vrijdag, november 28, 2008

Folding screen for mobile phones unveiled

Read all about it here. Amazing as it may be, I have nothing further to add.

India's 9/11 >> Mumbai terror attacks

'Blasts rock Taj hotel as commandos try to end standoff' and 'Oberoi hotel cleared of hostages'; the news is breaking on CNN as I speak. Since I myself have been in Mumbai twice (very near the Taj hotel) and since I have enjoyed many tipsy evenings in the Leopold Cafe (one of the targets), I must say: Damn! As you can see to the left, one of the domes of the Taj is in full blaze. 9/11 all over again. What's intriguing to me (for lack of a better word) is the blogosphere. I've seen several interviews by CNN with bloggers. Of course, blogging has been here for a few years now, but this particular event, I think, symbolizes the extent to which 'the news-gathering-landscape' has changed over the last few years. The mountain of information out there is enormous; Although they're still shooting it seems every square cm has been filmed, taken a picture of, blogged about and what might not. I personally realized this once more when I saw the pictures below (thank you Arun Shanbhag).

You can see blood and a round serving tray. A waiter who was working in the Leopold Cafe was shot in the head when he was running out (with the serving tray in his hands). He fell down and died right there.

Also read: Mumbai attack aftermath detailed, Tweet by Tweet or check out Vinu's photostream

Moral Machines

An interesting article in the NYTimes on whether intelligent robots can behave more ethically in the battlefield than humans currently can. Since there's quite a rush out there to develop battlefield robots that make their own decisions (South Korea and Israel already deploy armed robot border guards), several scientists are making the case that it is about time to start discussing issues like this.

“We don’t want to get to the point where we should have had this discussion 20 years ago,” said Colin Allen, a philosopher at Indiana University and a co-author of “Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right From Wrong,” published this month by Oxford University Press.

This might seem like a scary subject (probably because it is), but then again: how ethical do you think your average 18-year old is, after having lost several buddies? Check this out:

A 2006 survey by the surgeon general of the Army, found that fewer than half of soldiers and marines serving in Iraq said that noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect, and 17 percent said all civilians should be treated as insurgents. More than one-third said torture was acceptable under some conditions, and fewer than half said they would report a colleague for unethical battlefield behavior

Maybe the question should be the other way around: Could we make robots as immoral as humans? An intriguing discussion, relevant however since technology develops so quickly. Personally I think we will get used to autonomous robots, just like we got used to airplanes and things like that. Of course there will always be flaws in the system. But how many flaws does the human system have?

Take cars that drive themselves. This is now possible. Since I am Dutch I find this a very interesting subject. Why? Because 10 years from now nobody will be going anywhere in our country. One big traffic jam! And the government doesn't seem very visionary. They are not building enough roads and they are not investing sufficiently in the public transport system. Bunch of dumb-asses! So, our roads will continue to fill up until things get so bad that the only way out will be to have cars drive themselves on the highway (this way you can fit many more cars on the same road because they will all drive at a fixed distance of each other and at the same speed). Of course, people won't want this. It scares us to think a car drives itself. Can I trust it? However, if you look at this from a national perspective: Currently, every year 1000 people die in Dutch traffic! One thousand! Personally I am not surprised. People are nervous out there! And give 'm a few seconds delay and they get pissed..

..Nah, I'll take a robotic system over your average emotionally confused & insanely impatient human driver any day now.

maandag, november 24, 2008

Machine condenses water out of thin air

Now here's an invention this planet needs, a new $1,200 machine that uses the same amount of power as three light bulbs that condenses drinkable water out of the air, up to 12 Liters per day! And of course it's clean;

'The filtration system ensures your drinking water will be clean and free of toxins and bacteria - more pure than tap water or even spring water'

Read all about it here or check out the product here.

A few thoughts: I am excited because this could, eventually, help many people around the world. Let's imagine this thing will be ten times cheaper ten years from now, because, as much as I'd love to own a machine like this, come on... $1200 is too much and last but not least, people in the Western Hemisphere easily use 300-500 Liters of water a day and that is, OBVIOUSLY, way too much. So as good as this machine is, consciousness is better. So next time after you've leaked no more than half a cup of pee into the toilet, ask yourself: does this justify flushing 20 liters of water through the toilet? NO! Next time you do the dishes, plug the sink! And next time you...

