Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Showing posts with label Quantum Computers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Quantum Computers. Show all posts

Monday, December 17, 2018

Can Energy Be Moral?

Scientists have begun to prove that quantum entanglement can be demonstrated at macro levels. Could the same be said for the observer effect? Image Source: Develop Good Habits.

To my readers, I have a new post up at Vocal Media, concerning 2018 scientific research which has proven that quantum entanglement can be taken to the macro level:

In that post, I argue that the endgame of the current Tech Revolution is to reach a Kardashev Civilization Level I, in which a tech-harmonized global society would be able to consume and harness the energy of the entire planet.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Wonders of the Millennial World 9: The Speed of Consciousness

Image Source: pinterest.

One of the questions which I pursue on this blog is whether or not human consciousness is manifesting on the Internet, in the psycho-anthropological myth-space of virtual reality, or as an alternate way of being, or in zeroes and ones, or in the physics of quantum computing. If human consciousness operates collectively on the Internet, it raises a subsequent question of whether that online consciousness can alter actual, real world reality.

The Big Bang Theory: Schrödinger's cat from Season 1, Episode 17, The Tangerine Factor (19 May 2008) © Warner. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

This sounds bizarre, but the relationship between mind and matter remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of modern science. In my 2015 post, A Quantum Christmas, I outlined the origins of the mystery: when we measure matter, matter changes. And quantum entangled matter shows that we can measure an entangled particle, and its unmeasured twin will change too.

This means that matter has some other way of existing beyond our perception and we have an effect on matter which we do not understand. At the quantum level, matter changes from a previous, indefinite state before we look at it, where it exists in all places at once. After we look at it, it acquires a definite, measurable state. The impact our observations have on reality is exerted at a speed of three trillion metres per second. This is how fast our observations travel to transform reality into fixed states. We might call it the speed of consciousness.

Try to assess this, and find further, via the double slit experiment, that before we measure matter, when it exists in an indefinite state, it acts like a wave of energy. Measure the matter, and it becomes definite, fixed, and the wave 'collapses' to behave like particles.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Fifth Dimensional Memory and the Fortress of Solitude

Image Source: engadget.

In the quest to store information permanently, the University of Southampton has developed a memory chip so durable that it will last until after our sun burns out:
Using nanostructured glass, scientists from the University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) have developed the recording and retrieval processes of five dimensional (5D) digital data by femtosecond laser writing. ...

Coined as the ‘Superman memory crystal’, as the glass memory has been compared to the “memory crystals” used in the Superman films, the data is recorded via self-assembled nanostructures created in fused quartz. The information encoding is realised in five dimensions: the size and orientation in addition to the three dimensional position of these nanostructures.

Professor Peter Kazansky, from the ORC, says: “It is thrilling to think that we have created the technology to preserve documents and information and store it in space for future generations. This technology can secure the last evidence of our civilisation: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten.”

The researchers will present their research at the photonics industry's renowned SPIE Photonics West—The International Society for Optical Engineering Conference in San Francisco, USA this week. The invited paper, ‘5D Data Storage by Ultrafast Laser Writing in Glass’ will be presented on Wednesday 17 February [2016]. The team are now looking for industry partners to further develop and commercialise this ground-breaking new technology. Contact Professor Peter Kazansky to find out more. Learn more about the SPIE Photonics West conference and exhibition. Read about the special legacy gift presentation made to UNESCO in celebration of the IYL2015 [International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies 2015].
In a related report from 17 February 2016, Engadget revealed Southampton's curious mixed impulse toward the ultra-new and ever-permanent:
Researchers at the University of Southampton's Optical Research Center announced on Tuesday that they've perfected a technique that can record data in 5 dimensions and keep it safe for billions of years. The method etches data into a thermally stable disc using femtosecond laser bursts. The storage medium itself holds up to 360 TB per disc, can withstand temperatures up to 1000 degrees C and are estimated to last up to 13.8 billion years at room temperature without degrading.

Each file is comprised of three layers of nanoscale dots. The dots' side and orientations, as well as their position within the three standard dimensions, constitute its five dimensions. These dots change the polarization of light travelling through the disc which is read using a microscope and polarizer.

