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Radically Inept
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
  Making up for Science Monday omissions

The following articles come via the KurzweilAI.net Newsletter.

The Mozart Effect
New Scientist:
"Rats that heard a Mozart sonata expressed higher levels of several genes involved in stimulating and changing the connections between brain cells, the study showed. The team, including the researcher who first proposed the Mozart effect, hope the results will help them design music therapy treatments for people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

The Mozart effect first came to light in a 1993 paper in Nature (vol 365, p 611), when Fran Rauscher, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, US, and colleagues showed that college students who listened to Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major for 10 minutes performed better on a spatial reasoning test than students who listened to new age music or nothing at all...[

]...The researchers found that these smarter rats had increased gene expression of BDNF, a neural growth factor, CREB, a learning and memory compound, and synapsin I, a synaptic growth protein, in their hippocampus, as compared to control rats who had listened to equivalent amounts of white noise.

"The findings are intriguing," says Howard Gardner, an IQ expert at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and sceptic of the Mozart effect. "It suggests stimulation in general has measurable neurochemical effects. But whether this effect is due to music, let alone Mozart, still has to be determined." Other experiments have shown that enriching a rat's environment with toys can spur growth of new neurons...[

]...Patients with Alzheimer's disease perform better on spatial and social tasks after listening to the sonata. And playing Mozart for severely epileptic patients quietens the electrical activity associated with seizures, while other kinds of music do not.
Damn, and I'm listening to the Cure.

Communicating at Light Speed
Arutz 7:
"Israeli researchers working at Intel's plant in Israel have developed a new chip technology that will speed up the flow of information to the speed of light. The Israeli-developed electro-optical chipsets are based on silicon wafers capable of converting electronic signals to optic signals within the chips. The new chip will enable communication to be conducted at the speed of light - some ten times faster than the present speed.

The development could potentially revolutionize computing and telecommunications as we know it. Intel has not yet completed its planning for production of the new optical devices, but it is considering doing so at its Kiryat Gat facility (located in Israel's southern region). The mass production of the electro-optical chipsets is not expected to cost any more than that of the standard electronic chips."
Sadly, I'm sure the first people to use it will be advertisers and marketers. Oh, and I guess Intel is at least one company that is investing in Israel. I wonder if their employees get paid danger pay, and if Intel is planning to open up any facilities in Iraq?

Molecules to replace human laborers on the assembly lineBW Online | May 3, 2004 | Online Extra: Getting Molecules To Do The Work:
"MAKING HEADWAY. For now, making such complicated things this way is obviously science fiction. But the idea behind self-assembly is very much here, right now. Mother Nature has used self-assembly for eons to create and foster life. Mankind already uses it to make nonwrinkle trousers, fragrances, and silver polish. And it's used in microelectronics and for making anticorrosion coatings. And even in drugmaking, it's about to take off, says Mihail Roco, chair of the Nanoscale Science, Engineering & Technology Subcommittee of the National Science & Technology Committee, which coordinates the federal government's nanotech research and development efforts.

That's because scientists recently have made so much headway in designing artificial molecules that self-assemble in a predictable pattern -- an outgrowth of steady increases in research funding for such projects worldwide.

About one-quarter of the 2,000 or so nanotechnology projects the National Science Foundation now sponsors involve self-assembly -- and funding for nanotechnology should grow about 20% year-over-year, to $305 million, in fiscal 2005, says Roco. Total federal nanotech funding through a program called the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which Roco helps coordinate, should reach nearly $1 billion next year.

NO LONGER IMPOSSIBLE. Even that figure is likely to be overshadowed by private funding. Everyone from drug companies such as Merck (MRK ) and Pfizer (PFE ) to tech whizzes 3M (MMM ), IBM (IBM ), and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ ) is investing heavily in self-assembly.

Their interest is easy to understand: Self-assembly can make manufacturing fast and cheap. In theory, anyway, humans will be able to simply design artificial molecules that assemble in a desired pattern -- and let nature take its course. A bonus is that because self-assembly devices will be made from the bottom up, there'll be less waste, says Christine Peterson, president at the Foresight Institute, a nanotechnology-policy think tank in Palo Alto, Calif."
Really, why hire humans when these things can reproduce themselves. On the other hand:

Here comes the grey goo
Responsible Nanotechnology: Killed by Goo!:
"Here are three different ways gray goo might kill you, in ascending order of probability:

3. Tiny nanobots swarm over and disassemble your body, atom by atom. Chances of this occurring? Probably less than being struck by an asteroid. Theoretically it could happen, but don't worry about getting life insurance to cover it. We've written before that goo-type machines not only will be very difficult to design and build, but also that other malicious kinds of nanotech will be easier to make and more efficient to use.

2. Public worries over gray goo, fanned by ill-advised critics like Britain's Prince Charles and immoderate organizations like the ETC Group, lead to a ban on the development of molecular manufacturing technology in the United States and most of Europe. Predictably, this only allows nations with fewer scruples to develop and make use of the technology -- eventually selling ultra-lethal weapons capability to transnational terrorist organizations, who attack without warning. Instead of making a cumbersome gray goo, they simply send hundreds of millions of miniature super-computer-guided stealth aircraft to devastate every major city in the developed world. And that's how you die. Chances of this occurring? Higher than you might think.

1. Authoritative U.S. scientists and nano policy makers persist in their ridicule of gray goo scenarios and their dismissal of nanobots as 'impossible'. As a result, no policies dealing with the consequences of molecular manufacturing are debated and no attempt is made to cooperate on an international level with other potential developers of the technology. When, a few years later, it is discovered that a heretofore secret program in a non-aligned nation may be on the verge of a breakthrough, other major powers decide to jumpstart their own programs. Before long, several countries find themselves involved in a new, highly unstable, upwardly spiraling arms race. The next war -- truly the war that does end all wars -- ends your life, and billions of others. Chances of this occurring? Probably high, if present trends continue.

So goo itself won't kill you, but extreme reactions, whether of hysteria or of denial, just may.

Mike Treder"
I think I might have more immediate concerns.

And, speaking of more immediate concerns
Wired News: Flaw Could Cripple Entire Net:
"Researchers found a serious security flaw that left core Internet technology vulnerable to hackers, prompting a secretive effort by international governments and industry experts in recent weeks to prevent global disruptions of Web surfing, e-mails and instant messages.

Experts said the flaw, disclosed Tuesday by the British government, affects the underlying technology for nearly all Internet traffic. Left unaddressed, they said, it could allow hackers to knock computers offline and broadly disrupt vital traffic-directing devices, called routers, that coordinate the flow of data among distant groups of computers...[

...]The public announcement coincides with a presentation Watson expects to make Thursday at a popular Internet security conference in Vancouver, where Watson said he will reveal full details of his research.

Watson, who runs the Terrorist.net website, predicted that hackers will understand how to begin launching attacks "within five minutes of walking out of that meeting."

"It's fairly easy to implement," Watson said. "Someone walking out of the conference would immediately understand. No matter how vague I am, people will figure it out."
Great, just great.

Well, that's enough for today, got to track down a job.

 
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