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Mark Bruce

Mark Bruce 

Australian based technophile loving life and avidly looking forward to the future.

Followers: 15,562

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Cream of the Crop: 04/19/2012

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Most comments: 140

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2016-10-18 13:18:05 (140 comments; 14 reshares; 49 +1s; )Open 

Regressive Madness

I swear, in 2016 the world appears to have gone mad. For the past several months I’ve collected those articles, those links, that have caused me to lean back from the screen and shake my head in utter disbelief and bemusement at the actions committed by or beliefs espoused by people. The point of course isn’t the shock at any specific individual instance, but rather the despair at seeing such things crop up with increasing frequency and indicating a broader and deeper regressive cultural malaise linking them all together. There is something perversely wrong with our culture that stories like these are becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Regressive cultural norms, like regressive politics, fundamentally stem from dogmatic and cult-like ideologies; the best deconstruction of which I’ve seen is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htqOIjzi-jE. Sowides... more »

Most reshares: 32

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2016-09-19 14:26:11 (9 comments; 32 reshares; 88 +1s; )Open 

The Neural Network Zoo

This is nice summary article covering the many different neural network architectures that have been developed and deployed in deep learning applications. The taxonomy provides a colour-coded key to make it easy to see how different functions and operations are used in different ways across different network architectures and so showing at a glance how these different networks relate to one another. The article provides a brief description of the function and training of each type for ease of classification and reference.

Article: http://www.asimovinstitute.org/neural-network-zoo/

We can expect this taxonomy of different neural network architectures to grow over time too: as our knowledge of the brain and understanding of its different neural networks continues to become more sophisticated we’ll undoubtedly discover new network architecturesa... more »

Most plusones: 130

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2016-08-16 13:58:53 (26 comments; 17 reshares; 130 +1s; )Open 

Prediction for Google's Fuchsia OS

My prediction for Google's mysterious new Fuchsia OS program isn't one that I've seen suggested yet, although given the nature of ideas I'm pretty sure this has occurred to a great many people already. The framework certainly has.

I don't buy the Internet of Things angle, for which we have Brillo, nor the Android + Chrome merger angle, for which we already have Android Apps hitting Chrome this year, nor the VR OS for which we've already seen Daydream and other approaches.

The only option that makes sense to me is that Fuchsia is the predictable evolution for Google Assistant into a stand alone AI OS. We've seen Google Now develop into Google Now on Tap and this year into Google Assistant, which will play an ever bigger role in the latest iteration of Android N as well as power key messaging apps such... more »

Latest 50 posts

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2016-12-06 13:23:05 (3 comments; 4 reshares; 18 +1s; )Open 

The Pipeline of Rejuvenation Therapies

I recently renewed my regular charitable donation to the SENS Research Foundation as part of their annual fundraising drive, contributing in some small way to the funding of much needed research programs on various aspects of anti-aging http://www.sens.org/donate.

At about the same time FightAging! prepared a list predicting the order of arrival of rejuvenation therapies coming down the development pipeline https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/11/predicting-the-order-of-arrival-of-the-first-rejuvenation-therapies/. As usual FightAging! includes numerous links to news, companies, and resources, and sufficient lay detail to convey the key points. The key therapies and interventions that we can look forward over time include:

1. Clearance of senescent cells
2. Immune system destruction and restoration
3. Clearance of... more »

The Pipeline of Rejuvenation Therapies

I recently renewed my regular charitable donation to the SENS Research Foundation as part of their annual fundraising drive, contributing in some small way to the funding of much needed research programs on various aspects of anti-aging http://www.sens.org/donate.

At about the same time FightAging! prepared a list predicting the order of arrival of rejuvenation therapies coming down the development pipeline https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/11/predicting-the-order-of-arrival-of-the-first-rejuvenation-therapies/. As usual FightAging! includes numerous links to news, companies, and resources, and sufficient lay detail to convey the key points. The key therapies and interventions that we can look forward over time include:

1. Clearance of senescent cells
2. Immune system destruction and restoration
3. Clearance of amyloid and protein aggregates
4. Clearance of glucosepane crosslinks
5. Rejuvenation of thymus for youthful immune function
6. Repair of mitochondria
7. Robust cancer cure
8. Reversing stem cell aging
9. Clearance of lysosomal garbage and other waste

As these therapies are developed and become more widely known we can expect more mavericks like Liz Parish and Bioviva to emerge and take matters into their own hands, further accelerating the development, dissemination, and availability of these interventions. In fact the latest data from Bioviva’s gene therapy is looking pretty good https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/11/data-on-the-effects-of-follistatin-gene-therapy-from-bioviva/.
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2016-12-05 13:41:25 (13 comments; 7 reshares; 14 +1s; )Open 

Principia Qualia

Principia Qualia is a recent work by Michael Johnson seeking to understand the problem of valence in consciousness, or what makes some things feel better than others. This is a very interesting and valuable contribution to, and resource for, the study of consciousness.

Johnson digs into neuroscience and the latest iteration of the Integrated Information Theory (IIT) of consciousness espoused by Tononi that I’ve covered before. This also includes examining critiques of IIT by the likes of Aaronson and others and covers related theories on Perceptronium and the Field Integrated Information Hypothesis. A mathematical derivation of valence is considered in light of distinct differences in qualia, while the amount of mathematical symmetry is considered as the key driver of valence and this flows into treatments of pleasure and pain. This comes with a range ofh... more »

Principia Qualia

Principia Qualia is a recent work by Michael Johnson seeking to understand the problem of valence in consciousness, or what makes some things feel better than others. This is a very interesting and valuable contribution to, and resource for, the study of consciousness.

Johnson digs into neuroscience and the latest iteration of the Integrated Information Theory (IIT) of consciousness espoused by Tononi that I’ve covered before. This also includes examining critiques of IIT by the likes of Aaronson and others and covers related theories on Perceptronium and the Field Integrated Information Hypothesis. A mathematical derivation of valence is considered in light of distinct differences in qualia, while the amount of mathematical symmetry is considered as the key driver of valence and this flows into treatments of pleasure and pain. This comes with a range of hypotheses and experimental tests for Johnson’s valence subset of IIT.

Overall you’ll get a great update to discussions and developments in consciousness research. Some excerpts:

A complex feed-forward neural network can be highly complex, but because it has no integration between its layers, it has zero Φ. Importantly, functionally-identical systems (in terms of input/output) can produce different qualia under IIT, depending on their internal structure, and functionally different systems may produce the same qualia. This relates to why Tononi is confident that IIT implies that ‘virtual neurons’ emulated on a conventional computational system wouldn’t produce their original qualia. This also has implications for the simulation hypothesis, below.

Given a mathematical object isomorphic to the qualia of a system, the mathematical property which corresponds to how pleasant it is to be that system is that object’s symmetry​.

I posit boredom is a very sophisticated “anti-wireheading” technology which prevents the symmetry/pleasure attractor basin from being too ‘sticky’, and may be activated by an especially low rate of Reward Prediction Errors.

In this work and its appendices, I’ve sketched out what I think a “non-insane” Science of Qualia should look like; something that could turn qualia research from alchemy into chemistry, and unify our different modes of knowing in neuroscience.

The cosmological and simulation musings at the end are fun:

Perhaps we are qualia godshatter, slowly recoalescing 14 billion years after the Big Bang in which there existed an incredible amount of integrated information with incredibly fine spatial and temporal grain.

Bostrom’s simulation hypothesis relies on consciousness being substrate-independent. Integrated Information Theory implies consciousness is somewhat not substrate-independent. If we are in a simulation, it wouldn't really 'count' as being a metaphysically separate reality. Instead, we would simply be living in a weirdly-partitioned view of basement reality, since a simulation can’t take on any strong emergent properties over and above the hardware it’s being run on. Importantly, this means the underlying physical rules for consciousness would be the same for us as they would be for the entities running our simulations.

The introduction / summary is here:
http://opentheory.net/2016/11/principia-qualia/

The thesis is here:
http://opentheory.net/PrincipiaQualia.pdf
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2016-12-04 12:43:18 (4 comments; 4 reshares; 73 +1s; )Open 

The Strengthening Case Against Dark Matter.

Another brilliant Natalie Wolchover article exploring the latest theoretical and observational developments that suggest that dark matter doesn’t exist: https://www.quantamagazine.org/20161129-verlinde-gravity-dark-matter/

First, new theoretical work treats gravity as an emergent byproduct arising from quantum interactions between qubits on a hologram, the network of which gives rise to the spacetime and matter that we are familiar with. At large scales dark energy interacts with matter in the right way to create the illusion of dark matter. Intriguingly, working with this new fundamental model the equations of Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) naturally drop out to explain galactic rotation rates without the need for dark matter.

Second, recent observational studies of 153 galaxies show that (i) the rotation speed ofv... more »

The Strengthening Case Against Dark Matter.

Another brilliant Natalie Wolchover article exploring the latest theoretical and observational developments that suggest that dark matter doesn’t exist: https://www.quantamagazine.org/20161129-verlinde-gravity-dark-matter/

First, new theoretical work treats gravity as an emergent byproduct arising from quantum interactions between qubits on a hologram, the network of which gives rise to the spacetime and matter that we are familiar with. At large scales dark energy interacts with matter in the right way to create the illusion of dark matter. Intriguingly, working with this new fundamental model the equations of Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) naturally drop out to explain galactic rotation rates without the need for dark matter.

Second, recent observational studies of 153 galaxies show that (i) the rotation speed of visible matter at any given distance and (ii) the amount of visible matter within the galaxy, are tightly linked. This is exactly what some form of MOND would predict, but is considered a very unlikely outcome for conventional dark matter theories.

Third, testing the theoretical predictions from the work above against data from 30,000 galaxies demonstrates correct predictions for the distortions or gravitational lensing of light from those galaxies, which are normally attributed to dark matter.

Despite decades of searching no candidate dark matter particle has ever been observed.

There exists a lot of additional theoretical work and development for this new theory of gravity to stand up and gain broader acceptance, including accounting for things that conventional MOND or relativistic MOND cannot, such as Bullet cluster dynamics, CMB imprints, and others. Dark matter is entrenched consensus and dogma for the majority of physicists and cosmologists and efforts like these to supplant it will need to be hard fought to succeed.

I’m reminded of Max Planck’s quote, Science advances one funeral at a time. ___

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2016-12-04 04:46:54 (7 comments; 16 reshares; 65 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 49/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/12/allen-crispr-cells-advanced-synbio.html

Allen CRISPR cells, Advanced Synbio tools, Radioelectric diamond power, High temperature ice, Programmably disordered DNA, Endohedral fullerene clocks, Dendrimer atom mimicry, Linked enzyme molecular synthesis, Wireless optogenetic control, Nvidia’s Xavier chips.

1. Allen CRISPR Stem Cell Collection
The Allen Institute for Cell Science has released the Allen Cell Collection, comprising five induced pluripotent stem cell lines genetically engineered with CRISPR to fluorescently tag or label critical structural proteins in the cell http://www.alleninstitute.org/what-we-do/cell-science/news-press/press-releases/allen-institute-cell-science-releases-gene-edited-human-stem-cell-lines. Tagged structures that can bee... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 49/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/12/allen-crispr-cells-advanced-synbio.html

Allen CRISPR cells, Advanced Synbio tools, Radioelectric diamond power, High temperature ice, Programmably disordered DNA, Endohedral fullerene clocks, Dendrimer atom mimicry, Linked enzyme molecular synthesis, Wireless optogenetic control, Nvidia’s Xavier chips.

1. Allen CRISPR Stem Cell Collection
The Allen Institute for Cell Science has released the Allen Cell Collection, comprising five induced pluripotent stem cell lines genetically engineered with CRISPR to fluorescently tag or label critical structural proteins in the cell http://www.alleninstitute.org/what-we-do/cell-science/news-press/press-releases/allen-institute-cell-science-releases-gene-edited-human-stem-cell-lines. Tagged structures that can be easily visualised include the nucleus, mitochondria, microtubules, cell junctions, and cell adhesion complexes. Because these are human stem cells the differentiation into specialised cells and tissues can also be tracked with the same ease and efficiency. Additional collections will be released next year. These tools provide a very useful means by which to study the effects of other mutations and genetic modifications.

2. Advancing Synthetic Biology Tools
First, a number of easy, convenient mini-laboratories are being developed and launched to better allow people to edit, engineer, create, and test their own modified cells http://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/devices/tools-for-would-be-biohackers-here-come-3-mini-labs. The core ethos here is to continually reduce the cost and complexity required to tinker and edit cells, in the same way that the cost and complexity of computers was reduced, and so better unleash biological innovations. Second, at the industrial scale synthetic biology development is being driven by advances in automation http://spectrum.ieee.org/biomedical/devices/the-robot-revolution-comes-to-synthetic-biology, for driving high-throughput screening and selection to build organisms to required specifications. I feel like we’re approaching a tipping point here.

3. Radioelectric Diamond Energy Generators
Like thermoelectric materials that generate electricity from heat and piezoelectric materials that generate electricity from movement, a new prototype diamond-based material functions as a radioelectric material to generate electricity from radioactive sources http://www.bris.ac.uk/news/2016/november/diamond-power.html. The prototype synthetic diamonds use Nickel-63 as the radioactive source, but the next version should use Carbon-14 from radioactive graphite nuclear waste as the source incorporated into the synthetic diamonds. One gram of Carbon-14 in a battery would generate 15 Joules of energy per day, and would take over 5,000 years to reach half power. I wonder if future variations might increase the energy output for proportionally lower lifetimes. In other news work continues to develop diamonds as the ultimate semiconductors http://www.titech.ac.jp/english/research/stories/faces21_hatano.html.

4. High Temperature Ice in Nanotubes
When inside carbon nanotubes water remains “frozen” solid even at temperatures above the boiling point of water http://news.mit.edu/2016/carbon-nanotubes-water-solid-boiling-1128. The behaviour of the water at these temperatures is dependent on the diameter of the carbon nanotube, such that 1.05nm tubes vs 1.06nm tubes resulted in a tens-of-degrees temperature difference in the apparent freezing point - the team claim an ice-like phase for the solid water but need additional experiments to confirm it is ice. A couple of thoughts: first, the pressure exerted by the nanotubes must be significant, second, I wonder if there are superconducting applications here for example, confining materials to a superconducting phase that otherwise would not be possible at high temperatures.

5. Programmably Disordered DNA Origami
For the first time DNA origami building blocks or tiles have been engineered to self-assemble in both deterministic and random ways in order to generate large-scale emergent features with tunable statistical properties - what is known as programmable disorder http://www.caltech.edu/news/programmable-disorder-53104. An example of these designs include Truchet tiles, which fit together deterministically, but in one of two different random ways, in order to generate complex patterns. The structures formed are more organic, like trees or dendrites. In related programmable materials news shape-memory polymers are enabling new applications http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2016/Q4/programmable-materiels-showing-future-potential-for-industry.html.

6. Endohedral Fullerenes as Atomic Clocks
Endohedral fullerenes, which are buckyball cages encasing a particular atom or ion, are being produced industrially for a range of miniature devices and applications http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/11/millimeter-accurate-gps-in-smartphones.html. Endohedral fullerenes encapsulating nitrogen atoms might be used to produce tiny low-power on-chip atomic clocks that might provide cars and phones with GPS accuracy to 1mm, which would be a game changer. I’ve also wondered for about 15 years how arrays of suitable endohedral fullerenes might be used as high density digital memory devices. Other applications include energy harvesting and sensing.

7. Atom Mimicry with Dendrimers
Dendrimers, large molecules with precise branches extending from a central core, can now not only be engineered to mimic the electron valency of atoms but also linked into dendrimer arrays that mimic the covalent electron pair bonding between atoms in a molecule http://phys.org/news/2016-12-aspect-atom-mimicry-nanotechnology-applications.html. The group produced large 2D arrays of these “molecules” whose geometry and pitch can be controlled by the design of the dendrimer and linker molecules. This is a fascinating new atom-mimicry tool, similar to certain types of quantum dots, with applications no one has yet thought of.

8. Daisy-Chained Sperm Enzymes for Molecular Synthesis
A precise ten-step biological synthesis pathway for converting glucose into lactate has been demonstrated with a system that mimics the way enzymes in sperm tails rapidly ferry molecules and metabolites along the length of the tail http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2016/12/fast-efficient-sperm-tails-inspire-nanobiotechnology. Instead of enzymes vibrating in solution and randomly encountering their particular molecule, the group tethered all of the necessary enzymes to nanoparticles, which resulted in much lower concentrations of intermediate molecular products in solution. This is another step on the path towards atomically precise manufacturing. Add the particular enzymes for your synthetic pathway of interest to nanoparticles (perhaps further advances will lock in precise positions to ensure molecule-by-molecule handoff and transfer with no wastage) and drop into a solution or environment of choice, or inject into blood in order to perform the needed reaction as therapy, sensor, stimulant, industrial production or clean up agent.

9. Latest Wireless Optogenetic Animal Control
This week saw a nice update and review of wireless optogenetic animal control tools that we’ve covered previously over the years http://spectrum.ieee.org/biomedical/devices/neuroscientists-wirelessly-control-the-brain-of-a-scampering-lab-mouse. The key development has been tiny LEDs that can be implanted and wirelessly powered and controlled, requiring the mice or rats to be observed in cages equipped with radio frequency generators that can both power and send control signals to the tiny implanted chips connected to the LEDs. Instead of needing large receiving antennas new devices are able to track and use the body of the animal itself for resonant coupling.

10. Towards Exascale Computing with Nvidia
Nvidia has introduced Xavier, its most ambitious single-chip computer, which has 7 billion transistors and computes at 20 trillion operations per second (OPS) for just 20 watts of power. 50 of these chips would provide a petaOPS of processing for 1 kilowatt of power, while in 2018 50,000 units would reach exaOPS for 1 megawatt of power. Coverage at NBF here http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/11/nvidia-xavier-chip-20-trillion.html and here http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/11/50000-nvidia-xavier-chips-would-deliver.html. Commercial drivers include ramping up AI, deep learning, and autonomous vehicle data processing applications.

SciTech Tip Jar: http://www.scitechdigest.net/p/donate.html
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2016-11-27 06:32:03 (12 comments; 20 reshares; 49 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 48/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/11/deep-learning-criminal-recognition.html

Deep learning criminal recognition, Mapping the epigenome, Friction on graphene, Single atom memory, Parabiosis twist, Thermoelectric paint, MEMS ultrasound interfaces, Reducing water from air, Nanochannel genome mapping, Inducing mitophagy.

1. Criminal Face Recognition by Deep Learning
A deep learning system, after being suitably trained on 1,500 images of faces, half of which were criminals, half of which were not, can predict which subsequent faces are criminals with 90% accuracy https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602955/neural-network-learns-to-identify-criminals-by-their-faces/. This follows work in 2011 that showed that humans are also adept at picking criminals from a random collection of faces. I’lle... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 48/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/11/deep-learning-criminal-recognition.html

Deep learning criminal recognition, Mapping the epigenome, Friction on graphene, Single atom memory, Parabiosis twist, Thermoelectric paint, MEMS ultrasound interfaces, Reducing water from air, Nanochannel genome mapping, Inducing mitophagy.

1. Criminal Face Recognition by Deep Learning
A deep learning system, after being suitably trained on 1,500 images of faces, half of which were criminals, half of which were not, can predict which subsequent faces are criminals with 90% accuracy https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602955/neural-network-learns-to-identify-criminals-by-their-faces/. This follows work in 2011 that showed that humans are also adept at picking criminals from a random collection of faces. I’ll emphasise the fact that there are no guarantees in biology, just predispositions and likelihoods, and that a lot more work is needed, but this opens up some pretty interesting (potentially worrying) possibilities in future with regards to automatic screening for measures of criminality, trustworthiness, and other factors, either by individuals or by states. Imagine a Facebook plug-in that tagged everyone based on these assessments, or surveillance systems that directed personnel attention to specific individuals.

2. Mapping the Human Epigenome
The human epigenome, that pattern of methylation tags on DNA that help regulate gene expression, has been mapped to extraordinary detail in BLUEPRINT studies on how hematopoietic stem cells differentiate and produce the various types of blood cells https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-11/crcf-btd111716.php. Different epigenomic maps help dictate the particular gene expression blueprint that is to be followed to produce cells of a particular type, while disruption or changes to epigenetic markers can often result in disease states. Apart from raw knowledge, applications include cancer diagnostics, personalised medicine, and improved cellular reprogramming.

3. Understanding Graphene Friction
The possible applications for using graphene and graphite as lubricants takes a step forward with a far more sophisticated understanding of how friction operates on graphene surfaces http://news.mit.edu/2016/sliding-flexible-graphene-surfaces-1123. It turns out that in addition to quantity of contact (how much area between the two surfaces actually touch) the group discovered that quality of contact (how well individual carbon atoms make contact with other atoms in the material) plays a large role and causing the counter-intuitive spike in friction as movement begins before levelling off. The new understanding opens up possibilities in tuning graphene interfaces to provide a desired level of friction. In other 2D materials news, indium selenide appears to offer some interesting “goldilocks” properties http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/materials/indium-selenide-takes-on-the-mantle-of-the-new-wonder-material.

4. Single Atom Magnet Superlattice
Building on single-atom work announced earlier this year a group has now produced monomer layer superlattices of single (dysprosium) atom magnets on graphene-iridium sheets with a theoretical information density of 115 terabits per square inch http://phys.org/news/2016-11-superlattice-single-atom-magnets-aims-ultimate.html. The surfaces are prepared at 40K, allowing the atoms to find the lowest energy states in the lattice with an atomic spacing of 2.5nm, although stable magnet performance is only possible below 10K. This very low temperature prototype isn’t going to be useful anytime soon, which will require massive improvements in temperature stability.

5. Another Parabiosis Twist
Following on from the interesting parabiosis work last week showing rejuvenation effects of young blood on old mice, this latest parabiosis work with a counter-narrative deserves a strong mention. This latest study on mice, conducted with a different blood transfer procedure, suggests that young blood does not by itself help rejuvenate older animals and that older blood in young mice causes declines in the functioning of most organs and tissues http://news.berkeley.edu/2016/11/22/young-blood-does-not-reverse-aging-in-old-mice-uc-berkeley-study-finds/. This suggests that blood transfusions using blood from older individuals may carry a number of risks. Also, it appears that better ways to filter blood or otherwise remove accumulating factors in older blood will lead to rejuvenation benefits for older individuals.

6. Thermoelectric Paint
Thermoelectric paints (that convert heat into electricity) that can be quickly applied to any surface have been developed for the first time, in order to generate electricity from large temperature differences http://news.unist.ac.kr/unist-engineers-thermoelectric-material-in-paintable-liquid-form/. Like paint-on photovoltaics and LEDs this is a good initial demonstration that provides a platform for development: better efficiencies, lower operating temperatures, etc. Applications include any machine subject to high temperatures including cars, satellites, computer chips, and many others.

7. MEMS Ultrasound Interfaces
Recent advances and improvements in MEMS technology and devices will soon result in consumer level MEMS chips that function as ultrasonic gesture interfaces http://spectrum.ieee.org/semiconductors/devices/beyond-touch-tomorrows-devices-will-use-mems-ultrasound-to-hear-your-gestures. This is like Google’s Soli technology (radar) or infrared LEDs, but makes use of ultrasound to do the same and much more at much lower power and avoiding a range of potential interference sources from the environment. Earlier MEMS-based ultrasound devices include digital pens and styluses, but the new devices coming incorporate embedded piezoelectrics and promise a whole new way to interact with our digital devices and sensors.

8. Easy Access to Water from Air
A great little student project developed a simple device, predominantly 3D printed, that is able to produce just under two litres of water per hour from humid air (lower volumes from drier air) http://newworldwow.com/index.php/2016/11/17/student-creates-3d-printed-gadget-turns-air-1-8-liters-drinkable-water-just-one-hour/. The electric fans incorporated into the device circulate air and cool it below its dew point, producing water vapour that is subsequently collected, and all while powered by a 12 volt energy source. As far as compact atmospheric water generators go this is pretty neat. Perhaps Tesla should make a similar device to be sold alongside its Power Wall energy storage batteries, a Water Wall for on-site water production from excess energy.

9. Genome Mapping with Nanochannels
While nanopores are showing great promise as a long-read DNA sequencing technology, a new device and approach using nanochannels is showing great promise for high-resolution genome mapping as a useful complementary technology http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=45129.php. In this approach photostable fluorophores are combined with blinking dyes to mitigate the effects of thermal fluctuations of DNA to facilitate a 15-fold improvement in mapping resolution. The benefits of rapid genome mapping include determining gene location and distance, genetic rearrangements, better accuracy for discriminating repeat numbers of long strings of identical bases that sequencing struggles to resolve.

10. Clearing Defective Mitochondria
Increasing numbers of defective mitochondria in our cells are one of the major causes of aging-related damage; while work continues to try migrate mitochondrial genes to the nucleus to mitigate this, interim measures are also being developed including co-opting mitophagy, the cells natural quality control mechanism, to induce cells to remove defective mitochondria https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/11/manipulating-existing-methods-of-cellular-quality-control-to-clear-mutant-mitochondria/. Recent work demonstrates several different interventions that might be developed into human therapies in future in order to accelerate and boost this quality control mechanism.

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

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2016-11-20 06:29:09 (5 comments; 21 reshares; 58 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 47/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/11/compartmentalised-gene-circuits-crispr.html

Compartmentalised gene circuits, CRISPR human trial, Google’s machine learning, Parabiosis twist, Carbon nanotube terahertz scanner, Automated drug discovery, DNA origami muscles, Magnetic hand tracking, Photonic neuromorphic computing, Nanoantenna optical switches.

1. Compartmentalised Synthetic Gene Circuits
The utility and power of synthetic biology has been boosted with new modular tools that involve placing different genetic circuits into separate liposomes within the modified cells http://news.mit.edu/2016/synthetic-cells-isolate-genetic-circuits-1114. This solves the potential problem of too many genetic circuits interfering with each other, while allowing the same circuit to be used in a different waya... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 47/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/11/compartmentalised-gene-circuits-crispr.html

Compartmentalised gene circuits, CRISPR human trial, Google’s machine learning, Parabiosis twist, Carbon nanotube terahertz scanner, Automated drug discovery, DNA origami muscles, Magnetic hand tracking, Photonic neuromorphic computing, Nanoantenna optical switches.

1. Compartmentalised Synthetic Gene Circuits
The utility and power of synthetic biology has been boosted with new modular tools that involve placing different genetic circuits into separate liposomes within the modified cells http://news.mit.edu/2016/synthetic-cells-isolate-genetic-circuits-1114. This solves the potential problem of too many genetic circuits interfering with each other, while allowing the same circuit to be used in a different way at the same time. As a demonstration a circuit in one liposome reacted to a drug by releasing another molecule from its liposome, which entered a second liposome and genetic circuit that responded by producing a light-emitting protein. Other triggers include forcing the liposomes to merge and combine contents. I think of this system as producing basic little custom-engineered and custom-programmed nanofactories in cells. Such modularity makes this a very powerful platform for pushing synthetic biology applications forward.

2. CRISPR Therapy in First Human Trial
A Chinese group has introduced a CRISPR-based therapy into humans as part of a human trial for the first time http://www.nature.com/news/crispr-gene-editing-tested-in-a-person-for-the-first-time-1.20988. In this case the CRISPR modification took place in immune cells extracted from the patient, disabling the PD-1 gene that inhibits cellular immune response, and then these cells were reintroduced back into patients with lung cancer in the hope that the unhindered immune cells would defeat it. 2017 will see an number of other CRISPR human trials begin, most of which will be targeting various cancers. As CRISPR tools get better I’m expecting this space to explode.

