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Concatenation March 31, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Uncategorizable, Video.
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Electric, Adjustable Waterproof Glue March 6, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Geek Stuff, Science.
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The title is quite a promise, isn’t it? Bruce Lee, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Michigan Tech, is a part of the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Young Investigator Program (YIP) and showed how to use pH to make smart underwater adhesives (similar to mussels’ adhesives). He and Saleh Akram Bhuiyan developed a new method using an electrical current to turn off the adhesion of a catechol-containing material.

For extra coolness the adhesive turns red when it’s shut off.  For ultimate coolness, they can turn it back on.

Homework: Md. Saleh Akram Bhuiyan et al, In Situ Deactivation of Catechol-Containing Adhesive Using Electrochemistry, Journal of the American Chemical Society (2020). DOI: 10.1021/jacs.9b11266

3D Printed Topological Map February 27, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Applications, Awesome, Publishing Tools.
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One of the more retentive members of Silicon Valley 3D Printing Meetup has printed a very complex and beautiful rendering of (some of) the Earth’s topological features in glorious PLA. Thirty-two tiles, ranging in print time for four hours to twenty-two(!) hours for the taller elevations, each “pixel” is 10 KM on a side.

 

New Aussie Fusion Technology February 25, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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The lateral-thinking Australian fusion start-up HB11 (from the University of New South Wales) patented a unique new fusion technology. Interestingly, this laser-driven technique uses no radioactive fuel(!), and much lower temperatures than “traditional” approaches employed by most fusion researchers involving heating deuterium and tritium fuel up to 15 million C.

I don’t need to tell you that method hasn’t worked yet, do I? Fifty-something years and no joy yet. I wonder why in an industry arguably filled with geniuses or at least Really Smart People that someone hasn’t said, “Hmmm…maybe we should try something new.”

UNSW Emeritus Professor of theoretical physics Heinrich Hora did. His research is being commercialized by HB11, which uses hydrogen-boron fusion wherein two lasers to push  atoms of hydrogen into boron. The lasers use “Chirped Pulse Amplification” technology, which won Gérard Mourou, Arthur Ashkin and Donna Strickland the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics(!).

One laser creates the magnetic containment field for the plasma and the second laser triggers the ‘avalanche’ fusion chain reaction. The alpha particles produced by the reaction would create a positive electrical flow that can be channelled almost directly into the existing power grid with no need for a heat exchanger or steam turbine generator, and no chance of blowing the whole thing to atoms leaving a smoking crater.

The simplicity is pretty compelling…if it works. Time will tell.

 

Artificial Intelligence Finds an Antibiotic February 20, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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In a news flash from M.I.T. scientists announce the discover of a (potentially) low-toxicity molecule which interferes with bacteriological cell walls’ ability to maintain electrochemical gradients, which are essential to creating ATP, the main energy molecule in, well, everything: the cells would starve. An A.I. was trained on 2,500 molecules and then scanned the Broad Institute’s Drug Repurposing Hub, a library of about 6,000 compounds. The model picked out one molecule that was predicted to have strong antibacterial activity and had a chemical structure different from any existing antibiotics. Using a different machine-learning model, the researchers also showed that this molecule would likely have low toxicity to human cells.

It worked very well in vitro and in mouse models on a bunch of stubborn microbes that are getting to be pretty resistant to everything we have: Clostridium difficileAcinetobacter baumannii, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The drug apparently worked on EVERYTHING they tested, except Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) February 18, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff.
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What happens when you take a slightly-brighter-than-average engineer (Bob) and give him immortality in a starship equipped with extremely advance prototyping machines, then  tell him to set up infrastructure for colonists to follow in a few decades?

In the fertile imagination of Dennis Taylor, Bob takes over guardianship of not only the whole human race but at least two other sentient species, invents FTL communication, planet-movers and nifty full-sense android bodies. It takes  quite a few decades, but Bob has made many, many clones of himself, and they all have all the time in, well the universe with which to foil the Evil Plans of man, machine and alien.

Well read by Ray Porter with excellent inflection and pacing, all three Bob books skip right along, neatly compressing the decades into digestible chunks and holding a listener’s attention well enough to keep me awake during six-hour drives that end at 2AM…like last night.[0]

The dialogue is interesting, the characters internally consistent and the technology descriptions are pretty darn good. Taylor is very obviously a sci-fi fan and geek, and we should all be glad for this: it lends credibility to his character’s engineering comments and descriptions of space, the choices of star systems (he apparently did some homework) to visit, and the tropes he chooses to infuse with credibility.

In the immortal words of Joe Bob Briggs, check it out.

 

[0] Goddammit.

 

Teach Yourself Electricity and Electronics February 13, 2020

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by Stan Giblisco is a pretty good solid introduction to the very basics of electronics. An adult could run through a chapter a night while on vacation if his wife doesn’t talk too much (ahem). I’m technically inclined and I read for a living, so maybe that’s too ambitious for most folks? In any case, it’s a good grounding in the basics[0] with tests at various periods[1] to make sure the reading sinks in.

The trouble is, because I was on vacation, I didn’t apply any of the knowledge and so it’s fading fast (in all fairness to me, it was a year-long vacation–not that it took a year; it was only about two weeks, but I didn’t have a workbench to build cool toys on, since I was living in an RV).