... In the three years since their first demonstration, they've ... recorded the entirety of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Newton's Opticks, Magna Carta and Kings James Bible.

"It is thrilling to think that we have created the technology to preserve documents and information and store it in space for future generations," Professor Peter Kazansky from the ORC said in a statement. "This technology can secure the last evidence of our civilisation: all we've learnt will not be forgotten."
To make their research accessible to the public, scientists exploit popular culture and so must not complain when the masses comprehend science with pseudoscientific labels and mystical weirdness. Tagging this memory chip with fifth dimensional capabilities shows the University of Southampton's media-savvy, and they have asked us to respond with one big "quantum wow." Anything in '5D' is incredibly popular right now; it is a pseudoscientific catch phrase, like 2016's anti-ageing creams, which claim to work by altering your DNA. Invoking the fifth dimension in a press release alludes to a gnostic vault up to a supra-spiritual existence. 5D is a loosely-grasped point of perspective, above regular three-dimensional reality and the fourth dimension of spacetime. I have previously alluded to 5D concepts herehere, here and here.

Superman in his polar citadel, the Fortress of Solitude, stocked with memory crystals. Image Source: Superman Homepage.

Southampton's optics researchers do not show much interest in the deeper meaning of durable memory, of what it means to preserve knowledge until after our sun burns out. If they knew anything about the Superman story, they would understand that crystallized memory implies a push beyond the normal human capacity to remember, toward the alienated superhuman, into the moral and physical challenges of permanent isolation.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Talks from the Hacker Congress

Lift button at 32C3. Image Source: Mustafa Al-Bassam.

The 32nd Chaos Communication Congress, 32C3, the largest conference related to freedom of speech, cryptography, hacking, and Internet security, just wrapped up in Hamburg, Germany on 30 December 2015 (-Thanks to C.). The conference is run by the Chaos Computer Club, which was founded in 1981. The Twitter hashtag for the conference is here. Below, see a selection of talks relating to robots, quantum computing, surveillance and Internet development. The conference included a talk on Commodore Amigas, for which I have a soft spot.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Quantum Christmas

Jim Al-Khalili explains in a TED talk: robins may fly south in winter due to a process called 'quantum entanglement.' Image Source: Digital Photographer / Michael Williams.

Destiny and faith should be foreign concepts in the realm of science. But perhaps quantum physics will devise a formula for them. This possibility started in the 1930s, with Albert Einstein (1879-1955) and Niels Bohr (1885-1962) arguing whether or how objective reality could be measured, because observing something changes its nature into what we would call a subjective reality. Of course, the distinction between objective reality - which religious people sometimes associate with God - and subjective awareness - the world limited by our individual perceptions - is a very old problem. The 16th century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) wrote: "We are, I know not how, double in ourselves, so that what we believe we disbelieve, and cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn." The central question of religion asks: how are we flawed and animal humans connected to the larger order of the universe? Science asks the same question.

Image Source: Archillect.

To determine if it was possible to measure objective reality, Einstein and Bohr proposed a thought experiment to measure one particle of light, or photon, without affecting it. To do this, they proposed to measure a second particle that was related to the first one, and infer the nature of the related, but unmeasured, first particle. Then they encountered a curious problem. Their measurement of the second particle affected the nature of the first one, but they could not determine how the impact of their actions had been transferred to the first particle, especially because that information traveled instantaneously, that is, faster than the speed of light, which violated Einstein's Theory of Relativity. The distance between the photons did not matter either. They could be close together or on opposite sides of the universe. Einstein did not like this. Wiki:
[I]f a pair of particles is generated in such a way that their total spin is known to be zero, and one particle is found to have clockwise spin on a certain axis, then the spin of the other particle, measured on the same axis, will be found to be counterclockwise; because of the nature of quantum measurement. However, this behavior gives rise to paradoxical effects: any measurement of a property of a particle can be seen as acting on that particle (e.g. by collapsing a number of superposed states); and in the case of entangled particles, such action must be on the entangled system as a whole. It thus appears that one particle of an entangled pair "knows" what measurement has been performed on the other, and with what outcome, even though there is no known means for such information to be communicated between the particles, which at the time of measurement may be separated by arbitrarily large distances. ...

