Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Latest in Nanotechnology

Nano-welds herald new era of electronics.

"We can create any 3D shape by varying the beam and rotating the target," he adds. Using this technique, the researchers have already made nano-scalpels 10 nm by 20 nm across and just a few nanometres thick. These scalpels can be used for cutting into living cells.

U.S. developing nanotech military armor
The U.S. Army awarded a $15 million contract for the development of a new type of lightweight composite armor based on nanotechnology.


Rice said the planned armor "will be even stronger than existing armor, but also lighter, to reduce the top weight of the 'up-armored' vehicle."

He also assured that engineers would be looking into reducing the flammability and flexibility issues inherent in many composite materials as an improvement in body armor.

The Year in Nanotech
Dazzling displays, handheld sensors, cancer killers, and nanotube computers.


Conventional cancer treatment can wreak havoc on the body. So researchers are developing technology smaller than the cancer cells that can seek them out, slip inside, and deliver a dose of deadly cancer medicine, leaving healthy cells untouched.


As researchers race to develop new cancer-fighting nano tools, an important weapon will be computer modeling, which will help researchers identify materials and structures that can be used safely in the body. (See "Speeding Up Nanomedicine.") But perhaps the biggest impact of nanotechnology on health could be new ways of using nanostructures to purify water, since dirty water is a leading cause of disease worldwide.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Latest in Robots

We'll All be Cyborgs Someday (This link acts weird in Firefox. the second time you visit it, it wil bother you with subscription information. Just use IE to view this, or clean your cookies in Firefox and then revisit the site)

Kevin Warwick, a professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading, has firsthand knowledge. In 1998, he had a chip surgically inserted into his left arm, becoming, he thinks, the first human ever implanted with a computer chip.

Since then, he's had a more sophisticated chip connected directly to his nervous system. He is still working toward his grandest experiment: having a chip implanted in his brain.

"I want to become a cyborg," he said with an infectious grin. "I can see the advantages."


In 2002, doctors sliced open Warwick's left wrist and implanted a much smaller and more sophisticated device. For three months, its 100 electrodes were connected to his median nerves, linking his nervous system to a computer.

"I moved my hand, and my neural signals were sent over the Internet to open and close a robot hand," he said.

Not only that: The robotic hand had sensors. As it grasped a sponge or a glasses case, it sent information back to Warwick.

"It was tremendously exciting," Warwick said. "I experienced it as signals in my brain, which my brain was quite happy to recognize as feedback from the robot hand fingertips."

A Robot in Every Home
...I can envision a future in which robotic devices will become a nearly ubiquitous part of our day-to-day lives. I believe that technologies such as distributed computing, voice and visual recognition, and wireless broadband connectivity will open the door to a new generation of autonomous devices that enable computers to perform tasks in the physical world on our behalf. We may be on the verge of a new era, when the PC will get up off the desktop and allow us to see, hear, touch and manipulate objects in places where we are not physically present.

UK report says robots will have rights
“If we make conscious robots they would want to have rights and they probably should,” said Henrik Christensen, director of the Centre of Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Georgia Institute of Technology.


Robots and machines are now classed as inanimate objects without rights or duties but if artificial intelligence becomes ubiquitous, the report argues, there may be calls for humans’ rights to be extended to them.


“There will be people who can’t distinguish that so we need to have ethical rules to make sure we as humans interact with robots in an ethical manner so we do not move our boundaries of what is acceptable.”

Robots of the Future
First there was the DARPA Grand Challenge, a robotic contest for building a driverless car capable of successfully completing a 132-mile off-road course. In November 2007, DARPA will throw down the gauntlet once again in the form of the Urban Challenge. This contest raises the bar by requiring its autonomous contestants to negotiate a 60-mile course through simulated urban traffic in less than six hours. Bookies' favorite is likely to be Sebastian Thrun and his team of roboticists from Stanford University, CA, who won the last challenge, in 2005.

Conscious computing debated at MIT anniversary event

The question of whether machines will be capable of human intelligence is ultimately a matter for philosophers to take up and not something scientists can answer, an inventor and a computer scientist agreed during a debate late last month at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

What if your laptop knew how you felt?
Faces reveal emotions, and researchers in fields as disparate as psychology, computer science, and engineering are joining forces under the umbrella of "affective computing" to teach machines to read expressions. If they succeed, your computer may one day "read" your mood and play along. Machines equipped with emotional skills could also be used in teaching, robotics, gaming, sales, security, law enforcement, and psychological diagnosis.

In Pictures: Robot Menagerie

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Monday, December 25, 2006

The Latest in Biotech

Continued Support From the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research

In response to the recent progress report from Methuselah Foundation chairman Aubrey de Grey, we are pleased to note that the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research has stepped forward in greater support of Foundation-funded SENS research with the offer of an additional $50,000 donation.

Paul F. Glenn, founder of the Glenn Foundation, said, "We have been following the progress of Aubrey de Grey's ideas with interest, and the Thiel matching pledge allows us to leverage our funds in a highly efficient way."

Filter removes mad cow proteins from blood
A new filtering device can remove dangerous “mad cow disease" proteins from blood. Scientists say the device could prevent the spread of deadly prion diseases via blood transfusions.

At least three people have died in the UK after receiving blood contaminated with variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (vCJD) – the human equivalent of mad cow disease. There is currently no test available to screen blood for the misfolded “prion” proteins that cause the illness.

The new “P-Capt” filter designed by Robert Rohwer of the VA Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, US, and colleagues aims to make blood safer by removing these proteins. Their tests show the filter can prevent infections in hamsters and can remove the vCJD prions from human blood.

Military college to set up stem cell research centre
'Stem cell therapy is the futuristic regenerative or reparative medicine. It will be the futuristic treatment replacing drug therapy and surgery. Through stem cell treatment, heart diseases, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, eye and muscle disease and various other diseases can be cured,' Surgeon Vice Admiral V.K. Singh, the Armed Forces Medical Services director general, told IANS.


'We are not playing god. Our intention is not to create a super human being but to repair diseased and damaged human tissues and organs,' said Col. Harsh Kumar, head of the Department of Transfusion Medicine, AFMC.

'Stem cell therapy, a futuristic treatment in medicine, is all set to revolutionise and replace drug-based treatment as stem cells have the potential to form parts of the human body. It is absolutely achievable,' he added.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Future of Brain Surgery

With Lasers and Daring, Doctors Race to Save a Young Man’s Brain.

The idea is deceptively simple: instead of cutting a hole in the brain artery and then sewing a vein to it, he sews first and cuts later. That way, the artery does not have to be temporarily clamped, and blood flow to the brain is not cut off. A excimer laser is used to make the hole because it can be slipped into a tight space on the tip of a slender tube and makes a clean cut that stays open without burning nearby tissue.

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Major Breakthrough in Aging Research

Dnage Scientists Report Major Breakthroughs In Ageing Research.

