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Mark Bruce has been at 1 events

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NASA2,838,906The most advanced robot ever sent to another world is set to land on Aug. 5, 2012 (PDT). Will you be watching? Mars Science Laboratory will deliver the Curiosity rover to the surface of Mars at approximately 10:31 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5 (1:31 a.m. EDT and 5:31 a.m. UTC on Aug. 6). Curiosity, carrying laboratory instruments to analyze samples of rocks, soil and atmosphere, will investigate whether Mars has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. NASA TV will broadcast live from mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., during Curiosity’s critical entry, descent and landing phase. Two live feeds of video during key landing activities from mission control rooms at JPL will be carried on NASA TV, NASA TV online http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html and Ustream http://www.ustream.tv/ between 8:30 and 11:00 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5 (11:30 p.m. Aug. 5 to 2:00 a.m. Aug. 6 EDT), and between 12:30 and 1:30 a.m. PDT on Aug. 6 (3:30 to 4:30 a.m. EDT). The NASA TV Public Channel and http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl will carry a feed including commentary and interviews. The NASA TV Media Channel and http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl2 will carry an uninterrupted, clean feed. Follow the mission on Facebook and on Twitter at http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity.NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Landing2012-08-06 02:00:002186  

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Most comments: 88

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2016-01-14 14:04:25 (88 comments; 24 reshares; 162 +1s)Open 

Revisiting the Transcension Hypothesis

+John M Smart's Transcension Hypothesis is one of those grand intellectually fascinating meta-ideas that elegantly ties together many other different ideas including evolution, development, cosmology, computation, energy efficiency, complexity theory, information theory, the Fermi Paradox, life, black holes, and intelligence. And probably a few other things too. All while making some interesting testable predictions.

Check it out here: http://accelerating.org/articles/transcensionhypothesis.html

Part solution to the Fermi Paradox and part prediction for the fate of all intelligent species, the Transcension Hypothesis can be summarised:

➤ Given the limit of the speed of light and the time cost of travel and communication between stars and;

➤ Given the limits of knowledge to be gained from aninc... more »

Most reshares: 63

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2015-11-27 13:32:09 (20 comments; 63 reshares; 157 +1s)Open 

Proposed Equivalency Between Wormholes & Entanglement
The quantum source of space-time: http://www.nature.com/news/the-quantum-source-of-space-time-1.18797

I included this article in the most recent Digest but wanted to revisit it for those who missed it because I find it fascinating. At heart this concerns the pursuit to unite the incompatible fundamental theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity, and specifically the attempt to cast quantum entanglement as the fundamental basis of geometry and a defining feature of spacetime and the geometric gravity described by relativity. While not yet proven the approach seems elegant from a number of different angles, tying together concepts from holographic Universe theories, anti-de Sitter spaces & boundary membrane equivalences, tensor networks, and quantum error-correcting codes. 

When the entanglementb... more »

Most plusones: 162

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2016-01-14 14:04:25 (88 comments; 24 reshares; 162 +1s)Open 

Revisiting the Transcension Hypothesis

+John M Smart's Transcension Hypothesis is one of those grand intellectually fascinating meta-ideas that elegantly ties together many other different ideas including evolution, development, cosmology, computation, energy efficiency, complexity theory, information theory, the Fermi Paradox, life, black holes, and intelligence. And probably a few other things too. All while making some interesting testable predictions.

Check it out here: http://accelerating.org/articles/transcensionhypothesis.html

Part solution to the Fermi Paradox and part prediction for the fate of all intelligent species, the Transcension Hypothesis can be summarised:

➤ Given the limit of the speed of light and the time cost of travel and communication between stars and;

➤ Given the limits of knowledge to be gained from aninc... more »

Latest 50 posts

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2016-02-11 13:24:23 (7 comments; 5 reshares; 62 +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; 4 reshares; 24 +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; 12 reshares; 41 +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; 33 reshares; 56 +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 (10 comments; 61 reshares; 161 +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; 6 reshares; 26 +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; 5 reshares; 54 +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 (26 comments; 29 reshares; 160 +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; 74 +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. 

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

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2016-01-30 11:03:27 (15 comments; 0 reshares; 23 +1s)Open 

Another story from 30 years ago, this time with 2 pages and a picture!

Another story from 30 years ago, this time with 2 pages and a picture!___

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2016-01-27 13:42:20 (3 comments; 5 reshares; 17 +1s)Open 

Yuval Harari on Techno-Religions and the State of Ideology

This is a good albeit long talk by Harari and while it takes him a little to get going I found it compelling and interesting to listen to. There's a bunch of new memes and memeplexes in here for consideration and in typical Harari style we get a wide-ranging discussion covering religion, dominant ideologies and the birth of new ideas, world history, society, consciousness, frameworks for decision making, and other things. The Q&A session at the end is as worthwhile as the main talk as he discusses and expands on a number of different topics.

I'm a fan of Harari's Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind, which I've previously covered in detail here https://plus.google.com/+MarkBruce/posts/89ArY5vgPv3, and which is the main book I recommend to people to read if I have to choose just one.
... more »

Yuval Harari on Techno-Religions and the State of Ideology

This is a good albeit long talk by Harari and while it takes him a little to get going I found it compelling and interesting to listen to. There's a bunch of new memes and memeplexes in here for consideration and in typical Harari style we get a wide-ranging discussion covering religion, dominant ideologies and the birth of new ideas, world history, society, consciousness, frameworks for decision making, and other things. The Q&A session at the end is as worthwhile as the main talk as he discusses and expands on a number of different topics.

I'm a fan of Harari's Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind, which I've previously covered in detail here https://plus.google.com/+MarkBruce/posts/89ArY5vgPv3, and which is the main book I recommend to people to read if I have to choose just one.

Thanks +Matthew J Price for the original share of this talk.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6BK5Q_Dblo___

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2016-01-24 10:09:45 (11 comments; 21 reshares; 75 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 04/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/01/gut-microbe-therapeutics-better-brain.html

Gut microbe therapeutics, Better brain imaging, Superfluid knots, Weaving molecular chains, New brain insights, Living microdroplet reactors, Fermi Paradox nonequilibrium, Memristor chips on market, Modular food computer, Graphene advances.

1. Therapeutics via the Gut Microbiome
Seres and Synlogic are companies trying to launch modified bacteria as drugs designed to live in and complement the human gut microbiome http://www.technologyreview.com/news/545446/companies-aim-to-make-drugs-from-bacteria-that-live-in-the-gut/. Seres wants to introduce specially-selected bacteria into the gut to help restore a healthy microbiome, while Synlogic wants to introduce genetically modified bacteria designed to take up... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 04/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/01/gut-microbe-therapeutics-better-brain.html

Gut microbe therapeutics, Better brain imaging, Superfluid knots, Weaving molecular chains, New brain insights, Living microdroplet reactors, Fermi Paradox nonequilibrium, Memristor chips on market, Modular food computer, Graphene advances.

1. Therapeutics via the Gut Microbiome
Seres and Synlogic are companies trying to launch modified bacteria as drugs designed to live in and complement the human gut microbiome http://www.technologyreview.com/news/545446/companies-aim-to-make-drugs-from-bacteria-that-live-in-the-gut/. Seres wants to introduce specially-selected bacteria into the gut to help restore a healthy microbiome, while Synlogic wants to introduce genetically modified bacteria designed to take up residence and perform useful functions such as metabolising toxins and other compounds that some people have trouble with. I’ve been thinking about different ways you might functionalise the gut microbiome in beneficial ways for years now and think the opportunities here are immense - it’s good to see these early approaches entering clinical studies but I worry if they go the conventional route they might suffer similar difficulties to that of bacteriophage therapies.

2. Better Brain Imaging and Sensors
The nVista system is an implantable miniature microscope that allows researchers to track brain activity in mice in realtime http://gizmodo.com/gopro-for-mouse-brains-records-neural-circuits-in-real-1746582790. The device is very light to allow animals to move around relatively unobstructed and is capable of tracking the activity of up to 1,000 individual neurons simultaneously. In related news a new type of tiny sensor can be implanted to monitor brain temperature and pressure and then later dissolve away when no longer needed; measurements are conveyed via an implanted wireless transmitter https://news.illinois.edu/blog/view/6367/312684 - the group are moving towards clinical trials and exploring other application areas.

3. Tying Complex Knots in Superfluids
After preparing a superfluid a new technique involving targeting the superfluid with rapidly changing and specifically structured magnetic fields allows the superfluid to be tied in knots; quantum knots in the form of a self-reinforcing soliton comprised of a toroidal ring structure in three dimensions https://www.amherst.edu/news/news_releases/2016/01-2016/node/626688. This builds on previous work in which the group used similar techniques to create synthetic magnetic monopoles. This is a very interesting new natural phenomenon to explore and harness and the group will continue to probe the properties of these knotted superfluid objects.

4. New Materials from Woven Molecular Chains
The first three dimensional covalent organic framework materials have been created by weaving together helical organic threads http://newscenter.lbl.gov/2016/01/21/weaving-a-new-story-for-cofs-and-mofs/. This should result in a new generation of materials with novel properties stemming from the base structure of individual molecular chains being woven together in a precise, ordered, and controlled way. Removing metal from the chains resulted in a 10-fold increase in elasticity of the material while adding metal restored the materials original stiffness. The technique has generalities in that it should allow many long threads of covalently-linked molecules to be woven and cross-together at regular intervals and is applicable to metal organic frameworks, nanoparticles, and polymers.

5. New Brain Insights
We had a trio of interesting brain insights this week. First, it appears synapses can vary in size in far greater increments than originally thought, resulting in estimates for the memory capacity of the human brain being revised upwards by an order of magnitude and helping to explain the computational efficiency of the hippocampus for example http://www.salk.edu/news-release/memory-capacity-of-brain-is-10-times-more-than-previously-thought/; every 2 - 20 minutes your synapses go up or down to the next size. Second, network analysis of brain activity reveals that 70% of all information within cortical regions passes through just 20% of the region’s neurons, further supporting the brain’s preference for efficiency over vulnerability http://news.indiana.edu/releases/iu/2016/01/hub-neurons.shtml. Finally, new micro-tissue engineered neural networks are small columns of biomaterial through which neurons have grown axons and which, when implanted, can connect neuronal populations in the brain (and possibly elsewhere) and replace damaged axonal tracts http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2016/01/cullen/.

6. Mimicking Living Systems with Microdroplet Reactors
A new microfluidic system promises better, easier bioreactors for synthetic biology applications http://phys.org/news/2016-01-microdroplet-reactors-mimic.html. The new system first establishes water-in-oil test sites in discrete wells formed in the microfluidic chip, with each site bordered by electrodes able to apply an AC voltage over the site; water-in-oil droplets introduced in a digital fashion to the channels flow past the reaction sites and (i) when AC is applied the droplets fuse to the site, while (ii) the shear force of the travelling droplets induces fission and the droplet travelling on. Fusion uses the travelling droplets to introduce new molecules to the sites, while fission can carry away waste products, production products, or signalling products for collection and analysis. This does away with complex valves and mixers and is able to maintain chemical reactions in the sites far from equilibrium. In related news a new microfluidic microbubble technique efficiently produces liposomes for study, drug delivery, and artificial cell applications http://phys.org/news/2016-01-closer-artificial-cell-divisionby.html.

7. Fermi Paradox and Planetary Extinction
A new study on early planetary environments and life suggests a “Gaian Bottleneck” that prevents life from evolving beyond the simple single-celled stage, essentially operating as an early Great Filter preventing the rise of complex intelligent life on otherwise habitable planets thought to be ubiquitous throughout the galaxy http://www.anu.edu.au/news/all-news/the-aliens-are-silent-because-they-are-extinct. The authors suggest that new life commonly dies out on fledgling new worlds due to runaway heating or cooling arising from the unstable nature of young planetary environments, and before life has a chance to evolve a complex global ecosystem of simple organisms capable of regulating atmospheric gases.

8. Commercial Offerings of Memristor Chips
Knowm has launched a portfolio of three memristor chip products made available to customers seeking to include the chips in their computing hardware http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1328733. Memristors can act as emulators of synapses and brain networks with the promise of offering brain-like computing and energy efficiency; such chips will have powerful deep learning and neural network emulation applications across a range of areas in future. The commercial availability of memristor-based chips is great news although we’ll have to wait and see when they make their way into consumer-facing products and services.

9. Open Source Food Computer
The Food Computer from the Open Agriculture Initiative is a new platform seeking to standardise indoor hydroponics and plant cultivation and so better enable rapid growth, industrial scale, cost efficiencies, and accessibility for the sector http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/embedded-systems/mits-food-computer-the-future-of-urban-agriculture. The Food Computer is an advanced indoor plant cultivator and hydroponic system that precisely monitors and controls light exposure temperature, humidity, CO2, water cycle, and nutrient exposure to create an optimal “recipe” for each type of plant. The system is inherently modular with Food Computers coming in (i) Personal Food Computer, (ii) Shipping Container, and (iii) Warehouse Scale sizes for personal, small scale, and large scale use - and all benefiting from cheaper and better sensors, computers, and lighting.

10. Graphene, Graphene, and More Graphene
First, a new spongy graphene elastomer functions as a flexible ultra-light pressure and vibration sensor that far exceeds the response range of human skin http://monash.edu/news/show/revolutionary-new-graphene-elastomer-exceeds-sensitivity-of-human-skin. Second, terahertz frequency lasers can now be made tunable thanks to the combination of graphene with a quantum cascade laser http://www.graphene.manchester.ac.uk/latest/?archive=twelvemonths&id=15750. Third, simulations show that fast and accurate DNA sequencing is possible by passing DNA through functionalised graphene nanopores http://www.nist.gov/mml/acmd/nist-simulates-fast-accurate-dna-sequencing-through-graphene-nanopore.cfm. Fourth, specific and controllable placement of molecules is possible via graphene sheets decorated with custom patterns http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/ucla-scientists-create-graphene-barrier-to-precisely-control-molecules-for-making-nanoelectronics. Finally, graphene nanoelectromechanical systems can controllably modulate the emission of light from single-photon nanodiamond emitters http://phys.org/news/2016-01-on-chip-nano-optics-graphene-nano-opto-mechanics.html.

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/01/gut-microbe-therapeutics-better-brain.html___

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2016-01-20 14:16:26 (7 comments; 18 reshares; 117 +1s)Open 

Bell's Theorem, Free Will, and Determinism

It is generally claimed that Bell's Theorem (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell%27s_theorem) and it's associated inequalities successfully ruled out any local hidden variables theories or interpretations seeking to explain quantum effects in a classical manner. Although some non-local versions thereof were / are still explored.

However, one of the key assumptions of Bell's Theorem concerns the freedom of the experimenter or observer to choose one measurement or another. This is the implicit assumption that humans have "free will" as it is colloquially referred to.

Yet if you're intellectually honest with yourself the impossibility of such free will quickly becomes apparent. Indeed Bell himself admitted as such; that his theorem and inequalities would be invalid if the experimenter didn't... more »

The Free Will Theorem Necessitates Superdeterminism

In this post I will endeavor to prove that the common interpretation of quantum mechanics is based on a false notion of free will; and, therefore, superdetermism must be true.

I have previously debunked nondeterministic free will here: https://plus.google.com/+JohnNewmanIII/posts/Tajojft7LE5

The reason people have been so confused about the free will debate for so long is that people tend to mix their teleological and nonteleological descriptions of the world.

In people’s minds, when they hear the term “determinism,” they are thinking of the world in a global, objective context - not a subjective, teleological context. Then, when they try to characterize their will power in that global context, it doesn’t seem to make sense. They are conflating their subjective and objective interpretations of reality.

Free will is a subjective experience. We can simulate the subjective experience of free will in a computer. By investigating the free will of an artificially intelligent agent, we can see that by “free will” we simply mean the degrees of freedom available to an agent, in contrast to that agent’s constraints or limitations in its body and its environment. It makes no sense to say that both the degrees of freedom and the constraints are simultaneously constrained. To do so is to accidentally conflate the subjective and objective interpretations of the phenomenon.

And, as I showed in the ‘debunking’ post, introducing any uncorrelated events into the subjective experience of free will can only result in a choice that is intrinsically uncorrelated from reality. Which is to say, “I meant to go left, but my free will made me go right.”

In other words, noncontingent free will is incoherent.

And if you watch this amazing video on the free will theorem, from John H. Conway and Simon B. Kochen, you will find that noncontingency is the proper definition of free will as found in non-superdeterministic interpretations of Quantum Mechanics: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftIllWczf5w]

Therefore, the free will theorem necessitates superdeterminism.

Following +Brian Koberlein‘s lead, I’ll simply leave here Sabine Hossenfelder’s paper on how we might go about testing for the “superdeterministic conspiracy.”

http://arxiv.org/abs/1401.0286
Sabine Hossenfelder. Testing superdeterministic conspiracy. Journal of Physics: Conference Series 504 (2014) 012018. arXiv:1105.4326 [quant-ph]___Bell's Theorem, Free Will, and Determinism

It is generally claimed that Bell's Theorem (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell%27s_theorem) and it's associated inequalities successfully ruled out any local hidden variables theories or interpretations seeking to explain quantum effects in a classical manner. Although some non-local versions thereof were / are still explored.

However, one of the key assumptions of Bell's Theorem concerns the freedom of the experimenter or observer to choose one measurement or another. This is the implicit assumption that humans have "free will" as it is colloquially referred to.

