17:56 (20 comments; 8 reshares; 116 +1s)Open 

Macro Photography on Your Smartphone for $2

I grabbed a clip-on 8-in-1 mobile phone lens pack from Ebay for $16 delivered. You simply screw the lens you want onto the clip and place over your smartphone camera. This pack included (i) 2x telephoto zoom, (ii) circular polarised filter, (iii) fisheye, (iv) extreme fisheye, (v) wide angle, (vi) extreme wide angle, (vii) macro, and finally (viii) the extreme macro, which I used to go around the house with today snapping pretty cool close ups that I've shared below.

This Album

I've made a bunch of collages that show the normal shot of one or two scenes and combined with macro-close-ups of things in that scene, and after this sequence you can see the individual macro shots as big as you want. Note these lenses invariably result in blurring around the edges. Collages have info / descriptions for each macro... more »

Macro Photography on Your Smartphone for $2

I grabbed a clip-on 8-in-1 mobile phone lens pack from Ebay for $16 delivered. You simply screw the lens you want onto the clip and place over your smartphone camera. This pack included (i) 2x telephoto zoom, (ii) circular polarised filter, (iii) fisheye, (iv) extreme fisheye, (v) wide angle, (vi) extreme wide angle, (vii) macro, and finally (viii) the extreme macro, which I used to go around the house with today snapping pretty cool close ups that I've shared below.

This Album

I've made a bunch of collages that show the normal shot of one or two scenes and combined with macro-close-ups of things in that scene, and after this sequence you can see the individual macro shots as big as you want. Note these lenses invariably result in blurring around the edges. Collages have info / descriptions for each macro shot. The macro shots aren't perfect of course, and are all hand-held, but for a tiny $2 lens clipped to your phone camera it still feels like a superpower to be able to zoom in and see such detail.

I have a video of the ants that is cool as hell that I'll share soon too, as well as some ideas I have for the extreme fisheye.

Highlights - Be Sure to Check Out

- The mosquito perched on my thumb.
- The tiny ants tending to a fallen comrade.
- Body shots such as my eye.
- Individual pixels on me computer screen. ___

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2016-02-11 13:24:23 (22 comments; 20 reshares; 164 +1s)Open 

Simultaneous Observation of Light as Particle & Wave: Afshar Double Slit

I'm very surprised that I never heard of the Afshar double slit experiment until this week; if I had heard of it before I certainly didn't appreciate significance of Afshar's experiment at the time.

Afshar's experiment https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afshar_experiment was carried out in 2004 and is deceptively simple:

1. Take a conventional double slit experiment in which you shine a laser at a sheet with two pinhole openings, and onto a second sheet on which you can see the usual wave-based interference pattern.

2. Remove the second sheet and replace it with a vertical grid of wires positioned in the dark areas or bands of destructive interference.

3. Beyond the wires place a focusing lens, two mirrors and two detectors.

Results... more »

Simultaneous Observation of Light as Particle & Wave: Afshar Double Slit

I'm very surprised that I never heard of the Afshar double slit experiment until this week; if I had heard of it before I certainly didn't appreciate significance of Afshar's experiment at the time.

Afshar's experiment https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afshar_experiment was carried out in 2004 and is deceptively simple:

1. Take a conventional double slit experiment in which you shine a laser at a sheet with two pinhole openings, and onto a second sheet on which you can see the usual wave-based interference pattern.

2. Remove the second sheet and replace it with a vertical grid of wires positioned in the dark areas or bands of destructive interference.

3. Beyond the wires place a focusing lens, two mirrors and two detectors.

Results

With this setup light goes through the pinholes as a wave, producing the characteristic interference pattern, and so isn't hindered by the wires, and yet can be focused by the lens and mirrors onto separate detectors to simultaneously determine which hole each photon passed through. See the Wikipedia link for a diagram that makes this clear.

The conclusion is that this experiment shows the same photons in the same experiment simultaneously showing both complementary wave and particle characteristics at the same time. This experiment thus violates the conventional quantum principle of complementarity that holds that these properties can never be observed or measured at the same time.

This experiment has been replicated and validated many times.

Implications

This single, simple experiment directly challenges the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics, and Bell's Inequalities. Regarding the nature of reality it appears to show support for different interpretations such as the Transactional and Hidden Variable / Bohmian Mechanics Interpretations.

At least according to some physicists.

This has been very controversial within the physics community however, with many critics disagreeing and arguing against the results and interpretations, although interestingly most critics disagree with each other's arguments and interpretations. Their only common ground seems to be the desire for Afshar's interpretation to not be true.

All in all I find this utterly fascinating, both from new concepts and data with which to consider the fundamental nature of reality, and also the implications for the history of science and the cultural evolution of scientific models and the influence they carry. The experiment was done in 2004; imagine if it was done in 1914, would quantum physics have turned out differently?

Reference

Many thanks to author / philosopher Steve Patterson for his article Quantum Physics and the Abuse of Reason available here http://steve-patterson.com/quantum-physics-abuse-reason/ that I stumbled across this week. This discusses the absurdity of some quantum interpretations and how they have been abused by quacks to mislead people about deep questions concerning life and the Universe. It is also where I discovered the Afshar experiment and the reason for this post.
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2016-02-09 11:35:57 (8 comments; 6 reshares; 37 +1s)Open 

InterPlanetary File System

This is a good introduction to IPFS or the InterPlanetary File System project, which is described by Wikipedia as a content-addressable, peer-to-peer hypermedia distribution protocol with nodes in the IPFS network forming a distributed file system and allowing IPFS to realise the Permanent Web. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/InterPlanetary_File_System

IPFS re-imagines and is attempting to re-engineer the Web as a fully distributed peer-to-peer file storage and name system with cryptography, block-exchange, trust management built into its foundations. Listening to Juan Benet cover the rationale for building it, the implementation for enabling it, and the benefits it could bring in the future is worthwhile.