...oh darn, am I going crazy again? I can't help it though. I am the grandson of a preacherman...

And the Internet keeps growing

Thank you Google. Google has just announced it will disclose the entire Life Magazine photo archive (10 million pictures) in the coming months. This collection dates all the way back to the 1750's. The picture above is just an example as shown on the Google-blog.

...'Alfred Eisenstaedt snapped this in 1963, at the climax of Guignol's "Saint George and the Dragon" in the Tuileries Garden in Paris. Just as the dragon is slain, some children cry out in a combination of horror and delight, while others are taken aback in shock. Every child is consumed with emotion, masterfully captured by Eisenstaedt's camera'...

I've been browsing around myself. The picture to the left was made in 1862 in Antietam, US. It shows Maj. Allan Pinkerton, US Pres. Abraham Lincoln & Gen. John A. McClernand, in front of a pitched tent on the battlefield while the Civil War is taking place..

Just go to Google images and type something like this: 1860s US Civil War source:life

Lucky for us information addicts, there's more; Inspired by ancient Alexandria's attempt to collect the world's knowledge, the EU launched its Europeana digital library, an online digest of Europe's cultural heritage, last Thursday.

'The prototype launched Thursday contains around two million digital items, all of them already in the public domain. By 2010, the date when Europeana is due to be fully operational, the aim is to have 10 million works available, an impressive number yet a mere drop in the ocean compared to the 2.5 billion books in Europe's more common libraries. The process of digitalisation is a massive undertaking [Jarno says: Duuuh]' - check out the article here.

HaHaHa update: 'The Europeana site is temporarily not accessible due to overwhelming interest after its launch (10 million hits per hour). We are doing our utmost to reopen Europeana in a more robust version as soon as possible. We will be back by mid-December' >> typical... :)

Atoms in motion

May 5, 1880. A reporter from the San Francisco Call nearly went nuts when seeing Eadweard Muybridge's latest invention: the zoopraxiscope (watch video above).

'After two years deconstructing the movement of animals with his pioneering freeze-frame photographic sequences, he was now able to reconstruct that motion to make a life-size horse trot across a big screen' - [read more here]

Back then it was amazing to see 'real life'-motion on a screen. I mean, wow, what's next. Well, better screens, and color, and higher-definition and faster motion etcetera. The ability to capture nature's movement on a screen, that's what it is all about. But since many things in nature are much smaller than the eye can meet, mankind came up with microscopes. So we can zoom in, and see what's going on. Up to now however, we haven't been able to build a microscope powerful enough to capture the movements of individual atoms...

And there we go: Now Ahmed Zewail, a chemist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, has developed a way to do just that. Zewail's research team can generate movies showing the picosecond (millionths of a millionth of a second) motion of atoms.

John Thomas, at the University of Cambridge, UK, recently described it as a "revolutionary" advance that will change physics, biology, and material science. Check out the article here.

maandag, november 17, 2008

Further blurring of reality and fiction...

Thank you Stanford University and goodmorning planet Earth. My brother likes making home videos. He's just been to Cameroon for a month and so I am eagerly awaiting his latest compilation. The fun part of course, video-editing gets easier and easier over time. I've personally always thought that by 2015 we would be making our own movies at home (I mean, with special effects and all that). Well, Stanford University researchers have now brought that day a little closer by developing software that allows anyone to insert a video or still photo on almost any planar surface in an existing video and it's called '3D Surface Tracker Technology'. A mouthful I know, just watch the video above or read all about it here.

woensdag, november 12, 2008

I knew it! I knew it! Evolution turns out not to be random.

I started this blog in January 2005. Without knowing why I should, but simply because I could, like millions of others. Before I knew it I wasn't only putting up links and an occasional picture, but I was actually 'writing'; Done that for about a year and then forgot all about it. A few years later and Jarno is back! (hi!). I've now decided to continue this weblog and post at least a few 'articles' each week. I tend to think I have two reasons for that. One: I like being busy with words, whether it is in writing or live, I've been verbally insane my whole life. It simply feels good. And then, behind the red door, what do we have Johnny? >> Reason number two: the impact of accelerating technological development on the human race (and the planet/universe as a whole).