Yet if you're intellectually honest with yourself the impossibility of such free will quickly becomes apparent. Indeed Bell himself admitted as such; that his theorem and inequalities would be invalid if the experimenter didn't have free will of this fashion, a fate that was guaranteed in a deterministic Universe (and quantum probabilities never rescue your free will of course). Bell actually called this superdeterminism but really it is just like the plain vanilla determinism we are all familiar with.

A situation describing a physical system, in which you need free will to exist, while at the same time the system implies that free will cannot exist, has always struck me as logically and physically irreconcilable. And yet this appears to be the mainstream view upheld by a majority of physicists. Maybe I'm doing or thinking something very wrong to disagree with the consensus of people far more knowledgeable about such things than I am.

+John Newman discusses these themes in the post below and also introduces a recent article by Sabine Hossenfelder that discusses Bell, free will, hidden variables, and determinism in more detail and even goes so far as proposing an experiment to test superdeterministic hidden variables theories.

Sabine Hossenfelder abstract for http://arxiv.org/abs/1401.0286
Tests of Bell's theorem rule out local hidden variables theories. But any theorem is only as good as the assumptions that go into it, and one of these assumptions is that the experimenter can freely chose the detector settings. Without this assumption, one enters the realm of superdeterministic hidden variables theories and can no longer use Bell's theorem as a criterion. One can like or not like such superdeterministic hidden variables theories and their inevitable nonlocality, the real question is how one can test them. Here, we propose a possible experiment that could reveal superdeterminism.

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2016-01-18 13:59:05 (19 comments; 17 reshares; 42 +1s)Open 

Confirmed Functional Role for Electric Fields in the Brain
And consciousness?

It appears that a functional role has been confirmed for the mild electric fields produced in the brain by neurons, with this being backed up by new models and in vitro tests on mouse hippocampi. Despite decades of research in this area this is the first time such connections have been made along with tantalising evidence that the brain is using these fields for neuronal communication independent of synaptic transmissions and other conventional mechanisms. In this case the field of one neuron activates immediate neighbours and so on in a cascade.

First published by Case Western Reserve University http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-01/cwru-bwm011416.php.

This appears to provide support for Electromagnetic Theories of Consciousness

There have been a number of... more »

Can our brains use electrical field to transmit information from one place to another?
Neural signals are sent via mechanisms such as synaptic transmission, gap junctions, and diffusion processes, but a new study suggests there's another way that our brains transmit information from one place to another.

Researchers in the US have recorded neural spikes travelling too slowly in the brain to be explained by conventional signalling mechanisms. In the absence of other plausible explanations, the scientists believe these brain waves are being transmitted by a weak electrical field, and they've been able to detect one of these in mice.

Paper:
http://www.jneurosci.org/content/35/48/15800

Article:
http://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-discover-new-method-of-brain-wave-transmission-electrical-fields

#neuroscience   #research  ___Confirmed Functional Role for Electric Fields in the Brain
And consciousness?

It appears that a functional role has been confirmed for the mild electric fields produced in the brain by neurons, with this being backed up by new models and in vitro tests on mouse hippocampi. Despite decades of research in this area this is the first time such connections have been made along with tantalising evidence that the brain is using these fields for neuronal communication independent of synaptic transmissions and other conventional mechanisms. In this case the field of one neuron activates immediate neighbours and so on in a cascade.

First published by Case Western Reserve University http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-01/cwru-bwm011416.php.

This appears to provide support for Electromagnetic Theories of Consciousness

There have been a number of electromagnetic theories of consciousness proposed over the years whereby the small electric fields produced by neurons are the key physical feature of consciousness https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_theories_of_consciousness. Ephaptic Coupling is a related term to describe the phenomena of local electric fields influencing neuronal firing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephaptic_coupling.

The funny thing is that these theories of consciousness and their proponents have been routinely and thoroughly ridiculed by the mainstream scientific community. CEMI theory, promoted by John McFadden is perhaps the most developed of these, and it also appears to integrate nicely with Tononi's Integrated Information Theory (IIT) of consciousness. I've touched on IIT quite a bit in the past but I've also discussed CEMI in a little more detail here too https://plus.google.com/u/0/+MarkBruce/posts/DBQb2PGfi3w (decent comment thread) and I can't help but wonder if McFadden is feeling a little vindicated at this point.

Still early days however, and we'll have to see if other groups can replicated the result and whether it stands up to challenges over the next couple of years. Also beware my personal confirmation bias for these results.

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2016-01-18 12:20:15 (2 comments; 16 reshares; 63 +1s)Open 

The more science you know, the more beautiful the world appears.

As usual Richard Feynman sums it up best with his typical eloquence, below.

Thanks +Chris Harpner for the OP https://plus.google.com/106132190902853507998/posts/2csEAvWSCSW 


The more science you know, the more beautiful the world appears.

As usual Richard Feynman sums it up best with his typical eloquence, below.

Thanks +Chris Harpner for the OP https://plus.google.com/106132190902853507998/posts/2csEAvWSCSW 
___

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2016-01-17 07:28:24 (22 comments; 19 reshares; 76 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 03/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/01/deep-learning-hardware-dna-origami.html

Deep learning hardware, DNA origami pores, Insect drone vision, Compressible torsional materials, Choreographic crystals, 3D printing metals, Implantable sensors, 3D NAND chips, Bone thymus rejuvenation, deep learning software.

1. EIE Chip Accelerates Deep Learning
New software and hardware architecture has been developed into a chip called EIE that significantly boosts the performance of deep neural network applications http://www.nextplatform.com/2015/12/08/emergent-chip-vastly-accelerates-deep-neural-networks/. EIE basically maximises the role of SRAM in processing the inference side of neural networks and uses newly developed “deep compression” to pare these networks down to their most essential componentswhi... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 03/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/01/deep-learning-hardware-dna-origami.html

Deep learning hardware, DNA origami pores, Insect drone vision, Compressible torsional materials, Choreographic crystals, 3D printing metals, Implantable sensors, 3D NAND chips, Bone thymus rejuvenation, deep learning software.

1. EIE Chip Accelerates Deep Learning
New software and hardware architecture has been developed into a chip called EIE that significantly boosts the performance of deep neural network applications http://www.nextplatform.com/2015/12/08/emergent-chip-vastly-accelerates-deep-neural-networks/. EIE basically maximises the role of SRAM in processing the inference side of neural networks and uses newly developed “deep compression” to pare these networks down to their most essential components while retaining accuracy to allow ultra-fast, ultra-efficient processing. The chip performs inference operations between 13x and 189x faster compared to benchmarks, while delivering energy efficiency between 3,000x and 24,000x better compared to benchmarks. Interesting questions arise relating to the nature of neural networks and the drastic pruning you can inflict. How long until these chips start being integrated into servers and mobile platforms?

2. DNA Origami Membrane Pores
Self assembling DNA origami techniques have been used to create synthetic molecular membrane pores in biological membranes that can be controllably opened and closed http://phys.org/news/2016-01-dna-blocks-pave-drug-delivery.html. The pores were anchored to the membranes of vesicles and the addition of different complementary strands of DNA was shown to open and close the pore to allow the passage of certain molecules through the 2nm channel, or at least alter their rate of passage by 140-fold. In related news DNA origami structures are being used to functionalise gold nanoparticles and form well-ordered arrays and novel materials out of the particles https://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/channels/news/printing-press-nanoparticles-257609.

3. Insect Drones & Catcher Drones
In a simple yet effective development, drones operating with insect-inspired vision strategies that become unstable in flight at a specific distance from a landing zone, can utilise this very instability to estimate distance, correct their flight, and execute far smoother and more precise landings http://www.tudelft.nl/en/current/latest-news/article/detail/door-nieuwe-theorie-kunnen-drones-afstanden-zien-met-een-oog/. It also allows the drone to shed other sensors and weight. In other drone news a new anti-drone system employs remote or autonomous drones to shoot a net to capture rogue drones in mid-flight http://www.mtu.edu/news/stories/2016/january/drone-catcher-robotic-falcon-can-capture-retrieve-renegade-drones.html and 100 drones can now be coordinated together in flight http://www.gizmag.com/100-drones-guinness-world-record/41328/.

4. Torsional Materials and Extreme Compressibility
New materials designed with coordination geometries, where subunits in the bulk material form a coordinated framework and are free to rotate, move, or deform independently, have been developed that exhibit properties of extreme compressibility http://phys.org/news/2016-01-atomic-gears-torsion-springs-contribute-extreme.html. Such materials have negative thermal expansion coefficients, shrinking in volume when heated for example, and under pressure deform and compress to a larger extent than any other crystalline material. In these materials compression doesn’t induce the normal shortening of bonds, but rather the structural deformation of subunits that move and rotate to bring nearby subunits closer together.

5. Crystal with Time-Dependent Symmetry
A new type of crystal has been described that possesses symmetry not in the way its atoms are structured but rather in the way it’s particles move in time http://gizmodo.com/physicists-discover-a-new-kind-of-crystal-inspired-by-s-1751911893. It is interesting that the discovery was inspired by satellite orbits as gravity wave detectors because the movement does remind me of quadrupole motion. This is a type of dynamic symmetry, and these hypothetical materials are now known as choreographic crystals; the work also involved some clever mathematics to identify all possible such arrangements above the tetrahedron analogue discovered here. As these are currently confined to theory it remains to be seen whether such materials can be discovered or fabricated - and what their properties might be, for example new metamaterials are able to boost MRI sensitivity by 50% http://phys.org/news/2016-01-metamaterials-boost-sensitivity-mri-machines.html.

6. Improved 3D Printed Metals
Related to last week’s innovation for much improved 3D printed ceramics, this week we have much improved 3D printed metals and metal alloys using liquid inks and common furnaces http://www.mccormick.northwestern.edu/news/articles/2016/01/a-new-way-to-print-3-d-metals-and-alloys.html. The liquid inks contain metal powders, solvents, and elastomers, are printed normally and then sintered in furnace to make the powder fuse; prior to sintering the printed object can be bent and further altered to achieve different structures, and the technique allows safer metal oxides to be printed then turned into their base metals with the addition of hydrogen.

7. Implantable & Wearable Sensors
A couple of fascinating items from the CES show. First, Lumee is an implantable grain-of-rice-sized device and sensing platform made of hydrogel that sits below the skin that doesn’t trigger scar tissue or an immune response and so can remain for very long periods; the prototype contains a dye that measures oxygen levels and which can be interrogated by shining light through the skin http://spectrum.ieee.org/view-from-the-valley/biomedical/devices/move-over-wearables-make-way-for-implantables - a fantasitc platform with a huge range of sensing and diagnostic applications and these new liquid crystal hydrogels might offer additional customisation and control http://phys.org/news/2016-01-polymer-medical-solutions.html. Second, a tiny flexible sticky sensor patch works on thermoelectric principles, harvesting energy from the temperature gradient between your skin and the air, the prototype for which monitors your hydration levels and sends this information to your smartphone http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/biomedical/devices/power-harvesting-sensor-patch-uses-your-body-as-a-battery - great platform with a larger number of applications.

8. Commercial 3D NAND Chips
Micron claims their new 3D NAND memory chips get Flash-based memory back on Moore’s Law scaling curve http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1328652. Their first generation 3D NAND chip is a stack 32 layers deep and being offered in versions with 32 and 48 Gigabytes each; the future roadmap includes 2 Terabyte 3D NAND packages enabling solid state drives with a capacity of 32TB. They’ve also designed and released new chips in a partnership with Intel that have a 3D cross-bar architecture (3D XPoint) sandwiching a material to create arrays of resistive RAMs and enabling mass commercial rollout for memristors.

9. Bone & Thymus Rejuvenation Approaches
A new microRNA delivery technology utilises polymer spheres to protect the microRNA cargo and get inside cells and it can slowly release the payload over the course of a month if needed; in the proof of concept the spheres targeted cells at wound sites in bone, delivering microRNAs that instructed the cells to ramp up bone healing and bone building processes http://ns.umich.edu/new/releases/23403-nano-shells-deliver-molecules-that-tell-bone-to-repair-itself. Boosting levels of metabolic hormone FGF21 in the thymus of old mice protects the organ from age-related degeneration, increasing T-cell production, maintaining an active immune system and extending lifespan by 40%; looking forward to human tests http://news.yale.edu/2016/01/11/life-extending-hormone-bolsters-body-s-immune-function.

10. Microsoft’s 152 Layer Neural Network
Microsoft Research won the ImageNet image recognition contest with a powerful new machine learning architecture called a deep residual network that is more complex than previous deep learning architectures and spans 152 layers http://www.wired.com/2016/01/microsoft-neural-net-shows-deep-learning-can-get-way-deeper/. The new architecture can examine many more features of a data set (images in this case) and circumvents the problem of signal dilution that has plagued other attempts by being able to quickly skip layers that it doesn’t need. Closing the feedback-loop of developing these applications the team also created a system that helps build these networks as needed. The potential here is significant.

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/01/deep-learning-hardware-dna-origami.html___

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2016-01-14 14:04:25 (88 comments; 24 reshares; 162 +1s)Open 

Revisiting the Transcension Hypothesis

+John M Smart's Transcension Hypothesis is one of those grand intellectually fascinating meta-ideas that elegantly ties together many other different ideas including evolution, development, cosmology, computation, energy efficiency, complexity theory, information theory, the Fermi Paradox, life, black holes, and intelligence. And probably a few other things too. All while making some interesting testable predictions.

Check it out here: http://accelerating.org/articles/transcensionhypothesis.html

Part solution to the Fermi Paradox and part prediction for the fate of all intelligent species, the Transcension Hypothesis can be summarised:

➤ Given the limit of the speed of light and the time cost of travel and communication between stars and;

➤ Given the limits of knowledge to be gained from aninc... more »

Revisiting the Transcension Hypothesis

+John M Smart's Transcension Hypothesis is one of those grand intellectually fascinating meta-ideas that elegantly ties together many other different ideas including evolution, development, cosmology, computation, energy efficiency, complexity theory, information theory, the Fermi Paradox, life, black holes, and intelligence. And probably a few other things too. All while making some interesting testable predictions.

Check it out here: http://accelerating.org/articles/transcensionhypothesis.html

Part solution to the Fermi Paradox and part prediction for the fate of all intelligent species, the Transcension Hypothesis can be summarised:

➤ Given the limit of the speed of light and the time cost of travel and communication between stars and;

➤ Given the limits of knowledge to be gained from an increasingly repetitive and uninformative observable Universe and;

➤ Given the development of computation and greater intelligence will be a trait shared by all intelligent species and;

➤ Given the inexorable evolution of our technology to create ever-faster and ever-more-efficient computers, and ultimately to the most powerful computational substrate physically possible, computronium, and;

➤ Given the descent towards the surface of a black hole provides a maximally efficient environment for such computronium while also accelerating universal dynamics;

Then

Shortly after the development of their first computer all intelligent technological civilisations will rearrange their local solar matter into such a computronium black hole on which to run their intelligence and their consciousness and, due to black hole time dilation, instantly travel into the distant future to merge with all other black holes and all other computronium black holes built by other intelligences that arose in the local super-galactic gravity well, and by this merger will they transcend.

Worth Digging Into

I've just finished my fourth or so re-read of the original article that John put together (http://accelerating.org/articles/transcensionhypothesis.html); it just seems to be something that I come back to revisit every year or two. It is a lengthy read but well worth the time for anyone interested in technology and futurism, particularly if you haven't read it before, and even if you have! Seriously the details of the argument are like a powerful stimulant to me - I just want more :)

Jason Silva also has a good, short 2 min video summarising the Transcension Hypothesis in his classic infectious way https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQOyJUDTKdM 

EDIT: Updated "given" point #5, descent towards rather than just the surface. ___

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2016-01-13 13:49:57 (16 comments; 15 reshares; 115 +1s)Open 

Evolution as Deep Learning

This is one of the more interesting and thought-provoking new theories that I have encountered in recent memory, seeking as it does to recast evolutionary theory as a form of deep learning, and showing that it is possible for evolution to exhibit the same intelligent behaviours as learning systems. There are a few original sources around but this one from KurzweilAI is the best I found and has a link to the (unfortunately paywalled) original article http://www.kurzweilai.net/why-evolution-may-be-intelligent-based-on-deep-learning.

Raw Basics

The model is based on the effect of natural selection operating on relational alleles (genes) being similar to - even formally equivalent to - a Hebbian learning process. Selecting traits together results in increased phenotypic correlation; selecting them apart results in decreased correlation.... more »

Evolution as Deep Learning

This is one of the more interesting and thought-provoking new theories that I have encountered in recent memory, seeking as it does to recast evolutionary theory as a form of deep learning, and showing that it is possible for evolution to exhibit the same intelligent behaviours as learning systems. There are a few original sources around but this one from KurzweilAI is the best I found and has a link to the (unfortunately paywalled) original article http://www.kurzweilai.net/why-evolution-may-be-intelligent-based-on-deep-learning.

Raw Basics

The model is based on the effect of natural selection operating on relational alleles (genes) being similar to - even formally equivalent to - a Hebbian learning process. Selecting traits together results in increased phenotypic correlation; selecting them apart results in decreased correlation. “This simple step from evolving traits to evolving correlations between traits is crucial; it moves the object of natural selection from fit phenotypes (which ultimately removes phenotypic variability altogether) to the control of phenotypic variability.”

