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Author Topic: Disruptive Technologies  (Read 30508 times)

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Offline Ken

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Real-time, brain-scanning speller gives the silent a voice
« Reply #325 on: June 29, 2012, 12:20:09 PM »
http://www.gizmag.com/real-time-brain-scanning-speller/23133/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=adeff0f5c5-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email

Real-time, brain-scanning speller gives the silent a voice
By Darren Quick

02:19 June 29, 2012

Researchers have developed technology that automatically decode distinct brain patterns to allow individuals to spell out sentences (Image: Shutterstock)

Researchers at Maastricht University in The Netherlands have developed a device that gives a voice to those who are completely unable to speak or move at all. Building on previous work using functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) technology, which allowed individuals to give yes/no responses or answer multiple-choice questions, the new approach allows for full, unscripted back-and-forth conversations.

FMRI is a non-invasive technique that measures brain activity by detecting the changes in blood oxygenation and flow that occur in response to neural activity. It has previously been used to assess consciousness in people described as being in an unconscious, vegetative state and enable them to answer yes/no questions. This was then expanded to allow individuals to answer the equivalent of multiple-choice questions having four or fewer possible answers.

Maastricht University’s Bettina Sorger and colleagues have now taken this approach one step further by creating a real-time, brain-scanning speller. Sorger’s team came up with a letter-encoding technique in which participants were asked to perform a particular mental task for a set period of time to signify a specific character. This produced 27 distinct brain patterns corresponding to each letter of the alphabet and a space character.

The letter-encoding technique required almost no pre-training and the 27 distinct brain patterns could be automatically decoded in real time. Communication experiments carried out by the team saw participants holding a mini-conversation consisting of two open ended questions and answers. Every participant tested was able to successfully produce answers within a single one-hour session.

Because MRi machines are bulky and expensive pieces of equipment, Sorger hopes the fMRI technology she and her team have developed can be transferred to a more portable and affordable method of measuring blood flow, such as functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).

The team’s research is detailed in a report published online in Current Biology.

“If mankind is to survive, then throughout man’s history except for a very few years the word “ship” will mean “space ship.”
Arthur C. Clarke

Offline Ken

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Physicists Find Elusive Particle Seen as Key to Universe
« Reply #326 on: July 05, 2012, 02:34:11 AM »
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/05/science/cern-physicists-may-have-discovered-higgs-boson-particle.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120705

July 4, 2012
Physicists Find Elusive Particle Seen as Key to Universe
By DENNIS OVERBYE
ASPEN, Colo. — Signaling a likely end to one of the longest, most expensive searches in the history of science, physicists said Wednesday that they had discovered a new subatomic particle that looks for all the world like the Higgs boson, a key to understanding why there is diversity and life in the universe.

Like Omar Sharif materializing out of the shimmering desert as a man on a camel in “Lawrence of Arabia,” the elusive boson has been coming slowly into view since last winter, as the first signals of its existence grew until they practically jumped off the chart.

“I think we have it,” said Rolf-Dieter Heuer, the director general of CERN, the multinational research center headquartered in Geneva. The agency is home to the Large Hadron Collider, the immense particle accelerator that produced the new data by colliding protons. The findings were announced by two separate teams. Dr. Heuer called the discovery “a historic milestone.”

He and others said that it was too soon to know for sure, however, whether the new particle is the one predicted by the Standard Model, the theory that has ruled physics for the last half-century. The particle is predicted to imbue elementary particles with mass. It may be an impostor as yet unknown to physics, perhaps the first of many particles yet to be discovered.

That possibility is particularly exciting to physicists, as it could point the way to new, deeper ideas, beyond the Standard Model, about the nature of reality.

For now, some physicists are simply calling it a “Higgslike” particle.

“It’s something that may, in the end, be one of the biggest observations of any new phenomena in our field in the last 30 or 40 years,” said Joe Incandela, a physicist of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a spokesman for one of the two groups reporting new data on Wednesday.

Here at the Aspen Center for Physics, a retreat for scientists, bleary-eyed physicists drank Champagne in the wee hours as word arrived via Webcast from CERN. It was a scene duplicated in Melbourne, Australia, where physicists had gathered for a major conference, as well as in Los Angeles, Chicago, Princeton, New York, London and beyond — everywhere that members of a curious species have dedicated their lives and fortunes to the search for their origins in a dark universe.

In Geneva, 1,000 people stood in line all night to get into an auditorium at CERN, where some attendees noted a rock-concert ambience. Peter Higgs, the University of Edinburgh theorist for whom the boson is named, entered the meeting to a sustained ovation.

Confirmation of the Higgs boson or something very much like it would constitute a rendezvous with destiny for a generation of physicists who have believed in the boson for half a century without ever seeing it. The finding affirms a grand view of a universe described by simple and elegant and symmetrical laws — but one in which everything interesting, like ourselves, results from flaws or breaks in that symmetry.

According to the Standard Model, the Higgs boson is the only manifestation of an invisible force field, a cosmic molasses that permeates space and imbues elementary particles with mass. Particles wading through the field gain heft the way a bill going through Congress attracts riders and amendments, becoming ever more ponderous.

Without the Higgs field, as it is known, or something like it, all elementary forms of matter would zoom around at the speed of light, flowing through our hands like moonlight. There would be neither atoms nor life.

Physicists said that they would probably be studying the new particle for years. Any deviations from the simplest version predicted by current theory — and there are hints of some already — could begin to answer questions left hanging by the Standard Model. For example, what is the dark matter that provides the gravitational scaffolding of galaxies?

And why is the universe made of matter instead of antimatter?

“If the boson really is not acting standard, then that will imply that there is more to the story — more particles, maybe more forces around the corner,” Neal Weiner, a theorist at New York University, wrote in an e-mail. “What that would be is anyone’s guess at the moment.”

Wednesday’s announcement was also an impressive opening act for the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s biggest physics machine, which cost $10 billion to build and began operating only two years ago. It is still running at only half-power.

