Thursday, June 07, 2007

(Mostly) Apolitical Misc Coolstuff!

After that cranky and admittedly crackpot ( I pray that my theory is wrong) screed, let's lighten up with some exampled of civilization fighting back against the darkness! First this cool/nifty item offered by Stefan.

This video prompts you to ask yourself “Why haven’t big government and corporations done this?” -- stunning example of small enterprise paving our way into space. And proving they can do it re-usably! (Alas, it also supports paranoid theories that the big guys have been keeping us out of space... deliberately. If you want the most blatant proof possible, just listen to anything at all spoken by NASA Administrator Griffin.)

Let’s do it ourselves!

Chris Phoenix writes in: “I'm remembering the device in one of your books (Sundiver?) that has people look at a picture, and tracks where they look and for how long, in order to profile personality types and tell dangerous people from good citizens. Now it seems you can in fact tell something about mindset based on where people look. See below.”

PSYCHOLOGY: Pas des Yeux Gilbert Chin ( Psychol. Sci. 18, 407 (2007)) - A dialogue, though generally understood to be a conversation between two people, allows for much more than the mere exchange of verbal information. Linguistic (for example, syntax) and nonlinguistic (for example, body postures) tell-tales develop and become synchronized as people talk and listen. Visual attention is another dimension in which behavior can become coordinated as when a listener's gaze is directed toward an object of mutual interest by pointing.

Richardson et al. show that the eyes of conversants--who are looking at the same scene but are not within sight of each other--tracked the same objects within the scene for several seconds, starting from the time at which the speaker began to fixate on the object before talking about it and including the time taken by the listener to saccade to the object after hearing what the speaker had begun to say. Another important contribution to the coordination of visual attention comes from having a common ground of understanding. Conversants looking at a Salvador Dalí painting were more likely to exhibit synchronized eye movements if they had previously heard the same introduction, either to the painting itself or to Dalí's life, as compared to pairs of conversants in which one had heard about the painting and the other about his life. -- GJC
Anyone care to log this on that web sci fi predictions registry?
Chris continued: “This feels extremely important. Both for the kind of testing you proposed, and for studying what factors make people simpatico (or not). Or for testing how well they're communicating in real time. Or... If good communication is important to collective human survival, then I think this research needs to be expanded on ASAP.”

I responded: “Chris, I have long felt this was a totally huge "window to the soul" and possibly a lie detector as well. I am terrified stuff like this may fall into just a few hands and have striven for years to interest researchers, so it can be mass distributed.

“Alas, as with most of my big ideas, people go " Huh! Interesting!" Then do nothing. Oh, twenty years later, a few people send me emails.”

Chris’s final word:
“Eye trackers used to cost tens of thousands, and be a major pain to use. Now they cost $1000 and can track eyeballs from 30 feet away (says a recent news story, explaining how they can be used to research the effectiveness of ads and shelf placement). I'm reminded of Heinlein's line from The Door Into Summer: "When it's time to railroad, you railroad."

“Now that the tech is accessible to the masses, it shouldn't be too hard to get people working on it. You're a famous science fiction author--there's got to be thousands of bright students who would jump through some pretty high hoops in order to get a few hours of face time with you. I wonder what would happen if you simply published a call for research on your blog, saying that anyone who did cool research in this direction would be able to earn your personal attention thereby?”

And mine:
“Hrm, I wish it were that simple. I have tried that approach! (Believe it or not, that page comes up first when you google "self -righteous indignation" And # 12 in "self righteousness", so people are obviously reading it. Still, does anything actually happen?)

“In fact, I think the problems are related. Moreover zillions could be made off applications of eye-tracking correlation with personality/lie-detection. But nobody has any guts. Ah well.”

For a zazzy - though more mainstream liberal - feast of spicy zings at the far right, see the latest ARMAGEDDON BUFFET.


The human and chimpanzee vary by just 1.2%, yet there is a considerable difference in the mental and linguistic capabilities of the two species. A new study showed that a certain form of neuropsin, a protein that plays a role in learning and memory, is expressed only in the central nervous systems of humans and that it originated less than 5 million years ago.

The sun and Earth will probably be spun out into a lonely region of space when the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies finish colliding about five billion years from now, researchers say in a new study. There's also a small chance that our solar system will be swept from its home in the Milky Way and be scooped up by Andromeda during an earlier close encounter, in just three-and-a-half-billion years.

Two teams of British researchers are seeking permission to create "cybrid" embryos that would be around 99.9 per cent human and 0.1 per cent animal to produce embryonic stem cells. They want to use the stem cells to understand and provide new treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cystic fibrosis, motor neurone disease and Huntington’s.

A study of thousands of websites across 120 Internet Service Providers found 25 of 41 countries surveyed showed evidence of government-sponsored content filtering. The study did not examine a number of countries in Europe or the US because there the private sector rather than the government tends to carry out filtering. The 25 countries which carry out the broadest range of filtering are listed at the bottom of the article.

