Imagine that you could toss an object such as a wrench into a container filled with tiny robots and, within seconds, the robots would “sense” the shape of the wrench and bind to each other to form a replica of the tool. Creating robots that could turn this sci-fi-like scenario into reality is the goal of an MIT team led by Professor Daniela Rus. They call the technology Smart Sand.
The project still has a long way to go. The robots the researchers have developed consist of relatively large cubes, each 12 millimeters on a side, but the team hopes to be able to shrink the modules in the future. In the mean time, the group is addressing another challenge: How to convey the shape of an object to lots of modules that have limited computational resources.
Quantum physics and plant biology seem like two branches of science that could not be more different, but surprisingly they may in fact be intimately tied.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and the Notre Dame Radiation Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame used ultrafast spectroscopy to see what happens at the subatomic level during the very first stage of photosynthesis. “If you think of photosynthesis as a marathon, we’re getting a snapshot of what a runner looks like just as he leaves the blocks,” said Argonne biochemist David Tiede. “We’re seeing the potential for a much more fundamental interaction than a lot of people previously considered.”
While different species of plants, algae and bacteria have evolved a variety of different mechanisms to harvest light energy, they all share a feature known as a photosynthetic reaction center. Pigments and proteins found in the reaction center help organisms perform the initial stage of energy conversion.
These pigment molecules, or chromophores, are responsible for absorbing the energy carried by incoming light. After a photon hits the cell, it excites one of the electrons inside the chromophore. As they observed the initial step of the process, Argonne scientists saw something no one had observed before: a single photon appeared to excite different chromophores simultaneously.
"The behavior we were able to see at these very fast time scales implies a much more sophisticated mixing of electronic states," Tiede said. "It shows us that high-level biological systems could be tapped into very fundamental physics in a way that didn’t seem likely or even possible.”
Stop for a moment and think about your favorite science fiction stories.
For example, there are the two most popular science fiction franchises of all time: Star Wars and Star Trek. Both of them have brought in billions of dollars through movies, syndication, books and merchandise.
There are popular TV shows — everything from Lost in Space to Battlestar Galactica. There are the big movies like I, Robot and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
From the world of video games there are incredibly popular titles like Halo and Half-life.
And then there are the well-known science fiction books like Brave New World, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Ringworld and Neuromancer.
In other words, you have a very large body of work to choose from when it comes to science fiction.
Here is something that fascinates me. In all of these major science fiction stories there is one universal thread. There is one thing that they all have in common.
In every one of these science fiction stories, human beings have bodies.
No matter how much technology is available in the imagined civilization, no matter how advanced things have gotten, human beings still use the fragile, oh-so-easily-damaged biological bodies that we are born with.
Music and paying the gas bill have been digitalized, so you knew this was next. How can we stop abusing the environment, give ourselves superintelligence, and live forever? H+ Magazine on the inevitable necessity of switching from spongy flesh brains to uploaded ones:
“The finding comes in the wake of the founding of Planetary Resources, a venture backed by Avatar director James Cameron, which aims to mine asteroids for their wealth. Asterank is based on publicly available information – and aims to catalogue the enormous wealth in the solar system, and also how little is currently known about what lies out there. The 100-mile wide 241 Germania wouldn’t be a likely target for Planetary Resources, however – it’s too far away, in the solar system’s main asteroid belt.”
Imagine going to the grocery store in 25 years in your sleek new auto-drive car: You hop in, voice the destination and off you go. The quiet, electric-powered vehicle drops you off at the supermarket entrance, then auto-parks itself while you shop. As you exit the store, your car drives to the entrance, picks you up and returns home. You marvel at this incredible car that can also run errands without you on board.
Despite world car population approaching a billion, the economy has devastated the auto industry. To revive their failing businesses and address growing concerns over environmental damages and rising auto accidents, car makers are going electric and adding more safety features.
Experts predict that by 2020, 4 million electric vehicles will be on the road, and by 2050, nearly all cars will run on electricity, ending world dependency on gasoline.