This reminds me that many years ago evolutionary biologist Stephen Gould argued that the only broadly predictable feature of evolutionary processes is that their variety increases over time.

Some Implications

This is an exciting possibility because it means that, despite not being a unit of selection, an ecological community might exhibit organizations that confer coordinated collective behaviors — for example, a distributed ecological memory that can recall multiple past ecological states.

It is often said that evolution is a process of learning what works and what doesn't, but this theory casts that adage in a very different light. It brings to mind the possibility of the ever-increasing latent adaptability to the environment that organisms might posses, as well the possibility for more-rapid ecological adaptability hinted at in the passage above, and finally the possibility of a type of intangible global superorganism that has learned so very much over the last 3 or so billion years.

Fascinating to think about and it will be interesting to see how this theory fares over the coming years.

Image: Partial protein structure of rotating bacterial flagellum, via http://www.umass.edu/microbio/chime/pe2.76/pe/atlas/morphs/flaghook/index.htm ___

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2016-01-13 12:39:18 (16 comments; 3 reshares; 19 +1s)Open 

Oh Noes Teh Quantums Are Coming!!!

Quantum computing will lead to quantum tyranny. CCTV will soon be replaced by superfast quantum computers. These will spell the end of freedom as we know it.

This, apparently, is what passes for science journalism these days at one of Australia's leading news outlets. I should have replaced the image here with the classic Jean-luc facepalm. Actually I shouldn't have even shared this as it deserves as few views as possible.

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/dawn-of-the-quantum-tyranny-20160108-gm1tay

Oh Noes Teh Quantums Are Coming!!!

Quantum computing will lead to quantum tyranny. CCTV will soon be replaced by superfast quantum computers. These will spell the end of freedom as we know it.

This, apparently, is what passes for science journalism these days at one of Australia's leading news outlets. I should have replaced the image here with the classic Jean-luc facepalm. Actually I shouldn't have even shared this as it deserves as few views as possible.

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/dawn-of-the-quantum-tyranny-20160108-gm1tay___

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2016-01-12 11:21:57 (9 comments; 13 reshares; 61 +1s)Open 

Without Good Habits Our Goals Are Fantasies

I thoroughly enjoyed this latest article by Mark Manson and have been recommending it to people for the last few days. It resonated strongly with me and I think everyone can derive at least some useful lessons from the piece; it’s the sort of thing that should be required reading every year through high school and University. I know I certainly would have derived a profound benefit from this if I’d read and appreciated it at an earlier age.

Basically this concerns the “unreasonable” effectiveness of establishing healthy habits, how healthy habits tend to enrich our lives in multiple areas, and how they help us achieve our goals as a side effect of maintaining the habit. Goals, while important, are reframed as little more than fantasies when they lack the habits that are generally required to help achieve them. The only goal ofa habit... more »

Without Good Habits Our Goals Are Fantasies

I thoroughly enjoyed this latest article by Mark Manson and have been recommending it to people for the last few days. It resonated strongly with me and I think everyone can derive at least some useful lessons from the piece; it’s the sort of thing that should be required reading every year through high school and University. I know I certainly would have derived a profound benefit from this if I’d read and appreciated it at an earlier age.

Basically this concerns the “unreasonable” effectiveness of establishing healthy habits, how healthy habits tend to enrich our lives in multiple areas, and how they help us achieve our goals as a side effect of maintaining the habit. Goals, while important, are reframed as little more than fantasies when they lack the habits that are generally required to help achieve them. The only goal of a habit is that it is never over, it is simply something that has become part of who you are, something you just do.

I’ve found this certainly holds for me personally when considering my health, fitness, and nutrition. I’ve established habits over many years that result in me operating by default with regard to eating healthy nutritious food and exercising automatically, almost without thinking about it. The side effect has been the maintenance of a fit and healthy body by default. Mark lists six keystone habits of which I’ve got the exercise and food ones down, as well as the writing and reading ones, but I don’t meditate or see people socially as often as I would like and these are areas I’d like to work on.

Considering this article has also made me objectively consider starting to establish simple habits in other areas of my life, such as with regards the many things I want to learn and develop.

Article here: http://markmanson.net/goals

Selected Excerpts:

People tend to rely too much on self-discipline and eschew forming useful habits. People tend to bite off more than they can chew, so to speak, setting goals that are far above their ability or knowledge level and then becoming frustrated when they make little to no progress towards them. People are tempted to take “shortcuts” to achieve a goal that may actually sabotage themselves in the long-run.

It’s better to invest your limited focus and energy on building habits rather than specific goals. Just like you want to take the money you earn and put it to work for you, you want to take the effort you expend in changing yourself and put it to work changing you as well.

People usually don’t focus on habits because goals sound much sexier in our minds. They feel more motivating in the moment when we think about them. Habits, on the other hand, don’t sound as sexy in our heads. They’re long-term and repetitive, which makes them seem boring.

With habits, on the other hand, there’s no single endpoint that must be reached. The only goal of habits is that the goal is never over, it’s a simple daily or weekly repetition that one does until muscle memory and brain chemistry kick in and you’re now performing the desired action on autopilot. With goals, every day you go back to the gym feels harder. With habits, after a while it feels harder to not go to the gym than it does to go. The weight loss then naturally occurs as a side effect.

Keystone habits are “compounding habits” because, much like compounding returns on an investment, over a long enough period of time, they can increase the richness of your life exponentially. Goals, by themselves, generate linear growth and change. Habits are capable of generating exponential growth and change.
___

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2016-01-11 11:35:58 (19 comments; 12 reshares; 33 +1s)Open 

The Perils of Too Much Consensus?

This article discusses a type of cognitive bias or failure-mode concerning the “Paradox of Unanimity” that arises because of the incredibly small likelihood of every member of a large group agreeing on a thing. Bayesian analysis shows that for many phenomena, as the group of people agreeing increases beyond a certain point the chance of them being correct decreases until it is little better than a random guess. This occurs whenever there is any bias concerning the phenomena under consideration, even a small bias or preference for one feature or another.

Large unanimous agreement still holds as a good, powerful tool in situations in which there is zero or near-zero bias for any features.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around this. The article discusses fascinating examples including police line-ups, forensics tests,Volks... more »

The Perils of Too Much Consensus?

This article discusses a type of cognitive bias or failure-mode concerning the “Paradox of Unanimity” that arises because of the incredibly small likelihood of every member of a large group agreeing on a thing. Bayesian analysis shows that for many phenomena, as the group of people agreeing increases beyond a certain point the chance of them being correct decreases until it is little better than a random guess. This occurs whenever there is any bias concerning the phenomena under consideration, even a small bias or preference for one feature or another.

Large unanimous agreement still holds as a good, powerful tool in situations in which there is zero or near-zero bias for any features.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around this. The article discusses fascinating examples including police line-ups, forensics tests, Volkswagen emissions, electoral outcomes, noise and lack thereof in scientific experiments, and decisions by committee. One interpretation is to recast “deniers” of any generally broadly supported complex model in a thoroughly positive light, not as “ignorant” but rather as those whose very disagreement or denial actually support the validity of the complex model that has achieved consensus; climate change is an obvious one that comes to mind.

I particularly like the cryptographic example and wonder if any computer scientists or cryptography experts can comment as to its validity. Apparently, even with cryptographic security dealing with probabilities of 2^-128 being typically held as acceptable, random bit flips due to cosmic rays can occur with a probability of 10^-13, which dominates over the 2^-128 security and so implying the cryptographic algorithms may be far less secure than they appear.

Article here: http://phys.org/news/2016-01-evidence-bad.html ___

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2016-01-10 09:09:02 (19 comments; 0 reshares; 51 +1s)Open 

Seems my writing has slowly improved over the last three decades ;-)

Seems my writing has slowly improved over the last three decades ;-)___

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2016-01-10 07:30:44 (15 comments; 27 reshares; 66 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 02/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/01/protein-fabrication-moving-brain.html

Protein fabrication, Moving brain recording, Touchable holograms, 3D printed ceramics, Modular robot arm, Wireless power charging, EEG mind reading, Cheap LIDAR, New elements, Nanofabrication of wires and ribbons.

1. Cell-Free Protein Synthesis
A new microfluidic system incorporating a nanoporous membrane works as an effective bioreactor to advance the field of cell-free protein synthesis https://www.ornl.gov/news/ornl-cell-free-protein-synthesis-potential-lifesaver. The dual-channel of the device allows the transfer of molecules through the membrane from metabolic feeder to bioreactor channels and back again. This technology is a milestone on the path towards true nanofabricators. The current chip offers many avenues... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 02/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/01/protein-fabrication-moving-brain.html

Protein fabrication, Moving brain recording, Touchable holograms, 3D printed ceramics, Modular robot arm, Wireless power charging, EEG mind reading, Cheap LIDAR, New elements, Nanofabrication of wires and ribbons.

1. Cell-Free Protein Synthesis
A new microfluidic system incorporating a nanoporous membrane works as an effective bioreactor to advance the field of cell-free protein synthesis https://www.ornl.gov/news/ornl-cell-free-protein-synthesis-potential-lifesaver. The dual-channel of the device allows the transfer of molecules through the membrane from metabolic feeder to bioreactor channels and back again. This technology is a milestone on the path towards true nanofabricators. The current chip offers many avenues for optimisation and improvement and is able to produce on demand different proteins as needed and offering the possibility of producing proteins on-site without the need for pre-production and sensitive storage.

2. Recording Whole Brain Activity in Moving Animal
New microscope techniques now allow the activity of individual neurons in a living brain to be captured in 3D in real-time while the animal is moving in and responding to its environment https://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S45/14/90K98/index.xml. While this is presently limited to comparatively simple organisms like nematode worms, it still provides never-before-possible insights into brain activity and body movement and response. The technique produces a lot of data that the group are still analysing, but the hope is this will help in generating new models of brain function.

3. Touchable Haptic Holograms & VR
New technology uses ultrasound to let users “feel” holograms, although the demonstration is currently limited to two boxes, one of which displays the hologram to the user and the other requires the user to insert their hand to explore the volume of space in which the holographic object is apparently located http://qz.com/584704/japanese-scientists-have-created-a-new-type-of-hologram-that-you-can-actually-feel/. Pretty nice technology but I’m struggling to think of viable applications at this stage; perhaps the ultrasound could respond to the user’s movements to allow molding the virtual object into different shapes? Other recent technologies enabling users to touch and feel virtual environments include full body suits such as this one http://mic.com/articles/128253/the-tesla-suit-simulates-touch-and-lets-you-feel-hugs-from-miles-away#.qXYawbtrJ.

4. Better 3D Printed Ceramics
A new 3D printing process can produce nearly flawless ceramics in arbitrary shapes that achieve the incredible heat resistance that has so far proved elusive http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/a18801/3d-printed-wonder-ceramics-wont-shatter/. These new printable materials start off looking like plastics and polymers that, when subsequently heated in a furnace, transform into more conventional ceramics with desireable ceramic properties. Silicon carbide ceramics were formed this way for the first time, other ceramics are expected by adjusting the resin composition, and the ceramics produced this way turn out uniform and lacking the pores and defects that has hampered other efforts.

5. Versatile Modular Robotic Arm
KATIA is a versatile programmable robotic arm that uses swappable modular hands to enable it to perform a very wide range of tasks http://techcrunch.com/2016/01/06/this-robotic-arm-can-do-everything-from-3d-printing-to-laser-cutting-to-cake-decorating/. A 3D printing module allows it to be a 3D printer, a 3D laser-scanner allows it to be a 3D scanner, a laser module allows it to be a laser cutter, other modules allow it to decorate cakes or grip, manipulate and move objects. The arm can also be trained simply to do repetitive motions much like ReThink’s Baxter robots and the versatility offered by swappable custom modular hands allows applications in industry, biotech, manufacturing, and packaging.

6. Wireless Power Technology is Coming
There are an increasing number of advances and announcements with wireless power technology, the most recent of which comes from Ossia and their new wireless charging product Cota http://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/consumer-electronics/gadgets/ossias-cota-wireless-power-tech-promises-to-enable-the-internet-of-everything. The system uses a base unit with 1,000s of tiny antennas to transmit power via conventional 2.4GHz radio over multiple pathways to embedded receiving antennas in devices up to 10m away. Ossia has figured out how to project energy in the shape of an antenna out to a precise random point in 3D space, tracking the antenna in 3D space via pings and projecting energy to the last reported location many times per second. And it can also do data transfer of course. Such a technology, when ubiquitous, would be transformative for our devices, homes, and implantables.

7. Basic Mind Reading with EEG Scans
A limited form of mind reading has been demonstrated with EEG scans of people’s brains http://techxplore.com/news/2016-01-decipher-words-mind-spoken.html. People were scanned while thinking about certain words and speaking them aloud, and the pattern of EEG signals was stored in a database. When the people recited the words the researchers determined if they could predict the exact word before it was spoken. With a limited vocabulary the group correctly interpreted up to two seconds beforehand, the words about to be spoken 25% percent of the time, although they achieved 90% if the vocabulary was further limited to Japanese characters or syllables. The group hopes further development will further boost accuracy and building on related work taking place to give us full mind control over devices and a form of technological telepathy in future.

8. More Cheap LIDAR Solutions
Quanergy launched a small compact LIDAR unit for $250 as the start of a roadmap leading to a $100 device in a few years with custom chips and and mobile device integration http://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/sensors/quanergy-solid-state-lidar. This is solid-state LIDAR with no moving parts required to rapidly track a laser over an environment to determine distances, but rather uses a phased optical array - a grid of tiny antennas that can steer laser light passing through it by shifting the phase of the light electronically - to send out 1,000,000 pulses per second at up to 150m range. We’ve seen huge price drops in LIDAR for autonomous vehicles over the years (from $70k) driven by Quanergy and an ecosystem of competitors, which is excellent, but also great to see phased optical array technology being developed; such a thing might power 3D holographic displays in future.

9. Four New Elements for the Periodic Table
Superheavy elements 113, 115, 117, and 118 were officially recognised and added to the periodic table this week, completing the seventh row after waiting for data concerning the existence of the element to be double-checked by an international team http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/four-new-elements-are-added-periodic-table-180957705/?no-ist. The issue of course is that such elements are so heavy and unstable that they only exist for the briefest fractions of a second after being synthesised before decaying again. Personally I’m waiting for element 126 and others with “magic numbers” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_number_(physics) that might be stable enough to be actually useful.

10. New Nanofabrication Tricks
We had a few new interesting nanofabrication tricks this week. First, fabricating silicon nanowires that span ultradeep trenches in silicon, by carving away the silicon block to leave them intact http://phys.org/news/2016-01-fabrication-silicon-nanowires-bridging-thick.html. Second, individual graphene nanoribbons can now be interconnected via a molecular assembly technique to produce larger branched ribbon structures that retain the original properties but which might form circuits in future http://phys.org/news/2016-01-electronically-graphene-nanoribbons-high-speed-electronics.html. Finally, a new 3D printing technique using metal nanoparticles in a solvent can form grids of metal walls 80nm to 500nm thick that might be used as transparent electrodes in touch screens https://www.ethz.ch/en/news-and-events/eth-news/news/2016/01/nanowalls-for-smartphones.html.

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/01/protein-fabrication-moving-brain.html___

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2016-01-08 10:36:32 (1 comments; 4 reshares; 39 +1s)Open 

Latest IFTTT Recipe

Getting occasional bookmarks into Feedly is a pretty important part of my weekly web activity, particularly for remembering cool tech and writing up my weekly digests. My current RSS feeds bring me most of the science and technology news that I want to hear about, but then there is a whole bunch of stuff I find from awesome people on here, Play Newsstand, and other places that I sometimes wouldn't otherwise see and want / need to save for later.

I've been using Delicious and the Delicious Chrome extension to do this for years: (i) find cool scitech article, (ii) click Delicious browser extension, (iii) click tag, (iv) click save, (v) article bookmarked and saved to Delicious, (vi) article appears in Feedly via Delicious RSS feed, (vii) review later as needed.

But recently Delicious seem to have broken or switched off their RSS account... more »

Latest IFTTT Recipe

Getting occasional bookmarks into Feedly is a pretty important part of my weekly web activity, particularly for remembering cool tech and writing up my weekly digests. My current RSS feeds bring me most of the science and technology news that I want to hear about, but then there is a whole bunch of stuff I find from awesome people on here, Play Newsstand, and other places that I sometimes wouldn't otherwise see and want / need to save for later.

I've been using Delicious and the Delicious Chrome extension to do this for years: (i) find cool scitech article, (ii) click Delicious browser extension, (iii) click tag, (iv) click save, (v) article bookmarked and saved to Delicious, (vi) article appears in Feedly via Delicious RSS feed, (vii) review later as needed.

But recently Delicious seem to have broken or switched off their RSS account feeds of this type, and so I'd been saving these articles and forgetting about them because they no longer appeared in Feedly.

Tinkering with IFTTT (If This Then That; www.ifttt.com) offered a cool new solution. Everyone who's used IFTTT knows that it is awesome and if you haven't had a play you should go do so. I've had a couple of active recipes automating a couple of minor things for years now but it is always a service that I intended to dive into and explore more.