The counterintuitive predictions of quantum mechanics about strongly correlated systems were first discussed by Albert Einstein in 1935, in a joint paper with Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen. ... They wrote: "We are thus forced to conclude that the quantum-mechanical description of physical reality given by wave functions is not complete." ... 
Following the EPR paper, Erwin Schrödinger wrote a letter (in German) to Einstein in which he used the word Verschränkung (translated by himself as entanglement) "to describe the correlations between two particles that interact and then separate, as in the EPR experiment." He shortly thereafter published a seminal paper defining and discussing the notion, and terming it "entanglement." In the paper he recognized the importance of the concept, and stated: "I would not call [entanglement] one but rather the characteristic trait of quantum mechanics, the one that enforces its entire departure from classical lines of thought."

Like Einstein, Schrödinger was dissatisfied with the concept of entanglement, because it seemed to violate the speed limit on the transmission of information implicit in the theory of relativity. Einstein later famously derided entanglement as "spukhafte Fernwirkung" or "spooky action at a distance."
In 2013, Chinese physicists clocked the speed of 'spooky action at a distance.' They proved the speed of information as it moves through quantum entangled states is more than four times the speed of light, or three trillion metres per second. Their research paper was published in Physical Review Letters, vol. 110, listed here.

Quantum entanglement. Image Source: Glitch.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Time and Politics 10: Police State Futures

"Monuments to Kiev's founders burn as anti-government protesters clash with riot police in Kiev's Independence Square, the epicenter of the country's current unrest in Kiev, Ukraine" on 18 February 2014. Image Source: PzFeed.

According to Plato, the régime that inevitably follows democracy is tyranny (the cycle is: Aristocracy, Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, and Tyranny.). Wiki:
The Kyklos (Ancient Greek: κύκλος, IPA: [kýklos], "cycle") is a term used by some classical Greek authors to describe what they saw as the political cycle of governments in a society. It was roughly based on the history of Greek city-states in the same period. The concept of "The Kyklos" is first elaborated in Plato's Republic, chapters VIII and IX. Polybius calls it the anakyklosis or "anacyclosis". According to Polybius, who has the most fully developed version of the cycle, it rotates through the three basic forms of government, democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy and the three degenerate forms of each of these governments ochlocracy, oligarchy, and tyranny.
Aristotle defined the cycle as: "the rule of One, the second as rule of the Few, the third as the rule of the Many. It keeps repeating."

Tyranny. It would be so nice if we could just skip that stage. I don't relish the notion of some future Gen Z technocrat perusing this post in 2033, deciding that it violates the latest advisories, and concluding that something needs to be done about future me at three in the morning because of my early 2010s' blog. And so, in light of a day I hope never arrives, today's post concerns how to avoid the establishment of 21st century police states.

Kiev on 18 February 2014. Image Source: PzFeed.

A father and son confront a police officer. Kiev on 18 February 2014. Image Source: Anonymous.

The explosion of the Internet in 2000s gave birth to two great, competing behemoths: statism and anti-statism. On the one hand, there is the potential rise of totalitarian super-states, which will mobilize data-gathering to control their citizens. This is the subject of today's post. On the other, the Internet has fueled a fascination with anarchy and giddy infatuation with libertarianism. Many users on the Web are mesmerized by the lure of stateless chaos and total, Net-driven freedoms; they rejoice in a complete sweeping away of the moribund establishment and the creation of unregulated interactions, whether in communications or trade. That will be the subject of an upcoming post.

You don't need to visit an oracle to understand that everything is in flux, and in this period speeding toward the 2020s, "it's all up for grabs, it really is."

Everything is up for grabs. It's like watching an animated chess board; all the pieces are moving and we don't know where they will land. Reactionary attempts to control, regulate, monitor, misinform, obfuscate around emerging trends are well under way. So are radical counter-efforts. It is impossible to gauge how things will appear when the movement stops. Borders will shift. Struggles erupt between those in power and those seeking power. Everywhere, there are protests and crackdowns. Expect resurgences of radical nationalism, irredentism in places like Crimea, Taiwan, bits of the Middle East  and Africa - and separatism in previously placid places, like Scotland and Quebec. Far-sighted agents rush to anticipate and seize the position of final control after this period of upheaval.