What a re-volting[2] development. I’m going ohm.

 

 

[0] See what i did there?

[1] I almost said frequencies but that would be too poor a pun, so I resisted. I am reluctant to subject my readers to puns because of their strong capacity for reactance.

[2] OK, fine! One more.

 

Chrono-synclastic Infundibulum February 12, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Brilliant words, Photography, Toys.
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IMG_20170721_122016630_HDR.jpg

I texted this picture to my stepdaughter. She wrote back:

“Did it work???”

“Can’t tell; everything is still weird.”

 

NOTE: it’s funny how you can remember something as strange as “chrono-synclastic infundibulum” and spell it off the top of your head after having read it once in high school, nearly fifty years ago.

View from the back porch February 6, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Uncategorized.
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Whale Skeleton in the Sahara January 29, 2020

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Wedding Photo January 28, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Photography, Uncategorizable.
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giraffe-officiates-at-wedding.jpg

I’m the tall one in the back.

Empress of Forever, by Max Gladstone January 21, 2020

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Empress of Forever, by Max Gladstone, read by Natalie Naudus is a delightful romp mostly because of the voice acting. Oh, the story is pretty good, too: tech billionaire becomes fugitive hunted by Empress of the Galaxy. Good enough for my twelve-year-old mind, certainly. But Natalie Naudus’ voice acting puts smarm and sarcasm into the character Zange (audiobook, so I don’t know the spelling), naivete into the voice of a hungry god, humility in the voice of a monk (Buddhist-derived, not Catholic) and chilling viciousness into the voice of the Empress. There’s reasonably-paced action and breathless hyperbole in descriptions[0] and an overarching gestalt of a galaxy composed partly of a computational cloud which gifts everyone with special abilities[1]…except our heroine, who is only[2] human.
Available on Amazon (no, really?) and at sfpl.org.

[0] Fun all by itself, if you are into that sort of thing.
[1] Dangerous abilities.
[2] By which I mean, merely.

The Wayfarers Series, by Becky Chambers January 13, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Brilliant words.
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A series of three novels, the Wayfarers starts with Hugo-winning The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and extends to two equally charming sequels, A Close and Common Orbit and Record of a Space-born Few.  The first is the one I want to tell you about, because it is a rare gem that shows all the attributes of a space adventure novel (difficult journey, pirates, armies in tense standoff, difficult crewmates, culture clash, sapient AI, star-crossed lovers, etc.) but tells enough of each character’s thoughts and feelings to establish the why of every (often terrible) action. 

This already remarkable accomplishment is even more interesting when the tone of the whole novel is so warm and friendly (and the shipmates so careful with each other’s feelings) that I felt caught up in their drama myself. when they wander into danger (here and there), I felt concern for the outcome. Suspension of disbelief apparently applies to novels as well as performances.

The other two novels share these attributes, and I recommend them also. Available at Amazon (of course), and as audiobooks from sfpl.org.

The March of Progress January 6, 2020

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Charmin has new toilet paper technology debuting at CES.

It’s years too late:

Reddit Loves Cats January 1, 2020

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I Used to Post Creative Cakes December 30, 2019

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not made by me, but found various places on the Web. Today I found this on Reddit.com and felt it a good time to renew my love of carbohydrates:

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Where I Work December 27, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Toys.
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we are a hard-workin’ bunch, let me tell you:

A.I. and Gene Regulation December 27, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Brain, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Science.
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Understanding gene regulation is a bitch. Seriously, this is one of the thornier problems of science today and it is because the complexities of living cells, with the thousands of proteins in each cell, make tracing a single protein’s regulation just as complex as hell. Smart guys Tareen and Kinney have figured out a way for AI to interpret (some) interactions using massively-parallel reporter assays to figure out the biophysical basis for (some) gene regulation…which is more than we have had heretofore. They did this by assigning nodes and weights with explicit physiochemical interpretations. This last is the important bit; many AI algorithms are very difficult to interpret, so the underlying “logic” is impenetrable to humans.  The smart guys made many of the decisions explicit, so they would be better able to understand the “logic” by which the characterizations were derived.

 

 

Homework: Biophysical models of cis-regulation as interpretable neural networks, Ammar Tareen, Justin B. Kinney BioRxiv,

Nanowired Brain-like Functions December 25, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Mutants, Science.
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Nation Institute of Material Science geeks have created a complex metallic nanowire structure that mimics brain-like functions, such as memorization, learning, forgetting, becoming alert and returning to calm.

"figure: (a) Micrograph of the neuromorphic network fabricated by this research team. The network contains of numerous junctions between nanowires, which operate as synaptic elements. (b) A Human brain and one of its neuronal networks." Image

This indicates that self-organizing structures can be built from random arrangements of conducting fibers. This suggests that many different types of brain-like activity can be induced from stuff other than the kind of materials from which you and I are made.
Intelligent life on other worlds might be made of very different stuff indeed.

 

Homework: “Emergent dynamics of neuromorphic nanowire networks” by Adrian Diaz-Alvarez, Rintaro Higuchi, Paula Sanz-Leon, Ido Marcus, Yoshitaka Shingaya, Adam Z. Stieg, James K. Gimzewski, Zdenka Kuncic and Tomonobu Nakayama, 17 October 2019, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-51330-6

Chemistry Class Graduation Photo December 24, 2019

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