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."

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