Kiev on 18 February 2014. Image Source: HuffPo.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Millennial Extremes 11: Gallium Nitride - Promises and Omens

Gallium's melting point is 29.76°C; it has a high boiling point. Not found in a pure form in nature, it was discovered in the 1870s and is derived from bauxite and zinc ores. Its -nitride compound is used in semiconductors. It is produced in France, Russia, Germany and Hungary. Image Source: The Tomus Arcanum.

It is ironic that as technology reaches quantum levels to make the virtual and the artificial ever more real, progress is slowed by the inherent limits of physical reality. Until recently, computing power increased at Moore's Law rates. But now, we are reaching the end of the Silicon era. Designers have begun to hit a wall because as silicon chips get smaller, they also get hotter. NYT:
"The warning signs began a decade ago, when Patrick P. Gelsinger, then Intel’s chief technology officer, warned that if the trends continued, microprocessor chips would reach the temperature of the sun’s surface by 2011."
Silicon circuits cannot handle the heat generated by exponential computing demands imposed on them. The search is on to find materials that can allow us to push technology to ever greater extremes. It is a high stakes game, possibly one of the highest. The material that furnishes the substance of computer circuits sits at the heart of the Technological Revolution and at nano-levels crosses over into other areas of global concern: energy, space exploration, war.

In certain corners of the economy, there is no recession, if you bother to look. Vast amounts of money are being poured into the search for silicon's replacement. Tech giants are exploring alternatives such as carbon nanotubes and graphene (see also here and here), indium gallium arsenide (see also here), vanadium oxide bronze, molybdenite, silicon-germanium, and silicon carbide. For citizens weathering economic slowdowns in Europe, consider that in January 2013, the European Union awarded two €1 billion grants in its Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) program to fund 10 years of research in two R&D sectors; the first grant is dedicated to exploring the potential of graphene as a semiconductor; the second grant will support mapping of the human brain. (Why, oh why, do I have the dismal feeling that these two projects will intersect?)  IBM has looked into using liquid transistors, with chemical reactions used to switch between conducting and nonconducting states, or between '1' and '0.' The University of Nebraska is researching ferroelectric materials such as barium titanate. In May 2013, the UK government awarded NXP a £2 million grant to develop a silicon semiconductor replacement, with a focus on gallium nitride. ABI Research director Lance Wilson remarks: "Gallium Nitride (GaN) increased its market share in 2010. It is expected to do the same in 2011. Although its adoption hasn’t been as rapid as originally expected, it is nonetheless forecast to be a significant force by 2016."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Some Relief from the Future Would Be Nice

Harvard University molecular geneticist George Church stores his latest book on encoded DNA in a vial. Image Source: Kelvin Ma for the Wall Street Journal.

Some days, I look at the news headlines, and I wish Morrissey were here to write the blog post titles. Honestly. The WSJ reports that (the ironically surnamed) Harvard Professor of Genetics George Church has vastly expanded an amazing jump from the mechanical to the biological. He has figured out how to encode computer data for his entire book into DNA. This finding, building on others' previous work over the past decade, is one of the silver bullets of the Technological Singularity.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Workplaces in the 2020s

Brian David Johnson. Image Source: WSJ via Intel.

The Wall Street Journal has interviewed Intel's Chief Futurist, Brian David Johnson, on how robots will take over certain professions by the 2020s, and which human jobs and skills will become prominent in the future as a result:
“As we approach the year 2020, the size of meaningful computational intelligence begins to approach zero. In other words, computers are shrinking. Soon they will get so small that they will be nearly invisible. This means that in 10 years we will be able to turn almost anything into a computer. We will be living and working in an intelligent environment and in many cases we will essentially be working inside a computer.

“Every day we create a massive amount of data. Google’s Eric Schmidt has famously said that every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003. As computing gets more powerful, it will seem like data has a life of its own. And it will. You’ll have machines talking to machines, computers talking to computers, all processing this data. But what will it feel like to work in this coming age of big data?

