December 22, 2006

2007 a big year for robots

MIT technology review shows 2007 will be another big year for robots There will be more of them doing non-industrial work, they will get physically stronger, safer, drive better and Microsoft is making a developers kit for them.

December 21, 2006

Regenerating teeth and bone structure

Stem cells used to grow teeth in animal models

Utilizing stem cells harvested from the extracted wisdom teeth of 18- to 20-year olds, Shi and colleagues have created sufficient root and ligament structure to support a crown restoration in their animal model. The resulting tooth restoration closely resembled the original tooth in function and strength.

December 20, 2006

Prospects for room temperature superconductors

A pfd physics paper with a design for a room temperature superconductor

MgB2 is the superconductor with the highest critical temperature for a phonon-mediated superconductor. The superconductors with higher critical temperatures are the high temperature cuprates. The high temperature cuprates do not have a good theory to explain them. There is a good theory for phonon-mediated. This is used in the paper to describe a molecular architecture design of a room temperature superconductor. It will be hard to actually make it.

Andrei Mourachkine wrote a book in 2004 with ideas for making room temperature superconductors It involves various ways of bringing together molecular science and superconductivity. This is a link to a pdf copy of the book

Wikipedia entry on room temperature superconductors

Service science research

From IEEE spectrum, IBM is making a major research effort into services science. The goal is to measureably improve service productivity.

Paul Maglio, a senior manager at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, says his services group has grown from nine people in December 2002 to more than 70 now. He estimates that 550 of IBM’s 3000-plus researchers are working on services, either directly with clients or as part of teams running company projects. Maglio says the skill mix of IBM research will continue to shift as the labs hire ever more anthropologists, sociologists, and economists.

IBM isn’t alone. Last year Intel Corp., in Santa Clara, Calif., announced that it, too, was hiring anthropologists and social scientists to help in its product development.

IBM has been aggressively promoting a new academic discipline it calls services science, management, and engineering (SSME).

IBM’s research in business consulting “tends to be much more mathematical,” tailored to specific industries and involving supply-chain optimization, logistics optimization, data management, and data analytics. All of those, he says, are “aimed at helping our clients improve their business processes and their approaches to markets.”

Further Reading:
IBM's services science, management, and engineering group

Business Weeks article on services science

The university of Berkeley's service science department

The effort to develop and productize new scientifically based services

IBM service science recommended reading list

Hacking the nervous system

An early milestone on the path to reverse engineering the brain for the purposes of Artificial Intelligence and achieving the singularity is "" target=blank>hacking the nervous system for military purposes. The simplest aspects are using electromagnetic beams to trigger various nerves to create pain, feeling cold or hot or other sensations. Next would be trigger muscle responses for Taser like effects or other actions. More complicated would be to create and then control hallucinations.

December 19, 2006

State of cognitive enhancement

A pdf by Nick Bostrom and Anders Sandberg that surveys the state of cognitive enhancement in 2006

Nick Bostrom's website

The paper reviews ways to train ourselves to be more intelligent/expert, drugs for enhancement /nootropic drugs, genetic modification, enhancing devices like computers, and brain /computer interfaces.

I think collaboration and collective productivity as in corporations has been somewhat discounted but communication and tool advancement could also make interesting breakthroughs in that area.

An older paper by nick Bostrom talks about the basic computational power needed for human level intelligence. Our most power supercomputers are in the middle of that estimated range. AI software lags. Access to the supercomputers for this purpose was lagging but there is the brain institute project .

Fairly large scale brain simulation projects have begun. 10,000 neurons were simulated. However, the project is not for artificial intelligence but to study brain structure The Brain Institute at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Zurich, researchers have built neocortical columns using supercomputing systems from SGI and IBM. They have a IBM Blue gene/L supercomputer with a peak speed of at least 22.8 Teraflops using 8000 processors. They think it will 10-15 years for the hardware to advance to a full brain simulation using their approach If Ovonic cognitive control devices are successfully developed this could happen sooner as they are more neuron like. Also, the use of GPUs and other hardware enhancements could accelerate hardware advancement

Red Herring discusses other cognitive computing projects that are started or being discussed The biggest being discussed is the Decade of the mind project. James Albus, senior fellow at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, says the NIST plans a project dubbed Decade Of The Mind, which calls for handing out up to $4 billion in funding to companies or universities doing research in mind-based computing.

Artificial Development is building CCortex, an simulation of the Human Cortex and peripheral systems, running on a computer cluster. They do not seem well funded enough to meet their ambitious goals.