IPFS is the result of a grand, elegant vision and it is hard to argue that this or a system like this isn't the future of the Web; it... more »

InterPlanetary File System

This is a good introduction to IPFS or the InterPlanetary File System project, which is described by Wikipedia as a content-addressable, peer-to-peer hypermedia distribution protocol with nodes in the IPFS network forming a distributed file system and allowing IPFS to realise the Permanent Web. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/InterPlanetary_File_System

IPFS re-imagines and is attempting to re-engineer the Web as a fully distributed peer-to-peer file storage and name system with cryptography, block-exchange, trust management built into its foundations. Listening to Juan Benet cover the rationale for building it, the implementation for enabling it, and the benefits it could bring in the future is worthwhile.

IPFS is the result of a grand, elegant vision and it is hard to argue that this or a system like this isn't the future of the Web; it is certainly worth learning more about and getting involved if you have the skills and inclination.

Side Note
Also interesting to note that even some of the larger vendors such as Google appear to be slowly introducing IPFS-type features into some of their products, for example, the latest Hangouts app allows peer-to-peer data exchange, messaging, and calls over a local network without having to go back and through Google's centralised servers. ___

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2016-02-08 13:51:40 (10 comments; 15 reshares; 69 +1s)Open 

A Proactionary Overhaul for the Medical Establishment and its Regulation

Medical research is controlled and driven by the precautionary principle; any new medication or device must be proven to cause no harm before it will be approved. Such a requirement for proof, for the illusion of perfect knowledge, is a huge undertaking for any person or organisation embarking on this route. Regulations in this area lead to the growing collective insanity of fewer new drugs being approved and each new drug entering the market costing $2.5 billion - $5 billion; a figure arrived at by averaging the total investment to bring all drugs to market over the total number of drugs that actually make it. This is a perversion of our humanity and an insult to our sensibilities. Ultimately if we don’t take collective action then we get the regulatory system, ineffective medical industry, and hugely overpricedm... more »

A Proactionary Overhaul for the Medical Establishment and its Regulation

Medical research is controlled and driven by the precautionary principle; any new medication or device must be proven to cause no harm before it will be approved. Such a requirement for proof, for the illusion of perfect knowledge, is a huge undertaking for any person or organisation embarking on this route. Regulations in this area lead to the growing collective insanity of fewer new drugs being approved and each new drug entering the market costing $2.5 billion - $5 billion; a figure arrived at by averaging the total investment to bring all drugs to market over the total number of drugs that actually make it. This is a perversion of our humanity and an insult to our sensibilities. Ultimately if we don’t take collective action then we get the regulatory system, ineffective medical industry, and hugely overpriced marginal band-aid drugs that we deserve.

One of the key things that such an approach misses, and that regulators consistently ignore in approving drugs, is the cost of not approving a particular medication. The harm caused by not approving a drug sooner. The tens or hundreds of thousands of lives that might otherwise be saved if a drug was made available a year or five earlier, and all due to what amounts to little more than bureaucratic red tape and trigger-happy lawyers in an environment of general scientific illiteracy in our communities.

In addition to criticisms of the precautionary approach actually causing more harm and suffering, there is also the issue of the precautionary approach generally blocking innovation and slowing progress, and indeed demanding the utter impossibility of perfect knowledge and zero risk in a world where uncertainty rules. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle#Criticisms

The entire system is in drastic need of a proactionary overhaul. A proactionary approach acknowledges the risks of acting and not acting and the harms and benefits offered by each and seeks to encourage and drive experimentation, innovation, and progress across the board. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proactionary_principle. A proactionary approach would allow drugs to be made available much sooner and would manage the risks for example by requiring mandatory monitoring for suitable periods of all who took the drug early, perhaps after cheap Phase 1 safety trials.

I find this to be one of the most frustrating institutional edifices currently plaguing our society and am perpetually bewildered by the continual lack of political, economic, and moral will needed to tackle the problem, reform the respective institutions, and commit to doing things in a better way. I’ve had the following two articles that relate to this issue bookmarked for a while and wanted to share them as they delve into these issues far better than I could.


The Scientific Institution is Biased Against Shortcuts to the Production of Practical Technology https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/01/the-scientific-institution-is-biased-against-shortcuts-to-the-production-of-practical-technology.php and excerpt:

Technology is the application of scientific knowledge. The scientific culture and scientific process as it is practiced today embodies a strong bias against any sort of shortcut towards the production of technology, however. If it seems plausible at a lesser level of understanding of a system that you could achieve some beneficial application, then the peer pressure in the scientific community is always to hold off and work instead towards a full understanding. This situation is not uncommon in medicine: many discoveries are serendipitous, but to try to turn demonstrated positive results in the laboratory into positive results in the clinic will be opposed at every turn until the underlying mechanisms can be fully explained. The bias against action and towards understanding as the primary goal is baked into every level of the research establishment and surrounding institutions.