“Data will be our colleagues and our employees. And, like all employees, they will need a good manager – an algorithm. An algorithm is really just a sequential series of steps that processes data. We will need to “train” our algorithms to have a better understanding of humans and how to make human lives better. After all, we are their bosses.

“As we look to 2020 it might appear that computers and data will overrun the workplace. But remember, a computer will never clean a bathroom sink. At least in the near future, computers and data won’t replace the paper towels in the bathroom. But a computer will write up your local little League scores and a computer will operate on your spine. (Hint, this is already happening.)

“This has broad implications for what we think of as valuable skills and employees in the workplace. Today we value journalists and surgeons much more than janitors, but in 2022 we may think very differently. We will need to understand what humans are really good at and foster those skills, outsourcing the rest to the brilliant intelligence and efficiency of the future.”
WSJ held a live chat with Johnson here. In the chat, he remarks that brain surgeons will be replaced by robots. But we will still need human beings to scrub bathroom sinks? I am not sure how this spells progress. WSJ: "You actually suggested in your guest column that janitors might be more valued than neurosurgeons in the workplaces of the future."

Johnson emphasizes the need for human skills and analysis in the future: "Emotional intelligence will be important in a world where we are bombarded by data. Understanding how to talk to and interact will people will be an important skill [presumably the sink scrubbing comes into play here]. Having a deep understanding of programming and computers will be a great base but critical thinking will be even more impor[t]ant...understanding how to process all the BIG Data will be key." I suppose it will, until computers evolve to the point where they are better at analyzing Big Data than we are.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Floating Shiny Blob Thing Heralds the Future

At his blog, The Blind Giant, Nick Harkaway has brought attention to something called ZeroN; it is a so-called 'levitated interaction element,' built at MIT, and promises to become the future user interface:
This is the ZeroN.

There’s an article about it here. It’s a prototype. It wobbles a bit. But if you don’t find it amazing, you need to step back and refresh your sense of wonder.

Done that? Okay.

Floating ball. Gravity nullified by electromagnetism. You are living in the future now, yes?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Unabomber's Trojan Horse

Most of the people today who have integrated high technology into their lives without question, and indeed, may even be unwittingly enslaved by it, were born around the time the turn-of-the-Millennium's original neo-Luddite was caught and convicted in 1996. Thus, they would not necessarily grasp the fact that a brilliant young Harvard-educated mathematician foresaw their intimate attachment to high tech and violently opposed it in the name of protecting this younger generation. In the 1970s and 1980s, Ted Kaczynski veered from the then-popular back-to-the-land movement towards anti-tech terrorism. Incidentally, in his teens as a young Harvard prodigy, he had volunteered for psychological tests at the university to earn pocket money; these turned out to be traumatic mind control experiments. These experiences likely caused deep psychological damage and not unreasonably, fostered in Kaczynski a high level of paranoia and a distrust of authorities.

Kaczynski's story became a bizarre, real-life version of the Terminator sci-fi film franchise. In our fantasies, a neo-Luddite time-tossed nuclear family like Kyle Reese and Sarah and John Conner are heroes, misunderstood saviours who are humanity's last hope against sentient machines. But in our reality, someone who acted as these fictional heroes would is marginalized, crazy, murderous, isolated, and incarcerated.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Red Hood Walking: Biotech Android of the Sixteenth Century

The Middle Ages were more Millennial than one would think. The aim of medieval alchemy was to find the root components of matter as a means to decode the connection between the material and the metaphysical. This field was the progentior of nanotechnology, quantum physics, quantum consciousness, quantum biology, biotech, genetics, anti-ageing tech and Virtual Reality. Alchemy was the science devoted to finding the Elixir of Life and attaining immortality. Alchemy confirms that literally building a spiritual dimension was always the ultimate aim of science.