I've always been intrigued by technology but by late 2004 I 'virtually ran into' this website. It's called Acceleration Watch. Acceleration Watch is an educational affiliate of the Acceleration Studies Foundation (ASF). The foundation's focus revolves around helping to understand and manage accelerating technological change. This is important because, as the term acceleration implies, things go faster and faster! And for us 'poor' humans that will mean it will get harder and harder to understand the world around us and this doesn't make decision-making easier (links to a Dutch article)...

...just have a look at the articles I've posted here the past 30 days. I can hardly believe my own stories... I mean ... erasing memories? A 0,05 mm screen? Robots that hunt down humans and Mr. Green Genes - the glow-in-the-dark cat! ...

Anyway, the Acceleration Studies Foundation was founded by John Smart, a 'developmental systems theorist', who's specifically intrigued by the implications of a hypothesis known in futurist circles as the technological singularity (see powerpoint slides above or download the entire presentation and once again: Thank you very much John). The idea is this: not only do things seem to accelerate, it all seems to move towards 'one point'. It's like spinning the wheel in a casino. Round and round the ball goes until it spins faster and faster in smaller circles. The location of the ball is completely random in the sense that I cannot predict where it will be after say, 3 seconds of spinning. What we CAN predict however, is where it will ultimately be - at the bottom (whatever the number). In the PowerPoint slide above (the Developmental Spiral) you can see how human development over time seems to follow 'that ball analogy'. Faster and faster, shorter and shorter, until we 'hit the bottom' (whatever specifically that will mean).

No we are not there yet, but we are definitely getting closer :) It seems this accelerating development curve/curse does not only apply to humans. Ever since this planet came into being 4.5 billion years ago things seem to have developed exponentially. Single cell organisms, multi-cell organisms etcetera etcetera. And now we are here.

Finally, my point: all the above cannot be true if evolution is purely random (or to put it differently: if evolution would be purely random, how come everything on this planet is getting more and more complex over time?). Since there is so much scientific evidence out there to back up this 'all encompassing notion of acceleration', apart from 'its randomness', evolution MUST also have 'some sense of direction'. Darwin is right, for half. You cannot specifically predict what species will evolve and disappear (Darwin was right about this), but just like that ball in the casino, it IS all going in one direction, towards ONE point (something Darwin didn't think of).

What a story. Halleluja, but Why, Jarno, why? Because this morning I ran into this article. Scientists of Princeton University have discovered that chains of proteins found in most living organisms act like adaptive machines, possessing the ability to control their own evolution. It turns out evolution is NOT RANDOM.

"The discovery answers an age-old question that has puzzled biologists since the time of Darwin: How can organisms be so exquisitely complex, if evolution is completely random, operating like a 'blind watchmaker'?" said Chakrabarti, an associate research scholar in the Department of Chemistry at Princeton. "Our new theory extends Darwin's model, demonstrating how organisms can subtly direct aspects of their own evolution to create order out of randomness."

"What we have found is that certain kinds of biological structures exist that are able to steer the process of evolution toward improved fitness. The data just jumps off the page and implies we all have this wonderful piece of machinery inside that's responding optimally to evolutionary pressure."

"Biological change is always driven by random mutation and selection, but at certain pivotal junctures in evolutionary history, such random processes can create structures capable of steering subsequent evolution toward greater sophistication and complexity."

Ha! I knew it! I knew it!

dinsdag, november 11, 2008

Message to my dad: Check out this walking device! ;)

It looks a little funny to say the least, but according to Honda, this (see video above) wearable walking device is as easy to use as a bicycle.

"It reduces stress, and you should feel less tired. To wear it, you put the seat between your legs, put on the shoes and push the on button. Then just start walking around. The system has a computer, motor, gears, battery and sensors embedded in it so it responds to a person's movements" - read all about it here.

