Wednesday, September 25, 2013

thought for the day/ Rock of Gibralter: last stand of the Neanderthals?

Gorham's cave

Neanderthal bones were found in Gibraltar caves as early as 1848.

I saw an National Geographic magazine about Neanderthals yesterday while waiting to see some optometrists(to get my eyes checked out and get a new pair of glasses).  I had reading material with me, and I wasn't sure what reading the whole article could possibly say anything new about Neanderthals for me, I did skim it; and, I found some quick remarks that the Neanderthals they were talking about came from the Rock of Gibraltar area.  The Neanderthal caves are actually located south of the Rock of Gibraltar.

While I haven't set foot on the Rock of Gibraltar, I have seen it and the southern tip of Spain.  I was on an aircraft carrier at the time(this would be around 1996-7 - somewhere around that time. The deck was pretty cleared of aircraft.  There wasn't that many people out there on the flightdeck, but me and a good amount of my fellow AT's(avionic techs). We just walked up and down the deck a few times talking about whatever and looking at four directions of the sea - one was straight into the mouth of the Mediterraenean, the other direction was the southern tip of Spain, the other was the Rock of Gibraltar on the African continent.  It's kindof cool to be able to see two continents at the same time!  I did not know about Neanderthal caves at the Rock of Gibraltar at the time(apparently, nobody else did either), and then of course to the west was the Atlantic ocean. That's a nice little crossroads, dwarfing any manmade harbor! Getting on to the Neanderthals of Gibraltar.

Everyone has heard of Neanderthals by now and Homo Erectus.  Seems to me that whenever I hear the latest science about the Neanderthals, it's always about whether Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens mated.  Dna analyses of Neanderthals is certainly an exciting science of today.  Just like the Human Genome project, they've mapped the complete genome of Neanderthals.  If memory serves me right, they have found that there was indeed some mating between Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens.  But, what I always want to know is how Neanderthals evolved form Homo Erectus.  Homo Erectus was the first hominid species to move from Africa through EurAsia.  Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals both had to of evolved from Homo Erectus.  Well, I still haven't seen anything about that, so I move on.

I would think the Rock of Gibraltar alone would have made that land almost holy land for Neandrethals back then. As it turns out, the area around the Rock of Gibraltar was a very stable climate.  In fact, it was stable for the majority of Neanderthals continuous habitation of the Rock of Gibraltar lands for almost a hundred thousand years.  That's pretty good. It also appears to be a place free of cave bears and lots of other predators.  This place appears to have been Neanderthal heaven! An interesting anthropological observation is that the Rock of Gibraltar Neanderthals felt no pressure to make new technologies.  The technologies from a hundred thousand years ago to 25 to 24 thousand years ago never changed - unlike the changes of technologies for European Neanderthals.  This would also imply that few if no Neanderthals swam or boated from either the southern tip of Spain to Gibraltar or the other way around.

The climate of Gibraltar did eventually change around 25,000 years ago.  It appears that the Neanderthals were dependent on the climate like most animals.  We can't say that the Gibraltar Neanderthals were the last of the Neanderthals.  All we know is the Gibraltar Neanderthals are the last dated remains of Neanderthals.

There's also indications that Homo Sapiens did not due them in on Gibraltar.  Homo Sapiens came around 18,000 B.C. 

-------------------------------------------------science news extra

Massive Pakistani earthquake creates Island

from the stone age to quantum computers age! 

A D-Wave special purpose quantum computer chip.  As the article states, 120 quantum chips at a time . . . ahh hh.  They're mentioning the ability to solve protein folding problems.  At 120 chips per eight inches, they can solve lots of protein folding problems . . . now. Could they design and predict protein nanoparts for some nanomechanical device and make nanomanufacturing happen in the next year?

- 27September2013 additional news, looks like biological nanomanufacturing systems should be buildable within the next year even without quantum computing.

Protein folding advances experimentally confirmed

This group had reported advances in Protein design almost a year ago; but, I guess there were still problems of matching experiment with theory. Basically, proteins can be designed that bind atoms in prescribed ways.  The proteins can be arranged by dna self assembly in some assembly line arrangements. -  Something I forgot to mention is that the Proteins are needed to do atom by atom chemistry.  The dna doesn't really do atom to atom chemistry.  I'm not sure If I've described nanomanufacturing, so I'll give a little intro.

Some history - There's some indications that nanomanufacturing was thought of earlier than Richard Feynman's famous 1959 speech(just two years after Sputnik went up!). People generally consider Richard Feynman's 1959 speech as the first time anyone ever thought of this. Richard Feynman shortly after this decided not to talk about it or develop it.  In the 1970s, someone else thought of it and decided to talk and develop it - Eric Drexler.