The solution I found simply required me to install and use the Pocket Chrome extension rather than Delicious. Now when I have a cool article from a site for which I don't want the full RSS feed I simply: (i) tap the Pocket extension button, (ii) article automatically saved to Pocket, (iii) IFTTT automatically grabs the new Pocket entry the next time it checks, (iv) IFTTT automatically places the entry into Feedly "Saved for later" list, which I will most definitely see and review during the week and otherwise. This actually takes less time overall on my part compared to the old Delicious system. And all without the hassle of adding the full RSS feed that might have 95% of content I don't care about. ___

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2016-01-07 13:45:42 (0 comments; 3 reshares; 30 +1s)Open 

Inherent Adaptability: The Trait Driving Success & Survival

This is quite a good HBR article https://hbr.org/2015/06/the-self-tuning-enterprise discussing the key traits and characteristics of some of the most successful modern companies including Google, Netflix, Amazon, and with a more detailed look at Alibaba. The old cliche of change being the only constant is true today more than ever, and in such a rapidly changing environment only those who are able to naturally adapt will evolve and thrive. One of the main keys of this adaptability leading to success is a willingness and commitment to continually experiment and accept - and move on from - failure.

There are interesting lessons here for my own current profession and I'm left wondering about the future; especially the growth of blockchains and implementations like Ethereum powering proposed entities like... more »

Inherent Adaptability: The Trait Driving Success & Survival

This is quite a good HBR article https://hbr.org/2015/06/the-self-tuning-enterprise discussing the key traits and characteristics of some of the most successful modern companies including Google, Netflix, Amazon, and with a more detailed look at Alibaba. The old cliche of change being the only constant is true today more than ever, and in such a rapidly changing environment only those who are able to naturally adapt will evolve and thrive. One of the main keys of this adaptability leading to success is a willingness and commitment to continually experiment and accept - and move on from - failure.

There are interesting lessons here for my own current profession and I'm left wondering about the future; especially the growth of blockchains and implementations like Ethereum powering proposed entities like Decentralised Autonomous Corporations - entities that could theoretically adapt and evolve very quickly with regard to human resource allocation.

A few interesting quotes

Something interesting is emerging: a way for organizations to apply algorithmic principles to make frequent, calibrated adjustments to their business models, resource allocation processes, and structures—without direction from the top.

Self-tuning is related to the concepts of agility (rapid adjustment), adaptation (learning through trial and error), and ambidexterity (balancing exploration and exploitation).

Embrace change. In the information era change is the best equilibrium. No single organization structure is perfect and can solve all problems.

The approach leaves more room for innovations to bubble up from the market, as opposed to being pushed down from the top of the organization. Leadership in effect stops managing something that is better left to a market-driven mechanism.
___

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2016-01-07 11:31:20 (34 comments; 21 reshares; 53 +1s)Open 

Cognitive Fallacies and Self Delusions

Handy little resource summarising the main biases that our all-too-human brains are subject to; superficially useful cognitive traits that possibly conveyed a fitness advantage back in the day but that now work to hinder our attempts at rational thought and logical consideration. While you can't yet fight your neurological hard-wiring, forewarned is forearmed with these cognitive pitfalls.

Via - http://www.businessinsider.com.au/cognitive-biases-that-affect-decisions-2015-8 

EDIT: Additional link to Wikipedia's list of cognitive biases here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases 

Cognitive Fallacies and Self Delusions

Handy little resource summarising the main biases that our all-too-human brains are subject to; superficially useful cognitive traits that possibly conveyed a fitness advantage back in the day but that now work to hinder our attempts at rational thought and logical consideration. While you can't yet fight your neurological hard-wiring, forewarned is forearmed with these cognitive pitfalls.

Via - http://www.businessinsider.com.au/cognitive-biases-that-affect-decisions-2015-8 

EDIT: Additional link to Wikipedia's list of cognitive biases here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases ___

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2016-01-06 12:18:47 (2 comments; 5 reshares; 54 +1s)Open 

Simple Geometry and Unexpected Complexity

This is a cool little video from Numberphile simply demonstrating the superposition of identical and slightly scaled random and ordered patterns of dots on one another and then performing simple geometric transformations to demonstrate unexpected results.

For example, in the random dots case it appears as though a small motion of the random pattern produces a fast motion of what I refer to as quasiparticles, stable structures within the pattern of random superimposed dots. Also interesting is it seems our visual system can only pick out these correlations within certain bounds; when he rescales the image to 0.96 of the original he notes that you can't go too far below that or the super-patterns are lost.

And in the regular dot example, the superposition produces an alternative lattice that, under a simple geometric... more »

Simple Geometry and Unexpected Complexity

This is a cool little video from Numberphile simply demonstrating the superposition of identical and slightly scaled random and ordered patterns of dots on one another and then performing simple geometric transformations to demonstrate unexpected results.

For example, in the random dots case it appears as though a small motion of the random pattern produces a fast motion of what I refer to as quasiparticles, stable structures within the pattern of random superimposed dots. Also interesting is it seems our visual system can only pick out these correlations within certain bounds; when he rescales the image to 0.96 of the original he notes that you can't go too far below that or the super-patterns are lost.

And in the regular dot example, the superposition produces an alternative lattice that, under a simple geometric rotation, creates a superlattice set at 45 degrees that simply scales and doesn't rotate. Simple but fascinating.

For me this brings to mind holograms, with different images appearing when viewed from different angles and all from a 2D surface. This in turn brings to mind holographic Universe theories with particles (~quasiparticles) only appearing to be "real." Then the quasiparticles that arise during the simple geometric transformations, that appear to move faster than the underlying pattern is capable of moving, brings to mind entangled particles and tachyons. Then I wonder if such simple geometric transformations are telling us something about the fundamental nature of the Universe or have some underlying role to play. Finally I think No, probably just the associative machinery in my brain going into overdrive and throwing up connections between things about which it doesn't know enough about.

Thanks +Fred Gandt for the OP and my subsequent twisted musings / associations! ___

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2016-01-05 13:24:47 (5 comments; 7 reshares; 29 +1s)Open 

Brain as a Prediction Machine & Guessing Engine

Short article introducing a recent theory or model of the brain as a prediction machine, tying in the looping recurrent neural network architecture, sensitivity to perceptual surprises, and positing a basis for how self consciousness might have naturally arose. I'm considering grabbing the author's (Andy Clark) new book Surfing Uncertainty to explore these ideas and the research in more detail. Some choice quotes are:

To visually perceive the scene in front of you, your brain attempts to predict the scene in front of you, allowing the ensuing error signals to refine its guessing until a kind of equilibrium is achieved.

A system that has learnt to predict and expect its own evolving flows of sensory activity in this way is one that is already positioned to imagine its world. For the self-same prediction... more »

Fascinating read. I'd like to see his thoughts on how our brains' predictive machinery could work in tandem with its analogy machinery to create true intelligence.___Brain as a Prediction Machine & Guessing Engine

Short article introducing a recent theory or model of the brain as a prediction machine, tying in the looping recurrent neural network architecture, sensitivity to perceptual surprises, and positing a basis for how self consciousness might have naturally arose. I'm considering grabbing the author's (Andy Clark) new book Surfing Uncertainty to explore these ideas and the research in more detail. Some choice quotes are:

To visually perceive the scene in front of you, your brain attempts to predict the scene in front of you, allowing the ensuing error signals to refine its guessing until a kind of equilibrium is achieved.

A system that has learnt to predict and expect its own evolving flows of sensory activity in this way is one that is already positioned to imagine its world. For the self-same prediction machinery can also be run ‘offline’, generating the kinds of neuronal activity that would be expected (predicted) in some imaginary situation.

Are human motivations (e.g. for play, novelty, and pleasure) best understood as disguised predictions – deep-seated expectations that there will be play, novelty, and pleasure?

Thanks +Jesse Powell for the OP.

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2016-01-05 11:04:20 (7 comments; 2 reshares; 51 +1s)Open 

Winner for 2015 Nikon Small World in Motion Competition

This video won the competition, showing one type of ciliate feeding on another ciliate and is utterly fascinating. Thanks to +Corina Marinescu for her earlier share but this video is definitely my favourite. Just seeing the big cell find and consume the other in such a basic and primordial fashion, forming a type of primitive on-the-spot "stomach" after sucking in the prey with it's "mouth" is amazing.

Ciliates are a type of single-celled protozoan organism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciliate and this method of devouring another cell is typically known as phagocytosis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phagocytosis, which is a similar mechanism to how some of your white blood cells attack, consume, and remove bacteria and other invaders.

The full list of entries for the 2015 Nikon Small... more »

Winner for 2015 Nikon Small World in Motion Competition

This video won the competition, showing one type of ciliate feeding on another ciliate and is utterly fascinating. Thanks to +Corina Marinescu for her earlier share but this video is definitely my favourite. Just seeing the big cell find and consume the other in such a basic and primordial fashion, forming a type of primitive on-the-spot "stomach" after sucking in the prey with it's "mouth" is amazing.

Ciliates are a type of single-celled protozoan organism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciliate and this method of devouring another cell is typically known as phagocytosis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phagocytosis, which is a similar mechanism to how some of your white blood cells attack, consume, and remove bacteria and other invaders.

The full list of entries for the 2015 Nikon Small World in Motion Competition can be found here: http://www.nikonsmallworld.com/galleries/swim/2015-small-world-in-motion-competition and if you have limited time Ralph Grimm's entry for the feeding rotifer is worth a watch, another that I found morbidly fascinating. ___

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2016-01-03 10:19:37 (9 comments; 32 reshares; 77 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 01/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/01/crispr-in-adults-cheap-genome.html

Short week for the first week and holiday week.
CRISPR in adults, Cheap genome sequencing, Better brain algorithms, Intracellular chips, Smartphone 3D scanning. 

1. CRISPR Corrects Genetic Defect in Adult Animal
CRISPR has been packaged into an adeno-associated virus (AAV) delivery vector for the first time to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy in mice http://today.duke.edu/2015/12/crisprmousedmd. One of the key advances here was using a different CRISPR system from another bacterial species that was smaller and able to fit inside the virus. The therapy worked for both direct injection into muscles and also, most importantly, injection into the bloodstream that resulted in some correction of muscles throughout the... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 01/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/01/crispr-in-adults-cheap-genome.html

Short week for the first week and holiday week.
CRISPR in adults, Cheap genome sequencing, Better brain algorithms, Intracellular chips, Smartphone 3D scanning. 

1. CRISPR Corrects Genetic Defect in Adult Animal
CRISPR has been packaged into an adeno-associated virus (AAV) delivery vector for the first time to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy in mice http://today.duke.edu/2015/12/crisprmousedmd. One of the key advances here was using a different CRISPR system from another bacterial species that was smaller and able to fit inside the virus. The therapy worked for both direct injection into muscles and also, most importantly, injection into the bloodstream that resulted in some correction of muscles throughout the body including the heart. Perhaps multiple rounds might increase percentage of cell coverage each time, and engineering or evolving larger AAVs able to deliver larger payloads would also be advantageous. Such an advance is as important for disease as it is for enhancements. 

2. Genome Sequencing for $330
Full Genomes is a company now offering possibly the cheapest ever genome sequencing services and using conventional Illumina DNA sequencing platforms http://nextbigfuture.com/2016/01/whole-genome-sequencing-for-330.html. $330 is the cheapest rate with interpretation, but up to $1,600 orr so will get you 30-fold coverage of your genome for much better accuracy; the final DNA sequence file is about 50GB in size. This is a pretty impressive price and one that is becoming sorely tempting; I wonder what the price will be in five years and also how many hundreds of times I’ll be sequenced in a couple of decades?

3. Brain Architecture and Abstract Thought
New Big Data analysis pulling together 20 years of fMRI data has resulted in a new geometry-based method for understanding human thought and cognition https://www.umass.edu/newsoffice/article/how-brain-architecture-leads-abstract. The analysis showed that an agglomeration of many different cortical areas give rise to cognitive function and abstract thought, showing a basic operational paradigm of cognition that consists of certain hierarchies. The group expect the new geometric algorithm to be a very useful data science tool moving forward and will also help with the design of next generation neural networks and deep learning systems; they are using the new approach to make a massively recurrent deep learning network for a more brain-like and superior learning AI.

4. Inserting Chips Into Cells
Multiplexed silicon planar arrays have been reduced in size by a factor of a billion, producing devices that measure just three micrometers on a side and which are able to be inserted into individual cells, taking up just 0.35% of the cell volume, and allowing multiple tests and analysis on individual cells http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=42212.php. These chips can be functionalised and interrogated via confocal laser scanning microscopy to determine various physicochemical intracellular parameters. I wonder what other functions and logic we’ll building into intracellular chips like this?

5. 3D Scanning via Smartphone
A new image capture method using structured lighting on an object and novel algorithms allow simple devices like smartphones to perform high-quality 3D depth-scanning and produce 3D images and models http://www.kurzweilai.net/algorithm-turns-smartphones-into-3-d-scanners. The key innovation here is that the algorithms can work without needing the camera to be synchronised to the source of the structured light patterns being projected onto the object. Closer and closer to cheap ubiquitous 3D scanning capabilities. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/01/crispr-in-adults-cheap-genome.html___

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2016-01-03 00:14:59 (9 comments; 9 reshares; 160 +1s)Open 

Laser-Cut Sheet Metal
Clever little secret-santa / kris-kringle gift I received; needle-nose pliers required for construction. 

Laser-Cut Sheet Metal
Clever little secret-santa / kris-kringle gift I received; needle-nose pliers required for construction. ___

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2016-01-02 07:25:23 (12 comments; 9 reshares; 81 +1s)Open 

Wide Angle Setting in Google Camera

The Google Camera App on your phone is a pretty powerful application with some interesting, and I'm guessing under-utilised, options. While travelling in the USA I experimented with the wide-angle image capture setting available in the "Panorama" option under the hamburger menu. Instead of presenting a series of horizontal dots to line up as you track sideways to capture a conventional panorama the "third" option offers a wide-angle mode for you to line up nine dots, capturing nine overlapping images of the same scene that the app then stitches together to create a wide-angle image for you. 

The images here show the results you get for indoors, night time, and day time as well as comparisons between the wide-angle image and the standard shot from the same spot. There is also a screen capture of the wide-angle option on... more »

Wide Angle Setting in Google Camera

The Google Camera App on your phone is a pretty powerful application with some interesting, and I'm guessing under-utilised, options. While travelling in the USA I experimented with the wide-angle image capture setting available in the "Panorama" option under the hamburger menu. Instead of presenting a series of horizontal dots to line up as you track sideways to capture a conventional panorama the "third" option offers a wide-angle mode for you to line up nine dots, capturing nine overlapping images of the same scene that the app then stitches together to create a wide-angle image for you. 

The images here show the results you get for indoors, night time, and day time as well as comparisons between the wide-angle image and the standard shot from the same spot. There is also a screen capture of the wide-angle option on the phone in case you have trouble finding that setting. The fourth option in the "Panorama" setting is for fish-eye images, which you can also experiment with. 

What do you think? Has anyone else played with these "hidden" panorama options? ___

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2015-12-27 07:55:37 (14 comments; 32 reshares; 84 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 52/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/12/spacex-rocket-success-cheaper-dna.html
Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to all from SciTech Digest! 

SpaceX rocket success, Seabed mining robots, Cheaper DNA synthesis, Machine learning projects, Boosting brain cleaning, Electron beam nanofabrication, Optoelectronic chips, Intelligence gene networks, Plant virus vs cancer, Protein self assembly. 

1. SpaceX Successfully Lands Reusable Falcon 9 Rocket
In easily the biggest news of the week SpaceX successfully landed its reusable Falcon 9 rocket after launching 11 communications satellites into orbit http://www.space.com/31420-spacex-rocket-landing-success.html. After two prior landing failures and a launch failure this milestone is a welcome, if not entirely unexpected, demonstration. It marks thef... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 52/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/12/spacex-rocket-success-cheaper-dna.html
Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to all from SciTech Digest! 

SpaceX rocket success, Seabed mining robots, Cheaper DNA synthesis, Machine learning projects, Boosting brain cleaning, Electron beam nanofabrication, Optoelectronic chips, Intelligence gene networks, Plant virus vs cancer, Protein self assembly. 

1. SpaceX Successfully Lands Reusable Falcon 9 Rocket
In easily the biggest news of the week SpaceX successfully landed its reusable Falcon 9 rocket after launching 11 communications satellites into orbit http://www.space.com/31420-spacex-rocket-landing-success.html. After two prior landing failures and a launch failure this milestone is a welcome, if not entirely unexpected, demonstration. It marks the first time an orbital rocket has delivered a payload into orbit and returned to Earth unscathed and ready for refurbishment and relaunch. Further tests to replicate the feat and build on the capability will result in drastic reductions in the cost of ferrying mass to space and help usher in new space-based applications and capabilities for our species. 

2. Robots that Mine the Seabed
The first deep sea seabed mining robots have been developed and will be tested throughout 2016-17 until the arrival of their first deployment and processing ship, which is currently under construction http://spectrum.ieee.org/robotics/industrial-robots/seabedmining-robots-will-dig-for-gold-in-hydrothermal-vents. After ripping up ore from the seafloor dredge pumps carry the rock to the surface where the deployment ship removes the water and transfers the ore to another ship for transport to China for processing (I do wonder if this step can ever be co-located with the main ocean operations). Over 30 months the robots will bring up 2.5 million tons of ore with metals worth $1.5 billion. 

