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This is the Virtual Keyboard/Monitor I Want March 19, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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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.
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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.



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.

Because it’s Beautiful March 16, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Video.
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This Lego-Modded Glue Gun is A Handheld 3D Printer

This hand-held 3D printer is made of LEGO and a hot glue gun, just the way God intended it to make bespoke hats and whatever else you can’t be bothered to scan, convert to pointcloud, convert that to STL, put in your (horrendously expensive) 3D printer and wait.  Like this tasty video (with cheery music) shows:

My Next Car January 19, 2015

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

TDCS Device Prototype January 19, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Brain, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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tdcs device

tDCS is the practice of passing mA currents through one’s brain in order to enhance or retard neural excitability between the electrodes placed on the skull (read the link for better grokking of the concept; I’m at lunch and time is short).  It is used in research primarily to understand if it is any use at all in Parkinson’s disease, tinnitus, amblyopia, fibromyalgia, and post-stroke motor deficits.

The gizmo above is the constant-current  supply circuit rendered by my colleague Noel, with 0.5, 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0 mA selectable switches.  I think it beautifully done; only the 12V battery and the electrodes are not shown.  There is testing to be done, but it is heartening to see it looking so nice

Therapeutic Headgear December 25, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Brain, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Uncategorizable.
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I have alluded to traumatic brain injury treatments in this space before, but more reputable journals can now be cited regarding the use of red LEDs to stimulate cognitive function by exciting cytochrome C and thereby enhancing the various reactions that use ATP—which is nearly all of them.  Apparently simply irradiating patients with red LEDs is enough to gain some cognitive enhancement.

Who would have imagined it (besides Star Trek, of course)?

As a citizen scientist I felt the urge to test this myself and made a LED hat for my sainted, white-haired mother to treat herself with.  The 300 red LEDs (LE Lampux 12V Flexible LED Strip Lights) are meant for blinging out autos, so they take a 12V wall wart and about 24watts.  I made a quick frame of insulated wire and hot glued the 5 meters of LED strip to it, like this:


Note the festive holiday placemat.  This is what I did waiting for Newtonmas dinner.  Here it is in therapeutic mode:


And in a non-blinded study:


So, if you want one of these, leave a comment and reply info.  I could build you one (for a fee).



Going Wireless on Samsung i9250 December 13, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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The worst thing in the cell phone world is having a smart phone and no way to charge it or get data to and from it.  It’s worse if you develop apps for it and can’t load them.  I had a Windows CE phone and it eventually died at the USB connection…never again.

My now two-year-old Samsung Galaxy S3 i9250 phone can be made wireless with a wireless charging hack and ADB Wireless.  Android Device Bridge is a piece of software that allows several operations to be run from one’s PC keyboard, like loading new software…but usually it requires a USB connection. Enter ADB Wireless…which requires the phone be rooted.  Rooting a phone is a slightly risky procedure, if you are under warranty—I’m not.  I rooted it with Kingo ROOT software, and then ran ADB Wireless.  I can now load my self-developed apps without a USB cable.

Additionally, I use WiFi File Transfer Pro to move files to and from my phone, so that’s one more source of non-wired interface (it uses your PC’s browser to connect to your phone via a web server on the phone; an elegant solution I feel).

The wireless charging hack is a little trickier, but only because you have to take apart the phone, install the Palm Pre Touchstone Charging Kit induction coil, copper tape the charging coil to the cover so it matches the copper tape you install on the the pogo pins on the inside and put that sucker back together (and get the polarity right; 5V+ is the lowest of the three pins, GND is the highest).

Another nice addition which can amaze and confuse is the Tasker app, which can allow you to automate quite a few little things, depending on your focus and obsession (“Tasker is a rabbit hole that brings opportunity to focus and obsess.”), like turning on WiFi when home, turning it off when leaving, turning on Bluetooth when driving and charging..none of which I have done yet.

But I’ll get to it, Real Soon Now. Honest.

Fermi Paradox Solved! December 12, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Star Trek Technology.
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“Beams of neutrinos have been proposed as a vehicle for communications under unusual circumstances, such as direct point-to-point global communication, communication with submarines, secure communications and interstellar communication. We report on the performance of a low-rate communications link established using the NuMI beam line and the MINERvA detector at Fermilab. The link achieved a decoded data rate of 0.1 bits/sec with a bit error rate of 1% over a distance of 1.035 km, including 240 m of earth. “ — http://arxiv.org/abs/1203.28471

Seriously, this is why SETI never sees the little green men; we’re using radio.  All the cool kids are using modified neutrino emissions (or maybe gravity waves).

