Sunday, July 30, 2006

So it's happening, then. Google is officially taking over the universe. Or at least the part of it that we live in.

We all oohed and ahhed when Google Earth came out a year ago. We all saw what it was like for a bird flying over our houses, we visited Hawaii while doing our problem sets, we scouted the moutains of Afghanistan in search of bin Laden, and we hopped from New York to Paris to London without wasting a single cent on airfare. But now, now the real fun is beginning. Because we all hated the 2-dimensional feel to the wonderful playground that was Google Earth. But with the release of GoogleEarth 4.0 Beta and SketchUp, we now have the ability to create the GoogleEarth world itself. Business can invite customers into their lavishly furnished office buildings, home owners can tempt potential buyers with their elaborately decorated mansions. Window shoppers can meander through the finest boutiques anywhere in the world. All they need to do is introduce avatars, and the metaverse will be complete. Our worlds will be virtual, especially as the physical barriers between man and machine diminish.

And they will diminish. I often wonder how much progress has been made on Sony's patent made last year, for a game system capable of beaming sensory input directly into your brain. The media has of course been buzzing about the recent advances in neural implants (Neural Ensemble Control of Prosthetic Devices by a Human with Tetraplegia). And top-notch scientists such as Stu Wolf at DARPA, particularly DARPA's DSO (aka "DARPA's DARPA"), expect to see computers directly linked to our brains all of the time by 2020. What do you say to the prospect of a world that surpasses our biological constraints, within 20 years?

I sure hope so...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Allard (R-CO)
Allen (R-VA)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burns (R-MT)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Coleman (R-MN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
DeWine (R-OH)
Dole (R-NC)
Domenici (R-NM)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hagel (R-NE)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Martinez (R-FL)
McConnell (R-KY)
Nelson (D-NE)
Roberts (R-KS)
Santorum (R-PA)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Sununu (R-NH)
Talent (R-MO)
Thomas (R-WY)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)

From: Ms. Parijata Mackey

Subject: H.R. 810 Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act

In voting against the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (H.R. 810), what did you hope to achieve? More votes? Or do you just not like the idea of people with terrible diseases being cured? Does it not bother you to know that the overwhelming majority of these fertilized embryos, with potential for great biomedical returns, are simply thrown away? There is no heroic rescue of human life, merely embryonic disposal in a wasteful manner. There is no real gain from opposing this act; it merely allows selfish politicians to please their religious and conservative constituents. Quite frankly it's morally disgusting to oppose H.R. 810. And tell me this, Senator, if the embryo you "save" grows up to be gay, would you still fight for its rights?

Sincerely Yours,

Parijata Mackey


Funny, I sent this email four days ago, with not one response...

For those of you who are familiar with BLAST, you will know that it stands for Basic Local Alignment Search Tool, and that it is a crucial part of bioinformatics. It allows you to compare your choice sequences of nucleotides or amino acids with that of every organism in the GenBank database. This is useful in so many areas, from molecular biology, to evolution and taxonomy, to locating homologues and altered genes.

GenBank and BLAST, however, like most of NCBI’s many components, are somewhat dicey when it comes to proper labeling, consistent filenames, and overall organization and efficiency. Ask any scientist who’s worked with GenBank for any length of time and they will tell you that although it’s done a great deal to advance the field, they wish there was more of a structured approach to it. Ask any computer scientist and they will tell you that it's an organizational nightmare. So if you want to do research in bioinformatics, genetics, or genomics, you’re going to want to know as much as you can about the ins and outs of BLAST. It can save you much wasted time and effort. Here are some of the best BLAST resources on the web. With any luck, you'll learn BLAST even FASTA. (If you got the pun, you've got a head start.) Use them well…

Monday, July 24, 2006

Ah, the sweet moments when news of the Singularity hits the mainstream...

It's almost inevitable now, that the Singularity is real. As recent as a few months ago, I sincerely doubted its existence. But even a skeptic like myself can't ignore the progress that is being made. I don't like to pursue outlandish ideas simply because I want them to be true, but I don't condone sitting back in blissful denial of what is going to happen. It's fairly incredible, how rapidly the definition of impossible is being changed...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

You might be a transhumanist if…
  • You refer to the Democratic Party as “those damned conservatives”.
  • You follow the fashion tips in Wired.
  • You stay awake for more than 48 hours straight several times a week, because you will not be a slave constrained to your biology, no matter how much it hurts, damn it.
  • You or one of your pets has an RFID implant.
  • You refer to gray goo theory as “sweet”.
  • You have practiced saying, “Please hire me, I am an engineer,” in Chinese, just in case. (请雇用我. 我是工程.)
  • The thing you miss most when camping in the wilderness is the hum of your server and fourteen CPUs in the background.
  • You have an RFID-blocking wallet that you made yourself out of duct tape and aluminum foil.
  • The computer tower you built includes a transgenic fish tank as part of its cooling system.
  • You would sleep with Jude Law’s robot-gigolo character, regardless of your sex.
  • You plan your career around the Singularity.
  • You wonder how Bill Joy went so horribly wrong.
  • You cannot understand the phrase, “Leave well enough alone.”
  • You secretly wish Ray Kurzweil was your father.
  • You sold your car to buy the $1200 DNA-synthesizer on eBay.
  • You don’t mind bio-Luddites; evolution will take care of them eventually.
  • You laugh to yourself while reading this because absolutely none of it is an exaggeration.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

What is an excellent thing to waste your Saturday on? Trying to modify an HP 550C inkjet printer so that it prints human tissue cells instead of black & color.

