Saturday, September 30, 2006

Trailer for Park Chan-Wook's 'I'm A Cyborg, But That's O.K'.

Twitch - Teaser Trailer for Park Chan-Wook's 'I'm A Cyborg, But That's O.K'. It's 9 MB, but looks very interesting. Too bad it's wmv.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Nano-Nucleonic Cyborg Summoning: Music: Behold the Arctopus Nano-Nucleonic Cyborg Summoning: Music: Behold the Arctopus: According to "prog-metal climber dude" Joel Israel: "Insanely convoluted, technical, original, and just plain weird, this album is worth checking out."

Bionic Ear Implant

Boston Scientific Corporation - News Releases: "Boston Scientific Corporation (NYSE: BSX) today announced the approval of its new Harmony™ HiResolution� Bionic Ear System (Harmony System) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Developed by the Company's Neuromodulation Group, the Harmony System delivers 120 spectral bands, 5 - 10 times more than competing systems, helping to significantly increase hearing potential and quality of life for the severe-to-profoundly deaf."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Nanoethics Researchers Awarded $250,000 to study ethics of human enhancement and nanotechnology

Nanotechnology Now - Press Release: "Nanoethics Researchers Awarded $250,000": "The questions to be investigated by the nanoethics research team include, but are not limited to: What exactly constitutes enhancement? Is there a right to be enhanced? Is it justifiable to enhance people in order for them to undertake certain tasks, e.g., in the military? Is there an obligation to enhance our children? Should there be limits on the types of enhancement allowed or the degree to which someone can be enhanced? Does it make an ethical difference if some enhancing device is implanted into the body rather than worn on the outside? Does the notion of human dignity suffer with such enhancements?"

Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

by Marshall McLuhan


James Reston wrote in The New York Times (July 7, 1957):
A health director ... reported this week that a small mouse, which presumably had been watching television, attacked a little girl and her full-grown cat.... Both mouse and cat survived, and the incident is recorded here as a reminder that things seem to be changing.

After three thousand years of explosion, by means of fragmentary and mechanical technologies, the Western world is imploding. During the mechanical ages we had extended our bodies in space. Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man--the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended our senses and our nerves by the various media. Whether the extension of consciousness, so long sought by advertisers for specific products, will be "a good thing" is a question that admits of a wide solution. There is little possibility of answering such questions about the extensions of man without considering all of them together. Any extension, whether of skin, hand, or foot, affects the whole psychic and social complex.

Understanding Media

Sitting here contemplating the aphorisms of McLuhan and the attempts through stringent applications of copyright laws to prevent the circulation of ideas--even if the original author is long dead--I had a most interesting thought. What if a thousand people each did what fair use or fair dealing allows them to do, and put a paragraph from Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media on their blog? Could the entire book (or--less ambitiously--a chapter or two) become available, piece by piece?

Here's how I see it happening. I put the first paragraph up on my blog. I or someone else puts a comment on my paragraph page, with a link to the second paragraph; from the second paragraph someone else puts a comment that links to the third.... and on and on. Could it work? There are lots and lots of reasons why this wouldn't work, the most obvious of which is that there aren't a whole lot of people with McLuhan's book at hand, but it's an interesting thought...

...but then again...
(update, a day later) The experiment would be quite wonderful from a theoretical or philosophical standpoint, but the whole process would of course be tantamount to thumbing one's nose at legitimate copyright owners, who have every legal and moral right for people not to distribute the text. This inconvenient truth I ignored when I first thought of this, as well as many practical problems, but it's still a bit thrilling to imagine a real global network created out of a single McLuhan text. Oh well. Some days I have good ideas, and some days I have harebrained ideas.

link to paragraph 1

Sunday, September 24, 2006

MIT's Registry of Standard Biological Parts

Registry of Standard Biological Parts

Wow. wow. Here is the sequence for "Olmecs: Inducable expression of Lambda cl repressor." Under usage and biology is the following note: "When cotransformed with pSB4A3-I6036 and cells are induced with varying IPTG concentration, initially fluorescence is repressed and later it goes back up." The sequence was "assembled and tested by Reshma."

Synthetic biology: Biobricks, manufactured drugs via synthetic metabolic pathsways, artificial E. coli, and, of course, terrorists

Synthetic biology | Life 2.0 | "The DNA of a BioBrick contains a combination of genes that acts as a standardised component. When translated into protein in a cell, it makes that cell do something—and that something is often more than just “make more of protein X”. In particular, Dr Endy is interested in switches and control systems that regulate other genes. Such switches are the basis of electronics and he hopes they may one day become the basis of an industrialised synthetic biology."

Basically, they're working on standardized components for human bodies: DNA pieces as "widgets." Now, that's very interesting on its own; but what's also interesting to me about this article is the mention that MIT has a Registry of Standard Biological Parts, "open wetware".

Other interesting projects:

Craig Venter is working on synthesizing a working bacterial genome within two years.

Peter Carr of MIT and Farren Isaacs of Harvard Medical School plan to recode E. coli to eliminate its redundant codons (that is, more than one codon signals that a protein is complete, and this seems inefficient to these engineers since one should be sufficient: the resulting bacterium, in theory, will be more efficient). Hmm. Not being all that knowledgeble about DNA (I have extracted it from plants, and it looks like mucous, and I have done some calculations or other long long ago in an undergraduate genetics class), I still can't imagine the efficiency argument is all that effective (quite possibly the writer of the article misrepresented their purpose). Obviously, the most efficient design of all is one that is going to work properly even if one or two of the safeties fail. And the safeties can't all be the same, or they'd all fail. I'd think an organism would be much better off with several sets of codons capable of doing the same thing. So if one codon somehow is damaged, another can step in and stop protein production from going haywire. But that's just me.

Finally, on the risks of malicious biohackers, the article concludes that the "Sloan Foundation has paid for a report, coming out soon, on the risks and social implications of synthetic biology." That, too, promises to be interesting.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Neil Harbisson, the world's first eyeborg

Neil Harbisson - The cyborg: "Neil Harbisson is the first person in the world to be fitted with an eyeborg.
Harbisson, a completely colourblind artist and musician, previously only painted in black and white. Now he is painting in colour.

The eyeborg allows people with visual impairments, and even total blindness, to experience the world in colour. Adam Montandon from HMC MediaLab has built a system that hijacks Neil Harbisson's other senses by allowing him to 'see' colour through his ears."