3. Google Machine Learning Advances
First, Google demonstrates RAISR, a machine learning based tool that upscales low resolution images to high resolution copies, which might improve the viewability of low resolution images or otherwise preserve bandwidth http://www.androidpolice.com/2016/11/14/google-announces-raisr-method-upscaling-images-machine-learning/. Second, better machine learning is powering the latest iteration of Google Translate, which can now translate whole sentences at a time rather than piece by piece, and resulting in much smoother grammatically correct translations https://blog.google/products/translate/found-translation-more-accurate-fluent-sentences-google-translate/.

4. Surprising Twist with Parabiosis
Parabiosis is the term for connecting the circulatory systems of two animals together, and when done with an old and young mouse the older mouse shows signs of regeneration to a more youthful state. In an interesting twist, the blood plasma from young (18 year old) humans was taken and injected into old mice (1 year old, ~50 year human equivalent) and this also rejuvenated the old mice to a more youthful state as measured by movement, memory function, and increased neurogenesis https://www.newscientist.com/article/2112829-blood-from-human-teens-rejuvenates-body-and-brains-of-old-mice/. Interesting both for the fact that an 18 year old human’s blood rejuvenated a one year old mouse, and also for the promise this general procedure and the isolation of specific factors has for human health applications.

5. Portable Carbon Nanotube Terahertz Scanner
A portable, flexible, wearable, terahertz scanner has been created from thin films of carbon nanotubes http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/nanotechnology/flexible-portable-terahertz-scanner-made-from-carbon-nanotubes2. This effectively amounts to a flexible terahertz camera that in tests was able to detect and image a wide band of terahertz rays. Given terahertz light passes through many materials the promise has always been to use such devices for security as part of high-resolution non-invasive imaging to detect hidden objects.

6. Automated Drug Discovery
First, iPANDA is a machine learning system for discovering new drugs from gene expression data and which outputs the pharmacological properties of new potential drugs and biomarkers for further development https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-11/imi-ian111616.php. Second, another machine learning system was being used to study antimicrobial compounds and helped discover general peptides and protein features that can cross cell membranes, thus not only enabling the design of different and better antimicrobial peptides but also peptides that can ferry drugs and other molecules into cells http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/computers-learn-to-recognize-molecules-that-can-enter-cells.

7. DNA Origami Muscles
Nanoscale muscles have been built from gold nanoparticles linked in sheets by different single strand DNA sequences and with these sheets stacked in many layers https://news.upenn.edu/news/penn-engineers-make-nanoscale-muscles-powered-dna. By introducing different complementary strands induces the formation of double-stranded DNA bridges in precise locations, which are different lengths to single strands, and this causes the stacked sheets to twist and flex and roll up in controllable shapes. This controllable flexing behaviour could be used in nanoscale diagnostics, for example, recognising a certain type of RNA in the cell by changing the spacing between layers in the sheet and so interacting with light differently to provide a signal of the event.

8. VR Magnetic Hand Tracking
Ommo is developing a system to provide millimeter resolution gesture tracking in virtual reality environments magnetic fields and sensors http://spectrum.ieee.org/view-from-the-valley/at-work/start-ups/for-precise-hand-tracking-in-virtual-reality-start-with-a-magnetic-field. This includes a small magnetic field generator that is worn in the pocket and sensors on key points of a glove worn on the hands. Developer prototypes are expected next year. I’ve been playing with Daydream View lately and it would be pretty amazing to have this type of control and gesture interface in these environments.

9. Photonic Neuromorphic Computing
Neuromorphic computer hardware has taken a big step with the development of the first photonic neuromorphic chip for processing neural networks and deep learning algorithms at ultrafast speeds https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602938/worlds-first-photonic-neural-network-unveiled/. For certain types of information processing, types of recurrent neural networks for example, the photonic circuits have been demonstrated to be 2,000 times faster than conventional processing. The photonic circuits are comprised of nodes that respond in a similar manner to a neuron and consist of circular waveguides that trap light, which when released modulates the output of an associated laser.

10. Nanoantenna Switches for Optical Computing
On the topic of photonic chips, new nanoantennas made from silicon nanoparticles efficiently switch the direction of incoming light depending on the intensity of that light http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/nanotechnology/nanoantenna-changes-direction-of-light-and-the-prospects-of-optical-computing. Low intensity light is unaffected, while high intensity light generates a type of electron plasma around the silicon nanoparticles, resulting in a significant change to the refractive index of the nanoantennas, and so bending the light in a measurable and different way. These nanoantennas can support data rates up to 250 gigabits per second and offer a great platform for developing optical computing applications and chips in future.

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

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2016-11-17 11:28:00 (68 comments; 10 reshares; 34 +1s; )Open 

Stop Crying Wolf.

This is what we’ve come to. This, if nothing else, emphasises one of the major problems facing society today. You Are Still Crying Wolf is Scott Alexander’s latest blog post over at Slate Star Codex. Scott Alexander, easily the most intelligent blogger I follow. Scott Alexander, a practicing clinical psychiatrist. Scott Alexander, one of the most thorough and rigorous bloggers I’ve seen. Scott Alexander, who’s epic blog posts typically get hundreds of comments and intelligent discussion. Scott Alexander, on the political left, was for Clinton, Stein, or Sanders and against Trump …

… and yet had to turn off comments on this post because of a fear of the comment backlash for the crime of intellectually demolishing toxic false narratives.

This is what we’ve come to.

When we can’t honestly discuss important issues,narratives, fac... more »

Stop Crying Wolf.

This is what we’ve come to. This, if nothing else, emphasises one of the major problems facing society today. You Are Still Crying Wolf is Scott Alexander’s latest blog post over at Slate Star Codex. Scott Alexander, easily the most intelligent blogger I follow. Scott Alexander, a practicing clinical psychiatrist. Scott Alexander, one of the most thorough and rigorous bloggers I’ve seen. Scott Alexander, who’s epic blog posts typically get hundreds of comments and intelligent discussion. Scott Alexander, on the political left, was for Clinton, Stein, or Sanders and against Trump …

… and yet had to turn off comments on this post because of a fear of the comment backlash for the crime of intellectually demolishing toxic false narratives.

This is what we’ve come to.

When we can’t honestly discuss important issues, narratives, facts, and falsehoods for fear of being shouted down, verbally abused, and denigrated with all manner of pejoratives then we are struggling with a climate of stifling political correctness. Such an environment drastically inhibits our collective ability to solve big, complex problems by not only preventing the problem from being discussed but often preventing the problem from even being mentioned.

This is one of the major factors, a major cultural factor, influencing politics and cultural evolution throughout the western world today. It gives rise to utter moronic absurdities of huge numbers of people believing that half their fellow citizens are racist, sexist, homophobe bigot idiots. What is most shocking to some is that this toxically divisive rhetoric is not driven by the usual far-right actors one might expect, but by the far-left. And the media is not only complicit but acts as fuel for the fire.

It has to stop. History offers us important lessons for what happens when speech is suppressed, regardless of the mechanism. The longer the suppression, the harsher the backlash.


Relevant quotes:

When does the rhetoric spouted by the media cross the line to the equivalent of shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater?

Political correctness is enforced not to keep you from saying offensive words. Nobody wants to say offensive words. Political correctness is enforced to keep you from thinking ideas that fall outside the parameters of the dominant orthodoxy.

The alternative to discourse is physical conflict. The purpose of discourse is so that we can let our ideas die instead of us dying.

It’s pathetic. I don’t even add sources for the quotes out of fear that the source might be judged with pre-existing baggage leading to the dismissal of the entire piece.
___

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2016-11-15 11:56:01 (104 comments; 3 reshares; 37 +1s; )Open 

Liberal Critique of Politics & Culture in 2016

This is too good not to share. I first saw it several days ago when it was at 40,000 views but it is well past 2 million now. Tom Walker hits it out of the park on a number of key insights and points, The left is responsible for this result because the left has decided that any other opinion, any other way of looking at the world is unacceptable.

Edited quote I saw this week:
"Update your own mental software. If Trump’s win came as a surprise, your mental model of the world is defective."

Liberal Critique of Politics & Culture in 2016

This is too good not to share. I first saw it several days ago when it was at 40,000 views but it is well past 2 million now. Tom Walker hits it out of the park on a number of key insights and points, The left is responsible for this result because the left has decided that any other opinion, any other way of looking at the world is unacceptable.

Edited quote I saw this week:
"Update your own mental software. If Trump’s win came as a surprise, your mental model of the world is defective."___

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2016-11-13 06:15:42 (8 comments; 22 reshares; 74 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 46/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/11/metamaterial-radar-metamaterial.html

Metamaterial radar, Metamaterial semiconductors, Hybrid anti-lasers, Machine learning advances, Cyclocopter microdrone, Clones age normally, Implants fix paralysis, fMRI lie detector, Zika virus therapies, Carbon nanomaterials pressurised.

1. Metamaterial Radar for Drones
Echodyne has demonstrated a metameterial radar device the size of a phone whose performance is comparable to expensive, bulky military-grade phased-array radars http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/drones/metamaterial-radar-is-exactly-what-delivery-drones-need. Next year the improved device will allow a drone to detect power lines 800m away, small drones 1km away, and small planes 3km away, and all regardless of the weather conditions. Their... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 46/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/11/metamaterial-radar-metamaterial.html

Metamaterial radar, Metamaterial semiconductors, Hybrid anti-lasers, Machine learning advances, Cyclocopter microdrone, Clones age normally, Implants fix paralysis, fMRI lie detector, Zika virus therapies, Carbon nanomaterials pressurised.

1. Metamaterial Radar for Drones
Echodyne has demonstrated a metameterial radar device the size of a phone whose performance is comparable to expensive, bulky military-grade phased-array radars http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/drones/metamaterial-radar-is-exactly-what-delivery-drones-need. Next year the improved device will allow a drone to detect power lines 800m away, small drones 1km away, and small planes 3km away, and all regardless of the weather conditions. Their metamaterial, comprised of layers of patterned copper wiring with radar beam control facilitated by heating different regions, drastically reduces the size, complexity, and cost of effective high resolution radar applications powering sense-and-avoid capabilities for autonomous vehicles and other devices. Meanwhile Osram continues to shrink LIDAR systems http://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/sensors/osrams-laser-chip-for-lidar-promises-supershort-pulses-in-a-smaller-package.

2. Metamaterials Power Semiconductor-Free Electronics
In related metamaterial news, a microscale metamaterial device functions as a semiconductor via the application of a low voltage and low power laser, which boosts electrical conductivity by 1,000% http://jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/news/news_releases/release.sfe?id=2060. The metasurface is designed such that the influence of this light and low voltage causes certain spots to generate very high electric fields able to pull electrons from a metal and liberate them. An interesting novelty at this stage it’ll be interesting to see what applications are developed: where do you need semiconducting properties but can’t have semiconducting elements?

3. Hybrid Laser Anti-Lasers
A new device demonstrates both laser and anti-laser capabilities for telecommunications applications, and would enable the development of devices that can flexibly operate as lasers, amplifiers, modulators, absorbers, and detectors http://newscenter.lbl.gov/2016/11/07/lasers-anti-lasers-one-device/. While a laser amplifies a certain frequency of light, an anti-laser completely absorbs a certain frequency of light and can pick up signals among noisy backgrounds. The architecture of the device, a microscale alternating array of two materials, is the first to achieve what is known as “parity-time symmetry” in which an amplifying gain medium can also be a absorbing loss medium.

4. Latest Machine Learning Advances
First, LipNet is a deep learning system that can lipread from video to transcribe sentences with 93.4% accuracy, outperforming experienced human lipreaders http://prostheticknowledge.tumblr.com/post/152735696866/lipnet-deep-learning-research-from-the-university. Second, another system generates and suggests alternative promising drug molecules for investigation https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602756/software-dreams-up-new-molecules-in-quest-for-wonder-drugs/. Third, DeepMind and Blizzard are collaborating to open up and use StarCraft II as a formal AI and machine learning environment https://deepmind.com/blog/deepmind-and-blizzard-release-starcraft-ii-ai-research-environment/. Finally, a new system makes gains in automatic information extraction from text but automatically generating search queries and including new texts in its analysis http://news.mit.edu/2016/artificial-intelligence-system-surfs-web-improve-performance-1110.

5. Cyclocopter Microdrone
A tiny 29 gram cyclocopter drone has been developed that utilises a novel lift and thrust mechanism based on a single cycloidal rotor that can generate instant vector thrust http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/drones/worlds-smallest-cyclocopter-brings-unique-design-to-microdrones. Check out the video, it is pretty cool. The cyclorotor design provides excellent maneuverability and efficiency, as well as more stability, lower noise, and faster than helicopters. We might even see this design adapted to carry humans at some point given the key hurdle of large centrifugal bending loads can be overcome with better composite materials.

6. Cloned Animals Age Normally
Latest research suggests that cloned animals age at the same rate and achieve the same lifespan as normal animals https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/11/do-cloned-animals-age-normally/. There had been concerns over many years as to whether this was the case but it appears that once the cloned animal reaches adulthood most problems that might arise from the somatic cell nuclear transfer and reprogramming procedure are effectively overcome and a normal life outcome should be expected. Addressing the rates of reprogramming errors are of course important and an ongoing research area, but for those animals who reach maturity telomeres and other cellular degradations appear to be restored.

7. Brain & Spine Implants Circumvent Paralysis
Monkeys with partial spinal cord injuries were able to walk again thanks to a new system involving a brain implant and a spinal implant that bridged the injury with wireless data connection http://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/bionics/brain-and-spine-implants-let-a-paralyzed-monkey-walk-again. The brain implant records specific activity in the motor cortex that coordinates leg movement, decodes these signals and sends to the spinal implant, which stimulates a specific location in the spinal cord in order to generate appropriate leg movement. Meanwhile NeuroGrid is an electrode grid on plastic wrap that can cover and cling to the brain to perform high-resolution recording and stimulation of neurons http://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/devices/new-implant-safely-records-activity-from-individual-neurons.

8. Spotting Lies With fMRI
As expected, functional magnetic resonance imaging has proven to be significantly more effective at spotting lies than typical polygraph tests http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2016/11/langleben/. In the comparison study neuroscientists reviewing fMRI scans were 24% more likely to detect deception than professional polygraph examiners reviewing polygraph recordings. Interestingly, in 17 subjects in which the polygraph and fMRI agreed on the particular lie, they were 100% correct. Still, it is unsure whether fMRI scans will ever be admissible as evidence in court.

9. Zika Antibody Therapy
A new antibody has proven effective in tests in mice to protect babies in the womb from the effects of Zika Virus, effectively transferring from the mother’s blood, through the placenta, and into the baby’s brain http://www.bbc.com/news/health-37897617. This is in addition to a promising Zika Virus vaccine being developed to prevent infection in the first place http://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/999584/human-trials-begin-for-army-developed-zika-vaccine. While Zika proves catastrophic in babies with rapidly growing brains (by targeting neural stem cells), adults also have neural stem cells needed throughout life, and I suspect Zika may result in long-term neurological conditions so any therapy will be doubly beneficial.

10. Pressurising Carbon Nanomaterials
First, applying high pressure (55 GPa) to multi-walled carbon nanotubes results in the walls of different carbon nanotubes fusing together to create an ultrastrong bulk material and opening the possibility of covalent inter-tube bonding for polymerised carbon nanotubes https://mipt.ru/english/news/pressure_welding_nanotubes_creates_ultrastrong_material. Second, applying a pressure difference across graphene membranes results in the perceived colour of the graphene shifting colour (a type of strain-tronics or strain-optics in this case) and is a phenomena that might be exploited in displays http://phys.org/news/2016-11-graphene-balloons.html.

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2016-11-06 03:38:26 (8 comments; 23 reshares; 75 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 45/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/11/synthetic-biology-devices-biohub-cell.html

Synthetic biology devices, Biohub cell atlas, Neuronal interfaces, Neuronal transplants, DIY senolytics, Precise atom arrays, Solid metallic hydrogen, Regenerating spinal injuries, UV lithography, One shot deep learning.

1. Synthetic Biology Devices
The latest round of the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition has produced a number of synthetic biology devices in the form of genetically modified bacteria, and including a biological heat induced light bulb, a microbial fuel cell with higher electrical output, a biological capacitor, and light-dependent resistors http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/10/synthetic-biology-competition-team.html. Good to see DIY BIO with basic microfluidic chips... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 45/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/11/synthetic-biology-devices-biohub-cell.html

Synthetic biology devices, Biohub cell atlas, Neuronal interfaces, Neuronal transplants, DIY senolytics, Precise atom arrays, Solid metallic hydrogen, Regenerating spinal injuries, UV lithography, One shot deep learning.

1. Synthetic Biology Devices
The latest round of the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition has produced a number of synthetic biology devices in the form of genetically modified bacteria, and including a biological heat induced light bulb, a microbial fuel cell with higher electrical output, a biological capacitor, and light-dependent resistors http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/10/synthetic-biology-competition-team.html. Good to see DIY BIO with basic microfluidic chips becoming more sophisticated. In related news there are attempts to engineer bacteria to create biocement out of soils in order to form natural foundations for buildings and other structures http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/news/2016/10/thinkingsoils/.

2. Quake’s BioHub Cell Atlas
I’ve long admired Stephen Quake’s groundbreaking work on microfluidics and it is good to see his latest effort to run BioHub in creating the most comprehensive human cell atlas ever assembled https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602732/mark-zuckerberg-is-funding-a-facebook-for-human-cells/. There are good reasons to suspect that there are thousands of different types of cells with distinct functions that are otherwise difficult to tell apart, and in any case many more than the typical 300 types of cells quoted. BioHub’s human cell atlas project is possible thanks to some of Quake’s microfluidic inventions allowing individual cells to be captured and analysed, and will enable high throughput inspection and mapping of tens of millions of human cells and their distinct molecular signatures.

3. Neuronal Interfaces
A new electrically controlled ion pump is able to deliver neurotransmitter chemicals such as acetylcholine at almost the same rate as live neurons http://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/devices/highspeed-electronic-pump-mimics-neural-signaling. The device exploits thin films that are a few hundred nanometers thick, using an induced electrical current to push the neurotransmitters through tiny channels to where they need to go, making the journey in 50ms, and activating subsets of neurons at these locations. Interesting applications in stimulating neurons with neurotransmitters instead of crude electrodes. In related news the smallest ever extracellular needle-electrodes have been developed http://www.medindia.net/news/worlds-smallest-extracellular-needle-electrodes-developed-164729-1.htm.

4. Neuronal Transplants Integrate into Brain Networks
Recent demonstrations in mice have shown that transplanted embryonic neurons integrate into the host brain, replacing damaged neurons and successfully carrying out those functions in existing networks https://www.neuro.mpg.de/3378043/news_publication_10801776. This work demonstrated functional integration into the damaged visual cortex of mice, showed that the neurons survived, differentiated into the correct cell type, formed normal and appropriate synaptic connections, and for all intents and purposes replaced the damaged elements to restore normal signalling activity for the region. Very promising for many diseases and age-related neurodegeneration.

5. DIY Senolytics
One of the seven main causes of age related damage, the accumulation of senescent cells, is attracting serious investment and pharmaceutical efforts to develop senolytic therapies to target and clear these cells in order to restore the body to more youthful levels. However, there are drugs that already exist, such as Navitoclax, typically developed as cancer treatments and shown to selectively kill senescent cells, that people might be able to obtain and to pursue personal senescent cell clearance today https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/10/on-the-topic-of-senescent-cells-should-we-all-be-trying-to-take-navitoclax/. The clinical trial data showing dosing and side effects is available, the raw drug while expensive can be obtained and might be made cheaper, the assays to determine effectiveness are widely available. Something I should really look into.

6. Precise Large Scale Atom Arrays
Optical tweezer technology is becoming more sophisticated with the demonstration of a new system using laser tweezers to pick and hold individual atoms from a cloud, up to 50 atoms at a time, in a precisely ordered array, and to move these atoms around to different positions as needed http://news.mit.edu/2016/scientists-set-traps-atoms-single-particle-precision-1103. This new technique uses neutral atoms (ions are difficult to hold in dense arrays due to repulsion) and might find applications in creating new materials, information storage, processing, and possible quantum computations.

7. Solid Metallic Hydrogen
For the first time solid metallic hydrogen has been created in the laboratory http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/11/harvard-researchers-created-solid.html. This was achieved by subjecting a sample of hydrogen to pressures of 495 GPa. The material is believed to be metastable and once the pressure is released it may still exist as solid metallic hydrogen at room temperature; an experiment still to be conducted. If so it could potentially be transformative as solid metallic hydrogen is predicted to be a superconductor, and would also comprise a powerful rocket propellant. In related news superconductivity is being induced in non-superconducting materials http://www.uh.edu/news-events/stories/2016/October/10312016Paul-Chu-New-Discovery-Superconductivity.php.

8. Regenerating Spinal Injuries
A protein called connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) has been identified as crucial to allowing zebra fish to successfully regenerate injured and severed spinal cords https://today.duke.edu/2016/11/scientists-find-key-protein-spinal-cord-repair. The protein is 90% identical in humans and zebra fish, and human CTGF introduced into fish with a non-functional CTGF gene were able to regenerate severed spinal cords. CTGF is secreted by cells and grows across the injured site to form a bridge between the two spinal cord ends, allowing neurons and other support cells to migrate and reform a functional connection. It is hoped that this understanding leads to human therapies in future.

9. Pushing Computing Forward
First, major chip fabs are pushing extreme ultraviolet lithography technology forward for hopeful deployment by 2018 http://spectrum.ieee.org/semiconductors/devices/leading-chipmakers-eye-euv-lithography-to-save-moores-law. Achieving this demands numerous sophisticated challenges are solved just to generate, control, and manage the light, which has a wavelength of 13.5nm compared to the current 193nm in use - which will nonetheless be used to produce 7nm features in 2018 from the current 14nm features in production; but the next generation of 5nm features will require ultraviolet. Second, Optalysys is producing a novel laser optical computing technology to speed up certain types of computations https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602765/computing-with-lasers-could-power-up-genomics-and-ai/.

10. Deep Learning After Seeing Objects Once
Google’s DeepMind group has developed new deep learning technology that is capable of “one-shot” learning, recognising objects from a single example https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602779/machines-can-now-recognize-something-after-seeing-it-once/. This builds on work to add memory components to deep learning systems, and must still be trained up on hundreds of categories of images, but after this training it can recognise new objects from just a single picture. The development and ongoing advances of deep learning technology continues to amaze.

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

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2016-10-30 04:15:01 (5 comments; 28 reshares; 71 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 44/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/10/evolved-metamaterial-lenses-machine.html

Evolved metamaterial lenses, Machine learning encryption explanations, Tank & drone tech, Multiple virus vaccine, Low power transistors, Printed heart on chip, Metallic DNA, Doubly effective immunotherapy, Machine controlled bacteria, 3D printed magnets.

1. Achromatic Lenses from Evolutionary Algorithms
Two-dimensional structured metasurfaces show great promise for high resolution imaging, holography, and other applications but suffer from chromatic aberration in which the focus shifts depending on the wavelength. A new approach encodes the desired optical properties as a fitness function and successfully uses evolutionary algorithms to find the structure with the optimised fitness value... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 44/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/10/evolved-metamaterial-lenses-machine.html

Evolved metamaterial lenses, Machine learning encryption explanations, Tank & drone tech, Multiple virus vaccine, Low power transistors, Printed heart on chip, Metallic DNA, Doubly effective immunotherapy, Machine controlled bacteria, 3D printed magnets.

1. Achromatic Lenses from Evolutionary Algorithms
Two-dimensional structured metasurfaces show great promise for high resolution imaging, holography, and other applications but suffer from chromatic aberration in which the focus shifts depending on the wavelength. A new approach encodes the desired optical properties as a fitness function and successfully uses evolutionary algorithms to find the structure with the optimised fitness value http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=44932.php. This resulted in the creation of achromatic two dimensional lattice lenses able to focus three distinct wavelengths by utilising the plasmonic properties of different sized and shaped gold nanoparticles arranged in a precise pattern. This provides a pathway to broadband achromatic lenses. Meanwhile metamaterials are paving the way to terahertz technologies http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/new-metamaterial-paves-way-for-terahertz-technologies and cool new acoustic holograms http://pratt.duke.edu/about/news/acoustic-hologram.

2. Machine Learning Encryption & Explanation
First, Google’s deep learning systems have invented basic cryptographic algorithms from scratch, able to send and receive encrypted messages https://www.newscientist.com/article/2110522-googles-neural-networks-invent-their-own-encryption/. One wonders how strong machine learning cryptography might get and whether we’ll see this rolled out to broader if it surpasses our current efforts. As usual the group doesn’t know exactly how the encryption method works or how the network achieves the result. In light of this we have related news in which a new training method for deep learning that results not only in the predictions and classifications desired but also the rationale or explanation for how the network achieves this http://news.mit.edu/2016/making-computers-explain-themselves-machine-learning-1028. This will be particularly useful for validation in medical and other fields.

3. Tank, Drone, and Gun Improvements
Some interesting military technological advances this week. First, a new active protection system carried by tanks can intercept depleted uranium armour-piercing shells http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/10/russia-claims-active-protection-system.html, which is considered a game-changing development. Second, DARPA and the Pentagon’s autonomous military drone program is progressing with autonomous drones able to distinguish between combatants carrying weapons and unarmed civilians http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/26/us/pentagon-artificial-intelligence-terminator.html?_r=2. Third, a new smart-rifle provides aim-stabilised, target-correction performance to completely remove and compensate for human error http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/a23505/the-us-army-stabilized-weapons/.

4. Multiple Cold-Virus Vaccine
A new type of vaccine for rhinoviruses, combatting the common cold, has shown promising results in mice and monkey studies http://www.news.emory.edu/stories/2016/09/moore_rhinovirus_vaccine_natcomm/index.html. The sheer diversity of over 100 different rhinoviruses has hindered the development of any effective vaccine, but the new approach combines up to 50 different variants and successfully induced the production of antibodies against all 50 variants in the animals that were challenged. Stage 1 human volunteer studies will be needed next and the group believes that launching an effective all-purpose cold vaccine is now an engineering challenge related to manufacturing.

5. Low Power Transistors and Infinitesimal Computing
There were a couple of interesting fundamental computing advances this week. First, a new type of transistor has been created that can scavenge energy from the environment and harness tiny current leakage to function with ultra-low power for applications in which energy is more important than speed http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/engineers-design-ultralow-power-transistors-that-could-function-for-years-without-a-battery. Second, researchers have designed what they refer to as an “infinitesimal” computing element, involving stacked memristors in a 50nm by 50nm by 50nm volume form a functional 8-bit adder in a nanoscale computing element http://www.news.ucsb.edu/2016/017349/tiny-machine.

6. 3D Printed Heart-On-Chip
The field of human-organs-on-microfluidic chips takes another step with the development of the first completely 3D printed heart on a chip with integrated sensing components https://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2016/10/3d-printed-heart-on-chip-with-integrated-sensors. The advance utilised 6 new “inks” that integrated soft strain sensors within the structure of the tissue, while the prototype chips include multiple compartments with separate cardiac tissues that were tested via drug-effect studies and contractile stress changes. Such tools will help to shorten drug development, animal, and human trials in future and hopefully allow therapeutics to be made available much quicker.

