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  • seandodson 10:30 pm on November 17, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , margaret atwood, new scientist, science, , , , the death of science fiction,   

    Has science made science fiction obsolete? 

    I enjoyed New Scientist’s discussion on the “death” of science fiction. It argues that “science – and its handmaiden, technology – are changing so fast that it is impossible for science fiction to keep up.”

    In a nice, well-rounded series of articles, including a great inverview with William Gibson (above), it argues that, while the genre’s golden age of prediction might be getting slightly rusty, it’s role of satirical mirror to society’s anxieties is less tarnished.

    “As well as a mere storytelling device, science fiction often articulates our present-day concerns and anxieties – paradoxically, it is often about the here and now rather than the future.”

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  • seandodson 12:02 pm on July 3, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , invention, , , , science, self-replication,   

    The machine that copies itself 

    Self-linkage: From today’s Technology Guardian, my interview with Dr Adrian Bowyer of the University of Bath and inventor of the RepRap machine.

    “Technically, the RepRap is a form of rapid prototyper, the kind used by designers and engineers to streamline everything from aircraft to hairdryers, but it’s easier to think of it as a printer of three-dimensional objects. Essentially, the RepRap works like the desktop printer you might have at home, but instead of printing on paper, the RepRap makes hard copy in three dimensions out of plastic from models designed on a computer.”

  • seandodson 11:13 am on June 16, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: artificial intelligence, , , , knowledge, nicholas carr, science, , search engine   

    Nicholas Carr: Is Google making you stupid? 

    I don’t think so, but it could be changing the way we all think. Nicholas Carr, who is something of a Google-baiter, is more worried and has penned a thought-provoking essay on the subject over at The Atlantic. I knew he was on to something when, although i was deeply interested in the article, I felt like clicking away before finishing the third paragraph.

    I resisted temptation and felt all the better for it.

    Here’s a taste for those of you so deep in the throes of Google-induced stupor that you can’t get any further:

    “The Net’s influence doesn’t end at the edges of a computer screen … As people’s minds become attuned to the crazy quilt of Internet media, traditional media have to adapt to the audience’s new expectations. Television programs add text crawls and pop-up ads, and magazines and newspapers shorten their articles, introduce capsule summaries, and crowd their pages with easy-to-browse info-snippets. When, in March of this year, The New York Times decided to devote the second and third pages of every edition to article abstracts, its design director, Tom Bodkin, explained that the “shortcuts” would give harried readers a quick “taste” of the day’s news, sparing them the “less efficient” method of actually turning the pages and reading the articles. Old media have little choice but to play by the new-media rules.

    “Never has a communications system played so many roles in our lives—or exerted such broad influence over our thoughts—as the Internet does today. Yet, for all that’s been written about the Net, there’s been little consideration of how, exactly, it’s reprogramming us. The Net’s intellectual ethic remains obscure.”

  • seandodson 2:51 pm on June 12, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Cheltenham Science Festival, , , , , science, singularity, skynet, , terminator, Vik Olliver   

    RepRap: Here comes the age of self-replicating machines 

    To Bath to meet Dr Adrian Bowyer, the father of the world’s first self-replicating machine. The RepRapis a kind of 3-D printer that can fashion fairly crude objects out of molten plastic.  Last week, Bowyer appeared at the Cheltenham Science Festival with Vik Olliver and a pair of RepRaps.  The Second machine had been partially (though significantly) fabricated from a “parent” machine.  The pair are claiming it as a major step forward towards a self-replicating machine.

    Talk to most lay-people about self-replicating machines and most start talking about Terminator movies and the fictional Skynet computer that will eventually take over the world. Delightful nonsense of course, but self-replicating machines could eventually assist developing countries develop a cheaper form of manufacture.

    Like his original RepRap machine, Bowyer is the father of the RepRap rather than the inventor. Although he came up with the concept, many others have contributed. It was Olliver’s machine that begot the first “child”, not Bowyer’s. This is because Bowyer has open sourced his ideas, effectively giving them to the whole world and waving goodbye to potential profits. Although as he told me, its very difficult to make money from a self-replicating machine. You could probably only sell the first one.  

  • seandodson 10:36 am on June 5, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , blimp, , science, skycat, , , , , zeppelin NT   

    Could Zeppelin’s airships soon be gracing our skies again? 

    Forgive the self-linkage, but Guardian Technology (also picked up in The Hindu) has published my feature about the revival of the airship. It is pegged around the news that Zeppelins are being built again in Germany, funded by money laid-down by the original Count von Zeppelin. I also look at the latest generation of “hybrid airships”, (like the Skycat above right) that float the possibility of a less environmentally harmful form of passenger flight.

    Here’s a snippet:

    “What is it about airships that continues to capture the imagination? By rights, the lumbering airborne relics of a century past should be no more than museum curiosities, consigned like gas lamps to the sentimental roll-call of redundant technology. But like sacked television contestants, it’s hard to keep an idea as audacious as the airship down. With the cost of oil at record highs, and airline chiefs warning of the end of cheap flights, the idea of the airship is being seriously floated once more.