Physicists had been icing the Champagne ever since last December. Two teams of about 3,000 physicists each — one named Atlas, led by Fabiola Gianotti, and the other CMS, led by Dr. Incandela — operate giant detectors in the collider, sorting the debris from the primordial fireballs left after proton collisions.

Last winter, they both reported hints of the same particle. They were not able, however, to rule out the possibility that it was a statistical fluke. Since then, the collider has more than doubled the number of collisions it has recorded.

The results announced Wednesday capped two weeks of feverish speculation and Internet buzz as the physicists, who had been sworn to secrecy, did a breakneck analysis of about 800 trillion proton-proton collisions over the last two years.

Up until last weekend, physicists at the agency were saying that they themselves did not know what the outcome would be. Expectations soared when it was learned that the five surviving originators of the Higgs boson theory had been invited to the CERN news conference.

The December signal was no fluke, the scientists said Wednesday. The new particle has a mass of about 125.3 billion electron volts, as measured by the CMS group, and 126 billion according to Atlas. Both groups said that the likelihood that their signal was a result of a chance fluctuation was less than one chance in 3.5 million, “five sigma,” which is the gold standard in physics for a discovery.

On that basis, Dr. Heuer said that he had decided only on Tuesday afternoon to call the Higgs result a “discovery.”

He said, “I know the science, and as director general I can stick out my neck.”

Dr. Incandela’s and Dr. Gianotti’s presentations were repeatedly interrupted by applause as they showed slide after slide of data presented in graphs with bumps rising like mountains from the sea.

Dr. Gianotti noted that the mass of the putative Higgs, apparently one of the heaviest subatomic particles, made it easy to study its many behaviors. “Thanks, nature,” she said.

Gerald Guralnik, one of the founders of the Higgs theory, said he was glad to be at a physics meeting “where there is applause, like a football game.”

Asked to comment after the announcements, Dr. Higgs seemed overwhelmed. “For me, it’s really an incredible thing that’s happened in my lifetime,” he said.

Dr. Higgs was one of six physicists, working in three independent groups, who in 1964 invented what came to be known as the Higgs field. The others were Tom Kibble of Imperial College, London; Carl Hagen of the University of Rochester; Dr. Guralnik of Brown University; and François Englert and Robert Brout, both of Université Libre de Bruxelles.

One implication of their theory was that this cosmic molasses, normally invisible, would produce its own quantum particle if hit hard enough with the right amount of energy. The particle would be fragile and fall apart within a millionth of a second in a dozen possible ways, depending upon its own mass.

Unfortunately, the theory did not describe how much this particle should weigh, which is what made it so hard to find, eluding researchers at a succession of particle accelerators, including the Large Electron Positron Collider at CERN, which closed down in 2000, and the Tevatron at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab, in Batavia, Ill., which shut down last year.

Along the way the Higgs boson achieved a notoriety rare in abstract physics. To the eternal dismay of his colleagues, Leon Lederman, the former director of Fermilab, called it the “God particle,” in his book of the same name, written with Dick Teresi. (He later said that he had wanted to call it the “goddamn particle.”)

Finding the missing boson was one of the main goals of the Large Hadron Collider. Both Dr. Heuer and Dr. Gianotti said they had not expected the search to succeed so quickly.

So far, the physicists admit, they know little about their new boson. The CERN results are mostly based on measurements of two or three of the dozen different ways, or “channels,” by which a Higgs boson could be produced and then decay.

There are hints, but only hints so far, that some of the channels are overproducing the boson while others might be underproducing it, clues that maybe there is more at work here than the Standard Model would predict.

“This could be the first in a ring of discoveries,” said Guido Tonelli of CERN.

In an e-mail, Maria Spiropulu, a professor at the California Institute of Technology who works with the CMS team of physicists, said: “I personally do not want it to be standard model anything — I don’t want it to be simple or symmetric or as predicted. I want us all to have been dealt a complex hand that will send me (and all of us) in a (good) loop for a long time.”

Nima Arkani-Hamed, a physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, said: “It’s a triumphant day for fundamental physics. Now some fun begins.”
“If mankind is to survive, then throughout man’s history except for a very few years the word “ship” will mean “space ship.”
Arthur C. Clarke


Offline Ken

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iBrain to allow Stephen Hawking to communicate through brainwaves alone
« Reply #327 on: July 05, 2012, 03:08:25 PM »
http://www.gizmag.com/ibrain-stephen-hawking-communicate-brainwaves/23182/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=0e06e9ad80-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email


Tech startup Neurovigil announced last April that Stephen Hawking was testing the potential of its iBrain device to allow the astrophysicist to communicate through brainwaves alone. Next week Professor Hawking and iBrain inventor, Dr Philip Low from Stanford University, present their findings at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference in Cambridge, England. In anticipation, Gizmag spoke to Dr Low about the potential applications of the iBrain.

When Dr Low first met Stephen Hawking, he asked when the renowned astrophysicist would like to begin trialing his new product. Low waited a moment as Hawking entered his response through the pair of infra-red glasses he uses to send messages via the muscles in his cheek. Then the reply came back: “Right now.”

At 70-years-old, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (A.L.S) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease has deteriorated Stephen Hawking’s condition to the point where it takes several minutes for him to communicate a simple message. The pair of glasses dubbed the “cheek-switch” has been his primary way of communicating ever since the 1980’s when the disease robbed him of his ability to speak. The “cheek-switch” utilizes one of the only muscles Hawking still has use of - but for how much longer, doctors can’t be sure. For this reason, finding a new method of communication has become essential for the astrophysicist.

The iBrain was devised as the first EEG headset to monitor brainwaves through a single-channel only (though it is no longer the only single-channel EEG on the market). It consists of a simple fabric headband that holds a tiny device containing a small electrode to the skull, and it weighs less than a pack of cigarettes.

Through the use of an algorithm formulated by Low, the iBrain reads brainwave activity and transmits it wirelessly back to a computer. As Dr. Low points out, the iBrain can collect data regardless of where a person is or what they are doing. For this reason it is a welcome alternative to the masses of electrodes and wires that hospitals and sleep labs generally use when assessing a patients brain activity.

