Posts Tagged ‘real sci-fi’

What the hell is up with fake blue eyes in commercials?  Some lousy Father’s Day commercial came on today and I was immediately struck by the little boy with spice addiction.  His eyes were glowing blue and when I paused it to get a closer look, it turns out he has no pupils.  This crappy photoshopping is ridiculous.  Do blue eyes really test so well you have to erase a child’s real eyes and replace them with electric blue ones? WTF people!

Young boy with spice addiction.

Young boy with spice addiction.

Aeolus Airship Design

Posted: 21 January 2009 in Uncategorized
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I would kill for one of these.  Seriously.  Unfortunately it’s pie-in-the-sky speculation at the moment.  But the day may come when I am asked to make a choice, and if your name comes up, sorry mate.

Aeolus airship

Aeolus airship

Something about this photo speaks to me:

Some actors from Star Trek standing near the Shuttle Enterprise

Some actors from Star Trek standing near the Shuttle Enterprise. Credit: NASA

Now, I wonder if DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy) is really that interested in talking to the NASA engineer-looking dude on the left.  It just brings to mind hundreds of conversations between scientists and laymen where the laymen appears interested and the scientist rambles on about stuff way too esoteric to be meaningful.  Of course, maybe he’s talking about his daughter:  “She’s about yay tall…”

On a mildly interesting side note, I was trying to figure out the correct spelling of “yay” in the phrase “yay tall.”  Is it “yay” or “yea”?  The Googles shows about 325 results for “about yea tall” and 821 for “about yay tall.”  So I went with “yay”.  Yay for me!  Anyone know which one the Queen uses?

A thing of horror

Posted: 10 October 2008 in Uncategorized
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If you’re in the mood for some bad dreams, look no further.

Boffins at the University of Reading have created a robot controlled by a biological “brain” consisting of rat neurons.  They began by taking a culture of neurons specially separated from the rest of the fetal brain tissue.  The neurons are placed across a platter of electrodes that simultaneously allow the brain to control parts of a robot and allow the robot to send signals back to the brain.  In this way, the brain begins to operate the robot, moving it around and receiving feedback (electrical jolts) that tell it when it’s hit something.

According to Kevin Warwick, one of the researchers, “It’s quite funny — you get differences between the brains. This one is a bit boisterous and active, while we know another is not going to do what we want it to.”  Warwick later speculates that much of the difference between rat and human brains lies in the number of neurons and not the neurons themselves.  Picking on that particular statement, since I think it’s a pretty bold claim, you have to wonder about animals like whales and elephants who have one to two times the number of neurons we do.  If he’s right and it’s the number of neurons that makes the difference, we are literally killing sentient beings.  Of course, to the people who are killing blue whales and elephants, that doesn’t matter one bit.

This technology troubles me a bit.  On the one hand, it’s really cool.  Biological computers!  On the other hand, the potential for harm here is just enormous.  On the other other hand, it may pave the way for humans to place their brains in vats and replace their meat sacks with machinery.  On the other other other hand it may mean advanced combat robots that make iron man look like a sissy.  Or maybe not.  The recent round of research that aims to make animals into cyborgs (and often for military purposes) strikes me as a harbinger of a world where the line between artificial and biological life is blurred beyond recognition.  If a cyborg constructed in such a way can feel…

Manned Cloud

Posted: 31 March 2008 in Uncategorized
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Another cool airship just caught my attention, this one a concept vehicle in the form of a hotel in the sky.  It looks a bit like how I imagined the flying manta cloud creatures from the Black Company books by Glen Cook.

Manned Cloud

Rant warning.

Craig Venter is a geneticist who has been working on engineering new organisms and recently spoke at TED.  He made news (as every news story you see about him over the past couple days is happy to point out) in 2001 for sequencing his own genome.  His current project is in creating a single-celled organism that eats CO2 as fuel.  This notion of creating an artificial life form is very hot these days.  I’ve seen a number of estimates that say within 3-5 years we will have our first artificial life form.  Craig says 1-2 years.

He makes a claim that is fairly Earth-shattering:

“We have modest goals of replacing the whole petrochemical industry and becoming a major source of energy.  We think we will have fourth-generation fuels in about 18 months, with CO2 as the fuel stock.”

If he is right, this could mean the end of the peak oil problem.  So what about ethical concerns?  Like all researchers in this area, he takes the good-human worldview:

“Fortunately, there’s not that many people on this planet wanting to do harm with these tools. Very few biological agents that we work with … could be weaponized. But it is an important issue. Every new technology has the ability to be abused.” [source]

I am, admittedly, cynical.  I personally believe that if a technology can be weaponized, not only will it be, but the government is probably already funding it.  And also, let’s be honest, it only takes one person wanting to do harm with this technology to be successful for it to be a serious problem.  He also points out that only two countries had programs for creating designer viruses and those are supposedly discontinued (the US and the former Soviet Union).  Discontinued?  Riiight.

Venter also said he performed a large bioethical study involving many religious groups and no one found anything in their “law books” to prohibit the creation of artificial life forms.  I take a very dim view of so-called bioethicists and anyone referring to bioethics with authority.  They are often-times just so much smoke in the wind, and who are they to say something is ethical or not?  I deny their authority.  I have never heard the output of any bioethical unit (the drones calling themselves bioethicists) that has struck me as particularly useful or unbiased.  They are always reported in the media as “So-and-so, an expert in bioethics, says it’s ok to do X.”  Umm, no.  I think what I find lacking is the attention by bioethicists to the catastrophic cost of abuse.  If you think I’m over-reacting, I have two words for you:  Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  As cynical as I am, I still can’t believe humans have stockpiled as many nuclear weapons as we have.  It is madness.

I also won’t deny that this stuff is seriously cool.  One way or another, it will change the world.