While the link between DNA damage and ageing had been established before it has now been shown that the level of “repair-problems” is directly correlated to the severity of the resulting ageing-diseases. The findings indicate that inadequate DNA repair results in accelerated ageing that strongly resembles the processes of natural ageing in older organisms.

Importantly, it was demonstrated that the body activates various natural defence-mechanisms against the accumulation of DNA-damage in order to delay the development of ageing diseases. This indicates that DNA-damage and DNA-repair are very important targets for new products in the field of ageing diseases. Learning from the body’s own response as described by these scientists, the Company is now testing compounds that may eventually lead to products that delay the development of ageing diseases such as Osteoporosis and Neurodegeneration (diseases of the brain including Alzheimer’s and Dementia).

Big news from my home country.

I've seen it on the news just a few minutes ago. The spokesperson said that it would take anywhere from 7 to 9 years to develop drugs based on this breakthrough.

With a breakthrough this important, you'd think some people could be moved to action in order to accelerate the realisation of anti aging drugs.

The implications are quite big.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

9 Military Technologies We Want

9 Military Technologies We Want.

1. The SmartShirt: Wearing your heart rate on your sleeve

2. Powered Exoskeleton: The real bionic man

3. Liquid Body Armor: Shielding by the glass

4. Micro Spy Plane: Voyeurs drone on

5. GT Max Mini Helicopter: Toys get smart

6. The Sonic Bandage: Sounds like clotting

7. Gryphon Flying Wings: It's a bird! It's a plane! …No, it's just a guy wearing a wing

8. Cornershot: Shooting's right around the corner

9. Swiss Military Pen: Writing's the easy part

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Our Technological Future - Mixed Bag #7

Many people don't keep a lasting impression of individual articles reporting on technological breakthroughs.

That's why I collect a bunch and post them altogether. There's 36 of 'em!

Dear reader, have a look at your technological future!

300GB Holographic CD’s will be available this week

In the beginning: scientists get ready to hunt for God particle

A Quantum (Computer) Step: Study Shows It's Feasible to Read Data Stored as Nuclear 'Spins'

Stem Cell Experiment Yields Heart Valves

Kurzweil: Computers Will Enable People To Live Forever

Thinking Machines

Robot with 'human soul' explores remotely

Bionic foot for hit and run victim

Cornell robot is "conscious," adapts to injury

Teeth: a future renewable natural resource?

Ray Kurzweil: Computers Will Extend Human Lifespan

AI Seduces Stanford Students

Life at 140? Longer life spans up for debate

SKorean robot will walk the walk as well as talk the talk

Cosmic Duo Spins Matter From Light

Stem cell cure hope for back pain

Genetically engineered blood protein can be used to split water into oxygen and hydrogen

Scientists harness mysteries of the brain

Stem Cells Are Where It's At

The future of discs: 10TB CDs

Distance no worries for spooky particles

Computers that digest the news to change trading

Forget HDTV, the future is 3DTV

GM Plug-in Hybrid to Deliver 70MPG

All but Ageless, Turtles Face Their Biggest Threat: Humans (This is not directly a tech-link, but it does discuss a turtle-species that does not age. It is an example of the fact that immortality is completely natural. This is relevant to life-extension and thus relevant to this blog.)

As population ages, opportunities are born

Self-assembling Nano-ice Discovered -- Structure Resembles DNA

Is thorium the answer to our energy crisis?

Kevin Warwick: The ITWales Interview

10 Tech Concepts You Need to Know for 2007

Toronto scientists cure disease in mice

New Hope for Stem-Cell Therapy

Triple-blinded Study of StemEnhance

Welcome to the world of nano foods

More Doctoral Research Funded by the Methuselah Foundation

Hitachi Brain Interface Allows Users to Control Model Trains

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Crysis - Next Gen Game Footage

Crysis Video.

This new video showcases many new Crysis gameplay features and gives a very detailed look at the environments and outlines the story line as well. I think many companies are counting on Crysis as being “the” title to truly kick off DX10 and Windows Vista while being an exciting motivation for more enthusiasts to upgrade their hardware. To put it in technical terms, it looks like the upcoming Crysis is going to kick some serious ass.

Also check out these PS3 commercials. The visuals are stunning.

PlayStation 3 Commercial 1

PlayStation 3 Commercial 2

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Next Generation Videogames

Have a look at these screenshots of confirmed, next-generation videogames.

Flight simulator:


Alan Wake:


These will be the standard in the near future.

Are you looking forward to them?

I know I am.


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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

3D Models From 2D Images

Right after posting sketch interpretation comes this little jewel that is at least as impressive: 3D Models From 2D Images.

I would not have thought that this was possible. Just imagine... soon we will be able to build 3D environments simply by drawing them and having them automatically generated.

Game developers often hire concept artists and modellers. The artists draw some sketches of how the game is supposed to look. The modellers then manually build 3D models based on these sketches.

Looks like the modeller jobs are about to automated.

Too bad for those poor modellers, but it's going to be one helluva lot cheaper to and easier to build cool games.

More info.

Yet more info.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Great Sketch Interpretation Tool

The term "sketch interpretation" may not get people on the edge of their seats all by itself... but wait until you've seen the demonstration of what it can do: Sketch Interpretation.

The idea is that you can draw anything and the software will understand what you have drawn. Not only will it understand, it will apply the proper physics to it. You've gotta see it to get it. The movie clip shows a guy drawing a car going down from a hill, and then the software actually makes it happen.

This is a great tool for people who want to build their own videogames or virtual environments. It's tools like these that will ensure that we will have a very rich Internet-experience a few years in the future, when every site you visit will be a 3D environment.

In general, technology like this simply allows people to easily build stuff that's cool.

A link to the official site: ASSIST.

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Cure for Baldness - Government Spends 2 Million Pounds

£2m to find cure for baldness

The Government is spending £2million to find a cure for baldness.

Science minister Lord Sainsbury says he wants the UK to become the world leader in hair restoration.

He is supporting a new treatment called Biotechnology, reports The Sun.

During the treatment the hair cells are grown in a test tube then injected into a bald pate.

He said: "Biotechnology provides a real opportunity to harness the world-class expertise we possess in Britain.

"This initiative should establish British industry as the world leader in this area."

The treatment is being developed by UK firm Intercytex, set up by biochemist Dr Paul Kemp.

He said: "Analysts estimate a good baldness treatment could be worth £1billion a year in Britain and many times that worldwide. The idea is to inject cells into the scalp, where many will develop into new hair follicles.

"Current hair transplant techniques take a long time so they cost a lot. This new procedure would be faster and cheaper."

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100 MPG Toyota Prius Planned for 2009

Ultra-Green: Radical 100-MPG Toyota Prius in the Works for 2009

Expect something amazing from the next Toyota Prius — like fuel economy that pushes past the 100-mpg barrier.