Hawking was fitted with the head-band device and asked to “imagine that he was scrunching his right hand into a ball.” While he can’t actually move his hand, the motor cortex in his brain can still issue the command and generate electrical waves in his brain. The algorithm then translates these thoughts into signals, which show up on the monitor as spikes on a grid.

“We were looking for a change in the signal,” says Dr Low. “In January this year, we found it.”

The Francis Crick Memorial Conference, which takes place on July 7, discusses the topic of "Consciousness in humans and non-human animals" and will be the first time Hawking and Low deliver their findings to the public.

While many are hoping to see the famed astrophysicist speaking to us “through his brain” for the first time, it is unlikely that the technology has been refined to the point where this can be easily demonstrated. Instead, much of the research will be presented through video documentation.

While much of the publicity that Neurovigil has gained has been due to its close work with Stephen Hawking, Dr Low is quick to point out that the technology has been developed for everybody. That’s because the concept of “mind-mapping” with the iBrain is not limited to its use as an augmented communication device. In fact, the applications are so varied that it led to Dr Low refusing initial funding from venture capitalists.

“I knew that if they funded us they would want to concentrate only on one specific use for the device, like monitoring apnea,” says Low.

Instead, Dr Low funded the startup on his own, putting himself US$240,000 in credit card debt in the process. “I didn’t pay myself for three years," says Low. "I wanted to build a better telescope - one that could be pointed all around the universe.”

Currently the iBrain is being used to monitor such conditions as autism, depression and sleep apnea. It is also being used as a revolutionary new way to monitor drug trials through brain-wave analysis.

Due to the portability of the device, hospitalization is no longer a requirement of the testing procedure. Patients can use the iBrain to record their brainwave patterns while going about everyday tasks. The data collected is analyzed by researchers, who conclude whether a drug is working effectively, while also monitoring for side effects. The U.S Military has also taken an interest in the device, hoping to monitor their soldiers for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain Injury.

The team at Neurovigil are currently hard at work on the iBrain 2, which Dr Low says will be even smaller, have better battery life, and can also monitor the subject’s heart rate. Low says that while the iBrain 2 is about 35 percent complete and plans are already underway for the iBrain 3, which is set to be Neurovigil’s first device sold directly to the public. Low says that the iBrain’s third incarnation will also feature an electrocardiogram (EKG) and be capable of connecting wirelessly through iPhones and Android phones. The estimated cost of the iBrain 3 is around US$100.

Despite plans to release the iBrain 3 commercially, Low is quick to point out that Neurovigil will remain a medical company first and a consumer company second.

“We feel that a nice outcome of this would be to get patients the help they need sooner and recognize the pathology before they are symptomatic,” he says.

The Francis Crick Memorial Conference will be held on July 7.

Source: Neurovigil






“If mankind is to survive, then throughout man’s history except for a very few years the word “ship” will mean “space ship.”
Arthur C. Clarke

Offline Ken

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A Million-Year Hard Disk
« Reply #328 on: July 19, 2012, 12:03:16 PM »
http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/07/a-million-year-hard-disk.html?ref=hp

A Million-Year Hard Disk
by Daniel Clery on 12 July 2012, 12:15 PM | 89 Comments

 
Keep out! Scientists are wondering how to warn people far into the future of radioactive sites such as this proposed repository in Sweden.
Credit: SKB

DUBLIN—It seems these days that no data storage medium lasts long before becoming obsolete—does anyone remember Sony's Memory Stick? So have pity for the builders of nuclear waste repositories, who are trying to preserve records of what they've buried and where, not for a few years but for tens of thousands of years.

Today, Patrick Charton of the French nuclear waste management agency ANDRA presented one possible solution to the problem: a sapphire disk inside which information is engraved using platinum. The prototype shown costs €25,000 to make, but Charton says it will survive for a million years. The aim, Charton told the Euroscience Open Forum here, is to provide "information for future archaeologists." But, he concedes: "We have no idea what language to write it in."

Most countries with nuclear power stations agree that the solution for dealing with long-lived nuclear waste is to store it deep inside the earth, about 500 meters below the surface. Finland, France, and Sweden are the furthest advanced in the complicated process of finding a geologically suitable site, persuading local communities to accept it, and getting regulatory approval. Sweden's waste management company, SKB, for example, spent 30 years finding the right site and is now waiting for the government's green light to begin excavation. It plans to start loading in waste a decade from now, and will be filling its underground pits for up to 50 years.

While the designers of such repositories say they are confident that the waste will be safely incarcerated, the most uncontrollable factor is future archaeologists or others with a penchant for digging. Archaeologist Cornelius Holtorf of Linnaeus University in Sweden showed meeting participants an early attempt at warning future generations: a roughly 1-meter-wide stone block with the words "Caution - Do Not Dig" written in English with some smaller text explaining that there is nuclear waste below. But who knows what language its discoverers will understand in thousands or hundreds of thousands of years—or even if they will be human beings? Holtorf points out that a much earlier attempt to warn off future excavations, the Egyptian pyramids, were looted within a generation. "The future will be radically different from today," says archaeologist Anders Högberg, who is also from Linnaeus University. "We have no idea how humans will think."

In 2010, ANDRA began a project to address these issues, says Charton. It brings together specialists from as wide a selection of fields as possible, including materials scientists, archivists, archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists, and even artists—"to see if they have some answers to our questions." The initial goal is to identify all the approaches possible; in 2014 or 2015, the group hopes to narrow down the possibilities.

The sapphire disk is one product of that effort. It's made from two thin disks, about 20 centimeters across, of industrial sapphire. On one side, text or images are etched in platinum—Charton says a single disk can store 40,000 miniaturized pages—and then the two disks are molecularly fused together. All a future archaeologist would need to read them is a microscope. The disks have been immersed in acid to test their durability and to simulate ageing. Charton says they hope to demonstrate a lifetime of 10 million years.

Researchers have some time to work on the problem because the repositories will probably not be filled and sealed up until the end of this century. "Each country has its own ideas, but we need to get a common approach," says SKB's Erik Setzman. "We technical people can't solve this problem ourselves. We need help from other parts of society."