Eric Drexler points out that any technology possible is just an arrangement of atoms.  So, if we have precise control of the placement of every atom, we can make anything scientifically possible. How he imagines this possible is by means of billions of trillions of nano-robots that can attach individual atoms to a particular atom. Some points he makes is that because of the small size of these nano-machines, their frequency of motion is very fast(less distance to move).  Also, if you have lots of them, you get massive parallel processing - more than one atom being placed per time interval.  The only thing is how to make them!

Drexler soon learned of STM's, or Scanning Tunneling Microscopes.  These are true quantum technologies(as are lasers and electron microscopes before the invention of the STM; also, the innovator of the STM recently passed away).  Electrons can move from one side of solid barrier to another just like radio waves can go through the glass and wood of a building for you to hear sounds on your radio set.  STM's use this electron property to be able to image individual atoms.  The amount of electrons who do this electron tunneling dictates the curvature of the surface the STM's needle is detecting as it scans across a surface.  It would be nice to think that one can just size down the STM's to make these Drexlerian nanomachines.  Only problem is that is a long road from our macroscale to the nanoscale.  To make successively smaller STM's is a long road. Eric Drexler thought of using protein's to self-assemble nanomachines.

The problem with using proteins, is that protein folding into arbitrary nanoparts is the quantum gravity problem of biology.  The prediction of proteins is an astronomically hard computation(hence why using quantum computers can come in handy here).  Eric Drexler thought of using artificial selection to make proteins more predictable instead of natural proteins.  Natural proteins are these naturally complex nanoparticles; their like nano snowflakes.  They are exquisitely tuned to fit whatever environment they are born in.  Well, this idea of artificial selection has taken awhile(since the early 1980s).  The group above actually comes up with an algorithm for computing the result of a protein folding. But, even their algorithm isn't the last word.  It's just the latest stage and algorithm to make protein folding prediction practical.  Hopefully, it's good enough to make a dna/protein nanomanufacturing system advanced enough to bootstrap to a more robust non-protein nanomanufacturing system.

As Eric Drexler saw almost as quickly as he suggested using proteins, it would be wise to go to a stiffer structural material.  He quickly suggested diamond.  Daimond is generally the best material to make nanomachines.  It's not the final word, but it is the best studied.  There's problems there.  They'r etalking about making strained diamond structures.  Bending diamond on a nanoscale to create bearings and other non-linear mechanical parts. Point is that even if/when they do make dna/protein nanomanufacturing systems, they'll look to quickly move to non-protein nanomanfacturing systems.  But, this may not be that easy.   Dna/Protein systems have a natural self-organizing ability.

Here's an article that says we've pretty much got dna/protein systems right now.  The above is indicating a greater potential.

survey of latest dna/protein nanotechnology

- 28Sep2013 edit. Table top accellerators and GUT level energy accellerators?

Particle accellerators along with astronomical telescopes have been some of the greatest scientific instruments of our times.  Particle accellerators for the most part used electromagnetic fields to accelerate particles. Electromagnetic particle accellerators have done great things so far; they've found electro-weak unification and now the Higgs(or at least a Higgs particle). But, even these tremendous machines cannot get anywhere near GUT level energies.  GUT energies are the unification energies of the three nuclear forces - electromagnetism(photons), weak and strong nuclear forces. For electromagnetic particle accellerators to probe the GUT energies would require accellerators of unheard of sizes - like the circumference of a planet. But, Particle Physicists may have found a way - laser accellerators. I know they've been working on this for awhile; now, they've been making them a technological reality.

Laser particle accellerators. g

Adding these laser particle accelerator chips in a row to the length of about a hundred feet would equal the energies of the SLAC two mile long accelerator.

-30Sep2013 edit,

Programmable chemical controllers made from DNA ,

And the amount of dna-nanomanufacturing systems keeps growing! This group seems to be most inspired from the work of Eric Winfree.  I think I've linked recently showing Eric Winfree's program will lead to ever more dna-nanomanufacturing.

