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Archive for the 'Genetic Engineering' Category

Crowd Sourcing Science

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

I mentioned kickstarter in my last post. Until recently I would look at it and people would have projects there for games they wanted to write but often they were trying to raise ridiculously small amounts of money compared to what it takes to actually produce a game. The past month that seems to have changed with a few projects raising millions of dollars. Of course, these are well known people. I’ve had a game in mind for ten years or so I’ve wanted to write, but it’s hard to imagine doing it without large resources.

I ran across the site petridish the other day. They are attempting to crowd source science in the same way kickstarter does. I remember reading about DRACO, a project to create a broad spectrum anti-viral at MIT. It holds the promise to do to viruses the same thing that antibiotics did to bacterial infections. Those people should definitely get their project on petridish.

We occasionally have wasps building nests in our grill. At least they aren’t two and a half inches long!

This place is a good example of somewhere I would go a lot more often if I owned a self driving car. It’s about eight hours away and spectacular. You could just settle in for the night and wake up there. I had not thought about the point he makes in that link where people would probably own a lot less cars because most families could get by with one car. I disagree with his point in the last paragraph though. I think once most people have them, the insurance costs for driving your own car will become so high most people will not be able to afford it.

This is not a caterpillar.

Apparently there are glowing jellyfish in Japan.

And finally, something to make you say awww

Flash Physics

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Over the weekend we played with this Flash physics game called Roly-Poly Cannon. One of the things about physics simulators is they can be so open ended. That is what makes them fun but since you can’t totally predict what a user will do. I imagine you have to be pretty careful about writing your code so unexpected bugs don’t come up. After charging though all the levels of Roly-Poly Cannon, I went searching for other physics games and found this one called Flash Physics. It’s a very simple game with very simple graphics but we played it for quite a while until it just got too hard. There is a strange bug in the third level where the chain ‘breaks’ occasionally.

This is an interesting application which uses a web-cam and turns any brightly colored object into a controller for gaming. It’s called CamSpace.

Here is a collection of pictures of creative bench advertising.

Speaking of creativity, someone was full of it when they created this.

Having trouble keeping your baby in its playpen? I wouldn’t recommend this.

Matt sent me this link. It’s a compilation video of some extremely close calls and lucky events. Some are simply amazing.

There are more silly cat pictures here and here.

What’s cuter than a bunch of baby pandas?

I liked this dramatic shot of a horse statue in Las Vegas.

This was interesting. Scientists stop the aging process in mice livers.

Entropyman talks about thermodynamics. When I’m cleaning, I often think somewhere the universe is getting more disorganized to compensate.

My, what big ears you have!

This is a video of a bird catching a fish but from the perspective of the fish.

If you have learned to cross view you can see this illustration in 3D.

Here is a nice collection of Macro photographs. I think the ones with the water drops are really impressive.

This is another example of painting with light during a long time exposure.

That is one big bug!

Look at the teeth on this fish!

This is what video games were like in 1936.

Here is a very large collection of computer repair tools. My older machine used to be so stable but now it reboots when I go to back it up.

Not that this Earth isn’t cool but if there are one hundred billion trillion other ones out there, it’s a shame we won’t get to visit them.

The TED conference recently ended and the talks are online. In this one Woody Norris does some pretty interesting things with sound.

They don’t quite have the hang of it, but I got a laugh out of this video of foxes jumping on a trampoline.

And finally here is a collection of baby animals from National Geographic and also this collection of mothers and babies made me think even baby hippos are cute.

The Golden Hour

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Last night I ran into town around sunset. I have a small camera I bought a while back. I thought I would carry it around with me more than my big camera. It’s been really gloomy lately around here but as I was driving home the clouds opened up for a minute. The light was really lovely and surreal with a beautiful sky. Unfortunately I had not grabbed my camera on the way out. Here is a list of landscape photography tips and number nine is shoot during the golden hour. The number one tip should be to remember to grab your camera!

Of course, there are places where you could hardly take a bad picture if you tried. The color of the water in this picture is amazing.

This collection of pictures from a park in Namibia includes striking landscapes and animal photos.

And here is another collection of nice animal photos. It does include a shot of two squirrels ‘wrestling’ or that’s what you would say if you kids come in the room.

I’m not sure where this one was shot but the eyes on those big cats are really spooky.

Speaking of cats, here is a silly picture of a house cat playing with its prey. It seemed like my cats were pretty good about just killing what they caught quickly but I guess I remember when they were young trying to get them to just be quick and not draw it out.

