April 27, 2006

other tech: powerful artificial eyes based on insect eyes

U.S. scientists say they've created super-powerful artificial eyes inspired by those of dragonflies and other insects. The artificial eyes are the first hemispherical, three-dimensional optical systems to integrate microlens arrays -- thousands of tiny lenses packed side by side -- with self-aligned, self-written "waveguides," which are light-conducting channels created by beams of light, Lee explained.

He and his colleagues also created a low-cost, easy-to-replicate technique of creating pinhead-sized polymer resin domes spiked with thousands of light-guiding channels, each topped with its own lens.

The Berkley eyes may eventually be used as cameras or sensory detectors to collect visual or chemical information from a far wider field of vision than is currently possible, Lee said.

Potential applications for the artificial compound eyes include surveillance; high-speed motion detection; environmental sensing; medical procedures (such as image-guided surgery) that require cameras; and clinical treatments that can be controlled by implanted light delivery devices.

April 25, 2006

Colonizing space : a lot of trips and a lot of stuff to move

Technologically we could colonize space using Orion rocket technology. We could have and could still land thousands of people and tens of thousands of tons of supplies and equipment. Making a viable self sustaining colony. It would take a president with 100 times the vision of Kennedy to have done this.

Costs have to come down for space and there needs to be a space based economy.
What is the economy for a moon colony ? Platinum maybe. helium three in the future. tourism.
The orbital economy, space based solar power, tourism and entertainment.

We have a longer wait for more countries and companies to get into the space game. this will make colonization and space more competitive and progress less dependent upon a now quite ineffective US government space program.

Reference on historical colonization.
About 350,000 people migrated to the Americas in the 1600's. 1.5 million in the 1700's. By 1670, There 500 crossings going up to 1500 by 1730. Each of the ships could carry up to 200 or so colonists. Many were moving tons goods back and forth. Various supplies one way and furs and other stuff the other way.

Point being: to colonize space. You have to make a lot of trips (or move a heck of lot of stuff in fewer trips) and move a lot of stuff and live off the resources that are there. Plus there should be economic reasons or strong societal reasons for it.

Other architectures for Singularity

The singularity is near is a book by Ray Kurzweil. He makes a casr which I will summarize as very fast computers become more powerful than the power of the raw human brain. Reverse engineer the brain will progress to avoid the software coding problem for artificial intelligence. Therefore,
(2 [computers exceed in raw] + 2 [reverse engineer to get around software problem]) * 1000,000,000 [60 more years of Moore's law or MNT) = Singularity

I do not doubt that we will have massively powerful computers.
I think we will get molecular nanotechnology.
I think we can then use it to complete the reserse engineering of the brain and make faster artificial neurons.

I am not sure how creatively productive and disruptive those systems will be or that the architecture will be one where there is just one general purpose artificial intelligence and that those artificial intelligences will not have people in the loop.

We currently have productivity enhancement and intelligence leveraging and intelligence and more efficient productivity pooling.
Systems such as Search engines, excel spreadsheets, narrow expert systems, supercomputer simulations etc... These systems help increase productivity and accelerate technological development and social change.

Specialized systems, written for a particular problem space by people who understand that problem space can have 1,000,000,000 times advantage or more over a general purpose system. I think we will see many of these super-specialized systems in the future and they will communicate and cooperate very well.

To someone from our vantage point they would look like one big super system, but from people and those systems point of view they will be many specialized systems. The difference will be in the dynamic of how they interact and the power structure. The one man renaissance AI versus the super symphony. The super symphony would still have a role for augmented humans. Plus the augmentation need not be borgification but more like the comic book Cerebro. Comic book references to the old brain helmets that augment the human mind. It has close but non-invasive communication between brain and machine.

Most singularity views are implicitly or explicitly assuming that other architectures are not as efficient or competitive. I do not think that will be case. I think many different approaches to augmentation and productivity will exist. Things like advanced software agents

Discussion of paths to the Singularity and AI research

A great deal of background and discussion at the Singularity Institute. I also think that there is a limit to rapidly an AI could exceed human ability to control it. So long as the systems upon they are based are vulnerable to electronic disruption (microwaves, e-bombs, etc...) and humans do not let AI systems improve their hardware without humans in the loop then a degree of control will be retained.

State of desalination

Other tech: holographic solar concentrators

April 24, 2006

Molecular actuator that detects the DNA sequence it attaches to and provides electronic indicator to silicon chip

This seems like more developments in possible transition and enabling technology for Molecular nanotechnology.

A protein is attached to a DNA strand with a magnetic bead, Hall sensors detect when the protein reaches the magnetic bead. ATP is added to move and power the protein.

Mol-switch connects biological world with silicon technology Specific sensors, which emit electrons, can tell if the biological motor is working, so the switch links the biological world with the silicon world of electronic signals. The team uses a microfluidics chip that includes a number of channels measured in nano-metres. The novelty of microfluidics is that it can channel liquids in laminar, or predictable, flow.

The floor of this channel is peppered with Hall-Effect sensors. The Hall Effect describes how a magnetic field influences an electric current. That influence can be measured to a high degree of accuracy. These measurements link the biological motor with the electronic signals of the silicon world.

The biological element of the device starts with a DNA molecule fixed to the floor of the microfluidic channel. This strand is held upright, like a string held up by a weather balloon, by anchoring the floating end of the DNA strand to a magnetic bead, itself held up under the influence of magnetism.

A specific type of protein, called a Restriction-Modification enzyme, provides one of the DNA motors. This type of DNA motor will only bind to a specific sequence of the DNA bases A, C, G and T. "This binding is very specific, a motor will bind only with its corresponding bases, so you can control exactly where the motor is placed on the vertical DNA strand," says Firman.

The motor is attached to the strand at the specific sequence of bases. Then the team introduces ATP, the phosphate molecule that provides energy within living cells, into the microfluidics channel. This is the fuel for the motor. The motor then pulls the upright DNA strand through it until it reaches the magnetic bead, like a winch lowering a weather balloon.

A Hall-Effect sensor can measure the vertical movement of the magnetic bead which indicates whether the switch is on or off. That, in an over-simplified nutshell, is the essence of the molecular switch, an actuator for the nano-scale world.

This is particularly important because a nano-scale actuator will be immensely useful. An actuator is a mechanism that supplies and transmits a measured amount of energy for the operation of another mechanism or system. It can be a simple mechanical device, converting various forms of energy to rotating or linear mechanical energy. Or it can convert mechanical action into an electrical signal. It works both ways.

"The light switch, the button that makes a retractable pen, all these are actuators, and by developing a molecular switch we've created a tiny actuator that could be used in an equally vast number of applications," says Firman.

The number of potential applications is staggering. They can be used for flow-control valves, pumps, positioning drives, motors, switches, relays and biosensors.

The system could be used to develop molecular circuits, or even molecular scale mechanical devices.

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