    The appeal is of the airship is easy to grasp. Environmentalists like George Monbiot cite their frugal use of fuel when compared to other forms of flight. They are also quiet and fly at low altitude, at around 4,000ft compared with 35,000ft, further lessening their environmental impact. Although they are relatively slow, typically travelling at 125 mph – as quick as a high-speed train, but still needing about 43 hours to cross the Atlantic – most need no runway and could be deployed without need for further airport expansion.”

  • seandodson 8:19 pm on June 2, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bioethics, biotech, cancer, drugs, , gene, HIV, john harris, , , nanotechnology, post-human, science, transhuman   

    Now is the time to answer the question of the synthetic human 

    I was very impressed by this article on the ever pressing issue of post-humanity by John Harris, Professor of Bioethics at the University of Manchester. It manages to be both intelligent and accessible at the same time, not something you see everday in the Times (of London) these days.

    Now is the time to try to answer this question, because many recent discoveries are beginning to make the prospect of radical human enhancement a reality. Stem cell research, which may lead to human tissue repairing itself; new genes resistant to cancer and HIV; new drugs that improve concentration and memory or enable us to function for much longer periods without sleep; brain-computer interfaces that may harness the power and memory of computers, perhaps by the insertion of tiny “nanobots” into the human brain; and techniques that will radically extend life expectancy from tens to hundreds of years – these are all on today’s scientific agenda and some are already in use.

  • seandodson 3:59 pm on May 23, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: animal welfare, bioarts, bioarts international, clone, cloning, , , genetic, Genetic Savings & Clone, , nurture, pet, pet cloning, science,   

    Bring you best friend back from the dead. Prices start at $100,000 

    The first commercial cloned dog looks like it’s just turned up at the door and is scratching like hell to be let in. On Wednesday BioArts International, a US company, let loose its Best Friends Again pet cloning service and began auctioning the opportunity, if we can call it that, to clone five pet dogs in return for cash. It accepts bids from $100,000.

    It’s not the first attempt to make a buck from bringing dear old Muffin back from the dead. The first commercially-cloned pet has earlier been announced. An American woman has asked Korean scientists to clone her current pooch: a pit-bull terrier.

    My instinctive liberal “dog-whistle” response is this: is it right to clone domestic animals when loads of them go to the knackers yard every day? Although there’s some scope , I suppose, for protecting endangered species and perhaps cloning working animals, like dogs for the blind. The cloning of domesitc animals seems somehow out the whole spirit of raising an animal for a pet. Can you ever love Muffin2 or Luigi6 as you did the original?

    And can you really replicate old Muffin?  And more to the point would you want to? The whole environment that created him is already lost to time. Most people know the old adage that a dog takes on the characteristics of its owner and its a good environment that fosters something, well, beautiful between an owner and their pet. Recreate the environment and you can recreate a similar relationship.

    • Niki 2:34 am on February 12, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Hi there. i am very interested in knowing how this thing works. my dog has past away on Tuesday on the 10/2/09 just wanted to know whether it is possible to bring it back from the dead. it died from pneumonia what are the chances?

      someone please get back to me.

    • Cynthy 12:06 pm on January 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Good Post. Can you email me back, please. Thanks so much.

  • seandodson 11:10 am on May 12, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: alternative energy, , , , , , green energy, science, solar, solar power,   

    Solar-powered aeroplane floats on the winds of change 

    Solar powered aviation has travelled a long way since the heady days of the Gossamer Penguin. But could it actually one day power commerical flight? Trouble is, a quick look at the prototypes reveals that most solar-powered planes remain a world away from passenger aviation. But that could be subject to change. Although we are not quite at the stage of the easyJet ecojet just yet, what might be just over the horizon is something like the Hy-Bird, a hybrid of hydrogen, solar-power and lithium-polymer batteries. The Hy-bird still looks like a bit like a prototype, but it is beginning to look more like a proper plane. If you squint your eyes, it could pass for a private jet. Lisa Airplanes, the Hy-bird’s manufacturer, is planning to take the plane on a voyage that will circumnavigate the planet later this summer.

    According to Inhabitat, the Hy-bird gets just 10% of its power from solar, which may not mean that solar power can work on its own, that’s still a significant contribution to my mind. Yes, we should all fly less if we want to reduce CO2. But the prospect of a truly green-powered aeroplane is enough to spark the imagination of those that both want to save the planet but still dream of flight.

    • Jeremy 11:32 am on May 12, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Yes, this is a far cry from being a commercially useful enterprise, but it may go some way to inspiring change. I’d love to see someone put up a solar equivalent of the Ansari X-prize. Those kind of initiatives really seem to stimulate innovation.

  • seandodson 10:51 am on April 27, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: airjelly, aquajelly, aquaray, autonomous underwater vehicles, AUV, , , science, subaqua, ,   

    Floats like a jellyfish, in air and in sea 

    AirJelly is a remote-controlled helium balloon that was shown off at the Hanover Messe last week. The video above demonstrates the radical way it moves around the air, what’s even more impressive is that the AirJelly uses nothing more powerful than a pair of lithium-ion-polymer batteries to make flight. Designed by German company Festo, it has a sub-aquatic partner, the AquaJelly (see below) that can move around underwater equally gracefully. The pair of prototypes are part of a new generation of autonomous vehicles, which include the AquaRay and its airborne sibling, the AirRay.

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