The Mainstream Approach to Medical Research Must Change
https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/08/the-mainstream-approach-to-medical-research-must-change.php and excerpt:

The mainstream approach to medical science is to screen for drug compounds that produce beneficial alterations in cellular mechanisms observed in late stage disease. This almost entirely focuses on proximate causes of harm in a diseased, dysfunctional metabolism, far removed from the root causes that created the medical condition in the first place. It thus produces therapies that do little good in the grand scheme of things since they don't address the real cause of disease. They are rather efforts to make a badly damaged system limp along a little longer with patches and compensations, which is always expensive and doomed to failure, whether we are talking about a mechanical device or a human being. This strategy for medical research and development must change radically if we are to see meaningful progress towards prevention and cure of age-related disease.
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2016-02-07 05:57:12 (19 comments; 35 reshares; 78 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 06/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/02/better-gene-delivery-better-dna.html 

Better gene delivery, Better DNA aptamers, Light effect transistor, Rejuvenation advances, Atomically precise materials, Integrated photonics modem, Electronic nematicity, Deep learning chips, Graphene lenses & electrodes, Flexiramic materials. 

1. Delivering Genes Across the Blood Brain Barrier
Using high-throughput screening techniques combined with methods of directed evolution, researchers screened millions of viral variants to create a novel, modified adeno-associated virus that is able to efficiently get past the blood-brain-barrier and deliver genes and genetic engineering tools to neurons and other cells of the brain http://www.caltech.edu/news/delivering-genes-across-blood-brain-barrier-49679. Thiso... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 06/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/02/better-gene-delivery-better-dna.html 

Better gene delivery, Better DNA aptamers, Light effect transistor, Rejuvenation advances, Atomically precise materials, Integrated photonics modem, Electronic nematicity, Deep learning chips, Graphene lenses & electrodes, Flexiramic materials. 

1. Delivering Genes Across the Blood Brain Barrier
Using high-throughput screening techniques combined with methods of directed evolution, researchers screened millions of viral variants to create a novel, modified adeno-associated virus that is able to efficiently get past the blood-brain-barrier and deliver genes and genetic engineering tools to neurons and other cells of the brain http://www.caltech.edu/news/delivering-genes-across-blood-brain-barrier-49679. This obviates the need to drill a hole through the skull to inject these vectors and provides a far more elegant tool that can be used for CRISPR-powered modifications. In related news rats have been cured of a genetic liver disorder with a more effective CRISPR-delivery system involving a different adeno-associated virus carrying guide RNA and repaired-gene-insert and lipid nanoparticles carrying Cas9 mRNA instructions http://news.mit.edu/2016/crispr-curing-disease-repairing-faulty-genes-0201; 6% of liver cell transformations are sufficient for disease curing, which is 15 times more effective than other methods, but the group hope to boost this % in future. 

2. Better DNA Aptamer Technology
DNA aptamers can be artificially engineered to target and bind any molecular target in the body - proteins, viruses, bacteria, cells, tumours - but are limited by poorer binding-efficiency and instability due to enzymatic digestion. These two limiting factors have now been addressed http://www.a-star.edu.sg/Media/News/Press-Releases/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/4496.aspx with (i) the inclusion of an artificial base into the DNA that boosted binding ability by 100 times compared to existing aptamers, and (ii) the inclusion of a DNA-mini-hairpin structure that serves to restrict enzymatic digestion and boost lifetime in the body from hours to days. DNA aptamers like these could in theory be used instead of antibodies for therapeutic and diagnostic applications but are cheaper, quicker, and simpler to produce and obviate potential inflammatory side effects. 

3. Developing a Light-Effect-Transistor
Prototype light effect transistors have been developed with the aim of replacing standard field effect transistors in future chip designs https://www.technologyreview.com/s/600702/the-nanodevice-aiming-to-replace-the-field-effect-transistor/. A light effect transistor comprises a wire that conducts electricity when exposed to light and insulates when it is dark; a light-controlled switch in which light functions like a gate and with benefits including no reliance on dopant atoms and the ability to achieve smaller size dimensions to continue Moore’s Law. The demonstrations include semiconducting nanowires whose conduction changes by six orders of magnitude when switched, and can also function as an optical amplifier that performs logic operations when two or more laser beams are used. But the biggest unsolved question is how a chip would accurately address more than a billion nanowires with light? 

4. Rejuvenation via Senescent Cell & Amyloid Clearance 
First, venture-backed company Unity Biotechnology joins competition with Oisin Biotechnology aiming to develop and launch therapeutics that clear senescent cells from adult animals https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/02/25-median-life-extension-in-mice-via-senescent-cell-clearance-unity-biotechnology-founded-to-develop-therapies.php. Their latest work extends the median lifespan of mice by 25% and should help to attract additional funding and support for this approach; investors will want to get this into humans as soon as possible. And back in the lab another group finds a 35% lifespan extension by clearing senescent cells http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-researchers-extend-lifespan-by-as-much-as-35-percent-in-mice-2/. Second, a partnership between companies Pentraxin and GSK is slowly bearing fruit with clinically-tested drug therapies that very effectively clear amyloid (misfolded protein clumps that accumulate) deposits from tissues and body fluids, intended for Alzheimer’s and other diseases but providing a platform for this area of rejuvenation therapies https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/02/what-next-for-transthyretin-amyloid-clearance-therapies.php. Boosting mitophagy also rejuvenates cells to a more youthful state http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-02/nu-mst020316.php. 

