Taking a much-needed break from serious stuff and politics. We all deserve peaceful holidays, even amid the rabid and hun-like “War Against Christmas...” that is being perpetrated by those ravening hordes at the ACLU...
So here are a few almost-random items. Just for fun.
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Colloquium on the Law of Transhuman Persons Marks International Human Rights Day (from KurzweilAI.net Dec. 9, 2005) The public is invited to listen and participate in a discussion by legal and artificial intelligence experts on the rights of "transhumans" -- defined by the Terasem Movement as "conscious entities who have or who aspire to have human rights, regardless of being of flesh, electronics or a bioelectronic combination." The pioneering 1st...
A "brain" grown from 25,000 neural cells extracted from a single rat embryo has been taught to fly an F-22 jet simulator by scientists at the University of Florida. They hope their research into neural computation will help develop sophisticated hybrid computers with a thinking biological component. The first result could be to enable...
New "thinking tools" -- software for storing, retrieving and generally making the best use of information -- are now available on Mac computers. They include Devon, which uses a "semantic search" process that is more sophisticated than search engines and can bring up files or passages whose meaning is related to what you are looking for, even...
The Dec. 1 issue of Nature looks at what wikis, blogs, digital libraries, Google Base, and other Internet technologies may mean for the future of scientific communication beyond the confines of scientific journals. These tools offer fresh opportunities both before publication, when people are debating ideas and hypotheses, and after, when they...
And now, veering in another direction, do drop by and read this article about those who seem quite busy, laying a path for Nehemiah Scudder:
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Veering again, I have just finished revising my infamous Star Wars Essay, indicting that universe of many crimes, from plot inconsistency to anti-democracy propaganda. It will be the lead piece in a book that comes out next June, from BenBella Books’ “SmartPop!” series of books on popular culture. (The same puplisher as for my latest book: King Kong is Back! An Unauthorized Look at One Humungous Ape.)
The new book -- Star Wars on Trial -- will feature essays written by eminent and fun authors, taking both sides in a zesty “mock trial.”
Watch for it in June, the same month that Jim Baen’s UNIVERSE online magazine will make history. Meanwhile, do subscribe to ANALONG, if for no other reason than to support modernism.
And buy the Kong book as a gift! You’ll be glad you did. (See http://www.davidbrin.com/ (offers) for how to send me self addressed stamped envelopes to return you signed bookplates.
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Finally, I am on an advisory group trying to figure out future pitfalls of nanotechnology... like whether it really can turn into carnivorous “gray goo” as Greg Bear ortrayed interestingly in BLOOD MUSIC and that Michael Crichton sensationalized more recently. We are starting to put together an anthology of essays about nanotech futures. Here is the fascinating opening 3 paragraphs of one of the most interesting.
Noninflationary Impact of the Personal Nanofactory Robert A. Freitas Jr. 13 December 2005
Is the advent of, and mass availability of, desktop personal nanofactories (PNs)  likely to cause deflation (a persistent decline in the general prices of goods and services), inflation (a persistent general price increase), or neither?
Our analysis begins with an assumption that at the end of a 20-year period of introduction, almost every household in a developing country has purchased a PN. The PN will be capable of building any manner of consumer goods using simple molecular feedstock such as acetylene or propane gas that will be piped into the home via a utility connection, similar to present-day hookups that deliver natural gas, water, and electricity. There are other delivery scenarios such as bottled gas feedstock, and more self-sufficient feedstock provisioning scenarios such as solar-powered recycling, biomass/biowaste extraction, or even atmospheric extraction, but these will be set aside in the interests of simplicity.
. If we further assume that (1) the capital cost to acquire the PN is approximately $4400, (2) the PN can produce consumer products at the rate of 1 kg/hr , and (3) the PN is operated 50% of the time throughout a useful lifetime of 10 years, then the PN during its useful life produces 44,000 kg of consumer products which have an amortized capital cost of $0.10/kg, a cost that is built into every product manufactured by the PN.
.Assuming the average person in a first-world country consumes 2000 kcal/day of food, and taking the average energy density of food (arbitrarily weighting protein:carbohydrate:fat in a 4:3:3 ratio) as 24 million J/kg , then the average person consumes about 130 kg/yr of food. Assuming the average person consumes 4 grocery bagfuls per week of consumer nondurables with each bag containing 2 kg of useful product, then the average person requires 400 kg/yr of consumer nondurables (of which 130 kg/yr is food). The PN is assumed to produce 4400 kg/yr of consumer products. Given that the average person in an industrialized economy needs 400 kg/yr of nondurables, or 1600 kg/yr for a household of 4 people, this leaves 2800 kg/yr either for increased nondurables consumption or for the manufacture of desired consumer durables. Durables might include clothing, appliances, furniture, and cars. Large automobiles that weigh 2000 kg today could weigh as little as 200 kg if made of much stronger diamondoid materials, so the production budget would allow up to 14 diamondoid cars per year to be built. Thus a single PN with the above parameters is probably sufficient to satisfy all reasonable household needs for residents of industrialized countries.
...all right, a little dense. But fascinating! Feel free to discuss.
Oh, and I get full points for dropping politics for a while. ;-)