“If mankind is to survive, then throughout man’s history except for a very few years the word “ship” will mean “space ship.”
Arthur C. Clarke

Online Flight-ER-Doc

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Re: Disruptive Technologies
« Reply #329 on: July 19, 2012, 12:09:52 PM »
It seems to me that they aren't thinking clearly about this.....Trying to imagine how to communicate with a future civilization, without any intervening civilizations.

If this future civilization is so much more advanced than us, they will likely have the means to use or dispose of the radwaste.  If they are not more advanced, they will not be able to understand the dangers and any warning would be futile. 

And in the mean time, each successive generation can update the warnings as needed.
Yes, I'm a physician.  No, I'm not YOUR physician.  Nothing I say here is medical advice.

Do I treat Glocks like I treat my lawn mowers?  No, I treat them worse.  I treat my defensive weapons like my fire extinguishers and smoke detector - annual maintenance and I expect them to work when needed

Offline Ken

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Re: Disruptive Technologies
« Reply #330 on: July 19, 2012, 12:20:03 PM »
It seems to me that they aren't thinking clearly about this.....Trying to imagine how to communicate with a future civilization, without any intervening civilizations.

If this future civilization is so much more advanced than us, they will likely have the means to use or dispose of the radwaste.  If they are not more advanced, they will not be able to understand the dangers and any warning would be futile. 

And in the mean time, each successive generation can update the warnings as needed.

True.  Another thing that they are forgetting, is that what's waste to us, may not be waste for others.  A good example is that plastics and epoxy is made from what was considered waste byproducts of the oil industry.
“If mankind is to survive, then throughout man’s history except for a very few years the word “ship” will mean “space ship.”
Arthur C. Clarke

Offline Bill Quick

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Re: Disruptive Technologies
« Reply #331 on: July 19, 2012, 01:52:46 PM »
Doc's right.  Most "official" thinking about the future suffers from this sort of linear stupidity.

Everything will be pretty much like right now, except it will be far, far in the future.

They probably said the same thing only eight thousand years ago, when they were starting to figure out agriculture. "Eight thousand years from now, they'll have much better sticks with which to poke holes in the ground for seeds."
"You can get a lot farther with a kind word and a gun than a kind word alone."  --   Al Capone

Offline Ken

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"Avatar" project aims for human immortality by 2045
« Reply #332 on: July 26, 2012, 11:47:20 AM »
http://2045.com/

http://www.gizmag.com/avatar-project-2045/23454/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=889155f3de-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email

"Avatar" project aims for human immortality by 2045


Russian media magnate Dmitry Itskov is heading "Avatar," a tremendously ambitious and far-reaching multidisciplinary research project that aims to achieve immortality in humans within the next three decades. He plans to do it by housing human brains in progressively more disembodied vehicles, first transplanting them into robots and then, by the year 2045, by reverse-engineering the human brain and effectively "downloading" human consciousness onto a computer chip.

Fact or fiction?

When speculating on seemingly unobtainable goals such as this, one must be careful not to believe that improbable technological advances automatically become more likely simply by looking further away in the future. This is the cognitive trap that, for instance, has seen many leading IT experts predict the development of a human-level artificial intelligence at roughly twenty years in the future for at least the past five decades.

Looking at Avatar's proposed timeline, Itskov's project seems to suffer from the same fallacy. Certainly, if we borrow Carl Sagan's rule that "extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof," the project comes up short for the time being; it does, however, have the merit of basing most of its steps on technology that is either in the works or of general interest. And with the rate of technological change continuing to accelerate, the project's goals may be within reach, although not necessarily within the project's aggressive timeline.

The roadmap to immortality


The first of the proposed steps, to be completed before the end of the decade, would be to create an android "avatar" controlled entirely by a brain-computer interface. The system would at first be of interest to physically challenged people, but might also enable people to work in hazardous environments or perform dangerous rescue operations.

As futuristic as this vision may seem, Itskov is not the only person to share it. DARPA allotted US$7 million of next year's budget to the development of interfaces enabling a soldier to guide a semi-autonomous bipedal machine and allow it to act as the soldier's surrogate. Other researchers have reported being able to exert basic control over the movement of a humanoid robot using brainwaves alone, and many are working on refining this technology.

The second step would be the creation of an autonomous life support system for the human brain, which could then be integrated into the previously developed "avatar" by 2025. If the efforts are successful, immobile patients with an intact brain would be able to regain the ability to move via their new synthetic bodies, and a varied range of bio-electronic devices might become possible, creating superimpositions of electronic and biological systems.

Not a great deal of research is going into this at the moment – in fact, the closest match would have to be the research of Dr. Robert J. White who, back in the 70s, managed to perform several head transplants in monkeys. Building an artificial environment in which a brain could not only survive, but also continue working to full effect, is sure to prove a much harder task.

By 2035, Itskov hopes to be able to reverse-engineer the human brain and find a means of "downloading" its consciousness to a synthetic version. Coupled with the previous advancements, this would allow humans to achieve cybernetic immortality. It would also lead to the creation of a human-like artificial intelligence, and even provide opportunities for ordinary people to restore or enhance their own brains, for instance by manipulating memories.

While there is no current research going into transferring your consciousness into a silicon chip, there is plenty of interest among neuroscientists in better understanding the inner workings of the brain. Although we are just scratching the surface, recent advancements – such as a robotic arm that can analyze the electricity patterns of single neurons – are certainly steps in the right direction.

The fourth and final step is also the most science-fictiony. By the year 2045, Itskov would like to see "substance-independent minds" uploaded not onto a computer chip, but into bodies of different compositions. A holographic body could walk through walls or move at the speed of light, while a body made of nanorobots would be able to take on a number of different forms at will. "Humanity, for the first time in its history, will make a fully managed evolutionary transition and eventually become a new species," he writes.

Funding and support


Itskov says he has invested plenty of his own money to kick start the necessary research, hiring 30 scientists to reach this goal, organizing meetings, with plans to establish offices in San Francisco later this summer. He is also working on building a social network to raise awareness in his initiative, and on a "business incubator" for the creation of commercial applications - mostly in the medical field - that would capitalize on the research and fund further development. In other words, as crazy as this sounds, Itskov is absolutely serious about this, and the wheels are turning on this project.