5. Atomically Precise Materials and Devices
Structural DNA technology can self-assemble nanoparticles into diamond-shaped crystal lattices https://www.bnl.gov/newsroom/news.php?a=11810. The DNA forms the rigid frame of the material, while complementary DNA binding ensures the nanoparticles bind in specific locations, leading to a diamond lattice about 100 times larger than conventional diamond; interesting platform for novel materials development. Bacteria produce self-assembled microcompartments to concentrate enzymatic production of certain molecules, and these compartments are being used as templates to engineer variants with novel functions and molecular production capabilities https://newscenter.lbl.gov/2016/02/04/toward-nanoscale-chemical-factories/, slowly building a platform of contained molecular production machinery that might one day be introduced inside human cells for exmample. 

6. NASAs Integrated Photonics Modem
NASA is building the first fully integrated photonics modem, simplifying optical on-chip systems design, and reducing the size of the large prototype down to conventional system-on-chip scales http://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/nasa-engineers-tapped-to-build-first-integrated-photonics-modem. The chip uses lasers to encode and transmit data at 10 - 100 times faster than equipment available today. While testing of the device in space won’t begin until 2020 we might see commercial applications of this earlier, particularly in data centers and Internet backbone lines. 

7. Electronic Nematicity Key in Superconductivity
New studies indicate that the phenomenon of electronic nematicity, in which electron clouds in a material snap into an aligned and directional order, is a generic property common to high-temperature superconductors https://uwaterloo.ca/stories/waterloo-physicists-discover-new-properties. The electrons involved in superconductivity form patterns that exhibit different symmetries that preferentially align in one direction and which can compete with, co-exist, or enhance superconductivity. Hopefully this understanding allows for the future design of higher-temperature superconductors. 

8. Dedicated Deep Learning Chips on Smartphones
Eyeriss is a newly designed and developed dedicated deep learning chip for use in smartphones and other low-power applications http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/semiconductors/processors/a-deep-learning-ai-chip-for-your-phone. The chip is designed to allow these devices to run computationally demanding neural network algorithms quickly and efficiently on the device without offloading to the cloud, and using only one tenth of the energy of a typical mobile GPU. Agnostic to the type of neural network being run the chip can process image, sound, and other types of data as  needed and might also find deployment in autonomous platforms such as cars and drones. In related news Google’s DeepMind game-playing AI can now also navigate environments in first-person-shooters https://www.newscientist.com/article/2076552-google-deepmind-ai-navigates-a-doom-like-3d-maze-just-by-looking/ and I wonder if this can be transferred to robots to help in realworld environments, perhaps by using these dedicated chips. 

9. Graphene Lenses and Electrode Benefits
First, graphene has been formed into a clever fresnel lens by using a laser to pattern concentric rings of graphene oxide on its surface, and allowing optical focusing in the visible and infrared down to scales of 200nm http://www.swinburne.edu.au/news/latest-news/2016/01/focus-on-results.php. Second, graphene-coated electrodes turn out to be an excellent option for applications involving interfacing with neurons http://graphene-flagship.eu/graphene-based-interfaces-do-not-alter-target-nerve-cells. Finally, graphene cages formed around silicon anodes appear to enable higher capacity batteries that avoid the problem of cracking that such materials are usually limited by http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/materials/graphene-cages-cover-silicon-anodes-for-high-capacity-batteries. 

10. Flexiramics: Ceramics that Act Like Paper
A new material dubbed flexiramics is being developed and commercialised by a company called Eurekite http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/02/dutch-researchers-have-created-flexiramics-flexible-ceramics-for-circuit-boards/. Flexiramics appear to be a new class of materials that possess the mechanical properties of paper or thin textiles in being thin, foldable, and flexible while also exhibiting the properties of ceramics in being fireproof and nonconducting. The fabrics withstand 1,200 degrees Celsius for 24 hours without burning or melting. Printed PCBs will be the first application apparently but the possibilities are endless. 

SciTech Tip Jar: http://www.scitechdigest.net/p/donate.html ___

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2016-02-05 13:51:40 (11 comments; 67 reshares; 201 +1s)Open 

The Phenomenon of Self-Organised Criticality

Self-organised criticality is the name given to a phenomena characterised by dynamic systems that possess a critical transition point as an attractor, a state of being on the edge of a phase transition, on the edge of order and chaos, and heavily influenced by local feedback. It is considered a key mechanism by which complexity in natural systems spontaneously arises. I find it to be a beautiful and fascinating phenomena that seems to saturate the dynamics of living systems at all levels of organisation, from individual biomolecules and replication to brain function and consciousness. Wikipedia provides a starting point: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-organized_criticality and some fascinating examples that I’ve had bookmarked for ages and wanted to share include the following.


1. Ubiquity & Adaptive Utility ofC... more »

The Phenomenon of Self-Organised Criticality

Self-organised criticality is the name given to a phenomena characterised by dynamic systems that possess a critical transition point as an attractor, a state of being on the edge of a phase transition, on the edge of order and chaos, and heavily influenced by local feedback. It is considered a key mechanism by which complexity in natural systems spontaneously arises. I find it to be a beautiful and fascinating phenomena that seems to saturate the dynamics of living systems at all levels of organisation, from individual biomolecules and replication to brain function and consciousness. Wikipedia provides a starting point: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-organized_criticality and some fascinating examples that I’ve had bookmarked for ages and wanted to share include the following.