High dynamic range pictures are created when you shoot a scene at several different exposures and then use computer software to blend them together. I’ve tried to shoot 3D pictures of people using a single camera and taking two shots but it’s difficult because they can’t move during the process. This collection of HDR photos includes a couple of portraits. It’s strange how often the result looks like a painting.

This article is about using gene therapy to make old dogs young again. I suppose they would come up with one for cats as well. If you read the article though, it sounds like there might be some bad side-effects.

Speaking of dogs, here is a silly dog picture.

I’ve written about wrap rage before but I couldn’t remember where I had read  the statistics on how many people are injured by packaging. According to this article, 6000 Americans go to the emergency room each year due to injuries from opening packages. I have often thought they should let people stand outside Costco and open your packages for tips. Actually the article is about companies who are leading the way on “non hostile” containers.

Here is a silly container picture.

Check out a real life Firefox logo.

This is one of those things you wonder how someone would learn to do. A guy does a flip over a stairway and lands on a skateboard.

Similarly the things these guys do with a soccer ball are pretty amazing.

I wonder what these birds think of this rather unusual cage?

This image brought back memories of my childhood. My uncle would sit down to milk the cows and the cats would line up just like they are in the picture.

I got a laugh out of this one too.

It seems like today most of my links are pictures. Here is a dramatic weather shot.

Here is a shot of Saturn being eclipsed by the moon.

On the right is what a candle looks like if it burns in zero gravity.

And finally, here is a humorous collection of cats with ‘invisible’ objects.

Robot Painters

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

We are painting the living room. We’ve gotten to the point where you look at it and decide whether to do another coat or it’s good enough and time to move on to another room. We have a lot of house plants and it won’t be too long before we have to get them inside. As I work, I can’t help but think how I would design a robot to paint a room. I found a couple of painting robots but they aren’t the kind that paints a house. This one ‘Action Jackson‘ mimics Jackson Pollock’s style of painting. This site had a number of examples including a simple one you could build.

Speaking of different ways of creating art, here is a video of what happens when you pour salt on a speaker.

Google is celebrating their tenth anniversary by offering ten million dollars for a world changing idea.

Canon has a new camera.

Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II Digital SLR camera features a 21.1-megapixel full frame 24 x 36mm CMOS sensor, DIGIC 4 imaging processor and significantly lower noise, with an expanded sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 25,600.

It does full HD video too, and my wife says “No, you can’t have one”. Someday it will be nice to have something that’s not only very high resolution but so fast you can shoot in any natural light.

I thought these videos of the most amazing UFO sightings were intriguing but the camera work could have been so much better. The second one is interesting because you see the movement.

Here is something you also don’t see everyday. It’s a video of a crab riding a jellyfish.

My guess is most Americans who read my blog are familiar with both nanotechnology and synthetic biology.

I got a laugh out of some of these crazy bikes.

And finally, here is your silly animal picture.

No Comment

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

I’ve changed the settings on this blog so you have to log in to post a comment. Sorry, I’ve been overrun by spammers lately and I’m tired of dealing with it. You people aren’t real talkative anyway. Maybe I’ll figure out another way to deal with it, but in the meantime, the comments are disabled.

The other day I mentioned Shapeways where you can get 3D models printed into real plastic objects. I spent some time looking over their site recently trying to figure out how it works and coming up with ideas on things to make. There is a gallery of models people have submitted. They are also coming up with simple objects you can modify through their interface and have made but 3D modeling is somewhat complex so I imagine this is difficult for them. Right now the objects you can make that way are pretty limited.

This article at Wired pointed out the plastic isn’t for kids. I hadn’t thought about that. While reading through the forums I ran across this link where a guy made a mold for chocolate monkey heads. He was working in a lab that had a 3D printer and didn’t use Shapeways, but the process would be about the same. I just recently bought one of those FoodSaver systems to preserve the heaping loads of vegetables we are getting and it had occurred to me the vacuum system might come in handy for molding something. He uses it to remove the bubbles from the silicone prior to pouring the mold.

The FoodSaver thing is kind of cool but a little more difficult to operate than I expected. I liked some of the unusual suggestions people had for using it. One was to seal your paint brush instead of cleaning it if you were going to continue painting the same color anyway. They also give you a covered dish which you can use to marinate meat using the vacuum. That didn’t occur to me either.