Of course, the sheer pace of scientific inquiry required to make this project succeed will require very large - perhaps prohibitive - amounts of capital. To address this, Itskov recently addressed a letter to billionaires in the Forbes richest list in an appeal for funds, but he is also looking for government support.

Surprisingly, the Russian Ministry of Education and Science announced its support of the initiative, and has scheduled talks to discuss a specialized research and development center. Oddly enough, the initiative has also received the support and blessing of the Dalai Lama.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01hbkh4hXEk&feature=player_embedded
“If mankind is to survive, then throughout man’s history except for a very few years the word “ship” will mean “space ship.”
Arthur C. Clarke

Offline BooMushroom

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Re: Disruptive Technologies
« Reply #333 on: July 26, 2012, 02:20:47 PM »
Doc's right.  Most "official" thinking about the future suffers from this sort of linear stupidity.

Everything will be pretty much like right now, except it will be far, far in the future.

They probably said the same thing only eight thousand years ago, when they were starting to figure out agriculture. "Eight thousand years from now, they'll have much better sticks with which to poke holes in the ground for seeds."

Damn right we do.  Biggest damn stick you ever saw.



Maybe that's what Stonehenge is for - a warning to stay out of the circle until xxx years have passed.

Offline Bill Quick

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Re: Disruptive Technologies
« Reply #334 on: July 26, 2012, 09:58:41 PM »
Show that thing to a stone age farmer, and he fall onto his face and worship it as a god.

As for the immortality thing - I'm doing my best to bootstrap my way far enough into the future, in half-way decent physical condition, to be able to take advantage of it.
"You can get a lot farther with a kind word and a gun than a kind word alone."  --   Al Capone

Offline Ken

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Blind Mice Given Sight After Device Cracks Retinal Code
« Reply #335 on: August 14, 2012, 06:19:08 PM »
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-13/blind-mice-given-sight-after-device-cracks-retinal-code.html

Blind Mice Given Sight After Device Cracks Retinal Code

Blind mice had their vision restored with a device that helped diseased retinas send signals to the brain, according to a study that may lead to new prosthetic technology for millions of sight-impaired people.

Current devices are limited in the aid they provide to people with degenerative diseases of the retina, the part of the eye that converts light into electrical impulses to the brain. In research described today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists cracked the code the retina uses to communicate with the brain.
The technology moves prosthetics beyond bright light and high-contrast recognition and may be adopted for human use within a year or two, said Sheila Nirenberg, a neuroscientist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and the study’s lead author.
“What this shows is that we have the essential ingredients to make a very effective prosthetic,” Nirenberg said. Researchers haven’t yet tested the approach on humans, though have assembled the code for monkeys, she said.
Once the researchers determined the code the mouse retina used to communicate with the brain, they were able to mimic it with electric-signal sending glasses, Nirenberg said. Previous prosthetics have used less-specific stimulation and proved inherently limited as a result, she said.
About 20 million people worldwide are blind or facing blindness due to retinal degenerative diseases, such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. The disorders cause a progressive loss of the retina’s input cells, or photoreceptors.
Visual Equations
Nirenberg and co-author Chethan Pandarinath first monitored healthy eyes to determine the set of equations that translate light received by the retina into something the brain can understand. Then, they used special glasses to create a similar code and deliver it to the eye, which had been engineered to contain light-sensitive proteins. The cells received the code through the light sensitive proteins and fired electric impulses, which the brain could interpret as images.
Nirenberg’s research “is basically giving vision back to a system that doesn’t work,” said Aude Oliva, a principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who wasn’t involved in the research. “I’ve never seen, and other people have never seen, this quality.”
No foreseeable barriers should stop the movement into humans now that the technology has been created, Oliva said. Nirenberg said that if researchers can come up with adequate cash to fund clinical trials, she hopes to soon adapt the technology.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people older than 55 in the western world and may triple in incidence by 2025 according to a 2009 report by the American Optometric Society. Retinal diseases could find a “reasonable solution” in the technology, said Jonathan Victor, a professor in the department of neurology and neuroscience at Weill who was familiar with, but not involved in the research.
“It’s a major step, it’s elegant, and it works,” he said.
“If mankind is to survive, then throughout man’s history except for a very few years the word “ship” will mean “space ship.”
Arthur C. Clarke

Offline Ken

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Researchers demonstrate first backdoor "hack" into the human brain
« Reply #336 on: August 22, 2012, 04:11:30 PM »
http://www.gizmag.com/bci-brain-hack/23815/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=2687a5ff7e-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email


Researchers demonstrate first backdoor "hack" into the human brain

Once the preserve of science fiction, brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) have advanced to the point where they can even be found in novelty headwear, which only makes an achievement of an international team of scientists more frightening. Using an off-the-shelf Emotiv BCI costing only a few hundred dollars, the team has shown that it's possible to "hack" a human brain and pull things like bank details straight out of your skull.

For their experiment, researchers from the Universities of Oxford, Geneva and California (Berkeley) called in a group of Computer Science students. The students knew they were part of a security-related experiment but did not know the objectives or that they were being "hacked." Each of these students put on a Emotiv BCI and were sat down in front of a computer that displayed a series of images such as maps, banks, card PINs, and so on.

By tracking the P300 brain signal, given off when your brain registers particular kinds of stimuli as meaningful or useful, the researchers found that they were able to consistently reduce the entropy (or random data) in each variable they tested by about 10 to 40 percent, and demonstrated marked improvements over random guessing. In other words, the subjects were "leaking" information via the BCI that the researchers could then use to work out, say, the bank they used or where they lived.

Given the use of social engineering in many "hacks" and the many attempts to discover private information on social media sites such as Facebook, this study suggests that these devices could potentially leak even more information about you without you knowing about it.



"The simplicity of our experiments suggests the possibility of more sophisticated attacks," writes the team in their paper on the experiment. "For example, an uninformed user could be easily engaged into 'mindgames' that camouflage the interrogation of the user and make them more cooperative. Furthermore, with the ever increasing quality of devices, success rates of attacks will likely improve."