7. Creating Metallic DNA
A new chemical reaction has been developed that replaces one of the hydrogen bonds between the DNA bases adenine and thymine with a silver atom http://www.nanowerk.com/nanotechnology-news/newsid=44930.php. The structure and properties of the DNA molecule otherwise remain unchanged and still undergo the same dynamics. However, this change greatly improves the stability of the molecule, for example, by significantly boosting the melting point or temperature sensitivity. You could form various DNA origami structures, such as the nanomachines and other blocks that have been demonstrated, then replace these bonds in this way to boost stability, strength, and improve the electrical conduction properties. The group are working on doing the same with the other base-binding of interest between guanine and cytosine to further boost performance.

8. Doubly Effective Immunotherapy
A new therapeutic treatment effectively induces both the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system to combat and destroy cancers and tumours http://news.mit.edu/2016/fighting-cancer-power-immunity-1024. This treatment, effective in mice, used an antibody targeted to the tumour of interest, a vaccine targeted to the tumour of interest, interleukin 2 (IL2), and programmed cell death molecule 1(PD1). The antibody recruits more immune cells, the vaccine stimulates T cell proliferation, the IL2 promotes T cell expansion, and PD1 prolongs T cell activity. In 75% of mice all large tumours were completely eliminated and any new cancer cells reintroduced 6 months later were completely cleared.

9. Machine Controlled Bacteria
A new system precisely controls the growth of genetically engineered bacteria placed within it and can ramp this up or down as required by adjusting the light exposure https://www.ethz.ch/en/news-and-events/eth-news/news/2016/10/cyborg-bacteria.html. The bacteria are engineered to respond to red and green light in different ways and the system measures bacterial cell density to ensure growth and concentration are kept at the desired level indefinitely (assuming nutrients are added) regardless of other environmental influences. This might find application in bioreactors for example, especially if additional levers are present such as differently modified cells or pathways, in order to control the production of more complex molecules.

10. 3D Printed Magnets
New inks comprising magnetic micro granules suspended in polymers have enabled 3D printers to produce custom magnets for the first time http://www.nanowerk.com/news2/gadget/newsid=44907.php. In this case the desired shape is printed, allowed to solidify, and then a powerful external magnet is used to set the orientation and strength of the magnetic field. Prototype magnets 90% magnet material and 10% polymer. I wonder how strong a magnetic force the polymer can withstand before the magnetic field threatens to break the grains apart or flip their rotations. Regardless there are still plenty of applications here from custom shaped magnet architectures that might otherwise not be able to be manufactured, as well as gradient or otherwise patterned magnetic fields from concentration and spacing of the granules.

Bonus: I found this proposed theoretical design for a room temperature superconductor based on units comprising a helium atom encased by a C60 fullerene molecule too interesting not to share http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/10/helium-encased-in-carbon-fullerene.html.

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2016-10-24 13:48:45 (2 comments; 17 reshares; 53 +1s; )Open 

Instantaneous Neural Synchrony

This neuroscientific research from 2008 demonstrates, via multielectrode recordings that the brain achieves zero time lag synchronisation between remote cerebral cortical areas despite axonal conduction delays of tens of miliseconds https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2575223/. The group suggests that certain neural network loops appear to be ideal circuits to facilitate circumvention of conduction delays and help the brain achieve synchronous discharge of disparate neural networks.

This precisely coordinated spike timing across different areas of the brain has been demonstrated to be correlated with perception and behavioural performance. The work shows that generating local rhythms and oscillations in a brain structure is a distinct and different phenomenon to the mechanism at hand that is responsible for their synchrony. The synchrony... more »

Instantaneous Neural Synchrony

This neuroscientific research from 2008 demonstrates, via multielectrode recordings that the brain achieves zero time lag synchronisation between remote cerebral cortical areas despite axonal conduction delays of tens of miliseconds https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2575223/. The group suggests that certain neural network loops appear to be ideal circuits to facilitate circumvention of conduction delays and help the brain achieve synchronous discharge of disparate neural networks.

This precisely coordinated spike timing across different areas of the brain has been demonstrated to be correlated with perception and behavioural performance. The work shows that generating local rhythms and oscillations in a brain structure is a distinct and different phenomenon to the mechanism at hand that is responsible for their synchrony. The synchrony itself appears to depend on intermediary neuronal regions to coordinate precise and simultaneous timing of the activity of separate regions; but so long as the regions are temporally equidistant to this intermediate relay region.

This is fascinating in and of itself, but given it has been 8 years I should follow up some of the more recent publications that cite the paper to see if things have changed or been validated.

One of the reasons I find this particularly interesting is how this synchrony might be important for consciousness in the sense of raw conscious sensation and experience. I suspect it is but would like to see the results of any experiments that have interrupted this synchrony in some way and measured whether or not consciousness was affected. I’m biased of course because this feeds into and appears to support my own ideas about consciousness that I’ve explored over the last several years.

Update:
These pieces are relevant http://bigthink.com/ideafeed/brain-scientists-discover-an-ignition-switch-for-consciousness and https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22329762-700-consciousness-on-off-switch-discovered-deep-in-brain/?full=true#.U7bZAY1dWwH, discussing the role of that claustrum plays in coordinating activity between different brain regions.
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2016-10-24 12:22:23 (122 comments; 22 reshares; 93 +1s; )Open 

There’s No Such Thing As Dark Energy. Probably.

A recent analysis of 740 Type 1a supernovae suggests that it is likely that there is no dark energy and the expansion of the Universe is not accelerating. This new analysis incorporates ten times as many data points and possesses much greater statistical significance than the original data and the original analysis that concluded the expansion of the Universe was accelerating and driven by an unknown force (dark energy) that accounts for the majority of energy/mass in the Universe.

Oxford release: http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/science-blog/universe-expanding-accelerating-rate-%E2%80%93-or-it
Nature paper: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep35596

The researchers say the work demonstrates that this pillar of standard cosmology is shaky and it is quite possible we have been misled and dark energy was proposed as ac... more »

There’s No Such Thing As Dark Energy. Probably.

A recent analysis of 740 Type 1a supernovae suggests that it is likely that there is no dark energy and the expansion of the Universe is not accelerating. This new analysis incorporates ten times as many data points and possesses much greater statistical significance than the original data and the original analysis that concluded the expansion of the Universe was accelerating and driven by an unknown force (dark energy) that accounts for the majority of energy/mass in the Universe.

Oxford release: http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/science-blog/universe-expanding-accelerating-rate-%E2%80%93-or-it
Nature paper: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep35596

The researchers say the work demonstrates that this pillar of standard cosmology is shaky and it is quite possible we have been misled and dark energy was proposed as a consequence of analysing the data with a simplistic theoretical model. The available data, in fact, is quite consistent with a constant rate of expansion.

Core dogma in theoretical physics and cosmology is not overturned overnight. Additional data and analysis will be demanded and the European Extremely Large Telescope should shed more light on the matter over time.

However, assuming this is true, the consequences are:
- There is no dark energy
- The expansion of the Universe is not accelerating
- Big rip models are ruled out for the future of the Universe
- The total estimate of the mass-energy in the Universe is reduced by ~68%
- Cosmological constant might be zero after all
- Resolves the 120 orders of magnitude discrepancy in theoretical and observed energy density of the vacuum

So it would appear to simplify and clear up a number of important things and would certainly satisfy Ocam’s razor. But we’ll have to wait for a new consensus to be sure about updating our models.

Expansion of space: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metric_expansion_of_space
Dark energy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_energy
Cosmological constant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_constant
Big rip: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Rip
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2016-10-23 03:21:26 (6 comments; 21 reshares; 77 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 43/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/10/reservoir-computing-analogue.html

Reservoir computing, Analogue neuromorphic chips, Network neuroscience, Eggs from skin cells, Conversational speech recognition, Fast FPGA chips, Diamond anvils, Smart 3D printers, Big data automation, Full colour epaper.

1. Reservoir Computing
Reservoir computing aims to perform useful computations on different bulk materials by exploiting the basic properties of physical systems; the basic idea is to input or stimulate the material and measure the output or change in state, which counts as a calculation - string these together and you can perform computations. A recent reservoir computer was built out of a bucket or water, while observations suggest the brain functions like a reservoir computer... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 43/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/10/reservoir-computing-analogue.html

Reservoir computing, Analogue neuromorphic chips, Network neuroscience, Eggs from skin cells, Conversational speech recognition, Fast FPGA chips, Diamond anvils, Smart 3D printers, Big data automation, Full colour epaper.

1. Reservoir Computing
Reservoir computing aims to perform useful computations on different bulk materials by exploiting the basic properties of physical systems; the basic idea is to input or stimulate the material and measure the output or change in state, which counts as a calculation - string these together and you can perform computations. A recent reservoir computer was built out of a bucket or water, while observations suggest the brain functions like a reservoir computer https://theconversation.com/theres-a-way-to-turn-almost-any-object-into-a-computer-and-it-could-cause-shockwaves-in-ai-62235. In related news artificial reservoir computing algorithms combined with backpropagation algorithms results in an analogue computer with some superior learning algorithms.

2. Analogue & Neuromorphic Chips
Analogue computing is picking up steam as it promises to provide a significant range of benefits to neuromorphic computing architectures http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/artificial-intelligence/analog-and-neuromorphic-chips-will-rule-robotic-age. Recent examples include analogue circuits that better see and hear while consuming a fraction of the power, computing systems that are much more resistant to noise, and deep neural networks using analogue approaches that use 100 times less energy to run. Watch this space; we haven’t seen anything yet.

3. Network Neuroscience & Control
Network control theory is seeking to go beyond communications, gene regulatory networks, and other systems to being applied to control the brain via network neuroscience https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602695/how-network-neuroscience-is-creating-a-new-era-of-mind-control/. This starts with simple manipulations that inject energy into one part of the network to alter activity in another part, for example the deep brain stimulation techniques employed with Parkinson’s disease patients. Combined with connectome data it is becoming apparent that the brain employs a range of different control strategies, each of which is a target for directed control to, for example, shift the brain into desirable patterns of activity.

4. Converting Skin Cells into Eggs into Adult Animals
For the first time skin cells from mice have been reprogrammed in a petri dish to form viable egg cells that have then been fertilised to produce healthy animals that proceeded to successfully birth a second generation of mice http://www.nature.com/news/mouse-eggs-made-from-skin-cells-in-a-dish-1.20817. One limitation is the need for an ovary-like support of cells isolated from ovaries to be present with the cells being transformed; the group are hoping to identify and create artificial reagents that would finally obviate the need for this. Combined with earlier techniques for producing sperm cells from skin cells the complete reproductive technology stack is coming together to allow a wide range of flexible reproductive (and industrial) strategies to be employed.

5. Human Level Conversational Speech Recognition
Microsoft demonstrated neural network speech recognition software that can transcribe conversational speech at human levels of proficiency and performance http://blogs.microsoft.com/next/2016/10/18/historic-achievement-microsoft-researchers-reach-human-parity-conversational-speech-recognition/#sm.0015hf9cv11bqfiqqwu1iixt8xitf. The system produces an error rate of 5.9% that is the same or less than professionals who transcribe conversational speech. This is expected to feed directly into Cortana and other software products. This advance was announced as another Microsoft Research group won first prize in an image segmentation competition for delineating specific objects in images.

6. Fast FPGA Optimisation Chips
Fujitsu demonstrated a new FPGA flexible circuit architecture for solving combinatorial optimisation problems that can perform these computations 10,000 times faster than a conventional computer http://www.fujitsu.com/global/about/resources/news/press-releases/2016/1020-02.html. The chips are made with conventional semiconductors, include features that allow the optimisation computations to escape local minimums, and running software processes called simulated annealing. The parallelisation incorporated into the design allows a pathway from the demonstration problems with 1,024 bits to 100,000 or more bits by 2018 that will start to allow practical implementation.

7. Latest Diamond Anvils
New microanvils made of diamond and adorned with a nanocrystalline diamond pillar measuring 30 micrometers wide and 15 micrometers tall has achieved some of the highest experimental pressures ever http://www.uab.edu/news/innovation/item/7702-working-under-pressure-diamond-micro-anvils-made-by-uab-will-produce-immense-pressures-to-make-new-materials. The anvils reached 264 gigapascals, about 75% of the pressure found at the centre of the Earth, and the ultimate goal of the group is to improve the anvils to reach 1 terapascal of pressure, or 147 million pounds per square inch - the pressure at the centre of Saturn. The nanocrystalline diamond anvils showed no sign of deformation and survived the immense pressures; applications include new materials analysis and development.

8. Intelligent 3D Printers
Ai Build is retrofitting robotic arms with 3D printers and AI algorithms to create machines that can see, create, and learn from mistakes http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/ai-build-wants-to-change-the-way-we-build-the-future/. The key innovation was attaching cameras to the arms with machine vision algorithms to analyse structures as they were being printed, establishing a feedback loop between the physical and virtual environments. The arm detected defects and compensated for them in later layers, and was able to print much larger complex structures about twice as quickly as a result. Partnerships with NVIDIA and robot manufacturer KUKA helped the startup make progress in this area.

9. Further Automating Big Data Analysis
A powerful automated big data analysis system has progressed since last year, moving beyond mere automated feature set selection to include automatic data presentation and specification of problems, and to perform in days what normally took months http://news.mit.edu/2016/automating-big-data-analysis-1021. The approach employs a new software language called Trane, works well with time series data, and significantly speeds up the process of finding what questions and problems are worth asking of the data. In tests on previous time-consuming work performed by humans the system reproduced every question that the researchers had asked of particular data sets and proposed hundreds of others that had not been considered.

10. Full Colour Flexible Electronic Paper
A new micrometer thin polymer material provides the basis for full colour flexible electronic paper capable of providing the full range of colours that a conventional LED display is capable of while needing significantly less energy than a Kindle tablet http://www.chalmers.se/en/departments/chem/news/Pages/Bendable-electronic-paper-shows-full-colour-scale-.aspx. This is a proof of concept with core pixels having been built, but a final product will require significant scale-up to large high pixel density screens and also drastically reduce the amount of gold used in manufacturing the films.

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2016-10-18 13:18:05 (140 comments; 14 reshares; 49 +1s; )Open 

Regressive Madness

I swear, in 2016 the world appears to have gone mad. For the past several months I’ve collected those articles, those links, that have caused me to lean back from the screen and shake my head in utter disbelief and bemusement at the actions committed by or beliefs espoused by people. The point of course isn’t the shock at any specific individual instance, but rather the despair at seeing such things crop up with increasing frequency and indicating a broader and deeper regressive cultural malaise linking them all together. There is something perversely wrong with our culture that stories like these are becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Regressive cultural norms, like regressive politics, fundamentally stem from dogmatic and cult-like ideologies; the best deconstruction of which I’ve seen is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htqOIjzi-jE. Sowides... more »

Regressive Madness

I swear, in 2016 the world appears to have gone mad. For the past several months I’ve collected those articles, those links, that have caused me to lean back from the screen and shake my head in utter disbelief and bemusement at the actions committed by or beliefs espoused by people. The point of course isn’t the shock at any specific individual instance, but rather the despair at seeing such things crop up with increasing frequency and indicating a broader and deeper regressive cultural malaise linking them all together. There is something perversely wrong with our culture that stories like these are becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Regressive cultural norms, like regressive politics, fundamentally stem from dogmatic and cult-like ideologies; the best deconstruction of which I’ve seen is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htqOIjzi-jE. So widespread is the phenomenon and its hallmark insistence of beliefs and feelings always trumping facts and logic that such ideologies can probably be thought of as religions of the 21st century. And here I’d naively thought we’d outgrown religion and its inquisitions, original sin, sanctimonious righteousness, and authoritarian proscriptions on thought and speech. The latter is particularly concerning as parallels to 1984 are depressingly common.

I’m optimistic though. I think we’ll muddle our way through and one way or another, sooner or later, we’ll manage to culturally reassert core enlightenment values and classical liberal principles better able to boost human prosperity and reduce human suffering.


Facepalmfest

At the bequest of Turkey, Germany prosecutes and seeks to silence a German comedian and social commentator for making fun of and satirising Turkish leader Erdogan http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-16/angela-merkel-criticised-for-allowing-prosecution-of-comedian/7331848, of course prompting an Offend Erdogan Competition in response http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/04/introducing-the-president-erdogan-offensive-poetry-competition/. [Update: German courts thankfully overturned this.]

National Geographic Magazine turns into moral authoritarianism, inspired by Buzzfeed https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/04/23/national-geographic-publishes-article-on-atheism-and-secularism-but-descends-into-authoritarian-leftism-and-slanders-against-harris-and-dawkins/

Social justice McCarthyism always gets a free pass http://observer.com/2015/06/the-pecking-disorder-social-justice-warriors-gone-wild/

Universities standing up for principles, common sense, and core enlightenment values are now the exception http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/Safe-from--safe-spaces--8411

Groundbreaking research shows that pilates is racist http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9352846&fileId=S014976771400028X

Universities are attacking political slogans written in chalk by investigating and punishing students expressing the wrong political views http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/a-letter-to-emory-please-stop-fueling-trumpism/475356/

Universities now have Bias Response Thought Police Teams for investigating any student for thought and speech crime https://reason.com/blog/2016/05/10/the-university-of-oregons-thought-police

Harvard bans members of any single-gender club or group from being eligible for either leading bigger University groups or for receiving scholarships http://bigstory.ap.org/article/4de7bbc24aa940b1ae8e60f2d912f90a/harvard-bar-members-all-male-clubs-certain-roles

In the religion of identity politics privilege equals original sin https://www.allthink.com/1284035

College kids pledge money to help Hamas bomb Israeli schools and cafes http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/435734/ami-horowitz-fox-news-satirist-college-support-hamas

Universities tolerate deplatforming and suppression of free speech and expression http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/05/24/depaul-college-republicans-release-statement-milo-disruption/

University fires academic for saying aloud the title of a classic piece of literature http://www.weeklystandard.com/college-dean-ousted-for-saying-title-of-book/article/2002689

Comic book movie posters are sexist, discriminatory, and offensive http://www.theverge.com/2016/6/3/11855618/x-men-apocalypse-mystique-strangle-poster-fox-apology

Speech policeman and Australian of the year wants to ban people saying “guys” because it is sexist http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-01/david-morrison-wants-australians-to-stop-saying-'guys'/7465824

Some colleges want to get rid of grades and tests, implement segregation, and abolish classical literature by white men http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/06/07/the-craziest-demands-of-college-kids-in-2016.html

Universities are enforcing thought and language control http://heatst.com/culture-wars/university-of-northern-colorado-hung-680-posters-warning-against-offensive-speech/

Not raping women is racist and discriminatory https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKbQlsWn4bI

Those who lie about their income or wealth when seducing someone are guilty of rape by fraud https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVbufTEiwFM

US Marines are removing the suffix “man” from their job titles because it is sexist http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/29/us-marines-denounce-crazy-political-correctness-after-order-to-r2/

White children are being taught in New York schools that they are born racist http://nypost.com/2016/07/01/elite-k-8-school-teaches-white-students-theyre-born-racist/

YouTube is increasingly censoring all religious criticism http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/07/06/youtube-bans-video-critical-of-muslim-brotherhood/, and all criticism or offensive speech at all http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/06/30/free-speech-crackdown-youtubers-concerned-sites-new-harassment-policy/

German politician gets raped by migrants and lies to police to protect migrants from racism http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/07/06/raped-german-politician-lied-attackers-nationality-stop-racism/ and three German girls get sexually assaulted by refugees and cover it up because it would be politically incorrect to report it and charge the perpetrators http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/06/11/schoolgirls-cover-migrant-sex-assaults-political-correctness/ indeed the situation in Germany is generally out of control http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-08-09/germanys-migrant-rape-crisis-spirals-out-control

Politicians in Sweden declare rape isn’t as bad when a migrant does it http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/07/05/feminist-swedish-politicians-defends-migrant-rapists-worse-western-men-culture/ and also declare that women are reponsible for being raped because of how they dress http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/673799/Sweden-sex-attacks-migrant-rise-police-report

Department of Justice actively censors that which cannot be said http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-06-19/doj-will-censor-all-references-islamic-terrorism-orlando-911-call-transcripts

The height of irony: “anti-fascists” demand fascist controls on free speech http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/12931#.V7HbjJh96Ul

University fascists want to suppress free speech http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/260878/campus-fascists-and-suppression-academic-free-richard-l-cravatts

Creating and enforcing hate speech laws to suppress free speech is a good form of fascism http://thoughtcatalog.com/joshua-goldberg/2014/08/why-hate-speech-laws-have-more-in-common-with-fascism-than-democracy/

Serving sushi at campus cafeterias is cultural appropriation and should be condemned http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/32038/1/lena-dunham-supports-that-sushi-is-cultural-appropriation

Norwegian women are responsible for being raped because of the way they dress https://www.reddit.com/r/worldpolitics/comments/2mk08q/norwegian_professor_norwegian_women_must_take/?st=iqogkt0t&sh=e8a197ed, in fact in many places in Europe women are being blamed for being raped and told to behave or dress differently https://pjmedia.com/blog/pc-europe-now-blaming-women-for-provoking-muslim-rapists/?singlepage=true

Convicted migrant rapists aren’t deported from Britain because they don’t know that rape and violently assaulting women is wrong http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3672387/Convicted-Somalian-rapist-overturned-deportation-order-raped-two-vulnerable-women.html

French PM declares we should all give up and just live with and tolerate terrorism https://www.rt.com/news/351228-valls-nice-statement-social-media/

Universities are now embracing racial segregation http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/28168/

Believing there are only two genders is gross oppressive genderism http://dailycaller.com/2016/07/15/connecticut-state-government-believing-there-are-only-two-genders-is-genderism/

Terrorist attacks are apparently caused by climate change according to Bill Nye http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/dec/2/bill-nye-the-science-guy-paris-terrorist-attacks-a/

The Australian capital now has religious vilification, a.k.a. thought crime, a.k.a. anti-free speech laws http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/act-parliament-passes-religious-vilification-laws-20160804-gqlagu.html

The man who yelled abuse at the Munich mass shooter is now being prosecuted by the state for libel against the mass murderer http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/08/05/balcony-man-stood-munich-shooter-face-prosecution-insulting-dead/

Twitter now actively censors verified journalists in Turkey after coup http://www.dailydot.com/layer8/twitter-censorship-journalists-turkey-coup/

Election fraud is permissible in British Muslim communities because it would be politically incorrect to go after them for this crime http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/11/election-fraud-allowed-to-take-place-in-muslim-communities-becau/

Rape trials should not have juries but specially vetted judges https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/12/juries-no-place-rape-trials-victims-deserve-unprejudiced-justice-judge

Free speech and expression is being attacked globally http://www.economist.com/news/international/21699906-freedom-speech-retreat-muzzle-grows-tighter?fsrc=scn%2Ftw_ec%2Fthe_muzzle_grows_tighter

Germany is supporting child brides and the marrying of underage girls to much older men http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/08/14/report-1000-child-marriages-germany/ while clerics are trying to get Denmark to allow the same https://www.rt.com/news/332282-child-brides-denmark-refugees/

Western academics and news outlets are trying to normalise and excuse pedophiles http://www.christianpost.com/news/pedophilia-next-sin-normalized-professor-questions-adult-child-sex-immoral-stephen-kershnar-167730/

Schools are banning teachers from calling children boys or girls and instead encouraging gender fluidity http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/08/16/nc-school-to-teachers-dont-call-students-boys-and-girls.html

Princeton University speech police ban staff from using the word “man” http://dailycaller.com/2016/08/18/princeton-university-tells-staff-to-avoid-the-word-man-at-all-costs/

The UK is funding Stasi-like departments in the police force to go after and intimidate people guilty of wrongthink online https://storify.com/pperrin/the-haters-call-themselves-the-anti-haters

Male-only barber shops have been reported to the human rights commission for sexual discrimination http://www.news.com.au/finance/small-business/close-shave-with-human-rights-commission-for-menonly-barber-store/news-story/96b3dfab677fee8c5c4a3bbca4eebabb

Refugees are taking holidays at taxpayer expense to the countries they fled http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/09/12/refugees-holiday-countries-fled/

Apparently Muslims are the only true feminists https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/the-huffpos-ultimate-doublespeak-muslim-women-are-the-true-feminists/

The BBC is now hiring and firing people based on race and sex http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3817609/BBC-sacked-white-man-Radio-4-comic-told-need-women-minorities.html

Students in certain Australian schools will soon be taught that all men are bad and all women are victims http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-37640353

Science is racist and should be abolished http://reason.com/blog/2016/10/14/watch-leftist-students-say-science-is-ra

Some high school teachers teach students that to be white is to be racist http://eagnews.org/high-schooler-records-teachers-racism-lecture-to-be-white-is-to-be-racist-period/


A Glimmer of Hope

If all of the above isn’t enough to make you lose the will to live and abandon all hope in society it is good to know that people are starting to wake up to this insanity and are starting to speak up. Here is a brief selection of logical, rational criticism against such movements and events.

Powerfully argued criticism of political correctness in poisoning national discourse http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/the-church-of-political-correctness-controls-national-discourse/news-story/9c062ce5539f38ec1e500fb0918fb348

Sacrifice merit and casually deploy rhetorical superweapons at your peril https://status451.com/2016/06/10/you-come-at-the-king-youd-best-not-miss/

Apologetics and politically correct denialism is toxic and dangerous http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/06/14/admit-it-these-terrorists-are-muslims.html and how ideology poisons dialogue https://therationalists.org/2016/06/13/regressive-apologetics/

Defending rational criticism from defamation, smearing, and misrepresentation http://quillette.com/2016/04/21/free-speech-and-islam-in-defense-of-sam-harris/#menuopen

Rationally discussing equality and differences https://medium.com/@NikitaCcoulombe/do-women-really-want-equality-4374910f2236#.dvmpgnevr

Outrage culture and political correctness is destroying our ability to reasonably disagree https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/26/conservatives-love-to-hate-political-correctness-but-the-left-should-rail-against-it-too

A liberal’s guide to how progressivism ruined liberalism http://claremontindependent.com/irrationality-mob-mentality-and-the-campus-left/


Moar Insanity!

If you’re masochistic and want to keep up to date with more regressive examples you can subscribe to Dave Cullen’s +Computing Forever YouTube channel and check out the playlist for his weekly Regressive News segments: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSn-HxGQqpcZiQek_z6aBB36xhVeUqdCA ___

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2016-10-16 05:56:12 (4 comments; 21 reshares; 60 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 42/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/10/posttranslational-mutagenesis-bio.html

Posttranslational mutagenesis, Bio-nanopore DNA sequencing, Nanoscale pumps, CRISPR sickle cell, DeepMind deep memory, Omnidirectional stereo video, Nanoscale memory switches, Nanoscale Lego Assembly, Full colour holograms, DNA single electrons.

1. Posttranslational Mutagenesis
The structural and functional capabilities of proteins can be significantly expanded by site-directed mutagenesis (chemical changes) of proteins after expression in the cell and without edits to the genome http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2016/09/22/science.aag1465. This work is so recent I don’t think there is a more accessible summary yet apart from this original science article. This represents a new and robust chemicals... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 42/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/10/posttranslational-mutagenesis-bio.html

Posttranslational mutagenesis, Bio-nanopore DNA sequencing, Nanoscale pumps, CRISPR sickle cell, DeepMind deep memory, Omnidirectional stereo video, Nanoscale memory switches, Nanoscale Lego Assembly, Full colour holograms, DNA single electrons.

