top The Plight of
Star Wars Droids
The fact that they never touch the philosophical issues of "droids rights" makes me classify Star Wars more into the
Fantasy than in the Science Fiction genre. It takes place in a universe where apart from some engineering progress towards bigger weapons no scientific progress is made (except maybe the midichlorians lapse), and technology itself is never questioned but is just a plot device. Just like droids. about a year and a half ago
top Other Solar Systems Could Be More Habitable Than Ours
No, warmer would be bad.
A warmblooded animal, such as mammals with their core temperature of ~37ÂC for mammals and few degrees more for birds, constantly produces heat. That is heat must go somewhere, otherwise it would lead to overheating. So the only choice is to run at a temperature which is above that of the environment. Once those temperatures come too close to each other, all animals reduce their activity more and more to prevent said overheating.
So, a jump in global temperature, i.e. one that is faster than evolution can keep pace with, would pose a serious threat to animals in areas where the gap between their core temperature and the environment is reduced.
top AMD64 Surpasses i386 As Debian's Most Popular Architecture
How far is multiarch support, i.e. being able to install 32 and 64 bit packages along side each other, and that not just on the Intel architecture but any CPUs which support both 32 and 64bits?
Have any other distros pulled this off?
top If You're Fat, Broke, and Smoking, Blame Language
Just what I was thinking when I read the article. And then I had to think of the
Marain, a fictional constructed language in the Culture universe. I wonder if a society would actually decide to change their language if there was sufficient evidence that it hinders their cultural development. Sort of like the switch to the Latin alphabet as it happened for Vietnamese and Turkish, only a bit more invasive.
top OS I'd Most Like To See Make a Comeback
It's a shame Apple bought NeXT-Step and with it Steve Jobs and not BeOS for the UNIX base of OS X. With BeOS and its threads-everywhere model the user experience would have been vastly better than with just the shiny-UI OS X has now.
top Scientists Create Programmable Bacteria
Sorry to rain on your
Computer Scientists discover the Wonders of Biology parade, but...
tailor a bacteria to attack or compete with a bacteria which you needed to control
This already exists in the from of a virus which attacks bacteria, also known as a
Bacteriophage. It doesn't even have to be programmed from the outside to keep up with the evading, evolving bacteria; it just evolves as well. And even if you wanted to "program" this feature, you'd have to deal with the nasty problem of protein folding in silico. Better to leave this entire process highly parallel in wetware.
programmable immune system
Also known as Vaccination, and this happens naturally after every infection. And again you don't have to program anything, it uses a random walk to find matching antibodies which attach themselves to bugs.
This discovery will sooner result in a very parallel, but also clockrate wise very slow computer than in immunological advances. And if this gets used in the human body via gene therapy it will be used to regulate genes, i.e. as an if/else block, not to calculate anything fancy.
top Heroic Engineer Crashes Own Vehicle To Save a Life
It's not speed that kills, it's the speed difference.
top Genetically Altering Trees To Sequester More Carbon
Assuming the trees are planet and the humanity stops to care we might pull out CO2 fast enough to reach a
snowball earth scenario, i.e. it gets too cold and more snow reflects more sunlight resulting in a negative feedback loop. And maybe this time we won't come out of it again.
top Animal Farms Are Pumping Up Superbugs
Antibodies are much larger than your typical antibiotic molecule. The latter is like jamming a wrench into a very specific part of the cellular machinery to grind it to a halt. If a mutation in the machinery changes the location where your wrench used to fit you have a resistant bacteria. Because antibodies are larger a single mutation usually doesn't throw them off. This however also means antibodies can only attach themselves to the surface, and that usually doesn't kill the bacteria but flags it for the immune system. The small molecules can pass through membranes and attach themselves anywhere. Finding the spot and designing a fitting molecule is the hard part. And since that is even harder for larger antibodies, i.e. proteins, my guess is they want to take those you find in nature and multiply them. The immune system has its own evolutionary process to counter the problem of a moving target ( somatic hypermutation, sidenote, the other idea here is to use bacteria eating viruses, phages, which evolve on their own). One way to jumpstart that is plain old vaccination, maybe there are plans to introduce those blueprints faster.
top The Map of Critical Thinking and Modern Science
Women staying out of the engineering and "hard" sciences is mostly a phenomenon of the western world (in Cold War terms). In eastern Europe and Russia these subjects are much closer to parity, IIRC the same hold true for China. Even in Iran
(!) women don't share the western prejudices against CS, Math etc. However, once in these fields, there is the entirely different issue of the glass ceiling, i.e. not getting promoted beyond a certain level.
top Jack Horkheimer, 'The Star Hustler,' Dies At 72
When I go outside, at any time of the night, I see very few stars. I remember seeing the Milky Way the first time and was quite awestruck, the name made perfect sense then.