They also note a much more basic issue; these BCIs store the data they pull from your brain as part of their normal use. The stream of data from the inbuilt EEGs could potentially be exploited by malware, meaning that as things stand, "the development of new attacks can be achieved with relative ease and is only limited by the attacker’s own creativity."

The solution, at least for the moment, is simple. If you use a BCI, be careful what you think.

The team presented their paper at the recent Usenix Security conference, held at Bellevue, Washington.


This graph shows the P300 signal that results from a target stimulus verses the signal from a non target stimulus (Image: Martinovic et al.)

This graph shows the performance of the BCI test using three different data-response classification techniques with the dashed line showing the performance of random guesswork (Image: Martinovic et al.)


Source: Usenix, via Extreme Tech
« Last Edit: August 22, 2012, 04:13:46 PM by Ken »
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Offline Ken

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Scientists make monkeys smarter using brain implants.
« Reply #337 on: September 19, 2012, 04:07:58 AM »
Scientists make monkeys smarter using brain implants. Could you be next?

http://io9.com/5943379/for-the-first-time-ever-scientists-have-made-monkeys-smarter-using-brain-implants-could-you-be-next

 George Dvorsky

For the very first time, scientists have demonstrated that a brain implant can improve thinking ability in primates. By implanting an electrode array into the cerebral cortex of monkeys, researchers were able to restore — and even improve — their decision-making abilities. The implications for possible therapies are far-reaching, including potential treatments for cognitive disorders and brain injuries.

But there's also the possibility that this could lead to implants that could boost your intelligence. Here's how they did it.
Mapping minds

Researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre, University of Kentucky, and University of Southern California took five rhesus monkeys and trained them on a delayed match-to-sample task. This involved tracking images of toys, a person, and a mountain range that were flashing on a large screen. Following a delay, the monkeys had to select the same image on the screen from a group of one to seven images. The monkeys were trained to work on this task for the past two years, and they managed to acquire a proficiency of around 75%.

The researchers, a team led by Sam Deadwyler and Robert Hampson, then monitored the brain activity of the monkeys to confirm the location of the areas required for decision making. They paid particular attention to those areas that lit up when the monkeys were successful at the matching game.

To do so, they used a tiny probe with two sensors that was threaded through the monkeys' forehead and into their cerebral cortex (specifically between two cortical layers of the brain), thus allowing them to record activity in the prefrontal cortex.

Bring on the coke

Once they were satisfied that the correct mapping had been done, they administered cocaine to the monkeys to impair their performance on the match-to-sample task (seems like a rather severe drug to administer, but there you have it). Immediately, the monkeys' performance fell by a factor of 20%.

It was at this point that the researchers engaged the neural device. Specifically, they deployed a "multi-input multi-output nonlinear" (MIMO) model to stimulate the neurons that the monkeys needed to complete the task. The inputs of this device monitored such things as blood flow, temperature, and the electrical activity of other neurons, while the outputs triggered the individual neurons required for decision making. Taken together, the i/o model was able to predict the output of the cortical neurons — and in turn deliver electrical stimulation to the right neurons at the right time.

Uplift happens

And incredibly, it worked. The researchers successfully restored the monkeys' decision-making skills even though they were still dealing with the effects of the cocaine. Moreover, when duplicating the experiment under normal conditions, the monkeys' performance improved beyond the 75% proficiency level shown earlier. In other words, a kind of cognitive enhancement had happened.

The researchers hope to apply their findings to treating brain injuries or diseases where larger areas of the brain have been affected (such as dementia or stroke). The researchers are confident that their technology could be contained on an implantable chip.

Looking ahead to the future, and assuming safety and ongoing efficacy, it may even be possible to apply a similar intervention to healthy humans. Which could lead to prosthetically enabled intelligence augmentation.

Their results were published in the Journal of Neural Engineering.

Image via.
“If mankind is to survive, then throughout man’s history except for a very few years the word “ship” will mean “space ship.”
Arthur C. Clarke

Offline Ken

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'Warp drive' may be more feasible than thought, scientists say
« Reply #338 on: September 19, 2012, 04:26:25 AM »

This is a bit dated on the science, but ehhh......

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2012/09/17/warp-drive-may-be-more-feasible-than-thought-scientists-say/


'Warp drive' may be more feasible than thought, scientists say


A warp drive to achieve faster-than-light travel — a concept popularized in television's Star Trek — may not be as unrealistic as once thought, scientists say.
A warp drive would manipulate space-time itself to move a starship, taking advantage of a loophole in the laws of physics that prevent anything from moving faster than light. A concept for a real-life warp drive was suggested in 1994 by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre, however subsequent calculations found that such a device would require prohibitive amounts of energy.
Now physicists say that adjustments can be made to the proposed warp drive that would enable it to run on significantly less energy, potentially brining the idea back from the realm of science fiction into science.
"There is hope," Harold "Sonny" White of NASA's Johnson Space Center said here Friday (Sept. 14) at the 100 Year Starship Symposium, a meeting to discuss the challenges of interstellar spaceflight.
 
Warping space-time
An Alcubierre warp drive would involve a football-shape spacecraft attached to a large ring encircling it. This ring, potentially made of exotic matter, would cause space-time to warp around the starship, creating a region of contracted space in front of it and expanded space behind. [Star Trek's Warp Drive: Are We There Yet? | Video]
Meanwhile, the starship itself would stay inside a bubble of flat space-time that wasn't being warped at all.
"Everything within space is restricted by the speed of light," explained Richard Obousy, president of Icarus Interstellar, a non-profit group of scientists and engineers devoted to pursuing interstellar spaceflight. "But the really cool thing is space-time, the fabric of space, is not limited by the speed of light."
With this concept, the spacecraft would be able to achieve an effective speed of about 10 times the speed of light, all without breaking the cosmic speed limit.
The only problem is, previous studies estimated the warp drive would require a minimum amount of energy about equal to the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter.
But recently White calculated what would happen if the shape of the ring encircling the spacecraft was adjusted into more of a rounded donut, as opposed to a flat ring. He found in that case, the warp drive could be powered by a mass about the size of a spacecraft like the Voyager 1 probe NASA launched in 1977.
Furthermore, if the intensity of the space warps can be oscillated over time, the energy required is reduced even more, White found.
"The findings I presented today change it from impractical to plausible and worth further investigation," White told SPACE.com. "The additional energy reduction realized by oscillating the bubble intensity is an interesting conjecture that we will enjoy looking at in the lab."
 