Due in two years as a 2009 model, the next Prius is set to be an evolution, company sources say. The hybrid will retain the same basic 1.5-liter hybrid drivetrain. But Toyota is now on a mission to do two things: drive the economy ratings skyward, and cut the associated costs by 20-30 percent.

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Fembot - Female Robot

A movie clip of a fembot that looks really real.

I'm gonna save up and buy me one in 2020, when you can't distuingish them anymore from biological women. ;)

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Our Technological Future - Mixed Bag #4

Fantastic animation of the insides of a cell. This is just an animation. But there is no reason it could not be a simulation in the future. And sophisticated simulations of cells are powerful tools that will speed up medical research by orders of magnitudes. This will have a great impact on public health. We will live longer and more healthy because of it.

Robot cars will race in real traffic

The first 11 teams for a race in which robot cars will jostle with real ones along mocked-up city streets have been announced. The teams must construct autonomous vehicles to navigate an unfamiliar urban environment in the shortest time possible.

$10 million to speed up the personal genome
The X Prize Foundation, sponsor of a widely noted 2004 award for developing a reusable rocket suitable for private space travel, says it is now teaming with a wealthy Canadian geologist to offer $10 million to any team that can completely decode the genes of 100 people in 10 days.

Truth predictor for politicians
He forecast that, within five years, "truth predictor" software would "hold politicians to account". Voters would be able to check the probability that apparently factual statements by politicians were actually correct, using programmes that automatically compared claims with historic data, he said.

Scientists teleport two different objects
Beaming people in "Star Trek" fashion is still in the realms of science fiction, but physicists in Denmark have teleported information from light to matter bringing quantum communication and computing closer to reality.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

100 Technology Forecasts

PC World came up with this list of 100 forecasts, of which I have listed an interesting selection for your reading pleasure.

Accurate Speech Recognition
Though the vendor of the Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech-recognition program claimed an accuracy of 99 percent, in our recent tests the application managed an accuracy of only about 96 percent--not bad, but not good enough. We don't need perfection, but we are looking forward to a speech-recognition system that is fast and accurate enough to replace a keyboard for writing.

Memory That Doesn't Forget
Your existing PC memory gets amnesia when the system power goes off, but NRAM (nanotube nonvolatile RAM) remembers everything, and is as fast as modern memory. With NRAM, your PC could turn on and off immediately, dispensing with all of its tedious booting up and shutting down.

Nanotube Heat Sinks
Modern PC components produce a lot of heat, but carbon nanotube heat sinks will conduct that heat away better than existing metal ones do. See "The Future of Nanotech" for more details on how nanotechnology will revolutionize computing.

Quad-Core Processors
Dual-core processors have given PCs a big speed boost, but the advances won't stop there. Quad-core systems from Intel will arrive before the end of the year, and AMD's quad-core chips will hit the market in mid-2007.

TVs Out of Thin Air
The Helio display can create a TV out of nowhere, projecting an image onto a curtain of compressed air. Right now it is prohibitively expensive (around $20,000), but the price will fall as the technology matures.

One-Box Surround Sound That Works
If products such as Yamaha's promising $1700 YSP-1100 Digital Sound Projector continue to improve (and become affordable), complex surround-sound wiring could become a thing of the past. The YSP-1000 uses 40 beam drivers to focus surround precisely, creating a convincing surround effect out of just one box.

2015's New Mainstream Camera: 20 Megapixels
The price of digital cameras will continue to slide, while the resolution will continue to increase. Analyst Ron Glaz of IDC thinks that shoppers will be able to buy a 10-megapixel camera for less than $300 by the end of 2007, and a 20-megapixel camera for less than $300 by 2015.

A Shift From 2D Photos to 3D Environments
The increased processing power of computers allows for new ways to handle images. The Photosynth project from Microsoft, for instance, takes a group of 2D photographs and transforms them into a 3D environment that provides a whole new way to browse pictures.

Console Wars 2012
Despite Sony's and Microsoft's protests that this year's game consoles will last longer than previous ones, game consoles have five-year life spans. So, in the December 2012 issue of PC World, we'll be reviewing the new PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720 game consoles, which will have photorealistic 3D games and high-def movies streamed over the Internet.

Smarter Games
The advent of multicore processors gives game programmers a lot more processing power to create smarter adversaries in games: For example, one core can be dealing with running the game, while the other is running an artificial intelligence (AI) routine that creates hordes of smart enemies. And your opponents won't just sit and wait for you, either--they'll hunt you down.

Robots, Part 1: Death to Allowances
Teenagers' options for earning money at home will shrink greatly as single-duty robots take over household chores. A 2004 United Nations report on World Robotics predicts that prices for grass-cutting, pool-cleaning, and window-washing robots will become affordable by 2007, and some 4 million robots will be in use by the end of that year.

Robots, Part 2: Hope It's Not the Terminator
While the world now has a robot that can run 4 miles per hour--Honda's ASIMO--Stephen Keeney, the ASIMO project leader, hopes that by 2017 folks will see the first application of a truly humanoid robot.

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Amazing Physics Simulation

Havok 4.0

It's at least as impressive as the Intel Quad Core Alan Wake game demo that I posted not too long ago.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Our Technological Future - Overview of 12 Exciting Developments

I have compiled a list of twelve recent and exciting technology developments. I recommend clicking the source-links to see the pictures and movieclips that go with them.

Solid to Liquid - The Story of Armor

This is any science fiction enthusiasts dream come true! Soldiers of The United States Army are testing liquid armor. This armor will enhance Kevlar, the fibre-based armor that is 5x stronger than steel.

For 1st Woman With Bionic Arm, a New Life Is Within Reach
Now, Mitchell can peel a banana in a less simian posture. All she has to do is place her prosthetic left arm next to the banana and think about grabbing it. The mechanical hand closes around the fruit and she's ready to peel.

Superconducting qubits get entangled
Physicists in the US have taken another step towards the dream of a quantum computer by entangling two superconducting quantum bits (or qubits) for the first time.

Physicists probe the fifth dimension
Can we prove realms exist beyond our plane ... or ‘brane’?

Machine readied to create ‘mini-Big Bangs’
Large Hadron Collider likely to shed light on dark matter, dark energy

Who put nanotechnology in my bra?
Though you can’t see it, nanotechnology is everywhere now, expanding the utility and appeal of basic products from cosmetics to all types of clothing. Below is a Top 10 list of the products you might least expect to employ this advanced technology.

Light Emitting T-Shirts by Phillips
Click link to see the movieclip.

Robotic Frisbees of Death
"The 3-D maneuverability of the Frisbee-UAV [unammned aerial vehicle] will provide revolutionary tactical access and lethality against hostiles hiding in upper story locations and/or defiladed behind obstacles," the company promises.

Smile! A new Canadian tool can re-grow teeth say inventors
Snaggle-toothed hockey players and sugar lovers may soon rejoice as Canadian scientists said they have created the first device able to re-grow teeth and bones.