Earlier this year the Japanese company Cyberdyne started renting out its exoskeleton for $1000 a month. That's cool because of two reasons. One: things are getting real. Now you can rent 'm, soon you can buy 'm. Two: is this company really called Cyberdyne? Does anyone remember Terminator II? ... 'Cyberdyne Systems Model One O One. Negative, the T One Thousand will definitely try to re-acquire us there' ... Reality starts feeling more and more like a movie everyday...

And the plot thickens >> more holograms

"While flat electronic displays represent a majority of user experiences, it is important to realize that flat surfaces represent only a small portion of our physical world," the team explains on its Web site. "Our real world is made of objects, in all their three-dimensional glory. The next generation of displays will begin to represent the physical world around us, but this progression will not succeed unless it is completely invisible to the user: no special glasses, no fuzzy pictures, and no small viewing zones."

Cool :)

vrijdag, november 07, 2008

From CNN Holograms to quantum ghost imaging

Well well well. Lot's of bizarre stuff going on out there. Seen CNN lately? They came up with quite a creative new way of bringing the news. I thought it was pretty cool myself. As you can see in the picture above, Wolf Blitzer and Jessica Yellin. Wolf Blitzer is real & Jessica is a hologram. Read all about it here.

If that's not crazy enough for you, what about this: The US army is 'pushing X-files tech development'. Example >> they are busy creating what they call self-aware virtual photorealistic soldiers that can be deployed in the battlefield through "quantum ghost imaging".

Uhm, come again? Well, just check out the picture below and then read the sentence again...

That's right. Imagine, poor suicide-bombers. Whoops, no virgins for you, you just 'blew up' a hologram. It's just not fair is it? You get filmed by robotic cameras, bombed by drones and when you finally find a real human being to get back at, he's not real. Yes yes, the Matrix is coming..

And no I'm not joking, This stuff is for real. They are working really hard on these virtual soldiers.

'We want to use massively multi-player online games as an experimental laboratory to see if they’re good enough to convince humans that they’re actually human, that can think on their own, have emotions and talk in local slang' - Dr. John Parmentola—Director of Research and Laboratory Management

Since I am Jarno it's quite easy to get me excited. I tend to think more often than not, that things go faster than expected. The statement above however, even to me, is a bold one. Because we're essentially talking full-blown artificial intelligence here. I wrote an article about that, two weeks ago, very extensive, in which I explain that I don't even believe anyone will be able to 'build' such a system by 2030 (there's a bet out there between two scientists that the Turing Test - the test for artificial intelligence - will be passed by 2029).

And that's just one part of the idea. Once the programs have been 'perfected' they want to deploy them (as you can see in the picture above, except for the fact that they won't look blue but real) by means of a technique called 'quantum ghost imaging' (pairing photons that do no reflect or bounce off an object, but off other photons >> I have no idea what that means).

Creating Artificial Intelligence and perfect holograms. And that's just ONE project. Several other projects they are CURRENTLY working on:

- Erasing bad memories

- Devices that will translate one soldier's thoughts into electrical signals that can be beamed to other soldiers

- Regenerating body parts on "nano-scaffolding"


Obama promises new era of scientific innovation

Goodbye to the current US ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Welcome back 'National Aeronautics and Space Council' (scrapped in 1993 by George Bush senior). And much more. Check out Barack Obama and Joe Biden's plan for science and innovation here (pdf). Or check out the technology agenda on the 'change'-website that was released wednesday November 05.

As The New Scientist puts it 'Whether or not Obama's scientific motives are to improve the world we live in, or to play science and technology catch-up with the other leading nations, the new US president has certainly been making the right noises for those that value science and technology. Now we have to wait and see if he can deliver'. So let's do that...

donderdag, november 06, 2008

And now for something completely different >> ByeByeBush & Enter Barack. Thank you America!!!

November 04, 2008, Barack has landed and history is made (can't help it, my brains calm down when rhyming). And to all those who are sick of the hype: Of course, I understand the world's not gonna change overnight because of this. I don't even think it's gonna change at all. I mean seriously: Change the world? What exactly does that mean? Because, you know, the world consists of 6.5 to 7 billion people and Maslov already explained what we want (hierarchy of needs). So, fundamentally indeed, nothing will change. A little inspiration & positivity however, doesn't hurt. That's one. Two: The ability to take wise decisions depends on clarity of mind and experience. The former being much more important than the latter. Hence Obama.