Laboratory tests
White and his colleagues have begun experimenting with a mini version of the warp drive in their laboratory.
They set up what they call the White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer at the Johnson Space Center, essentially creating a laser interferometer that instigates micro versions of space-time warps.
"We're trying to see if we can generate a very tiny instance of this in a tabletop experiment, to try to perturb space-time by one part in 10 million," White said.
He called the project a "humble experiment" compared to what would be needed for a real warp drive, but said it represents a promising first step.
And other scientists stressed that even outlandish-sounding ideas, such as the warp drive, need to be considered if humanity is serious about traveling to other stars.
"If we're ever going to become a true spacefaring civilization, we're going to have to think outside the box a little bit, were going to have to be a little bit audacious," Obousy said.


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2012/09/17/warp-drive-may-be-more-feasible-than-thought-scientists-say/#ixzz26uEBcb5s
“If mankind is to survive, then throughout man’s history except for a very few years the word “ship” will mean “space ship.”
Arthur C. Clarke

Offline lpdbw

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Re: Disruptive Technologies
« Reply #339 on: September 19, 2012, 10:45:14 AM »
I'm particularly fond of the laces on the spaceship.  :P

Offline Ken

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Re: Disruptive Technologies
« Reply #340 on: September 27, 2012, 01:45:50 PM »
I'm particularly fond of the laces on the spaceship.  :P

I'm betting they did that on purpose......
“If mankind is to survive, then throughout man’s history except for a very few years the word “ship” will mean “space ship.”
Arthur C. Clarke

Offline Ken

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Artificially Intelligent Game Bots Pass the Turing Test
« Reply #341 on: September 27, 2012, 01:48:05 PM »
http://www.utexas.edu/news/2012/09/26/artificially-intelligent-game-bots-pass-the-turing-test-on-turing%E2%80%99s-centenary/


Artificially Intelligent Game Bots Pass the Turing Test on Turing’s Centenary

Sept. 26, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas —


The UT^2 faces off against an opponent in the BotPrize.

An artificially intelligent virtual gamer created by computer scientists at The University of Texas at Austin has won the BotPrize by convincing a panel of judges that it was more human-like than half the humans it competed against.

The competition was sponsored by 2K Games and was set inside the virtual world of “Unreal Tournament 2004,” a first-person shooter video game.

“The idea is to evaluate how we can make game bots, which are nonplayer characters (NPCs) controlled by AI algorithms, appear as human as possible,” said Risto Miikkulainen, professor of computer science in the College of Natural Sciences. Miikkulainen created the bot, called the UT^2 game bot, with doctoral students Jacob Schrum and Igor Karpov.

The bots face off in a tournament against one another and about an equal number of humans, with each player trying to score points by eliminating its opponents. Each player also has a “judging gun” in addition to its usual complement of weapons. That gun is used to tag opponents as human or bot.

The bot that is scored as most human-like by the human judges is named the winner. UT^2, which won a warm-up competition last month, shared the honors with MirrorBot, which was programmed by Romanian computer scientist Mihai Polceanu.

The winning bots both achieved a humanness rating of 52 percent. Human players received an average humanness rating of only 40 percent. The two winning teams will split the $7,000 first prize.

The victory comes 100 years after the birth of mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing, whose “Turing test” stands as one of the foundational definitions of what constitutes true machine intelligence. Turing argued that we will never be able to see inside a machine’s hypothetical consciousness, so the best measure of machine sentience is whether it can fool us into believing it is human.

“When this ‘Turing test for game bots’ competition was started, the goal was 50 percent humanness,” said Miikkulainen. “It took us five years to get there, but that level was finally reached last week, and it’s not a fluke.”

The complex gameplay and 3-D environments of “Unreal Tournament 2004” require that bots mimic humans in a number of ways, including moving around in 3-D space, engaging in chaotic combat against multiple opponents and reasoning about the best strategy at any given point in the game. Even displays of distinctively human irrational behavior can, in some cases, be emulated.

“People tend to tenaciously pursue specific opponents without regard for optimality,” said Schrum. “When humans have a grudge, they’ll chase after an enemy even when it’s not in their interests. We can mimic that behavior.”

In order to most convincingly mimic as much of the range of human behavior as possible, the team takes a two-pronged approach. Some behavior is modeled directly on previously observed human behavior, while the central battle behaviors are developed through a process called neuroevolution, which runs artificially intelligent neural networks through a survival-of-the-fittest gauntlet that is modeled on the biological process of evolution.

“In the case of the BotPrize,” said Schrum, “a great deal of the challenge is in defining what 'human-like' is, and then setting constraints upon the neural networks so that they evolve toward that behavior.

“If we just set the goal as eliminating one’s enemies, a bot will evolve toward having perfect aim, which is not very human-like. So we impose constraints on the bot’s aim, such that rapid movements and long distances decrease accuracy. By evolving for good performance under such behavioral constraints, the bot’s skill is optimized within human limitations, resulting in behavior that is good but still human-like.”

Miikkulainen said that methods developed for the BotPrize competition should eventually be useful not just in developing games that are more entertaining, but also in creating virtual training environments that are more realistic, and even in building robots that interact with humans in more pleasant and effective ways.

Download videos from the competition.

