Monthly Archives: September 2005

Molecule Walks Like Man

Molecule Walks Like Man

After a nano motor, a nano elevator, nano-capsules (and a whole bunch of other, simple machines at the nanoscale), there is now a nanomachine that walks like a human.

From the article:

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A research team, led by UC Riverside’s Ludwig Bartels, is the first to design a molecule that can move in a straight line on a flat surface. It achieves this by closely mimicking human walking. The “nano-walker” offers a new approach for storing large amounts of information on a tiny chip and demonstrates that concepts from the world we live in can be duplicated at the nanometer scale – the scale of atoms and molecules.

“Similar to a human walking, where one foot is kept on the ground while the other moves forward and propels the body, our molecule always has one linker on a flat surface, which prevents the molecule from stumbling to the side or veering off course,” said Bartels, assistant professor of chemistry and a member of UCR’s Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering. “In tests, DTA took more than 10,000 steps without losing its balance once. Our work proves that molecules can be designed deliberately to perform certain dynamic tasks on surfaces.”

Even though this article stresses that this nano walker might be applied in storage technology, I think it’s pretty safe to conclude that advances like these will also help out nicely with realizing The Future Of Molecular Computing.

On Brain-Computer Interfaces

Here’s an interesting one…

Computer users move themselves with the mind

This is an excellent example of where exactly brain-reverse engineering is at this point in time. It’s much farther progressed than most people think. We actually know a whole lot about how our brain works.

Enough to have chimps move artificial arms, anyway…

From the article:

Computer scientists have created a hat that can read your thoughts. It allows you to stroll down a virtual street. All you have to do is think about walking.

Called a brain-computer interface, the device detects activity in certain brain areas linked to movement, and uses the signals to mimic that movement in a virtual world. The technology could one day help paralysed patients to move robotic arms, or help sufferers of motor neuron disease to type out words on a virtual keyboard.

“Just thinking about movement activates the same neurons as actually moving,” explains Gert Pfurtscheller of Graz University of Technology in Austria, who has been working on the device for around four years. By picking up on these bursts of nerve activity, the computer can decide whether you are thinking about moving your hands or feet, and react accordingly.

Interfaces such as these will definately come in handy once computers will start to become ever more mobile.

The Future Of Computers (3)

Sun President: PC’s are so yesterday

I’ve written about this before, in my blogpost entitled The Future Of Computers. PC’s aren’t with us for many more years… at least not in their current form. In my blogpost I wrote about how computer systems are shrinking.

Sun President Jonathan Schwartz has something else to say about the fate of the PC that now clutters up your desktop:

“The majority of the applications that will drive the next wave of innovation will be services, not applications that run on the desktop. The real innovation is occurring in the network and the network services,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz points to the increasing wealth and power of companies, like eBay, Google, Yahoo and Amazon.com, that profit from free services available over the network. Among his audience, many more people said they’d rather have access to Internet services than their desktop computing applications.

The threat to PCs is twofold. Not only are services moving to the network, Schwartz said, but PCs won’t be the way people use those services–particularly in poorer areas of the world that have risen higher up Sun’s corporate priority list. Instead, that access will come through mobile phones.

“The majority of the world will first experience the Internet through their handset,” Schwartz said.

Ayup… that’s the future of computers for ya.

And by the time this scenario will come to pass, we’ll be enjoying scandalously high definition videostreams over our wireless connections as well.

Dermal Display

Gina – the nanorgirl – Miller and Robert Freitas have come up with an animation to design what a dermal display would look like.
Gina Miller is a strong nanotechnology advocate. Robert Freitas is well known for his Nanomedicine books.

A dermal display would basically allow our skins to function as displays. Pictures are included at the link, and since pictures say more than a thousand words, go and check’em out right now!

The technology presented here is something that could be realized by nanotechnology that is more advanced than we have now.

The possibilities include (but are not limited to):

  • Dynamic Tattoos: tattoos that can change, or disappear completely when you need’em to (like… when you’re headed for a job interview).
  • Real-time health information: Imagine being able to check out your own health right off your own skin, whenever you like. Being able to do this is nothing to joke about. It has the capacity to turn your own healthcare from a reactive into a preventive healthcare. This basically means: not getting sick, but knowing you’re about to get sick in advance, and then doing something about it before it actually happens.
  • Real-time mood information: will people be able to get along better with each other if they could read other people’s mood right off their skin? Well… most likely, yeah.
  • Covering up of ugly skin blemishes, scartissue, etcetera.
  • Live videostreams, anytime, anywhere: speaks for itself. We will also need fast connections for this. But those will undoubtedly be there once the dermal display-technology can be realized.

The future looks pretty groovy. 😉

University of Denmark Scientists Develop Hydrogen Tablet

University of Denmark Scientists Develop Hydrogen Tablet

Scientists have come up with a solution to one of the three major barriers that prevent the hydrogen economy from taking off right now. The three barriers are:

  • hydrogen production (is still expensive and mostly produced with fossil fuels, needs to become cheap and renewable)
  • hydrogen usage (this is what fuel cells do, and fuel cells are expected to become cost competative with internal combustion engines in the coming years)
  • hydrogen storage (hydrogen is a real bitch to store and transfer, and there needs to be an efficient way to do this)

The one barrier which now comes crumbling down because of this solution, is the last one.