You'll need: a printer, empty/sterilized ink cartridges, modified print heads, cells and media, experience in modifying hardware (the printer), software (the printer driver), and wetware (the cells), and a desire to waste many hours on something that will probably not work. As you are already wasting time by being here, I give you little room for excuses.

If I actually get this to work I will post further details. In the meantime, here are further resources if you are interested. Hopefully, you have something fun to do this weekend, like a normal human being, but if not, enjoy... [Organ Printing] [Cell and Organ Printing 1] [Cell and Organ Printing 2]

Thursday, July 20, 2006

To: Mr. James Dobson
Mr. Jerry Falwell
Mr. Pat Robertson
Subject: It's your fault.
It's your fault that stem cell research legislation failed this week after President Bush's veto.
You have ignored 72% of the American people, bi-partisan majorities in both houses of Congress, and our nation's leading scientists. You have dashed hope for millions of Americans suffering from diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Multiple Sclerosis, cancer and diabetes.
I can only hope that you or your loved ones do not one day suffer the pain of these illnesses; what would your stance on medical research be then?

Sincerely Yours,
Parijata Mackey
PS- George Bush eats babies.
To: Parijata Mackey
Subject: Re: It's your fault.
We received your message for Pat Robertson, and apologize that he cannot reply to you personally.

We understand your concern over Alzheimers Disease, and how it affects the people suffering from it, especially when someone suffering from it is a family member or friend. CBN has had numerous news and health features regarding how to help prevent or treat Alzheimer's Disease without using stem cells.

In addition, alternatives such as adult stem cell research have shown positive research results, without destroying a human life as is done when a human embryo is destroyed.

Some of the features we have had on The 700 Club are listed below:,,,

During the CBN News segment, Pat Robertson gives a personal commentary. CBN's desire is to provide our viewers with the information needed to develop their own opinions and views. Feedback like yours helps us understand the concerns and thoughts of our audience.

God bless you.
The Christian Broadcasting Network

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

They say you can get anything on ebay... They're not kidding. Why on earth do I spend my income on trivial things like food, clothing, or rent? For only $899, a supercomputer without a hard drive could be mine...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

And our dear President Bush once again shows his support for science in America! It sort of looks like he's going to eat the baby, see? However, we have lovely people over at Hahvahd who are doing all they can to annoy the religious right. Cloning research... now that was unexpectedly soon. (Note: As interesting as that last article is, I find the ads on the page far more hilarious.) Speaking of Bush, we've gotta adore the new Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act... with lines like, "'Nothing in this Act shall be construed to limit the constitutional authority of the President to collect intelligence with respect to foreign powers and agents of foreign powers," what's not to trust?

But no matter. It's only our future. Let's focus on far more interesting things, such as a paint-on antenna! Now that is cool. Or how about this miniscule wireless chip? Take that, RFID. The advances in hardware have been remarkable lately. It makes me believe that inevitably there will be a redefinition of Moore's Law, and that "inevitably" will happen very soon. Take crazy advances like getting a vapor deposition reaction to work in a laptop, creating massive increases (terabytes) in disk size. Or how about Intel's silicon laser? That's certainly been torturing people for long enough. Or IBM's use of carbon nanotubes to make transistors? And what about the fact that MRAM now actually exists? It's a dream come true, and might be one of the most significant, and most overlooked, in terms of basic science, of the recent advances. Might the Law of Accelerating Returns be real? Could Ray Kurzweil actually know what he's talking about? Could exponential change really be changing exponentially? Only time will tell. Hopefully not too much time, though...

Monday, July 17, 2006

I must share with you this delightful link of incredible artificial creatures, powered by the wind and made by a man who is probably insane but unquestionably brilliant: [click] Click the link below the photo where it says [film]. This is amazing, I can't believe the robotics guys haven't picked up on this yet... This man uses genetic algorithms to evolve these stunningly smooth and complex structures, which he then builds out of PVC and tape. It's definitely worth a few minutes of your time.

And if you're into bioinformatics and alternative energy, this link is certainly for you. It's for anyone who likes biology, or computer science, or complexity, or systems thinking, or anything related to the above. Just read it, mmkay?? Although I suppose if you don't want to read that, you can read the "Constructive Biology" issue of Edge Magazine.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

And our dear friend Marvin Minsky has been good to us today, we fervent fans of artificial intelligence: read a draft of his upcoming book, The Emotion Machine, here. This book focuses on what emotions are, exactly, and how such drastic changes in supposedly rational thought processes can exist (rational, hah!). It's quite excellent, to know that someone is still thinking, still working tirelessly, on the challenge of machine-consciousness. I hope it exists within his lifetime, I can't think of anyone who deserves it more. The book comes out on November 07, 2006. On the subject of machine learning, DARPA just gave BBNTech a grant to work on the "Integrated Learning Program," which would allow a computer to learn and understand processes after seeing them once. Pretty cool stuff.

"Could he, whose rules the rapid comet bind,

Describe or fix one movement of his mind?

Who saw its fires here rise, and there descend,

Explain his own beginning, or his end?"

--Alexander Pope

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Blogs are quite possibly the most disgustingly self-indulgent addition to the Information Age; a blogger can vent and write and worry and whine and hope and dream, and anyone with enough time to waste can read it and laugh at or pity the writer. Blogs are a way for a person to feel special and self-important; a way for a lonely person to pretend they have friends. Excellent.

But maybe someday, we won't have to sit here sifting through this text, but will be able to glance at the screen and instantly read and understand. I'm all for technological enhancement -- physical, mental, or otherwise. And that's the core philosophy behind modern wetware hacking, also known as biohacking. There are many fields of biohacking, many directions you can take it. But from neurohacking to genetic engineering to cybernetics to modified cell signaling, there is more potential than anyone now alive can imagine to advance human evolution.