1. Posttranslational Mutagenesis
The structural and functional capabilities of proteins can be significantly expanded by site-directed mutagenesis (chemical changes) of proteins after expression in the cell and without edits to the genome http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2016/09/22/science.aag1465. This work is so recent I don’t think there is a more accessible summary yet apart from this original science article. This represents a new and robust chemical synthesis platform with novel chemistry for controlled modification of protein or amino acid side chains with a genuinely vast range of different chemicals, thus enabling the creation of proteins and enzymes with new and useful properties and functions.

2. Biological Nanopore DNA Sequencing
The latest advancement in DNA sequencing via protein/enzymatic nanopores involves the use of newly engineered proteins, called a sequencing engine, that combine seven protein subunits to create the pore and tether a DNA polymerase enzyme precisely at the opening http://wyss.harvard.edu/viewpressrelease/279. In this sequencing-by-synthesis approach, (i) the DNA polymerase copies the DNA strand of interest by (ii) incorporating nucleotides into the complementary strand that are each tagged with easily distinguishable (electrically) tag molecules and (iii) passing this synthetic complementary strand through the protein pore in a membrane with a voltage across it. The system now identifies the correct nucleotide 79% - 99% of the time. The group hope to improve accuracy and create multiplexed chips with hundreds of electrically-addressable nanopores for high throughput sequencing.

3. Nanoscale Pumps and Muscles
First, single carbon nanotubes can now be harnessed as an electrostatically driven nanopump, with alternating voltages squeezing and restoring the nanotube http://www.teknat.umu.se/english/about-the-faculty/news/newsdetailpage/static-electricity-can-control-nanoballoon.cid274687; this might be attached to molecular rods and cogs to drive various nanomachine mechanisms. Second, novel interlocked molecular structures quickly switch, expanding and contracting with the addition of zinc, to mimic artificial nanoscale muscles http://phys.org/news/2016-10-daisy-chain-like-molecular-mimic-artificial-muscles.html.

4. CRISPR Treats Sickle Cell Disease
CRISPR-based gene editing of the mutations responsible for sickle cell disease shows promise in mice http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/8/360/360ra134. In this work hematapoietic stem/progenitor cells with the mutation were isolated and treated with a CRISPR-Cas9 system to efficiently replace the mutation with the correct genetic sequence. When differentiated into erythroblasts the cells increased the production of normal hemoglobin, and when transplanted into mice the cells maintained normal hemoglobin production at levels likely to have clinical benefit. With further refinements such cures should be applicable to a wide range of similar diseases.

5. DeepMind’s Deep Learning Memory Boost
DeepMind has developed a differentiable neural computer that gives the neural networks that power deep learning an external memory for storing information for later use http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/computing/software/googles-deep-mind-boosts-memory-to-navigate-london-underground. The new system outperforms earlier approaches in path mapping and route-finding; in tests the earlier approaches achieved an average accuracy of 37% compared to 98.8% for the new approach. The architecture of the new deep learning approach is an example of convergent evolution as it resembles how the hippocampus of the brain works. This is believed to be just one of many novel neural learning architectures that are being explored.

6. Omnidirectional Stereo VR Video
Google’s Jump video platform has evolved to produce omnidirectional stereo video for VR video applications https://blog.google/products/google-vr/jump-using-omnidirectional-stereo-vr-video/. This new advance includes sophisticated auto-stitching algorithms to provide seamless video projection that is both panoramic (360) and stereoscopic (3D), so to allow the viewer to not only look in any direction but to see depth and distance cues naturally. This is a very difficult problem to solve and doing so will boost the sense of immersion for those viewing content made with this system; just in time too it seems as VR video consumption looks set to grow exponentially.

7. Nanoscale Memory Switches
First, by firing an electron beam at 50nm wide gold-silver hollow nanorods, silver can be moved around inside the rods to form different structures, which changes how the rods interact with light, which changes the plasmonic properties of the rods http://news.rice.edu/2016/10/10/core-technology-springs-from-nanoscale-rods-2/. Such technology might comprise reconfigurable memory units in future. Second, low energy electric fields can be used switch tiny magnets at picosecond speeds http://www.ru.nl/english/news-agenda/news/vm/imm/solid-state-physics/2016/electric-field-magnetic/. Again, such technology might be used in next generation memory.

8. New Nanoscale Lego Assembly
A novel Lego-like self assembly technique can join together a wide range of different nanomaterials including polymeric particles, metal nanoparticles, metal and polymer nanowires, nanosheets, nanocubes, and biological particles http://themelbourneengineer.eng.unimelb.edu.au/2016/10/nanoscale-engineering-transforms-particles-lego-like-building-blocks/. This works by coating the particles in a template of adhesive polyphenol molecules, which then allows the different particles to be assembled into a range of complex 3D structures that can include hybrid materials, hollow microstructures, hierarchically organised particles, and others.

9. Full Colour Holograms with Nanomaterials
Nanometer scale aluminum thin films treated with ion beam milling to create an array of precisely oriented rectangular holes produce a full colour holographic metasurface http://news.mst.edu/2016/10/researchers-create-3-d-full-color-holographic-images-with-nanomaterials/. The surface includes both phase and amplitude modulation that allows the full colour, high resolution, low noise holograms to be produced in almost any design or image desired. Applications include floating 3D displays, imaging, and security surface codes.

10. DNA Single Electron Device
The self assembly properties of DNA can be used to assemble metallic nanoparticles into precise chains that comprise single-electron conduction devices http://www.aka.fi/en/about-us/media/press-releases/2016/researchers-develop-dna-based-single-electron-electronic-devices/. The DNA itself is not conducting electrons in these devices but simply forms the desired scaffold that guides the assembly of the nanoparticles, chains of which were confirmed to conduct electrons one at a time at room temperature, whereas previous approaches had required cryogenic temperatures to work.

SciTech Tip Jar: http://www.scitechdigest.net/p/donate.html
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2016-10-12 13:23:54 (8 comments; 0 reshares; 33 +1s; )Open 

Resident magpie comes for an occasional feed. 

Resident magpie comes for an occasional feed. ___

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2016-10-11 13:53:15 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 15 +1s; )Open 

The Euler-Mascheroni Constant: 0.577

Number theory is always fascinating and the YouTube channel Numberphile always has brilliant videos on fascinating numbers, formulas, and structures. This particular video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4k1jegU4Wb4 explores a couple of divergent and convergent series along with simple logarithmic transformations and some counter-intuitive examples to arrive at the Euler-Mascheroni Constant of approximately 0.577.

For such a seemingly innocuous little number very little is known about its absolute value and properties, yet it appears everywhere in physics and cosmology and is related to the set of prime numbers, among others. Why? Why does this particular number have a relation to physics? A coincidence given profundity by over-active idiosyncratic human pattern-recognition? Or something deeper?

Given this video touches on the... more »

The Euler-Mascheroni Constant: 0.577

Number theory is always fascinating and the YouTube channel Numberphile always has brilliant videos on fascinating numbers, formulas, and structures. This particular video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4k1jegU4Wb4 explores a couple of divergent and convergent series along with simple logarithmic transformations and some counter-intuitive examples to arrive at the Euler-Mascheroni Constant of approximately 0.577.

For such a seemingly innocuous little number very little is known about its absolute value and properties, yet it appears everywhere in physics and cosmology and is related to the set of prime numbers, among others. Why? Why does this particular number have a relation to physics? A coincidence given profundity by over-active idiosyncratic human pattern-recognition? Or something deeper?

Given this video touches on the sum of all integers and primes the Riemann Hypothesis is also a very interesting video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6c6uIyieoo and the first video on the sum of all integers (1 + 2 + 3 + …) equalling not infinity but -1/12 is one that makes sense but doesn’t https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-I6XTVZXww.

The Numberphile channel is here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoxcjq-8xIDTYp3uz647V5A. I’m shocked that only 3 people I have circled are subscribed to this channel!


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2016-10-11 13:17:35 (8 comments; 0 reshares; 25 +1s; )Open 

Breaking big blocks of concrete into small blocks.
Not fun. Only the final portion of work too. 

Breaking big blocks of concrete into small blocks.
Not fun. Only the final portion of work too. ___

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2016-10-09 06:59:18 (97 comments; 20 reshares; 27 +1s; )Open 

Moral Machines

The Moral Machine game http://moralmachine.mit.edu/ developed at and hosted by MIT presents a series of philosophical trolley problems https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem for people to determine what behaviour an autonomous vehicle should take in the case of its brakes failing and some combination of passengers and pedestrians being at risk. This follows recent coverage this year over whether autonomous cars might have to make decisions that affect innocent people’s lives. You’ll get 13 scenarios and can take the test multiple times before any chance of seeing the same scenario again.

Factors that influence your moral choices in the presented trolley problems include the number of people and their age, fitness, sex, pregnancy, criminality, social value, the presence of animals, and whether the pedestrians are breaking the law or not. Once doneyou... more »

Moral Machines

The Moral Machine game http://moralmachine.mit.edu/ developed at and hosted by MIT presents a series of philosophical trolley problems https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem for people to determine what behaviour an autonomous vehicle should take in the case of its brakes failing and some combination of passengers and pedestrians being at risk. This follows recent coverage this year over whether autonomous cars might have to make decisions that affect innocent people’s lives. You’ll get 13 scenarios and can take the test multiple times before any chance of seeing the same scenario again.

Factors that influence your moral choices in the presented trolley problems include the number of people and their age, fitness, sex, pregnancy, criminality, social value, the presence of animals, and whether the pedestrians are breaking the law or not. Once done you’ll get a results page that compares your overall answers to the average of others who have played the game. This can sometimes vary however (low statistical sampling with only 13 scenarios at a time) as I found it sometimes said I had a bias to save women, whereas I felt I was gender-neutral on the whole and didn’t often consider sex as a factor.

Anyway, have a play and please share your results via a link in the comments if you can.

Some of my test results:
http://moralmachine.mit.edu/results/-264501416
http://moralmachine.mit.edu/results/-95631885

For the image for this post I chose one of the scenarios that I was presented that I found morally ambiguous or morally controversial because it might make for a good discussion. In this scenario I chose to stay straight and not swerve, potentially killing or harming a child and three adults including a pregnant woman. Oh, and a dog. And sparing the one man.

My rationale is that the innocence of that one man is more important. He is crossing the road legally and, if anything, would be looking out for traffic coming from the other direction and so less likely to see the autonomous car swerve to hit him and so more likely to be killed completely innocently. The others have all made the decision to break the law and cross the road illegally; in so doing they are probably more likely to be aware of traffic coming from that direction and more likely to have a chance to move out of the way of the car. They should be held personally responsible for their decision to cross when they shouldn’t and their collective negligent or criminal decision to cross should not cost the innocent man his life; if it does so then they might all be charged with manslaughter or at least as an accomplice to such. The dog is irrelevant.
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2016-10-09 04:23:14 (11 comments; 19 reshares; 79 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 41/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/10/time-crystals-robot-skill-acquisition.html

Time crystals, Robot skill acquisition, Heat shock proteins, Nanometer transistor, Advanced cell modelling, Quantum programming game, Bacteria influence brain, Cow-human hybrid vaccines, Graphene electrons refract, Diamond nanothread polymers.

1. Creating Time Crystals
A theoretical prediction from 2012 has been reduced to practise with the creation of the first time crystals from a chain of ytterbium atoms https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602541/physicists-create-worlds-first-time-crystal/. To think about time crystals, consider normal crystals as lowest energy state materials whose structure oscillates periodically in space. Likewise time crystals are lowest energy state materials whose structure oscillates... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 41/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/10/time-crystals-robot-skill-acquisition.html

Time crystals, Robot skill acquisition, Heat shock proteins, Nanometer transistor, Advanced cell modelling, Quantum programming game, Bacteria influence brain, Cow-human hybrid vaccines, Graphene electrons refract, Diamond nanothread polymers.

1. Creating Time Crystals
A theoretical prediction from 2012 has been reduced to practise with the creation of the first time crystals from a chain of ytterbium atoms https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602541/physicists-create-worlds-first-time-crystal/. To think about time crystals, consider normal crystals as lowest energy state materials whose structure oscillates periodically in space. Likewise time crystals are lowest energy state materials whose structure oscillates periodically in time. The phenomenon exploits Anderson Localisation (worth reading up on), whose self-interference causes the atoms to appear localised in a single location. Finally, flipping the spins of the atoms established a periodic oscillation of spins along the chain, the period of which was double that of the original driving force, the only explanation of which was broken time symmetry caused by a time crystal.

2. Faster Robot Skill Acquisition
Google has a system that combines cloud robotics and deep learning platforms to facilitate general purpose skill learning across multiple robots http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/artificial-intelligence/google-wants-robots-to-acquire-new-skills-by-learning-from-each-other. In tests the ability to communicate and exchange experiences allowed the robots to learn more quickly and effectively. One of the additional strengths of this system is that the learning process benefits from a greater diversity of experiences as a result of different robots performing tasks in slightly different environments.

3. Benefits of Exogenous Heat Shock Protein
Heat shock proteins help to ensure correct protein function in the cell but typically decline with age and in neurons reduced activity can contribute to neurodegenerative disorders. Recent work in mice demonstrated intranasal delivery of heat shock protein enhanced mean and maximum lifespan, improved learning and memory, and facilitated improvements to locomotion and curiosity https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/10/heat-shock-protein-delivered-as-a-therapy-slows-aging-in-mice/. When delivered from middle-age maximum lifespan improved by 17%. This could be a fairly low-hanging piece of fruit therapeutically or enhancement-wise. Same with getting a hold of myostatin antibodies to boost your muscle mass by 20% https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/10/how-to-go-about-using-myostatin-antibodies-to-grow-muscle-today/.

4. Nanometer Transistor
Researchers have gone beyond the 5nm threshold for silicon transistors to create a functional 1nm transistor out of a carbon nanotube and molybdenum disulfide http://newscenter.lbl.gov/2016/10/06/smallest-transistor-1-nm-gate/. The structure utilises a single carbon nanotube as the gate, while a single sheet of molybdenum disulfide is the semiconductor, whose properties compared to silicon of lower dielectric constant and heavier effective electron mass facilitate scaling beyond what silicon is capable of. The latest gallium nitride technologies are also helping to take electronics far beyond what silicon is capable of http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/10/gallium-nitride-devices-can-reduce.html.

5. Advanced Cell Modelling
Biomolecular modelling and computational structural biology are approaching the level at which groups are starting to plan and create full realistic simulations of entire cells including all molecular structures and interactions http://www.nanowerk.com/news2/biotech/newsid=44719.php. Not only does such an effort help improve and shed light on a better fundamental understanding of the cell, but it will also improve the design and development of drugs and other therapeutic interventions. Due to the enormous complexity of such simulations the groups pursuing this are starting with the simplest possible prokaryotic cells.

6. Quantum Programming with Puzzles
MeQuanics is an online computer game that you can play to help, in a small way, to program future quantum computers https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602590/how-quantum-programing-turned-into-a-3-d-puzzle-game/. You do this by determining optimised qubit topologies that will form part of a large data set of optimised examples that comprise the very first training set for developing machine learning algorithms able to outperform humans in programming quantum computers. The basis is that a quantum program is basically a pattern of qubits in a lattice, and patterns that are topologically identical constitute the same quantum program, by optimising large qubit patterns to smaller but topologically identical patterns, smaller and thus more readily available quantum computers can be used to run that program.

7. Gut Bacteria Link to the Brain
This recent study tentatively links certain types of gut bacteria to neurodegeneration in the brain and proposes a theory for hos this might take place https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/10/theorizing-on-the-contribution-of-gut-bacteria-to-neurodegeneration/. Some bacteria produce a type of amyloid protein that is structurally similar to the amyloid protein found in human brains suffering Alzheimer’s disease, and there is a theory that these bacterial proteins can cause brain proteins to misfold via a process of cross-seeding. In studies on rats, those given gut bacteria that produce these proteins showed increased levels of amyloid-like protein in the intestine and brain, increased amyloid protein aggregates in the brain, and enhanced brain inflammation. It’d be good to find a naturally occurring model and intervene in the gut to stop or reverse the effect.

8. Vaccines from Cow-Human Hybrids
Cows genetically engineered to replace all of the genes that code for immune system antibody production with their human counterparts can quickly produce large amounts of human antibodies towards infectious disease pathogens https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602530/cows-engineered-with-human-genes-could-stop-our-next-disease-outbreak/. These human encoded antibodies can then be harvested from the animals by obtaining blood plasma and isolating the antibodies to produce a therapeutic drug for humans with the whole process taking two and a half months. I wonder if these process can produce the myostatin antibodies mentioned in #3 above? Each cow can produce up to 1,000 human doses of antibodies per month.

9. Optical Refraction of Graphene Electrons
Theoretical predications from 2007 have been experimentally verified by showing electrons travelling in graphene behave like light and can be made to exhibit negative refraction at conductor interfaces http://engineering.columbia.edu/news/james-hone-electrons-graphene. The electron density of a material plays a similar role to an optical index of refraction, and in this experiment as electrons passed a p-n semiconductor junction in graphene, an interface of high & low electron density, they exhibited negative refraction. Interesting applications like Veselago lenses might be possible with this. In related news, partnering graphene with boron nitride should produce a terahertz oscillator http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/materials/longtheorized-material-closes-the-terahertz-gap.

10. Diamond Nanothread Polymers
One dimensional diamond nanothreads were invented last year; long, one dimensional carbon molecules with diamond bond structures that are incredibly strong yet very brittle. New research introduces deliberate defects into these diamond nanothreads with hydrogen atoms that results in kinks in the chain forming at those positions and the threads becoming more flexible as a result https://www.qut.edu.au/science-engineering/about/news/news?news-id=110322. Changing the spacing of the defects allows the group to tune the flexibility as well as the thermal conductivity, binding sites for polymers, and other tensile properties. Scale up is an obvious issue but potential applications include incredibly strong composites and polymers and even a better candidate material for a space elevator.

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

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2016-10-05 10:17:14 (25 comments; 9 reshares; 73 +1s; )Open 

Euclidea: Best Mobile Game in a While

Euclidea is a pretty cool game based on pure geometry: what precise shapes and angles can you make with a ruler and compass? https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.hil_hk.euclidea&hl=en. I always enjoyed geometry in maths class at school and this is the first game that I can remember that has given me that pleasurable little flash of insight when successfully seeing the solution to a problem. 

Euclidea: Best Mobile Game in a While

Euclidea is a pretty cool game based on pure geometry: what precise shapes and angles can you make with a ruler and compass? https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.hil_hk.euclidea&hl=en. I always enjoyed geometry in maths class at school and this is the first game that I can remember that has given me that pleasurable little flash of insight when successfully seeing the solution to a problem. ___

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2016-10-04 12:05:01 (34 comments; 10 reshares; 56 +1s; )Open 

A Taxonomy and Metaphysics of Mind Uploading

I’ve just finished reading Keith Wiley’s A Taxonomy and Metaphysics of Uploading, which is concerned with the core question of mind uploading, namely under what circumstances, if any, and according to what interpretations, if any, might be judge a mind-uploading scenario to have successfully transferred a mind from one brain to another.

Ultimately the book makes an argument for every mind uploading procedure resulting in a split of that mind, and that each thread that then traverses its future light cone from that instant, is to be afforded identical rights and “primacy” of individual identity. Keith goes to lengths to avoid the use of words like copy, duplicate, original because such language naturally denigrates individual minds; such language can trigger biases, empower prejudices, and result in discrimination and is theonly wa... more »

A Taxonomy and Metaphysics of Mind Uploading

I’ve just finished reading Keith Wiley’s A Taxonomy and Metaphysics of Uploading, which is concerned with the core question of mind uploading, namely under what circumstances, if any, and according to what interpretations, if any, might be judge a mind-uploading scenario to have successfully transferred a mind from one brain to another.

Ultimately the book makes an argument for every mind uploading procedure resulting in a split of that mind, and that each thread that then traverses its future light cone from that instant, is to be afforded identical rights and “primacy” of individual identity. Keith goes to lengths to avoid the use of words like copy, duplicate, original because such language naturally denigrates individual minds; such language can trigger biases, empower prejudices, and result in discrimination and is the only way to elevate the perspective of an upload over its original or vice versa.

The Taxonomy of Mind Uploading Scenarios Includes:

Gradual replacement processes in which each neuron or group of neurons is replaced one-by-one by a computerised alternative. This broad category is broken down into a number of different threads such as (i) whether the person is conscious or unconscious during the procedure, (ii) whether the neurons are destroyed and replaced by nanobot copies or copied into a synthetic brain and remain unharmed, (iii) whether the replacement rate of neurons occurs at a slow 10,000 neurons per second (100 days to upload or some other rate, (iv) whether spatial or temporal discontinuities between neuron replacement matters, (v) whether the neurons are copied by a network of nanobots sitting alongside them in the same brain, and (vi) others.

Scan and duplicate processes in which the neuronal structures are scanned and replicated on some other substrate. This broad category is broken down into a number of different threads such as (i) whether the second substrate is a biological brain (clone), physical (neuromorphic) computerised brain, or virtual brain emulation on a computer, (ii) whether the brain is frozen or not and destroyed or not, (iii) whether a virtualised emulation dispenses with lower-level structures or not, (iv) whether copied brains are awakened in identical or variable environments, (v) whether the brain is conscious or unconscious, and (vi) various percentage brain division scenarios.

Other Comments

While generally accessible I did find chunks of the text to be tedious. A glossary is presented in Chapter 2; this is a slog at times and was done to define terms to be used in the text in order to avoid confusion, but I believe this exercise was largely unnecessary as many terms didn’t need to be defined at the outset and those that did would have been better defined when needed.

I found the whole philosophical discussion on tokens, types, and occurrences to be needlessly abstract, confusing, and detracting from core arguments. The book took me a long time to complete and sometimes weeks would pass before I came back to it, which resulted in a patchy read and this review that is much shorter and less detailed than normal.

Keith also discusses consciousness, free-will, zombies, and related philosophical concepts and I found my positions on these topics different to, or in disagreement with, his views here. The presentation was useful nonetheless as finer distinctions were presented than I’d seen previously and a more nuanced understanding of the reasons for these differences between different people was hinted at.

Overall, in general, I can't fault the conclusion presented of equality of primacy of all minds. I've always had a preference for the gradual replacement uploading procedure while fully conscious but this is driven by a default, emotional mode of thinking; when thinking about it deeply I can't escape the logic that there really appears no difference regardless of procedure (a long post in and of itself). The only caveat I bring to my agreement here concerns the aspects above, particularly consciousness, and the possibility of computerised p-zombies that lack consciousness due to insufficiency of the substrate; I acknowledge this is an unpopular opinion in this space but take comfort from some eminent company.

Given the topic it is suitable that I move onto Robin Hanson’s The Age of Em, which I’ve just started reading.
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2016-10-02 13:50:22 (16 comments; 22 reshares; 82 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 40/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/10/machine-learning-fps-bot-antimatter.html

Machine learning FPS bot, Antimatter from lasers, Google language translation, Embryo and baby modification, Neuromorphic deep learning, Nanopore DNA sequencing, Hand exoskeleton, Autonomous gap navigation, Multiferroic materials, Imaging scattered light.

1. Machine Learning Agent Plays Doom Video Game
A new AI agent or bot built by machine learning algorithms to learn, play, and master the 3D first-person-shooter video game Doom is an expected, albeit confronting demonstration https://techcrunch.com/2016/09/21/scientists-teach-machines-to-hunt-and-kill-humans-in-doom-deathmatch-mode/. Be sure to check out the video of the bot in action; I wonder how long until real-world robots are loaded up with improved... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 40/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/10/machine-learning-fps-bot-antimatter.html

Machine learning FPS bot, Antimatter from lasers, Google language translation, Embryo and baby modification, Neuromorphic deep learning, Nanopore DNA sequencing, Hand exoskeleton, Autonomous gap navigation, Multiferroic materials, Imaging scattered light.

1. Machine Learning Agent Plays Doom Video Game
A new AI agent or bot built by machine learning algorithms to learn, play, and master the 3D first-person-shooter video game Doom is an expected, albeit confronting demonstration https://techcrunch.com/2016/09/21/scientists-teach-machines-to-hunt-and-kill-humans-in-doom-deathmatch-mode/. Be sure to check out the video of the bot in action; I wonder how long until real-world robots are loaded up with improved software? This seems to build on DeepMind’s approach, with a bot that interacts with the game based on what is on-screen: navigating the environment, identifying objects, and “interacting” with those objects with little to no pre-programming. The system beat both conventional in-game bots and human players.

2. Generating Antimatter from Lasers
Advances in ultrahigh intensity laser technology should soon enable the creation of electric fields so intense that matter and antimatter are generated https://publishing.aip.org/publishing/journal-highlights/creating-antimatter-lasers. Recent calculations show how to use these technologies to create electrons and positrons, in which the physicists claim to “boil the vacuum” and convert virtual electron-positron pairs into real, observable particles. Under certain conditions the light-matter interaction produces a skewed cascade that results in a large excess of positrons over electrons. A controllable, efficient source of on-demand antimatter would have a huge range of applications.

3. Human Performance for Language Translation
Google’s latest language translation tools utilise more advanced deep learning algorithms to get very close to human levels of performance https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602480/googles-new-service-translates-languages-almost-as-well-as-humans-can/. All language pairs performed 60% - 87% better than previous approaches, and in some cases getting to within just 2% of human level performance; these new tools should be rolling out to Google’s translation products soon. The software works out its own way to break up text and perform the translation and does so in ways that often don’t make sense and are not understood by the system’s creators.

4. Altering Embryo and Baby Genetics
The first baby to have DNA from three different parents has been born https://www.newscientist.com/article/2107219-exclusive-worlds-first-baby-born-with-new-3-parent-technique/. In this case the reason was to treat congenital mutations in mitochondria, and involved (i) taking the nucleus from the mother’s egg, (ii) inserting it into a donor egg whose nucleus was removed (providing healthy mitochondria), and (iii) fertilising this hybrid egg with the father’s sperm. We also had work in which (days old) healthy human embryo’s had their genes edited in order to tweak and regulate developmental processes http://www.livescience.com/56243-human-embryo-editing.html - these embryos were never intended to be allowed to develop beyond a couple of weeks.

5. IBM’s Neuromorphic Chips get Deep Learning
IBM has further developed its TrueNorth neuromorphic computing architecture to the point that it can now run deep learning algorithms http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/computing/hardware/ibms-braininspired-chip-tested-on-deep-learning. TrueNorth’s spiking neural networks are typically incompatible with deep learning algorithms but this has now been overcome with a new way of implementing the algorithms on this hardware allowing TrueNorth to match or surpass state-of-the-art accuracy on a number of tests. In related news new memristors use silver-in-oxide dynamics to mimic calcium dynamics of synapses and result in synaptic emulators for neuromorphic computing http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/09/memristors-as-synaptic-emulators-for.html.

6. MoS2 Nanopore DNA Sequencing
A nanopore DNA sequencer has been designed using molybdenum disulfide for the first time https://www.nist.gov/news-events/news/2016/09/nist-team-suggests-nanoscale-electronic-motion-sensor-dna-sequencer. In this design DNA nucleotide bases are connected to the inside of the nanopore, with the pore itself being a hole through a ribbon of molybdenum disulfide suspended between electrodes: as DNA is passed through the pore, complementary bases in the sequence bind and release partner bases connected to the hole, causing the ribbon to flex, the motion of which is dependent on the base binding and generates a detectable electrical signal. Estimates suggest a 79% - 85% sequence accuracy, at single pass of 70 million bases per second.