3. DNA Synthesis Races to the Bottom
New start-up companies are developing technology to manufacture and synthesise DNA sequences faster and cheaper than ever http://spectrum.ieee.org/biomedical/devices/dna-manufacturing-enters-the-age-of-mass-production. A key part of this trend is increasing automation of the synthesis process with one example being an automated synthesis process taking part in each of the 10,000 tiny etched 600-nm wells adoring a new silicon synthesis chip that is fabricated with standard photolithography processes and will start providing customers with DNA at 10 cents per base pair but aiming for 2 cents in the foreseeable future. While cheap synthesis doesn’t help quite so much once you have a desired cell and application, cheap synthesis does help greatly with rapid iteration, accelerated experimentation, and distributed development. 

4. Big Week for Machine Learning Applications
First, a new machine learning system based on new object-recognition algorithms that more closely resemble how the human brain recognises objects requires only a few exposures rather than millions http://news.mit.edu/2015/algorithms-recognize-objects-few-examples-1223. Second, computers are being taught via human crowdteaching how to successfully tackle difficult driving tasks, and this might open up similar avenues to teach robots etc how to master other non-trivial tasks http://www.technologyreview.com/view/544926/ai-machine-learns-to-drive-using-crowdteaching/. Third, SegNet is a new system able to run on a normal camera or smartphone able to efficiently and quickly identify location, orientation, and various components in the scene ahead to better empower autonomous vehicles http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/teaching-machines-to-see-new-smartphone-based-system-could-accelerate-development-of-driverless-cars. Finally, a new deep-learning algorithm can predict an images memorability at near-human levels https://www.csail.mit.edu/memnet_photo_memorability. 

5. Boosting Brain Cleaning System Boosts Cognition
Rolipram, a drug originally developed in the 1990s but which never made it to market due to nausea-inducing side effects, has been found to rescue and activate the proteasomes in neurons and helps to boost cognition in mouse models http://newsroom.cumc.columbia.edu/blog/2015/12/21/improving-brains-garbage-disposal-may-slow-alzheimers-disease/. The proteasome is an enzyme that degrades old proteins for recycling and its inactivity is involved in neurodegenerative diseases characterised by a buildup of old toxic proteins; better, safer drugs and other interventions building on this work will be attractive options for treating Alzheimers, Parkinsons, and Huntingtons Disease, as well as helping to generally rejuvenate cells and tissues throughout the body. 

6. Electron Beam 3D Nanofabrication
A liquid rather than gaseous precursor has helped speed up electron beam 3D nanofabrication by up to 5,000 times, finally helping to scale this promising technology http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/nanotechnology/electron-beam-nanofabrication-made-up-to-five-thousand-times-faster. The proof of concept demonstrated micrometer-tall nanopillars and suspended 3D nanostructures; the new technique and new precursors should allow for the rapid development and fabrication of electrode surfaces for batteries and fuel cells, vertically-stacked electronic memory, novel substrates for cell manipulation, and nano-micro-scale electrochemical conversion devices. 

7. Latest Optoelectronic Computer Chips
Optical interconnects in integrated circuits have been a long time coming but this latest effort sees genuine commercial scale integrated circuits built using existing microchip fabrication facilities and processes that incorporate new photonic / optoelectronic interconnects; the transistors compute information conventionally but the chip uses light to move information around the chip much more efficiently http://news.mit.edu/2015/optoelectronic-microprocessors-chip-manufacturing-1223. The demonstration chip has 70 million transistors and 850 optical components and is capable of the functionality required of a typical commercial chip, and with a relatively clear path to get to the billion transistor scale needed for modern chips. Lots of interesting materials and chip design innovation here. 

8. Gene Networks Linked to Human Intelligence
A Big Data analysis of gene expression profiles from human brain samples, genomic information from both healthy people who had completed IQ tests and also those with neurological disorders has identified two gene networks, each with hundreds of genes, that significantly influence intelligence and cognitive function in the human brain http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_22-12-2015-10-13-44. Both networks appear to be under the control of master regulator switches that the group are now seeking to identify. The group hopes the knowledge gained will help in the development of treatments for neurological disorders and also powerful enhancers for healthy cognitive function. 

9. Plant Virus Clears Mammalian Cancer Cells
Turns out that the shells of common plant viruses (that have had their DNA removed) induce significant immune responses against cancer cells in mice http://phys.org/news/2015-12-simple-shell-virus-immune-response.html. This demonstration was successful in lung tumours when the viral shells were inhaled and also when injected into ovarian, colon, or breast tumours, in all cases igniting immune responses to clear the tumours and protect the animal against systemic metastases. Such in-situ vaccinations are a 100 year old idea and in this case proved to be a very effective switch in activating the immune system to recognise and destroy the tumour cells - essentially a biological adjuvant. 

10. Structural Nanotechnology: Protein Sheets & Shells
Bacterial proteins have been observed self-assembling into sheets, and curved sides of microcompartments as they form for the first time http://phys.org/news/2015-12-nature-masonry-thin-protein-sheets.html. The group observed hexagonal protein subunits with a concave or convex structure joining together to form larger curved structures and modelled the dynamics of this behaviour. It is known that bacteria use such self-assembled protein microcompartments to isolate certain reactions and enzymes; such knowledge might help in the design of artificial microcompartments to perform custom reactions inside cells and other structures. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/12/spacex-rocket-success-cheaper-dna.html___

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2015-12-22 13:43:39 (6 comments; 13 reshares; 91 +1s)Open 

Recent USA Photospheres. 5 Million Google Maps Views. 

With my recent trip to the USA I’ve now captured Photospheres on four different continents: Australia, Europe, Asia, and North America. The images / album below contain just 10 of what I think are some of the most interesting Photospheres I managed to capture in America. The improvements in phone cameras and software mean that most of the panoramas worked pretty well, however I had to spend quite a chunk of time over the weekend manually editing 11 or so images to fix glaring stitching errors; typically those with distant flat horizons that the software still struggles with. 

All Photospheres were uploaded to Google Maps of course, viewable by any and everyone via Streetview Peg-man and the media browser for a particular map region. My Photosphere contributions will soon pass 5 million total views on Google Maps. . more »

Recent USA Photospheres. 5 Million Google Maps Views. 

With my recent trip to the USA I’ve now captured Photospheres on four different continents: Australia, Europe, Asia, and North America. The images / album below contain just 10 of what I think are some of the most interesting Photospheres I managed to capture in America. The improvements in phone cameras and software mean that most of the panoramas worked pretty well, however I had to spend quite a chunk of time over the weekend manually editing 11 or so images to fix glaring stitching errors; typically those with distant flat horizons that the software still struggles with. 

All Photospheres were uploaded to Google Maps of course, viewable by any and everyone via Streetview Peg-man and the media browser for a particular map region. My Photosphere contributions will soon pass 5 million total views on Google Maps. . 

This trip also included a visit to the new One World Trade Center and Photospheres from the 102nd floor observation deck, adding to my list of Photospheres from the observation decks of some of the tallest buildings in the world including Burj Khalifa (Dubai), Kuala Lumpur Tower (Kuala Lumpur), International Commerce Center (Hong Kong), and Eureka Tower (Melbourne). 

Image Summary for this Album

1. Laguna Beach, Los Angeles (from rocks jutting out into the ocean)
2. Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth (from the main hall)
3. Radisson Blu Hotel, Philadelphia (from the main lobby, the hotel we stayed at)
4. Times Square, New York (from the northern end)
5. Rockefeller Plaza, New York (from the plaque near the ice skating rink)
6. St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York (from the middle of the cathedral between the pews)
7. One World Trade Centre Observation Deck, New York (looking east over Downtown and the Brooklyn Bridge, glimpse my reflection in the glass)
8. 9/11 Memorial, New York (next to the memorial, beneath One World Trade)
9. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (from one of the main halls)
10. Top of the Rock, New York (from the top of the Rockefeller Building open-air observation deck at night)

Click and pan around. All best viewed fullscreen. 

Accessing My Complete Photosphere Collection

These are just 10 interesting Photospheres I thought I’d share for this post; there are many others that I would have liked to have shared from Los Angeles, Fort Worth, Philadelphia and New York and which are worth viewing. They really do capture some amazing spaces and interesting places for those wanting to walk along the Laguna Beach beaches and coast, Santa Monica Pier, Hollywood Hills, Fort Worth Galleries, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Philadelphia Museum of Art (Rocky steps!), New York High Line, other MET Galleries, Central Park, Statue of Liberty, and other views from various observation decks. 

Google Maps

A complete listing of every single Photosphere I’ve ever taken, including the above, that is public on Goolge Maps can be found here via my Google Maps contributor listing. Simply keep scrolling and click the panel on the left: https://www.google.com/maps/contrib/115624860057949518963/photos/ 

Google Photos

Alternatively these Photospheres are also available via my dedicated public Google Photos albums. The current “working” album, from April 2014 until now can be found here, although to see the USA entries you’ll have to scroll towards the bottom: https://goo.gl/photos/aXFz7rDug2qS5ZNo6 

Photospheres older than this date, e.g. all of those from Europe, etc, can be found via this album: https://goo.gl/photos/MUiXHv19GUtjhgvP9 

Note on Editing Improvements

After editing a Photosphere to correct glaring stitching errors I’d usually have to upload to this site http://photo-sphere.appspot.com/ in order to add the metadata required by image viewers to correctly display Photospheres. But this tool has now been discontinued by Google and is no longer available. I took a chance and fortunately this seems to be handled by the Google Streetview App on Android. Simply (i) transferring the editing Photosphere to my phone’s DCIM/Camera or Pictures/Panorama folder then (ii) opening the Google Streetview App and tapping “+” for new Photosphere then “Import photospheres” adds the edited files to the Private area of the App, then (iii) Open the image and tap publish - the metadata must have been added as the images now upload to Google Maps just fine, complete with correct (and editable) GPS coordinates and displaying correctly in viewers. 

#photosphere   #googlemaps   #googlestreetview  ___

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2015-12-21 10:55:34 (7 comments; 7 reshares; 88 +1s)Open 

Cool New Tiny Planet Images

I wanted to share just three of the 98 new Tiny Planet images that I made yesterday from the panoramic photospheres that I captured during my time in the USA. Tiny Planet images are made when a photosphere is “squashed” down onto a disk to give a different, interesting, and in my opinion sometimes beautiful projection of the same scene. 

You used to be able to make these in the old Android Gallery App pretty easily, but when that was discontinued the functionality could still be found buried in the Google Camera App in which you could swipe from the viewfinder to scroll through your gallery, tap an image for basic editing tools and if it was a photosphere one of those tools would produce a Tiny Planet image. This functionality was removed with the latest Google Camera update however, other apps I tried produced images with terrible resolution,and ... more »

Cool New Tiny Planet Images

I wanted to share just three of the 98 new Tiny Planet images that I made yesterday from the panoramic photospheres that I captured during my time in the USA. Tiny Planet images are made when a photosphere is “squashed” down onto a disk to give a different, interesting, and in my opinion sometimes beautiful projection of the same scene. 

You used to be able to make these in the old Android Gallery App pretty easily, but when that was discontinued the functionality could still be found buried in the Google Camera App in which you could swipe from the viewfinder to scroll through your gallery, tap an image for basic editing tools and if it was a photosphere one of those tools would produce a Tiny Planet image. This functionality was removed with the latest Google Camera update however, other apps I tried produced images with terrible resolution, and so I managed to find a little piece of desktop software called nomacs (http://nomacs.org/) produced by the Computer Vision Group at the University of Vienna that seems to do a great job. 

I also used this to make some Tiny Tunnel images for the first time, which produced some striking results at times. Tiny Tunnels essentially invert the projection, applying the Tiny Planet algorithms to a panoramic photosphere that has been flipped upside down. 

The other 95 Tiny Planet images can be found at the end of this album https://goo.gl/photos/i4ecAscortpA5yeS8, which includes all 614 Tiny Planet images that I have ever created. 

The three images here include:

1. Santa Monica Pier (Tiny Planet)

2. Times Square (Tiny Planet)

3. St Patrick's Cathedral (Tiny Tunnel, to capture the cross)

EDIT:
Seems as though the Times Square and St Patrick's Cathedral images are handled differently by the Google+ viewer: If the image auto-pans and looks weird, hover over image and click the photosphere icon to view the static, normal image. The Santa Monica Pier one looks fine. Opening the link to the main Google Photos Tiny Planet Album and finding these (towards bottom) and any others causes them to be displayed normally when clicked. 

#tinyplanet   #photosphere   #tinytunnel  ___

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2015-12-20 07:52:13 (17 comments; 27 reshares; 65 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 51/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/12/improved-optogenetics-channels-new.html

Improved optogenetics channels, Cheaper transparent films, New senolytic drugs, Omnidirectional solar cells, Smallest neural LEDs, Direct bionic vision, Printing reactive materials, Soft hydraulic robots, Turning brain on-off, Smart textiles. 

1. Improved Optogenetics Channels
KR2 is a cell membrane channel protein that has been characterised that specifically transports or pumps sodium ions in response to light http://phys.org/news/2015-12-biophysicists-key-feature-accurate-tool.html. Most current ion pumps used in optogenetics applications are somewhat non-specific and allow the passage of more than one ion in response to light; using specific ion pumps for sodium (that neurons use anyway) should offer finer,... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 51/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/12/improved-optogenetics-channels-new.html

Improved optogenetics channels, Cheaper transparent films, New senolytic drugs, Omnidirectional solar cells, Smallest neural LEDs, Direct bionic vision, Printing reactive materials, Soft hydraulic robots, Turning brain on-off, Smart textiles. 

1. Improved Optogenetics Channels
KR2 is a cell membrane channel protein that has been characterised that specifically transports or pumps sodium ions in response to light http://phys.org/news/2015-12-biophysicists-key-feature-accurate-tool.html. Most current ion pumps used in optogenetics applications are somewhat non-specific and allow the passage of more than one ion in response to light; using specific ion pumps for sodium (that neurons use anyway) should offer finer, better control and so result in better optogenetics applications for switching neurons and neural networks on and off. The insights gained from the study should also help in the design of specific light-driven-pumps for potassium, another key signalling ion for neurons. 

2. Cheaper, More Abundant Materials for Transparent Metal Films
Ten nanometer thin films of new correlated metals strontium vanadate and calcium vanadate have electrons that flow like a liquid instead of a gas and results in high conductivity and high optical transparency http://news.psu.edu/story/385212/2015/12/15/research/transparent-metal-films-smartphone-tablet-and-tv-displays. These properties make the new materials key candidates to replace the very expensive and rare indium-tin-oxide material that is the current standard for transparent displays in electronic devices; strontium and vanadium for example are much more abundant and cheap. Strontium vanadate is also a perovskite and shows promise as a solar cell material. Insights from the study should lead to the design of many other correlated metal materials. 

3. Senolytic Drug Kills Senescent Cells
A molecule originally developed as an anti-cancer drug has proven to be very effective in depleting and clearing senescent cells and senescent stem cells from both normally aged and prematurely aged mice, and treatment for which resulted in rejuvenation of the mice and their tissue stem cells https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/12/news-of-another-potential-family-of-senolytic-drugs-for-clearance-of-senescent-cells-in-aging.php. The drug has side effects however, which include toxically low platelet levels and a compromised immune system. Still promising work and we need more like it further studies might (i) go the conventional drug development route to identify a modified molecule that retains efficacy while reducing side effects, or (ii) identify the mechanism of action and so allow that mechanism to be targeted in a different, safer manner. 

4. Omnidirectional Self-Cleaning Solar Cells
A nanostructured glass coating on silicon solar cells helps the solar cell harvest sunlight from multiple angles, and facilitating boosts in efficiency by an additional 5% to 27% http://phys.org/news/2015-12-solar-cells.html. The surface also exhibited self-cleaning properties and worked to repel dust and water for extended periods and maintaining optimum efficiency levels for the six week test period. Interesting, seems simple enough, silica glass on silicon cells seems straightforward, but no word on the ability to mass produce. 

5. Smallest Neural LEDs
The smallest implantable LEDs ever made have been built and tested in optogenetically engineered mice as neural probes that can control and record the activity of many individual neurons http://ns.umich.edu/new/multimedia/videos/23358-mapping-the-brain-probes-with-tiny-leds-shed-light-on-neural-pathways. Each probe contains 12 LEDs and 32 electrodes, with each LED being as small as a neuronal cell body and the group claim that their probes can activate and record the activity at the individual neuron level. Partnered with the improved optogenetics channels from #1 above, applications for this field in future - and some of the most fantastic technologies envisaged by Sci-Fi authors - are starting to look pretty exciting and achievable. 

6. Direct-to-Brain Bionic Vision
In related news, in 2016 an Australian patient will be the first to receive a bionic eye that bypasses the eye to directly feed signals into the visual cortex of the brain https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22830521-700-bionic-eye-will-send-images-direct-to-the-brain-to-restore-sight/. The patient will be implanted with 11 tiles each containing 43 electrodes, and interfacing with specific areas of the visual cortex; experiments suggest that each electrode should stimulate a flash of light in the visual field equivalent to a pixel, and enough to provide a 500 pixel visual field. A head-worn camera will send imagery to a processor carried by the patient, which will feed relevant signals to the implants in order to restore crude but useful vision. 