I was reading about the water cube at the Olympics and how it’s made of this amazing material called ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene). This article talks about how strong, lightweight, and transparent it is. It sounds really great and then at the end they say it’s unlikely to be used in residential projects because the engineering is too sophisticated. It sounds like the perfect material for a home greenhouse. How bad can the engineering be?

I liked this article about building things by shaping trees. I wish I had more room in my yard to try something like it. Plants are really remarkable in their ability to self assemble into useful things. With all the genetic engineering going on you wonder how extreme it could get. I mean you could possibly encode the genes for these things to shape themselves without human guidance.

Imagine two dollar a gallon carbon neutral gasoline produced from garbage and non-food biomass. Given the military is the largest consumer of fuel in the U.S. and the security gains from being able to produce it domestically, I would think they would be highly interested in seeing this technology pushed forward as quickly as possible.

Type a command and this dog will do tricks. Besides the basic stuff I couldn’t think of much to make it do. Be sure to try “kiss”.

And finally, yes another silly cat picture.


Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Every once in a while I read an article that makes me think yeah, we are living in the future. That is the way I felt about this article on a robot with a biological brain. It does make you wonder if in the future, we will have household robots with biological brains that are useful but somewhat unpredictable in their behavior. I suppose it’s not that different than owning a pet.

Offshore drilling is one of those things you would not think would divide up neatly upon party lines. I would think if you live on the ocean or have a vacation home there you would probably be against it. Also if your living depends on tourism or fishing you would be against it as well. Perhaps the government shouldn’t determine our energy policy but there is no real way to avoid its role. When you see evolving technologies such as this one where they have genetically altered bacteria to produce fuel which is compatible with existing pipelines and could be used in gasoline engines, you really wonder if the development can’t be accelerated.

This guy has an interesting view of the future. I can see a lot of those things happening but maybe on a longer time-line. It takes so long for new medical treatments to be approved, if you’re my age you probably won’t have nanobots swimming around your bloodstream. The replicator is a common subject for science fiction. I’m pretty sure someday they will exist but I’m thinking later than 2025.

Here is a follow up on the post I made yesterday on Bigfoot. Turns out one of the guys has been involved in Bigfoot hoaxes before.

This video of a huge propane explosion has some language some might find offensive. Unfortunately when the main blast hits, the person holding the camera understandably moves the shot off center. It’s a pretty dramatic scene though with a very visible shock wave.

This is kind of sad and funny. It’s a coffee cup with the bill of rights printed on it. Add hot coffee and watch your civil liberties disappear.

Smoke pictures are something I have never got around to trying along with high speed water drops. The best ones are at the bottom and aren’t real pictures but computer effects.

And finally, check out these cute guinea pigs.

The End Of The World As We Know It?

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

You have to wonder what the mood would be like at a Global Catastrophic Risk Conference. I suppose mostly somber with a few people partying like it’s the end of the world. This article at CNN quotes some of the things Ray Kurzweil said I’ve linked to before. Some of the comments are interesting. I have often thought people will infuse themselves with artificial blood just because it makes them feel better. The idea you could spend hours under water hadn’t occurred to me. I don’t see how the economy could function once an intelligent machine could surpass a human. Companies wouldn’t bother paying enhanced people if they could get the same work done without the brain part. You would end up with some tiny enhanced rich part of humanity and a whole lot of poor people. I suppose it’s possible everything would become really cheap but if you have no income it wouldn’t matter.

Speaking of the future, this article about fusion is encouraging. If we are all going to be super humans we are going to need a whole lot of energy.

I’ve always thought we should have cars that can travel short distances where we could then link up to a rail system which not only guides the car but also provides the power. Finally someone is building something which is like that. It’s not surprising a guy who worked in the roller coaster industry had the idea.

I’m curious about the game Spore. I would really like to see what the code looks like for the game. Here is an article about it. You can download a free version of the creature creator here.

Living in a garbage truck doesn’t strike you as pleasant, unless it was this one.

Some of these houses made from bottles look pretty cool. I wonder what you do if you break one.

After reading this article about exotic fruits I was really wishing I could taste them.

And finally, this isn’t normally what you think of when you hear the term ‘food fight‘.

Future Carpet

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Wouldn’t it be cool to have self-cleaning carpet? You spill something on it and it just grows a little, so you have to trim it. You just would have to be careful not to pass out on it. Here are some pictures of all the nasty critters that live in carpeting.

Firefox 3 is to be released tomorrow. They are hoping to set a new Guinness World Record for the most software downloaded on a single day. From what I have read, it sounds like it will have a very useful zoom feature.

