Short Attention Span Blogging; Monday, August 23, 2010

By | August 22, 2010

…where science, futurism, and anything else Stephen finds interesting are

thrown together in an informational stew for your consumption.


Follow Stephen on Twitter: @stephentgo

  • George Dvorsky: Scientists successfully use human stem cells to treat Parkinson’s in rodents.

    Researchers have successfully used human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to treat rodents afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). The research, conducted at the Buck Institute for Age Research, validates a scalable protocol that the same group had previously developed. It may eventually be used to manufacture the type of neurons needed to treat the disease and paves the way for the use of iPSC’s in various biomedical applications.

  • The Moral Turing Test?

    Are the decisions made by an AI at least as moral as an average person? One way of determining this would be with a blind Turing-type test.

  • Engadget: Flobi robot head realistic enough to convey emotions, not realistic enough to give children nightmares (hopefully).

    Why cross the uncanny valley when you can go around it?

  • Claytronics. An early implementation of utility fog?

  • Wired Science: Awesome timelapse of Milky Way and last week’s Perseid meteor shower at Joshua Tree:
  • Looking for love in Alderaan places? Sci-fi-themed speed dating.
  • Brian Wang: Start up hopes to Reduce Cost of Batteries for Electric Cars by 85% by 2015
  • North Korea sends first tweet.

    My guess: “get me outta here!”

  • Infrared laser shown to quicken heart rate, gives hope for ultra-small pacemakers
  • Offers iPhone App to Find Cheap Textbooks On The Go

    There is a huge need for this. Peer-to-peer selling of textbooks would have eliminated a particularly greedy set of middlemen during my education.

  • Robert Sloss predicted the iPhone …in 1910.

    He predicted the device would:

    • Serves as a telephone, the whole world over.

    • Either ring or vibrate in your pocket.
    • Transmit any musical recording or performance with perfect clarity.
    • Allow people to send each other photographs, across the entire world.
    • Allow people to see the images of paintings, museums, etc. in distant locales.
  • Movie critic Roger Ebert is a big fan of paper books:

    Every home I’ve ever lived in has had a Library. When I lived in one room, I put my bed in the Library.

    And he looks with a somewhat jaundiced eye at ebooks. He had a series of tweets mocking their incorporeal character:

    I’ve read my e-book of Shakespeare so many times since graduating college in 1964 that look how lovingly the pages are thumbed.

    Here’s my old e-book “10,000 Jokes, Toasts and Stories,” and written inside “To my boy Roger from Daddy.

    I don’t disagree with Ebert’s point. A physical book can be a special thing. I wouldn’t throw out a signed copy of “The Stand” if I were given the ebook.

    But what avid reader doesn’t love having a library in his pocket at all times? (see also: “5 Ways That eBooks Are Better Than Paper Books“)

    When “Fellowship of the Ring” was released there was zero chance that I was going to wait to see it on DVD. That movie needed the big screen. And while I loved “Dodgeball,” it is just as funny at home as the theater. It loses little in the transition to the smaller screen.

    Likewise, some books seem to cry out for paper. Imagine a dark and stormy night. You decide to read “The Raven.” Do you reach for a dusty tome… or your laptop? Easy choice. But does a tree really need to die so that I can read the latest Patterson thriller? Probably not.

    And if your e-Reader doesn’t feel real enough, you can always give it a vintage book cover.

  • Lungs Grown on Scaffolds Breathe After Transplantation in Rats
  • Article asks “is consumerism robbing our creativity?” The author suggests that too much choice is a bad thing.

    But bad for who? I don’t see paralyzed shoppers at the mall and supermarket. I see people making choices. Choice is good. Competition is good. Consumerism supports creativity.

    There’s a much more interesting way of looking at this question. In his recent TED talk, Larry Lessig states that we have just gone through a period of read-only culture – consumers just listening to the radio, not singing and making their own music as they had throughout history. The means of music production and distribution were centralized.

    But, Lessig argued, read-write culture is battling back. Every kid with a lap-top possesses a recording studio and a distribution system.

  • One square meter of sunlight is equivalent to about one horsepower.

    Matt Ridley – no huge fan of solar power in its current subsidized form – said in his book “The Rational Optimist,” that…

    …once solar panels can be mass-produced at $200 per square metre and with an efficiency of 12 per cent, they could generate the equivalent of a barrel of oil for about $30. Then, instead of drilling for $40 oil, everybody will be rushing to cover their roofs, and large part of Algeria and Arizona with cheap solar panels… it would take about one-third of Arizona to supply Americans with all their energy.

  • Closing in on the Solar Singularity: Arthur Nozik, a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and professor at the University of Colorado told “There is a theoretical possibility based on thermodynamic calculations of increasing the efficiency of present day solar cells by a very significant amount of 50-100%. In addition, quantum dots could lower the capital cost of solar cell production in terms of cost per unit area.”

    Increasig the efficiency of solar cells while bringing down their costs will make the cost effective in more and more places and in new applications.

  • Ben Goertzel’s new H+ Magazine article on AGI, long-lived flies, antagonistic pleiotropy and immortality.
  • Canadian librarian leads worldwide digital revolt for free knowledge (64 flags)

    It began when an academic database proposed increasing the fee it charges the University of Prince Edward Island by 120 per cent.

    Mark Leggott snapped.

    “The world’s knowledge is increasingly being held to ransom and available only to those who can pay the fees,” Leggott told the Star on Tuesday.

    He announced in a campus-wide letter that as chief librarian he had cancelled UPEI’s subscription to Web of Science and was launching “an effort to create a free and open index to the world’s scholarly literature called ‘Knowledge For All’.”

    Then he contacted librarians in Canada and around the world.

  • Google’s MapReduce algorithm turns smart phones into a self-contained cloud computing environment.

    The point of this exercise is to create a system that allows the MapReduce magic of distributed processing of large amounts of data to happen closer to the data itself. By eliminating the need to first transmit the data over a relatively slow wireless network, it can, in some situations, be processed even faster than if it were first uploaded, in total, to a remote server. This, despite the fact that the remote server would be much faster than the processor on any one phone.

  • You Have Reached My Mind, Please Leave a Message.”

    Our current state of wireless communication is, already, high friction telepathy.

    It seems a safe bet that we will work to reduce this friction in every way possible.

  • Book “Power to Save the World” – how the author morphed from nuke-fearing into proponent who believes we need nuclear power.
  • Via Brian Wang’s “Next Big Future:” Scientists from the University of Cambridge are talking about a “Nuclear Renaissance.”

    They suggest:

    • develop new ‘fast reactors’ could be developed that could use uranium approximately 15 times more efficiently

    • develop reactors with replaceable parts so that they can last in excess of 70 years instead of 40-50 years
    • Flexible nuclear technologies could be an option for countries that do not have an established nuclear industry, suggest the scientists. One idea involves ship-borne civil power plants that could be moored offshore, generating electricity for nearby towns and cities. This could reduce the need for countries to build large electricity grid infrastructures, making it more cost effective for governments to introduce a nuclear industry from scratch.
    • build small, modular reactors that never require refuelling. These could be delivered to countries as sealed units, generating power for approximately 40 years. At the end of its life, the reactor would be returned to the manufacturer for decommissioning and disposal.
    • Thorium is mentioned as having potential to become an important nuclear fuel.
    • Accelerator-Driven Sub-critical Reactors are mentioned as an option
    • Nuclear fusion is mentioned. Fusion-fission hybrids and fusion-driven fission fuel breeders are a route to early commercialization of fusion energy.
  • Oh, the Places You’ll Go!: Neptune’s ‘dead zones’ hold more rocks than asteroid belt.