1. Ubiquity & Adaptive Utility of Criticality in Biological Systems

Information-based fitness and the emergence of criticality in living systems is an excellent open-access article exploring the importance and power of self-organised criticality in living systems, particularly with regard to their evolution, adaptation, and the cooperation between a community of agents. Article here http://www.pnas.org/content/111/28/10095.full and summary:

Recently, evidence has been mounting that biological systems might operate at the borderline between order and disorder, i.e., near a critical point. A general mathematical framework for understanding this common pattern, explaining the possible origin and role of criticality in living adaptive and evolutionary systems, is still missing. We rationalize this apparently ubiquitous criticality in terms of adaptive and evolutionary functional advantages. We provide an analytical framework, which demonstrates that the optimal response to broadly different changing environments occurs in systems organizing spontaneously—through adaptation or evolution—to the vicinity of a critical point. Furthermore, criticality turns out to be the evolutionary stable outcome of a community of individuals aimed at communicating with each other to create a collective entity.


2. Criticality is Crucial for Consciousness and Brain Function

A growing body of experimental evidence suggests that the phenomenon of self-organised criticality is crucial to normal effective brain function and indeed to consciousness itself. As usual Quanta Magazine provides an excellent article titled A Fundamental Theory to Model the Mind on the history of self-organised criticality and the growing recognition of its importance in brain function here https://www.quantamagazine.org/20140403-a-fundamental-theory-to-model-the-mind/ with excerpt:

There can be no phase transitions without a critical point, and without transitions, a complex system cannot adapt. That is why avalanches only show up at criticality, a “sweet spot” where a system is perfectly balanced between order and disorder. They typically occur when the brain is in its normal resting state. Avalanches are a mechanism by which a complex system avoids becoming trapped, or “phase-locked,” in one of two extreme cases. At one extreme, there is too much order, such as during an epileptic seizure; the interactions among elements are too strong and rigid, so the system cannot adapt to changing conditions. At the other, there is too much disorder; the neurons aren’t communicating as much, or aren’t as broadly interconnected throughout the brain, so information can’t spread as efficiently and, once again, the system is unable to adapt.

More recently we had an article in Science Magazine Consciousness may be the product of carefully balanced chaos here http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/01/consciousness-may-be-product-carefully-balanced-chaos discussing how consciousness itself appears to be inherently dependent on the phenomenon of criticality in the brain. Criticality in the brain appears to maximise cortical integration to effectively combine multiple inputs from different sources simultaneously in a single moment.

During wakeful consciousness, participants’ brains generated a flurry of ever-changing activity, and the fMRI showed a multitude of overlapping networks activating as the brain integrated its surroundings and generated a moment to moment “flow of consciousness.” After the propofol kicked in, brain networks had reduced connectivity and much less variability over time. The brain seemed to be stuck in a rut, using the same pathways over and over again. The results suggest that, in the brain, there is an optimal level of connectivity between neurons that creates the maximum number of possible pathways. If each neuron can be thought of as a node in the network, consciousness might result from exploring the network as thoroughly as possible.

Interestingly this also appears to provide support for Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory of consciousness.


3. Quantum Criticality, Thermodynamics, and the Inevitability of LIfe

The Origin of Life And The Hidden Role of Quantum Criticality is another excellent article examining this phenomenon, available here https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/the-origin-of-life-and-the-hidden-role-of-quantum-criticality-ca4707924552#.17fxh48lp. This discusses the importance of self-organised criticality for biomolecules and proteins and the functioning of all life. The biomolecules and proteins exhibit quantum critical conduction profiles and the odds of finding one molecule that stably exhibits a quantum critical state is astronomically small; finding most here suggests an incredibly strong selection pressure for evolution to find these structures. Key excerpt:

Quantum criticality describes the behaviour of electrons in large molecules when they occupy the exotic state that sits at the knife edge between conduction and insulation. Most biomolecules are quantum critical conductors; their electronic properties are precisely tuned to the transition point between a metal and an insulator. In other words, biomolecules belong to an entirely new class of conductor that is not bound by the ordinary rules of electron transport, a discovery that has profound implications for our understanding of the nature of life and its origin.

Finally, I think this other excellent article A New Physics Theory of Life again from Quanta Magazine here https://www.quantamagazine.org/20140122-a-new-physics-theory-of-life/ discusses (what I think is) a closely related phenomena in which thermodynamic efficiency, the ever-more-effective dissipation of heat and energy, drives the inevitable birth of life and self-replicating systems that are much more effective at this than inanimate matter. Another excerpt:

When a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life. Self-replication, the process that drives the evolution of life on Earth, is one such mechanism by which a system might dissipate an increasing amount of energy over time.
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2016-02-01 13:43:30 (6 comments; 5 reshares; 32 +1s)Open 

Communication is Hard. Especially When Your Values Differ.

This is an interesting article discussing the the difficulty of communicating with our fellows and the miscommunication that very often results when there is a mismatch between the basic values or culture between those attempting to communicate. It's a little lengthy, and takes a little while to get going, but there are some worthwhile insights peppered throughout.

Interesting Excerpts

What it often comes down to is people with fundamentally different, perhaps totally irreconcilable, values systems assuming “malice or stupidity” where the real explanation is values mismatch and miscommunication.

