jump to navigation

Fluke, by Christopher Moore August 1, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books, Brilliant words, Mutants, Science.
add a comment

Fluke, by Christpher Moore, is another hilarious tale of a, well, tail, specifically the fluke of a humpback with the words “Bite me” on its fluke. The first person to witness this unusual coloration is Nathan Quinn, a whale biologist with a great fascination with whale song.  He and his terminally cute but too young-for-him research pixie Amy Earhart photograph the whale in the course of research… and the frame of film containing it goes missing.  And his sound recordings.  And his boat. And, finally, him.  He is pursued by his colleague and photographer Clay, Clay’s mean sex-fiend schoolteacher girlfriend Claire, a surfer-Rastafarian hybrid named Kona1 (nee Brad Thompson or something not very Jamaican, Hawaiian or surfish, but more New Jerseyish) and The Old Broad who funds them and who insisted that the whale called her to tell him to bring him a pastrami sandwich.

Much funnier when he tells it, of course; Moore’s signature humor is gentle and mocking  and wry and just silly sometimes. Basically, I would die to be a tenth as funny at any time.  Fluke had me laughing in crowded doctor’s waiting rooms.

Available on Amazon, naturally, but I got mine at sfpl.org.

WARNING: contains some actual science.  Does not detract from the story in the slightest.

1Kona refers to the research pixie as “the snowy biscuit”, for her fair complexion and, well, biscuitness

Monster 6502 June 30, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Toys.
add a comment

MOnSter 6502 (prototype PCB)

Monster 6502 is a circuit-board replica of the classic (in that it appeared an Apple II) MOS 6502 microprocessor. It is the project of a couple of very serious nerds who will be running BASIC programs on it at the local reverse-engineering meetup next Wednesday.  I can’t wait to meet the guys who wrote the following snippets in the FAQ for this project:

How many components are there on the board?

In total, there are 4304 components on the board. There are 3218 transistors and 1019 resistors that comprise the “functional” part of the 6502. In addition to these, there are also LEDs sprinkled throughout that indicate the values of various control lines, registers, and status bits, as well as additional transistors and resistors (not counted in those “functional” totals) that are necessary to drive those LEDs.

As of the current design, the statistics are as follows:

  • Components that correspond 1:1 with transistors in the original 6502:
    • Total active transistors: 4237
      • 3218 enhancement mode n-channel MOSFETs
        • 2599 discrete
        • 619 located on 161 quad transistor array chips (25 of these 644 transistors were not used)
      • 1019 depletion mode MOSFETs (the MOnSter 6502 uses resistors in place of these MOSFETs)
  • 525 Additional parts present only in the MOnSter 6502:
    • 167 LEDs
    • 123 extra MOSFETs for driving the LEDs
    • 20 filter capacitors
    • 2 zero-ohm jumpers for net tie reasons
    • 8 current limit resistors
    • 167 resistors for the LEDs
    • 36 diodes (for ESD protection)
    • 2 connectors (5 V power, 40-pin “ICR” ribbon cable)
  • Total parts: 4304
Are you nuts?

Probably.

Are you going to make one out of vacuum tubes next?

No.

Is there going to be a soldering kit version of this?

No. (But on the other hand, “Anything is a soldering kit if you’re brave enough!”)

Exciting update: yeah, it was just great. Never before in the history of the world has anything so pointless been done so very well, with thorough design, component selection and pre-assembly testing carefully prepared against the day that an obsolete processor’s ghost could be made to rattle the chains of Integer BASIC. Woz would be so proud.  I have some Blurricam™ footage:

Important Update June 30, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Mutants, Toys.
add a comment

And Doesn’t it Look Delicious? June 23, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Mutants, Uncategorizable.
add a comment

I should have a category for cake.

Rappers Don’t Use Guitars June 16, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Music, Mutants, Toys.
add a comment

although for this guitar I am sure they would make an exception and include melody in their screaming. Though this may look like a death metal band member’s dream it’s for an actual rapper, Wyclef Jean.

Another Cheery Sculpture June 15, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Mutants, Octopus, Uncategorizable.
add a comment

IMG_20160521_114711

Also from Maker Faire. I want one, please

Pretty Sure the Flamethrower Works June 15, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Uncategorizable.
add a comment

IMG_20160522_084157

but I couldn’t get the builder to demonstrate it for me.  This was early morning at Maker Faire, before the customers showed up.  He was just too careful.