And high-tech amenities are in demand. Today, many new vehicles sold in the U.S. boast Electronic Stability Control; a system that enables drivers to control vehicles in extreme dangerous conditions.
Immaculate doll-face, globulous breasts, teeny waist, slender limbs, vacant ice-blue eyes, long platinum hair - Valeria Lukyanova of Odessa, Ukraine, has re-designed her physical form to resemble Barbie, the plastic Mattel toy. Is the result “beautiful”? Critics screech that she’s “creepy” and “lifeless” with an “uncanny valley” absence of sexuality, but… let’s not kid ourselves here.
The 5’ 7” 21-year-old Plastic Fantastic internet sensation is lauded as extraordinarily desirable - an ideal female aesthetic - by thousands of commenters and 215,000+ “Like” clickers on her Facebook page that’s only 24 days old. Plus she’s been awarded mainstream attention by Forbes, HuffingtonPost, Daily Mail, Fox News, ABC News, New York Daily News, and International Business Times. Eventually, millions of wide-eyed adorers will gaze greedily at the 11,00 photos of her already online.
“Barbie” - the doll - has been castigated since her development in 1959 as a female caricature with impossible-to-attain proportions. Valeria hasn’t precisely copied her mentor’s dimensions - she’d need a 39-18-33 ratio at 6’ in height - but her curves - created via dozens of nips, tucks and lifts at the supposed cost of $800,000 - resemble the plastic icon close enough to re-animate the original prepubescent lust of many grown males, who secretly undressed, long ago, the dolls of their sisters.
Does the emergence of this life-size Barbie clone represent the future of cosmetic enhancement? Will other girls/women follow in the faux-Barbie’s slim pointy footsteps? Will thousands of ribs be removed to achieve the minuscule belly? (Valerie’s goal, she claims, is to be photosynthetic, a sun-eater, avoiding digestion entirely.) Will millions of chins and cheeks be chiseled to achieve her dainty visage? Will breasts world-wide be pumped up to impersonate her pontoon mammaries?
The answer to these questions is Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes they already have. Truth is, Miss Lukyanova’s plagiarism of a hottie icon trails South Korea’s idol-mimicry by at least half a decade. In Seoul - widely regarded as the world capital of plastic surgery - cosmetic enhancement is avidly accepted by the masses, entrenched in the culture. An estimated 20% of all SK women between the ages of 19-49 have had “some work done.” Additionally, it’s popular in SK to get your features restructured so you can resemble a hallyu star. The phrase, “imitation is the highest form of flattery” is taken seriously in East Asia; fans who identify with a beautiful TV soap opera or K-pop star can fulfill their desire to look like Lee Young-Ae, Kim Hee-Sun, Song Hye-Gyo, or Han Ga-In, by scheduling appointments in the Gangnam district of Seoul, where over 400 plastic surgery clinics and skin-treatment centers are located.
Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a new way to fine-tune wireless power transfer (WPT) receivers, making the systems more efficient and functional. WPT systems hold promise for charging electric vehicles, electronic devices and other technologies.
Hyperconnected Bodies, the rising cloud of self-aware data
by Wildcat onMay 14, 2012
Of course it is natural to augment reality, we do it with our eyes and brains ever since perception got, in a poetic sense, hijacked by our imagination.
A plethora of new apps are here to help us keep track of everything. Sharing and benchmarking are becoming the casual reality applications of our lives, making the quantified-self the game changer that the concept claims to be. Designing the life you love and architecting your reality, seen as a design problem and not part of a psychological or philosophical quest, is where the crux of our times lies silently.
The sweet spot of interaction between people and technology resides in a very special place, maybe the new aesthetic but probably a self-aware map of tools and humans, making reality a new kind of platform. Does it make the story of our life an extraordinary experience, or will it make us instruments of our own demise?
Exploring this question is, I believe, the most salient point of our current civilization, for though we might be obsessed about the news of the moment, be it the economy or the political scene, it is the actual pixelated deconstruction of our moment by moment immediate reality that may or may not bring about that cherished idea of a life well lived.