Over time I built up a fairly robust translation layer, one that I was forced to rely on so much that I didn’t even realize how much latency it added until I met people I could talk towitho... more »

I have never quite come to terms with the fact that, mostly, what I want out of a conversation is brief, painful relief from being wrong, no matter what it takes. And that basically no one else wants that.

I'm not good by nature, and not correct by nature. I started out my life knowing nothing. Any relief from ignorance I've ever had has been brief, and the process of getting there has often been painful. I'm more stubborn than I ought to be.

I can't say how I'd feel if I'd been browbeaten out of the right position over and over agian.___Communication is Hard. Especially When Your Values Differ.

This is an interesting article discussing the the difficulty of communicating with our fellows and the miscommunication that very often results when there is a mismatch between the basic values or culture between those attempting to communicate. It's a little lengthy, and takes a little while to get going, but there are some worthwhile insights peppered throughout.

Interesting Excerpts

What it often comes down to is people with fundamentally different, perhaps totally irreconcilable, values systems assuming “malice or stupidity” where the real explanation is values mismatch and miscommunication.

Over time I built up a fairly robust translation layer, one that I was forced to rely on so much that I didn’t even realize how much latency it added until I met people I could talk to without it, whose communication protocols matched my own. It is difficult to describe the relief, the comfort I feel navigating these interactions with people whose frame of reference is shaped like my own, as if I spent most of my life trying to translate all my thoughts by flipping through a phrase book but suddenly discovered a group with whom I shared a birth tongue.

Me, I want to get less wrong. I thrive in an environment where I can expect others to elevate honing collective knowledge and using it to get shit done over trivial concerns like identity politics and pecking order.

But it is difficult for that to happen when the ways we differ are dismissed out of hand, when we are held to a values system we do not subscribe to and punished for not living up to its standards. Because we are, actually, different.

Via +Samuel Holmes - thanks!

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2016-02-01 10:18:46 (9 comments; 6 reshares; 68 +1s)Open 

Distributed Scientific Services, Products, and the Collective

For years I’ve thought that it would be great to have laboratories and the associated lab equipment and lab services distributed and available online as needed.

The concept here is simply analogous to the conventional Internet model in which you set up a vast data center that is accessible to others to store files, host websites and web services, deploy APIs, and generally obviate the need - should they choose - for users to run, maintain, and host their own servers, bandwidth, and computational capital.

Very basically you’d set up a large warehouse full of automated laboratory equipment, humans (eventually robots) to ferry samples to and from physical mail-delivery and machines, with data and results accessible online as needed; material results can be shipped as required. Direct control of theequ... more »

Distributed Scientific Services, Products, and the Collective

For years I’ve thought that it would be great to have laboratories and the associated lab equipment and lab services distributed and available online as needed.

The concept here is simply analogous to the conventional Internet model in which you set up a vast data center that is accessible to others to store files, host websites and web services, deploy APIs, and generally obviate the need - should they choose - for users to run, maintain, and host their own servers, bandwidth, and computational capital.

Very basically you’d set up a large warehouse full of automated laboratory equipment, humans (eventually robots) to ferry samples to and from physical mail-delivery and machines, with data and results accessible online as needed; material results can be shipped as required. Direct control of the equipment, including calibration would be offered in some instances if necessary. All experiments and processes would be live streamed to the client as needed.

Once mature and widespread, the benefits to such a set-up include 24/7 asset utilisation, greatly reduced costs of research for scientists, multi-million dollar equipment accessible by citizen scientists, a faster scientific feedback-loop of question-hypothesis-experiment-results, faster scientific advances and technological development, greater experimental repeatability, greater knowledge and visibility of errors and failures.

And perhaps most important of all: avoiding the monumental waste of productive capacity, the waste of different groups working in secret on the same things and spending resources on the same experiments: “Do you really wish to perform that experiment Dr. Bruce? That experiment was already performed in triplicate two months ago and the results are available here.”

Of course the future of the Internet as suggested by innovative approaches like the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) might be wholly distributed with no centralised facilities. In that case the components of such a facility or facilities would be distributed and made accessible in the same fashion; the distributed nature may as well be invisible to the user.

Current Examples

These aren’t wholly original ideas of course; others obviously had them at a similar time and actually acted on them. I first heard about Emerald therapeutics (via http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-07-03/emerald-therapeutics-biotech-lab-for-hire in 2014) and TetraScience (via http://techcrunch.com/2015/08/14/tetrasciences-internet-of-instruments-could-supercharge-research/ in 2015) and thought I’d check up on them to see how they’ve been going.

Emerald Therapeutics http://emeraldcloudlab.com/how-it-works runs the Emerald Cloud Lab and has been set up similarly to the first example. Emerald Therapeutics runs large centralised facilities with a lot of state of the art equipment; users login to their website, design and order an experiment, ship samples if needed, Emerald executes the experiment in their automated laboratory facility, collects and stores results in a large database, and provides data and samples if needed back to the user. By the end of 2016 they hope to be able to offer every standard experiment available in the life sciences.

TetraScience http://tetrascience.com/ however is focused on connecting existing scientific equipment to the Internet and has been set up similarly to the second example. The platform allows a wide range of scientific instruments to be remotely monitored, experiments run, and data captured for analysis. Appropriately resourced and automated TetraScience might enable users to easily access a distributed network of scientific equipment and conduct experiments and much reduced cost and increased convenience.