Pretty much everyone has seen the reaction between Mentos and Diet Coke resulting in a gushing fountain. This article explains the science behind it.

I guess I figured they would eventually be able to somehow bring woolly mammoths back to life because they died out relatively recently. I didn’t think they would ever be able to bring back dinosaurs. After reading this article I think a Jurassic park is probably going to happen even if it’s just mutant chickens.

I got a laugh out of this sign.

I often wonder if the people living on Easter Island saw their fate coming. It seems like it must have been obvious. In this ABC documentary scientists discuss whether this will be the last century for humans on the earth.

It seems like there are a zillion ways to make oil. Here is yet another one which is carbon neutral.

How about new gas that gives you better mileage, less emissions, and it’s cheap!

Nvidea’s latest offering has 240 cores. Absolutely realistic real-time rendering can’t be far away.

I used to drink a lot of coffee. Now I just drink it in the morning. Who’d of guessed I may not be drinking enough to get all the health benefits?

I thought this photo sequence of a geyser erupting was pretty cool.

Check out this plane with folding wings.

And finally, here is another cute photo of puppies.

Whatcha Eating?

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Test tube meat sounds a little strange but I can see where they could make it much healthier than real meat. From Cow-free Beef Proposed;

“We have to figure out how to ‘exercise’ the cells. For the right texture, you have to stretch the tissue, like a live animal would,” Matheny says.

Maybe they could generate electricity from the exercising meat.

PETA is offering 1 million dollars for the first person to come up with a method to produce commercially viable quantities of in vitro meat at competitive prices. We’ve eaten western omelets when camping containing hydrolyzed vegetable protein you would swear was meat. Strangely enough, a vegetarian friend introduced me to them.

I ran across the Cow-free beef link while reading this story about high tech food production; Radical Science Aims to Solve Food Crisis. I have mixed feeling about the genetically modified foods. Inserting a gene which produces beta-carotene in rice sounds pretty harmless. When they engineer crops to produce insecticides like Bt-corn you just wonder if you are going to breed a bunch of bugs which are resistant to Bt.

Here’s a better way of dealing with pests; eat them. I mentioned eating bugs the other day. Here is another article about it; Bugs Are Considered a Delicacy in Mexico.

‘Now, these farmers are planting a cheap kind of corn, just to serve as a trap to catch grasshoppers,” he noted. ”They’ve seen that it’s better to have a crop with pests.”

Researchers note that in Aztec times, pest control was accomplished largely by eating bugs rather than spraying them.

My sister once gave me some chocolate covered bugs for Christmas. I think we tried them. I suppose it doesn’t sound much stranger than some of the sea creatures I’ve eaten. I have had snails and I wasn’t impressed. I guess I figured they must be really different than you would expect, they weren’t. Octopus on the other hand is quite good and much firmer than you might think.

Crickets must be pretty good because my cats used to eat them although they don’t seem to anymore. Our cat Amy used to catch cicadas, but she wouldn’t eat them. She would hold them in her mouth and head for her cat door. You would hear this sound getting louder and louder until she showed up with an ear splitting bug in her mouth. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s one of the reasons she is mostly deaf.

I thought making fuel from algae made sense because it’s such a simple plant with no stems or roots. In New source for biofuels discovered they take it another step and create a cyanobacteria which excrete sugars and cellulose.

Work with laboratory scale photobioreactors has shown the potential for a 17-fold increase in productivity. If this can be achieved in the field and on a large scale, only 3.5 percent of the area growing corn could be used for cyanobacterial biofuels.

Creating biofuels from food crops is really causing problems. Thousands of acres of forests are being cleared to raise palm oil and the spike in food prices is causing riots in some countries. Check out this world clock I meant to post yesterday for Earth Day. There are a lot of things on there but the loss of 8400 species a year is appalling. We are just getting to the point of being able to build new creatures like the bacteria mentioned above and it’s such a loss of potential beneficial knowledge. Biodiversity loss will lead to sick world: experts is about medicine but I read stuff all the time about spider silk and making glue which works like gecko feet.

Encyclopaedia Britannica is offering free subscriptions for bloggers.

It seems like I always have to have a link about robots. This one is strange; Robotic vigilante: Homemade ‘Bum Bot’ patrols in Atlanta.

Sort of robotic; New Prosthetic Hand So Nimble an Amputee Can Type.