There is also Steve Chen's Third brain project to create a biosupercomputer

If we project forward 10 years. It seems a strong possibility is that we could have far better understanding of the human brain and systems that are 10,000 times more powerful and various means to enhance human intelligence by 2 to 100 times without triggering a real superintelligence that is not "strong superintelligence. I foresee "weak superintelligence", which is human intelligence at high speed could provide an evolving pathway to strong superintelligence. It could be a safer path. Many could have access to "weak superintelligence" in the form of tighter coupling to advance computers and nootropic and genetic enhancement. Some in the singularity AI world have indicated that darwinian dynamics would not apply I think the software end is lagging and we will get "weak superintelligence" first and for an extended period. During this extended period darwinian dynamics would be applicable.

If the optimization of intelligence is speeding up and automating normal intelligence with the occasional insight into superior processes, then we would have a broadly advancing wave to strong superintelligence. This would not have many of the dangers that other foresee.

Scroll down slightly from this link and you will see a diagram of AGI plotted as an exponential line against a flat line for human intelligence. Widespread augmentation would make the human intelligence line one that is increasing as well

The danger has been expressed as a scenario where one superintelligence so outclasses all others that it rapidly reaches breakthrough after breakthrough so that its lead rapidly increases and becomes untouchable before any others can detect or respond while response would be effective. Leaving all at the mercy of the one superAI.

In comparing this to money, the superAI danger is like there exists an intelligence motherload (a buried mountain of gold which would be equal to a general theory of intelligence that leads to a far more rapid iterative intelligence improvement). Get to it and you are superrich while others are peasants. Alternatively if everyone (or large numbers) is able to get richer at a fast pace it would be more difficult for one to get dominance.

If we have a world of augmented intelligence then an important element (then as now)is securing vital resources. Getting your intelligence augment contaminated or pirated or turned against you would be bad.


More reading:
Michael Anissimov on friendly AI

Michael Anissimov tracking AGI projects and work

List of AGI projects in 2006

Nanowelding nano-electronics

Researchers in Switzerland have developed a new technique for joining nanotubes. One technique, called "nanorobotic" spot welding, uses molten copper to join up objects in the same way that a human electrician might use solder. They position 50-nanometre-wide carbon nanotube filled with copper inside a nanorobotic manipulator, and run a small voltage through it to melt the copper. The copper can be used to make electrical connections with low resistance. They could run a voltage through a structure of nanotubes put together by self assembly or using electric fields. However, only a very small number of labs in the world have access to nanorobotic manipulators.

Gordeev, along with colleagues in the UK have developed another nanowelding method that only requires an electron microscope and turns carbon contaminants into amorphous carbon. The electron beam transforms tiny amounts of carbon-based contaminants into amorphous carbon. The amorphous carbon is similar to diamond. They create any 3D shape by varying the beam and rotating the target. 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.

December 18, 2006

MSN's anti-aging advice

MSN health and fitness gives anti-aging advice

0. Mentioned is do not smoke
1. Stay the weight you were at 18
2. Take 800 mg of alpha-lipoic acid and 2,000 mg of acetyl-L-carnitine to boost mitocondria
3. Skip a meal for calorie restriction lite (skip breakfast every day OR fast for one day a week) but drink a lot of water
4. Get a pet to help reduce stress
5. Get help for what hurts. Chronic pain is bad for immune system
6. Take a hike (30 minutes 5 days a week)
7. Fight fair
8. Gardening helps
9. Lift weights 2 or 3 days a week, for a minimum of 30 minutes
10. Do a good deed
and 15 others

Here are the top seven steps you can take to stay young:

Take brisk walks
Keep your waist trim
Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables
Strength-train a few times a week
Get enough sleep (most people need 7 or 8 hours nightly)
Manage your stress
Keep a positive outlook

related reading:
Newsweek reviews resveratrol

New state of matter quantum spin Hall state could make better computers

three Stanford researchers proposed that a new state, called the quantum spin Hall effect, could be realized without applying an external magnetic field.

Since quantum wells in mercury telluride/cadmium telluride sheets can be readily fabricated, it is possible to experimentally test the theoretical predictions of Zhang, Bernevig and Hughes. A research group at the University of Würzburg in Germany, under the direction of Professor Laurens Molenkamp, is currently doing this.

If the theory pans out, the quantum spin Hall effect may eventually inspire room-temperature devices with new capabilities. Zhang notes the potential for getting around a well-known roadblock of the electronics industry, the dictum saying the number of transistors fitting on a computer chip will double every 18 months: ''Transistors built based on the quantum spin Hall effect are expected to dissipate far less heat compared to conventional transistors, thus paving the way for extending Moore's law.''

