Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sometimes An Article Is Just Sh*t N Filler

Sometimes I wish people would cover a subject properly instead of just waffling.  Reading this article has left me with a lasting and indelible impression that DC power transmission is just a load of shit. Comic book shit, but shit all the same.  Aside from the title of the article being a 100% lie (the article explains nothing about HVDCT) it's actually counterproductive and creates the impression that treehuggers are all clueless hippie airheads - not a good image for eco aware people...

It's especially sad when there are these other issues to report on, new engine technology, and new (though still derivative-looking) electric cars.  Oh and while I'm getting pissed off at Gizmodo-related sites - AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH! to the annoying, stupid totally crass term "leccy tech" for EVs.  Stupid asswipes that are using this echolalic term are doing more to damage the credibility of EVs than Ford and GM and Shell and BP combined, ffs.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ion Drive made from a Coke Can

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpEnnUHo9yg Unless it's total bullshit, this would appear to be a ver cheaply  constructed ion drive.

Paint It Bend It Spray It On - The Electronics Revolution

A few years ago I remember reading about paintable, bendable electronics online.  The article had a wistful, "wouldn't it be great if . . . ?" tone, and mentioned some "promising research" being done.  Then a year ago flat flexible OLED displays were "imminent."  In all these cases, the timeline was a few years into our future.  And yet, here's the payoff:
Is it just me or are there possibilities here?  Let's look at some implications for this technology:

It will be possible to pretty much put it anywhere.  That includes your cutlery and crockery, a flat slab of styrofoam painted to look like a book, shopping bags, windows, the roof of your electric vehicle...

It'll very rapidly become cheap.  That means you will find it on your shopping bags, your cutlery and crockery, and made into a lightweight e-book reader, as well as allowing your EV to "graze" on sunlight wherever you park it.

Once people see it in use, they will think of more uses for it.  I'm pretty pedestrian in my predictions, I can see a time when it will even be on pills and medications you take, to target the drugs to the right places, and measure the effect the drugs are having and adjust the dosage on the fly.  It will probably also be on your money (credit, debit, whatever) cards, furniture, and walls.

When electronics becomes this common and this invisible, and connectivity and intelligence can be built in, you're onto something that will change the world more than the Internet has.  Combine this with something like the Phantom OS currently developed in Russia (and the resultant programming upheaval it will create) and you have a seriously BIG change in technology and how we and it interact.

On the subject of Phantom - (here is what seems to be their homepage, by the way) there are some programmers who will know this kind of "run in place" style of operating system like the backs of their hands - all the programmers who made programs for the Tandy M100 and Tandy M200 "laptop" computers of the '80's.  Because they used a very similar way of operating - files and programs were written to nonvolatile memory and switching on and off just meant stopping in mid-read or whatever, and then restarting at that same point as though nothing had happened.

So devices using Phantom technology will start up instantly and carry on doing whatever they were doing when the power went off.  Seems to be a boon for solar controllers and low-power monitoring and remote control devices to me.  And of course for advertising signs that could steal the power of your mobile phone transmission to light themselves up only when there was someone with a cellphone nearby, or - hell, I'm sure you can see millions of uses for this technology...

As I used to say for my BBS, TEdLIVISION: "-- don't touch that dial!!!" - there are a whole load of new and interesting applications of this technology coming to a common item near you, and probably sooner than you think!

Sixth Sense - One Day It Will Be Internal.

PLEASE NOTE:  I've been evangelising the coming of this technology for several years now.  And here (http://tech.yahoo.com/news/afp/20090205/tc_afp/usitinternetresearchtedmit) it is.

Hang on, you're saying, these guys have produced a projector and smart stuff to overlay images on your surroundings.  That's not the same as your NanoNeuroNet[(c)2000-2020 teddlesruss] technology.

I direct your attention to the closing sentence.  I'm not the only one thinking implantable reality-augmentation.