Hydrogen is a dangerous material. In gasform, it occupies too much volume, and it is also highly flammable (Hindenburg, anyone?). Therefore, many a scientist has spent many an hour thinking of a solution around this.

These researchers have now managed to develop a hydrogen ‘tablet’, which basically stores hydrogen in a solid form.

From the article:

The hydrogen tablet is safe and inexpensive. In this respect it is different from most other hydrogen storage technologies. You can literally carry the material in your pocket without any kind of safety precaution.

“We have a new solution to one of the major obstacles to the use of hydrogen as a fuel. And we need new energy technologies – oil and gas will not last, and without energy, there is no modern society”, says Jens Nørskov.

Thanks to technological strides like these, a few years from now, we will be able to have a good laugh at the peak oil doomsday crowd, which seems to actually want peak oil to cause the collapse of civilization as we know it.

For more information on why the peak oil doomsday scenario is absolute, total, utter nonsense, see these links:

There are many more links to debunk peak oil. There are plenty of links to follow from the above links.

[update]
I just spotted this right after posting this post:

Shell CEO: Enough Oil To Last A Century

It’s a Dutch article, so you’ll have to run it through a page-translator if you want to actually read it.

Summary:

At the moment, an oil well is dubbed ’empty’ once 30% has been pumped from it. With better technology, it will become feasible to drill deeper.

Fuel might not become cheaper, so it is entirely possible that other fuel sources will become competative through normal market mechanisms.

This is exactly what Marshall Brain predicts in his peak-oil-non-event post (see link above).

The Singularity Is Near

A new book by Ray Kurzweil, the guy behind the legendary essay The Law Of Accelerating Returns, is coming out.

After The Age Of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence, we can now look forward to The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.

In this book, Ray writes some more about his already wellknown views about how humanity is about to merge with its own technology, thereby transcending our biological limits and launching ourselves into a transhuman / posthuman era.

Here’s what Bill Gates has to say about Ray Kurzweil:

Ray Kurzweil is the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence. His intriguing new book envisions a future in which information technologies have advanced so far and fast that they enable humanity to transcend its biological limitations–transforming our lives in ways we can’t yet imagine.

– Bill Gates

I’m thinking about getting it. Even though Ray’s views are, in my opinion, nowhere near as realistic as those of the Singularity Institute for AI (who predict the Singularity will occur way sooner than 2045), I still find his writings to be inspiring.

Home DNA Tests Now Feasible

Home DNA Tests Now Feasible

Isn’t that amazing? You can now do a simple DNA test at home for a few measly bucks.

As the cost of DNA sequencing is dropping like a brick (thanks to exponential increases in the technology to do it), we can be sure that humanity will achieve the 1000 dollar genome by 2010.

From then on, it will become standard to get a computer generated summary of your own cheaply-scanned DNA, which will tell you what your genetic predispositions are.

You’ll be able to take measures to avoid diseases that you are prone to. And you’ll know what your personal advantages are too, allowing you to exploit them without going through a long process of trial and error to find out exactly what your advantages are.

Personal genome-scans also open the door for personalized medicine. That is, medication that is suited to your personal genome, which will make it lots more efficient than today’s “one size fits all”-drugs.

Because of the preventive power that technology like this will give us, your healthcare would have to be insane not to pay for your personal genome-scan. After all, it is likely to save many thousands of dollars in the long run.

Airgo Comes Up With 240Mbps Wireless Chip

From the press release:

Airgo Networks, Inc., pioneer and world leader in high performance wireless technology, today announced its third generation True MIMO chipset with support for data rates up to 240Mbps. For the first time consumers will be able to experience faster-than-wired speeds over a wireless network – and almost three times the speed of other premium wireless technologies on the market today.

This is much faster than most people have ever seen. My own connection is a lowly 4Mbps, sixty times lower than 240Mbps. And that’s just the downstream. The upstream is even lower.

Technology like this can provide us with television on demand, which means that basically only one TV-channel will exist: yours.

Especially if the folks at Google get their way. They plan to scan all books and tv programs into digital media.

It could also provide us those really cool, live videostreams that we seen in Hollywood movies. And I’m not sure I even want to think about what this technology is going to do to the gaming industry (which is already struggling to keep its head above water), once warez can be distributed at rates like these.

Wirelessness is a very important enabling technology for The Future Of Computers. We can all rest assured that Airgo’s chip will make it so that wirelessness won’t be a problem in the near future.

Nanochip Emulates Human Brain

KurzweilAI.net reports the following: Nanochip Emulates Human Brain

Researchers are developing a new 3-D chip design using spintronics and a complex interconnected network of nanowires, with computing functions and decisions performed at the nodes where they meet — an approach similar to neurons and axons in the brain.