Back From the Dead
A small but passionate group of doctors say that electricity applied deep in the brain can jolt patients out of irreversible comas. That's when the real problems begin.

Gene genius: Are scientists closing in on the holy grail?
Scientists claim they are near to finding a therapy that could cure Aids and cancer. So how real is this new medical dawn?

Crusher Robot
Who would pay millions of dollars for a vehicle with no steering wheel, seats, or a gas pedal? The U.S. Military, whose unmanned "Crusher" robot can drive itself. This ScienCentral News video explains.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Our Technological Future - Mixed Bag #2

Scientists Eye Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy for 2012.

CHEJU _ Cheju National University plans to set up a large biology research center with the aim of starting to use human embryonic stem cells in actual therapy around 2012.

Koh Choong-suk, president of the scenic Cheju Island-based university, yesterday unveiled the project that will be spearheaded by illustrious embryologist Park Se-pill.

``We recruited Park as the head of the stem cell center to be established at our university, and seek to hire about 20 more researchers and experts,'' Koh told a press meeting at the university.

``Under the stewardship of Park, we believe the lab will be able to use embryonic stem cells in therapy by 2012,'' Koh added.

Gene-therapy results touted in 2 advanced-cancer cases.
Researchers from the National Cancer Institute on Thursday reported they have successfully treated two patients with advanced cancer using gene therapy.

Two men, both with the rapidly growing skin cancer melanoma, were given immune-system cells taken from their own blood and engineered to attack their tumors. They are alive, with no evidence of cancer, 18 months later. Fifteen other patients who got the same treatment died.

The senior author of the study and others cautioned it would take several years to translate the treatment into a practical therapy.

The report, published online by the journal Science, is the latest result of a 30-year effort by Dr. Steven Rosenberg to find ways to manipulate the human immune system to fight cancer.

'Augmented reality' glasses tackle tunnel vision.
Superimposing computer-generated images over real scenes can dramatically improve the way people with visual impairment use their sight, say US researchers.

That conclusion is the result of tests of a so-called augmented-reality system on patients with tunnel vision, a condition which narrows a person’s field of view.

Physicists invent 'QuIET' - single molecule transistors.
University of Arizona physicists have discovered how to turn single molecules into working transistors. It's a breakthrough needed to make the next-generation of remarkably tiny, powerful computers that nanotechnologists dream of.

Re-inventing nature for cheaper solar power.
A research team in Sydney has created molecules that mimic those in plants which harvest light and power life on Earth.

“A leaf is an amazingly cheap and efficient solar cell,” says Dr Deanna D’Alessandro, a postdoctoral researcher in the Molecular Electronics Group at the University of Sydney. “The best leaves can harvest 30 to 40 percent of the light falling on them. The best solar cells we can build are between 15 and 20 percent efficient, and expensive to make.”

Are genomic technologies the answer to world hunger?.
Genomic technologies may have the potential to alleviate food insecurity and food shortages around the world. Researchers believe that biotechnology has the potential to improve the nutritional content of food crops and, crucially, resistance to insects and disease. This could lead to improved yields of food crops for both human and animal consumption. Researchers are also working on 'molecular farming' – production of pharmaceutical products in plants, with the potential to revolutionise vaccination procedures.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Enzymes Make Use of Quantum Effects

Upcoming drug revolution takes a quantum leap.

British scientists have found that enzymes cheat time and space by quantum tunnelling - a much faster way of travelling than the classical way - but whether or not perplexing quantum theories can be applied to the biological world is still hotly debated.

Until now, no one knew just how the enzymes speed up the reactions, which in some cases are up to a staggering million times faster.

"Our research has shown at an atomic level how enzymes act as catalysts," said Nigel Scrutton, lead researcher at the University of Manchester, whose team published their work in the U.S. journal, Science, on April 14.

Just how these enzymes speed up reaction rates compared with uncatalysed reactions remain controversial among scientists, but such insights of the underpinnings of enzyme behaviour have begun.

"Enzymes are central to the existence of life because most chemical reactions in our cells would take place too slowly or produce a difference outcome without their involvement," he said.

Without enzymes, we'd wither away or be riddled with disease.

As biological molecules, the enzymes work to lower the energy needed for a reaction to occur. Although enzymes act as catalysts, they are often affected by other molecules. Therefore, when drugs are made, they are designed to act as enzymes inhibitors to stop the reactions from occurring.

"The findings are a radical departure from the traditional view of how they work and might explain why attempts to make artificial enzymes have so far been disappointing," he said.

But now that researchers know enzymes can quantum tunnel, better drugs can be designed leveraging this knowledge.

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Einstein Robot Looks Almost Completely Real

Just found this on YouTube.

The robot looks so real, it's bizarre.

This made it much easier for me to see how robots may one day intermingle with us without us being able to clearly distuingish between robots and biological humans.

Einstein Robot.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Our Technological Future - Mixed Bag #1

Embryonic stem cells without embryo death.

You don’t have to destroy an embryo to create stem cells for medical research. An American biosciences company has succeeded in deriving the cells from embryos without killing them, raising hopes that President Bush will reconsider his veto on federal funding for such work.


Lanza hopes that because the method does not involve destroying embryos, it will lead to the lifting of the veto on federal funding for stem cell research. “We need to jump-start the field – it’s been crippled by a lack of funding,” he says. “This will hopefully solve the political impasse and bring the president on board, as no embryos will be harmed with this method.”

The Future of Robots.
Once we understand how the mind operates, we will be able to program detailed descriptions of these principles into inexpensive computers, which, by the late 2020s, will be thousands of times as powerful as the human brain—another consequence of the law of accelerating returns. So we will have both the hardware and software to achieve human-level intelligence in a machine by 2029. We will also by then be able to construct fully humanlike androids at exquisite levels of detail and send blood-cell-size robots into our bodies and brains to keep us healthy from inside and to augment our intellect. By the time we succeed in building such machines, we will have become part machine ourselves. We will, in other words, finally transcend what we have so long thought of as the ultimate limitations: our bodies and minds.

Nanosolar: Printing Solar Film Like Paper.
Nanosolar is a company based in Palo Alto, California, which uses an innovative technique to produce a kind of "solar film". To make the film, Nanosolar prints CIGS (copper-indium-gallium-selenium) onto a thin polymer using machines that look like printing presses. There is no costly silicon involved in the process, and, ultimately, a solar cell from Nanosolar will cost about one-fifth to one-tenth the cost of a standard silicon solar panel. Nanosolar is only a few years old, but it has laid plans to take on multinational corporations, such as BP and Sharp, in the solar industry.

Computers write news at Thomson.
First it was the typewriter, then the teleprinter. Now a US news service has found a way to replace human beings in the newsroom and is instead using computers to write some of its stories.

Thomson Financial, the business information group, has been using computers to generate some stories since March and is so pleased with the results that it plans to expand the practice.

The computers work so fast that an earnings story can be released within 0.3 seconds of the company making results public.