7. 3D Printing Reactive Materials and Rockets
Chemically reactive materials can now be 3D printed after a demonstration in which a composite film of thermite nanoparticles was printed in precise structures on top of a conductive electrode https://www.llnl.gov/news/researchers-3d-print-reactive-materials. Thermites, used for example in fireworks, are typically random mixtures but this new method allows precise geometries to be made out of the materials to control the reactions that result in novel and useful ways. And NASA demonstrated a functional rocket engine in which 75% of the components were 3D printed http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/news/releases/2015/piece-by-piece-nasa-team-moves-closer-to-building-a-3-d-printed-rocket-engine.html. Aside from being independently cool this begs the question as to whether entire basic rockets could be printed with thermite fuel in one go. 

8. Soft Hydraulic Robots
In related 3D printing news a new 3D printing method and materials allows hydraulically-powered systems and robots to be fabricated in a single print run by using multiple materials to lay down support, flexible, and rigid structures as well as the liquid required to move the device http://www.technologyreview.com/view/544766/how-to-3-d-print-a-hydraulic-powered-robot/. The group has outlined how anyone can do this with a guide to fabricating complex functional multi-part robotic assemblies powered by hydraulic transmissions. In related news magnetic nanoparticle chains offer another interesting method for controlling soft flexible robots https://news.ncsu.edu/2015/12/tracy-chains-2015/. 

9. Lasers Turn Brain Activity On and Off
A very thorough and comprehensive study intervening in the thalamus in a frequency-dependent manner is enough to dramatically alter the activity and alertness levels of higher brain regions https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2015/12/scientists-reveal-brain-circuit-mechanisms-underlying-arousal.html. The work was facilitated by rats engineered with optogenetic light-sensitive switches in different brain circuits, and switching these circuits on and off with different wavelength laser light. Stimulating the brain circuits with laser pulses at 10 Hz caused a suppression of activity and alertness in higher brain regions, recordings of which resembled sleep or unconsciousness, while stimulation with 40 or 100 Hz boosted activity and alertness in the same higher brain regions, to the extent of instantly waking sleeping rats up to full alertness. This is a pretty powerful study with wide implications for deep-brain-stimulation and brain implants in general, also locked-in and minimally-conscious patients, and finally cognitive performance boosts and hacks in future. 

10. Latest Smart Textiles
A range of smart textile technologies are starting to mature aiming to fulfil the promise of smart clothing in coming years http://www.kurzweilai.net/when-wearable-electronics-devices-disappear-into-clothes. Examples include (i) Athos making smart workout clothes to track muscles, heart, and breathing rates, (ii) new flexible wire supercapacitors that can be woven into fabrics to provide convenient and higher capacity energy storage, and (iii) new textiles with embedded wiring and electronic sensors that are able to transmit data wirelessly while withstanding washing. Still might be a while before most people can get their hands on such clothing options however. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/12/improved-optogenetics-channels-new.html___

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2015-12-18 10:48:01 (23 comments; 25 reshares; 123 +1s)Open 

When Physics Becomes Unanswerable & Unscientific
A couple of fascinating articles with implications for fundamental physics, the knowability of reality, and philosophy of science. 

Godel and Physical Incompleteness

For the first time ever calculations have shown a concrete example of Godel's incompleteness theorems in the real world. Turing was the first to reformulate Godel's work into algorithms that can be run on a Turing Machine, and show that some of these algorithms would be unanswerable. This more recent work involved calculating the spectral gap between the lowest and next-lowest energy levels that electrons can occupy in a material. For an infinite lattice it turns out it is impossible to know whether the gap exists; it is unanswerable and undecidable. Even though there is no such thing as an infinite lattice in the physical Universe, it is... more »

When Physics Becomes Unanswerable & Unscientific
A couple of fascinating articles with implications for fundamental physics, the knowability of reality, and philosophy of science. 

Godel and Physical Incompleteness

For the first time ever calculations have shown a concrete example of Godel's incompleteness theorems in the real world. Turing was the first to reformulate Godel's work into algorithms that can be run on a Turing Machine, and show that some of these algorithms would be unanswerable. This more recent work involved calculating the spectral gap between the lowest and next-lowest energy levels that electrons can occupy in a material. For an infinite lattice it turns out it is impossible to know whether the gap exists; it is unanswerable and undecidable. Even though there is no such thing as an infinite lattice in the physical Universe, it is provably impossible to know whether there is a point within a finite lattice at which the spectral gap changes. Turns out there are other problems in physics that might behave in the same way and also be unanswerable in principle. 

An interesting result and implications to think about, although I wonder about the usual caveats when dealing with infinities. 

http://www.nature.com/news/paradox-at-the-heart-of-mathematics-makes-physics-problem-unanswerable-1.18983

The Increasingly Unscientific Basis of Modern Physics

Author +Natalie Wolchover produces a characteristically excellent article for Quanta Magazine regarding the departure of modern physics from the scientific method: an obviously big, challenging, and bold claim. But it is not without profound merit. Examples include modern string theory and multiverse hypotheses, which are promoted and believed in by theorists based on notions of beauty and apparent logic . . . despite being impossible to test, impossible to falsify, and thus arguably unscientific. If you were feeling uncharitable and unkind you might refer to such theories as tools for mental masturbation with little utility or relevance for the real world. The recent reaction to such theories was ignited by a recent book claiming that some non-empirical "evidence" can support a theory absent empirical data. Many understandably took this as anathema as there are genuine issues when theory detaches itself from experiment. Questions regarding the nature and meaning of theory, confirmation, and truth are being debated with the goal of agreeing on the best way of doing science. 

As Karl Popper said: if a theory isn't falsifiable then it isn't science. And yet we seem to see the waning of black-white falsification and the rise of Bayesianism's characteristic probabilities. All-in-all a fascinating read with plenty to think about. The interactive "Theories of Everything, Mapped" widget prepared by Quanta is also pretty cool. 

https://www.quantamagazine.org/20151216-physicists-and-philosophers-debate-the-boundaries-of-science/___

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2015-12-17 13:59:47 (34 comments; 27 reshares; 124 +1s)Open 

Space as a Network

Stephen Wolfram's latest article concerns the fundamental nature of spacetime and his search for a simple, ultimate, information-centric theory of the Universe http://blog.stephenwolfram.com/2015/12/what-is-spacetime-really/, and published of course on the 100-year anniversary of Einstein's publication of his General Theory of Relativity.  

Wolfram starts with a basic data structure of space as a network, as a graph of nodes joined by connections, and the features of the Universe arising simply as a result of the evolving pattern of these connections. This assumes that space is discrete of course; something that has not been proved. Regardless, with this assumption in mind, Wolfram shows how performing various mathematical transformations on the network result in Special Relativity, General Relativity, particles, and other oddities of QuantumM... more »

Space as a Network

Stephen Wolfram's latest article concerns the fundamental nature of spacetime and his search for a simple, ultimate, information-centric theory of the Universe http://blog.stephenwolfram.com/2015/12/what-is-spacetime-really/, and published of course on the 100-year anniversary of Einstein's publication of his General Theory of Relativity.  

Wolfram starts with a basic data structure of space as a network, as a graph of nodes joined by connections, and the features of the Universe arising simply as a result of the evolving pattern of these connections. This assumes that space is discrete of course; something that has not been proved. Regardless, with this assumption in mind, Wolfram shows how performing various mathematical transformations on the network result in Special Relativity, General Relativity, particles, and other oddities of Quantum Mechanics "dropping" out of the model. 

We get a hat tip to Einstein and his fondness for wondering whether there was only space in the Universe with particles like electrons simply being blackholes, and also to Kelvin who earlier considered particles as mathematically describable knots in the ether, both of which are interesting historical considerations. 

Time is treated, unsurprisingly given Wolfram's proclivities, in a similar manner to that of cellular automata - as an evolution of the network structure changing as a result of the iterated application of some simple rule or another but which depends crucially on causal invariance to work properly. 

I think this is pretty exciting. From almost nothing, it’s possible to derive Einstein’s Equations. Which means that these simple networks reproduce the features of gravity that we know in current physics. 

This is all speculative of course, and very much a work in progress. But I greatly appreciate genuinely new ways of looking at and modelling the Universe and approaching fundamental questions of existence from a completely different angle compared to the establishment. I feel physics has stagnated for a long while and is in dire need of new directions and new models. 

One of many things I'm left wondering in this case of course is what is the nature of the underlying physical basis of the network? Is physical even the right term? Does this question even mean anything? ___

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2015-12-16 13:18:34 (16 comments; 22 reshares; 123 +1s)Open 

Echopraxia, by Peter Watts

I bought three books to take with me on the trip. Unfortunately I only found time to finish Echopraxia. Fortunately Echopraxia was brilliant. This is the follow-up to Watts’ excellent award-winning earlier book Blindsight, which I loved. Interestingly, while both books are linked and set in the same Universe with the same brooding dark themes, and this latest one is definitely a sequel, they can both be read independently of the other. 

Echopraxia is good hard Sci-Fi with expansive transhumanist themes. The detailed science covers a wide range of fields, including advances both current, near-term, and postulated, and fields including physics, biology, and genetics but with a particular focus or fondness for psychology, cognitive science, and consciousness. The title itself is a psychological disorder worthy of considerationht... more »

Echopraxia, by Peter Watts

I bought three books to take with me on the trip. Unfortunately I only found time to finish Echopraxia. Fortunately Echopraxia was brilliant. This is the follow-up to Watts’ excellent award-winning earlier book Blindsight, which I loved. Interestingly, while both books are linked and set in the same Universe with the same brooding dark themes, and this latest one is definitely a sequel, they can both be read independently of the other. 

Echopraxia is good hard Sci-Fi with expansive transhumanist themes. The detailed science covers a wide range of fields, including advances both current, near-term, and postulated, and fields including physics, biology, and genetics but with a particular focus or fondness for psychology, cognitive science, and consciousness. The title itself is a psychological disorder worthy of consideration https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echopraxia when pondering its adaptive utility when not pathological. 

At times it almost seems as though Watts weaves a compelling narrative simply to link juicy stimulating expositions regarding the scientific basis of some aspect of the setting, rather than adding hard science descriptions as a brief tangential note to the core narrative. I have no problem with this as the expositions themselves are fascinating and incredibly thought-provoking at times; and yet for me at least they were always immediately accessible and there was only one single word / concept that I hadn’t previously encountered and needed to look up. The Notes and References “chapter” at the end of the book expounds on the science used to support the setting in even more delicious detail and includes very recent studies and experiments . . . following them through to their logical if distant maturation of course. 

This is a setting in which different populations of our species have pursued different technological enhancement possibilities simultaneously. This is a setting in which our species has begun splintering the whole into many lineages. This is a setting that is messy, as all organic growth and speciation events should be. 

This is a story about survival in such a chaotic and uncontrollable setting. 


The Official Blurb

On the eve of the 22nd century, under the watchful eye of an alien presence, mankind faces the biggest evolutionary breakpoint since the origin of thought. It's the eve of the 22nd century and the beginning of the end. Humanity splinters into strange new forms with every heartbeat: hive-minds coalesce, rapture-stricken, speaking in tongues; soldiers forgo consciousness for combat efficiency; a nightmare human subspecies has been genetically resurrected; half the population has retreated into the ersatz security of a virtual environment called Heaven. And it's all under surveillance by an alien presence that refuses to reveal itself. Daniel Bruks has turned his back on it all, taking refuge in the Oregon desert. As an unaugmented, baseline human he's an irrelevance, a living fossil for whom extinction beckons. But he's about to find himself an unwilling pilgrim on a voyage to the heart of the solar system that will bring the fractured remnants of mankind to the biggest evolutionary breakpoint since the origin of thought.


Choice Quotes

Every chapter in book typically begins with a pithy stimulating quote that in hindsight strongly relates to the chapter in some loose or abstract way. My favourite of these quotes are as follows: 

It is almost impossible systematically to constitute a natural moral law. Nature has no principles. She furnishes us with no reason to believe that human life is to be respected. Nature, in her indifference, makes no distinction between good and evil. - Anatole France

All animals are under stringent selection pressure to be as stupid as they can get away with. - Pete Richerson & Robert Boyd

We learn geology the morning after the earthquake. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you are given a choice, you believe you have acted freely. - Raymond Teller

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away. - Philip K. Dick

I have never for one instant seen clearly within myself. How then would you have me judge the deeds of others? - Maurice Maeterlinck

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature. - Karl Schroeder

An instrument has been developed in advance of the needs of it possessor. - Alfred Russel Wallace


Available From

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Peter_Watts_Echopraxia?id=lZYACAAAQBAJ&hl=en 
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Echopraxia-Firefall-Peter-Watts-ebook/dp/B00OKGTFV0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= ___

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2015-12-16 11:35:05 (41 comments; 0 reshares; 46 +1s)Open 

I Caught My First Uber While In the USA

And then caught 8 more over the next 6 days. This image shows the record of my first ever Uber ride, and really there is no going back. It is such a stupidly easy and convenient mode of transportation; roll-out has been relatively slow in Australia and I'm yet to catch one here, but I have no doubt that my last ever taxi ride lies in the not too distant future.

Coolness

* No money changed hands; funds transfer handled remotely and automatically by PayPal.

* Watching the car on the map on my phone get closer as well as reasonably accurate ETAs.

* Being able to message the driver directly for any specifics, e.g. helpful location info "I'm outside the Pappadeaux."

* Getting reasonably accurate fare estimates of trips before committing to book one.

* Clean... more »

I Caught My First Uber While In the USA

And then caught 8 more over the next 6 days. This image shows the record of my first ever Uber ride, and really there is no going back. It is such a stupidly easy and convenient mode of transportation; roll-out has been relatively slow in Australia and I'm yet to catch one here, but I have no doubt that my last ever taxi ride lies in the not too distant future.

Coolness

* No money changed hands; funds transfer handled remotely and automatically by PayPal.

* Watching the car on the map on my phone get closer as well as reasonably accurate ETAs.

* Being able to message the driver directly for any specifics, e.g. helpful location info "I'm outside the Pappadeaux."

* Getting reasonably accurate fare estimates of trips before committing to book one.

* Clean cars. I found taxi's in the cities I visited in the USA to be generally pretty dirty; in Australia my experience is that they are still generally clean.

Oddities

* Seems Uber's aren't allowed to pick-up from airports still; I wonder how long until this changes?

* Also, can't pre-book an Uber. For example, I need a ride at this exact time tomorrow morning in order to make my flight on time and I can't afford to risk there being few cars available.

* The above two points are the main reasons I ended up spending about $1k on taxis during those two weeks. Crazy.

* Uber incredibly convenient in Fort Worth (where I started using them) and Philadelphia to jump back and forth across town multiple times. Less so in New York due to subway system; New York also has a default car-pooling feature.

Other Thoughts

* Can't wait to see this business model copied to disrupt other stagnant industries.

* What is everyone else's experience?
___

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2015-12-15 13:05:10 (18 comments; 32 reshares; 51 +1s)Open 

Naive Realism: Why you often believe people who see the world differently are wrong

In this podcast +David McRaney discusses the utterly fascinating phenomenon of naive realism with renowned psychologist Lee Ross: http://youarenotsosmart.com/2015/11/09/yanss-062-why-you-often-believe-people-who-see-the-world-differently-are-wrong/

The summary introduction at that link gives a good overview but the discussion in the podcast itself is well worth the hour or so listen. Starting with the George Carlin anecdote "anyone driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac" the discussion weaves through the fallacy of False Consensus (thinking our beliefs are more common than they are) before digging deep into Naive Realism. 

Naive Realism is basically the conviction that we see the world in an objective, unmediated way, and thatt... more »

Naive Realism: Why you often believe people who see the world differently are wrong

In this podcast +David McRaney discusses the utterly fascinating phenomenon of naive realism with renowned psychologist Lee Ross: http://youarenotsosmart.com/2015/11/09/yanss-062-why-you-often-believe-people-who-see-the-world-differently-are-wrong/

The summary introduction at that link gives a good overview but the discussion in the podcast itself is well worth the hour or so listen. Starting with the George Carlin anecdote "anyone driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac" the discussion weaves through the fallacy of False Consensus (thinking our beliefs are more common than they are) before digging deep into Naive Realism. 

Naive Realism is basically the conviction that we see the world in an objective, unmediated way, and that there is a one-to-one relationship between our experience of the world and what the world really is. 

This is an important phenomenon and cognitive fallacy to be aware of, and particularly for the demographic of curious thinkers that I tend to interact with most on here as it goes to the heart of forming beliefs and opinions, arguing one's position on a topic, and trying - really trying - to see the other's point of view. It made me wonder if it is ever possible to truly put oneself in another's shoes. 

Ultimately our experiences are the result of interactions between the the stuff we're made out of and the stuff the world is made out of and the podcast discusses Albert Einstein's and Bertrand Russell's take on this, and this leads to another consideration for whether there can ever truly be an objective view of the world? 

Examples

➤ Your political stance is "just right" and those to the left are too liberal and those to the right too conservative. If only they knew what you know then they would adjust to your political alignment.

➤ Your sources of education, influence, and experience are a source of enlightenment whereas those of other people are obviously biased, and you are free of such biases. 

➤ Those who don't see the world as you do obviously have a defect in their perception that is in need of correction. You are obviously free of such defects. 

➤ The biased blindspot in regards to your perception of the world is the blindness to the perception of yourself in the world. 

