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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Terabyte

With three digital cameras in our household, the hard disk on our home computer is rapidly running out of space.

I was looking online for a new drive yesterday and discovered that 1 and even 2 TB (that’s TB for terabyte or 1000 GB or 1,000,000 MB) drives  are now becoming the standard. I can get myself 1 TB of storage for under NIS 500.

Now I remember the days when I worked at Versaware R.I.P. and we had such large amounts of data that they bought a “teraserver” which was a complete rack containing arrays of disks of 1 TB of storage. It was so big that the server got named T-Rex. Now I can hold two of those in size of a standard hard disk in my PC.

BTW, I have decided to by a smaller disk (500 GB Western Digital Caviar Black) because I reckon that by the time the warantee runs out, I’ll have just about filled it up and upgrading to 1TB will be so cheap that it would be a shame to spend money on it today.

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An article I saw in Technology Review. A researcher named Michel Maharbiz at the University of California, Berkeley has fitted out giant flower beetles like the one on the right with electrodes and a receiver. He can then fly them from a remote control connected to his laptop.

Dr. Haharbiz is very proud of his creations that he sees as having extensive military as well as hiumanitarian uses. The hardware on each beetle costs a mere $5 using off the shelf components that he grafts onto the creature using his expert knowledge of both biology and engineering to successfully mesh an animal’s nervous system.

I was reminded of Ray Kurzweil’s singularity. where he predicts that humans will become indistiguishable from robots within the next 50 years.

I think that this technological advance raises several ethical issues:

  1. The ability to perform ubiquitous and invisible surveillance has just taken a massive leap. While possible evil uses of a new technology has never been a good reason to prevent research, the possibility that every common fly could be spying on you and sending a constant video feed back to base is rather frightening.
  2. While I support the (controlled) use of animals for vital experimentation an I also eat animals, the idea of wiring and radio-controlling an animal for the advance of technology seems wrong to me. True the beetle has no self-consciousness and rudimentary senses, but all the same it doesn’t sound right.

What do you think?

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    Sorry I haven’t blogged anything lately but with the run-up to Pesach my mind has been rather uncreative and unexpressive recently. This would be a good subject to blog about in itself, but many others have spilled many liters of ink on the subject already. Maybe I’ll manage to have a think about it and come up with some origianl thoughts…

    This morning I saw an interesting short article in Technology Review about a robot that designs and performs scientific experiments. It is credited with original work identifying genetic origins of several yeast enzymes. Sounds cool and reminds me of Kurzweil’s singularity. However could a robot have sudden flashes of insight? The use of “miraculous” induction that makes all the difference between a mediocre and and a great engineer or scientist? Maybe it wouldn’t need them.

    I generally have my inspiration when I’m trying to go to sleep or when I’m davening. Others have thenm in the shower. What would a robot do when he’s looking for inspiration? Data-mine?

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    This is something that completely blew me away.

    For anyone who hasn’t seen this yet, Google Street View is an extra layer in Google Earth that shows you eye-level panoramic photographs by a click from the regular Google Earth aerial picture. Click on a camera icon in that are lined up along the roads and you zoom in to a 360° panorama photographed at street level. You can also get there by looking for an address in Google Maps and then clicking on the “Street View” link.

    76 Worcester Road, Sutton, Surrey

    I went on a nostalgic trip to visit various places I have lived in (like the above, which is the house I grew up in for the first 18 years of my life) and walked routes along streets just like I did 20 or 30 years ago. Just totally amazing.

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    MRI Mind Reading

    An article appears this morning in Technology Review about fMRI (that’s functional magnetic resonance imaging whatever that may be) being used to determine the contents of short term memory stored in people’s brains.

    Subjects were shown one of two pictures and then using the fMRI, researchers attempted to determine which one they had seen. They isolated the the region of brain used for visual memory and successfully determined which picture the subject was remembering in 80% of cases.

    Impressive, amazing, but kind of frightening. I was relieved to read the final paragraph in the article:

    No need to worry yet about Big Brother reading your mind. For now, real-world applications remain limited, says Frank Tong, an associate professor of psychology and senior author on the study. The ability to reconstruct from scratch a complex memory or imagined scenario is a long way off. “We’re still just discriminating a simple binary state,” Tong says. “If you increase the number of options, this would get progressively more difficult.”

    However science has a habit of progressing exponentially, ao I’m sure they”ll have solutions for that as well.

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    The Telharmonium

    The interesting and rather amusing story of the Thaddeus Cahill and the Telharmonium – an electrical musical device created around the turn of the 20th century to provide piped music to a cable network of subscribers. After his death his patents were copied to create the Hammond organ.

    There are three parts to the documentary here (1), here (2) and here (3).

    The story reminded me of a lot of start ups at the turn of the 21st century. An ingenious, expensive and/or silly idea that prompts loads of venture capitalists foreseeing enormous global profits to throw their money down the drain until eventual bankruptcy of the company.

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    I just read that Israel is to get its first solar power station that will produce 500 MW in the southern region near Eilat.

    Small but certainly looks good news. I just checked out on the Israel Electric Company’s website and their total production capacity is around 11,300 MW. This is a good start though.

    We don’t have water or wind but we have loads of sun. Let’s start using it.

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