Category / Technology

We are back! May 16, 2011 at 6:32 am

Well, Automatons Adrift is finally back after a malicious hacking by… someone. In any case, I was able to recover all of the posts and I am going through doing some updates and changing things up making everything a little more informative and colorful!

I hope you all enjoy it!

Game changer. June 14, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Virtually every electronic device around has one of these and the technology hasn’t changed substantially in decades.

Batteries.

From your cell phone, to your tv remote, your car to your laptop, they all have batteries. One of the more common types now seen is the lithium ion battery. It works by moving lithium ions around between an anode and a cathode. This is the same process that every other battery follows. Depending on how many ions your anode can store, you can store more charge in the battery.

Now what if you could increase the capacity of your anode by 1000%. Your laptop would could run for 10 hours on a single charge, your iphone could keep going for 8 or 9 days instead of 1, your electric car could have ten times the range all on a single charge.

psa Researchers in South Korea have made this a reality. Li-ion batteries with 1000% increase in storage! Their system works by increasing the surface area of the anode by making it extremely porous. Like a sponge holds water, the anode can hold exceptionally more lithium ions allowing for a much more substantial stored charge.

Consider the possibilities this holds for nanotechnology. Right now scientists are constructing tiny devices but the restricting factor is the battery, it can’t hold a charge for the tiny device to function for any length of time. This increase could allow a 5 minute charge to last hours or to provide the power to become far more effective. Wireless sensor networks restrict broadcast functions as much as possible because they are cost expensive. This would allow those nets to function much more effectively.

That is just one application. Now that they know this can be done, the race will be on to make even more capable anodes, we could be on the virge of a battery revolution, something that has been a long time coming.

The evolution of time. April 3, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Ok, well not really the evolution of time in the sense that time is everwhere in the universe and is an innate feature of it. Instead this video shows the evolution of a clock. It is a very elegant representation of how a genetic algorithm can evolve surprising and different solutions to a problem. For anyone that doesn’t really understand genetic algorithms this video can give you a feel for how they work. It is quite exciting to see a solution evolve from a simple program.

This video actually comments on the long standing debate between creationism vs evolution. I do not wish to comment on that debate, I simply want to educate on the use of evolutionary algorithms. We can leave creationism vs evolution to those who enjoy the debate. If you would like to jump ahead to the beginning of the experiment go to 1:34 in the video.

Discovery! By a robot? April 2, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Achieving a scientific discovery has been the sole domain of humans for quite some time. However, artificial intelligence is starting to catch up. Enter “Adam” an artificially intelligent robot with the tools to analyze biological data, formulate a novel hypothesis about that data, derive a set of tests to verify the hypothesis and then carry out those tests, and present conclusions from the data!

Adam’s repeated experiments resulted in the system identifying a few unknown genes in baker’s yeast that work together to form an orphan enzyme, this relationship was not previously known and Adam independently identified it.

Tools like this can allow human researchers to think at even higher levels, theorizing about broad spectrum experiments and leaving the systems to explore the frontier for them.

Technology update at 12:10 pm

Doing a little technical work with Automatons Adrift right now. I just upgraded the wordpress to 2.7.1. I might even change the theme. Though if I can’t find something I really like I will probably alter the code of this theme instead.

Just an FYI!

The Memristor and you. Technology to program nanotechnology. February 15, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Right now we have resistors, capacitors, and incutors we also have four basic circuit variables current, voltage, charge and flux. I am not an engineer but my understanding is, that with these variables you should be able to have four different components and not just three. The fourth component known as a memristor was first theorized in 1971 by Leon Chua. This theoretical fouth component would have properties that were not reproducable by the other three components alone or in any combination.

Both New Scientist and an even more mainstream magazine Maximum PC have reported on the memristor. This component is simply that big a breakthrough!

The memristor is indeed different from its brothers. When a charge is passed through the circuit in one direction its resistance increases, when it is passed through the other direction it decreases. This amount of resistance is analog as well. This means a memristor can store values that don’t just equate to one or zero although their first use will probably be to make solid state memory that is faster than any memory that already exists and has a data density greater than a factor of ten from todays solid state memory like flash memory. It is much less volatile than flash memory as well so it will last longer, and the state of the memristor can be read using similar techniques to todays memory cirtuits so it it doesn’t require any fundamental changes to underlying hardware.

Since memristors can store large amounts of data in such a small area they are perfect for memory components in nanoscale machines, the ultimate new automata of the future. They can also double as processor components that are dynamically changed as needed. So not only can the memristor function as a memory it can be made to function as a processor as well.

Memristors due to their analog nature function very similarly to human neural networks. The memristor can retain data from reinforcement learning very easily, a few hundred memristors can simulate a full human neuron in a similar amount of space.

Memristors are truly an amazing breakthrough and could lead to a paradigm shift in toadys technology.

Navigating dynamic 3D environments while flying! November 10, 2008 at 12:04 pm

Moving through busy environments is a complex task that is becoming increasingly easy for computer systems to perform on the groud. The task is made even harder while flying if you want to fly low to the ground. New obstacles become serious problems, like power lines and overpasses. A team at Carnegie Mellon University have modified a UAV to fly low to the ground successfully.