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 For those who are not sure what source to believe, here is New Scientist’s roundup of the 26 most common climate myths and misconceptions. Also included is a guide to assessing the evidence: links to primary research and major reports for those who want to follow through to the original sources.

 Mainstream climatologists who have feared that global warming could have the paradoxical effect of cooling northwestern Europe or even plunging it into a small ice age have stopped worrying about that particular disaster, although it retains a vivid hold on the public imagination. "The bottom line is that the atmosphere is warming up so much that a slowdown of the North Atlantic Current will never be able to cool Europe,"

 The world's first commercial compressed air-powered vehicle is rolling towards the production line. The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy Nègre, will be built by India's largest automaker, Tata Motors. The Air Car uses compressed air to push its engine's pistons. It is anticipated that approximately 6000 Air Cars will be cruising the streets of India by 2008. If the manufacturers have no surprises up their exhaust pipes the car will be practical and reasonably priced. The CityCat model will clock out at 68 mph with a driving range of 125 miles. Refueling is simple and will only take a few minutes. That is, if you live nearby a gas station with custom air compressor units. The cost of a fill up is approximately $2.00. If a driver doesn't have access to a compressor station, they will be able to plug into the electrical grid and use the car's built-in compressor to refill the tank in about 4 hours.

Australian researchers have developed a means of increasing a solar cell's light-trapping ability by up to 50% and increasing the power generated by 30%. The new process coats a thin film (about 10 nanometres thick) of silver onto a solar cell and heats it to 200C. The film breaks into tiny 100-nanometre "islands" of silver and raises its light-trapping efficiency

This is an op-ed piece listing energy solutions that are all technically available today in the order of their capacity to deliver. It also offers a commentary on the long term viability of so-called new fuels such as biodiesel, ethanol and hydrogen and nuclear energy generation.


Tony Fisk said...

Whilst we're talking about energy innovations down under:
A bank for wind power (sub. needed for full article)

Sitting at the western end of Bass Strait between the Australian mainland and Tasmania, King Island might not seem like a beacon to the future. Yet inside a large metal shed close to the island's west coast is an electricity storage system that promises to transform the role of wind energy...

... or any locally generated power.

I will have to keep an eye on Green and Gold (although I do wish they'd sell their solar cubes/balls to the public!)

Which brings us back to amateurs: the more informed and empowered a citizenry is, the more able they are to sip from the transparency firehose, and contribute to improving public policy.

The converse also holds.

Anonymous said...

bout the air car of Negre, we can only hope... I remember news and rumors about his project being "months away from mass production" since 2001... Really, he had a lot of troubles finding anybody willing to invest in his technology, expecially because his few prototypes resulted excedingly noisy, with very short mileage... Let's hope that this time he really managed to deliver because this technology sounds quite interesting (one side note about it is that thanks to this technology thermodinamic cycle, air conditioning and air warming in the abitacle would be provided at no extra consumption).

Tony Fisk said...

There must be something in the water (or whatever passes for water down here these days). Another report from today's Age:

wireless electricity

Apparently, MIT have been able to power a 60W bulb from 2 metres. (The loss rate isn't stated, however)

Pat Mathews said...

Developing theories about people's mental states from where their eyeballs go worries me. I was well into late middle age when a career counselor pointed out I might be blowing interviews by not making eye contact with the interviewer. I checked and tried. Whoops! Lifelong habit, hard to correct, completely unaware of it for half a century. There may be others out there, too.

Mike Crichton said...

As long as you're posting links, you should give a shout-out to me Legoland Needs Women! petition. A relatively minor cause, I admit, but you gotta start Changing The World _somewhere_. :-)

Zechariah said...

Yeah, I saw the wireless power transmission. Too bad it only works over short distances, it'd be nice to get rid of all the power lines that deface the countryside. (Didn't Tesla try broadcast power? And have to stop when his investors realized there'd be no way to meter the power?)

Two teams of British researchers are seeking permission to create "cybrid" embryos that would be around 99.9 per cent human and 0.1 per cent animal to produce embryonic stem cells.
Didn't "The Island of Dr. Moreau" turn out to be a bad idea? I guess they're only going to be using this to make specialized cells and not whole organisms. Still they better keep a close eye on all their samples. The last thing we need is for Japan to get ahold of real catgirls.

Zechariah said...

Oh, by the way, they found a cow with a rare mutation that causes it to make low fat milk that contains Omega-3 fatty acids. Yay New Zealand. Link

bw said...

the last link to the op-ed on energy is misguided.

Nuclear waste is mostly unburned nuclear fuel. It can be reprocessed. Of the 66000 tons of nuclear "waste". 5700 tons per year are reprocessed. The reprocessed material can be used in some of the reactors.

We can make more efficient reactors that use more than 0.7% of the fuel.

I review all the issues around nuclear energy and other energy sources.

Coal kills over one million every year from pollution. Together with other fossil fuel (oil, natural gas) over 3 million per year.

so scope of the problem is a lot more than conservation. It is not just avoiding global warming but lessening the millions dieing each year.

Nuclear should be part of the solution.

Jonathan said...