7. Muscle Sensing Hand Exoskeleton
An articulated 3D printed hand exoskeleton is worn on the back of the hand and includes electromyography sensors on the back of the forearm http://www.relab.ethz.ch/research/current-research-projects/robotic-hand-orthosis-for-therapy-and-assistance-in-activities-of-daily-living.html. The sensors detect signals in the muscles then activate motors to provide additional grasping and grip strength to mimic the intended motion of the hand. 3D printing allows customisation to different sized patients while the group intends to develop and test alternative sensors such as near-infrared spectroscopy and electroencephalography (ECG) to allow cortical or thought-controlled exoskeleton hand motion.

8. Autonomous Gap Navigation by Drones
Quadrotor drones have recently achieved completely autonomous on-board gap navigation and traversal http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/drones/aggressive-quadrotors-conquer-gaps-with-ultimate-autonomy. The drone uses nothing more complicated than the equivalent of a smartphone on board, and is able to locate the gap, compute an optimal trajectory, and execute the flight path to get through to the other side with currently an 80% success rate. The group hope to boost this success rate further as well as navigate any arbitrary number of consecutive gaps in a row. Ultimately this is getting closer to the goal of autonomous navigation through any arbitrarily haphazard environment of interest.

9. Multiferroic and Cold-Sintered Materials
First, layer by layer assembly of nanosheet building blocks as produced multiferroic materials that function at room temperature for the first time and which exhibit both ferroelectricity and ferromagnetism http://www.nims.go.jp/eng/news/press/2016/09/201609230.html. I haven’t come across multiferroics before and wonder what applications this phenomena enables. Second, a newly developed cold-sintering-process can densify and create an entirely new range of hybrid ceramic-like materials at relatively low temperatures that can combine materials that can’t normally be combined such as ceramic-polymers and ceramic-metals, in addition to ceramic-nanoparticles and ceramic-ceramics http://news.psu.edu/story/428704/2016/09/28/research/lowering-heat-makes-new-materials-possible-while-saving-energy.

10. Better Imaging Through Optical Obstructions
New image processing algorithms can accurately produce images of objects even after the light bouncing off of or emitted by those objects has been chaotically scattered by semi-opaque materials such as human tissue or fog before reaching the camera http://news.mit.edu/2016/all-photons-imaging-algorithm-0929. The system fires a pulsed laser at the object to be imaged, then measures the timing of different photons arriving from each pulse; those photons passing straight through reach the sensor first, while those that are scattered ever-more take ever-longer to reach the sensor and deviate from the location of the arrival of the first photons by a larger amount. Applications include medical imaging through human tissues and better navigation by autonomous vehicles through fog and rain.

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2016-09-28 13:58:45 (6 comments; 0 reshares; 38 +1s; )Open 

Major Storm Smashed Adelaide This Evening

My home city of Adelaide and much of the state of South Australia generally was smashed this evening by what some call the worst storm in almost 50 years. Here you can see the main rain front moving across the region: I'm to the north west of Clarendon in the bottom right quadrant.

The storm damaged major power infrastructure to an extent that it plunged the entire state into a blackout. I got soaked running from the office to the car after work and then the drive home was intermittently chaotic and glacial given every single traffic light was out. We made a very basic dinner by candlelight, grateful for the gas stove, then snuggled to keep warm. We were lucky the power for our area was one of the first switched back on, allowing me to enjoy normal creature comforts while most others in the state are still without, with complete... more »

Major Storm Smashed Adelaide This Evening

My home city of Adelaide and much of the state of South Australia generally was smashed this evening by what some call the worst storm in almost 50 years. Here you can see the main rain front moving across the region: I'm to the north west of Clarendon in the bottom right quadrant.

The storm damaged major power infrastructure to an extent that it plunged the entire state into a blackout. I got soaked running from the office to the car after work and then the drive home was intermittently chaotic and glacial given every single traffic light was out. We made a very basic dinner by candlelight, grateful for the gas stove, then snuggled to keep warm. We were lucky the power for our area was one of the first switched back on, allowing me to enjoy normal creature comforts while most others in the state are still without, with complete restoration not likely until tomorrow.

Thanks to +Emlyn O'Regan for the rain/weather GIF from bom.gov.au ___

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2016-09-27 13:46:12 (3 comments; 17 reshares; 50 +1s; )Open 

The Machine Learning Master Algorithm

This is a great, accessible talk on machine learning, the five major learning paradigms, and efforts to combine them all into one Master Algorithm that uses the strengths of all five approaches to create the best, most flexible, and most effective learning machines.

The five approaches are:
- Identify and Fill Knowledge Gaps
- Neural Network Learning
- Evolutionary Learning
- Bayesian Learning
- Learning by Analogy

There are good examples of where each is used, what their strengths are, and discussion of how the core practitioners or tribes of each tend to think that their way is best. Thanks to whoever first shared this one here, I've had this in Watch Later for a while and can't remember who it was.


The Machine Learning Master Algorithm

This is a great, accessible talk on machine learning, the five major learning paradigms, and efforts to combine them all into one Master Algorithm that uses the strengths of all five approaches to create the best, most flexible, and most effective learning machines.

The five approaches are:
- Identify and Fill Knowledge Gaps
- Neural Network Learning
- Evolutionary Learning
- Bayesian Learning
- Learning by Analogy

There are good examples of where each is used, what their strengths are, and discussion of how the core practitioners or tribes of each tend to think that their way is best. Thanks to whoever first shared this one here, I've had this in Watch Later for a while and can't remember who it was.
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2016-09-25 04:09:37 (12 comments; 21 reshares; 86 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 39/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/09/fixing-dna-damage-modular-synbio.html

Fixing DNA damage, Modular synbio pellets, Towards head transplant, Custom acoustic holograms, Advanced drone systems, Wireless emotion detection, Atomically precise molecular syntheses, Metastasis gene therapy, Wireless MEMS, Sewing robot.

1. Compensating for DNA Damage
New work by the SENS Research Foundation has successfully achieved stable allotropic expression (in the nucleus), import (into mitochondria), and assembly into functional protein complexes able to rescue the cell and metabolism from mutations in the mitochondrial copies of these genes http://nar.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/09/04/nar.gkw756.full. With some additional work and tricks the group hope the demonstration will allow all 13... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 39/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/09/fixing-dna-damage-modular-synbio.html

Fixing DNA damage, Modular synbio pellets, Towards head transplant, Custom acoustic holograms, Advanced drone systems, Wireless emotion detection, Atomically precise molecular syntheses, Metastasis gene therapy, Wireless MEMS, Sewing robot.

1. Compensating for DNA Damage
New work by the SENS Research Foundation has successfully achieved stable allotropic expression (in the nucleus), import (into mitochondria), and assembly into functional protein complexes able to rescue the cell and metabolism from mutations in the mitochondrial copies of these genes http://nar.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/09/04/nar.gkw756.full. With some additional work and tricks the group hope the demonstration will allow all 13 mitochondrial genes to be moved to the nucleus and so solve one of the seven causes of aging damage, which will be important for things like sarcopenia https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/09/mitochondria-in-muscle-aging-and-sarcopenia/. In related work human cells engineered to contain a copy of the Dsup gene from tardigrades suffered 50% fewer DNA mutations as a result of prolonged exposure to X-rays http://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/en/utokyo-research/research-news/demystifying-the-resilience-of-water-bears.html; the group hope to discover related protective genes that grant tardigrades their resilience and the possibility is open to gene therapies to reduce DNA mutation rates in humans.

2. Modular DNA Expression Pellets
You can now produce bulk freeze-dried pellets containing the key cellular components needed for translating DNA to proteins - all of the enzymes, ribosomes, tRNA, etc that you need to do this basic protein production process http://news.mit.edu/2016/to-produce-biopharmaceuticals-on-demand-just-add-water-0922. The idea is that you’d have a supply of these pellets (room temp shelf-life > 1 year) and when you needed to conduct a test or produce a protein you’d synthesise your gene or DNA of interest and add it to a pellet in some water. Such cell-free synthesis is an exciting technology, another tiny step towards atomically-precise synthesis, and something that would be immediately useful for remote or at-home applications above and beyond those demonstrated: protein vaccines, antimicrobial peptides, multi-enzyme production for metabolic pathway to create a complex organic drug molecule, antibodies for diagnostics, etc.

3. Towards Human Head Transplant
Recent previous work in mice and recent work in dogs a modified solution of polyethylene glycol has been used to at least partially restore the neural connections in animals whose spines have been almost completely severed https://www.newscientist.com/article/2106382-head-transplant-teams-new-animal-tests-fail-to-convince-critics/. In the recent dog experiment the dog apparently regained the ability to walk after about three weeks. Surgeon Sergio Canavero plans to use these result to press forward with the first ever human head transplant next year, using the technique to help reconnect the severed spine of the patient’s head with the donor body. Others demand that at the lack of detailed histology data of the supposedly repaired spinal interface damages the case for proceeding in humans.

4. Custom Acoustic Holograms
Three dimensional acoustic holograms take a big step forward with a new system that uses a single powerful ultrasound transducer onto which is placed a 3D printed block that has been precisely patterned to form an acoustic hologram; ultrasound passing through the block is forced into the desired custom waveform, to levitate objects for example http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/computing/hardware/3d-printed-plastic-blocks-generate-complex-acoustic-holograms. Such a device produces an acoustic hologram with a resolution 100 times greater than previously possible with separate transducer systems. While working in air or water it can’t produce a dynamically changing waveform to move objects, although movement along fixed paths is possible. One possible way around this is to encode multiple sound fields at different frequencies to add some dynamic options.

5. Delivery, Security, Navy, Surveillance Drones
First, a cool new long range delivery drone combines a biplane design with VTOL and fixed-wing capabilities to get the best of both worlds http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/drones/tu-delft-tailsitter. Second, Aptonomy is launching a large security drone to monitor protected areas and intercept tresspassers https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602412/drone-security-guard-scolds-intruders-from-the-sky/. Third, the Navy’s Blackwing drone platform is designed to be launched by submarine to provide wide-area surveillance and control of other drone and communications assets https://www.avinc.com/resources/view/press-releases/united-states-navy-demonstrates-cross-domain-communications-command-and-con. Finally, DARPA’s Aerial Dragnet system is being designed to provide persistent wide-area surveillance of areas such as cities via networked drone swarms http://www.kurzweilai.net/darpas-plan-for-total-surveillance-of-low-flying-drones-over-cities.

6. Detecting Emotions with Wireless Signals
EQ-Radio is a system that uses wireless signals and reflections to measure subtle changes in a person’s breathing and heart rhythms in order to determine their emotional state http://news.mit.edu/2016/detecting-emotions-with-wireless-signals-0920. In recent tests the system was able to correctly predict whether the person was excited, happy, angry, or sad 87% of the time. Capturing human emotional states in such a way, particularly when not visibly obvious, would have uses in a wide range of different areas including security monitoring crowded events, entertainment, health care, consumer preferences, etc. The system measures heartbeats as accurately as an ECG monitor with an error margin of 0.3%.

7. Atomically Precise Molecular Chains
The size of alternative atomically precise materials that can be synthesised keeps getting larger with this recent creation of atomically precise gold nanoparticles enshrouded with a functional molecular shell and linked via a precise molecular bridge https://www.jyu.fi/en/news/archive/2016/09/tiedote-2016-09-22-15-15-43-527149. Progressively building up such units would allow the creation of ever-larger precise crystalline materials with novel electrochemical properties given that the electron clouds of the metal cores become coupled. There are also efforts to build more sophisticated catalysts by precisely combining palladium with ruthenium in different mixed or shelled structures http://phys.org/news/2016-09-combining-elements-palladium-ruthenium-industry.html.

8. Gene Therapy Stops Cancer Metastasis
A gene therapy technique involving the delivery of microRNAs of a specific sequence into cancer cells is successful in preventing those cancer cells from undergoing metastatic spread through the body http://news.mit.edu/2016/gene-therapy-technique-prevent-cancer-metastasis-0919. These microRNAs specifically regulate and block the expression of the Palladin protein that helps drive metastasis, and was delivered in this case from microRNAs embedded in nanoparticles that were loaded into a hydrogel scaffold that was subsequently implanted into the mice. Such a tool is a viable approach to cancer treatment in combination with other cancer-killing approaches. In related gene editing news, Synthego launches a CRISPR kit for labs and DIYers to make CRISPR editing easier http://synbiobeta.com/news/synthego-announces-first-kind-crispr-kit/.

9. Wireless MEMS
A microelectromechanical device has been built that can be turned on and off with a nanowatt of power from three feet away, with the concept being to use the nanoresonator itself as the antenna for the device http://www.bu.edu/research/articles/wireless-microelectromechanical-systems/. The device achieved an efficiency of 15% and the group believes it might find application in optogenetics to provide a route for wireless power and communications to devices implanted in and interfaced to the brain. But such wireless MEMS could be used everywhere: for example a modified router might monitor wireless MEMS sensors placed on movable objects all over the house.

10. A Sewing Robot
Sewbo has launched a robot to automate garment sewing, such as the sewing that typically takes place en masse in sweatshops https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602423/a-robot-that-sews-could-take-the-sweat-out-of-sweatshops/. It doesn’t have the versatile flexibility of human sewing of course, and the key innovation is a method to temporarily hold the garment fabric in solid sheet form (it uses off-the-shelf sewing machines and robotic arms) that can be more easily picked up and guided by automated systems, but which when plunged into warm water removes the polymer to return it back to the soft flexible garment for sale and use. This gets us towards fully automated garment production.

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2016-09-19 15:09:54 (7 comments; 3 reshares; 19 +1s; )Open 

Godzilla’s Presuasion

In this little video famed psychologist Robert Cialdini presents the basics of presuasion, a bunch of methods used to prime people to receive your message more favourably and so increase your probability to successfully persuade them towards some desirable outcome. I’ve been waiting for Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion book to launch for a while now and it “happens” to have coincided with the release of this video by BigThink; I’ve just gone and grabbed the ebook version.

Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is probably one of the best human psychology books that I’ve ever read and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t heard of it or read it before. It seems that Pre-Suasion will be a good follow-up or companion book with useful tips and lessons for many if not all areas of life.

Remember: these types ofpsychological metho... more »

Godzilla’s Presuasion

In this little video famed psychologist Robert Cialdini presents the basics of presuasion, a bunch of methods used to prime people to receive your message more favourably and so increase your probability to successfully persuade them towards some desirable outcome. I’ve been waiting for Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion book to launch for a while now and it “happens” to have coincided with the release of this video by BigThink; I’ve just gone and grabbed the ebook version.

Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is probably one of the best human psychology books that I’ve ever read and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t heard of it or read it before. It seems that Pre-Suasion will be a good follow-up or companion book with useful tips and lessons for many if not all areas of life.

Remember: these types of psychological methods are not aimed solely at helping you influence others, but just as important to help you be aware of and recognise when these methods are being used on you.

Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) refers to Cialdini as Godzilla, as in “the Godzilla of manipulation, influence, and persuasion” and suspected secret strategist to Clinton. Apparently Cialdini was an advisor and strategist for the Sanders campaign and shortly after Bernie pulled out of the race Clinton’s campaign started using very similar tactics, somewhat different to what they had deployed previously.

BigThink is a pretty cool YouTube channel with quite a bit of regular content and interesting interviews with different people. Worth checking out if you haven’t already. ___

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2016-09-19 14:48:39 (12 comments; 12 reshares; 45 +1s; )Open 

Ethereum's Swarm Starts to Mature
Towards Web 3.0?

Ethereum’s blockchain contender for the distributed web, called Swarm, is starting to mature and its transformative capacity is becoming clearer - as covered by this recent Coindesk piece http://www.coindesk.com/ethereums-holy-trinity-takes-shape-swarm-testnet-arrives/

I first covered Swarm in May this year https://plus.google.com/u/0/+MarkBruce/posts/aJJ9QzRuuLV, outlining the benefits of using the Etherum blockchain for domain name resolution and coordinating the other necessary storage and communications infrastructure needed for running a distributed web.

The Swarm testnet is now live and if successful will provide a platform for decentralised uncensorable hosting of photo albums, file managers, web sites, blogs, social media networks, and just about anything for which you rely on the web’s currentcen... more »

Ethereum's Swarm Starts to Mature
Towards Web 3.0?

Ethereum’s blockchain contender for the distributed web, called Swarm, is starting to mature and its transformative capacity is becoming clearer - as covered by this recent Coindesk piece http://www.coindesk.com/ethereums-holy-trinity-takes-shape-swarm-testnet-arrives/

I first covered Swarm in May this year https://plus.google.com/u/0/+MarkBruce/posts/aJJ9QzRuuLV, outlining the benefits of using the Etherum blockchain for domain name resolution and coordinating the other necessary storage and communications infrastructure needed for running a distributed web.

The Swarm testnet is now live and if successful will provide a platform for decentralised uncensorable hosting of photo albums, file managers, web sites, blogs, social media networks, and just about anything for which you rely on the web’s current centralised server model. This is one of the reasons I continue to think Ethereum remains an interesting investment to consider.

Ethereum and ETH provide the computational tools, Swarm and the Whisper protocol provide basic web infrastructure, while new tools Swear and Swindle are smart contracts that aim to ensure stored data remains available to users. In this arrangement you don’t store data on the blockchain - instead Swarm embeds references to that data on the blockchain as a storage layer or pointer to where that data resides.
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2016-09-19 14:26:11 (9 comments; 32 reshares; 88 +1s; )Open 

The Neural Network Zoo

This is nice summary article covering the many different neural network architectures that have been developed and deployed in deep learning applications. The taxonomy provides a colour-coded key to make it easy to see how different functions and operations are used in different ways across different network architectures and so showing at a glance how these different networks relate to one another. The article provides a brief description of the function and training of each type for ease of classification and reference.

Article: http://www.asimovinstitute.org/neural-network-zoo/

We can expect this taxonomy of different neural network architectures to grow over time too: as our knowledge of the brain and understanding of its different neural networks continues to become more sophisticated we’ll undoubtedly discover new network architecturesa... more »

The Neural Network Zoo

This is nice summary article covering the many different neural network architectures that have been developed and deployed in deep learning applications. The taxonomy provides a colour-coded key to make it easy to see how different functions and operations are used in different ways across different network architectures and so showing at a glance how these different networks relate to one another. The article provides a brief description of the function and training of each type for ease of classification and reference.

Article: http://www.asimovinstitute.org/neural-network-zoo/

We can expect this taxonomy of different neural network architectures to grow over time too: as our knowledge of the brain and understanding of its different neural networks continues to become more sophisticated we’ll undoubtedly discover new network architectures as well as refinements that will be useful to replicate in artificial neural networks and deep learning applications.

Via +Cristian Lorenzutti___

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2016-09-18 10:29:50 (11 comments; 21 reshares; 75 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 38/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/09/beating-neurological-damage-3d.html

Beating neurological damage, Delivering bacteria, 3D electodeposition, Multicore computing accelerations, Fruit fly connectome, Characterising cell senescence, Novel semiconductor nanostructures, Nanoscale motion amplification, Machine learning tricks, Bonding etched metals.

1. Compensating for Neurological Damage
A new brain computer interface allows patients to control the movement of a cursor over a keyboard with just their thoughts, and by so doing type 12 words per minute http://news.stanford.edu/2016/09/12/typing-brain-sensing-technology/. The tests were carried out in monkeys but should translate well to people, and achieved a significant improvement in the rate of word transcription over previous systems to be... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 38/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/09/beating-neurological-damage-3d.html

Beating neurological damage, Delivering bacteria, 3D electodeposition, Multicore computing accelerations, Fruit fly connectome, Characterising cell senescence, Novel semiconductor nanostructures, Nanoscale motion amplification, Machine learning tricks, Bonding etched metals.

1. Compensating for Neurological Damage
A new brain computer interface allows patients to control the movement of a cursor over a keyboard with just their thoughts, and by so doing type 12 words per minute http://news.stanford.edu/2016/09/12/typing-brain-sensing-technology/. The tests were carried out in monkeys but should translate well to people, and achieved a significant improvement in the rate of word transcription over previous systems to be conversationally useful. In other news recent quadriplegics might have significant limb movement restored by having 10 million (particular type of) stem cells injected into the site of spinal injury https://news.usc.edu/107047/experimental-stem-cell-therapy-helps-paralyzed-man-regains-use-of-arms-and-hands/, to the extent that three months later patients can feed themselves and operate their phone.

2. Controlled Bacterial Delivery to Intestines
A delivery method comprising alternately coating bacteria in layers of long chain polysaccharides chitosan and alginate, ensures their protection against stomach acids and into the intestine where these mucoadhesive sugars help adhere to the intestinal lining http://news.mit.edu/2016/delivering-beneficial-bacteria-stomach-gi-tract-0914. Coated bacteria had a survival rate six times higher than uncoated bacteria. Such improved oral probiotic delivery to the intestines could be widely beneficial considering the number diseases and treatments probiotic and even therapeutic bacteria are being proposed for.

3. Electrodeposition vs 3D Printing
The custom mass-produced devices create by Microfabrica’s electrodeposition technique are very impressive http://michaelbelfiore.com/2016/09/14/microfabricas-tiny-revolution/. Microfabrica’s process represents a synthesis of 3D printing capabilities with semiconductor electrodeposition fabrication techniques, and this enables a much greater level of device and scale precision - check out the comparison images with conventional metal sintering for example. The company is already commercially operational and sells devices for $1 - $100 depending on size and complexity.

4. Language & Hardware for Accelerated Computing
Milk is the name of a newly developed programming language that manages memory much more efficiently in programs that deal with scattered data across large data sets, so much so that it enables a four-fold speed-up in big data applications http://news.mit.edu/2016/faster-parallel-computing-big-data-0913. The Queue Management Device designed by Intel reduces certain optimisation software to a chip-based hardware design that at minimum results in core-to-core communication speed multi-core chips to be doubled http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/semiconductors/processors/new-circuits-break-bottleneck-in-microprocessors.

5. Fruit Fly Connectome
The first complete 3D map of a fruit fly brain connectome has been assembled https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602398/first-3-d-map-of-a-fruit-flys-brain-network/. This approach used x-ray tomography and worked by soaking the brain in a silver dye, then bombarding it with x-rays, measuring the x-ray scattering, and running the data through a computational model to generate a 3D map of neurons and their connections. This model has a resolution of 600nm and shows 100,000 neurons and is the first ever reproduction of a fly brain hemisphere mapped with 3D coordinates. It took 1,700 man hours to assemble so will need further automation if the technique is to tackle larger brains.

6. Characterising Genetic Causes of Cell Senescence
Recent work looked at dosing varying levels of a certain anti-cancer drug against cancer cells in order to induce varying cellular responses from senescence to apoptosis; in doing so identified 25 specific genes responsible for the senescent cell response as opposed to apoptosis or other responses https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/09/working-to-characterize-the-epigenetics-of-cellular-senescence/. Identifying these 25 genes provides 25 possible targets that can be investigated for targeting specific senescent cell clearance therapies - which some companies are already working on - in order to help rejuvenate aging tissues and reduce the age-related load of senescent cells.

7. Novel Semiconductor Nanostructures
An inorganic semiconducting material with a double helix nanostructure has been discovered http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/short/article/33350/, comprising non-toxic tin, iodine, and phosphorus, has been formed into centimerter-long fibers and possess exceptional flexibility while remaining stable at up to 500C. In related news quantum dot silicon nanoparticles can replace alternative semiconductor materials in a range of useful applications in displays and optoelectronics http://phys.org/news/2016-09-silicon-nanoparticles-expensive-semiconductors.html.

8. Nanoscale Motion Amplified to Microscale
A microelectromechanical system developed by NIST is able to measure the transfer of motion at nanometer scales https://www.nist.gov/video/measuring-nanoscale-motion-transfer-through-microscale-machine. As long as the electrical input driving the system was free of noise then the device performed reliably and repeatedly, and offer a platform that the team hopes to extend to far more complex systems with many moving parts. Advances like this have application in fabricating and operating various micro- and nanoelectromechanical systems used in sensors, switches, and automatic robotic systems.

9. Latest Machine Learning Tricks
Machine learning algorithms for driving autonomous vehicles are being accelerated and rapidly tested in consumer video games such as Grand Theft Auto, taking advantage of realistic environments, and enabled by a new way for extracting useful training data from the game environment for automatic object classification https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602317/self-driving-cars-can-learn-a-lot-by-playing-grand-theft-auto/. Machine learning algorithms are now generating short videos from static photos, aiming to predict what happens next in the scene captured in the image http://www.theverge.com/2016/9/12/12886698/machine-learning-video-image-prediction-mit, take a look for some “interesting” results.

10. Bonding Metals with Any Other Surface
A new electrochemical etching process produces metal surfaces with roughened micrometer scale features that allow metals to be joined with nearly all other materials, become water repellent, and exhibit improved biocompatibility http://www.uni-kiel.de/pressemeldungen/index.php?pmid=2016-285-nanosculpturing&lang=en. The etching process affects only the top 10 - 20 micrometers of the surface, removing those metal grains that are less chemically stable, creating a complex three dimensional surface that can be strongly bonded with polymer adhesives to connect other similarly-etched metal surfaces; in tests the metal or polymer would break before the interface. In thinking about the laminated wood being considered to build wooden skyscrapers because of its strength http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-16/the-race-for-the-wood-skyscraper-starts-here, I’m wondering about laminated interleaved metals and what you might build with them?

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2016-09-11 04:43:00 (19 comments; 22 reshares; 78 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 37/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/09/optical-soliton-waves-microbiome-tissue.html

Sand into soil, Optical soliton waves, Microbiome tissue repair, Stem cell gun, RNA genome regulators, Prion structures, Deep learning speech, Thermal solid superatoms, Sophisticated drones, Synthetic wine.

1. Turning Sand into Soil
A formulation of plant cellulose added to sand helps the mixture retain water, nutrients, and air, with sandy hectares of land in Mongolia treated with the mixture proving successful in trials by growing rice, corn, tomatos, watermelon, and sunflowers http://english.cas.cn/newsroom/china_research/201609/t20160905_167428.shtml. This would be interesting not just for turning deserts into productive agricultural land, but also facilitating the recovery of native vegetation and forests... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 37/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/09/optical-soliton-waves-microbiome-tissue.html

Sand into soil, Optical soliton waves, Microbiome tissue repair, Stem cell gun, RNA genome regulators, Prion structures, Deep learning speech, Thermal solid superatoms, Sophisticated drones, Synthetic wine.

1. Turning Sand into Soil
A formulation of plant cellulose added to sand helps the mixture retain water, nutrients, and air, with sandy hectares of land in Mongolia treated with the mixture proving successful in trials by growing rice, corn, tomatos, watermelon, and sunflowers http://english.cas.cn/newsroom/china_research/201609/t20160905_167428.shtml. This would be interesting not just for turning deserts into productive agricultural land, but also facilitating the recovery of native vegetation and forests onto desertified land, rejuvenating tired soils and even, at a futuristic stretch, helping to terraform the surfaces of other planets.

2. Optical Soliton Waves
A new optical phenomenon has been observed for the first time in the form of a new type of soliton wave https://www.caltech.edu/news/new-breed-optical-soliton-wave-discovered-52001. I’ve always found solitons fascinating; localised waves that act as particles, holding their shape as they travel instead of dispersing like standard waves. This new phenomena involves soliton waves riding the wake and path of another soliton wave, and the group can design microcavities to guarantee the properties of the solitons that will be produced; applications include optical clocks, navigation and radar systems, magnets, neurobiology, and fiber optic signalling generally.