 

For more information, contact: Daniel Oppenheimer, College of Natural Sciences, 512 745 3353; Risto Miikkulainen, Department of Computer Science, (512) 471-9571, risto@cs.utexas.edu.
“If mankind is to survive, then throughout man’s history except for a very few years the word “ship” will mean “space ship.”
Arthur C. Clarke

Offline Ken

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Superhumans, supercities and supercomputers: US intelligence's vision of 2030
« Reply #342 on: December 11, 2012, 03:09:44 PM »

http://rt.com/usa/news/us-2030-report-global-757/

Superhumans, supercities and supercomputers: US intelligence's vision of 2030

Things are about to get a little weird. This according to the National Intelligence Council, at least, a US-based coalition of spy agencies that has just released its predictions for what’s in store for the Earth in 2030.
The NIC released on Monday “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds,” an 140-page report that brings together the best brains within the intelligence sector to find out what we might expect a few decades down the road. Given the current rate of growth in technology and medicine, the marvels considered in the NIC report shouldn’t come as all too surprising. Only 18 years down the road, however, the ideas being pitched by the people behind the report might not be as much science fiction as soon-to-be-reality. It also might very well be predictive policy making.
“We are at a critical juncture in human history, which could lead to widely contrasting futures,” Council Chairman Christopher Kojm writes in the report.
With the next few years ripe for experiment, the future is “malleable,” Kojm suggests, making no time like the present to start perfecting space-age advances once thought to be out of this world. On the contrary, though, the NIC seems to think cyborg civilians and instant super-cities are thing of the not-so-distant future.
“Our effort is to encourage decision-makers, whether in government or outside, to think and plan for the long term so that negative futures do not occur and positive ones have a better chance of unfolding,” the Council writes. That influence might be a bit impressive for some, though, as it includes suggestions for the world of tomorrow that will be necessary to advance them human race in order to make use of dwindling resources as populations expand around the globe.
“With shale gas, the US will have sufficient natural gas to meet domestic needs and generate potential global exports for decades to come,” the report suggests in one possible outcome. As inequalities explode across the world though, the experts predict that China and the US become strong allies to tackle global issues.
The “most plausible worst-case scenario,” the report adds, involves the risks of interstate conflict increasing to the point that “the US draws inward and globalization stalls.” From there, “megacities [will] flourish and take the lead in confronting global challenges.”
Another possibility, the writers suggest, is as “inequalities explode as some countries become big winners and others fail. … Without completely disengaging, the U.S. is no longer the ‘global policeman’” according to the Council.
No matter who is calling the shots, though, the NIC seems to think that a generation down the line will be a damn exciting time to be a human being. “People may choose to enhance their physical selves as they do with cosmetic surgery today” in 2030, they predict, at which point the replacement-limb technology is expected by the panel to be prevalent.
“Future retinal eye implants could enable night vision, and neuro-enhancements could provide superior memory recall or speed of thought,” the report adds. “Brain-machine interfaces could provide ‘superhuman’ abilities, enhancing strength and speed, as well as providing functions not previously available.”
And all before Justin Beiber is in his forties!
“If mankind is to survive, then throughout man’s history except for a very few years the word “ship” will mean “space ship.”
Arthur C. Clarke

Offline Ken

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artificial molecular machine developed
« Reply #343 on: January 28, 2013, 06:37:37 PM »
http://www.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/news/display/?id=9323

Molecular machine could hold key to more efficient manufacturing

11 Jan 2013

An industrial revolution on a minute scale is taking place in laboratories at The University of Manchester with the development of a highly complex machine that mimics how molecules are made in nature.

The artificial molecular machine developed by Professor David Leigh FRS and his team in the School of Chemistry is the most advanced molecular machine of its type in the world. Its development has been published in the journal Science.

Professor Leigh explains: “The development of this machine which uses molecules to make molecules in a synthetic process is similar to the robotic assembly line in car plants. Such machines could ultimately lead to the process of making molecules becoming much more efficient and cost effective. This will benefit all sorts of manufacturing areas as many manmade products begin at a molecular level. For example, we’re currently modifying our machine to make drugs such as penicillin.” 


The machine is just a few nanometres long (a few millionths of a millimetre) and can only be seen using special instruments. Its creation was inspired by natural complex molecular factories where information from DNA is used to programme the linking of molecular building blocks in the correct order. The most extraordinary of these factories is the ribosome, a massive molecular machine found in all living cells.

Professor Leigh’s machine is based on the ribosome. It features a functionalized nanometre-sized ring that moves along a molecular track, picking up building blocks located on the path and connecting them together in a specific order to synthesize the desired new molecule. 

First the ring is threaded onto a molecular strand using copper ions to direct the assembly process. Then a “reactive arm” is attached to the rest of the machine and it starts to operate. The ring moves up and down the strand until its path is blocked by a bulky group. The reactive arm then detaches the obstruction from the track and passes it to another site on the machine, regenerating the active site on the arm. The ring is then free to move further along the strand until its path is obstructed by the next building block. This, in turn, is removed and passed to the elongation site on the ring, thus building up a new molecular structure on the ring. Once all the building blocks are removed from the track, the ring de-threads and the synthesis is over.

Professor Leigh says the current prototype is still far from being as efficient as the ribosome: “The ribosome can put together 20 building blocks a second until up to 150 are linked. So far we have only used our machine to link together 4 blocks and it takes 12 hours to connect each block. But you can massively parallel the assembly process: We are already using a million million million (1018) of these machines working in parallel in the laboratory to build molecules.”

Professor Leigh continues: “The next step is to start using the machine to make sophisticated molecules with more building blocks. The potential is for it to be able to make molecules that have never been seen before. They’re not made in nature and can’t be made synthetically because of the processes currently used. This is a very exciting possibility for the future.” 

Notes for editors
A short video that illustrates the machine and how it works is available from the press office.

It can also be viewed on the university’s YouTube page here.   

Images can also be obtained from the press office. 

Professor David Leigh is available for interviews on Friday 11 January. 

The paper “Sequence-Specific Peptide Synthesis by an Artificial Small-Molecule Machine” will be published in Science on Friday 11 January.   

For more information and image or interview requests please contact: 

Morwenna Grills
Media Relations Officer
Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences
The University of Manchester 

Tel: 0161 275 2111
Mobile: 07920 087466
Email: Morwenna.Grills@manchester.ac.uk



“If mankind is to survive, then throughout man’s history except for a very few years the word “ship” will mean “space ship.”
Arthur C. Clarke


 


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