Chaos Computing.
Ditto's chip is like the microelectronic version of a stem cell: It's a device that can assume all sorts of different functions. But a chaotic chip goes one step further: It can morph over and over again. For computer design, this has huge implications. In a traditional chip, the basic elements, called logic gates, are hardwired to perform a single, specific task. In a chaotic chip, each logic gate can be converted on the fly to perform any function.

What this means is that computers will no longer need separate, costly chips for the CPU, memory, video RAM, graphics accelerators, arithmetic processing units, and so on. Instead, one chip will convert itself to whatever functions the software needs at a given moment.

3-D TV That Actually Works.
I entered a conference room in Manhattan and a woman on the TV tossed a handful of rose petals out of the screen, where they floated in the air before my eyes.

At least, that's what I saw. In truth, the image resided on a perfectly flat, 42-inch LCD screen. But the 3-D illusion was fully believable, and I didn't have to wear a dorky set of polarizing glasses.

A new line of 3-D televisions by Philips uses the familiar trick of sending slightly different images to the left and right eyes -- mimicking our stereoscopic view of the real world. But where old-fashioned 3-D movies rely on the special glasses to block images meant for the other eye, Philips' WOWvx technology places tiny lenses over each of the millions of red, green and blue sub pixels that make up an LCD or plasma screen. The lenses cause each sub pixel to project light at one of nine angles fanning out in front of the display.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Government Backs Intelligent Robot Development

Govt to back intelligence robot development.

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to begin assisting the development of next-generation intelligence robots in fiscal 2007 with the aim of commercializing them in 2015, Jiji Press learned Thursday.

The ministry is set to seek 2.1 billion yen in related funds as part of its budget request for the fiscal year that starts next April, and will assist the development of basic technologies in the next five years, informed sources said.

Intelligence robots are capable of recognizing sounds and images through sensors and of automatically analyzing the obtained information to determine their actions. Conventional industrial robots require input work patterns before they can operate.

For the government-funded development project, the ministry will seek the participation of universities and manufacturers that conduct research into artificial intelligence and sound and image recognition technologies, the sources said.

It hopes to commercialize the newly developed robots by 2015. The robots will include "cleaning robots" that, equipped with the plan of a building, will be able to choose the most appropriate routes to reach areas that need cleaning, and "guide robots" capable of communicating with humans through advanced voice and image processing technologies.

Reflecting a surge in the number of industrial robots in the past 10 years, there are some 840,000 robots operating at present across the globe.

In Japan, the market for industrial robots is expected to expand to around 3 trillion yen over the next decade.

Against this backdrop, the government acknowledges that intelligence robots constitute one of its core strategies for economic growth.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Single Molecule Stores Data

Single molecule stores data.

IBM researchers in Zurich, Switzerland, have demonstrated a single-molecule device capable of repeatedly storing and retrieving data.

Described in the Aug. 4 issue of nanotech journal Small Times, the device is a surprisingly simple organic compound that can be set to high or low resistance through electrical pulses. In the lab, it reliably retained its ability to change states over many hours and more than 500 tests, which the researchers described in the paper as "a remarkable result for a single-molecule system."

"Right now, we are concentrating on understanding the relationship between the design of the molecular system and the electrical properties measured," researcher Heike Riel told ZDNet UK. "Our next steps are to investigate the mechanism responsible for switching."

The molecule at the heart of the system, BPDN-DT, was designed by professor James Tour and co-workers at Rice University in Houston and is one of a class of compounds called Tour wires. Although it was specifically synthesized to operate in this and other devices--it has also been used in a single molecule transistor--there is still considerable debate as to how it works and what characteristics any potential commercial application may have.


At about 1.5 nanometers long, the molecule is less than a hundredth of the size of current silicon memory elements. It is widely accepted in the industry that current progress in silicon will become economically more difficult below 20nm, with fundamental physical limits being reached below 10nm. IBM says it sees molecular computing as one way of pushing past this barrier, as well as semiconducting wires, carbon nanotubes and spintronics.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Shorter, 4-6 Hour Workdays Would Benefit Us All

Call for six-hour work day.

Working four to six hours a day is the key to happiness, according to a new report.

In the quest for money and status, Australians are among the hardest workers in the world.

But Sydney University academic Dr Caroline West says while work delivers self-esteem, income and social ties, more than four to six hours a day will bring anxiety, exhaustion and a poor quality of life.

"We've structured our lives so the majority of our waking life is devoted to work, which might bring us more money but doesn't make us more fulfilled," Dr West said.

"So long as there's a trend to work these really long hours you'll continue to see the plateauing and decline of people's wellbeing."

Dr West said almost a third of Australian full-time workers worked more than 48 hours a week and 30 per cent worked 50 hours or more.

After analysing a range of studies over the past few years, Dr West, who has published her findings in the Australian Law Reform Commission Journal, says the idea of a six-hour day is not a fantasy.

"I don't see any reason why it can't realistically happen," she said.

"It's going to require a lot of structural reform, but I think the time is ripe for addressing it as an issue."

She said the concept of the four- to six-hour working day - originally flagged by economist John Maynard Keynes in the early 1900s - would even help productivity.

But with competitiveness and the quest to "outdo one another" ingrained in society, most people weren't convinced that working less would make them happier, she said.

Dr West's research shows most people would rather work longer hours and have more money than have extra leisure and family time.

She said people who don't have money and who don't value work as their number one priority often risked being ostracised, or dubbed as lazy.

"It's difficult to be someone who places priority on leisure if you're surrounded by people who just care about money, or care about it more than other things," Dr West said.

For now, only a select privileged group with alternatives such as job sharing arrangements could afford the shorter hours, she said.

It's quite a pathetic situation. The article actually says people would rather work long and hard than be with their families and friends.

Well, not me. I've had exactly one year of working experience and I've watched it steadily suck the soul right out of me without being able to do anything about it. Up till now, that is. My contract allows for me to switch back to 4 days a week, which is exactly what I'll be doing a few weeks from now. The arrangements are being made right now at my company.

You may be wondering why I am posting this, as it has nothing to do with technology at first sight.

Here's why:

Technology is what is responsible for industrial revolutions which have great impact on our society. With every industrial revolution, the quality of our lives has increased by lessening our workload.

Think about it:

We started out as cavemen, running around in the jungle for about 25 years fighting off sabretooth tigers and grizzly bears.

Then we built societies for ourselves and we started working on the land. Work was still physical and hard, but at least we had the protection of the village or town.

Then we built machines. Still lots of physical work, but the workday eventually decreased to 10 hours. Henry Ford later decreased the workday further to 8 hours.

Welcome to today. We're still working 8 hours, but most of it is intellectual now. Light-load office jobs.

The first reports of people wanting more free time (as opposed to what the article states) are already coming in. Also, research has showed that a 4 day workweek makes people more productive, provided the work is properly planned. I heard this on the radio while plowing away at my lame 5 days / 8 hours job. And yet we all kept going at it as if we didn't hear it.