3. Microbiome Impacts Tissue Repair and Regeneration
Recent work on very simple animal model organisms suggests a link between an organism’s microbiome and its immune system and ability to repair and regenerate its tissues http://www.stowers.org/media/news/aug-29-2016. Different microbial populations in the organism can significantly inhibit or enhance the processes of tissue repair and regeneration, and the immune system plays a key role in this, for example sometimes blocking regeneration if an infection is present. While yet to find similar definitive links in humans potential applications include: new drug candidates for boosting repair and regeneration and avenues to explore the creation of healthier and more beneficial microbiome populations.

4. Gun that Shoots Stem Cells
A SkinGun device developed by RenovaCare uses the company’s CellMist system to spray a patient’s own stem cells onto skin wounds in order to rapidly speed up repair and regeneration of skin in days instead of weeks http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/09/stem-cells-delivered-via-skin-gun-can.html. While it won’t work for third-degree burns and very deep wounds, it is effective against second-degree burns and other infected wounds. I also wonder if such an approach might facilitate a type of skin rejuvenation treatment in future, as well as modified versions able to repair the surfaces of internal structures such as lungs, stomach, intestine, etc.

5. New Genome Regulation from “Junk DNA”
A new type of RNA called long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) that is transcribed from what was thought to be “junk” DNA and which does not produce proteins, has been found to play crucial roles in cellular processes and genomic regulation and gene expression http://news.mit.edu/2016/linking-rna-structure-and-function-cell-fate-0908. In this work the structure of just one type of lncRNA was deciphered, which showed how this RNA structure is crucial to interacting with a specific protein to control the development of heart muscle cells. The work was done in mice, and while human and mouse proteins are usually similar lncRNA sequences are not conserved and the human counterpart in this case has not yet been found. The group hope to build a library of lncRNA structural motifs to push the field forward and help identify targets for disease.

6. Deciphering Prion Structure and Replication
In related structural biology work we have recent advances in understanding prion structure, formation, and replication, and how this new evidence refutes conventional theories of this process http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-09/p-nds090116.php. In the case of normal protein PrPC that can turn into misfolded infectious prion PrPSc and recruit normal versions to replicate itself, it was shown how these molecules self assemble two intertwined protofilaments that create the fibrils that are typically observed. At a basic level these misfolded proteins comprise repetitive elements of beta-sheet structures - four-rung beta-solenoids - that act as templates for new, unfolded proteins build on. It is hoped this understanding will help quickly understand other prion diseases and the development of therapeutics.

7. Deep Learning for Speech Production
Google’s DeepMind has demonstrated WaveNet, a deep learning system for generating speech that mimics any human voice while sounding more natural than any current speech-to-text system and reducing the gap between human performance by over 50% https://deepmind.com/blog/wavenet-generative-model-raw-audio/. The system can also synthesise music and automatically generate sample piano pieces. All of the examples are well worth a listen, including when the system makes up words and changes the identity for the same text. In related news physicists are exploring why deep neural networks are so effective at solving complex problems and how this is linked to fundamental physics https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602344/the-extraordinary-link-between-deep-neural-networks-and-the-nature-of-the-universe/.

8. Superatoms: Thermal Solids & Precise Clusters
Crystals comprised of superatoms of buckyballs and similar-sized inorganic molecular clusters exhibit variable, controllable thermal conductivity depending on whether the buckyballs are fixed and ordered (high conductivity) or rotationally disordered (low conductivity) http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-09/coec-rds090616.php. Adding magnetic properties to the superatoms might allow thermally switchable materials for example, and a range of complex yet tunable atomically precise structures. In related atomically precise materials news, the largest ever atomically precise silver nanoclusters have been synthesised and characterised, containing precisely 374 atoms in a 3nm core surrounded by a layer of silver atoms bound to thiol molecules http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-09/aof-rsa090916.php.

9. Interesting Drone Capabilities
First, effective designs for low-power autonomous robotic sailboats are now scouring the oceans collecting data and accessible remotely http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/05/technology/no-sailors-needed-robot-sailboats-scour-the-oceans-for-data.html?_r=0. Second, software is getting far more sophisticated at allowing swarms of robotic drones to coordinate and adaptively avoid collisions http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-software/swarms-of-robots-manage-to-not-run-into-each-other. Third, tree-planting drones are being used to speed up reforestation efforts http://newatlas.com/tree-planting-drones-droneseed/45259/. Finally, drones are being fitted with anti-laser lasers to avoid being shot down https://www.newscientist.com/article/2105362-drones-get-first-anti-laser-lasers-to-stop-being-shot-down/.

10. Synthesising Artificial Wine
Ava Winery is a company that appears to be getting very close to creating convincing synthetic artificial wine that can fool any human taster http://www.businessinsider.co.id/ava-winery-says-its-nearly-perfected-wine-in-a-lab-2016-9/. Wine is about 85% water and 13% alcohol plus a range of hundreds of other molecules that provide flavour, aroma, colour and other properties. Earlier this year 80% of people could differentiate between a control glass of wine and a glass of the artificial wine; as of today only 10% of people can and this is set to get smaller. There are many benefits here, aside from using 50x - 100x less water to produce the wine, the possibility of powdered wine mixed with water/ethanol solution, and generally disrupting the wine industry and others.

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2016-09-04 07:44:43 (8 comments; 30 reshares; 76 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 36/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/09/nanowires-in-mouse-brain-neuronal-pixel.html

Nanowires in mouse brain, Neuronal pixel interface, Custom molecular cages, Giant macrodimer molecules, Boosting neurogenesis, Antibody clears amyloid, Carbon nanotube transistors, Universal cancer investigation, Atomic deposition techniques, Centimeter accurate GPS.

1. Mouse Brains Monitored with Injectable Nanowires
Very thin flexible silicon wires coated in polymer form a mesh of simple field effect transistors that can curl up, drawn into a syringe, and injected into mouse brains where they can record electrical activity from individual neurons http://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/devices/injectable-nanowires-monitor-mouse-brains-for-months. The mesh functioned well throughout the entire 8... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 36/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/09/nanowires-in-mouse-brain-neuronal-pixel.html

Nanowires in mouse brain, Neuronal pixel interface, Custom molecular cages, Giant macrodimer molecules, Boosting neurogenesis, Antibody clears amyloid, Carbon nanotube transistors, Universal cancer investigation, Atomic deposition techniques, Centimeter accurate GPS.

1. Mouse Brains Monitored with Injectable Nanowires
Very thin flexible silicon wires coated in polymer form a mesh of simple field effect transistors that can curl up, drawn into a syringe, and injected into mouse brains where they can record electrical activity from individual neurons http://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/devices/injectable-nanowires-monitor-mouse-brains-for-months. The mesh functioned well throughout the entire 8 months of the experiment by avoiding the immune response and scar tissue formation that plague other systems. They were able to record and measure changes in the mouse brain and even tracked individual neurons for long periods of time. Some of the electrodes could provide stimulation to neurons and this opens up avenues for very interesting digital interfaces.

2. Neural Pixel Interacts with Tiny Brain Regions
A tiny 20x20 micrometer device called a neural pixel consists of a sensor that detects neuronal signals and an ion pump that doses a tiny amount of the neurotransmitter GABA http://liu.se/forskning/forskningsnyheter/1.691931?l=en. In this case the device detects neural cascades associated with epilepsy and doses GABA to inhibit and stop that activity from spreading - admittedly only in slices of brain at the moment. The possibility of including other drugs and neurotransmitters and placement in different brain regions makes this a genuinely interesting platform. It’d be interesting to combine this with #1 above. It’d be even more interesting to integrate a third, regenerative device that takes in nutrients from the surrounding tissue to produce GABA (in this case) to replenish the tiny reservoirs so it can operate indefinitely.

3. Custom Molecular Cages
First, custom proteins are being developed that function as microcompartments for custom catalytic applications, and in this case internally incorporated catalytic iridium and palladium complexes that catalysed hydrogenation and cross-linking reactions http://www.titech.ac.jp/english/news/2016/035895.html. Second, a method has been developed for synthesising (via self assembly) custom covalent organic nanotubes out of simple organic monomers that are stabilised by light-induced cross-linking http://www.itbm.nagoya-u.ac.jp/en/research/2016/08/Itami-Ito-ONT.php. Both interesting platforms with a wide range of potential applications depending on the needs and materials used.

4. Giant Macrodimer Molecules
Diatomic molecules, or two-atom dimers, have been created from cesium atoms that are space one micrometer apart from one another http://physics.aps.org/articles/v9/99. This comprises experimental confirmation of a decade-old theoretical prediction, although the dimers only exist for tens of microseconds. Depending on the state of the atoms and the distance between them the force they experience can be attractive or repulsive. This was all done by firing lasers at an ultracold gas of the atoms, with the lasers putting the atoms into the correct state, and so forcing the dimers to form to reduce their total energy.

5. Boosting Neurogenesis in Old Brains
A couple of new molecular techniques have been discovered for temporarily and intermittently boosting neurogenesis (creating new neurons) in older brains https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/09/a-method-of-intermittently-increasing-neurogenesis-in-the-aging-mouse-brain-is-shown-to-improve-memory-function/. In this work the expression of certain proteins important to dendritic spine maintenance were altered, removing a portion of spines of old neurons, and resulting in neural stem cells being activated and doubling the number of new neurons that integrated into the region, and when turned off the old spines grew back. Mice in these experiments exhibited improved memory function.

6. Antibody Clears Amyloid from Human Brains
The results of a human clinical trial involving 165 people have demonstrated that an antibody effectively binds to amyloid plaques in human brains, mobilises microglial immune cells to remove and destroy the plaques, and almost completely clears the brain of plaques within a year https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/08/an-immunotherapy-clears-amyloid-from-the-brains-of-alzheimers-patients/. The cognitive decline suffered by the Alzheimer’s patients slowed significantly. More patients and continuing, longer trials should soon answer the question of the cause-or-symptom nature of amyloid in Alzheimer’s disease, although this work is promising. Similar techniques may quickly be adopted from this promising approach to create treatments for clearing tau protein and other protein clumps that contribute to disease and decline.

7. Carbon Nanotube Transistors Surpass Silicon
New carbon nanotube transistors can carry nearly double the current of silicon transistors http://news.wisc.edu/for-first-time-carbon-nanotube-transistors-outperform-silicon/. This work involved depositing aligned arrays of carbon nanotubes on a 1-inch square wafer in order to form transistors coating the entire surface in less than five minutes. One of the key advances was new abilities to remove the vast majority of carbon nanotubes in order to achieve 99.99% semiconducting carbon nanotubes. There are more and more advances like this and it seems as though carbon nanotube transistors are starting to mature. Meanwhile Fujitsu looks set to launch carbon nanotube RAM chips by the end of 2018 http://nantero.com/fujitsu-semiconductor-and-mie-fujitsu-semiconductor-license-nanteros-nram-and-have-begun-developing-breakthrough-memory-products-for-multiple-markets/.

8. Telomerase and ALT Universal Cancer Investigation
Recent work is helping to determine how cancer cells switch from an activated telomerase mechanism of increasing or maintaining telomeres to the Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres (ALT) mechanism that 10% - 15% of cancers are driven by https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/09/an-investigation-of-how-telomerase-cancers-can-switch-to-become-alt-cancers/. Successfully targeting and treating both telomerase and ALT -based mechanisms provides the promise of being universally applicable to treating any and all cancers due to this fundamental mechanism being crucial to cancers growing beyond a small mass of cells and metastasising. Unlike telomerase in stem cells, ALT is not used by any normal adult cell and so can be deactivated systemically with little effect.

9. Room Temperature Atomic Deposition
DARPA has developed the electron-enhanced atomic layer deposition technique that enables the room-temperature synthesis of ultra-thin-film microelectronics materials http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2016-08-31. Previous techniques have demanded temperatures over 800 degrees celsius to produce these types of films, but superior capabilities at room temperature now allow previously infeasible device and material compositions to be designed and created, and the ability to selectively etch different materials in composites provides an alternative to typical masking techniques.

10. GPS Accurate to the Centimeter
A new software-based system running on a Raspberry Pi and totalling $35 worth of hardware provides cars with centimeter GPS accuracy http://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/sensors/centimeterlevel-gps-positioning-for-cars. The system does demand a network of ground-based network stations positioned no more than 20km apart (closer for built up areas) to help improve the accuracy and timing of GPS, but the utility of such accuracy to autonomous cars, trucks, drones, and other devices is obvious. The system has been successfully tested on smartphones but is unlikely to be rolled out to new smartphone devices in the foreseeable future due to added extra costs of antennas and power.

Also: SciTech Digest was mentioned in a new Podcast last week by Spark Vizla https://twitter.com/SparkVizla/status/770349284650733569

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2016-08-28 05:15:08 (7 comments; 21 reshares; 97 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 35/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/08/dopamine-gene-therapy-remyelination.html

Dopamine gene therapy, Remyelination cell therapy, Algebraic brain topology, Ginko custom microbes, Ultrasound protein imaging, MegaMIMO bandwidth boost, Thought activated DNA-bots, Light controlled CRISPR, Whole transparent organisms, Massively multicore chips.

1. Gene Therapy for Dopamine Production
A new treatment for Parkinson’s Disease is currently entering human clinical trials that involves genetically engineering the neurons of patients by administering large amounts of viruses that carry genes to better enable the brain to produce and manage dopamine https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602193/manufacturing-dopamine-in-the-brain-with-gene-therapy/. Early results with initial patients show promise, noto... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 35/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/08/dopamine-gene-therapy-remyelination.html

Dopamine gene therapy, Remyelination cell therapy, Algebraic brain topology, Ginko custom microbes, Ultrasound protein imaging, MegaMIMO bandwidth boost, Thought activated DNA-bots, Light controlled CRISPR, Whole transparent organisms, Massively multicore chips.

1. Gene Therapy for Dopamine Production
A new treatment for Parkinson’s Disease is currently entering human clinical trials that involves genetically engineering the neurons of patients by administering large amounts of viruses that carry genes to better enable the brain to produce and manage dopamine https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602193/manufacturing-dopamine-in-the-brain-with-gene-therapy/. Early results with initial patients show promise, not only for restoring cognitive function, but also for circumventing the main drawback to conventional L-Dopa and dopamine treatments which is the development of resistance and the need for ever greater amounts of drug that has less effect. There are currently 48 human clinical trials underway for brain and CNS gene therapies and cell treatments.

2. Cell Therapy Boosts Remyelination in Brain
A cell therapy product incorporating macrophages and microglia is showing promise in animal studies for remyelinating neurons in the brain and actively reversing the demyelination associated with many diseases including Multiple Sclerosis https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/08/development-of-a-cell-therapy-to-increase-remyelination-in-the-brain/. Such a treatment might not only be used in treating various neurological diseases but administered on a routine basis to restore myelin levels to youthful states as desired.

3. Understanding the Brain with Algebraic Topology
Mathematical tools from the field of algebraic topology are being used to better characterise and understand the structure and function of the brain and its connectome https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602234/how-the-mathematics-of-algebraic-topology-is-revolutionizing-brain-science/. These new tools provide a different way of classifying nodes and loops, and for identifying these features at small and large scales. It should only be a matter of time before these additional tools and insights are incorporated into artificial machine learning systems.

4. Ginkgo Bioworks’ Custom Engineered Microbes
Synthetic biology company Ginkgo Bioworks continues to grow and develop custom genetically engineered yeasts that metabolise standard feedstocks under standard fermentation conditions to produce a range of different fragrances, flavours, cosmetics, and pesticides http://news.mit.edu/2016/startup-ginkgo-bioworks-engineered-yeast-0825. The company has scaled up, building a large automated foundry dedicated to rapid prototyping and rapidly generating custom yeasts to design specifications. These industrial synthetic biology facilities are starting to proliferate and at some point we can expect their capabilities to distributed to end users.

5. Engineered Proteins for Ultrasound Imaging
Newly engineered protein-shelled nanostructures known as gas vesicles, which reflect sound waves, can now give off far more distinct signals, target specific types of cells, and be used to generate “colour” ultrasound images https://www.caltech.edu/news/designing-ultrasound-tools-lego-proteins-51834. Swapping and modifying different proteins on the surface of the vesicles alters cell targeting, molecule targeting, and sensitivity to different ultrasound frequencies. Such devices can be injected wholesale into an animal for medical imaging purposes, or a gene therapy could deliver the code to cells needed to produce the vesicles from scratch. Applications include e.g. using ultrasound to produce overlapping images showing tumour cells, the immune cells attacking them, and the vascular cells supplying nutrients. I also wonder if these vesicles might be co-opted to facilitate respirocytes.

6. MegaMIMO Boosts Network Bandwidth
The MegaMIMO wireless data system has recently demonstrated three times faster bandwidth and twice the wireless range of conventional Multiple-Input Multiple-Output systems http://news.mit.edu/2016/solving-network-congestion-megamimo-0823. The system manages to synchronise transmitter phases to coordinate multiple access points at the same time on the same frequency without creating interference and in order to maximise the efficient utilisation of the available spectrum. Such a system should provide needed boosts to both cellular and WiFi communications.

7. DNA Robots Activated by Thoughts
This is an interesting if somewhat convoluted proof of concept for triggering the activation of DNA nanobots in a living animal just by thinking http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/08/thought-controlled-nanoscale-dna-robots.html. In this system (i) an EEG headset records and recognises particular mind states, (ii) particular mind states influence the strength of an electromagnetic field, (iii) the strength of the electromagnetic field heats up metal nanoparticles injected into an animal (the subject themselves or another), and (iv) past a certain threshold the heated metal nanoparticles cause programmed DNA origami structures on their surface to reversibly activate. In this case they proved that the DNA nanobots were able to induce a cellular effect.

8. Modified CRISPR Controlled by Light
On the topic of controllable nanobots, the CRISPR system is being further engineered and modified to produce versions that can be controllably switched on and off in different ways http://news.mit.edu/2016/using-light-control-genome-editing-0825. Some approaches modify the Cas9 enzyme itself to achieve this, but the present work builds on earlier approaches that engineered light-activated RNA interference in order to produce modified RNA guide strands that are only activated in the presence of certain wavelengths of light. This allows precision experiments for controlling the precise timing of gene editing and other cellular signalling events. Next steps are exploring therapeutic applications and improving the design with a more universal system.

9. Making Whole Organisms Transparent for Imaging
Continual improvements and refinements in imaging and chemical techniques for making organs transparent have resulted in methods that can now make entire organisms transparent while labelling almost any desired internal structure for imaging and analysis http://www.en.uni-muenchen.de/news/press-services/press-releases/2016/ertuerk_imaging.html. In this work with the new uDISCO technique whole rats were rendered transparent and their nervous systems labelled with fluorescent tags in order to produce high resolution images and maps of entire neuronal networks with subcellular detail while still embedded in their original tissues.

10. Massively Multicore Chips
The KiloCore chip contains 1,000 independently programmable processors was fabricated by IBM https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/worlds-first-1000-processor-chip/. The chip can process 115 billion instructions per second while dissipating just 0.7 Watts and has a number of novel features for applications including encoding/decoding, video processing, encryption. In related news a 25 core chip called Piton that is designed to more efficiently power massive cloud computing architectures https://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S47/19/67G69. Piton is designed to be scalable and so chips with thousands of cores and data centres with half a billion cores are envisaged.

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2016-08-26 14:58:21 (23 comments; 11 reshares; 41 +1s; )Open 

CS Lewis' Humanitarian Theory of Punishment

This is CS Lewis' (the Narnia author) essay on the Humanitarian Theory of Punishment[1] and is wonderfully narrated and animated by the CSLewisDoodle channel[2]. This essay argues a critique of the humanitarian (as opposed to retributive) theory of punishment and presents a range of interesting ideas and concepts on criminal justice that I hadn't explicitly encountered before. I found it interesting as the first criticism I've ever heard of humanitarian punishment being potentially unjust and immoral.

There are several key words or sentences in the presentation that may trigger objections or counter points, and the positions put forth by Lewis are not without criticism[3]. But overall I found it interesting, as an atheist, that I'm able to appreciate - if not completely swallow - the positions put forth by a... more »

CS Lewis' Humanitarian Theory of Punishment

This is CS Lewis' (the Narnia author) essay on the Humanitarian Theory of Punishment[1] and is wonderfully narrated and animated by the CSLewisDoodle channel[2]. This essay argues a critique of the humanitarian (as opposed to retributive) theory of punishment and presents a range of interesting ideas and concepts on criminal justice that I hadn't explicitly encountered before. I found it interesting as the first criticism I've ever heard of humanitarian punishment being potentially unjust and immoral.

There are several key words or sentences in the presentation that may trigger objections or counter points, and the positions put forth by Lewis are not without criticism[3]. But overall I found it interesting, as an atheist, that I'm able to appreciate - if not completely swallow - the positions put forth by a prominent Christian apologist. The style of writing or wordsmithing is itself excellent, and of a sophistication that we may have lost.

The essay on subjectivity[4] is also very good for similar reasons as it forces you to think about and question some fairly fundamental things from a perspective that you may not have encountered before.

1. Main video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxwnHVr192A
2. CSLewisDoodle channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw-kYN6wWXWDyp_lB0wnlxw has a library of these essays.
3. Selected criticisms http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com.au/2007/05/c-s-lewis-resources-pro-and-con.html
[4] The Poison of Subjectivity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lgcd6jvsCFs
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2016-08-24 14:32:40 (34 comments; 2 reshares; 13 +1s; )Open 

The Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives

Do you really, honestly, truly wish to better understand the world and your fellow man? To do so we need to break out of our limited moral matrix that dictates the lens through which we view the world and take a red pill, step outside of our comfort zone and take a renewed look at reality.

I thought this talk[1] by Psychologist Johnathan Haidt was so insightful that I should transcribe and summarise his presentation; when watching just be aware that it is presented to a particular audience.

I think presentations like this are crucially important for wider dissemination and consideration, especially in today’s toxic political climate. This toxicity usually stems from moral self-righteousness and a terribly tribalistic us versus them mindset. It births simplistic, outrageous, and misleading commentary on politicalc... more »

The Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives

Do you really, honestly, truly wish to better understand the world and your fellow man? To do so we need to break out of our limited moral matrix that dictates the lens through which we view the world and take a red pill, step outside of our comfort zone and take a renewed look at reality.

I thought this talk[1] by Psychologist Johnathan Haidt was so insightful that I should transcribe and summarise his presentation; when watching just be aware that it is presented to a particular audience.

I think presentations like this are crucially important for wider dissemination and consideration, especially in today’s toxic political climate. This toxicity usually stems from moral self-righteousness and a terribly tribalistic us versus them mindset. It births simplistic, outrageous, and misleading commentary on political candidates and political movements everywhere and one wonders if this might at some point threaten the very democratic process that has made all we have achieved possible.

Introduction

The worst idea in all of psychology is that the mind is a blank slate at birth; the initial organisation of the brain provides a first draft that experience then modifies. This initial first draft provides five core moral predispositions along particular axes:

1. Harm/Care
2. Fairness/Reciprocity (Golden Rule)
3. Ingroup/Loyalty
4. Authority/Respect
5. Purity/Sanctity

This initial first draft of human morality, present in the new human, is going to be altered and influenced depending on the environment that human grows up in. Regarding #3, the Ingroup/Loyalty measure, humans are the only animal that forms groups much larger than the family. This stems from our long tribal history, and is driven by a tribal psychology that is so deeply pleasurable that even when we don’t have tribes we go ahead and make them anyway. My post on cults from yesterday relates to this.

To study these five factors Johnathan’s team used http://www.yourmorals.org/ to collect measurements from a sample population of 30,000 people, and you can go a fill out the questions to see where your own morals fall as compared to everyone else. There are two very distinct categories that liberals and conservatives fall into; basically liberals believe morality only includes Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity, while conservatives believe morality also includes the other three categories of Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity.

The most important thing for those espousing only a two-channel morality is to understand why those espousing a five-channel morality believe that the other three channels matter. And in reverse, why the other three are discounted by those driven mainly by the two.

Conservatism is Important Because Order Tends to Decay
Cooperation with strangers and tragedies[2] of the commons are crucial problems that need to be solved by any successful and sustainable society, and the only way to do so is to enforce punishment of transgressors and cheats. Relying on people’s good motives is simply not enough, and those groups employing this strategy will fall into decline and fail. Interestingly, as an adaptation religion turns out to be very good at enforcing and incentivising prosocial behaviour.

The creation and maintenance of our civilisation necessitates the deployment of our entire moral toolbox, all five channels, in order to see the bigger picture and even have the hope of achieving higher, nobler outcomes. Order is desired even if it is sometimes unfair to some, and rampant diversity is suspect as it can lead to conflict and chaos.

Liberalism is Important as a Check to Oppression
Liberals reject the three channels and value diversity over the ingroup, disavow authority, and reject controls over what people can do to their body. This is often driven by noble motives as traditional morality can sometimes be oppressive and restrictive to individuals or groups. Change and justice is sought even at risk of losing order to chaos.

The fact is that order is very hard to achieve and very easy to lose.

Our morally righteous minds were designed to unite us into teams, set us against other teams, and blind us to the truth . . . because on issues of morality everybody thinks they are right. The goal needs to be to avoid self righteousness at all costs and to cultivate moral humility.

If you want the truth to stand before you, never be for or against. The struggle between “for” and “against” is the mind’s worst disease. - Sent-ts’an

1: TED presentation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SOQduoLgRw
2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons
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2016-08-23 13:46:22 (20 comments; 9 reshares; 19 +1s; )Open 

Modern Day Cults can Wield Considerable Influence

This is an excellent presentation and blog post reviewing a book that resulted from the psychological study and research of cults and cult-like behaviour. There were a number of times when I felt chills down my spine while listening, as I realised that the behaviour and actions being discussed were descriptive of influential mainstream groups, organisations, and movements in the real world today. Some of which wield considerable cultural and political power.

Also, we’re all a little bit cultish in our behaviour and even if that typically doesn’t manifest to the extent of actual “cult membership” it is more prudent, more necessary, and more important than ever to question one’s beliefs regularly and deeply. Deliberate exposure to ideas and content outside of your typical media consumption and social exposure can makethis nece... more »

Modern Day Cults can Wield Considerable Influence

This is an excellent presentation and blog post reviewing a book that resulted from the psychological study and research of cults and cult-like behaviour. There were a number of times when I felt chills down my spine while listening, as I realised that the behaviour and actions being discussed were descriptive of influential mainstream groups, organisations, and movements in the real world today. Some of which wield considerable cultural and political power.

Also, we’re all a little bit cultish in our behaviour and even if that typically doesn’t manifest to the extent of actual “cult membership” it is more prudent, more necessary, and more important than ever to question one’s beliefs regularly and deeply. Deliberate exposure to ideas and content outside of your typical media consumption and social exposure can make this necessary process easier.

I’ve started to wonder if the dynamics of the Internet and the media consumption behaviours it encourages in all of us actually serve to exploit the idiosyncrasies of human psychology to make the formation of cults and cult-like behaviour much easier, and much more effective than we really appreciate. The filter bubbles. The echo chambers. The self-righteous morally outraged victimhood culture. The politics of the other. The suppression and censorship of dissent. All feedback powerfully one on the other to make modern day cults that much more powerful, invisible, and pervasive.

Groupthink, wrongthink, and doublethink are all endemic to cults.

Selected Excerpts

Here’s a selection of key excerpts if you don’t have time for the entire presentation, which lasts for a bit of 30 minutes, or for the blog post, which is lengthy. But I’d encourage one or the other if you can manage it.