And oh yeah. He's not a phony. I truly believe he speaks from the heart. However generalistic and abstract parts of his speeches might be (but hey, that's how inspiration works, give the guy a brake), I am fully convinced they come from the heart. I do not believe in some secret plot. I think that there are many people out there whose hearts have essentially, at least partially, been gripped by fear. Fear for change, ironically. We want change but we don't. We want change in the sense of governance, we don't want change in any other sense. The problem being: in reality, things always change in any other sense. And since you are here @dawn21stcentury, I personally believe, over time, things are changing faster and faster; information technology follows an exponential curve and information technology is touching the realms of more and more industries and life in general. Combine that general 'insight' with today's pressing issues - The financial crisis, the food & energy crisis, Global Warming & the complete Fucking Up of our environment in more general terms, global terrorism - and you get an idea of the challenge.

Given all this change on the one hand and given the nature of the human brain, in terms of wanting to resist change, on the other hand, I think clarity of mind and being open and transparent are indeed Key Factors. Furthermore he is good looking, has a good sense of humor (seen him on Saturday Night Live?), he's 'gracious' and he doesn't cheat on his wife. Admittedly: it's frustrating, isn't it?

By the way: he's the first black president of the United States of America.

Another by the way: George Bush was the dumbest president ever.

Therefore: I am SOOO HAPPY! Welcome to the 21st century. congratulations Barack and Michelle, welcome to the future.

Watch the full video (in three parts) of his Chicago Victory Speech >>

Part I

Part 2

Part 3

zondag, november 02, 2008

Programmable matter: A roadmap to the Star Trek replicator

Ever heard of the Avogadro constant? Of course not! Because if you had, that would probably mean, you're a nerd like me :)

And instead of explaining myself, I'm gonna park this article, shut down the computer and cook.

See ya later and to be continued...

zaterdag, november 01, 2008

TankPitstop - the first refuelling robot for passenger cars

The irony! One of the smallest countries in the world and still we're too lazy to get out of our cars! The project began three years ago. The robot was finally presented (Dutch article) earlier this year and now several Dutch gasoline stations are going to use it. Lovely, let's automate global warming!

Anyway, how does it work?

'The customer’s car gets a radio frequency identification chip hidden in a sticker on the inside of the windshield; this chip contains all the necessary information. The TankPitstop database has all the data: which fuel the car requires, where the filler cap is, the correct angle of the nozzle when fuelling, the amount of fuel required, etc.'

Read all about it here or Watch this video.

Samsung unveils 0,05mm 'flapping' screen

'How thin can you get?' Used to be the question. I think it it's safe to say that question can now be replaced by 'how thin do you wanna get?', followed by the exclamation: Jezus! This thing gives me the same feeling as those girls on the catwalk! Wowie.

Here are the specs:

Diagonal - 4 inch
Resolution - 480*272 pixels
Contrast ratio - 100.000 to 1

I used to dream about the future. No, wait, correction. I always dream about the future, but when I used to do that as a kid, I was thinking screens everywhere. Today I live in that world. Eating a hamburger at McDonalds is hardly possible without watching MTV these days. And that's when you're lucky. Yesterday I was in this typical Dutch 'Belgian fries'-place. While waiting for my fries, this quiz passed by on this screen, about Brad Pitt. 'Did you know that .... Brad Pitt was born in 1963?'... No and I DO NOT care! What the hell! How does that make anybody happier?! Of course, that's a dumb question. I'm just getting old. Anyway. If I feel there are too many screens around nowadays, imagine what will happen 10 years from now, when screens become like wallpaper?!

Animatronics getting crazier

Ever heard of the phenomenon known as the "uncanny valley"? No? It refers to this >> If a robot is clearly a robot - you know, with clunky metal limbs & stuff (like this Dutch robot) - people are rarely troubled by it. But pass a certain threshold in realism, such as giving it skin or a human-like voice, and things start getting eerie. Kinda like the feeling you get when watching the video above. This particular animatronic face was produced at the University of Bristol, UK, by US roboticist David Hanson.
Read all about it here.