Thursday, February 24, 2011

Roots of Sci-fi #1

Dust Plume over Mediterranean Sea

Those of you that have read Dune by Frank Herbert are familiar with the concept of a desert planet and the differences in society and technology that it would bring about.  Interestingly Mr. Herbert's interest in the desert setting of Dune and its challenges came from research he started back in 1957 for an article about a United States Department of Agriculture experiment using poverty grasses to stabilize damaging mobile sand dunes, which could "swallow whole cities, lakes, rivers, and highways."

The photo above is from NASA's Earth Observatory from Feb 23rd.  That sand and dust cloud is over 500 km long. Just sayin...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Your eyes have lost their sparkle. Your batteries must be low...

 In a move which leaves me both amazed and rubbing my eyes in sympathetic irritation, University of Michigan researchers developed what is believed to be the first complete millimeter-scale computing system... to be put in your eye.  It is designed to monitor and transmit pressure information for glaucoma patients.  The update to turn us into mindless automatons will no doubt be available via a low-cost firmware upgrade.

It reminds me of "Metatropolis" and other similar scifi stories where humanity has shifted away from singular huge scale projects to a multitude of nano scale creations.  A case in point is from Metatropolis:Cascadia in which the narrator mentions "Camera dust".  Singular cameras of normal size can see more, but cameras the size of the above nanocomputer can be much more cheaply manufactured and scattered around anywhere. One nanocamera can see very little.  A network of thousands can see practically everything.  Not so far fetched anymore.  And yes, that thing IS networkable.  Check out the description from PhysOrg below.

"In a package that's just over 1 cubic millimeter, the system fits an ultra low-power microprocessor, a pressure sensor, memory, a thin-film battery, a solar cell and a wireless radio with an antenna that can transmit data to an external reader device that would be held near the eye."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Robopocalypse at our own "hands"

Now that our Jeopardy playing SKYNET prototype, WATSON, is well along, it's high time we got some decent human looking robots to act as proper killing machines to doom us all.
Virginia Tech scientists have developed robotic hands to allow robots like the one on the left to "grasp things" and "type". "Grasp things" is quite a novel euphemism for "kill us all", but at least they will be able to "type" our obituaries.

Don't say we didn't warn you about the coming robopocalypse...

What? OK.
BRIArN says:
"Actually, we didn't warn you. Until now. When it's too late.
But look on the bright side, when SKYNET activates, at least the killing will be organized."

I don't think he has quite the right perspective on this...