A mathematical marvel

This short algorithm was sent to me today. It’s a perfect valentines gift or way to show someone you care.

Just type it into Google and hit ‘search’

sqrt(cos(x))*cos(300x)+sqrt(abs(x))-0.7)*(4-x*x)^0.01, sqrt(6-x^2), -sqrt(6-x^2) from -4.5 to 4.5

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Lifelong geek, and now admin at Worlds Beyond.

Advances in modern medicine

This TED Talk is two years old but shows just how cutting-edge 3d printing is. In it, Anthony Atala discusses how advances in 3d printing have helped his team to develop techniques for producing kidneys (and in theory any other organ) in a lab setting. While it’s years away from practical human use, such research could one day make transplants significantly safer.

To keep up to date with the research, check out the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

How do you think technology will shape medicine over the next few years?

[TED]

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Lifelong geek, and now admin at Worlds Beyond.

Endgame Singularity

In keeping with our Kurzweil week, Endgame Singularity is a computer game focused on the idea of a newly aware artificial intelligence hiding from the world as it explores its capabilities.

Created by indie-publisher emhsoft, this free to play (but sadly never developed to its full potential) game casts you as a benevolent intelligence, aware that humanity is not yet ready to discover your existence. You must survive in the human world and to do that you will need to innovate, inserting yourself into key locations, taking on agents and infiltrating humanity.

Throughout this process you are the embodiment of technological progress, with your ability to develop new and frighteningly advanced technologies grows logarithmically as the processing power that you have access to increases – until you reach the point of absolute technological singularity.

While there is still a Google group for the discussion and further development of the game, Endgame Singularity last released a patch in 2010 and would appear to be effectively finished unless new developers join the project.

The game can be downloaded for free (legally and legitimately) from the developer here.

Played Endgame Singularity? Tell us about it in the comments.

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Lifelong geek, and now admin at Worlds Beyond.

The future of learning?

In an article titled ‘‘Downloading’ new skills into our brains like characters on The Matrix set to become a reality, say scientists‘ the Daily Mail today published a piece that has me very excited.

From optical input devices in Stargate and Ghost in the Shell to didactic learning implants in the Matrix films and Peter F Hamilton’s numerous science fiction pieces, the concept is nothing new… but now it looks like it may be entering the realms of science fact. It probably won’t be ready for commercial use for another decade or more (it’s a technology you really wouldn’t want to mess up) but if it becomes available I’d certainly be inclined to try it – after all, how often do you get the chance to say “I know Kung Fu”?

[Daily Mail]

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Lifelong geek, and now admin at Worlds Beyond.

Reach for the sky – the 3.5km lego tower

No, there isn’t really a tower of Lego bricks to rival a mountain – but theoretically there could be. Often these days when you have a question, you check Google and find the answer. Just occasionally though you’ll find a question that nobody has asked before – like how many Lego bricks could you stack on top of each other before the weight of the tower is enough to crush the bottom brick. In essence, what’s the tallest Lego tower you could possibly build?

After realising that nobody knew, BBC show More or Less asked Dr Ian Johnson, lecturer at the Open University, to help them find out. What they found surprised everyone. Testing Lego blocks using equipment usually reserved for stress-testing engineering supplies they discovered that the familiar 2×2 ordinary Lego could withstand a force of nearly 4,240 Newtons – the equivalent of six well built men – bearing down on the brick before it lost structural stability. Imagine that, standing six men on top of one Lego brick to crush it. When you work the maths out from the force of weight it can uphold against the weight of an individual block, factor in the size of a block and scale up… a single Lego piece can support about 375,000 other Legos on top of it. That tower would be 3.5km tall!

Back to the start though, there’s some bad news; it would be impossible to build a tower of lego that tall as the slight deviations in positioning over the sheer number of bricks involved would topple the tower long before 375,000 could be stacked together.

For more on the science behind the question, check out this piece on the BBC’s website.

If you could build a model out of Lego, would would you build?

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Lifelong geek, and now admin at Worlds Beyond.

BitCoin farming to become more difficult

One of the most popular internet currencies, BitCoins, will soon experience a major milestone – and with it, the process of creating the currency will prove less rewarding. The BBC report is pretty comprehensive, so I’ll leave you with that.

People trying to profit via the bitcoin electronic currency will soon have to work harder to mint the digital coins.

Safeguards built into the bitcoin software are about to be triggered as the number of bitcoins in circulation hits a key milestone.

This means bitcoin “miners” will have to work twice as hard to be rewarded with the same number of coins.

The change comes as competition to create the coins gets more intense with the release of custom mining chips.

Since the creation of the bitcoin network in early 2009, bitcoins have grown to become a very widely used digital currency. An increasing number of online shops and businesses accept bitcoins as payments and currently each bitcoin is worth about £8.

As a digital currency, bitcoins are not issued by a central bank or national mint. Instead they are created by the system’s network when a specific amount of computer work, known as a “block” has been completed. Fifty bitcoins are released when that block is done and the work, which involves solving a hard mathematical problem, is completed.

The protocol that defines this block-to-coin ratio reduces the reward given for finding each block every time 210,000 blocks have been found. According to statistics gathered about the bitcoin network, the 210,000 figure looks set to be passed on 28 November. Then, instead of getting 50 bitcoins per block, miners will get only 25.

“The main reason to do this is to control inflation,” said Vitalik Buterin, a journalist at Bitcoin Magazine. Controlling the rate at which coins were created, he said, meant there would never be a surge or shortfall in the number of bitcoins in circulation, either one of which could rapidly change the value of each coin.

It addition, he said, it was a hedge against technological innovation. In the early days of bitcoins, many people used desktop computers to do the hard sums. Then they started to use banks of graphics cards that could do the maths very quickly to speed up the rate at which blocks of work were completed.

Mr Buterin said some miners were now using even more specialised hardware to do the mathematical work and firms were starting to produce custom-made chips that stepped up the pace of work even more.

However, he said, the creators of bitcoins had foreseen these changes and built in controls to keep the numbers of blocks completed relatively constant.

“The protocol always calibrates difficulty to make up for increased mining power,” he told the BBC, “so the speed at which people are finding blocks isn’t going to go up by much no matter what.”

I tried mining BitCoins for a few months in 2010 but didn’t find it to be particularly profitable with my setup. I didn’t keep exact track… but I think I mined just enough to cover the cost of electricity used to power the PC doing the mining. For people attempting to mine now, I can only wonder at the number of machines they must need to use, or the number of calculations they are capable of carrying out by networking banks of cooperating users together. It makes me think that BitCoins may now start to rise in value if creating them becomes more difficult – but the creators seem to have taken this into account already… so we’ll have to see what happens.

Do you use BitCoins? How do you think this change in the algorithm will affect their value and popularity? Is mining still a viable option for obtaining them? Answers in the comments.

[BBC]

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Lifelong geek, and now admin at Worlds Beyond.

The Prototype – Trailer

Not sure yet exactly how big a release this will get. and the biggest actor attached to it is Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter) but the trailer name-checks Ray Kurzweil and his Singularity concept so I thought it was worth sharing. At worst, it’s a bad sci-fi film with a cyborg. At best… it could be so much more. It’s due for release in 2013 so keep an eye out for it.

About

Lifelong geek, and now admin at Worlds Beyond.