The only difference is that they are still thinking "fiche'n'chips" with hardware manufactured and then surgically implanted - a technique that will not work unless you trust a robot, with its ability to mechanically make hundreds of thousands of connections, to go poking around in your brain and "plumbing in" the hardware.  Also, you'll be carrying discrete lumps of hardware inside your head, some of it may weigh a gramme or more.  That's the kind of thing that would turn into a lethal, brain-jellifying, missile in case of an accident at high speed, or in the worst scenario, if you walked head-on into a glass door.  Do you really want a few dozen quite massive bullets inside your body?

On the other hand, I'm thinking nanotechnology, a whole series of self-organising solutions that you inject and which arrange themselves along neurons and synapses, forming in effect a spidery scaffold that is distributed all through your body and weighs almost nothing compared to the existing nerve cells.

This technology would be less invasive, and has a few curious side effects.  In effect, your nervous system and brain become very hardy, as most "natural" deaths are due to neurological failures, nerves stop conducting, synapses misfire more and more.  Because you have this scaffold in place, neurological failure becomes much less of a problem.  You get to live longer.

The second side effect is something that's not immediately obvious.  But the speed of conduction is several orders of magnitude different between nerve cells (very slow) and metal or some metallic nanoparticle. In effect, your reflexes and motor skills will improve dramatically.  The only problem would be a feeling of disorientation until your brain learned to ignore the neural signals that would arrive a full couple of milliseconds AFTER the new NNN's signal had already arrived and been acted on.

So here's a technology I've envisioned for almost a decade now, and which is becoming more and more possible by each day's research being done around the world.  I won't even hesitate to say that several military projects are already at the "injecting NNN goo" stage, and would not be surprised to hear that at least some of the test had been successful.

Now I no longer wonder how long before they make an NNN, I wonder how long before someone figures out how to download one's NNN to a backup device...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

VR Magic Carpet

Slow and tiny steps.  That's what the subject in this article has to take, and it's what the VR developers are currently taking.  The tiny slow steps of a new technology, painful, and one day to be looked back on with a kind of "Geez - can you imagine that?" mixture of nostalgia and horror.

I mean - watch the video.  The chap "demonstrating" the floor has to shuffle like an arthritic centenarian in a stupor, it's so slow and creaking and painstaking.  I took a look at the page where Dr Iwatoo is mentioned, but Google kindly translated the page from Japanese for me, meaning I understood it less than I would have the Kanji characters, but I gather that there is rather a lot of VR technology attributable to the good doctor and/or institutions he worked at, most of which is baffling even without the translation.  Would you lock yourself inside what looks like a giant ant and immerse yourself in VR that way?  *shudder* It scares me, that does.

But on the matter of the robo-floor, I do have a few suggestions.  Like - a LOT more tiles.  And a much tighter moving algorithm.  Part of the problem is that tiles do large circuits which take time to complete.  And they're not all that fast to begin with. And they're noisy.  And need batteries.  What would be nice would be if we could just sort of fit a magic carpet into a shoe...

Well, how about this thought? Put an inductive grid under the floor, and matching coils/magnets in the soles of a pair of "VR overshoes."  Now you can just float the user backwards and forwards on roller ball bearings, you can simulate climbing and acceleration by tilting the floor, and more.

Ewwww! Mammoth Germs!

I wonder what happened with this - one article, and then nothing.  Generally this could mean one of a few things:
  • The inoculation of mammoth bacteria ended up having an "unexpected" side effect of perhaps killing the poor little mousies it was given to.
  • The inoculation works as expected, and the research team is going into secret development phase and will come up with something that will make Viagra seem insignificant by comparison.
  • Or, no other news department has picked up on this, and no-one's announced anything, and the research department involved has been eliminated because this is too potentially destabilising.
I'm wondering too if perhaps the lily was gilded just a little bit, and the results perhaps weren't anything as spectacular as claimed...  Actually, when you read the article, it sounds like the premise for a modern comic book series, where "An ancient life-form rises to once again reclaim the Earth!" and then much apocalypse happens...

Also - does that mean that mammoths were once the virile, almost immortal, rulers of the Earth and had a science far superior to ours?  More importantly - what killed them off, is it time to find the mammoth version of tinfoil hats and bunker down if this bacterium gets loose?