After all those industrial revolutions, life is still crap. We sleep one third of our time, work one third of our time and a great deal of the other third is spent doing things that are absolutely necessary, such as travelling (to work, blegh), bathing, shopping, preparing food, eating, etc. We are rewarded only with much too short weekends and too few days off, in which nobody has any time for anybody because we're too busy doing other things that need to be done.

Virtually no time is left for personal development. And somehow we are expected to maintain our social contacts and find girlfriends in this little bit of time as well. Some people are really good at accepting this situation. They apparently have no problem shoving their own desires aside and are happily grinding away, fulfilling their role as a miniscule gear in our beautiful system.

They're lying to themselves. Would they really spend 8 hours a day doing their current job if they were free to decice what to do? Have these people been brainwashed to such a degree that they cannot function without the system holding a double-barreled shotgun to the back of their heads?

Slaving away your entire life just to buy a pile of bricks and rooftiles seems like a poor man's life to me. But who the hell am I. Just some nutcase who manages a techblog in his spare minutes, I recon.

But there is hope.

Thanks to exponential acceleration in our technological progression, we are seeing industrial revolutions following up much faster. Soon, we can expect one every few years. And with every revolution, life gets better.

The first revolution we will see in about ten years, is that of nanotechnology which has the potential to make products extremely cheap and outperform our current products by about a factor of thousand. Recent developments suggest robots will soon be entering the mainstream and they will be taking plenty of our jobs away. You'd think this would cause huge economic depression. But keep in mind that if our economy is entirely automized, robots will be doing all the work and we'd be free to party all day singing yippee yippee.

So it seems to me we've all got something to look forward too.

It sure is a shame I was born in 1978, though. I'd rather be born in 2000.

Then again... having gone (and still going) through this barbaric society, I might actually not take all of tomorrow's technology for granted.

Because that's exactly what young people growing up right now will be doing.

But me... I've gone through the cesspit of the backwards eighties and nineties...

Tomorrow's technology might actually make me happy.

All I have to do is hang in there...

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Hybrid Full-Sized Trucks Debut in 2007

GM To Debut Hybrid Full-Sized Trucks in Fall '07.

General Motors is planning a fall 2007 launch for its highly anticipated so-called "dual-mode" or two-mode gas/electric hybrid version of the 2007 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickup trucks.

Company insiders tell Inside Line the hybrid version of the trucks will see a 25 percent improvement in fuel economy over the conventional trucks, with a combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 25 mpg. The hybrid trucks will also be outfitted with a new V8 engine with an unspecified displacement that makes approximately 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque.

Both the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra are capable of using the new hybrid system. It is unclear which truck will be the first to get the hybrid system — or whether both will get it at the same time. However, because of the hybrid's anticipated expense — at least $3,000 more than the gas-powered versions of the trucks — GM may be leaning toward introducing it first in the GMC-brand trucks, which are aimed at a more affluent audience.

GM's dual-mode hybrid trucks will be equipped with the new V8 and two electric motors that control two planetary gearsets. Another key piece of equipment will be a fuel-optimization computer. "Dual mode" refers to the hybrid's transmission setup, which allows the truck to shift between a conventional 4-speed automatic transmission and a continuously variable transmission. The shifting between transmission modes is done with the help of the onboard fuel-optimization computer, which makes split-second calculations as to which transmission mode will be the best for conserving fuel. The work is done automatically, with no buttons to push by the driver.


This is the future of cars unfolding before our very eyes. Future cars will be more fuel-efficient and more automised.

Eventually, cars will do a great deal of driving for us.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Intelligence Amplification Pill Invented

"Anti-stupid" pill tested on mice.

A German scientist has been testing an "anti-stupidity" pill with encouraging results on mice and fruit flies, Bild newspaper reported on Saturday.

It said Hans-Hilger Ropers, director at Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, has tested a pill thwarting hyperactivity in certain brain nerve cells, helping stabilise short-term memory and improve attentiveness.

"With mice and fruit flies we were able to eliminate the loss of short-term memory," Ropers, 62, is quoted saying in the German newspaper, which has dubbed it the "world's first anti-stupidity pill."

I'm sure the researcher is a brilliant researcher... but if he'd known anything about marketing strategies he would have called it an intelligence amplification-pill or a smart-pill.

Anyway... we can expect this kind of stuff to enter the mainstream sometime in the coming biotech era.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

MIT Researchers Watch Brain In Action

MIT researchers watch brain in action.

For the first time, scientists have been able to watch neurons within the brain of a living animal change in response to experience.

Thanks to a new imaging system, researchers at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have gotten an unprecedented look into how genes shape the brain in response to the environment. Their work is reported in the July 28 issue of Cell.

"This work represents a technological breakthrough," said first author Kuan Hong Wang, a research scientist at the Picower Institute who will launch his own laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health in the fall. "This is the first study that demonstrates the ability to directly visualize the molecular activity of individual neurons in the brain of live animals at a single-cell resolution, and to observe the changes in the activity in the same neurons in response to the changes of the environment on a daily basis for a week."

This advance, coupled with other brain disease models, could "offer unparalleled advantages in understanding pathological processes in real time, leading to potential new drugs and treatments for a host of neurological diseases and mental disorders," said Nobel laureate Susumu Tonegawa, a co-author of the study.

This is pretty big. Being able to watch a brain learn is a tremendous boon to research aimed at reverse-engineering the (human) brain.

Reverse-engineering the brain will eventually enable science to build superior artificial intelligence.

Superior AI will in turn likely lead to a Singularity.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Solar Power Tower To Be Built In Australia

How Australia got hot for solar power.

It's a dead-calm antipodean winter's day, the silence of this vast ranch called Tapio Station broken only by the cry of a currawong bird. Davey, chief executive of Melbourne renewable-energy company EnviroMission, aims to break ground here early next year on the world's first commercial "solar tower" power station.

"The tower will be over there," Davey says, pointing to a spot a mile distant where a 1,600-foot structure will rise from the ocher-colored earth. Picture a 260-foot-diameter cylinder taller than the Sears Tower encircled by a two-mile-diameter transparent canopy at ground level. About 8 feet tall at the perimeter, where Davey has his feet planted, the solar collector will gradually slope up to a height of 50 to 60 feet at the tower's base.

Acting as a giant greenhouse, the solar collector will superheat the air with radiation from the sun. Hot air rises, naturally, and the tower will operate as a giant vacuum. As the air is sucked into the tower, it will produce wind to power an array of turbine generators clustered around the structure.

The result: enough clean, green electricity to power some 100,000 homes without producing a particle of pollution or a wisp of planet-warming gases.

"We're aiming to be competitive with the coal people," says Davey, 60. "We're filling a gap in the renewable-energy market that has never been able to be filled before."


