Wireless Power Transmission

I spent years bemoaning the fact that the laws of physics didn’t allow the wireless transmission of power. Now it seems that I bemoaned prematurely. Researchers at MIT have a found a way to use inductance to power a 60W (think similar power rating to a laptop) lightbulb from a distance of up to 2 metres.

I  know it doesn’t sound like much, but as I look at my desk I can’t help thinking that a short range power transmitter would help. I’m sure it beats Quartz crystals as a source of magic moonbeams as well.


An Ominous Blog Post

Normally I have a very optimistic outlook. Especially when it comes to technological breakthroughs. But this morning I was given pause for thought. MAKE magazine carried a news article today about a highly accurate DNA replicator for $10. I am fully convinced that such breakthroughs can be used to tackle the issues of world poverty, but I’ve just finished reading Tomorrow’s War by David Shukman. It was written over 10 years ago but was gloomy, even then about our chances of controlling the proliferation of expertise in the production of WMD, and it was written before 9/11.

At this rate, the techniques and the resources for biological weapons development will be freely available, but the skills needed to combat them will not. I just think of the irresponsibility of computer hackers and virus writers – who often wreak havoc without any thought of the costs or consequences. If such power can be unleashed in the real world, then we are in way more danger than we ever were during the cold war.

That is a doomsday scenario, if you ask me.

I gotta git me some of this!

The mind boggles at the possibilities of shapelock!

It is a ‘Ultra-High Molecular Weight Low Temperature Thermoplastic ‘ which is to say – a form of modelling plastic that can be made plyable at just above room temperature, and can be moulded to almost any shape, but which when it cools is hard as steel. Now I have my shed, (well I share it with Cockroaches and Huntsmen spiders and moths the size of mice, but I call it mine) and a double garage (not pronounced like Mirage but like Forage) I also have the opportunity (but not the leasure time) to get more ‘practical’. I seem to be spend a lot of my spare time working on my software projects. It leaves me wanting to produce something tangible and useful, rather than something intellectually satisfying. The problem with intellectual pursuits is that once you have gotten your head around a problem, no matter how difficult it seems at the outset, you are left thinking that the problem was actually quite simple. Which brings to mind Steven Wolfram’s assertion that there is really only one level of complexity – our perception of higher levels of complexity is really only an awareness of our lack of insight into the problem.

Anyway, I want to produce lasting, and useful little gadgets for a change – the kind of things that buzz and flicker. To inspire me I have been visiting the Maker site, which is where I found out about shapelock.
What I want from YOU is ideas for the above little doohickeys. What would be cool to make.     


Now here’s something I’d trade in the Hyundai to own

This Toyota concept car seems to have adopted the Fisher-Price/Window Media Player user interface approach to ergonomics. I’m not sure whether the dashboard is a touch screen, but I love the idea of exploring the object model of the car. I also love the idea of being able to control the car using a touch screen keyboard. In this age of automatic gearboxes and speed limiters, there is no reason for us still to be pulling and pushing levers to control the car – it’s a technological throwback, a bit like when a plane’s ailerons were controlled by cables attached to the joystick. That age has long past, but we still use joysticks – why?

Bring on the coffee cup holder keyboard to set gears and speeds. In fact why not control speed using an iPod scroll wheel? I suspect it will be a while before something like this filters out to the public, but I look forward to the day.

We got a new camera

We got ourselves the Canon PowershotPro1 in readiness for the big day (so that we can preserve the gore in glorious technicolour for all time). It’s a (as the Aussies would say) Beaut! Expect to see quite a few landscape and macro photos appearing here in the near future.

The link above is to the DP Review site, which contains more information on the camera than the manual does (and that took me all weekend to absorb). The overall conclusion from DPReview was that it was a good canmera, with one or two minor problems relating to speed, but it got a Recommended status.

Well, here goes nothing II – Revenge of the brill-o pads

Oh Yea! Be it known that Nitrogen is to be taken to Tyburn tree and there hung by the hard-drive until all computation has ceased, then taken down and have its giblets taken out and rubbed vigorously with a binary level formatting tool before being paraded around the service pack update avenues for the edification and education of the operating system.

Well, here goes nothing…

With my trusty brill-o pad in hand I am preparing to revolutionize my software development experience ™. Yes, the install media arrive through the post the other day for visual studio 2005…

… [Please Wait]

…diddle diddle dum. diddle diddle dum. And we arrive at the present moment. Yes I sat there like a zombie for a whole evening. But the end result is what counts and that’s the problem. Now all of my code doesn’t work any more. Boo Hoo.

So, I have to either debug the EDRA config app block, or go hunting for a .NET 2.0 version of a config tool. I probably also have to do the same with all the templating tools, logging tools, and every other trace of code reuse that I have incorporated into my Dbc system.

Undoubtedly – VS.NET 2005 beta 2 is by a long margin the slickest development environment that I have ever seen. But I really can’t be bothered to go through all this pain at the moment. Perhaps I should revisit the idea of using VPC 2004 for my dev environment. Problem is that there is a whole other bunch of problems associated with that route. So what do I do? I wanna be able to play with the latest toys. But I wanna do it without having to incur weeks of pointless twiddling after I realize my recklessness has rendered weeks of work either obsolete or too bleeding-edge to work. [sob]

Cyborg Upgrades

This from LiveScience via Kurtzweil AI: Monkeys Brains Alter to Work Robotic Arm

A new study finds a monkey’s brain structure adapts to treat a robotic arm as if it was a natural appendage. The finding bolsters the notion that the primate brain is highly adaptable, and it adds more knowledge to the effort to create useful prosthetic devices for…

This is a very thought provoking piece of news. To me it seems to point out the way that awareness inhabits the sensorium, no matter what the origin of that sensorium. If the monkey brain can adapt to the use of non-organic appendages, then maybe it is possible that one can go further and progressively substitute pieces of the body with cyborg replacements. It brings to my mind the thought experiments where functionally identical transistorised components are used to replace neurons in the brain. The thought experiment was intended to highlight the difference between those who hold that hard-AI is true, and those who believe that something ineffible is lost in the process, which I guess they would call consciousness or soul or some similarly ill-defined term.

Others have argued that the challenge is in replacing the neurons with functionally equivalent components because of the potential for brain cells to be small quantum computers, but in recent years even that is now seen as a hurdle that can be overcome. I’m encouraged with these results because they silence the objections of those who hold that the ineffable thing that is lost in a cyborg is an organic nature. As though Carbon-based molecules were somehow privileged and able to yield consciousness in a way that other assemblages of atoms were not.

Surely it is the pattern of signals going to and from the brain that counts, not their origin?