The greatest and most famous alchemy text in the world is the Splendour Solis, or, Splendour of the Sun. Twenty copies still exist. The first copy dates from the early Renaissance, 1532-1535. By 1582, the work was illustrated. That edition (British Library Harley MS 3469) is a hand-copied manuscript codex with 22 full page illuminated images. These pictures contain kabbalistic, astrological and alchemical symbols. Their mysteries are still difficult to understand. There is a repeated motif of giant glass flasks, within which birds, animals and elements are transformed into people. Test tube babies float in these glass globes with cloned, mythical beasts. Sounds very - Millennial. You can see the codex online, with its incredible illustrations which are simultaneously antique and futuristic, and its and cryptic (translated) text, here.

Among the most sinister and curious of the illustrations is folio 18r (above). A muscled figure bears the alchemical colours of black, red and white. His head is encased in, or made of, red crystal. His left arm is transluscent white, so that his bones are visible. His right arm is bright red, suggesting its chemical composition. He strides out of a dark pool of primordial muck toward a celestial lady, whose angelic wings, star and crown indicate that she will take him to heaven, to immortality - or to superhumanity. She waits to hand him a red cloak. He appears as a mighty, frightening, forceful, masculine creature incredibly born of the perfect combination of elements. The lady represents the conference of something mystical and spiritual upon this construct: a higher consciousness, perhaps an immortal soul. This is the transition point, between Antiquity and Singularity, between the atomization of matter and its hidden transcendence.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The World is a Game of Chance and the Odds are Stacked Against Us?

Image Source: Jazzed Banana.

In the PBS Nov 16 episode of NOVA, The Fabric of the Cosmos: Quantum Leap, Physicist Brian Greene explained that at a quantum level, the entire universe operates like a giant casino, and the odds are stacked against us.  This idea contradicts Einstein, who believed that the universe operated according to principles of certainty.  Einstein said, "God does not throw dice."  What Einstein said exactly was: "Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the 'old one.' I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice." Einstein had challenged Newtonian physics, the physics of the observable world.  But he had trouble accepting the theories that radically extended that challenge.

Despite this lip service paid toward chaos and blind chance, our whole social, political and economic order rests on the authority of those who claim they can predict the future.  In another post, I suggested that the credibility of economists and financial personnel rose according to their ability to gamble against the probability of stocks rising or falling. That credibility is waning, and they may be supplanted by scientists.  Ironically, quantum mechanics also rests on prediction, on the anticipation of a range of outcomes at the subatomic level.

Greene claims that quantum physicists believe the nature of reality is inherently fuzzy, and is weirdly affected by our perception of it.  Also, at the quantum level, sub-atomic particles can be in more than one place at the same time.  The quantum laws are the bases for scientific predictions on how particles will behave, and these laws are the bases of our entire Tech Revolution, the foundation of our current computing boom. Even with these marvellous innovations based on quantum theories, physicists are having trouble explaining why the unseen quantum universe behaves differently from the visible, tangible universe.  After all, in our daily lives, we are not in ten places and ten times at once in a fundamentally uncertain reality governed by chance.  I hope.  For this show from the November series, see Youtube here.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Robot with a Rat Brain and Other Cyborgs

Spybee. Image Source: Xenophilia.

Here's some slippery slope stuff from the people making robots with living brain cells and another on wiring insects with tiny surveillance equipment for espionage.  On 27 September, the New Scientist noted that scientists in Israel have created an artificial, digital brain, and implanted it in a rat (Thanks to -C.):
Now Matti Mintz of Tel Aviv University in Israel and his colleagues have created a synthetic cerebellum which can receive sensory inputs from the brainstem - a region that acts as a conduit for neuronal information from the rest of the body. Their device can interpret these inputs, and send a signal to a different region of the brainstem that prompts motor neurons to execute the appropriate movement.

"It's proof of concept that we can record information from the brain, analyse it in a way similar to the biological network, and return it to the brain," says Mintz, who presented the work this month at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence meeting in Cambridge, UK.

One of the functions of the cerebellum is to help coordinate and time movements. This, and the fact that it has a relatively straightforward neuronal architecture, make it a good region of the brain to synthesise. "We know its anatomy and some of its behaviours almost perfectly," says Mintz. The team analysed brainstem signals feeding into a real cerebellum and the output it generated in response. They then used this information to generate a synthetic version on a chip that sits outside the skull and is wired into the brain using electrodes.