Light pollution is turning us into the Krikkit!
top Gene Mutation Caused 2009 H1N1 Virus Spread
Oh, but you
do get mutations! In fact, mutations which allow you to defeat H1N1! And not just a single replaced amino acid, no, lots more! Now how does that silly virus look?
When an immune systems B-cell find something it doesn't like, such as a virus, it goes into a feedback loop, mutates itself so that some copies will dislike said virus even more. In the end you have an immune system against which this virus doesn't stand a chance even though it was a completely unknown pathogen hours earlier. And this response will remain intact for years! (see: vaccination) This is called
On the downside, somatic hypermutation. somatic means it won't make it into your germ line so your children will have to mutate all on their own again (though IIRC some of the mothers immune system cells make it into the child to help out a bit).
top The 'Net Generation' Isn't
The tech learning curve is important as well. Those who grew up with computers in pre-GUI times had a rather steep curve but as a consequence became much more proficient.
When the curve became flatter less understanding was required, however more people started using it. So I wonder if the mass adoption of technology compensates for the reduced required depth, i.e. if the first easy steps encouraged more people to take a deeper look at things compared to when you had no choice but to do that. Data on the percentage of computer users in each generation which were hobby programmers at a certain would be interesting.
top The Rise of Small Nuclear Plants
As much as nuclear energy would help reduce CO2 emissons, the the anti-nuclear crowd has to be seen as a "force of nature" making new power plants less likely. The idealist would fight against irrationality, but as a realist I would redirect that energy elsewhere, e.g. against the NIMBYs who think wind turbines ruin the coastlines and kill birds or bats.
Also, if oil is non-renewable because it takes millions of years to re-form, then nuclear fuels are the
ultimate non-renewable with a "when is the next supernova due?" regeneration period. And the energy density and relative ease of use is just too good to waste it powering our washing machines and slashdot browsing. Maybe in a few hundred years outer solar system exploration will be in a serious crunch because the lack of a good power source after all the uranium, thorium, plutonium etc. has been used up.
top World's Tiniest Radiometer To Power Medical Scanner
At first this
"Because there's obviously no sunlight in the body, this light-mill pulls its power from a laser run up through the center of the catheter." seemed rather silly. When you already have a cable why not use that to get all the power you want? But later on the articles mentions that blood vessels really don't like anything above one volt. Other generators/motors (applying an alternating external magnetic field maybe) produce too much voltage already, so producing the power via photons is a safe alternative.
On a related note, I wonder how far the tech for burning blood sugar in a fuel cell is, that would allow for long independent operation of tiny devices and since nothing rotates should scale low wrt. voltage
top The Secrets of the Chaocipher Finally Revealed
some countries centuries are actually labelled in that fashion. So maybe you should just advise said AC to travel more of the real or virtual world instead. But less breeding is always good. Though, probably not in said countries, with their negative population growth....
top The Secrets of the Chaocipher Finally Revealed
Yes, the Enigma algorithm, or actually wiring, was known and Polish and later English Cryptologists worked long and hard to crack it since a lot was at stake. This one as of now relied a lot on
security through obscurity. I doubt it would have lasted long in a world war scenario.
Just as the Enigma it might be impossible to de-cypher it manually, but with a machine and Turing-level minds to help you I would think it is solved quickly. But since secure encryption is perceived as a
solved problem (still, where is the AES equivalent of a secure hash?) maybe bright minds turn their attention elsewhere nowadays.
top Europe To Import Sahara Solar Power Within 5 Years
The influx of money should raise the standard of living [in] those countries and it might encourage a different sort of economic growth than what we've seen in economies fueled by petrodollars.
What growth? Countries which get essentially "free money" often have
. Whether they get paid for oil underground or sun shining on the ground doesn't matter. They don't become poor, but they end up importing everything because local labor is so unattractive an expensive. See Dutch disease etc., this was just recently discussed on shrinking economies /. in relation to the "trillion dollar ore miracle" in Afghanistan.
And these solar arrays are probably built by non-local companies, so no local know-how is rewarded. Then the states just get monetary compensation for maintenance work, not for fabricating anything. Now how to build a local economy.
top Apple Quietly Goes After Mac Trojan With Update
While we are nitpicking, the
Trojans are the good guys. You have to be on the lookout for the sneaky Greeks. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts! And in all seriousness, using the proper term might cause a few more users to think twice about clicking "Ok" and instead thinking about ancient stories and their modern parallels.
top A Close Look At Apple's A4 Chip
Are there ARM designs yet which support the Trusted Platform Module specification? (Remember this fuzz years ago wrt. Microsoft and TCPA/NGSCB?)
If I were a hardware company and want to sell DRM'ed content with a hardware dongle, this would be the way to go, having the encryption key which ties the media to the device stored directly
inside the CPU would make my platform very attractive, maybe even a de-facto standard, for certain media control freaks. And you could make sure that only signed code runs it from the moment it boots, turning it into the ultimate closed system where the producing company stays in control.
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