In fact, hoping to turn Zhang's vision into a commercial reality, the Microelectronics Advanced Research Corporation, a consortium of leading U.S. semiconductor companies, has started to fund his research on the quantum spin Hall effect.

Samsung's Plan for Terabit Flash Memory

Researchers at Samsung, one of the leading producers of flash-memory chips, recently announced a new chip that can hold twice as much data as before, and without an increase in its footprint on a circuit board. They were able to double the data capacity by building chips with multiple layers of silicon, creating 3-D structures. At the International Electron Device meeting in San Francisco last week, lead researcher Soon-Moon Jung said that by combining today's chip-making processes with the new 3-D design, they could build a one-terabit flash chip composed of eight layers of silicon.

Because flash-memory chips are made with silicon, their storage capacity has consistently increased, while chip size has shrunk. But, like microprocessors, flash memory will face fabrication hurdles in the next few years. Right now, the features on many flash-memory chips are about 60 nanometers wide. Some engineers estimate that today's lithography systems, used to pattern and carve out these features, will only be able to keep shrinking them until about 2009. And even then, the chips face physical limitations. Samsung's Jung says that with features smaller than 30 nanometers, electrical charges stored in a flash-memory cell will start to leak, meaning data will be lost.

So the Samsung researchers set out to find a way to use existing fabrication technology to increase flash capacity. Jung says that two elements were key: minimizing the amount of extra area used for their stacking architecture, and keeping the number of extra fabrication steps to a minimum, so as not to drive up costs.

Although Samsung didn't offer a specific timeline for its 3-D flash memory, Jung says that it could "be rapidly deployed because it can fully utilize existing 2-D planar technology. The prototype memory chip announced in San Francisco is still in its early stages and only has a capacity of 32 bits. Still, the results are encouraging. "I think it's an interesting demonstration of concept," says Subramanian. "The fact that they got it to work and they're getting very good electrical data, and the fact that the multiple layers built on top of each other work pretty nicely, is attractive."

Yet Subramanian cautions that the technology for 3-D flash still needs to prove its manufacturability. Even with Samsung's results, adding layers of silicon increases the number of steps in the process and ultimately makes the chip more expensive. "Flash memory is very driven by price, and it's a very cutthroat business," he says.

Further reading:
possible flash memory replacement phase change memory

Ovonic cognitive computer possible transistory replacement from the inventor of phase change memory

Evolution of Space Fusion Propulsion from ICF to Z pinch

James Benford a space engineer who worked on the problem of trying to use fusion for space propulsion indicates in comments related to project Daedalus

The Daedalus concept was based on the electron-beam-driven inertial confinement fusion (ICF) concept introduced by Friedhart Winterberg around 1970 and peaked around the time of the BIS study. That means it didn’t last long. The reasons were primarily fuel pre-heat, but there were others. The successor concept, ion beam-driven ICF, lasted much longer, until the imploded wire Z-pinch succeeded in producing radiation powers so high they can, if scaled, produce implosion of a ‘pill’ of D-T to produce fusion. It now competes with lasers (the NIF). By any measure of technical merit, the Z-pinch should win out. For fusioneers, this is nostalgic; Z’s were the first fusion concept (the gas discharge type) and now the wire version is likely to succeed, far more likely than the behemoth Tokamaks (the ITER).

related reading:
Minimag orion work with z-pinches for space propulsion

metamaterial gives Visible light negative refraction

The race to build an exotic material with a negative refractive index for visible light has been won by a team of researchers in Germany. The demonstration could open the door to a new generation of optical devices such as superlenses able to see details finer then the wavelength of visible light.

Dolling's metamaterial is made by depositing a layer of silver on a glass sheet, covering this with a thin layer of nonconducting magnesium fluoride, followed by another silver layer, forming a sandwich 100 nm thick. Dolling then etched an array of square holes through the sandwich to create a grid, similar to a wire mesh.

Dolling determined the refractive index of the material by measuring the "phase velocity" of light as it passed through. His measurements show the structure has a negative refractive index of -0.6 for light with a wavelength of 780 nm.

This value drops to zero at 760 nm and 800 nm, and becomes positive at longer and shorter wavelengths. Previously, the shortest wavelength at which a negative refractive index had been demonstrated was 1400 nm.

The team has not yet observed some of the other exotic effects possible with a negative refractive index, such as the ability to bend light backwards. However, simulations show that negative-index lenses should produce exotic effects over a limited range of wavelengths. For now, Dolling is concentrating on studying the new effects rather than attempting to build devices such as superlenses.

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