The Ultimate Vision

Projecting this forward, imagining such organisations growing to maturity in which they continually add ever-more instruments and equipment, and are able to offer near-complete scientific services and abilities. Short of building their own LHC of course.

At some point you’d no longer need to ship samples to the facility, but rather the facility would make the samples for you, with logistical networks long since ensuring the facility was able to access and store any raw material of interest and fabricate compounds and chemicals as needed.

Building on this the facility, fully automated with robots, would begin making its own equipment, which would be continually improved with the unmatched technical research and development capabilities within the facility.

If allowed to grow vast enough the facility might even start fabricating its own robots . . . or just about any product for that matter, scaling up to produce and ship ever more complex and advanced products to users and customers. Even producing its own improved solar panels and other energy harvesting tools to satisfy its energy requirements.

At that point it could spawn and host myriad small businesses and producers, creating and shipping novel products as needed and at zero marginal cost . . . much as giant data centers today have so much surplus capacity they can easily host myriad small Internet, App, and Data businesses, creating and providing access to novel products to users around the world as needed.
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2016-01-31 10:39:16 (30 comments; 30 reshares; 190 +1s)Open 

Space & Inertia: Absolute, Relative, Relational, Quantised?

I always enjoy revisiting basic, fundamental phenomena such as the classic Newton's Bucket experiment in which one attempts to explain why water rises up the sides of a rotating bucket. The recent Nautilus article This is Why Understanding Space is so Hard http://nautil.us/blog/this-is-why-understanding-space-is-so-hard provides a great chance to revisit this phenomena and the debates and history between some of the giants of physics: Newton, Leibniz, Mach, and Einstein.

So does the water rotate relative to absolute space? Or absolute spacetime? Or is its inertia purely a result of how it relates to other objects? Or how other objects relate to it? Or is it the result of the seething vacuum foam in "empty" space? There is no real consensus or answer to this most basic and fundamental of questions. ... more »

Space & Inertia: Absolute, Relative, Relational, Quantised?

I always enjoy revisiting basic, fundamental phenomena such as the classic Newton's Bucket experiment in which one attempts to explain why water rises up the sides of a rotating bucket. The recent Nautilus article This is Why Understanding Space is so Hard http://nautil.us/blog/this-is-why-understanding-space-is-so-hard provides a great chance to revisit this phenomena and the debates and history between some of the giants of physics: Newton, Leibniz, Mach, and Einstein.

So does the water rotate relative to absolute space? Or absolute spacetime? Or is its inertia purely a result of how it relates to other objects? Or how other objects relate to it? Or is it the result of the seething vacuum foam in "empty" space? There is no real consensus or answer to this most basic and fundamental of questions.

And asking such a "why?" question only provides iterated provisional answers, falling short of a final or fundamental answer. Much like Richard Feynman delves into a poorly phrased "why?" question here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMFPe-DwULM

Wikipedia kick-off: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bucket_argument

GIF ripped from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zip9ft1PgV0 ___

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2016-01-31 09:43:23 (15 comments; 35 reshares; 91 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 05/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/01/googles-alphago-wearable-sensors-lego.html

Google’s AlphaGo, Wearable sensors, Lego molecules, Programmed 3D assembly, Scalable bioplastics, Conductive plastics, Nerve magnetic fields, Electric charge wakes, Universal tumour vaccine, Decoding human thoughts. 

1. Google General Machine Learning Masters Go
Google’s new AlphaGo machine learning system is the first to routinely defeat human players at Go, and proved itself by defeating the European champion 5-0 https://googleblog.blogspot.com.au/2016/01/alphago-machine-learning-game-go.html. The system combines advanced tree search with deep neural networks 12 layers deep containing millions of neural connections that let it evaluate a Go board, predict the other player’s next move (57% of the time),and ex... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 05/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/01/googles-alphago-wearable-sensors-lego.html

Google’s AlphaGo, Wearable sensors, Lego molecules, Programmed 3D assembly, Scalable bioplastics, Conductive plastics, Nerve magnetic fields, Electric charge wakes, Universal tumour vaccine, Decoding human thoughts. 

1. Google General Machine Learning Masters Go
Google’s new AlphaGo machine learning system is the first to routinely defeat human players at Go, and proved itself by defeating the European champion 5-0 https://googleblog.blogspot.com.au/2016/01/alphago-machine-learning-game-go.html. The system combines advanced tree search with deep neural networks 12 layers deep containing millions of neural connections that let it evaluate a Go board, predict the other player’s next move (57% of the time), and execute its own next move to win. In march AlphaGo will face off against the top Go player in the world. This marks the successful completion of one of the grand challenges of AI, but importantly this is a general machine learning system that figured out itself how to win at Go, and it’ll be exciting to see the system extended to helping with important real-world problems. In related news new methods to grant short-term memory to recurrent neural networks offer significant benefits http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/software/the-neural-network-that-remembers, and another machine learning system automatically fixes bugs in software code http://news.mit.edu/2016/faster-automatic-bug-repair-code-errors-0129. 