I've Been Mind Melded! Augh!

Ever fallen victim to a meme?  Or had one of those groupthink moments when everyone all has the same vision at the same time?  Or have you gone for a whole week where everything you stumbled across seemed to have a theme of "thirteen?"

Check.  I've been thinking about a small boat that I could use to get out to fishing spots without having to find a ramp to launch, and (due to emphysema making heavy efforts impossible) that would be easy to trailer.  All coincidentally, I found a video of some early 1900's technology which promised to do exactly what I needed - with some heavy modification - and had started working on a design that had two "hulls" which were each in two parts, and several raised arched struts connecting the hulls which held the main boat slung underneath them.  I sketched out several "napkin" versions, and started collecting material for a one meter model to test it out.

Then I saw this.  http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/02/ugo-contis-spider-boat-is-super-fuel-efficient.php and realised that someone stole my brane again!  Beginning to wonder if I maybe should invest in a tinfoil hat... %)

Well, to be fair, Ugo has been working on that boat for a lot longer than I have.  But we both started the same way, and have come up with very similar designs.  Although I can say with smug glee that mine will be capable of going even more places than Proteus with it's 18" draft.  And mine will put itself away on the trailer without needing to back down the ramp.  That's all I'm saying for now...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On Being Transhuman

Transhumanism, a definition:
DESCRIPTION OF TRANSHUMANISM
"Transhumanism" or "human enhancement" refers to an intellectual and cultural movement that advocates the use of a variety of emerging technologies. The convergence of these technologies may make it possible to take control of human evolution, providing for the enhancement of human mental and physical abilities and the amelioration of aspects of the human condition regarded as undesirable. If these enhancements become widely available, it would arguably have a more radical impact than any other development in human history—one need only reflect briefly on the economic, political, and social implications of some of the extreme enhancement possibilities. The implications for religion and the religious dimensions of human enhancement technologies are enormous and are addressed in our consultation.

That being said, here (still!) are the major dissonances that I can see with Augmenting (they refer to as "enhancement") of people:

At what point have you gone beyond "Augmentation" and into "Construction"?
This is a valid kind of question. Various organisations, notably defense forces and a few universities, have recently begun to try and answer the question of when an autonomous and seemingly intelligent machine should start being afforded rights.

Similarly, at what point along the "enhancement" progression should a person legally cease to be recognised as a "person"?  Because, if there's no point along that line where a person ceases to be a person, then machines and animals are already persons, because the "technology" referred to can be as simple as grafting a few human neurons into a cow.  That would lead to some serious conflicts for me eating my steak and riding my scooter up onto kerbs or across puddles, so it really needs to be sorted out.

Ameliorate?  Enhance?  Desirable?  Undesirable?  
The next sticky ground.  Transhumanists say they want to "take control of human evolution, providing for the enhancement of human mental and physical abilities and the amelioration of aspects of the human condition regarded as undesirable."  What precisely does that mean?  As they say, they want to change the "human condition."  For me, I can see the advantage of Augmenting myself with lungs that are no longer full of holes from my stupid stupid smoking habit of yesteryear, that's a definite amelioration of one of my human conditions.  But where do you stop, when is it no longer a "human" condition?

Aging and dying are two aspects of the "human condition" that I bet many people would like to see "ameliorated."  So does that mean that "reproductive capacity" will be similarly "ameliorated" to prevent rapid overpopulation?  I know everyone is still thinking that "they" whoever they are will put "human" limits on this kind of modification, but suppose one person thinks "screw them!" and goes outside those limits anyway?  Can't you just foresee the day when the world's population consists of precisely one superhuman, immortal, and very ruthless person?  Who's "ameliorated" themselves all the way to that superhuman condition and then eradicated competition one by one?  

Pardon?  "Religious" technology? 
Yeah well.  I'll leave this particular piece of bullshit where it is, at the bottom of the heap.  All I'm going to say is that any religion that still can't accept evolution is going to choke to death on "amelioration," let alone technology...  Maybe restricted to Popes and above, but not acceptable at all in any lay circles I'd bet.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Life Of Crime Virtually Pays For Itself.