To test the chip, they anaesthetised a rat and disabled its cerebellum before hooking up their synthetic version. They then tried to teach the anaesthetised animal a conditioned motor reflex - a blink - by combining an auditory tone with a puff of air on the eye, until the animal blinked on hearing the tone alone. They first tried this without the chip connected, and found the rat was unable to learn the motor reflex. But once the artificial cerebellum was connected, the rat behaved as a normal animal would, learning to connect the sound with the need to blink.
A 2008 report, also at the New Scientist, hailed the new era of insect-driven espionage, undertaken by the US Government at Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which operates under the simple motto: Creating and Preventing Strategic Surprise.  The report, reproduced at Xenophilia via the Daily Mail, states:
Such mechanised animals, or cyborgs, have many advantages over robots. Sharks, moths and rats, for example, have an amazing sense of smell that allows them to detect the faintest traces of chemicals.

And if you can hide the controls within the creature’s body, it would be virtually indistinguishable from any other animal – and so the perfect spy. Chief among the cyborg inventors is the U.S. military, with its research bureau ploughing money into projects from remote-controlled rats to battery-operated beetles.

Trained to sniff out particular scents, such as human bodies or explosives, the rats’ movements are controlled by electrodes implanted in their brains. Video camera backpacks transmit images of their mission back to the spymaster. Although the U.S. has stopped funding the rat research, the Israeli government is keen to use the creatures to search for survivors of explosions.

While rats might be big enough to carry video cameras and other paraphernalia, their size makes it difficult for them to blend into the background.

With this in mind, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has switched its focus to insects such as moths and beetles. In an attempt to make the insects as inconspicuous as possible, miniaturised brain probes are inserted during the pupa stage.

The idea is the ultra-light implants will naturally integrate into the body of the developing insect.

DARPA’s ultimate aim is to create cyborg insects that can fly more than 300 feet to their target and then stay put until commanded to buzz off again.
Image Source: Xenophilia.

From a New Scientist report, also from 2008, on a robot controlled by rat brain cells:
AFTER buttoning up a lab coat, snapping on surgical gloves and spraying them with alcohol, I am deemed sanitary enough to view a robot's control system up close. Without such precautions, any fungal spores on my skin could infect it. "We've had that happen. They just stop working and die off," says Mark Hammond, the system's creator. This is no ordinary robot control system - a plain old microchip connected to a circuit board. Instead, the controller nestles inside a small pot containing a pink broth of nutrients and antibiotics. Inside that pot, some 300,000 rat neurons have made - and continue to make - connections with each other. As they do so, the disembodied neurons are communicating, sending electrical signals to one another just as they do in a living creature.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Bionic Era Arrives

NBC's new Bionic Woman series (2007).

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him.  We have the technology.  An entire generation grew up with that opening line to the 1973-1978 TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man.  The series was based on Martin Caidin's 1970s' series of novels, starting with Cyborg (1972).  Caidin died in 1997, before the bionic era he popularized would come to pass.

Caidin's Cyborg (1972).

 NBC's new Bionic Woman series (2007)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Unabomber Copycat Targets Nanotechnologists

A police officer stands guard after a mail bomb injured two professors at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, near Mexico City. Image © (2011) Arnulfo Franco, AP Images.

Following from my earlier post about the Unabomber's one-man assault on the Technological Revolution, the Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that a copycat letterbomb killer is stalking the exclusive and secretive research halls of Nanotechnology.  People working in Nanotech facilities across North America are very alarmed. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Artificial Intelligence Grows: From DNA to Telepathy

Image Source: Geeky Gadgets.

There are some new developments in artificial intelligence. There are two paths in the field of A.I., which sooner or later are set to converge.  One is the deliberate creation of artificial intelligence systems.  The other is the artificial intelligence system we already have - the Internet and Cyberspace.  Two reports indicate that researchers are pushing the boundaries on both fronts.