2. Flexible Wearable Sensors
Flexible and transparent pressure sensors just 8 micrometers thick have been created that are able to measure the pressure distribution of rounded surfaces and retain accuracy even when bent over a radius of just 80 micrometers http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-01/uot-fat012216.php. The sensor patch includes carbon nanotubes and graphene to form nanofibers in an elastic polymer as well as organic transistors and electronic switches; testing with small artificial blood vessels showed accurate measurement of small pressure changes. Interesting in wearables, implantables, and robot / device skins. In related news a complete wearable smart sweat sensor detects the wearer’s sodium, potassium, lactate, and glucose levels and sends these via Bluetooth to a smartphone or other device http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/biomedical/diagnostics/smart-wearable-sensor-takes-sweatmonitoring-to-next-level; very promising platform technology. 

3. Self Assembled Lego Molecules
New chemistry research has created methods to produce libraries of giant molecules out of different precisely arranged modular nano building blocks made of smaller orthogonally functionalised nanoparticles http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-01/acs-fwl012216.php. The orthogonal functionalisation of the building blocks ensures that they can only come together in a specific fashion and in a specific order, and so allowing the controllable or programmable self-assembly of complex molecular superstructures and novel materials. With further work and scale such atomically precise molecular fabrication technology should transform device creation and function. In related news self-assembling block copolymers have formed the first self-assembled superconductor http://phys.org/news/2016-01-self-assembled-superconductor.html.

4. Programmatic Assembly of Complex 3D Structures
In related news a fundamental origami fold or tesselation called the Miura-ori is being used to fold a 2D surface into almost any 3D structure http://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2016/01/designing-pop-up-future. This is a fascinating exploration of simple geometry, as the structures can be folded flat before expanding back to their defined 3D shape as needed - think of a surgical tool introduced through a small cut before expanding to a functional shape. The group designed a program that can take an arbitrary 3D structure and calculate the placement and size of folds needed to create it from a 2D surface and fold it flat. And a new 4D printing technique involves the creation of 3D printed hydrogels into structures that fold and change shape over time depending on environmental conditions http://wyss.harvard.edu/viewpressrelease/239/. 

5. Scalable Renewable Bioplastics
A joint venture between DuPont and ADM has successfully created a breakthrough in industrial chemistry for the efficient mass conversion of fructose into one of the key fundamental building blocks used in the mass production of polymers http://www.adm.com/en-US/news/_layouts/PressReleaseDetail.aspx?ID=703. This has been a long-sought-after goal in industrial chemistry and is a platform technology that will enable the cost-efficient production of a wide range of renewable, high-performance chemicals and polymers independent of conventional materials and sources from the oil and petroleum industry. 

6. Plastics Conduct Current 1,000 Times Better
On the topic of advanced new plastics and chemistry, charge transport in certain polymers have boosted by three orders of magnitude http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-01/uu-beu012816.php. These materials are based on relatively conventional semiconducting organic polymers, but by creating a technique able to control the chain and crystallite orientation within the bulk polymer film these materials can now have electron mobilities 1,000 times faster, and all without metallic doping. This is just one order of magnitude shy of electron mobilities in silicon devices, and the result should greatly improve applications in organic solar cells and photodiodes. 

7. External Measurement of Nerve Magnetic Fields
For the first time the tiny magnetic fields produced by individual nerves have been measured non-invasively from outside the body at room temperature http://www.technologyreview.com/view/546146/first-laser-measurements-of-magnetic-fields-of-single-nerves/. The sensor uses a laser beam to detect the effect of a magnetic field on a gas of caesium atoms that polarises light depending on the magnetic field properties; this is a highly sensitive optical magnetometer that has been made to work at room temperature and can be used to detect the precise activity of nerves from several millimeters away. Further improvements might allow the technique to reach larger distances and smaller nerves, perhaps even neurons, and with the possibility of not just measuring activity but directly modulating activity. 

8. New Charge Wake Phenomena on Metal Surfaces
An interesting new phenomenon has been discovered on gold surfaces in which the two-dimensional equivalent of Cherenkov radiation can be produced and controllably steered around the surface http://www.research.a-star.edu.sg/research/7443/left-in-the-wake. This starts by (i) shining polarised light on the surface, (ii) excited electrons produce a wave of charge whose velocity results in (iii) surface plasmon wakes being produced that (iv) can be steered using an array of nanostructured apertures. Interesting nanoscale photonics with possible future applications in holograms and special directional lenses. 

9. Possible Universal Tumour Vaccine
An early experimental cancer vaccine against seeks to target two properties shared by all growing and metastasising tumours, (i) increased proliferation facilitated by active telomerase, and (ii) angiogenesis and blood vessel growth https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/01/one-possible-approach-to-a-universal-tumor-vaccine.php. Co-immunization in mice against both of these factors was shown to have a more potent inhibitory effect on tumours than either alone. The vaccine, which with further tests and development might be a possible universal vaccine against cancer, takes the form of a recombinant adenovirus that expresses key telomerase and angiogenesis proteins and induces potent immune-cell mediated attack of tumour cells and suppression of angiogenesis. 

10. Decoding Human Thoughts in Realtime
Improved signal analysis techniques with electrodes implanted into the brains (temporal lobes) of patients are now able to predict - after training - what class of images the person is viewing with 96% accuracy http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-01/uowh-sdb012716.php. These predictions and measurements are calculated within 20 milliseconds of the patient observing a particular image. The study only investigated a couple of distinct visual phenomena but the promise is that with very high-density electrode arrays you would be able to calculate not only what sensory information the person was taking in in real-time but also perhaps what sensory phenomena they are thinking about. 

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