It used to be that a life well lived was the subject matter of philosophy and then of psychology; perhaps now it is a matter of design. Not design as in ‘design the life you love,’ as some may desire to portray it, but design in the literal sense of the objects and apps we use.
The design of objects and applications used daily by millions of people all over the world, submitting the benchmarks they attain (or do not attain) to a mostly anonymous crowd, invents, a reality that is fundamentally augmented and shared to such an extent that it is no longer ‘ours,’ but a shared prototype of consciousness, or a consensual hallucination.
The implications are vast, serious, and probably under-emphasized. Acts of self tracking and self monitoring are not only acts of extensibility of our minds into objects, but also acts of inflicting data upon our own subjectified self. In this process we may unwittingly, and to some extent unknowingly, provide our minds with an alternative to self-reflection. I am uncertain whether the apparent cohesion and externalization of what used to be an introspective process of self-knowing via the application of monitoring and self-tracking devices improves our lives, or destroys a sense of fullness in which not everything is known.
Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a way to generate power using harmless viruses that convert mechanical energy into electricity.
The generator produces enough current to operate a small liquid-crystal display. It works by tapping a finger on a postage stamp-sized electrode coated with specially engineered viruses. The viruses convert the force of the tap into an electric charge.
As Blasco says, “aging is not currently regarded as a disease, but researchers tend increasingly to view it as the common origin of conditions like insulin resistance or cardiovascular disease, whose incidence rises with age. In treating cell aging, we could prevent these diseases.”
With regard to the therapy under testing, Bosch explains: “Because the vector we use expresses the target gene (telomerase) over a long period, we were able to apply a single treatment. This might be the only practical solution for an anti-‐aging therapy, since other strategies would require the drug to be administered over the patient’s lifetime, multiplying the risk of adverse effects.”
Advances in telerobotics are in high gear here on Earth, enabling scientists to plumb the deepest oceans, extract resources from dangerous mines and even carry out high-precision surgery from thousands of miles away.
Now researchers are considering ways to adopt and adapt telerobotics for…
The liberation of people through technology, and the liberation of technology from the oppressive forces that want to control it, is part of the pirate DNA. This will be reflected at some point in actual policies of the Pirate Party, the party of the future.
I think it’s likely that with technology we can in the fairly near future create or become creatures of more than human intelligence. Such a technological singularity would revolutionize our world, ushering in a posthuman epoch. If it were to happen a million years from now, no big deal. So what do I mean by ”fairly near” future? In my 1993 essay, ”The Coming Technological Singularity,” I said I’d be surprised if the singularity had not happened by 2030. I’ll stand by that claim, assuming we avoid the showstopping catastrophes—things like nuclear war, superplagues, climate crash—that we properly spend our anxiety upon.
In that event, I expect the singularity will come as some combination of the following:
The AI Scenario: We create superhuman artificial intelligence (AI) in computers.
The IA Scenario: We enhance human intelligence through human-to-computer interfaces—that is, we achieve intelligence amplification (IA).
The Biomedical Scenario: We directly increase our intelligence by improving the neurological operation of our brains.
The Internet Scenario: Humanity, its networks, computers, and databases become sufficiently effective to be considered a superhuman being.
The Digital Gaia Scenario: The network of embedded microprocessors becomes sufficiently effective to be considered a superhuman being.
The latest issue of IEEE Spectrum, a journal for speculative engineering geeks, is devoted to “the singularity,” that moment when our society changes so dramatically that it becomes incomprehensible to people who lived in the past.
Light Touch Keeps a Grip On Delicate Nanoparticles
ScienceDaily (May 4, 2012) — Using a refined technique for trapping and manipulating nanoparticles, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have extended the trapped particles’ useful life more than tenfold. This new approach, which one researcher likens to “attracting moths,” promises to give experimenters the trapping time they need to build nanoscale structures and may open the way to working with nanoparticles inside biological cells without damaging the cells with intense laser light.