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics. So said Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain, a century ago.

Read the article in my first link and you can see one way to turn statistics to the damnedest lies.  In fact, if you think about it, there's a far easier way to prove that data theft results in the most identity theft - at each haul of the net, a mugger or work colleague bent on getting your wallet and cards nets exactly one identity, whereas the phisherman brings in hundreds of thousand of personal details in one sweep.  While exact figures aren't to hand, one can see about one website a month getting fleeced for several hundred thousand sets of details, plus (we are asssured) about one tenth that amount getting phished by email or web page scams, meaning at least one or more hundred thousand small thefts each month.  I'd like to say that if there were that many muggings and thefts of cards reported in one month, alarm bells would have long ago sounded and we'd have seen huge press coverage of the "torrent of thefts..."

Also - if you look at those figures (and I'm being conservative) and imagine that each of those 100,000 online thefts got taken for only $20 each, you're still talking an income of $2m a month between a relatively small pool of perpetrators, maybe one or two hundred people at the most, making their "wages of sin" an average of $12,000 per month each - not a bad take-home salary, that... So you can also see why it isn't going to stop.  Not when you consider that this is NOT evenly distributed, and over half those hackers and botnet herders would go home with maybe $2,000 only.  *Someone* is making a packet, up near the top of this particular tree...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Is New Technology Up To Par?

Are you an early adopter of technology?  I've decided I'm just on the front fringe of mainstream - after all, people develop and test this kind of stuff and they ARE the real early adopters...  I'll also say that I don't slavishly adopt every new technology as it comes along, but some technology just seems to cry out to be used, and used NOW! and so I end up among the first arrivals quite often, sitting around asking each other "nice, but what do we do with it?"

That's how I feel about Google Latitude (another link ) right now.  It NEEDS to be used, and that fairly quickly.  I wrote in a past article about GPS phones and what can be done with them, about some of the convenience that can be realised by using location awareness to advantage.  There are life-saving technologies that can be implemented (read my scenario near the end of the article) if only people used geolocation properly and there was a standard besides NMEA0183 which is just a very old school way to get latitude and longitude data down a serial pipe.

So imagine my disappointment when I went to Google Latitude and entered my PC location manually, then went to Google Maps.  Surprise surprise - Google Maps knows shit about my location, despite both having access to Google Gears and my location data.  Pity.  I fired up the petrol price tracker and - once again - it can't find its own ass with both hands and Google Maps, let alone my location so it can do something useful like find me nearby petrol prices...

Then too I have a GPS in my car but it stubbornly won't reveal a location to my cellphone or laptop or PDA - it's a walled garden, an island, a stand-alone.  Same with the GPS module I've painstakingly cobbled together out of the guts of a GPS enabled device, a serial to USB dongle, and seemingly miles of wires and cable.  It gets as far as the laptop, and languishes there.

Isn't it time this changed?  I think it should, and soon.  I'll soon be posting an article that I hope will generate a lot of discussion, but it's a bit controversial and I'm still working on it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Do Packbots Dream Electric IEDs?

Last week in this post I said that robot and cyborg ethics are suddenly becoming a big issue - and now, for your enjoyment, here's the debate about whether or not killer bots in the field need to have a Bill Of Rights...

Until these robots can perceive damage as "pain," and until they are given a sense of "self-awareness" (as in "That's *me* that's *hurting* and in danger of *death* there!") then I don't think they are more than a finely-honed tool, no different to the electronics in modern vehicles that keep the vehicle running, perform diagnostics, and scan for and possibly react to their surroundings in a limited way.

As such, they should be entitled to the same kind of consideration you give to your car, your refrigerator, and a range of robotic toys - harming them for harm's sake is just not productive nor is it a very human thing for you to do, and you're basically hurting yourself and people (and kids) around you more than you're "hurting" them.  Try and save the duco, don't let them run out of oil, and operate them safely.  (Well, safely for your own soldiers and civilians, at any rate...)

But who knows, maybe the Defense Dept's are way ahead of us and there are actually biological brains inside those clever UAVs and Packbots...

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