Archive for April 2010

Beyond The 6 Million Dollar Man – Nano Technology and the Future of the Human Race

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We are a strange creature, us humans.  Rather than wait around for natural selection to weed out a defective trait, we have learned to use our tool making abilities to fashion some bit of technology that will correct the defect.  Eyes aren’t working well?  No need to let that diminish your fitness, we’ll just make glasses and you’re good as new.  Irregular heartbeat?  We’ll make you a pacemaker and you’re back in business.

Thus far there has been little outcry about the ethical implications of glasses, pacemakers, prosthetics and other restorative technology.  Our species has, however, reached a new threshold.  Through advances in genetic engineering and nano technology, we are entering the territory of not mere human restoration, but human enhancement.  We have moved beyond short circuiting our evolution, and now have begun exploring designing the human of the future.

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Why Stop At 2 When You Could Have 3 Biological Parents?

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Researchers have produced human embryos containing DNA from three people, a biotechnological proof-of-principle with profound medical and ethical implications.
To accomplish this, chromosomes were taken from one zygote — the single cell formed when sperm and egg fuse — and put into a zygote stripped of its original chromosomes, but left with its original mitochondria, which provide each human cell with energy.
… Mitochondrial swapping might seem less controversial than regular genetic engineering, because it involves metabolism rather than obvious physical traits. “On the other hand, when embryo manipulations for heritable changes start being done, even with the best intentions, we’re on slippery ground,” said Darnovsky.
“I think this strategy for handling mitochondrial disease is fascinating, important and ethical, but it certainly crosses the line of engineering genes,” said Art Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics. “It’s a quiet intrusion, but it crosses a line that a lot of people said shouldn’t be crossed.”


Written by Aaron Nee

April 28, 2010 at 8:11 am

Your Thoughts & Wants Are Not Your Own

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Duke University did an interesting study on the effectiveness of subliminal marketing.  What they found was that the result of subliminal marketing appears to be a notable effect not only on ones awareness and interest in a marketed brand, but an influence toward the behavior associated with the brand.  The BBC reported on a similar study and offers interesting insights into theories related to subliminal manipulation.

Written by Aaron Nee

April 27, 2010 at 11:06 am

Interview With An Insurgent

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The Institute For War & Peace Reporting has posted an essay by a former member of al-Qaeda.  The one time insurgent briefly describes his motives for fighting the occupying American forces, his disaffection with al-Qaeda and why he now is not so sure he wants the American troops to leave.

A reported insider account naturally must be taken with a grain of salt, since it is easy to fabricate and difficult to verify.  That said, I am not aware of any indications that the account is fraudulent, nor are any of the claims extraordinary.  If genuine, it is an interesting peek inside a world the American public is well insulated from.

Thanks to Current Intelligence for alerting me to the essay.

Want To Do More and Do It Better? Take a Nap!

with one comment reported that not only does a good night’s sleep help improve ones performance on memory tests, but a short power nap in the afternoon can result in a significant enhancement of ones ability to store and process data.  There is a catch though – you have to dream during your nap.  The reported on study is that of Robert Stickgold, PhD, director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition.  You may not be surprised to learn that Radiolab reported on related research in a 2007 episode titled Memory and Forgetting.

The research reported on by Radiolab and the complimentary research of Robert Stickgold suggest that, during one’s dreams, the brain is recreating the experiences of the day, even mixing and matching data, looking for connections that may have initially gone unnoticed.

Subjects in Sickgold’s research who had a short, dreaming nap demonstrated as much as a ten fold improvement in their ability to navigate a maze they were memorizing.  Those who at first struggled with the test demonstrated the strongest improvement.  It would seem that the initial difficulty of the task signals the brain that this is something it needs to work on while sleeping.  The brain’s processing of the information, manifests itself as a seemingly random series of bizarre dreams.

This is a strong argument for the siesta!  I’ve always suspected there was wisdom in the custom of afternoon naps.

Thanks to Abeo at the Derren Brown blog for alerting me to the report.

Written by Aaron Nee

April 26, 2010 at 12:06 pm

The BBC Wants Your Sounds

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I find myself strangely inoculated to pictures.  It is not that I don’t appreciate pictures.  I have a great fondness for images, but they do not easily transport me to another time or place.  I imagine my condition is not unique to me.  A picture has the handicap of being framed by other sights which remind you that you are only looking at a picture.  We have also, for the most part, become sophisticated enough about pictures that we can see it not merely as a representation of something that exists or existed in space and time, but we evaluate it’s qualities as a picture: the framing, the color balance, the resolution, exposure, etc… which detaches us from the reality of the thing represented.

Sound is quite a different experience for me and I would wager others as well.  Perhaps the most notable reason is that if one closes their eyes and places headphones over their ears, there is considerably less sensory data to alert the mind to the fact that one is not where the ears suggest.

All this to say that the BBC is compiling a “Sound Map”.  They are collecting sound submissions from all over the world and placing them in their respective positions on a global map.  It does not take much imagination to come up with a great many  sure to be rejected submissions.  I am not sure what the filtering process is.  The BBC’s stated objective is not only to provide a way for visitors to experience the world, but also to preserve sounds that are going extinct.  So if you are looking to experiencing a little bit of the world while relaxing on the couch, or if you have some sounds that represent where you are, pay the sound map a visit.

Written by Aaron Nee

April 24, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Art, Education, Media

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Moon Base Built With Printer and Moon Dust

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A friend of mine is one of the first kids on the block to be doing 3D scanning in Los Angeles and also partners with a company to do 3D printing, which has allowed me the pleasure of hearing about many of the advances being made in 3D scanning and printing technology.

Previously at Knosha, I posted about a printer that prints functional organs.  Today I would like to share with you another 3D printer that the European Space Agency is rumored to be considering for lunar construction.  The printer would use lunar regolith to construct a moon base.

There are several significant construction advantages a 3D printer presents. Curved structures that would be difficult and costly to make using conventional construction means are produced easily with the printer.  Not only can it produce more complex structures, but it can build four times faster than the normal building process and the building material does not need iron reinforcing.

Printed buildings could spell significant cost savings and environmental benefits, not to mention the fact that we may finally see the end of these miserably unimaginative box structures being propped up all over the place.  Here’s hoping.

For more on the printer, check out the article at

Written by Aaron Nee

April 23, 2010 at 10:06 am