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Self-Replicating Robot: Is It Alive?

first_imgThe news media are all excited about a cube-shaped robot that, when stacked in threes, can make a copy of itself.  The device, invented by Hod Lipson of Cornell, was illustrated in Nature.1  For a video demonstration, see MSNBC News.  The BBC News quotes Lipson claiming that this achievement “shows the ability to reproduce is not unique to biology.”  The machine doesn’t perform any other function than reproducing stacks of cubes, provided additional parts are provided in specific “feeding locations.”National Geographic News says this impinges on the capabilities of living organisms:The prevailing view holds that self-replication is an ability that organisms or objects either have in full or lack entirely.  But Lipson’s team theorizes that self-replication isn’t a yes-or-no proposition, but exists at varying degrees.    The researchers present their new robot as an example of this theory.    The team says the extent to which something is self-replicating depends on many factors.  For example, mineral crystals build exact replicas of themselves, but only in a solution.  By contrast, rabbits reproduce themselves less accurately than crystals do but are less dependent on a specific environment.    Through understanding the principles of self-replication in nature, the team aims to make robots that are more robust and adaptive.1Zykov, Lipson et al., “Robotics: self-reproducing machines,” Nature 435, 163-164 (12 May 2005), doi: 10.1038/435163a.The gizmo is cute, but is as far from life as a toy from a boy.  Its value is a demonstration of intelligent design.  Without the cube being built to specifications with an appropriate energy source provided, nothing would happen.  Without the lab assistant carefully placing the next cubes in the exact position where the robot could make electrical contacts with them, no replication would take place.  If useful nanotechnology comes from these efforts, that’s good.  If any speculator wants to imagine we are on the way to creating life, he or she has been watching too much Star Trek.    Not to underestimate the team’s interesting achievement, let’s see the cubes invent themselves without help.  Let’s watch them find useful parts and reject harmful ones, and build something that actually performs a useful task other than stacking blocks.  Let’s see it encapsulate all its information in a genetic code and build its own translation and fabrication system with error-checking.  Let’s see it propel itself with an outboard motor and manufacture its own energy currency from protons harvested from sunlight.  The simplest cell runs circles around this toy, without help from Cornell graduate students.  Make the logical inference.Footnote: a reader sent in this link to a chart of essential biochemical pathways on ExPASy.com.  He said this and chart 2 represent only the known essential cellular processes – about 2% of what goes on in the cell.(Visited 33 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Dark Matters, When All You Have Is Light

first_imgA cluster of galaxies equivalent to a thousand Milky Ways was observed at a distance of 7.7 billion light-years.  What does it mean?  According to astronomers mentioned in an article on Space.com, it can only mean one thing: dark energy makes up 70% of the universe.    “The existence of the cluster can only be explained with dark energy,” one spokesman said.  How can that be, since dark energy is invisible?  It depends on a theory of galaxy evolution.  “To test dark energy, scientists compare frequency of these massive clusters today with earlier times,” the article said.  “If there were no dark energy, they would expect clusters to grow relatively quickly, so the largest clusters we see now would be very small at half the age of the universe, and there would be no gigantic clusters.”  The cluster exists, so voilà – dark energy is real.  “Without dark energy we would observe much more massive clusters and many more of these massive clusters than we actually do.”    Another example is found in an article by National Geographic News.  Some University of California astronomers divined large quantities of dark matter from the orbits of small satellite galaxies of the Milky Way.  “Basically galaxies like our own wouldn’t have formed if we didn’t have dark matter,” one said.  How he knows this, never having watched a galaxy form, and never having seen dark matter, is somewhat of a dark secret.  He did hedge his bet at the end of the article.  “If you don’t find something [about dark matter] in the next five to ten years,” he said, “there’s something very wrong with all the theories we have.”These are egregious examples of pronouncements made as fact when they are indistinguishable from theory.  They observed a bright cluster at a certain distance, that’s all.  The others observed dwarf galaxies in orbit, that’s all.  This does not justify appealing to imponderable substances and occult forces.    Cosmologists today have lost all shame.  They make theoretical pronouncements as statements of fact.  It would be an improvement if they began each statement with “According to our belief system, such and such is suggested by certain obscure and indirect observations.”  But no; they feel empowered to speak ex cathedra on things they cannot possibly know.  This is what happens when you let scientists, who put their pants on the same way as the rest of us, promote themselves to guru status.(Visited 9 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

SA to keep pushing free trade in Africa

first_img29 April 2010 South Africa remains committed to regional economic integration in Africa and will continue to promote free trade on the continent, says International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashaba. Delivering her department’s Budget Vote in Parliament in Cape Town last week, Nkoana-Mashaba said South Africa, as part of the Southern African Development Community, would build on the SADC free trade arrangement achieved in 2008 by boosting regional production capacity and facilitating cross-border trade. “We also believe the time has come to extend preferential markets across southern and eastern Africa through the Tripartite Free Trade Area that will draw together the SADC and the East African Community,’ Nkoana-Mashabane said. The East African Community is the regional intergovernmental organisation of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. Nkoana-Mashabane noted the recent decision of regional leaders to integrate Nepad (the New Partnership for Africa’s Development) into the African Union (AU) and establish the Nepad Planning and Coordinating Agency as a technical body of the AU. The Nepad Planning and Coordinating Agency will focus on the implementation of the AU’s regional integration programmes and projects, while the Africa Union Commission will continue to deal with policy and serve as the secretariat of the AU. Nkoana-Mashabane said the establishment of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), operating from Midrand, north of Johannesburg, was a step forward in giving all the people of Africa a voice in the running of the affairs of the continent. “As provided for in its founding protocol, the PAP has to be transformed from a consultative to a legislative body. “In transforming the PAP, we will need to take into account its experience and history since its establishment in March 2004, with the view to building a strong, efficiently run and effective PAP at the service of the African people.” Nkoana-Mashabane acknowledged that a lot still needed to be done to bring about stability in many African countries. “The gains we have made on the continent have not been without setbacks, especially in the area of peace and security, including the resurgence of coups and other forms of unconstitutional change of government. “We are unanimous in the African Union on the urgent need for the strengthening of our response to situations of unconstitutional change of government, and for closing loopholes in our existing instruments and mechanisms,’ she said. Source: BuaNewslast_img read more