I thought this article was pretty funny; Ease on Down the Road: Fuel-Efficient Drivers it’s about saving gas by how you drive. Wayne Gerdes sounds pretty extreme but when I’m at a traffic light next to someone who passed me just to get to the red light sooner, I shake my head and wonder if someone else is paying for their gas.

Solar sails have been in science fiction forever. It looks like someone may actually try it in a few years; Electric Sail Prototype to Ride the Solar Wind.

I liked this picture.

Finally, I got a laugh of this weather station.

Apocalypse Maybe

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

This article in the New York Times; Duck and Cover: It’s the New Survivalism made me think about the end of the world as we know it. I tend to think about those types of survival scenarios as the stuff of science fiction. However, on September 11th when I saw Hoosiers lining up at gas stations in some kind of irrational gasoline buying frenzy, it sent a chill down my spine.

I had a funny thought; one thing you could do to survive is to have a still and know how to run it. Alcohol is pretty useful stuff; you can drink it, start a fire with it, use it as fuel, or sterilize a wound. But the real point would be when you showed up at some stockade looking for protection, knowing how to make booze could get you in the door. Note: distilling spirits in the U.S. is illegal.

I enjoy watching Survivorman and Man vs Wild. This article about Man vs Wild being somewhat staged didn’t surprise me. It was pretty inconceivable Bear Grylls was starving while his film crew were enjoying their morning coffee. I still enjoy the show and wouldn’t have the nerve to do a lot of the things he does. I guess I like Surviorman slightly better because I enjoy Les Stroud’s style of film making. Both shows make me hungry and often for strange things I’ve never eaten. Watching those two guys gobble up bugs makes you wonder if people in this country are going hungry simply because of the social stigma attached to Entomophagy. Here and here are a couple of sites devoted to eating insects.

I have no doubt; we wouldn’t be prepared in an apocalyptic situation. However, for short term situations we might be more prepared than most. While buying a cabin and stocking it with years of food is certainly outside the economic capability of most Americans, being prepared for some type of short term emergency isn’t really expensive. We live in the Midwest and big snow or ice storms are a real possibility. Here are some of the reasons we are somewhat prepared.

We Camp

While a lot of camping gear such as a tent and backpack are useless unless you are traveling, certain gadgets do come in handy. We have a compact white gas cooking stove plus a propane one for van camping. Our water purifier failed on our last canoe trip. I realized it was just the pump part and MacGyvered a gravity feed system by fitting a number of tubes together and hanging a jug in a tree. Water purifiers are not that expensive, however unless you camp you may not feel like spending the money. Here are several ways to sterilize water.

Our power goes out a lot.

Usually it’s for less than an hour, but it has lasted an evening or the better part of a day. I have one of those compressor/battery/inverter things which will run a small TV for a while, or a laptop/router/modem. I mostly use it to fill my tires or jump the car. We have lots of LED flashlights. They have really gotten inexpensive and last summer when the lights went out I got mad at myself for not having enough to light the house. My main concern though is heat. We had an old kerosene heater but the wick shaft got bent. Last winter I kept looking at one at Lowes for $180 but by the time I got around to buying it, spring was on the way and they had marked it down to $60. I have our phone plugged into the battery backup for my computer, but we have one of those old style phones that don’t need power in the attic.

I shop at Costco.

That means I have at least a 6 months supply of toilet paper on average. Not exactly a survival necessity but the point is, we started shopping there to save money. Because a lot of the stuff they sell comes by the case, since we started shopping there we really have a lot more food around the house.

A lot of my interest in green homes isn’t so much apocalyptic preparation or even the ecological aspects. It has a lot to do with the fact that our economic situation has fluctuated wildly over the years. Unfortunately our retirement planning consisted of growing whatever business we were in at the time. Now that we are serious about investing, the economy is in yet another meltdown. I guess the alternative is to try to come up with a cheaper way of living. Most of these houses are rather strange looking and as the site mentions local building codes might be a problem.

On to a totally different subject, I got a kick out of this guy’s idea. He tied a disposable camera to a bench with a note that said;

Good afternoon,
I attached this camera to the bench so you could take pictures. Seriously. So have fun. I’ll be back later this evening to pick it up.
Love, Jay / The Plug

Here is his site.

I sometimes wonder if genetic engineering is going to save us or kill us all. It is fascinating reading about how sophisticated it has become. In this article they describe the creation of corn containing three different enzymes by splicing in genes from a hot water microbe, a fungus, and a cow.

Finally, here’s a funny picture of someone using a rake to cook hot dogs.