With a solar tower, there's no fuel to dig out of the ground, transport, or dispose of, no smog, no scarred landscapes from open-pit mining. The sun rises every day and is not subject to embargoes, geopolitics, or commodity markets.

And once the solar tower's capital costs are paid off, the price of producing electricity should drop dramatically, as operating and maintenance costs are expected to be minimal. Despite its monolithic scale, the technology behind the tower is based on an elemental scientific truth: Hot air rises. The solar tower's only moving parts are its turbines.


But out at Tapio Station, Davey insists that the solar tower will be built whether or not the government gives EnviroMission $75 million. "This used to be a dream," he says, staring out at the horizon where the tower will rise. "Then it became a concept. Now it's becoming reality."

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Robot With 20 Brains Takes On Any Desired Shape

No head required for 20-brained bot.

Humans are lost without their heads, but not M-TRAN. The robot, made of 20 independent modules that each have their own "brain", can lose any of its body parts without breaking down.

The modules of M-TRAN, which was developed by the Intelligent Systems Research Institute in Tsukuba, Japan, consist of two blocks connected by a flexing joint, powered by electric motors. Four processors in the two blocks enable each module to operate independently, and hooks allow them to latch onto each other. These hooks also relay signals, so that modules can coordinate to change the robot's overall shape.

Previous modular robots have formed four-legged walkers, worms or wheels, but unlike M-TRAN, they were unable to function without an external computer or central brain module. Watch videos of earlier M-TRAN versions here.

Be sure to follow the link to the videos. They're awesome.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Rat Brain Cells Hooked Up To Robot Body, Computer Simulation

It's Alive (ish).

When Rene Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am," the philosopher probably didn't imagine a stamp-sized clump of rat neurons grown in a dish, hooked to a computer.

For years, scientists have learned about brain development by watching the firing patterns of lab-raised brain cells. Until recently, though, the brains-in-a-dish couldn't receive information. Unlike actual gray matter, they could only send signals.

Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology figured they could learn more from neuron clumps that acted more like real brains, so they've developed "neurally controlled animats" -- a few thousand rat neurons grown atop a grid of electrodes and connected to a robot body or computer-simulated virtual environment.

In theory, animats seem to cross the line from mass of goo to autonomous brain. But Steve Potter, a neuroscientist and head of the Georgia Tech lab where the animats were created, said his brain clumps won't be reciting French philosophy anytime soon.

"Our goal is not to get something as conscious as a person," he said. "We're studying basic mechanisms of learning and memory." The researchers are focusing on how groups of individual cells interact and change when stimulated.

Rather than create a sentient being, the goal of the work is to learn about the earliest human brain development, according to Daniel Wagenaar, a California Institute of Technology neuroscientist who worked with Potter on the animat.

"When someone is born, they're still not able to control much of their behavior," Wagenaar said. "Somehow this system has to learn to control a body. Part of that comes from interactions with environment. We hope to get, at the very simple level of small nervous system, some insight into how that occurs."

The scientists rely on these models because no technology exists to watch live human brain cells in real-time action.


The first generation of animats performed simple tasks. The virtual mouse tended to move in one direction (right). A dish-brain-controlled robot did manage to stay away from a moving target -- impressive-sounding perhaps but not particularly complicated. A robotic arm holding a set of pens and attached to a clump of neurons created art -- albeit in the eye of the beholder.


"Since our cultured networks are so interconnected, they have some sense of what is going in themselves," he said. "We can also feed their activity back to them, to mediate their 'sense of self.'"

The next phase of animats will likely have an even keener sense of self.

"In the next wave, we hope to sequence behaviors." Potter said. "The sensory input resulting from one behavior will trigger the next appropriate behavior." In other words, he hopes the animats will learn.

And if consciousness is a function of complexity, what would happen if a whole bunch of dish-brains were hooked together? Right now, Potter said, the biggest obstacle to trying is the $60,000 price tag of each "rig."

"That's the present limit," he said. "If we had a rich patron, I would love to get more rigs to do some 'social networks' experiments."

Potter hopes his research will eventually lead to better neural prosthetics, understanding of neural pathologies and even artificial intelligence. As for consciousness, he said, "I don't think it will get that far. But I'd love to be proven wrong."

I don't think $60.000 dollars is all that much. As a matter of fact, in the scientific world, $60.000 dollars is nothing. Especially if you take a look at what kind of amazing thing you can set up with it.

But apparently these researchers don't have the money to set up a few dozen of these rigs just like that. That is okay, because the costs of the enabling technology behind this will come down fast.

The article says that there is no way to monitor our brains in real time. Well, according to Zack of the Brainwaves blog, we will be able to do exactly that in 2015:
Nano-imaging techniques will make possible real-time analysis of neuro-molecular level events in the human brain. The brain imaging bottleneck will be broken around 2015.

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Anti Obesity Vaccine

Anti-obesity vaccine.

US scientists have developed an anti-obesity vaccine that significantly slowed weight gain and cut body fat in animals.

Mature male rats that received the jab ate normally yet gained less weight and had less body fat, reports the Daily Telegraph.

The vaccine, described by an American team in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may be especially important to stop "yo-yo dieting".

The vaccine acts against ghrelin, a naturally occurring hormone that helps to regulate energy balance in the body.

Prof Kim Janda of the Scripps Research Institute, California, said: "Our study is the first published evidence proving that preventing ghrelin from reaching the central nervous system can produce a desired reduction in weight gain."

According to the World Health Organization, about one billion people worldwide are overweight or obese.

Prof Janda told The Daily Telegraph: "We could speed quickly into human trials, maybe in a year, but we are going to be more cautious."

Not sure how serious to take this one. The Genotrim solution to obesity that I posted about half a year ago is said by some to be a scam.

That scam link is, unfortunately, in Dutch. Pulling it through a translator gave me an error, which is also unfortunate.

Luckily I've got common sense though. Genotrim was supposed to be on Oprah and there was supposed to be shown proof that it worked. More than half a year has gone by, and I haven't seen anything yet.

I'm sure we'll see a solution to obesity sometime in the future. Say... in the coming biotech era which is ready to take off anytime now. But in the meantime, it's important to keep applying common sense to all media coverage on 'obesity solutions'.


Th article Obesity Vaccine Looks Promising has some more details than the one I linked to above.
Researchers are reporting progress toward what would be a dream come true for many Americans: a vaccine to prevent obesity.

The target of this vaccine is ghrelin, a recently discovered hormone that decreases energy expenditure and fat breakdown. Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in California reported in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they have developed a way to make the immune system produce antibodies that attack ghrelin, and that rats given the vaccine ate normally but lost weight.

"We have enabled the immune system to recognize a molecule that it ordinarily won't recognize," explained study author Kim D. Janda, a professor of chemistry at Scripps.

The immune system thus produced antibodies that bound to and deactivated ghrelin, just as vaccines against diseases caused by bacteria or viruses bind to and inactivate them.

Mice given shots of the vaccine ate just as much as untreated mice but had "about a 20 or 30 percent reduction in weight gain," Janda said.