I Was a Callow Youth of Forty When June 7, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Japan, Mutants, Octopus, Toys, Video.
add a comment

I first saw Ghost in the Shell, an anime of now classic status, which features cyborgs questioning their own humanity and a possible AI they may discover, and perhaps combat.  There is competent animation, what I imagine is good writing (the subtitles I saw on this fan-subbed version were perhaps a reflection of the translator, however) and an interesting soundtrack.

It also spawned a legion of anime geeks and fanboys, one of whom has made a copy of the mech of choice from said anime, the Tachikoma.  It is very, um, lifelike:

It’s a beautiful build. I would be so proud if this were my child.

Redshirts, by John Scalzi June 2, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books, Geek Stuff, Mutants.
add a comment

Redshirts, by John Scalzi is a fun little read featuring a suspiciously Star Trek-like ship’s enlisted personnel dying with frightening frequency on planet-bound missions. The “new kids” notice this and the real fun begins; they try to figure out why and how this is happening.

Well performed by Wil Wheaton (whose annoying character really should have gone on more away missions), this book deals really nicely with sci-fi tropes we know and love, and old TV shows we love irrationally.  Wil’s reading is a source of great entertainment for me, as he always seems to put the right amount of astonishment into the voice of his unfortunate character’s mouth.

Link goes to Amazon; also available at sfpl.org.

 

Not related, but related.

Cute Attack!! June 16, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Hello Kitty, Mutants, Octopus, Photography, Science.
add a comment

cute-octopus-620.jpg

Wild flapjack octopus (Opisthoteuthis sp.), a deep sea octopus, spotted on a dive made by the ROV Doc Ricketts. This species is on display in the special exhibit "Tentacles" at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

ROV Doc Ricketts, ©2013 MBARI / Monterey Bay Aquarium

"As someone that’s describing the species you get to pick what the specific name is," researcher Stephanie Bush told Science Friday. "One of the thoughts I had was making it Opisthoteuthis adorabilis — because they’re really cute."

Maker Fair’s Idea of a Photobooth May 17, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Geek Stuff, Mutants, Photography.
add a comment

image

The Singularity Started With the Wheel March 16, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Applications, Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Mutants, Science, Star Trek Technology.
add a comment

As difficult as it may be to comprehend, the wheel is the basic unit of technology. It made the repetitive business of carrying stuff easier. When tasks can be easily repeated (preferably automated), they can also be tweaked to do them better, maybe each time.

With computer controls, these tweaking steps can be automated, and the results don’t even have to be seen by a human.  These results can be used to produce new methods to experiment, ad infinitum. This is precisely why we should not allow AIs any autonomy whatever in creating new AIs.

But I digress.

The tools of automation are now cheaply available, giving everyone who wants it access to finely-controlled stepper motors which can be used in the trial and error methods heretofore mentioned.  Cheap microcontroller systems to run them combined with said stepper motors give us robotic assemblers, 3D printers and molecular assemblers.

Yeah, you heard me.

Usually, small-molecule synthesis usually relies on procedures that are highly customized for each target. Martin Burke, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) early career scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, used a single, fully-automated process to synthesize fourteen distinct classes of small molecules from a common set of building blocks.

A broadly applicable automated process could greatly increase the accessibility of [this class of compounds] to enable investigations of their practical potential. More broadly, these findings illuminate an actionable roadmap to a more general and automated approach for small-molecule synthesis (he used Csp3-rich polycyclic natural product frameworks and developed a catch-and-release chromatographic purification method).

As a former chemist, I must say this is plenty difficult and detailed…but it only has to be done once and this genie is not going back into the bottle.  This will step up the pace of novel moiety experimentation, especially now that we have computational chemistry on a sound footing.  Picture this: computer cranks out theoretical molecule families for research.  Magic chemistry machine makes them.  Another automated machine tests them.  Potential drug candidates can be screened without human intervention, for conditions that currently have no treatment, but do have a good theoretical model.

Honestly, I have been thinking of this for thirty-five years, when one of my classmates described the room-temperature chemistry that was just being used for automated peptide synthesis, a hot subject in my college years1.