The structure of cults is basically authoritarian; obedience and hierarchical power tend to take precedence over truth and conscience when they conflict, which they often do. Unfortunately, certain psychological benefits can make authoritarian groups very attractive – they provide the opportunity to feel protected and cared for … Intelligent, well-educated people join cults because they simultaneously desire a sense of working for a higher purpose and because they are afraid of being on their own.

What I wish to stress is not that every group is a cult, but that cult thinking is the effect of psychological forces endemic to the human mind, and that these forces operate in the everyday life of each of us; they distort perception, bias thinking, and inculcate belief … and while not all cults require a formal leader as such, the authority figures … empower the group by giving them a source of confidence and righteousness that enables them to delegitimise dissenting points of view through their air of authority.

Projection offers protection from the anxiety of being bad and the punishment of being abandoned. In addition, by making other people bad in our own mind, we can legitimise behaviour toward them that would otherwise be morally unacceptable, even to the point of sanctioning cruel and vicious actions … Projection is is infused with self-righteousness to increase moral security. If the group member represents all that is good and the outsider represents all that is bad, it is natural to feel morally superior. It allows the group member to separate the world into a false dichotomy in which they have chosen the sacred path and the path the outsider has chosen is profane … Perhaps the most important thing to understand about devaluing the outsider is that it is a necessary preliminary to harming others, to doing violence.

Only a lively appreciation of dissent’s vital function at all levels of society can preserve it as a corrective to wishful thinking, self-inflation and unperceived rigidity.

A cult is a group fantasy created and maintained around specific beliefs for the emotional protection of its members. If information or opinions exist that contradicts the dogma or goals of the group, the only protective measure the group can take is suppression. Thus the core philosophy of the group becomes rooted in the distortion, if not outright fabrication, of reality. This censorship does not have to be as overtly authoritarian as one might imagine.

Care to suggest any groups this reminds you of?

Sources
Main video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htqOIjzi-jE
Blog transcript: https://therationalists.org/2016/08/17/cult-behaviour-an-analysis/
Second video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxO_UWr43Rw - this covers case studies of actual cults and is also worth a listen.
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2016-08-21 07:22:48 (16 comments; 24 reshares; 88 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 34/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/08/jumping-robot-legs-uber-launches.html

Purifying carbon nanotubes, Anti-inflammatories for Alzheimer’s, Jumping robot legs, Protein sweeteners, Fortified GMO rice, Uber launches autonomous cars, Bacterial conducting nanowires, Superconducting electron superfluids, CRISPR for EvoDevo, Massively engineered genomes.

1. Purifying Carbon Nanotubes
One of the biggest obstacles to developing carbon nanotube applications is separating mixtures of carbon nanotubes to obtain pure samples of either metallic or semiconducting nanotubes depending on the requirements of the application. A new method for doing this involves a newly engineered polymer based on a template that was able to wash away semiconducting carbon nanotubes to leave metallic versions for use, buti... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 34/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/08/jumping-robot-legs-uber-launches.html

Purifying carbon nanotubes, Anti-inflammatories for Alzheimer’s, Jumping robot legs, Protein sweeteners, Fortified GMO rice, Uber launches autonomous cars, Bacterial conducting nanowires, Superconducting electron superfluids, CRISPR for EvoDevo, Massively engineered genomes.

1. Purifying Carbon Nanotubes
One of the biggest obstacles to developing carbon nanotube applications is separating mixtures of carbon nanotubes to obtain pure samples of either metallic or semiconducting nanotubes depending on the requirements of the application. A new method for doing this involves a newly engineered polymer based on a template that was able to wash away semiconducting carbon nanotubes to leave metallic versions for use, but is now able to selectively wash away metallic carbon nanotubes to leave semiconducting versions for use http://dailynews.mcmaster.ca/article/mcmaster-researchers-resolve-a-problem-that-has-been-holding-back-a-technological-revolution/. Next step will be to make more efficient polymers and scale up production.

2. Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Treat Alzheimer's
Recent work shows that certain types of common Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs are effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease in animal models by completely reversing memory loss and brain inflammation http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/treatment-option-for-alzheimers-disease-possible. Next steps will be to confirm that the effect carries over to humans and, with these drugs already on the market for other NSAID-related indications, seek approval for repurposing in light of side effects.

3. Explosive Jumping Robot Legs
A new “GOAT” robot leg design is capable of explosive jumping to twice its height that can also walking, running, and compliant landings http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/goat-robot-leg-demonstrates-explosive-jumping. Next step is to improve the hardware then mount the legs onto both bipedal and quadruped robots, which I think will be very impressive to see. In related robotic automation news, agricultural fruit and vegetable picking robots continue to get better with the demonstration of a new automated apple picker http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/industrial-robots/sri-spin-off-abundant-robotics-developing-autonomous-apple-vacuum.

4. Protein-based Artificial Sweeteners
A protein that occurs naturally in a West African fruit turns out to be 2,000 sweeter than sugar http://phys.org/news/2016-08-protein-big-sweetener.html. Producing the protein at scale for commercial uses has been problematic however, although in this recent work the use of genetically engineered yeast to produce larger amounts of the protein via fermentation is showing promise. A reliable source of protein-based, non-sugar, non-aspartame sweeteners would benefit the food and beverage industry by circumventing the different problems surrounding conventional sweeteners.

5. Engineered Rice Addresses Zinc & Iron Deficiency
A new type of genetically engineered rice that fixes and stores significantly more zinc and iron has been created that can improve the lives of those suffering from deficiencies, especially in the third world http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/08/modified-rice-has-five-times-zinc-and.html. This is a similar approach to the Golden Rice that has been around for a while that was engineered to produce more Vitamin A. In this case the iron and zinc content of grains was increased from ~3ppm to 15ppm and from 16ppm to 45ppm respectively. Next steps are to introduce the rice for cultivation in Bangladesh.

6. Uber Introduces Autonomous Car Service
Uber and Volvo will introduce a driverless taxi service in Pittsburgh this month using a fleet of 100 Volvo vehicles http://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/self-driving/uber-will-start-driverless-service-in-pittsburghthis-month. This won’t be a general-purpose service, but will rather ferry passengers between fixed points of interest around the city and the collaboration will further develop technology and mapping resources. The cars will apparently include “safety drivers” in the cars for the first rollout, not only to intervene if necessary but also to condition customers to get comfortable with autonomous taxis.

7. Producing Conducting Nanowires with Bacteria
Genetically engineered bacteria can now be controllably harnessed to produce electrically conducting nanowires http://www.onr.navy.mil/Media-Center/Press-Releases/2016/Geobacter.aspx. This builds on earlier work that first discovered and characterised the natural bacterial nanowires, which allowed the rational design of modified nanowires by rearranging amino acids into an improved architecture. The nanowires produced by the bacteria are protein-based, 2,000 times more conductive than natural counterparts, and measured 1.5 nanometers wide. Future applications include electronics, sensors, and as power conductors in microbial circuits.

8. Electron Superfluid Critical for High Temperature Superconductivity
Recent analysis of materials that perform as high temperature superconductors reveals that their atomic architecture facilitates the formation of electron pairs into an electron superfluid that flows without resistance https://www.bnl.gov/newsroom/news.php?a=11864. Analysing different types of these copper oxide materials (that include lanthanum and strontium) showed that differences in transition temperature between materials are determined by differences in the density of electron pairs. This challenges conventional theories of superconductivity and is hoped that this better understanding will lead to the design of materials with much higher, room-temperature transition temperatures.

9. CRISPR Accelerating the Field of Evolutionary Developmental Biology
CRISPR is having a transformative effect on the field of evolutionary developmental biology by allowing experiments to not only be done that could never be contemplated before but by significantly accelerating the rate and progress of the field http://www.nature.com/news/crispr-s-hopeful-monsters-gene-editing-storms-evo-devo-labs-1.20449. Recent work traced the gene changes required for (i) turning fins into feet, (ii) improving photoreceptors in butterflies to detect a broader spectrum of colours, and (iii) how crustaceans acquired claws. Future work will look to modify the genes and pathways involved in building chicken beaks to find the sequences required for building theropod dinosaur snouts; we might yet get our chickenosaurus.

10. Most Engineered Bacterial Genome
The most engineered and radically rewritten bacterial genome has been produced recently http://www.nature.com/news/radically-rewritten-bacterial-genome-unveiled-1.20451. The synthetic genome was synthesised with 3.8% of the original genome edited to replace 7 of 64 codons with code that produces the same components and so create an organism that functions on 57 instead of 64 codons. This would not have been possible even a few years ago and represents the largest completely synthesised genome with the most functional changes; next step is to boot it up into a functional cell.

Bonus: Festo’s Fantastic Flying Robots.
The latest robots from Festo are always a pleasure to behold http://spectrum.ieee.org/video/robotics/robotics-hardware/festos-fantastical-flying-robots

SciTech Tip Jar: http://www.scitechdigest.net/p/donate.html
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2016-08-16 13:58:53 (26 comments; 17 reshares; 130 +1s; )Open 

Prediction for Google's Fuchsia OS

My prediction for Google's mysterious new Fuchsia OS program isn't one that I've seen suggested yet, although given the nature of ideas I'm pretty sure this has occurred to a great many people already. The framework certainly has.

I don't buy the Internet of Things angle, for which we have Brillo, nor the Android + Chrome merger angle, for which we already have Android Apps hitting Chrome this year, nor the VR OS for which we've already seen Daydream and other approaches.

The only option that makes sense to me is that Fuchsia is the predictable evolution for Google Assistant into a stand alone AI OS. We've seen Google Now develop into Google Now on Tap and this year into Google Assistant, which will play an ever bigger role in the latest iteration of Android N as well as power key messaging apps such... more »

Prediction for Google's Fuchsia OS

My prediction for Google's mysterious new Fuchsia OS program isn't one that I've seen suggested yet, although given the nature of ideas I'm pretty sure this has occurred to a great many people already. The framework certainly has.

I don't buy the Internet of Things angle, for which we have Brillo, nor the Android + Chrome merger angle, for which we already have Android Apps hitting Chrome this year, nor the VR OS for which we've already seen Daydream and other approaches.

The only option that makes sense to me is that Fuchsia is the predictable evolution for Google Assistant into a stand alone AI OS. We've seen Google Now develop into Google Now on Tap and this year into Google Assistant, which will play an ever bigger role in the latest iteration of Android N as well as power key messaging apps such as Allo and others to start with. Then combine this with App Streaming that Google is playing with and this year's release of Instant Apps, and you basically have embryonic capabilities for genuinely app-less functions on demand with different chunks of apps or core capabilities available on demand as needed and depending on the context of the situation.

I'll go out and "predict" that Fuchsia will be an "app-less" AI OS, an ever-more-capable Google Assistant that you interact with to get anything and everything done.

Main: http://www.androidpolice.com/2016/08/12/google-developing-new-fuchsia-os-also-likes-making-new-words/
Instant Apps: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/05/android-instant-apps-will-blur-the-lines-between-apps-and-mobile-sites/
Google Now: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2015/05/android-ms-google-now-on-tap-shows-contextual-info-at-the-press-of-a-button/
Google Assistant: https://techcrunch.com/2016/05/18/google-unveils-google-assistant-a-big-upgrade-to-google-now/
Framework, Future without Apps: https://medium.com/fwd-thoughts/the-future-is-without-apps-ddf43ec52aab#.t3ks89jzs ___

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2016-08-16 12:32:08 (8 comments; 4 reshares; 41 +1s; )Open 

Proton Radius Anomaly

Obviously last week's news but still interesting, novel, and unexpected enough that I wanted to add it to this collection.

Recent work investigating the size of the simplest nuclei when orbited by electrons or muons revealed variations in the diameter of these simplest nuclei that are not accounted for by the best current theories.

The proton was measured to be slightly larger when orbited by an electron than when orbited by a (much heavier) muon. Likewise a deuteron (proton plus neutron) is also slightly larger when orbited by an electron than when orbited by a muon. Further, this effect appears to scale compared to the proton and offers the tantalising suggestion of new and unexplored fundamental physics.

There are a couple of other possible explanations that will need to be ruled out first of course.

Main:... more »

Proton Radius Anomaly

Obviously last week's news but still interesting, novel, and unexpected enough that I wanted to add it to this collection.

Recent work investigating the size of the simplest nuclei when orbited by electrons or muons revealed variations in the diameter of these simplest nuclei that are not accounted for by the best current theories.

The proton was measured to be slightly larger when orbited by an electron than when orbited by a (much heavier) muon. Likewise a deuteron (proton plus neutron) is also slightly larger when orbited by an electron than when orbited by a muon. Further, this effect appears to scale compared to the proton and offers the tantalising suggestion of new and unexplored fundamental physics.

There are a couple of other possible explanations that will need to be ruled out first of course.

Main: https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160811-new-measurement-deepens-proton-radius-puzzle/
Proton: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proton
Deuteron: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deuterium
Muon: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muon ___

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2016-08-14 06:24:29 (3 comments; 28 reshares; 84 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 33/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/08/engineering-biological-machines-neural.html

Engineering biological machines, Neural dust developments, Tailored AFM probes, BEC optical computer, Faceless recognition systems, Propelled liquid metals, Nanobead optical superlens, Custom ion pores, Optogenetic neural networks, Proton size discrepancy.

1. Engineering Biological Machines
An interesting advance in synthetic biology involved engineering a light-driven cell membrane proton-pump in order to enable it to be further controlled by being chemically switched on and off http://www.unibe.ch/news/media_news/media_relations_e/media_releases/2016_e/media_releases_2016/synthetic_biology_engineering_a_chemical_switch_into_a_light_driven_proton_pump/index_eng.html. The interesting thing here is the use of... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 33/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/08/engineering-biological-machines-neural.html

Engineering biological machines, Neural dust developments, Tailored AFM probes, BEC optical computer, Faceless recognition systems, Propelled liquid metals, Nanobead optical superlens, Custom ion pores, Optogenetic neural networks, Proton size discrepancy.

1. Engineering Biological Machines
An interesting advance in synthetic biology involved engineering a light-driven cell membrane proton-pump in order to enable it to be further controlled by being chemically switched on and off http://www.unibe.ch/news/media_news/media_relations_e/media_releases/2016_e/media_releases_2016/synthetic_biology_engineering_a_chemical_switch_into_a_light_driven_proton_pump/index_eng.html. The interesting thing here is the use of two types of the protein, each of which is oriented facing-in or facing-out from the cell, driven by light to create or remove proton gradients across the cell wall that is crucial for driving many cellular processes. One or the other of these processes can then be controlled at will in order to control the gradient that is needed for driving a particular process or application.

2. Latest Developments in Neural Dust
Neural dust has taken the next step with a 3mm long batteryless implantable device for implantation against muscles and peripheral nerves, and most recently demonstrated in animal experiments http://news.berkeley.edu/2016/08/03/sprinkling-of-neural-dust-opens-door-to-electroceuticals/. The devices are powered by external ultrasound to detect, process, and transmit neural signals for remote control of devices and prosthetics for example. The roadmap includes coating with materials able to last more than a decade in the body, commercialising applications for these larger peripheral devices, and further miniaturising towards 50 microns for genuine brain-computer interfaces.

3. Tailored AFM Probes
New 3D confocal laser lithography techniques allow custom atomic force microscope probes to be fabricated on demand depending on the required purpose http://www.kit.edu/kit/english/pi_2016_111_tailored-probes-for-atomic-force-microscopes.php. Custom probes are usually made manually and expensive; this new approach allows researchers to design the shape of the probe they need then have the system automatically sculpt a probe tip that can then be placed on any commercially available AFM measurement needles to begin working straight away. Nice example of the benefits of modularity in technology.

4. BEC Optical Computer
For the first time a Bose-Einstein Condensate has been harnessed to work as an optical computer http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/semiconductors/optoelectronics/a-polariton-boseeinsten-condensate-for-switching-and-storing-optical-data. BECs can be induced to form quasiparticles comprised of photons and electron-hole pairs (called exciton polaritons) that are able to store information in a couple of ways. When this type of BEC is trapped between thin layers of semiconductor low-energy voltage pulses can be used to read and write data in the BEC. This appears to be one of the first times a practical device has been built with a BEC, a good fundamental advance.

5. Faceless Recognition Systems
Automated face recognition systems have now reached the point of being faceless recognition systems, at least as far as this new prototype neural network system is concerned http://motherboard.vice.com/read/faceless-recognition-system-can-identify-you-even-when-you-hide-your-face. The system predicts the identity of obscured faces by examining other salient features in the scene; recognition accuracy rises from 70% with just 1.25 instances of a fully-visible face, to 92% for 10 instances of the person’s face. While the system is particular to certain situations and does have some weaknesses, it does constitute a privacy concern for those seeking to remain anonymous.

6. Self-Propelled Liquid Metals
Work with liquid metals including non-toxic alloys of gallium promises malleable, self-propelled liquid metal systems for electronics and other applications https://www.rmit.edu.au/news/all-news/2016/august/liquid-metals-propel-future-electronics. These latest materials were tested in microfluidic systems in which tweaks to the pH and salt of the surrounding fluid induced controllable movements and shape changes of liquid metal droplets, and used to create moving objects, switches, and pumps. The end-goal here in future might be things like reconfigurable electronic circuits, displays, and other devices.

7. Nanobead Optical Superlens
Titanium dioxide nanoparticles have been used to fabricate a 3D superlens that uses the refractive properties of the nanoparticles to achieve super-resolution optical microscopy with conventional microscopes, and appearing to resolve surface features below 60nm http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-08/bu-sti080816.php. As a proof of concept the group used the lens with a conventional microscope to image the groves and information stored on the surface a Blu-Ray disc, something that is impossible with conventional microscopes. Cheap, easy, and versatile extension to any optical microscopy system.

8. Custom Ion-Selective Pores
A new synthetic ion-recognition system has been developed for selective ion transport that can be customised and fine-tuned depending on the ion that needs to be isolated http://www.research.a-star.edu.sg/research/7539/ringing-the-changes. The basic architecture consists of a macrocycle ring molecule whose internal cavity is adjusted in order to pick out particular metal ions from many different others. The current prototypes are selective for Cs, Ag, and K, but the platform provides many avenues for further engineering to capture other metal ions. Applications will include molecular sensing, water purification, microfluidics, and even synthetic biology.

9. Reprogram Brain Networks with Optogenetics
The latest work on optogenetics in mice demonstrates that neural networks in the brain trained to fire together can be reactivated later if just one neuron is stimulated, and also lending direct support to Hebbian learning http://datascience.columbia.edu/researchers-reprogram-network-brain-cells-light. The work involved stimulating just 20 neurons out of the mouse’s 100 million and was achieved by using two-photon stimulation and two-photon calcium imaging. The optogenetically-treated and stimulated neurons were located in the mouse’s visual cortex and the group propose behavioural tests to determine if stimulating the network with light induces an image or visual artifact in the animal’s awareness.

10. Better Measurements of Proton and Deuteron
Another excellent article by Natalie Wolchover covering recent work investigating measurements of the size of fundamental particles including the proton and deuteron suggests that fundamental theories may need to be updated https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160811-new-measurement-deepens-proton-radius-puzzle/. The proton is measured to be slightly larger when orbited by an electron than when orbited by a (much heavier) muon. New work shows that a deuteron (proton plus neutron) is also slightly larger when orbited by an electron than when orbited by a muon, an effect that appears to scale compared to the proton and offering interesting avenues to explore.

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

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2016-08-07 09:48:11 (4 comments; 27 reshares; 85 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 32/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/08/negative-poissons-ratio-ibm.html

Negative Poisson’s ratio, IBM lab on chip, IBM neuromorphic computing, Single pixel cameras, Magnetic atom chains, On-chip LIDAR, Code patching bots, Airship fixing bots, Resistant productive microbes, Novel electrical materials.

1. Materials with Negative Poisson’s Ratio
Materials with a positive Poisson’s ratio contract when stretched, but those with a negative ratio actually expand when stretched, and while rare metamaterials are being engineered to create materials that possess this property of expanding when stretched http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=44123.php. This review article digs into the negative Poisson’s ratio materials that already exist as well as laying out avenues for exploring everbetter ... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 32/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/08/negative-poissons-ratio-ibm.html

Negative Poisson’s ratio, IBM lab on chip, IBM neuromorphic computing, Single pixel cameras, Magnetic atom chains, On-chip LIDAR, Code patching bots, Airship fixing bots, Resistant productive microbes, Novel electrical materials.

1. Materials with Negative Poisson’s Ratio
Materials with a positive Poisson’s ratio contract when stretched, but those with a negative ratio actually expand when stretched, and while rare metamaterials are being engineered to create materials that possess this property of expanding when stretched http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=44123.php. This review article digs into the negative Poisson’s ratio materials that already exist as well as laying out avenues for exploring ever better materials with beneficial mechanical properties such as shear resistance, indentation resistance, and fracture toughness. I’d even just like to play with a strip of this stuff.

2. IBM’s Latest Lab on a Chip
IBM’s latest microfluidic lab on a chip devices are capable of size-based separation of biological particles down to 20nm, a scale that allows DNA, viruses, and cellular exosomes to be separated out http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/50275.wss. Working with researchers they are examining exosome communication and signalling between cells, and working with clinicians they are using the new capability in a similar way to diagnose cancer and other diseases. The architecture of the device allows variable particle separations under continuous flow and can actually split a mixture of many different particle sizes into a spread of defined particle streams, analogous to a prism splitting light. Meanwhile other microfluidic systems are replicating the connections between neurons and muscle fibers http://news.mit.edu/2016/replicating-connection-between-muscles-and-nerves-0803.

3. IBM’s Latest Neuromorphic Computing Device
IBM’s latest brain-like computing hardware has demonstrated chips that produce spiking neuromorphic features using phase-change materials to store and process data http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/50297.wss. IBM’s phase-change technology platform has already demonstrated novel memory techniques, but these new neuromorphic applications can perform data correlation detection and also unsupervised learning at high speed and low energy; updating these phase-change neurons requires just five picojoules. When will we start to see these things appearing in robots?

4. Single Pixel Camera Advances
The latest advance in computational photography using single-pixel cameras now enables single-pixel camera devices to not only produce human-like foveated images in which the center is captured in high-resolution and periphery in low-resolution, but can now also move this foveated region around to follow objects in the field of view https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602090/single-pixel-camera-reaches-milestone-mimicking-human-vision/. The system can produce two moveable foveated regions, works in visible and infrared, and might enable applications in terahertz imaging for which single pixel sensors are available and arrays are not, as well as allowing conventional trade-offs between resolution and framerate to be optimised on the fly for general imaging systems.

5. One Dimensional Magnetic Atom Chains
That’s a headline I didn’t expect to write this side of 2020. By combining a process of evaporating metals onto a surface with the controlled introduction of oxygen, one dimensional magnetic atom chains bordered by oxygen can now be created, and all via a process of self-assembly http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/materials/onedimensional-magnetic-atom-chain-forged. Metals explored as part of the proof-of-concept include Mn, Fe, Co, & Ni. The atom chains cover the entire surface, space 0.8nm apart, and up to 500 atoms long without a single structural defect. In the new one dimensional state the different metal atoms exhibit altered magnetic properties including non-magnetic, ferromagnetic, & anti-ferromagnetic. Such structures may have applications in high-density data storage but the advance will be a boon to studying and controlling one dimensional systems in general.

6. On-Chip LIDAR Systems
Recent advances in developing on-chip LIDAR systems for 3D mapping and ranging local environments using conventional semiconductor fabrication techniques look set to produce complete LIDAR systems smaller than a dime at less than $10 per unit http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/semiconductors/optoelectronics/mit-lidar-on-a-chip. While not only being orders of magnitude smaller than conventional systems, and orders of magnitude cheaper, the devices have 1,000 times faster image scanning. There is a roadmap to boost field of view from 50 to 100 degrees, from 2m to 10m soon and 100m later in range, and further boosting resolution. These systems are going to be absolute game changers for autonomous vehicles, robots, drones, and our smart devices generally, massively boosting their ability to move about in the real world. Spectrum shared a big drone sporting big LIDAR system navigating a barn this week, as part of http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/drones/video-friday-drone-with-lidar-robot-tai-chi-strange-android.

7. Smarter Bots Fix Malicious Code
New machine learning approaches are able to search hacker marketplaces and other hidden parts of the Web to help find and identify zero day exploits and other critical software vulnerabilities in order to drastically improve the ability of organisations to fix broken code and distribute patches before they can be exploited https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602115/machine-learning-algorithm-combs-the-darknet-for-zero-day-exploits-and-finds-them/. In related news DARPA’s Grand Cyber Challenge continues to encourage the development of ever-better software systems able to quickly find and fix a range of different software bugs better than human teams can http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/telecom/security/autonomous-supercomputers-seek-and-destroy-software-bugs-in-darpa-cyber-grand-challenge.

8. Spider Bots Monitor Airships
Lockheed Martin has developed a SPIDER bot platform that involves groups of robots that move around and inspect the skin of an airship for tiny pinholes that are difficult for humans to detect, which can then be quickly patched and sealed to prevent the leakage of Helium http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/industrial-robots/how-lockheed-martin-spider-blimp-fixing-robot-works. While this is a prototype autonomous inspection and repair system that should contribute to airship safety and cost reduction, the team hope that further development will allow such systems to function in-flight as needed in a range of conditions.

9. Resistant Productive Microbial Fermenters
To combat the problem of undesirable contaminant microbes growing in fermenters and bioreactors with productive microbes and so serving to decrease and contaminate yields, productive microbes are being engineered to be able to extract the vital growth nutrients nitrogen and phosphorous from unconventional xenobiotic compounds http://news.mit.edu/2016/microbial-engineering-technique-could-reduce-contamination-biofermentation-plants-0804. In some cases this involved the addition of six genes to provide the enzymatic processing network needed to extract nutrients from the xenobiotic compounds; contaminant microbes lacking these pathways are unable to use the nutrients and are massively outcompeted by the productive microbes.

10. Novel Electrical Materials
Some interesting new electrical materials and devices this week. First, nanoparticles of topological insulators appear to provide a platform for strong coupling between a single photon and a single electron that could be useful for photonics and optoelectronics in future http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_4-8-2016-11-5-15. Second, a layer of buckyballs proves important in creating tiny on-chip diodes that conduct electricity 1,000 times more effectively on one direction as opposed to the other http://science.energy.gov/bes/highlights/2016/bes-2016-08-a/. Third, graphene appears to facilitate a novel property of electrons called pseudospin http://phys.org/news/2016-08-electrons-electronics.html. Finally, the ability to create and manipulate two-dimensional sheets of silicon, or silicene, for electronics applications takes a major step forward http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/materials/breakthrough-in-silicene-production-promises-a-future-of-silicenebased-electronics.

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

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2016-08-03 12:45:03 (2 comments; 3 reshares; 42 +1s; )Open 

Explaining a Quantum Phenomenon Classically

Strong coupling is the phenomenon whereby light and matter are both affected by the interactions of one on the other and has been considered a purely quantum mechanical effect. To study this a group looked at a collection of tens to hundreds of millions of electrons on the surface of liquid helium, locked in a cavity containing electromagnetic waves.

http://www.oist.jp/news-center/news/2016/8/2/bridging-gap-between-quantum-and-classical-worlds

Based on their observations and data collected the group were able to create a classical, predictive model to describe the strong coupling phenomenon they were observing.