His best guess is that a first human trial is "about two years" away. The Scripps group is looking to link up with a major pharmaceutical company to help develop a usable vaccine, Janda said.

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Monday, July 31, 2006

SENS Withstands Three Challenges : $20,000 Remains Unclaimed

If you don't know who Aubrey de Grey is and what SENS is, you should first read The Quest For Immortality.

SENS Withstands Three Challenges : $20,000 Remains Unclaimed.

The science magazine Technology Review has released the results of the SENS Challenge, which was established to test the validity of SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence), the brainchild of longevity researcher Dr. Aubrey de Grey. SENS lays out a detailed engineering approach to alleviating and eventually reversing the debilitation caused by aging. Following a controversial profile of de Grey published by Technology Review in 2005, Dr. de Grey’s charitable foundation, the Methuselah Foundation, and Technology Review jointly offered $10,000 each to establish the SENS Challenge. This $20,000 purse would be awarded to qualified experts who could demonstrate that SENS was “so wrong that it was unworthy of learned debate”.

An eminent panel of judges, comprising Rodney Brooks, PhD, director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; Anita Goel, MD and PhD, founder and chief executive of Nanobiosym; Vikram Kumar, MD, cofounder and chief executive of Dimagi, and a pathologist at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston; Nathan Myhrvold, PhD, cofounder and chief executive of Intellectual Ventures, and former chief technologist at Microsoft; and J. Craig Venter, PhD, founder of the Venter Institute and developer of whole-genome shotgun sequencing, which sped up the human genome project, deliberated over the three serious submissions and has now delivered its verdict.

The judges’ unanimous opinion is summed up by Dr. Myhrvold, who observed: “Some scientists react very negatively toward those who seek to claim the mantle of scientific authority for ideas that have not yet been proved. Estep et al. seem to have this philosophy. They raise many reasons to doubt SENS. Their submission does the best job in that regard. But at the same time, they are too quick to engage in name-calling, labeling ideas as 'pseudo-scientific' or 'unscientific' that they cannot really demonstrate are so. We need to remember that all hypotheses go through a stage where one or a small number of investigators believe something and others raise doubts.”

The summary:

Aubrey de Grey wants to solve the aging process with his SENS program. Because the idea of immortality is so controversial, SENS has received much criticism, depite having solid science to back it up.

In order to increase SENS's credibility, the SENS challenge was created a year ago. Anybody who can show that SENS is so wrong that it is unworthy of serious attention from the scientific community, can win $20.000 dollars.

A few groups have tried to debunk SENS and have failed, causing SENS's credibility to go up.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Future Of Computers (6)

CNNMoney recently had 3 very interesting articles that let us in on the future of computers. I simply could not resist sharing these with all of you.

Quantum leap.

Brain prosthetics. Telepathy. Punctual flights. A futurist's vision of where quantum computers will take us.

She awakes early on the morning of April 10, 2030, in the capable hands of her suburban Chicago apartment. All night, microscopic sensors in her bedside tables have monitored her breathing, heart rate, and brain activity.

The tiny blood sample she gave her bathroom sink last night has been analyzed for free radicals and precancerous cells; the appropriate preventative drugs will be delivered to her hotel in Atlanta this evening. It's an expensive service, but as a gene therapist, Sharon Oja knows it's worth it.


Computers everywhere: Their most common prediction is that we will see - or rather, we won't see - computers everywhere, painted onto walls, in chairs, in your body, communicating with one another constantly and requiring no more power than that which they can glean from radio frequencies in the air.

'I won't have to remember anything': Exponentially smarter computers also raise the possibility of achieving a couple of computer science's long-held goals: a human-brain-imitating neural network and true (or near-true) artificial intelligence. "This is going to be my mental prosthesis," says UCLA's Yablonovitch. "Everything I want to know, I can look up. Everything I can forget, I can find. I'm going to get old, but it won't matter. I won't have to remember anything."

Computers in your headband: Of all the scientists' visions of the quantum future, Wolf's may be the most out-there. "The vision is that we don't have a laptop anymore," Wolf says. "We don't have a cellphone. We wear it. It's a headband. And instead of having a screen, we have direct coupling into the right side of the brain."

Coming soon: Google on your brain.
Down the road we're probably going to have access to something approaching all information all the time. Our lives - much longer by then because of the implications of this for medical care - will be enriched, even as our behavior will be very unlike how we live today.

Already much of our software and data is moving to giant remote servers connected to the Internet. Our photos, music, software applications like Microsoft Word, and just about everything else we use a computer for will be accessible to us wherever we go.

The other huge, and related, move of the moment is toward ultimate mobility. Several trends are taking us there. The cellphone is becoming more like a PC while the PC is becoming more like a cellphone. In short, the next great era of computing - succeeding the PC one - will likely be about smaller, cheaper, more-powerful portable devices.

If you wonder how devices can get smaller and yet replace the PC, keep in mind that a major innovation we're seeing right now is vastly-improved voice-recognition software. While it only works on the fast processors of a PC today, the inexorable growth of computing power will soon take that kind of power into your cellphone. So long keyboard!

Surfing the Web with nothing but brainwaves.
Someday, keyboards and computer mice will be remembered only as medieval-style torture devices for the wrists. All work - emails, spreadsheets, and Google searches - will be performed by mind control.

If you think that's mind-blowing, try to wrap your head around the sensational research that's been done on the brain of one Matthew Nagle by scientists at Brown University and three other institutions, in collaboration with Foxborough, Mass.-based company Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems. The research was published for the first time last week in the British science journal Nature.

Nagle, a 26-year-old quadriplegic, was hooked up to a computer via an implant smaller than an aspirin that sits on top of his brain and reads electrical patterns. Using that technology, he learned how to move a cursor around a screen, play simple games, control a robotic arm, and even - couch potatoes, prepare to gasp in awe - turn his brain into a TV remote control. All while chatting amiably with the researchers. He even learned how to perform these tasks in less time than the average PC owner spends installing Microsoft Windows.


Already, the Brown researchers say, this kind of technology can enable a hooked-up human to write at 15 words a minute - half as fast as the average person writes by hand. Remember, though, that silicon-based technology typically doubles in capacity every two years.

So if improved hardware is all it takes to speed up the device, Cyberkinetics' chip could be able to process thoughts as fast as speech - 110 to 170 words per minute - by 2012. Imagine issuing commands to a computer as quickly as you could talk.

But who would want to get a brain implant if they haven't been struck by a drastic case of paralysis? Leaving aside the fact that there is a lucrative market for providing such profoundly life-enhancing products for millions of paralyzed patients, it may soon not even be necessary to stick a chip inside your skull to take advantage of this technology.

These are three lengty articles, but they are well worth the read.

This post is part of an ongoing series. To read the rest, see The Future of Computers (5).

Also see Extremely Fast Computers In Our Near Future.

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