The UAV can have a pre-loaded map or it can build its map as it flies using its laser range finder sensors. The lasers sweep an oval pattern out front of the vehicle and develop a dynamic map. If an obstacle is detected the system plans a route around it. Current UAV’s cannot fly low to the ground because they lack a system like this. This new system is planned for deployment in unmanned medical rescue helicopters.

Probably also for highly tactical seek and destroy missions too, but I will hold out hope that it is only used for the rescue helicopters.

The military gives the Turing Test a go. November 7, 2008 at 2:29 pm

We have talked about the turing test before, now it appears the US Army wants to give it a shot in World of Warcraft. Along with several other advanced technologies like regenerating body parts, erasing bad memories, and electronic telepathy they are attempting to develop virtual soldiers that look and behave like a real human.

To test these virtual humans they are going to deploy them in World of Warcraft. The virtual soldiers should be able to convince humans they are real, going as far as emulating emotion and using local slang correctly while responding to questions and communicating effectively with other players.

It appears the Army is attempting to tackle some very complex AI and Nanotechnological problems. If one of their AI soldiers does manage to fit in properly in World of Warcraft, how far off is it from passing a full Turing Test? Does it have full understanding and is able to relay tactical situation information back or does it just manage to fit in without any higher awareness of its situation?

They may be biting off more than they can chew, however the Army/DoD have been responsible for several massive technological advances. Anyone ever hear of this thing called the internet?

Desktop Super Computers and Singularity Friday October 21, 2008 at 1:15 pm

What is the Singularity? Ever hear of Moore’s Law?

If you are reading this blog you probably have. Moore’s Law is an informal law about technological advancement. In a nutshell it states, that every 18 months or so, the power of computers doubles. Computer power has been following this trend for 40 years and it is set to continue following it for another 40 years. The idea of the singularity is, if technology does indeed continue to double at this rate, in another 40 or 50 years the sheer power of the computing systems available will so far surpass mankinds abilities that the formation of an artificial mega intelligence will be impossible to avoid and it will be a new age of evolution. Of course, this new age could go the way of Terminator or we could essentially all become godlike through unimaginable advances in AI, computing power and Nanotechnology. A lot of pieces need to fall into place for it to happen but many people are starting to think it is inevitable.

Don’t agree? Intel thinks the Singularity is a real possibility. Don’t think computers will ever really get that powerful? How about a super computer for your desktop by Cray? While Cray hasn’t released performance specs for this system it is bound to be more powerful than their first super computer. In fact, your common desktop today is roughly two hundred times faster than the first Cray. While this computer still cannot model the entire human brain that doesn’t mean anyone isn’t going to try. IBM’s Blue Brain project plans to model the human brain in its entirety in the next ten years. Is that enough to form a mega intelligence and bring about the singularity? Probably not, but it is getting closer.

The 2008 Singularity Summit is happening this friday. Some of the worlds greatest minds in AI, Nanotechnology, Innovation, and The Singularity will be there. Who knows what interesting ideas will be shared at the conference this year. Typically video’s of the conferences talks are available after the conference for anyone who is interested.

We can’t know for certain what the future holds, like I said, a lot of pieces need to fall into place for the singularity to happen. Will Nanotechnology advance the fastest and allow us to transform humans into fully cybernetic entities thus creating mega intelligent computer systems out of our own consciousnes? Will computers advance to a point where we create true AI? This AI would have access to our vast stores of knowledge, it would have the ability to instantly learn and integrate new knowlege and then could develop new theories based on that knowledge. It would be able to optimize itself, and duplicate itself creating more and more AI’s. These new AI’s could allow the advancement of Nanotechnology to the point where we could join them in their electronic virtual playground if we so chose to. Or maybe neither will happen, due to economic and political stresses. We just don’t know.

I for one welcome our future mega-intelligent overloards.

I used to grow crystals as a child October 18, 2008 at 2:28 pm

When I was quite young my mother gave me a grow your own crystal kit. It came with a bag of Alum and instructions. I first had to grow seed crystals in a super saturated solution of Alum and water. Then I placed the best seed crystal at the bottom of a jar and covered it in another saturated solution of Alum. After several weeks I had a fairly nice big crystal, formed from my seed crystal. It didn’t do anything except look pretty.

Scientists have really stepped that up a notch with these Self-Assembled Orgaic Circuits. In order to form these complex structures they create a silicon dioxide substrate with gold electrodes using conventional techniques. They then submerge the substrate in a solution containing the organic semiconductor and the molecules arrange themselves on the substrate in a densely packed single layer of molecular layer. Prior work has developed faster circuits but this method is extremely easy to deploy.

This type of technology will allow complex electronics to be embedded in items where it was previously not possible. It opens up the possibility of structurally flexible electronics that are cheap and easy to assemble. You may have a computer directly embedded into things like coffee cups, cereal boxes, newspapers, or have portable display devices that can roll up or fold up without complex engineering requirements.

Very cool future possibilities.