My iPhone Supports Gay Marriage. Does Yours?

first_imgRelated Posts Values Equal ProfitsThere does not yet exist a robust analog for finding and supporting businesses I want to promote because of their values, and not simply their price, location or customer service. Why is that? In today’s connected world – when anyone can get anything from anywhere, and always at the best price – values can become a core differentiator.I don’t want my money going to a business that is opposed to gay marriage. Perhaps that’s exactly what you do want. Why not incorporate a “values” layer into Foursquare, for example and discover and share those businesses that have the very best lattes – and the strongest support for the values most important to me.Foursquare users, for example, can “discover and learn about great places nearby, search for what you’re craving, and get deals and tips along the way.” The app’s 30 million users have checked in to various establishments more than 3 billion times. Consider the potential social good Foursquare could foster if values were made into a searchable variable. The Trust IssueCan people be trusted to not list a business as, say, homophobic, just because they were angry over the price or a long line to check out? Is it possible to know if a business legitimately supports climate-change improvements, for example, or is really working to limit poverty? It may be hard for a business to lie about its prices but all too easy to claim social and political stances that it doesn’t back up with actions. brian s hall Why not an app that alerts me to a store’s values as I walk inside? Or that alerts me to a product whose maker I want to support? For example, when I stare at that massive beer selection in the grocery store, perhaps my “values app” can remind me that Bud Light used social media to support gay marriage.Plenty of apps and sites focus on a specific value or set of values, or utilize a top-down approach, where those who create the app set the rankings. This is a good start, but does not fully empower smartphone user to personally rate businesses by the values that matter to them. For example, the Good Guide site rates an array of products that are “healthy, green and socially responsible.” While useful, the information covers only selected products and is rated by a “team of scientific and technology experts,” not actual users.The FishPhone app offers a similar service and provides the seafood ratings system for Whole Foods. Of course, Whole Foods’ CEO was famously opposed to Obamacare. The app would never tell me that. This is a critical problem with single-focus and those not maintained not by the end users. For example, Ceres, “a network of over 130 investment funds, environmental organizations, unions and interest groups” promotes major companies that are making significant progress on sustainability goals. Ford was a recent winner. That’s great, unless you believe that a large automobile manufacturer should never be included on a list of sustainability leaders.Getting Comfortable With Controversial TopicsThe issue preventing a user-driven values based shopping app is not a technical one. The larger issue is that too many of us are not yet comfortable with the very idea of values-based recommendations.When it comes to choosing goods and services, we have spent our whole lives focused on price, quality and convenience. Values are fuzzy, harder to quantify – and can lead to difficult decisions. What if your friendly, neighborhood grocer, for example, turns out be a climate change denier – and you live in area prone to flooding? Once you learn the values of a business and determine you are in opposition, would you continue to shop there? Will supporting only businesses whose values align with yours merely serve to divide society instead of promoting the values in question?The technology to make this possible already exists, so it’s likely we’ll have the answers soon enough.iPhone image courtesy of Apple. Fortunately, with more than a hundred million smartphones in use in America – more than 1 billion worldwide – the aggregate numbers and big data “smoothing” of billions of values-based check-ins and reviews should mitigate any lies or mistakes. For example, Amazon product reviews can generally be relied upon as a valid barometer of popular sentiment, even though they’re completely subjective.A few websites already provide a limited form of “values-based” recommendations for businesses. For example, OutGrade, launched earlier this year, lets users “rate places by gay friendliness or homophobia.” Users rate establishments on a scale from -5 to +5, and the site color codes businesses based on their overall score: red is homophobic, green is ” gay friendly.” The OutGrade site accepts ratings for any business: restaurant, dentist office, pub, hotel, etc. and in three months has garnered reviews on more than 3,500 businesses. OutGrade plans to release a mobile app “in the coming weeks.” This is vital as it allows users to simply pull out their smartphones and find acceptable places in their immediate vicinity. While a website may offer a more robust experience, only an app can provide real-time location-based ratings and reviews, while boosting the reliability of recommendations by letting users initiate reviews on the spot.One More Step A Comprehensive Guide to a Content Audit If I can recommend a great local restaurant, leave a review for future patrons, alert my followers on Twitter, update my Facebook friends on my great new find – all in a few seconds – using only Yelp and my iPhone, why can’t I similarly promote those businesses whose values I support?Why is it so easy to tell thousands of people, literally, how awful a coffee shop’s service is, for example, but I can’t as easily steer people away from a store whose values I deplore? It seems to me there should be an app – or maybe lots of apps – that make it easy for me to find, check-in, rate, review and recommend those businesses whose values align with mine. Forget pet friendly – are they gay friendly, Earth friendly? Do they seek a massive reduction in the size of government, do they refuse to buy from China, will they never cross a union picket line and can I count on them to support a strong national defense?With the Yelp app, for example, I can easily set various parameters for a restaurant search: proximity, price range, type of food and customer ranking. But values is not one of the choices. This seems like a rather significant gap within the mobile-social-local nexus.  The Dos and Don’ts of Brand Awareness Videos Tags:#Android#Apple#apps#iPhone#mobile#social networks Facebook is Becoming Less Personal and More Pro… Guide to Performing Bulk Email Verificationlast_img read more