It combines the storage capability of a hard drive with the low cost of memory cards, potentially increasing memory capacity by 200 times from an average of 500MB to around 100GB.

In my opinion, this is a pretty big deal. It is also a very good illustration of a certain scenario that I have written about in my Singularity FAQ.

In the FAQ, I describe the enabling technologies for a fullblown superior artificial intelligence. Two very important ‘enablers’ are nano-circuitry, and a thorough understanding of how the human brain’s intelligence works.

A nanochip that emulates the human brain to store information efficiently, is an impressive feat. It not only shows that nanocircuits are possible (as if there was any doubt in these last few years), but it also (once again) shows that it is entirely possible to understand how our own brain works.

It is an impressive achievement. And yet this is only the beginning. We ain’t seen nothin’ yet. I expect that chips will slowly but surely take on more and more characterstics of brains that are based on the neural network paradigm. Such a chip could dynamically (re)configure itself to be faster at specific tasks. Standard CPU’s, the ones we use today, can’t do that. They need to be very general in design… being able to run any sort of application, to reflect the demands of users worldwide.

This makes them slower than, say, CPU’s in game consoles, which are dedicated to run graphical applications. Games that run on game consoles require CPU’s that have much less clockspeed than games that run on general-use PC’s, due to the game-dedicated hardware of game consoles.

Nano-tsunami also reports on this: New Microchip Design Could Be The Key To Expanding Mobile Phone Memory.

Researchers from Imperial College London, Durham University and the University of Sheffield say their new computer chip design will enable large amounts of data to be stored in small volumes by using a complex interconnected network of nanowires, with computing functions and decisions performed at the nodes where they meet a similar approach to neurons and axons in the brain.

Large amounts of data in small volumes?

Sounds like a technology that could help out nicely with The Future Of Computers.

Another fine example of a respectable amount of data (4GB) in an extremely small volume, is the new iPod Nano. The Archos GMini 402 is not too shabby either: it has 20GB of space, it can play music, movies, videogames, and it functions as an external harddisk.

I’d say a true ‘all-in-one’ pocket-machine is just a few years away.

Back on topic. By reading the title of the article, you’d think that this is all about memory for mobile devices. But that’s just one of many optional applications:

Lead researcher Russell Cowburn , Professor of Nanotechnology in Imperial’s Department of Physics, explains: “The new video mobile phones are very popular, but they desperately need more memory so that people can take longer videos and store them. This technology has the potential to transform mobiles into fully functioning video cameras, in addition to a range of other applications.”

I’d say we’re headed for a very cool mobile and wireless world, where we take our computational power with us wherever we go.

Extrapolations show that, circa 2015/2020, we’ll be able to record our entire lives at only a fraction of the storage space that will be cheaply available to us.

Think about that.

Nanocells Hitting Cancer Hard… And Targeted

Anybody who is familiar with nanotechnology, knows that this technology has the capability to enhance our products and systems many-a-thousand-fold. Nanotechnology allows for the building of systems at the molecular level, with atomic precision.

In a way, nanotechnology IS precision.

And the article Nanocell’s Double Hit On Cancer is one of the many examples of the fact that nanotechnology brings us exactly that.

A nanocell that can burrow into a tumour, cut off its blood supply and detonate a lethal dose of anti-cancer toxins has been developed.

The double-action therapy, which comes packed in a tiny double chamber, leaves healthy cells unscathed.

It has proved safe and effective against melanoma and a form of lung cancer in mice.

The technique combines two methods of combating cancer – poisoning tumour cells and cutting off the blood supply to the tumour.

“The idea of using nanoparticles as a sort of therapeutic ‘Trojan horse’ is entirely new.”

Henry Scowcroft

For many years, cancer has been a potential death warrant. With nanotechnology, we have gotten down to the level where cancer (and all other diseases) manifest: the molecular level. This means that, for the first time in history, we have a serious and realistic shot at turning cancer into a minor complication, that can be eradicated upon diagnosis.

The upcoming biotechnology revolution will make sure that we will turn our healthcare from a reactive system into a preventive system.

The former is exactly what we largely have now: We get ill, a disease is diagnosed, and we treat it with so-called ‘cures’ in which something is either poisoned or cut away. This is a very invasive method for the body of getting rid of corrupted bodytissue. And then you just have to hope you were diagnosed in time.

The latter is where we’ll be moving in the next decade or so: We’ll have portable, cheap, and fast diagnosis-systems that make use of nano-sensors. These nano-sensors will most likely be built into people’s toilets in due time, so their droppings are being analysed each time they use the bathroom. Just imagine… you develope cancer, and a few hours after it becomes measurable you use the toilet, and you’ll know about your cancer while it is in early stages, and still easily treatable. Is that preventive or what?

Thanks to nanotech, nobody needs to succumb to terrible diseases any longer. Technology like this will greatly enhance the quality of our lives, and it will also greatly decrease the financial burden on the healthcare system.

Everybody benefits.

Here’s to hoping everybody will have intelligent toilets in the near future.

As soon as they’re available, I suggest you get one. It’s going to be the best health-investments you’ll have ever made in your life.