Radically Inept
Monday, April 05, 2004
  Science Mondays

Rather than make a bunch of separate posts, I'm going put the links I find most interesting from the KurzweilAI.net newsletter into this one post. And as I find more Science related articles today, I will just add them below, so that in fact, this single post will grow. It's organic posting?

PhysicsWeb - Physicists move closer to the quantum limit:
"The researchers positioned the arm about 600 nanometres away from a single-electron transistor - which acts as a motion detector - and coupled the two together via a capacitor. They then applied a voltage to make the arm vibrate and cooled the system down to a few millikelvin. Cooling the system to such low temperatures reduced thermal vibrations close to the point where just 'zero-point' quantum fluctuations remain. This zero-point motion results from the uncertainty principle, which prevents the arm from remaining completely at rest.

As the arm moved towards the detector, and then away from it, the amount of current flowing through the transistor changed. By measuring this current, the physicists were able to measure the displacement of the arm with a sensitivity that is only about a factor of 4.3 larger than the amplitude of zero-point fluctuations."

I saw an article concerning this in yesterday's AJC. I knew they were going to try to generate super computer power in a 'flash mob' type setting, but had lost track of the date. Anyway, they didn't get to their goal of breaking into the top 500 super computers, but I'd call it a qualified success non the less:

Computer networking event doesn't compute as planned:
"``It's something you can't practice,'' said Patrick Miller, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a part-time USF computer science professor, at midafternoon as the crew struggled with balky computers. ``You'll never find a thousand identical laptops . . . when you're begging and borrowing.''

By the end of the day, FlashMob was a partial success. The crew managed to get 256 computers working together at almost half the speed required for the top 500 status.

More important, the organizers demonstrated that their idea for bringing ordinary PCs together as a temporary supercomputer isn't an idle college daydream.

Modern supercomputers are made by clustering together hundreds or even thousands of the same processors used in PCs, then unleashing the behemoths to work on hugely complicated problems such as weather forecasting, designing new pharmaceuticals and making aerodynamically efficient automobiles.

Supercomputers cost millions or tens of millions of dollars, putting them beyond the reach of almost everyone except government agencies and giant corporations.

If the FlashMob software can be perfected, a typical mid-size corporation or university could have almost unlimited supercomputing time by tapping its existing PC network on nights and weekends.

USF is making its software freely available, and researchers from as far away as Australia and England are looking to stage their own FlashMob events.

The University of Virginia built the world's third-fastest supercomputer last year by purchasing 1,100 PowerMac G5 computers from Apple and wiring them together. That was relatively easy compared with Saturday's FlashMob, because the G5s were identical to each other -- so no hardware problem had to be solved more than once."
Okay, this isn't so much science related, as much as it points to the juncture of science, technology and politics: Bush Calls for Universal Broadband by 2007:
"President Bush has set a goal of broadband access for all Americans in three years to boost competitiveness with other nations and create new business opportunities at home.

'We ought to have a universal, affordable access for broadband technology by the year 2007, and then we ought to make sure as soon as possible thereafter, consumers have got plenty of choices when it comes to purchasing the broadband carrier,' Bush said during a recent campaign swing through the Southwest.

In addition to economic advantages of broadband, Bush said the technology could advance tele-medicine and distance learning.

For years, IT firms pushed plans to deliver high-speed Internet access rural areas not served by cable of digital subscriber line service, only to stumble in a thicket of questions, such as who would pay for the extension of infrastructure into rural areas?

Bush didn't raise the issue in his speech and an administration spokesman did not return a call seeking additional details."
Great idea, but just like the whole 'we're going to Mars thing', no follow through on how this should be financed, or even could done. That's a lot of cable to be laid in three years, and it's not like would be dealing with one company like the ol' Ma Bell, a monopoly that had significant power and political support during the rural electrification days.

On the other hand, Baby Bush has actually finally said something I agree with. Well, okay, there may have been one or two other things in the past, but they've been so long age, I don't remember them. Anyway, he said:
In his remarks, Bush also criticized some lawmakers for attempting to block a bill that makes the ban on Internet access taxes permanent.

"We don't need to tax access to broadband," Bush said. "The Congress must not tax access to broadband technology if we want to spread it around."
I think trying to tax access to the internet is an absolutely terrible, and totally unmanageable policy. As more and more items access the net, like cars, and phones and toaster ovens, this would become a tax collection nightmare.

Wow, another step toward designer diseases and/or cures I guess. For me, this is a troubling area. Certainly we shuld continue to do the research, my fear is the capacity to do massive harm is just that more readily availabel to nuts:KurzweilAI.net:
"Reuters, March 31, 2004

Scientists have completed the final analysis of chromosomes 19 and 13, a major step toward developing personalized antidotes.

Chromosome 19 has nearly 1,500 genes, including ones linked to inherited high cholesterol and insulin-resistant diabetes.

Chromosome 13 has 633 genes, including the BRCA2 gene, linked to breast cancer, and others for the eye tumor retinoblastoma, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia."
You better not be shootin' anything up my nose! KurzweilAI.net:
"NewScientist.com news, April 1, 2004

A new 'air cannon' device can track an individual, shoot an aroma directly at their nose, and leave the person next to them completely unaffected.

Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute in Kyoto, Japan developed it for directing evocative smells to people exploring virtual-reality environments.

The device tracks the person it is aiming at with a camera mounted on top, which follows the target's eyes. Software on a PC analyzes the video images and controls motors that steer the gun in three dimensions. Once it has a fix on the eyes, it aims low to direct the puff of air at the target's nose.

Marketing specialists could seize on the air cannon as a way of tempting shoppers by wafting the scent of the latest perfume or an expensive blend of coffee in their direction -- perhaps in conjunction with in-store video ads. Or street poster sites could fire ad-related odors at you as you wander past."
And, please, please keep this out of the hands of marketers. My wife can go into an asthma attack just from getting the mail due to the perfume samples they stick in the magazines. Of course, it might be that this is not the way they are used. My wife is not alone in these reactions, and I can just imagine the laws suits that will result from firing the 'wrong' scent at the 'wrong' person.

"Life! Life, I say!!" Okay, so this isn't about sewing dead body parts together and re-animating a corpse, but it sure has the potential to rock a lot of people's world views.Science on verge of new `Creation': South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
"Such concern is escalating as more than 100 laboratories study processes involved in the creation of life, and scientists say for the first time that they have just about all the pieces they need to begin making inanimate chemicals come alive.

Unlike any other technology invented by humans, creating artificial life will be as jarring to our concepts of ourselves as discovering living creatures on other planets in the universe would be. It also would bring into sharper focus the age-old questions of 'What is life?' and 'Where do we come from?'

'The ability to make new forms of life from scratch--molecular living systems from chemicals we get from a chemical supply store--is going to have a profound impact on society, much of it positive, but some of it potentially negative,' said Mark Bedau, professor of philosophy and humanities at Reed College in Portland, Ore., and editor-in-chief of the Artificial Life Journal.

'Aside from the vast scientific insights that will come, there will be vast commercial and economic benefits, so much so that it's hard to contemplate in concrete detail what many of them will be,' he said.

But the first artificial life also is likely to shock people's religious and cultural belief systems."

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