➤ It feels to you that labeling a bigot as a bigot is the same as labeling an oak tree as an oak tree. 

➤ You are more critical of other people's arguments than you are of your own . . . unless you've been tricked into thinking your argument is someone else's. 

This cognitive fallacy is certainly a good one to keep in mind when arguing or debating anyone on any topic. 

Naive Realism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Na%C3%AFve_realism
Lee Ross: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Ross

#psychology   #naiverealism   #fallacy  ___

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2015-12-15 11:07:57 (14 comments; 0 reshares; 33 +1s)Open 

Auto-Awesome Summary of Our USA Trip

Gotta hand it to Google: they've got this auto-awesome thing down pretty well these days. Elise and I get home from our trip, see the last of our photos and videos complete backing-up to Google Photos and eagerly await the auto-image enhance, auto-stories, and auto-awesome videos to be delivered up by Google. I got a great story, half a dozen enhanced images, and three videos. This one is probably the best auto-awesome video Google Photos has ever produced for me and gives a nice 90 second summary of most of the main highlights.

#google   #autoawesome   #usa  

Auto-Awesome Summary of Our USA Trip

Gotta hand it to Google: they've got this auto-awesome thing down pretty well these days. Elise and I get home from our trip, see the last of our photos and videos complete backing-up to Google Photos and eagerly await the auto-image enhance, auto-stories, and auto-awesome videos to be delivered up by Google. I got a great story, half a dozen enhanced images, and three videos. This one is probably the best auto-awesome video Google Photos has ever produced for me and gives a nice 90 second summary of most of the main highlights.

#google   #autoawesome   #usa  ___

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2015-12-13 05:55:53 (6 comments; 25 reshares; 64 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 50/2015.
Composed at 36,000 feet. Posted live from LAX at 11:00pm Saturday because Sunday won’t exist for me!
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/12/autonomous-computer-produced-text-faces.html

Autonomous computer-produced text, faces, animation, and artworks, Drone swarm vs fires, Bio-powered CMOS, Periodic table of proteins, DNA electromechanical switch, Better DNA/RNA delivery, 3D skyscraper chips, Kill-switches for bacteria. 

1. Human-Like Character Drawing by Computer
A new computer system can produce written characters in a human-like fashion, producing variations of a character in an unfamiliar writing system on the first try that is indistinguishable from that of humans http://news.mit.edu/2015/computer-system-passes-visual-turing-test-1210. The system essential general structures of ach... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 50/2015.
Composed at 36,000 feet. Posted live from LAX at 11:00pm Saturday because Sunday won’t exist for me!
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/12/autonomous-computer-produced-text-faces.html

Autonomous computer-produced text, faces, animation, and artworks, Drone swarm vs fires, Bio-powered CMOS, Periodic table of proteins, DNA electromechanical switch, Better DNA/RNA delivery, 3D skyscraper chips, Kill-switches for bacteria. 

1. Human-Like Character Drawing by Computer
A new computer system can produce written characters in a human-like fashion, producing variations of a character in an unfamiliar writing system on the first try that is indistinguishable from that of humans http://news.mit.edu/2015/computer-system-passes-visual-turing-test-1210. The system essential general structures of a character while accounting and reproducing minor inessential variations and fooled human judges to pass a “visual Turing test” of human indistinguishability. 

2. Automatic Face Construction & Animation
New machine learning algorithms can take many images of a person (even trawling the Web if needed) and automatically create a digital model of the person’s face that it can then animate, overlaying it onto a second person’s speech or video to make it appear as if the person is accurately performing a speech that they never actually gave http://www.washington.edu/news/2015/12/07/what-makes-tom-hanks-look-like-tom-hanks/. Proof-of-concept was performed with celebrities, and one might imagine video production costs being reduced by such a system in future. 

3. Artificial Computational Artworks
In related news this week we had a couple of advances for computers creating detailed artifiical images on demand. First, Facebook’s AI team and machine learning company indico developed an artificial neural network able to produce realistic but “imagined” images on demand https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn28548-computers-learn-to-create-photos-of-bedrooms-and-faces-on-demand/. The proof-of-concept produced realistic but made-up images of bedrooms and faces. Second, WordsEye is a new webapp that translates a few lines of user text to produce an artistic representation of a scene https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2015/12/01/when-artificial-intelligence-makes-a-picture-worth-way-more-than-a-thousand-words/, an interesting application that allows basic “type a picture” applications. 

4. Cooperative Drones Extinguish Fires
Lockheed Martin has demonstrated its autonomous fire fighting drones http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/aerial-robots/lockheeds-drones-fires. The drones monitor areas for fires, identify fires in those areas, can call in support and provide targeting coordinates for the drones in the team and then the larger drones deliver a precise water drop over the area. What else might the system be used for? Shark spotting, avalanches, oil spills? Obvious military applications. 

5. Biologically-Powered CMOS Chip
Researchers have integrated a conventional solid-state CMOS chip with an artificial lipid bilayer membrane containing ATP-powered ion pumps http://engineering.columbia.edu/columbia-engineers-build-biologically-powered-chip-0. In the presence of ATP the system pumps ions across the membrane, producing a electrical potential that can be harvested by the CMOS integrated circuit. This has huge potential as a human-body power-source for any implanted device. But by changing the ion pump you could make systems that can sense molecules with biological-like sensitivity. 

6. Unveiling a Periodic Table of Protein Complexes
A periodic table of protein complexes, specifically protein quaternary structure topologies, has been developed that is compatible with 92% of known protein structures and which provides significant predictive power for developing new proteins http://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/periodic-table-of-protein-complexes-unveiled/81252091/. This not only provides a better way of looking at protein strucutres found in nature but also of engineering new proteins that evolution may never have discovered. The work builds on principles of protein assembly and helps explain basic steps, repeated in different combinations, gives rise to an enormous variety of different proteins. 

7. Electromechanical Switch Made of DNA
A reversible electromagnetic switch was engineered out of DNA in which modifications to the environment induced structural changes in the DNA strand and this in turn resulted in a change in conductance of the DNA http://phys.org/news/2015-12-dna-based-electromechanical.html. A tantalising discovery, but still in need of a huge amount of work in order to self-assemble huge numbers of such switches into logic gates for next generation computers, not least of which will be finding an alternative method to alter the environment, which currently involves adding and removing ethanol. 

8. Better Delivery of DNA/RNA into Cells
There were a couple of advances in this area this week. First, a new water-in-oil droplet electroporation gene-transfection method has been developed that is able to more efficiently and cheaply deliver DNA into cells, and requires fewer cells and a smaller amount of DNA http://phys.org/news/2015-12-method-genes-cells.html. Second, microRNAs wound together as triplet molecules and embedded into a biocompatible gel have proven remarkably effective in delivering specific microRNA sequences to cancer cells in mice and dramitcally improving survival rates http://news.mit.edu/2015/microrna-shrink-tumor-cancer-treatment-1207 - the approach should also work with DNA. 

9. Performance Boosts from Skyscraper Chips
The N3XT computing architecture seeks to push the design and fabrication of integrated circuits into the third dimension by fabricating interlinked layers of memory and processors, one atop the other, and connected by millions of vias http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/december/n3xt-computing-structure-120915.html. One of the key insights here to enable the architecture is much lower temperature fabrication methods and forcing a move away from silicon and towards carbon nanotube transistors. Prototype proof-of-principle devices have been built and simulations suggest that the architecture could be 1,000 times more efficient compared to conventional chips. 

10. Kill-Switches for Engineered Bacteria
Two genetic kill-switches have been developed for engineered bacteria in order to both (i) enable useful genetically engineered bacteria to be developed and widely used, and (ii) prevent such tools from “running off” and colonising areas where they are not supposed to be http://news.mit.edu/2015/kill-switches-shut-down-engineered-bacteria-1211. These stand alone genetic circuits, which can be dropped into any engineered bacterial organism (and repurposed for others?) involve (i) a Deadman Switch that continuously produces a toxin that kills the cell unless there is another artificial chemical in the immediate environment, and (ii) a Passcode Switch that requires a specific combination of several chemicals in order to allow the cell to survive and proliferate. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/12/autonomous-computer-produced-text-faces.html___

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2015-12-12 22:19:38 (22 comments; 0 reshares; 39 +1s)Open 

Gonna be a loooong day!

Wolfram|Alpha informs me that I'm about to travel over 17,000km over the surface of the Earth. This will start with a 6 hour flight to Los Angeles, 2 hour layover, 15 hour flight to Sydney, 2 hour layover, and a final 2 hour flight to Adelaide.

We'll be leaving LA at about 11:30pm Saturday and landing in Sydney at about 8:30am Monday. Sunday wont exist for me, but I'll still try to do my weekly post :-P

It's been a great trip. Exhausting, busy, and a lot of fun. Sorry I've been quiet on here but we've just had so much on every day and most nights. See you all again real soon. And a big thanks to Jason and Jesse for meeting up with us :-) 

Gonna be a loooong day!

Wolfram|Alpha informs me that I'm about to travel over 17,000km over the surface of the Earth. This will start with a 6 hour flight to Los Angeles, 2 hour layover, 15 hour flight to Sydney, 2 hour layover, and a final 2 hour flight to Adelaide.

We'll be leaving LA at about 11:30pm Saturday and landing in Sydney at about 8:30am Monday. Sunday wont exist for me, but I'll still try to do my weekly post :-P

It's been a great trip. Exhausting, busy, and a lot of fun. Sorry I've been quiet on here but we've just had so much on every day and most nights. See you all again real soon. And a big thanks to Jason and Jesse for meeting up with us :-) ___

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2015-12-10 03:49:10 (7 comments; 0 reshares; 23 +1s)Open 

Panel Participation at Rutgers University's Global Commercialisation Conference

We finally made it to New York and today for work I presented as a panel participant at Rutgers University's Global Technology Commercialisation Conference, which was set up by the New Jersey Tech Council. That's me on the left of the panel in the images below; the token Aussie talking about the International issues for University technology commercialisation. It was the first time I've used a mic and also the largest audience I've ever spoken in front of. It went well and I was probably more worried about the logistics of getting there on time more than anything else. 

This involved an early start after 3 hours sleep, stumbling up Wall Street to hail a taxi and riding to Penn Station, walking into huge Penn Station for the first time and figuring out which train I had to catch,h... more »

Panel Participation at Rutgers University's Global Commercialisation Conference

We finally made it to New York and today for work I presented as a panel participant at Rutgers University's Global Technology Commercialisation Conference, which was set up by the New Jersey Tech Council. That's me on the left of the panel in the images below; the token Aussie talking about the International issues for University technology commercialisation. It was the first time I've used a mic and also the largest audience I've ever spoken in front of. It went well and I was probably more worried about the logistics of getting there on time more than anything else. 

This involved an early start after 3 hours sleep, stumbling up Wall Street to hail a taxi and riding to Penn Station, walking into huge Penn Station for the first time and figuring out which train I had to catch, how to catch it, where to catch it, how to get tickets, finally getting on what I suspected was the right train and travelling west and south, through Newark and onto New Brunswick, then walking to Rutgers University's campus - which is about to turn 250 years old. 

It was a long day and good to get back and relax with Elise - looking forward to tomorrow and seeing more of this amazing city. 

New Jersey Tech Council: http://www.njtc.org/ ___

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2015-12-06 23:16:05 (3 comments; 26 reshares; 69 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 49/2015.
Live from Fort Worth
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/12/better-crispr-rolling-dna-motor.html

Better CRISPR, Rolling DNA Motor, Polarized 3D Imaging, Metacage Light Isolation, AI plays Go, Brain protein imaging, Single molecule switches, Lasers & optics, Mass cloning, Longevity genes.

1. A Better Re-Engineered CRISPR
The revolutionary CRISPR gene-editing technology has been re-engineered to create an improved system that significantly reduces off-target editing errors http://news.mit.edu/2015/overcome-crispr-cas9-genome-editing-hurdle-1201. The changes amounted to just 3 of the enzymes 1,400 amino acids being changed but this had the result of reducing off-target DNA editing to undetectable levels and the new enzyme eSpCas9 is being made available globally to other research groups.... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 49/2015.
Live from Fort Worth
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/12/better-crispr-rolling-dna-motor.html

Better CRISPR, Rolling DNA Motor, Polarized 3D Imaging, Metacage Light Isolation, AI plays Go, Brain protein imaging, Single molecule switches, Lasers & optics, Mass cloning, Longevity genes.

1. A Better Re-Engineered CRISPR
The revolutionary CRISPR gene-editing technology has been re-engineered to create an improved system that significantly reduces off-target editing errors http://news.mit.edu/2015/overcome-crispr-cas9-genome-editing-hurdle-1201. The changes amounted to just 3 of the enzymes 1,400 amino acids being changed but this had the result of reducing off-target DNA editing to undetectable levels and the new enzyme eSpCas9 is being made available globally to other research groups. Such low levels of off-target edits combined with other methods to reduce errors even further will make the technique even safer to use in humans. And here is George Church on CRISPR and beginning to reverse human aging in 5 or so years https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/12/interesting-comments-by-george-church.php, and a proposal for CRISPR-Gene-Drives to mitigate the effects of ocean acidification on plankton http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/12/gene-drive-one-of-many-ways-to-prevent.html. 

2. Rolling DNA Motor
A new DNA motor system uses specific strands of DNA bound in high number to tiny glass beads that bind to specific strands of RNA; the binding is facilitated by an enzyme that destroys the RNA on the surface after binding, an event that causes the tiny beads to be pulled along and so allow another DNA strand to bind to the next RNA in its path and so on http://phys.org/news/2015-12-nano-walkers-speedy-dna-based-motor.html. The movement of these DNA and enzyme-powered motors can be imaged and filmed by a smartphone camera and the system is sensitive enough to detect single base mutations and other contaminants. The motors move in a straight line and it would be interesting to see if they can steer such things in future and carry different payloads.

3. Polarization Enables 1000-Fold Better 3D Imaging
A new method uses simple polarizing filters to enable basic 3D imaging systems to produce 3D models up to 1000 times as accurately as before http://news.mit.edu/2015/algorithms-boost-3-d-imaging-resolution-1000-times-1201. An Xbox Kinect can typically produce centimeter resolution from a few meters away, but by rotating in three different polarization filters and taking 3 images the resolution is boosted to tens of micrometers, exceeding high-end laser scanning technologies. This offers the possibility for low resolution depth sensing cameras to be used in smartphones and autonomous vehicles to produce quick convenient 3D models of their surroundings. I've used an Xbox Kinect for 3D scanning and the resolution does indeed match the first image in the article.

4. Metacages for Isolating and Shielding Light
Nanowires measuring 5 - 20nm can be arrayed on a surface in arbitrary shapes and architectures to produce customized regions that can either completely isolate light within or completely block light from entering http://phys.org/news/2015-12-optical-metacage-blocks.html. The gaps between the nanowires are typically the same scale as the nanowires themselves, and freely allow the passage of gas and fluids, with applications in microfluidic chips with biological cells and also in optical circuits where it is important to isolate light and interference. Nested structures might even provide more complete isolation and protection from interference, which might possibly be important for quantum computing and entanglement applications. Meanwhile interesting discoveries with light scattering nanoparticles could lead to invisibility cloaks and smaller optical antennas http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/materials/light-scattering-nanoparticles-could-lead-to-smaller-optical-antennas. 

5. Tackling the Game of “Go” with AI
While computers have trumped humans at Chess for some time now (search space of 10^60), humans still easily beat the best computers at Go (search space of 10^100). New research from Facebook’s artificial intelligence group might soon change this with a system that combines features of a neural network with a search-based machine to create a Go engine that plays at an advanced level and seems have have plenty of room for further optimisation and improvements http://www.technologyreview.com/view/544181/how-facebooks-ai-researchers-built-a-game-changing-go-engine/. It’s been interesting to see such systems get progressively better at playing games over the years, for example with the game-playing engines developed by DeepMind.

6. Protein Imaging for Brain Structure
SWITCH is a new tissue imaging technique that is able to preserve and image the same tissue repeatedly using different fluorescent protein labels that target different cells each time http://news.mit.edu/2015/protein-imaging-detailed-brain-architecture-1203. As part of the proof-of-concept the group labelled 22 different proteins (scope to use much more in future) in a small section of brain tissue and were able to easily see brain connectivity and other structures. Time is the limiting factor in this method, with approximately one day being required for each labelling protein to diffuse through the small tissue sample used in this case. 

7. Stable Single Molecule Switches
Single molecules comprised of simple organometallic structures arranged around a single molybdenum atom and connected to electrodes have been formed into simple, single-molecule switches http://phys.org/news/2015-11-molecule-manner-electron.html. The molecules themselves are only a couple of nanometers long, function similarly to a silicon transistor, require only two electrodes instead of three, and possess two stable states that have conductivities that differ by three orders of magnitude. An early but promising prototype for future memory storage and computational applications. 

8. Wondrous Laser & Optics Developments
Another big week in laser and optics technology. First, lasers to make diamond structures at room temperature and ambient pressure https://news.ncsu.edu/2015/11/narayan-q-carbon-2015/ and also to efficiently fabricate graphene http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/materials/laserinduced-graphene-looks-to-diplace-batteries-with-supercapacitors. Second, light can be used with engineered viruses to control gene delivery to cells, with one wavelength holding them together and a second wavelength breaking them apart http://news.rice.edu/2015/12/01/red-means-go-to-therapeutic-viruses/. Third, a much improved photonic sintering method fuses nanoparticles much more precisely and effectively than previously possible http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2015/dec/photonic-%E2%80%9Csintering%E2%80%9D-may-create-new-solar-electronics-manufacturing-technologies. Finally, a new SPRINT device can capture single photons on demand http://wis-wander.weizmann.ac.il/tapping-particles-of-light#.VmOD-lWrSJc. 