I like this result because it is an example of curious people striking out against the entrenched dogma of a field, daring to ask questions that might not be typically tolerated - especially in this case... more »

Explaining a Quantum Phenomenon Classically

Strong coupling is the phenomenon whereby light and matter are both affected by the interactions of one on the other and has been considered a purely quantum mechanical effect. To study this a group looked at a collection of tens to hundreds of millions of electrons on the surface of liquid helium, locked in a cavity containing electromagnetic waves.

http://www.oist.jp/news-center/news/2016/8/2/bridging-gap-between-quantum-and-classical-worlds

Based on their observations and data collected the group were able to create a classical, predictive model to describe the strong coupling phenomenon they were observing.

I like this result because it is an example of curious people striking out against the entrenched dogma of a field, daring to ask questions that might not be typically tolerated - especially in this case as strong coupling is often important for quantum computing applications (although it does not imply that quantum computing fundamentals are classical of course). ___

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2016-07-31 15:06:02 (11 comments; 0 reshares; 17 +1s; )Open 

Patreon

Who else uses Patreon? Which creators do you support? I signed up last month in order to contribute at least a small, token monthly amount towards YouTube creators whose content I appreciate and some of which have videos that are occasionally demonetised by YouTube. These include:

Kraut and Tea
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCr_Q-bPpcw5fJ-Oow1BW1NQ
Rationalist social and political commentary by an eloquent yet forcefully spoken German.

Gad Saad
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLH7qUqM0PLieCVaHA7RegA
Great interviews with diverse guests, rationalist social and political commentary and dissections, free speech promotion, all from a Jewish Lebanese Canadian Professor.

Computing Forever
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCT9D87j5W7PtE7NHOR5DUOQ
Mix of technology reviews and social / political... more »

Patreon

Who else uses Patreon? Which creators do you support? I signed up last month in order to contribute at least a small, token monthly amount towards YouTube creators whose content I appreciate and some of which have videos that are occasionally demonetised by YouTube. These include:

Kraut and Tea
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCr_Q-bPpcw5fJ-Oow1BW1NQ
Rationalist social and political commentary by an eloquent yet forcefully spoken German.

Gad Saad
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLH7qUqM0PLieCVaHA7RegA
Great interviews with diverse guests, rationalist social and political commentary and dissections, free speech promotion, all from a Jewish Lebanese Canadian Professor.

Computing Forever
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCT9D87j5W7PtE7NHOR5DUOQ
Mix of technology reviews and social / political commentary by a principled Irishman.

The Rubin Report
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJdKr0Bgd_5saZYqLCa9mng
Interesting, frank, and open interviews with diverse thinkers, conversations on free speech and political correctness, led by a Californian.

Sargon of Akkad
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-yewGHQbNFpDrGM0diZOLA
Rationalist social and political commentary on many matters from a thorough Englishman.

Black Pigeon Speaks
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmrLCXSDScliR7q8AxxjvXg
Rationalist cultural and political commentary by a skilled video producer of unknown origin who collates exhaustive links and references.

Aside from Patreon and Paypal or Bitcoin does anyone use any other online tipping or subscriber / payment support platform?

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2016-07-31 07:26:26 (8 comments; 25 reshares; 56 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 31/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/07/assembling-protein-nanostructures.html

Assembling protein nanostructures, Superatom molecules, Printable Lego Microfluidics, Advanced 3D printing, Cockroach milk, Drone 3D mapping, Microbial production systems, Telomerase therapeutics, WiFi contact lens, Nanostructures control light.

1. Large Self-Assembling Protein Nanostructures
A DARPA project has used computational methods to screen hundreds of thousands of different protein combinations to find those candidates that self assemble into cages, and then successfully produced these structures inside living cells http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2016-07-21. Progress appears to be quite rapid with the group successfully creating a 120-subunit icosahedron out of self-assembling proteins inside a... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 31/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/07/assembling-protein-nanostructures.html

Assembling protein nanostructures, Superatom molecules, Printable Lego Microfluidics, Advanced 3D printing, Cockroach milk, Drone 3D mapping, Microbial production systems, Telomerase therapeutics, WiFi contact lens, Nanostructures control light.

1. Large Self-Assembling Protein Nanostructures
A DARPA project has used computational methods to screen hundreds of thousands of different protein combinations to find those candidates that self assemble into cages, and then successfully produced these structures inside living cells http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2016-07-21. Progress appears to be quite rapid with the group successfully creating a 120-subunit icosahedron out of self-assembling proteins inside a genetically engineered cell, being the largest of a diverse family of different protein cages that have now been produced. The team claims this work “opens the door to a new generation of genetically programmable protein-based molecular machines.” It’ll be interesting to see how they further functionalise these things.

2. Building Molecules Out of Superatoms
Superatoms, nanoscale clusters of atoms that behave as a single atomic entity, offer a fascinating and huge space of new materials exploration. In recent work, simple molecules or supermolecules, are being created out of superatoms http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2016/07/molecule-clusters-superatoms-superatomic-structure. These supermolecules have well defined surface definition, bonding, and electrochemistry and were made with cobalt selenide superatoms, demonstrating a versatile platform for exploring the space of superatom molecules and properties. Interesting, fundamental materials platform. Meanwhile super-ions are boosting perovskite solar cell performance http://phys.org/news/2016-07-materials-based-clusters-atoms-super-ions.html.

3. Modular Lego Microfluidics
3D printable Microfluidic Evolutionary Components (MECs) represent a powerful new modular microfluidics experimentation and prototyping platform https://3dprint.com/143152/3dp-modular-lab-instruments/. So far there is a library of 200 different MECs for different microfluidic functions such as pumps, valves, storage, mixing, etc that can be 3D printed and connected together via standard interfaces to create custom circuits to perform as novel chemical and biological research instruments. This has the potential to be transformative for both DIYers and industrial research labs, able to accelerate innovation, and deliver unexpected results.

4. Pushing the Envelope with 3D Printing
The Lawrence Livermore Lab is pushing 3D printing this week. First, they can now hierarchically build ultralight flexible metallic structures with fractal lattices that have feature scales in the nm to cm range https://www.llnl.gov/news/new-study-unlocks-potential-ultra-lightweight-and-flexible-3d-printed-metallic-materials, although the technique first prints in polymer that is removed after coating in metal. Second, newer metal 3D printers are being used to build lasers, supports, and optics, and including diagnostic sensors to confirm the part will perform as predicted once finished https://www.llnl.gov/news/3d-printing-could-revolutionize-laser-design.

5. Cockroach Milk?
It turns out that certain cockroaches produce a type of protein-crystal “milk” to feed it’s young, and this protein complex happens to four times as nutritious as cows milk, contains proteins with all essential amino acids, as well as fats and sugars like a complete food http://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-show-why-we-should-all-start-drinking-cockroach-milk. The gene sequence has now been identified and efforts are underway to engineer yeast to produce bulk volumes artificially. Maybe a future version of the Soylent food replacement powder / drink will include a dose of cockroach milk protein as a more robust and well-rounded food supplement?

6. High-Res 3D Mapping via Drones
Lockheed Martin has developed Hydra Fusion, a system that allows drones to quickly and easily produce 3D topographic maps of landscapes and features https://www.newscientist.com/article/2098120-stitching-a-drones-view-of-the-world-into-3d-maps-as-it-flies/. People have been trying to do this for a while of course, and the article mentions a number of other efforts in this space in addition to applications including estimating mining ore volumes, toxic material released, crop growth, construction project progress, rail movements, and others. I wonder if Google will ever commission a Drone-view project to embed high-res 3D topography across Maps/Earth like it does for Street-view?

7. Advanced Microbial Production Systems
Another DARPA project has resulted in the creation of a microbe bioreactor for producing different pharmaceuticals as needed http://news.mit.edu/2016/portable-device-produces-biopharmaceuticals-on-demand-0729. The device is a microfluidic chip containing a population of genetically engineered yeast cells that respond to different simple feedstocks to produce doses of either human growth hormone or interferon, plus systems for keeping the cells alive and filtering media. Different cells might be used to produce a huge range of different drugs from the same chip in future; I see this as another step on the path towards mature productive nanosystems. Meanwhile smart building bricks have been created with microbial fuel cells embedded to produce electricity, clean water, and create detergents http://info.uwe.ac.uk/news/uwenews/news.aspx?id=3428.

8. Telomerase Therapeutics for Aging
Recent human clinical trials have shown that dosing patients with the synthetic male hormone danazol actually works to stimulate the production of the telomerase enzyme, and causing telomeres to be extended in cells at a rate about 3-fold greater than the rate they would normally be lost http://www.sciencealert.com/a-new-hormone-treatment-can-reverse-cell-ageing-in-humans. This is a commonly available drug, used off-label in many cases, but check the wikipedia listing for possible side effects. Still, might be an interesting temporary drug to try in order to gain a few extra healthy years, similar to Bioviva’s telomerase gene therapy. A recent review of Telomerase as a therapeutic target provides far more detail and nuance https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/07/a-review-of-telomerase-as-a-therapeutic-target/.

9. WiFi Enabled Smart Contact Lens
New antennas (and antenna materials) and wireless communication protocols employing the phenomenon of backscattering allow tiny unpowered devices to convert Bluetooth signals into power that is then used to produce WiFi signals for data transmission https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602035/first-wi-fi-enabled-smart-contact-lens-prototype/. The devices basically use the equivalent of Bluetooth white noise generated by a nearby device to broadcast WiFi data to a range of a little over 24 inches, which is sufficient for these types of applications. Prototypes include functional contact lenses and implantable devices.

10. Advanced Light Manipulation for Displays and Data
First, new metasurfaces comprised of precisely arranged nano-scale blocks arrayed as pixels can manipulate light to produce colour holograms http://phys.org/news/2016-07-high-efficiency-holograms-metasurface-nanoblocks.html; by changing the orientation of the blocks it is easy to produce different holographic images with different colour properties as desired. Second, new on-chip laser architectures produce vortex lasers with corkscrew encoding to achieve 10 times greater data capacity http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2016/07/034.html.

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

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2016-07-28 14:49:22 (23 comments; 7 reshares; 53 +1s; )Open 

Free Speech & its Censorship

I’ve become increasingly worried about the censorship of free speech online and more broadly this year. I worry that we seem to be seeing ever more censorship enacted by not just major platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube, but also society, our institutions, and media generally, and often done inconsistently, hypocritically, and for purely subjective and ideological reasons. It is at times a form of fascism.

I’ve thought for years that we need user-friendly decentralised uncensorable alternatives to the current platforms in the future, at the very least as a buffer, but this is the first time I’ve thought we need these options right now. Swarm on ethereum and IPFS both have basic projects to try and begin building alternatives like this - check out Tweether for example - but these won’t be ready for a while, andSynero ... more »

Free Speech & its Censorship

I’ve become increasingly worried about the censorship of free speech online and more broadly this year. I worry that we seem to be seeing ever more censorship enacted by not just major platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube, but also society, our institutions, and media generally, and often done inconsistently, hypocritically, and for purely subjective and ideological reasons. It is at times a form of fascism.

I’ve thought for years that we need user-friendly decentralised uncensorable alternatives to the current platforms in the future, at the very least as a buffer, but this is the first time I’ve thought we need these options right now. Swarm on ethereum and IPFS both have basic projects to try and begin building alternatives like this - check out Tweether for example - but these won’t be ready for a while, and Synero has been around promoting this space for a year or two as well. Even Wikileaks recently announced a desire to launch a similar network.

I never post on Twitter, really just auto-share the Sunday SciTech posts, but the other day I posted a quick “reply” post for the first time in many years, to a user who was inquiring about decentralised alternative social platforms, and simply informed them about some of the alternatives above. Twitter deleted my reply about alternatives to Twitter; I’m sure there was a simple, innocent reason for this ;)

One of the main common themes running through this phenomenon seems to be that feelings, and ideology, are given more weight and more importance than facts, evidence, and reality, and in a sense entail actively denying uncomfortable truths. It is almost like George Orwell’s 1984 is coming to life but it isn’t the State censoring and silencing us, it is ourselves, our broader society trying to censor and silence each other, influencing corporates to do the same, and leading to an amazing rise in groupthink and doublethink - a paradox in the egalitarian Information Age if it weren’t for the filter bubbles and echo-chambers our beloved InterWebs also empowers.

Of course this is just the west; in China and Iran and other places state based censorship is a whole different and very worrying problem that needs addressing.

Some good, recent commentary on these themes that came my way in the last two weeks include:

Welcome on Stasibook!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUmN80JB8cA, looking at the case in Germany with Facebook actively supporting the German government in censoring free speech, including raiding people’s houses for posting ramblings online and on Facebook. The draconian use of poorly-crafted hate speech laws, the rampant double standards of punishing different groups of people differently when they commit the same crimes. In the height of irony Facebook actually hired a former Stasi officer to report posts to the government . . . which simply beggars belief.

AllSpeechMatters: We’re In Trouble Here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcXQpYKPl_s, looking at YouTube censorship of videos that may cause offense or hurt people’s feelings or criticise religion and social movements, and stemming from other very loose hate speech policies, and yet applied haphazardly to remove some content while leaving very similar content untouched. The potential start of a very slippery slope that risks later being used to censor the speech of those same people who used it to censor their perceived dissenting opinions of the time. A call to speak out, be more opinionated, and put your beliefs and ideas out there, not only online but in the real world.

Milo Yiannopoulos, Twitter, and Freedom of Speech
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiuKREqBFsg, Gad Saad discusses his take on free speech, defending the rights of holocaust deniers to speak, and the efforts of academics to silence him personally by declaring some questions shouldn’t be asked. Stating that this is the first and most inalienable right people have, and the importance to a free and prosperous society of having and engaging in an open marketplace of ideas.
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2016-07-24 08:53:08 (9 comments; 19 reshares; 70 +1s; )Open 

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 30/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/07/atomic-scale-data-one-dimensional.html

Atomic scale data, MRI enhancements, One dimensional transistors, Modular chiplets, Fast consumer drones, Synbio computers, Detailed brain map, Tactile intelligence, Placenta on chip, Injectable biosensors.

1. Writing Data Atom by Atom
A scanning tunneling microscope has been used to produce re-writable data storage by positioning arrays of individual chlorine atoms in one of two defined positions (representing 0 or 1) http://www.tudelft.nl/en/current/latest-news/article/detail/kleinste-harddisk-ooit-schrijft-informatie-atoom-voor-atoom/. The prototype successfully stored 1 kilobyte of data or 8,000 bits on a copper surface, and achieved a storage density of 500 Terabits per square inch. The array is organised into... more »

SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 30/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/07/atomic-scale-data-one-dimensional.html

Atomic scale data, MRI enhancements, One dimensional transistors, Modular chiplets, Fast consumer drones, Synbio computers, Detailed brain map, Tactile intelligence, Placenta on chip, Injectable biosensors.

1. Writing Data Atom by Atom
A scanning tunneling microscope has been used to produce re-writable data storage by positioning arrays of individual chlorine atoms in one of two defined positions (representing 0 or 1) http://www.tudelft.nl/en/current/latest-news/article/detail/kleinste-harddisk-ooit-schrijft-informatie-atoom-voor-atoom/. The prototype successfully stored 1 kilobyte of data or 8,000 bits on a copper surface, and achieved a storage density of 500 Terabits per square inch. The array is organised into blocks of 64 bits but requires very clean vacuum conditions and liquid nitrogen temperatures to work. Still, a very impressive proof of concept.

2. Advances in Imaging Technology
First, new nuclear magnetic resonance microscope comprises a very thin wire connected to a tiny magnetic ball is able to achieve an imaging resolution of less than 10nm, a 100-million fold improvement in the volume resolution of bulk NMR http://www.physics.leidenuniv.nl/index.php?id=11573&news=931&type=LION&ln=EN. Second, a new technique for energy-filtered transmission electron microscopy is now claiming subatomic resolution and the ability to obtain clear images of electron orbitals within an atom https://www.tuwien.ac.at/en/news/news_detail/article/10225/ . . . which is a headline I never expected to see for a long time to come. Finally, manipulation of plasmonics on surfaces now allow optical microscopes to perform like electron microscopes with 65nm resolution http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/biomedical/imaging/plasmonics-enable-optical-microscopes-to-perform-like-electron-microscopes.

3. One-Dimensional Transistors
By studying two-dimensional atomically-thin transistors made out of molybdenum disulfide a group has discovered that just the edges of the device, which are essentially one-dimensional, might be used as a transistor http://news.utexas.edu/2016/07/18/scientists-glimpse-inner-workings-of-atom-thin-transistors. The current flowing through the device starts first (at very low voltages) by flowing along the edge, and only leaks into the middle of the device as the voltage is boosted to much higher levels; by making purer, defect-free devices the edges should be able to carry the entire current - meaning the bulk of the device isn’t needed and transistor switching requiring much lower power.

4. DARPA’s Modular Chiplets
A new DARPA program aims to reimagine the standard printed circuit board as a modular integrated platform that not only allows further miniaturisation and speed improvements, but also provides standard lego-like size and architecture specifications for which specialised chiplets are able to be dropped into in order to perform some desired electronic or computational function http://nextbigfuture.com/2016/07/tiling-chiplets-will-be-used-to-shrink.html. I think of this as Project Ara for integrated circuits: instead of swapping mobile phone components into a standard platform, this program will allow the rapid design of complete circuits with chiplets for sensing, processing, memory, ASICs, GPUs, antennas, signal processors, etc, all while getting around the main limitations of PCBs.

5. New Drone Tops 70mph
A new consumer quadcopter drone called Teal is set to become the fastest available with a top speed of 70mph and stability in winds up to 40mph http://nextbigfuture.com/2016/07/fastest-commercial-production-drone.html. Boasting a teraFLOP of onboard processing power for machine learning, autonomous flying, image recognition, the group hope to include obstacle avoidance in the near future. The GPS system on board enables 50cm positional accuracy. Of interest: Teal is designed to enable programmers to easily create Apps that make use of or control Teal. Also included this week due to the comment discussion on the linked page - worth a read and serious consideration.

6. Synthetic Biology Programs Compute Stimuli
Another important step in the development of synthetic biology, cells can now be programmed to remember and respond to a series of events http://news.mit.edu/2016/biological-circuit-cells-remember-respond-stimuli-0721. This is a scalable system with the proof-of-concept creating cells that can remember the correct order of three different inputs, and which might allow the recording of complex cell histories. These are like biological state machines. “These recombinase-based state machines open up the possibility of cells being engineered to become recorders of temporal information about their environment, and they can be built to lead the cells to take actions in response to the appropriate string of inputs.”

7. Most Detailed Brain Map Ever
A new MRI measurement study, part of the Human Connectome Project, and using scans of 210 different healthy human brains has produced the most accurate cortical brain map ever http://www.nature.com/news/human-brain-mapped-in-unprecedented-detail-1.20285. The map identifies 180 distinctly different areas of the cortex, which include 83 previously reported brain areas and 97 new ones. The scans themselves collected data across a range of variables including cortical thickness, brain function, regional connectivity, cellular topographic organisation, and levels of myelin and it was well defined differences between this factors that helped delineate one area from another.

8. Tactile Intelligence and Robotic Grasping
This is a good overview of the state of the art and future developments expected for robotic grasping facilitated by tactile intelligence rather than vision and various visual-grasping intelligence approaches http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/why-tactile-intelligence-is-the-future-of-robotic-grasping. After discussing some of the shortfalls of focusing exclusively on vision for grasping we get a presentation of the new CoRo Lab tactile grasping system that combines a robotic hand, UR 10 arm, multimodal tactile sensors, and a kinect for initial targeting that can predict grasp failure 83% of the time and predict object slippage 92% of the time. Both are complex and are facilitated by unsupervised machine learning algorithms that learn over many trials what signal features are important. Such a system would also be very applicable to prosthetics.

9. Placenta on a Chip
Continuing the development of organ-on-microfluidic chip technology we now have a very basic placenta on a microfluidic chip that fully models the transport of nutrients across the placental barrier https://news.upenn.edu/news/penn-researchers-develop-placenta-chip. While this and other organ on chip systems are initially being developed as research and drug development tools, with thoughts of future advances enabling artificial organs, in this case such an artificial placenta hints at the future ability to build artificial wombs. In related reproductive health advances menopause can now be reversed to restore periods and produce viable eggs https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23130833-100-menopause-reversal-restores-periods-and-produces-fertile-eggs/.

10. Injectable Biosensors & Oxygen
A couple of interesting injectable treatments or enhancement technologies this week. First, a DARPA sponsored project has produced an injectable, implantable biosensor made of hydrogel that can produce a different fluorescent signal when different molecules are present, and which also overcomes the immune rejection problem http://nextbigfuture.com/2016/07/darpa-invests-75-million-for.html. Second, tiny gas-filled lipid microparticles have been developed as an injectable oxygen substitute that in tests was able to keep organs oxygenated and keep animals alive for 15 minutes without taking a single breath http://www.childrenshospital.org/news-and-events/2012/june-2012/injecting-lifesaving-oxygen-into-a-vein. Reminds me of a basic, dumb precursor to respirocytes that would enable enhanced athletic performance across a range of measures and activities.

SciTech Tip Jar: http://www.scitechdigest.net/p/donate.html
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2016-07-22 14:34:58 (46 comments; 5 reshares; 36 +1s; )Open 

G+

Like many I’ve noticed a bit of a slowdown on here over the last six months or so. Seems to be fewer posts by people and fewer comments than this time last year or the year before, which aside from the spate of posts last week I’ve also been guilty of.

Just wondering what people’s thoughts on the platform as a whole are and whether they’ve changed? Also if you find yourself spending more time elsewhere for whatever reason - if so where and why? Or if there is any general social media fatigue and just a desire to spend less time in general on these platforms?

Personally my usage and engagement has been limited during big chunks this year just by being generally busy. Aside from professional commitments at work I’ve also had many a busy weekend with trips down the coast for a break, trips up north to see the family, relaxing stays in the hills for ouranniversa... more »

G+

Like many I’ve noticed a bit of a slowdown on here over the last six months or so. Seems to be fewer posts by people and fewer comments than this time last year or the year before, which aside from the spate of posts last week I’ve also been guilty of.

Just wondering what people’s thoughts on the platform as a whole are and whether they’ve changed? Also if you find yourself spending more time elsewhere for whatever reason - if so where and why? Or if there is any general social media fatigue and just a desire to spend less time in general on these platforms?

Personally my usage and engagement has been limited during big chunks this year just by being generally busy. Aside from professional commitments at work I’ve also had many a busy weekend with trips down the coast for a break, trips up north to see the family, relaxing stays in the hills for our anniversary, hosting family members and going to football games - even climbing the local Adelaide Oval stadium roof, gardening involving moving tonnes of soil and gravel with a shovel and wheelbarrow, building a retaining wall, day trips to wineries, rifle shooting at a farm, and even the rare odd day to just relax and do nothing!

Social media wise I still prefer Google+, check in to see main and niche circles once or twice a day to quickly check updates and stream, although I’ve noticed that time on site has declined from what it used to be. I never really “got” or “used” Twitter before but I’m finding that I’m using it a little now since a couple of months ago, a quick scroll every day or two, just to check on different types of news that I can’t otherwise find here. Facebook, groan, still where all family and non-tech immediate friends are; quick check once a day or so, in and out as quick as possible unless something so stupid or inane demands a slap, a tiny bit of news, check any random messages, have noticed posting frequency by others has declined hugely. Or have I just hidden so many people there for wasting my attention that it just seems that way?

One big change in recent months is that I’m watching & listening to a lot more YouTube now. I’d estimate maybe 4-5 times as many videos as I used to watch & listen to.

Pic unrelated: just a nice spot near a local winery.___

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2016-07-18 14:10:28 (6 comments; 18 reshares; 75 +1s; )Open 

The Future of Our Individual and Collective Identity

A typically well-written and engaging article from Mark Manson. The Future of Self, recently explored the future of human identity given rapid transformatory advances in technology.

This begins in a light-hearted way, exploring identity from the sense of future brain computer interfaces and mind uploads and what identity means when you can add, remove, and edit skills, memories, and even personality traits. But then we get into far more subtle and interesting discussions centered around the fact that we look for external references to identify ourselves.

External references are determined by your environment and material circumstances; you can’t be Mozart if the piano hasn’t been invented, and if you’re a poor strategist in the chess team you may be a chess god in a community that doesn’t know how to play.And you... more »

The Future of Our Individual and Collective Identity

A typically well-written and engaging article from Mark Manson. The Future of Self, recently explored the future of human identity given rapid transformatory advances in technology.

This begins in a light-hearted way, exploring identity from the sense of future brain computer interfaces and mind uploads and what identity means when you can add, remove, and edit skills, memories, and even personality traits. But then we get into far more subtle and interesting discussions centered around the fact that we look for external references to identify ourselves.

External references are determined by your environment and material circumstances; you can’t be Mozart if the piano hasn’t been invented, and if you’re a poor strategist in the chess team you may be a chess god in a community that doesn’t know how to play. And you certainly couldn’t ask a caveman what side of the political spectrum they favoured: such a question, that we might consider a core part of our identity today, would not even make sense.

Technological and social development since the Enlightenment has continually boosted the complexity of identities that people can assume. Ponder then the impacts on identity when we have advanced genetic engineering and body modification, advanced robotics that provide mass unemployment and remove I am a [job title]. from people’s lexicon, and all the ways genuine and advanced VR will be able to mess with identities in ways we cannot imagine.

What happens when individual identities become so fluid and arbitrary and everyone realises the Self is an illusion? Does the SELF-preservation instinct also dissolve? Realising that no one intrinsically stands for anything? A unicellular organism that continually and arbitrarily swaps new genes in and out rapidly loses its identity as a defined species, and quite probably its ability to survive and pass on any replicable information at all.

This and more at: https://markmanson.net/future-of-self
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2016-07-17 13:23:38 (3 comments; 10 reshares; 67 +1s; )Open 

Surprising Hyperuniformity in Bird Retinas

+Natalie Wolchover is one of the best science writers around and she knocks it out of the park again with another brilliant piece over at Quanta discussing the hidden, non-regular, non-random pattern known as hyperuniformity that is present in the distribution of cone cells in bird retinas https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160712-hyperuniformity-found-in-birds-math-and-physics/.

Birds have had the longest time to evolve better colour vision and this hyperuniform pattern on bird retinas, this pattern of the five differently sized colour-sensitive cone cells, the individual distribution of which is neither too close nor too far apart, appears to have been strongly selected for.

The pattern appears to be an optimised solution to a packing problem that must balance the constraints of packing differently sized cells as tightly as... more »

Surprising Hyperuniformity in Bird Retinas

+Natalie Wolchover is one of the best science writers around and she knocks it out of the park again with another brilliant piece over at Quanta discussing the hidden, non-regular, non-random pattern known as hyperuniformity that is present in the distribution of cone cells in bird retinas https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160712-hyperuniformity-found-in-birds-math-and-physics/.

Birds have had the longest time to evolve better colour vision and this hyperuniform pattern on bird retinas, this pattern of the five differently sized colour-sensitive cone cells, the individual distribution of which is neither too close nor too far apart, appears to have been strongly selected for.

The pattern appears to be an optimised solution to a packing problem that must balance the constraints of packing differently sized cells as tightly as possible while ensuring uniform distribution, and contributes to birds having such fantastic vision.

But read the full piece for more detail and some counter-intuitive technological applications for hyperuniform materials distribution.

There was a release from Princeton regarding this work in early 2014, https://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S39/32/02E70/index.xml?section=topstories, although the original discovery dates back much earlier as hinted at in Natalie's article. ___

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