"The development of synthetic systems with similar capabilities could lead to applications such as smart therapeutics or fabrication methods based on self-organization."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

thought for the day/ Barry Mazur's "Imagining Numbers: in particular the square root of -15/ Permisability

ESA/NASA Hubble Space Telescope image

I haven't read the entire book yet; I just got it.  I wasn't sure if i'd even like the book. But, I've found the more I read it the more interesting things are said.  I still don't think it will ultimately be correct.  I'm thinking Barry Mazur's use of the word 'imagination' is much like other vague words like beauty, good, 'having fun/party.'  I should explain that last part about 'having fun/party.'  I find that people, generaly non-intellectuals, often say they just want to have fun.  And, 'we like to party.'  Well, define these things.  And just when you're about to ask them to define what they mean, they're running off.  Life is just this fast paced social nothing fun.  What party really means is go to some meeting place and bullshit one another.  You drink to have fun because otherwise you're pissing each other off. "Having fun" means going to a party.  "Having fun" never means adventure of exploration - exploration of anything; whether art, sports, or some kind of science.  Working hard it not fun, but some kind of thrill ride is.  I like roller coasters to, but why bungy jumping?  Enough of that soapbox, how about another?  This should be called the soapbox post!

I should say that asking the question of what do you mean by having fun is not permissible.

Barry Mazur suggests that in mathematics, one overcomes permisability in old ways of thought. I completely agree. Most life evolves to adapt to a certain environement.  They're suppose to go through their lives in certain ways.  Homo Sapiens for some reason have reached a certain stage of consciousness, where we overcome what we're suppose to do.  Homo Erectus was the first animal to spread to so many different environments. No animal is suppose to look up at the heavens; but, Homo Sapiens eventually did.

Mr Mazur even decodes invention and discovery from this permisability concept.  One major philosophical debate amongst mathematicians is whether mathematics is invented or discovered.  Barry Mazur relates the two to permisability; he says that when mathematics seems unpermissable, we say mathematics is discovered.  When someone shows us how to do mathematics in a new way(such as Descartes coordinate geometry for instance), mathematics is pure invention!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

quote for the day/astro picture for the day

Credit: ESO. Acknowledgement: Martin Pugh

"What I cannot create, I do not understand." - Richard Feynman

This is apparently Richard Feynman's last thought written on a blackboard.

Where computation and fabrication meet: using computers to mimic biology. Zack Booth Simpson

Couple of recent thoughts about the above video which is about Eric Winfree's path to nanomanufacturing.  He's making a community of molecular programmers who will make layers of programs which can make molecular nanomanufacturing on larger and larger scales, easier and easier.  It's like in computers, you have machine level programming languages, and then you have programming languages that understand human language.  This seems hard and it seems like it can work.  It also seems like it will take a long time to get anything going.

Here I'm thinking the benefits of the bio pathway, Eric Winfree style, will be more interesting than the initial surface perception would indicate.  While the ability to make something as complex as a whale is certainly a far off dream(although, if sufficiently advanced A.I. comes around, well, that would be a big help), making macroscale simple objects might not be so hard.  I'd like to note that Eric Winfree's team has been given a lot of money recently to carry out his program.  He's also just one guy/team doing, well, dna-nanomanufacturing.  I'm saying that as Eric Winfree carries out his program, there will be 'many' spinoffs along the way - nanoengineered macroscale products.

-------------------------Science news extras 1.2!

Feynman diagram rules vastly generalised; Einstein's spacetime about to be put in its place

experimental brain tissue

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

quote for the day

ESA/NASA Hubble Space Telescope image

"What we know is not much. What we do not know is immense." - Pierre Simon Laplace

Ray Kurzweil and Eric Drexler discuss nanotechnology

The above link is a youtube video of Ray with Eric Drexler.  I couldn't seem to find the youtube by means of the blogger tools; so, I'm just giving the link. It's an alright interview for those who haven't heard of nanotechnology.

Eric Drexler comments that by keeping everyone on Earth(by implication), one can through advanced surveillance nanotechnologies, one will get rid of terrorism.  He does mention that the same institutions/technologies can suppress others.  But, overall, I feel that Eric Drexler's understanding of social  problems is not quite where it needs to be.  I don't think he understands anti-science groups.  He says terrorism is just a passing problem. I've tried to explain to him how people don't question assumptions, and make over-generalisations all over the place; and, they incrowd, and these phenomenon grow.  His reaction was to say the least irrational in perhaps my opinion.

I'm not totally against putting the Earth under one government roof; but, to confine all of humanity?  I think those who refuse to learn will take over and suppress new science. Seems to me that in the past, when someone finds entrenched irrational interests in a given group, some groups leave and go somewhere else.  I would say this is why Homo Sapiens at least spread throughout the world.  I would think that those in a nanotech world facing entrenched interst would simply go out to space further and further.  Going out to space would reduce human conflict.  They wouldn't come back; they'd leave forever. I hope puts the whole Earth under one roof; but, I hope those who want to go out to space get to.  I think those who want to confine everyone on Earth is Nazy.

I should say the value of putting the whole Earth under one roof is the preservation of knowledge.  The disadvantage and the advantage to freeing people to go out to space is that of new knowledge and freeing people from Tyranny of one way for everything.