9. Setting Up a Chinese-Korean Cloning Factory
A new cloning factory being developed hopes to clone up to one million cows per year by 2020 http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/12/boyalife-ceo-plans-to-clones-woolly.html. The company is also doing pet cloning, developing mammoth cloning and plans to do racehorses, dogs, and primate cloning. With this capability they would be well placed to do human cloning if they wanted to - there wouldn't be any technical challenges at least, but I wonder what the applications are and who the customers would be? 

10. Genes to Prolong Human Life
Combing through 40,000 genes from three different organisms has revealed 30 genes that are conserved and regulated in a similar way that also significantly influence aging processes https://www.ethz.ch/en/news-and-events/eth-news/news/2015/12/genes-for-longer-healthier-life-found.html. Interfering with these genes had varying levels of influence on aging, with a dozen of such interventions resulting in lifespan extensions of at least five percent; for a couple of examples the mechanism of action was identified, suggesting other methods to achieve the same effects. While the genes are conserved there haven’t been any human studies yet. And if aging interventions and therapies don’t arrive soon enough for you then improved methods of preservation via vitrification or ice-free cryopreservation might be worth considering https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/11/an-example-of-present-work-on-improving-vitrification.php. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/12/better-crispr-rolling-dna-motor.html___

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2015-11-30 06:44:09 (6 comments; 31 reshares; 53 +1s)Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 48/2015.
Live from Los Angeles
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/11/compact-lidar-chip-particle-accelerator.html

Compact LIDAR, Chip particle accelerator, Neural imaging sensor, Lensless computational flatcam, CRISPR applications, Neuromorphic image sensors, GMO salmon approved, Gold foams, Perfect molecular films, Isolating blood nanoparticles. 

1. Cheap Compact LIDAR
A new compact solid-state LIDAR sensor is due to be introduced in 2016 for less than $1,000 per car that will provide 3D, 360-degree distance imaging and object identification without any moving parts http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/11/low-cost-compact-solid-state-lidar.html. We’ve seen some pretty impressive improvements in LIDAR systems the last couple of years, with cheap robust systems being a key enabling technology forco... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 48/2015.
Live from Los Angeles
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/11/compact-lidar-chip-particle-accelerator.html

Compact LIDAR, Chip particle accelerator, Neural imaging sensor, Lensless computational flatcam, CRISPR applications, Neuromorphic image sensors, GMO salmon approved, Gold foams, Perfect molecular films, Isolating blood nanoparticles. 

1. Cheap Compact LIDAR
A new compact solid-state LIDAR sensor is due to be introduced in 2016 for less than $1,000 per car that will provide 3D, 360-degree distance imaging and object identification without any moving parts http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/11/low-cost-compact-solid-state-lidar.html. We’ve seen some pretty impressive improvements in LIDAR systems the last couple of years, with cheap robust systems being a key enabling technology for cost-effective autonomous vehicles. At this price-point and below in future we can probably expect them to be used with autonomous drone systems too. 

2. Particle Accelerator on a Chip
It seems the race to develop cheap, compact particle accelerators is really heating up as we’ve seen a number of different announcements in recent months. This week we have a well-funded project to develop a particle accelerator on a chip in which lasers are used to boost electrons to high speeds https://www6.slac.stanford.edu/news/2015-11-19-accelerator-on-a-chip-grant. Prototype chip tests demonstrated an acceleration gradient 10 times higher than the SLAC linear accelerator, and also that electrons could reach near-light-speeds. A number of optimisations and challenges remain but a working device will be transformative in certain industries and open up uses that haven’t yet been thought of. 

3. Opto-Electro-Genetic Neural Imaging Sensor
Voltage spikes from individual neurons can now be optically imaged directly via a newly engineered opto-electro-genetic sensor that builds on optogenetics techniques http://pratt.duke.edu/news/eagle-eye-real-time-view-neural-activity. The group took a voltage-sensitive membrane protein from algae and incorporated it into neurons to show that it responded to voltage spikes; they then took the brightest fluorescent protein available and fused this to the voltage sensor. The gene encoding this recombinant protein was introduced to the brains of mice via a virus and to fruit flies via genetic modification. When a neuron fires the voltage sensor absorbs more of the fluorescent protein’s light, leading to noticeable dimming, and so allowing realtime observation of not just neuronal firing but voltage changes in neuronal subcompartments. Being able to directly observe / record the firing of individual neurons is a key enabling step / technology for brain computer interfaces in conjunction with the ability from optogenetics to “write” or induce neuronal firing. 

4. The Lensless Computational Flatcam
A great example of the developing sophistication of computational photography, Flatcam is basically an imaging sensor chip with a mask that replaces lenses found in a normal camera assembly, that instead uses new algorithms to process what the sensor detects to produce clear images and videos http://news.rice.edu/2015/11/23/no-lens-no-problem-for-flatcam-2/. The device is very thin, can be fabricated cheaply, can be formed onto curved surfaces and offers more diverse applications such as a camera in your credit card, wallpaper that functions as a camera, etc. The mask contains a coded array of pinhole apertures that expose the sensor chip to different light that is subsequently processed, even allowing the image to be focused to different depths afterwards like a lightfield camera. 

5. CRISPR Gene Drives, Animal & Human Editing
Another big week for CRISPR Tech. First, another demonstration of CRISPR-powered gene drives in ensuring a desired gene(s) is quickly passed throughout a population, in this case modified mosquitos that prevent malaria from spreading http://www.technologyreview.com/news/543721/with-this-genetic-engineering-technology-theres-no-turning-back/; adding a reversal switch would be nice but I say go for it and I’d love to see this used in Australia to combat introduced pests such as rabbits, foxes, and cane toads. Second, China is pushing forward in a big way with CRISPR to rapidly engineer new breeds of dogs, goats, monkeys and other animals for a range of applications http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/china-s-bold-push-into-genetically-customized-animals/. Third, CRISPR engineered spermatological cultures produce copious sperm cells able to very efficiently create CRISPR modified embryos on demand http://www.technologyreview.com/news/543541/how-to-really-engineer-a-human-baby/. The only disappointing thing here is the consistently regressive themes stemming from the myopic framing of many bioethicists. 

6. Neuromorphic Image Sensors Mimic the Human Eye
New neuromorphic image sensors seek to better analyse images and video by working in a similar way to how human eyes work, sampling different parts of the scene at different rates, rapidly sampling fast motions and sampling slow motions at slow rates, and extracting much more useful information while consuming much less energy http://spectrum.ieee.org/biomedical/devices/how-neuromorphic-image-sensors-steal-tricks-from-the-human-eye. This entails a novel hardware solution in which individual pixels react to the light reaching them and abandoning the notion of a video “frame”; prototype cameras using this hardware match or exceed the most expensive and sophisticated video cameras on the market today and at much lower cost. Such vision sensors will be transformative for security, robots, autonomous vehicles, and retinal implants, for which they already have a clinical trial up and running in humans using their technology. 

7. Genetically Engineered Salmon Finally Approved
Fast-growing transgenic salmon have finally been approved in the US after 20 long years of winding its way through a convoluted regulatory process, representing the first genetically engineered animal to be approved for human consumption in the US http://www.nature.com/news/salmon-approval-heralds-rethink-of-transgenic-animals-1.18867. The fish grow twice as fast, reaching market size in 18 months instead of 3 years, although apparently in that time other salmon have been bred to achieve similar gains. The time to approval apparently took so long due to this being a first of its kind but, personally, the hysteria surrounding this beggars belief. Let’s hope this opens the floodgates to many other engineered food animals being approved, especially in light of the parallels with the Chinese developments mentioned in #5 above. 

8. Ultralight Gold Foam
A new fabrication technique can produce ultralight foam using gold micro- or nano-particles bound with protein fibers to form aerogels that are 98% air https://www.ethz.ch/en/news-and-events/eth-news/news/2015/11/a-new-form-of-real-gold-almost-as-light-as-air.html. As a demonstration a 20 carat “nugget” of the gold foam easily floats on cappuccino foam; it looks almost indistinguishable from real gold but is soft and malleable. Use of micro- or nano-particles of gold drastically changes the materials appearance (gold to deep red colour), electrical, and optical properties. While it might not wind up in jewelry due to its softness, industrial catalysis for such a porous material with huge surface area might show great application, especially if other metal nanoparticles (platinum) can be used. 

9. Defect Free Films
A simple method has been developed using an organic superacid to fabricated defect-free molecule-thick films out of new wonder material molybdenum disulfide that possesses 100-fold better photoluminescence due to the lack of defects http://news.berkeley.edu/2015/11/26/defect-free-monolayer-semiconductor/. This material is an optoelectronically perfect monolayer with the ability to withstand extreme mechanical deformations and with applications in next generation electronics.

10. Quickly Removing Nanoparticles from Blood
A new method allows researchers to quickly isolate and selectively remove nanoparticles from blood http://jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/news/news_releases/release.sfe?id=1846. This involved the use of a small electronic chip containing hundreds of electrodes that employs a rapidly oscillating electric field that is able to selectively pull specific nanoparticles out of a blood sample. Applications include being able to remove nanoparticles from blood after nanoparticle therapeutics have been introduced. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/11/compact-lidar-chip-particle-accelerator.html___

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2015-11-27 13:32:09 (20 comments; 63 reshares; 157 +1s)Open 

Proposed Equivalency Between Wormholes & Entanglement
The quantum source of space-time: http://www.nature.com/news/the-quantum-source-of-space-time-1.18797

I included this article in the most recent Digest but wanted to revisit it for those who missed it because I find it fascinating. At heart this concerns the pursuit to unite the incompatible fundamental theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity, and specifically the attempt to cast quantum entanglement as the fundamental basis of geometry and a defining feature of spacetime and the geometric gravity described by relativity. While not yet proven the approach seems elegant from a number of different angles, tying together concepts from holographic Universe theories, anti-de Sitter spaces & boundary membrane equivalences, tensor networks, and quantum error-correcting codes. 

When the entanglementb... more »

Proposed Equivalency Between Wormholes & Entanglement
The quantum source of space-time: http://www.nature.com/news/the-quantum-source-of-space-time-1.18797

I included this article in the most recent Digest but wanted to revisit it for those who missed it because I find it fascinating. At heart this concerns the pursuit to unite the incompatible fundamental theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity, and specifically the attempt to cast quantum entanglement as the fundamental basis of geometry and a defining feature of spacetime and the geometric gravity described by relativity. While not yet proven the approach seems elegant from a number of different angles, tying together concepts from holographic Universe theories, anti-de Sitter spaces & boundary membrane equivalences, tensor networks, and quantum error-correcting codes. 

When the entanglement between two regions in the model is reduced the areas pull apart, and when it reaches zero the regions split off entirely, suggesting that entanglement is necessary for space to exist. Examining the relationship from a different angle suggests that a wormhole connection between two regions and an entanglement connection between two regions are the same thing but on a vastly different scale. They are different ways of describing the same underlying reality. 

Much theoretical development is still needed: while the relationships and connections are tantalising the models still do not accurately describe major features of the Universe we seem to find ourselves in and most lacking of all is an adequate treatment of that most fundamental of things: time. 

One question I have arises from considering that this approach stems from a foundation of quantum theory to derive the equivalences as part of the large theoretical field of quantum gravity. But I wonder if others could approach the same phenomena from a foundation of general relativity to derive the same equivalences? Might this also be a fruitful line of inquiry, to treat entangled particles as mini wormhole connections and thus build particle physics up from there? 

The quantum source of space-time: http://www.nature.com/news/the-quantum-source-of-space-time-1.18797

#entanglement   #gravity   #geometry  ___

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2015-11-24 14:23:02 (26 comments; 4 reshares; 60 +1s)Open 

My Blood Pressure was 155/98

For those that don't know, the very upper-end of normal blood pressure is 140/90. So 155/98 classifies as (mild) hypertension, and prolonged hypertension carries significantly increased risks for heart disease, strokes, and a wide range of other unpleasant and life-shortening things https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypertension. 

I booked myself in to see a GP a couple of weeks ago for no reason aside from wanting to get myself a health check-up and get a battery of blood tests to check the levels of various key components in my blood - more out of interest and curiosity sake and forcing myself to be ever-more-proactive about my health. The GP took my blood pressure while I was in there and asked me if I was aware of any reasons for why it would be high? We were both surprised by the 155/98 reading. 

I eat better and healthier thanan... more »

My Blood Pressure was 155/98

For those that don't know, the very upper-end of normal blood pressure is 140/90. So 155/98 classifies as (mild) hypertension, and prolonged hypertension carries significantly increased risks for heart disease, strokes, and a wide range of other unpleasant and life-shortening things https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypertension. 

I booked myself in to see a GP a couple of weeks ago for no reason aside from wanting to get myself a health check-up and get a battery of blood tests to check the levels of various key components in my blood - more out of interest and curiosity sake and forcing myself to be ever-more-proactive about my health. The GP took my blood pressure while I was in there and asked me if I was aware of any reasons for why it would be high? We were both surprised by the 155/98 reading. 

I eat better and healthier than anyone else I know, do intense 40 minute interval training sessions 5 nights a week, have a resting heart rate of 50 bpm, weigh 74kg at 5'11", get plenty of sleep, and am generally the fittest, strongest, and healthiest I've been in my life. And there is no family history of heart disease or high blood pressure. This high blood pressure reading was a shock. 

I wondered if it was stress-related, admitting that the last couple of months have been very busy at work and home, even though I didn't feel overly stressed. The GP said he'd retake my blood pressure when I went back to collect my blood results. I also wondered if overtraining might be the cause, due too the regular intense interval training for prolonged periods, but case studies suggested I wasn't exercising anywhere near the extreme levels that induce overtraining. Of the 45 different parameters - elements, enzymes, vitamins, cell counts, etc - measured in my blood all were within normal healthy ranges. 

But in the interim I decided to take matters into my own hands, which should come as no surprise to anyone reading this. I read up on hypertension (obviously), purchased a blood pressure monitor (in the image below) from a local store, and started collecting regular blood pressure data over the course of the following week or so. I took readings at the same time every morning, the same time (roughly) every afternoon, and the same time every night and begun to fill out a spreadsheet to help analyse the data. 

Questions to ask were: how much difference did time of day make? How consistent were the readings? Was work really making me stressed? 

You can check out the spreadsheet I made here: 

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Pa3ZvM5sI_YglrxNl4IAk98EPOO4UZ32xTrUxEuBXJk/edit?usp=sharing

Raw data collected at different times and days for SYStolic and DIAstolic readings is on the first tab. The other tabs have morning, afternoon, and evening trends, as well as SYS and DIA comparisons and finally a combined trend of all readings over the 9 days I collected data for. 

In summary: the data show that it was all a false alarm. My blood pressure is absolutely fine and spends most of the time in an optimal range. There was just one afternoon where it popped over the top of the normal range to 145/93 but everything else was at normal or optimal levels. I exercised and ate as normal throughout the week. The follow-up reading by the GP showed a normal afternoon value and he looked at my data and agreed that everything was fine. 

A few concerns:
- Accuracy of the device. After the first couple of days I took 3 consecutive measurements and averaged them. This means the data for the first couple of days isn't strictly comparable to the rest. 
- Method compliance. I sometimes didn't rest for the complete 5 minute recommended period before taking a reading because time, especially in the afternoon was often a factor. 

I'm glad it was a false alarm but if you haven't had a proper health check-up in a while to get some data on your blood composition and pressure then you might want to consider arranging a time with your GP. Peace of mind is worth a lot. And being proactive about one's health and always mindful of preventing health complications before they occur is always a superior strategy. I only hope that sooner, rather than later, we have the tools and technology available that allow us to cheaply and easily collect this data at home as often as we like; waiting a week or more for health data is archaic. 

It is likely that one of the generations now alive will be the last mortal generation. Live long enough to live indefinitely. ___

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2015-11-22 13:39:38 (23 comments; 3 reshares; 59 +1s)Open 

Waste of $15

I wanted an upgrade to my Google Cardboard and so went and bought this "VR Headset" off Ebay from some no-name manufacturer. It featured a fully-enclosed phone / display mounting, wrap-around face-mounting, adjustable lenses, and foam surfaces for comfort. Unfortunately the phone / display mount was poorly designed and the phone jostled around at times, and the optics are just freaking terrible: blurry images and really bad field-of-view. To top it off I have +Simon Anderson teasing me with his new Gear VR :)
At least it was only $15. 

Waste of $15

I wanted an upgrade to my Google Cardboard and so went and bought this "VR Headset" off Ebay from some no-name manufacturer. It featured a fully-enclosed phone / display mounting, wrap-around face-mounting, adjustable lenses, and foam surfaces for comfort. Unfortunately the phone / display mount was poorly designed and the phone jostled around at times, and the optics are just freaking terrible: blurry images and really bad field-of-view. To top it off I have +Simon Anderson teasing me with his new Gear VR :)
At least it was only $15. ___

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