Now, with  automated synthesis producing testable quantities of continuously-varying drugs, we can start continuously comparing them with standard drugs for, say, antibiotic activity in a Petri-like environment (I hope it is no surprise that this technology exists already, although it is not in concert with the aforementioned molecular assembler), quickly finding optimal candidates in what could be an entirely automated process.  Promising candidates’ structures can be continuously varied by the molecular assembler under the watchful eye of an expert system (it is fun to imagine the expert system eventually deciding that chlorine bleach is the optimal antibiotic; obviously safety trials against mammalian cell lines need to run in parallel).

Aha, I hear you cry, what about diagnosis?  I’m pretty sure I covered this already2, when I  talked about brute-force cracking the human medical condition through big data: thousands of tests administered cheaply, regularly through millions of peoples’ lifetimes.  This data would be trawled for correlations between medical conditions and test results, telling us things clinicians would miss just because human heads can’t hold that kind of data well enough to draw statistical conclusions, or even reasonable inferences…but computers can.  Frustratingly, the legal problems here are beyond human comprehension as well; the intellectual property costs to create this many tests would be astronomical, although once acquired it could be quite cheap to administer (this is already possible, just not done for greed’s sake).  This will require a revolution in thinking which is not, alas, forthcoming soon3.

Other science can be brute-forced in a similar fashion by automation in other chemical reactions; I picked drug discovery for illustration since that’s where the most money can be found currently.

These are delightful speculations and become even more possible as long as things continue the way they are going, at least in terms of physical possibility.  Cheaper, faster processors make it possible to control all manner of laboratory  and industrial devices, not just your toaster, son.

It all makes me wish I were a better writer, because these ideas deserve better advocacy than I can bring to bear.

 

Homework:

Synthesis of many different types of organic small molecules using one automated process Junqi Li, Steven G. Ballmer, Eric P. Gillis, Seiko Fujii, Michael J. Schmidt, Andrea M. E. Palazzolo, Jonathan W. Lehmann, Greg F. Morehouse, Martin D. Burke

______

1 We’re getting there, fellas.  Keep up the good work.

2 Please try to keep up.

3 If ever.

You Know Who Will Win March 11, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Mutants, Uncategorized, Video.
add a comment

This Oughta Fix Your Childhood Memories February 24, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Japan, Mutants, Video.
add a comment

Thank gods I’m too old for this to have been MY childhood.

Cheap Complex Devices by John Sundman February 23, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Brain, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Mutants.
add a comment

Cheap Complex Devices is a lovely slap on the head by the wet fist of surrealism.  It is a frothy coffee-like concoction with tentacles sticking out of it, and they are made of licorice.  Mmmmm…licorice.  And it is the story of the first (two) book(s) written by intelligent machines and delightfully complex and confusing. Cheap Complex Devices makes your sanity sit up and take notice, your grip on reality double its fists and say "Come at me! I can dish it out, too!"

I do love a book which confounds my expectations, and Cheap Complex Devices delivers.

I May Just Stop Here February 23, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Hello Kitty, Japan, Mutants, Uncategorizable.
add a comment

Look.  I’ve been documenting Hello Kitty artifacts from before the dawn of time, but I’m just about done (no SM gear yet, although I can’t say I’ve looked for it) with this.

Babbage and Lovelace in Paperback! February 9, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Uncategorizable.
add a comment

babbageandlovelacepenguins

It’s ready for pre-order! The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by the hilarious Sidney Padua.  A lovely work (also available at 2dgoggles.com for free; pay for it so she can be creative instead of being an illustrator for monster movies, where her genius is wasted) compounded of silliness and erudition, with Lovelace dedicated to eradicating poetry and Babbage absolutely devoted to shutting down street musicians (art mirrors life in this respect; musicians did try to kill him). Gloriously footnoted and furiously researched, this surreal frappe of comedy and alternate history tastes like mental honey.

Overmatched February 4, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Mutants, Video.
add a comment

My Next Car January 19, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Hello Kitty, Japan, Mutants, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Uncategorizable.
add a comment

It only travels 10 mph, but it DOES have twin BB Gatling guns (6000rpm), which ought to be enough to get me through traffic slower than that.  Traffic faster than that can just bite me.

Home Renovation Ideas January 19, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Mutants, Toys.
add a comment

Believe it or not, I did this already with a paper skull mask on Halloween a few years back…but this is MUCH better.