Dna-assembly of structures from micrometers to millimeters

"The programmable DNA glue could also be used with other materials to create a variety of small, self-assembling devices, including lenses and reconfigurable microchips as well as surgical glue that could knit together only the desired tissues, said Ali Khademhosseini, Ph.D., an Associate Faculty member at the Wyss Institute who is the other senior coauthor of the study."

I'd say the nano-era is on now.  Between dna-nanomanufacture at least(it's not quite Eric Drexler's single atom assembly; it self organizes atomically precise nanostructures and then combines those building blocks) and Memrister electronics, just the next year promises to be very exciting!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

thought for the day/Isaac Asimov's "Extraterrestrial Civilizations."

Image Credit & Copyright: Gerald Rhemann

I thought about rereading all of Isaac Asimov's "Extraterrestrial Civilizations", but maybe for my purposes only the first chapter is all I really need to address. I will mention quickly though that Isaac Asimov's "Extraterrestrial Civilizations" was the original "Rare Earth Hypothesis" book.  The Rare Earth hypothesis book doesn't even reference Isaac's book! Isaac Asimov's book predates the Rare Earth book by over ten years. 

I've also already pointed out parts of the first chapter in Isaac's book about fire.  I quote Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" chapter 7 about fire.  It's been awhile; i'll just note that fire acted in much the same way as clearing the lands does for coming up with concepts of irrigation, fertilization, and pest control. Fire keeps bugs and wild animals like bears away.  This allows the human mind to wander a good bit more than it otherwise would.  I've always liked to note while hiking that birds and lizards always have their heads on a swivel.  They never loose concentration on the very present moment.  Fire would have allowed people get away from some worries of life to think about other things. Getting on to some other issues brought up by Isaac Asimov in his "Extraterrestrial Civilizations."

Isaac starts his search for alien intelligences by looking for intelligence right here on Earth. He notes that generally there's a split between life and non-life.  What he really means is rocks and life. He doesn't quite note that some non-life displays some aspects of life - dynamical systems like various vortices; tornadoes, hurricanes, and even fire!  He goes on to point out that life displays some intelligence, and then Primates seem to be most human like.  The only difference between Primates in general and Homo Sapiens is the speech ability. Primates don't seem to have "Broca's brain." He mentions an interesting quote from a William Congrave around 1695, "I could never look upon a monkey, without very mortifying reflections."  It's curious that humans can ascribe all kinds of human characteristics to non-Human life like the talking snakes being cunning in Genesis book two of the Bible, but, these very same people don't like being evolved from that life. 

Likewise, these people want to be spirit, but they don't like the theory of evolution. I always joke that their spirituality is a static spirituality.

The idea of spirits is pointed out by Isaac Asimov as an early effort by mankind to find 'other intelligences' besides themselves. Of course, people back then considered anything they didn't know to be divine(I note a Greek quote early on in this blog about this). Eventualy, they'd generalize this idea to a one god(generalization is one property of the mathematical mind; see my third post of this blog about the origins of mathematical knowledge). 

The idea of gods as other intelligences is interesting from some primarily twentieth century phenomenon about the search for 'Extraterrestrial Intelligences.'  One could say that the early effort to believe in God(s) was like the UFO craze of the twentieth century(and still ongoing).

Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Carl Sagan often felt the need to get out to space and finding alien life and then E.T's would go a long way towards getting humanity past its barbaric beliefs.  I for one doubt that people will stop believing in their personal gods for anything.  They don't believe based on facts, but for the hope that their god will save them from their enemies(see the Old Testament and the New Testament for that matter; Jesus Christ is a messianic figure).

-------------------------------------------science/technology extra

UCSD electron microscope nano-writer

3d printing has been exciting and continues to be exciting. Could electron microscopes become advanced 3d printers that can achieve nanomanufacturing before 3d printers?  Well maybe, but the laser guys look to not be outdone yet. 

This other technique uses lasers in a different way from 3d printers; it uses them as to carve two dimensional structures, grapheme, and then as laser tweezers to pick up and place them in arbitrary patterns. The above electron nano writer is a lot more like what  3d printer does only using electrons.  I can only wonder if they can find a way to combine the two processes!

laser carving and tweezers of graphene(already nano-precise material)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

quote for the day

ESA/NASA Hubble Space Telescope image

"Success in the acquisition of new knowledge or novel conveniences, consequent on the successful challenging of some venerated axiom, is usually a passport to respectability, till the newly  constituted freedom itself becomes a tyranny, is challenged, and gives way to another. But the net residue is on the side of human freedom, not on that of inherited absolutes and vested traditions." E.T. Bell