The 21 July issue of Nature published results from researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).  Geeky Gadgets: "What they did was build simple neural networks composed of four neurons each that exhibited a capability to employ an input/output network."  This artificial neural network was created "out of DNA, creating a circuit of interacting molecules that can recall memories based on incomplete patterns, just as a brain can."  They "asked, instead of having a physically connected network of neural cells, can a soup of interacting molecules exhibit brainlike behavior?"  The answer is yes; moreover this system can complete an incomplete pattern, an essential component of conscious recognition.  See the report here (ref: Nature, Volume: 475, Pages: 368–372 Date published: (21 July 2011) DOI: doi:10.1038/nature10262 Received Accepted Published online .

Meanwhile Business Insider is reporting that the National Security Agency (NSA) is building an artificial intelligence system that can read minds (Hat tip: Dobroyeutro).  It's based on the personal information accumulated on the internet, through marketing schemes, and on social networks:
It's called "Aquaint" (Advanced QUestion Answering for INTelligence), and PBS's James Bamford takes a stab at explaining how it works: "As more and more data is collected -- through phone calls, credit card receipts, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, GPS tracks, cell phone geolocation, Internet searches, Amazon book purchases, even E-Z Pass toll records -- it may one day be possible to know not just where people are and what they are doing, but what and how they think. "Whether it works or not, we know that it's so intrusive that at least one researcher has quit over the idea of placing such a powerful system in the hands of the an agency with little to no accountability."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

At the Bleeding Edge of Quantum Computing

Computer chip with four superconducting qubits.  Credit: Image Courtesy of Erik Lucero (2011) via BBC.

Caption for the above photograph: This computer chip includes four superconducting qubits that comprise a quantum mechanical version of a computer microprocessor. Quantum computers are expected to be able to solve various problems that are far too difficult to be handled by conventional computers.

BBC is reporting that a meeting this week of the American Physical Society in Dallas has revealed a chip with advanced quantum components.  This chip (above) has us placed, according to Erik Lucero, a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, "right at the bleeding edge of actually having a quantum processor.”  From the report:
The 6cm-by-6cm chip holds nine quantum devices, among them four "quantum bits" that do the calculations. The team said further scaling up to 10 qubits should be possible this year.

Rather than the ones and zeroes of digital computing, quantum computers deal in what are known as superpositions - states of matter that can be thought of as both one and zero at once.

In a sense, quantum computing's one trick is to perform calculations on all superposition states at once. With one quantum bit, or qubit, the difference is not great, but the effect scales rapidly as the number of qubits rises. ...

The team's key innovation was to find a way to completely disconnect - or "decouple" - interactions between the elements of their quantum circuit.

The delicate quantum states the team creates in their qubits - in this case paired superconducors known as Josephson junctions - must be manipulated, moved, and stored without destroying them.
The problem is how to maintain the delicate quantum state in order to do this:
Britton Plourde, a quantum computing researcher from the University of Syracuse, said that the field has progressed markedly in recent years.

The metric of interest to quantum computing is how long the delicate quantum states can be preserved, and Dr Plourde noted that time had increased a thousand fold since the field's inception.

"The world of superconducting quantum bits didn't even exist 10 years ago, and now they can control [these states] to almost arbitrary precision."
The abstract for the paper is here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Another Jump in Quantum Computing

Image Source: BBC.

Ray Kurzweil is reporting (here) that University of Utah researchers published findings on Friday December 17 that indicate a huge jump in quantum computing:
University of Utah physicists stored information for 112 seconds in what may become the world’s tiniest computer memory: magnetic “spins” in the centers or nuclei of atoms. Then the physicists retrieved and read the data electronically – a big step toward using the new kind of memory for both faster conventional and superfast “quantum” computers.
The only catch is that the temperature has to be slightly above absolute zero to store and retrieve computer memories at the atomic level.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

New: The Brain Scan Job Interview

Image: Wellcome Images via MRI-scam.com.

Coming soon to a job interview near you: the brain scan job interview. This is just what the doctor ordered to get us out of the recession! I09 is reporting via BBC that UK employers have discovered a new way to assess prospective employees: "A study in the UK aims to figure out what the brains of business leaders look like, at least inside an fMRI machine. The brain images could be used in future as models for "ideal brains" in a business setting." Once corporations start with this level of bio-psychometric testing, the schools and service and entertainment industries won't be far behind.