Well, the "eye contact" issue does leave me kind of nervous. Way to make those of use on the autistic spectrum feel even more marginalized!

I mean, we don't do eye contact, we can't read or accurately project body language - and now this is going to be used as some sort of truth-detection or mind-scanning tech? (shudder)

Enterik said...

I just wanted to add that "Cybrids" are nothing new. Development Reserach labs have been making Chicken-Quail cybrids for years.

Trainer said...

Is BW right? Is cigarette smoke the red herring of the lung cancer epidemic? would love easy, quick website links that I could spread around.

also, david, could you add rss feed ability to your blog? I'd love to be able to get your posts directly on my google homepage.

David Brin said...

SS feed on Blogspot several times. Could someone tell me if it is working for them? Or why not?

Tony Fisk said...

The rss feed works fine for me...

Zecheriah, even using the data from initial results (40% efficiency at 2m) I can think of one application of wireless power: thermal suits requiring about 20W. Think what that would do to the central heating bill!

Andrew said...

There's an interesting article in The Economist comparing the costs & benefits of different methods of CO2 reduction.

Zechariah said...

I can think of one application of wireless power: thermal suits requiring about 20W. Think what that would do to the central heating bill!

*shrugs* A sweater doesn't need 20 Watts since most humans make their own thermal energy. Just ask the Matrix robots.

Of course, if you don't like wearing bulky stuff indoors, you're left back with central heating.

Oh, wait. you were kidding. Nevermind.

bw said...

Even if a lot of people follow the more economically positive steps of insulating houses, switching lighting etc... unless this results in coal or fossil plants being shutdown or operating a lot less so that less pollution and CO2 is generated then there is no actual reduction.

Better insulation and better lighting have been known for decades. Up until recently the lighting switch has only be done for 5% of lights. This is even with legislation in california that requires a percentage of flourescent lighting and dimmer switches on new construction and remodeling.

More fuel efficient cars: 1 million hybrid cars now. great pat yourselves on the back. But there are 600 million cars on the road worldwide. Every year 65 million more car and trucks get added.

The energy efficiency efforts are nice but it is like you have 1000 concentration camps operating 24X7 and shutting them down between noon and 3 pm on Tuesdays.

Changing out the powerplants is what is needed. It will take 2-3 and probable more decades (at the fastest rate) but that is what has to be done.

China is building dams at the rate of a Three gorges every other year. By 2020 they will have 160GW more hydro power. But they are still adding coal. They are not getting rid of the existing coal plants (except shutting down the smallest and dirtiest and replacing them with cleaner, bigger coal plants.)

In the US are any of the environmental plans targeting the coal and natural gas plants to shut them down ? The most agressive is to make them less polluting over the next 8 years. That is better than nothing, but to really handle the problem we have to phase out the coal plants and fossil fuel usage. (Or cure cancer, heart disease, asthma and use gene therapy to make everyone immune to particulates, arsenic, mercury and smog poison and later to high temperatures, extreme weather and less water). I think it would be easier to mass produce the nuclear reactors, scale up wind, solar etc...

The world will be spending 40 trillion over the 45 years on infrastructure. 11 trillion on energy and another 11 trillion on transportation. We should use that money and tackle the full scope of the problem. Fixing it sooner we will save trillions that we would have spent on the people we made sick or killed.

Doris said...

Forensic linguistics is an art and a science.

Thematic apperception tests have existed at least since the 1960s.

Graphanalysis is a pop-science that sometimes seems valid.

All can be used to classify, identify, and analyze the writer or speaker.

The problem parallels the autistic's concern. Were you trained to write that way? Does your writing demonstrate how you are affected by the latest movie you have seen -- and not reveal your deepest personal ethics?

Enterik said...

BW, while I agree with the sentiment that something needs to be done now (while it's not so painful) and should involve a panoply of solutions, I still think improving mandated standards with an eye towards improved efficiency and conservation are the way to go. Just because these obvious realities have failed to catch on in an era of apparently cheap energy doesn't mean they shouldn't or won't in the future.

One thing that might go a long way to restructuring our energy economy is an electricity transmission standard with net metering for a diffuse grid of small scale generators.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin,

I remember you looking for this a while ago. I'm not sure if you found this particular one or not, but here is a link to an application where you can enter all the old Creative Computing BASIC programs on the PC. It includes a number of the classic games (Wumpus, etc.) that some of us spent hours typing in to play for a few hours until we had to turn the computer off - no storage!

There is also a link there to "The Best of Creative Computing."

bw said...

I want to emphasize that the so-called energy solutions listed in the last link to theage article does not address the scope of the energy problems.

An aggressive form of applying such energy efficiency solutions from McKinsey Co.

Shows going far beyond where we are now with efficiency only slows projected energy growth by half. This is useful but does not stop the current air pollution slaughter and does not stop that slaughter from getting worse as we still add a lot more coal and fossil fuels.

If we really want clean energy we should not be so arrogant as to dismiss genetically engineered biofuels, nuclear power and everything not coal. And then after or as coal is eliminated then oil and natural gas.

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