1. This paper has a lovely section devoted to authors’ names: D. D. Stancil, P. Adamson, M. Alania, L. Aliaga, M. Andrews, C. Araujo Del Castillo, L. Bagby, J. L. Bazo Alba, A. Bodek, D. Boehnlein, R. Bradford, W. K. Brooks, H. Budd, A. Butkevich, D. A. M. Caicedo, D. P. Capista, C. M. Castromonte, A. Chamorro, E. Charlton, M. E. Christy, J. Chvojka, P. D. Conrow, I. Danko, M. Day, J. Devan, J. M. Downey, S. A. Dytman, B. Eberly, J. R. Fein, J. Felix, L. Fields, G. A. Fiorentini, A. M. Gago, H. Gallagher, R. Gran, J. Grange, J. Griffin, T. Griffin, E. Hahn, D. A. Harris, A. Higuera, J. A. Hobbs, C. M. Hoffman, B. L. Hughes, K. Hurtado, A. Judd, T. Kafka, K. Kephart, J. Kilmer, M. Kordosky, S. A. Kulagin, V. A. Kuznetsov, M. Lanari, T. Le, H. Lee, L. Loiacono, G. Maggi, E. Maher, S. Manly, W. A. Mann, C. M. Marshall, K. S. McFarland, A. Mislivec, A. M. McGowan, et al. (48 additional authors not shown)

Cheap, Non-toxic Printed Circuits November 23, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (NTU) have successfully printed complex electronic circuits using a t-shirt printer. They were printed using in layers on flexible stuff like paper or plastic and included resistors, transistors and capacitors. All were printed using non-toxic organic materials like silver nanoparticles, carbon and plastics.

The types of complex circuits the team has successfully printed include a 4-bit DAC, and an RFID. Not all that complex, sure, but a great proof-of-concept.

Associate Professor Joseph Chang is the leader of the NTU Singapore research group behind this. I couldn’t find the relevant paper for homework, but I did find this photo.circuit on a sheet

small circuit

3D Printing Tiny Complex, Multi-material Devices November 23, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Uncategorizable.
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3D printers are, at this stage of their march through the Singularity, largely confined to printing with only on material, probably due to cost constraints.  But, what if all the materials needed to produce some specialized bit of kit were available in one printer?  Just how complex a device could be manufactured?  Princeton scientists have just manufactured a 2 x 2 x 2 matrix of quantum-dot LEDs as a demonstration of their 3D printer, which can manage five different print materials, including (1) emissive semiconducting inorganic nanoparticles, (2) an elastomeric matrix, (3) organic polymers as charge transport layers, (4) solid and liquid metal leads, and (5) a UV-adhesive transparent substrate layer.

That’s right; five.  And complex; here’s the matrix and a picture of a single LED on a suggestively curved substrate.  I think we are meant to be reminded of a contact lens.

Homework: It’s published in NanoLetters, right here.

One Barrel a Day November 23, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Uncategorizable.
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This gizmo can create a barrel of fuel from the CO2 in the air in about a day, sequestering (sort of) 3 tons of CO2 in the process.  I’m not sure how they measured this, but it looks as if you could calculate it stoichiometrically  if you were so inclined.  The problem with this cheap, little device is that is is neither cheap nor little.  It costs “seven figures”.  It is but a prototype, so I expect that the number will come down and the efficiency (already a 70%–once again, how did they measure that?) to go up.

magicmachineUsing the Fischer-Tropsch process, the magic machine strips hydrogen from water and oxygen from CO2, and then combines hydrogen and carbon monoxide in the classic fashion you slept through in Org Chem.  Yes, I saw you.

Wrist Rocket October 1, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Photography, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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That’s right, friends, a quadcopter camera that you wear on your wrist.  THIS IS WHAT I WANT FOR NEWTONMASS, PEOPLE!  The prototype (not the rendering above) looks like it would actually work pretty well:

The promo video from their website hints at uses, which I have been advocating for years, like a follow me camera for safety and bragging:

Nixie is powered by Intel’s Edison kit, which is both small enough and affordable enough to fit inside such a small device. And devices like this will only get smaller.

As far as I can tell, Star Trek did not think of this in the 1960s.  Of course the Next Generation did, but we already had cell phones by then so no points for out-of-the-box thinking for them.

Air Harp Using Leap Motion Controller June 24, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Brilliant words, Mutants, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Video.
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Brilliant guy makes the Leap Motion controller into an actually useful music triggering device.  Interesting demo (!!!) begins at 3:20.

tDCS Quick Summary June 19, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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Not the most riveting speaking style, though.  This guy is much more fun, starting with “I want to be your trough of disillusionment.”

I presume he was the bummer after Dr. Clark of UNM,

promptly harshing his mellow with juicy contradictory evidence (science, bitches!).

Homebrew Robotics Club Example June 10, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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A fine example of the art, this one avoids obstacles and can walk or roll with equal ease.  Google provides them a meeting room I think the last Wednesday of the month…

…must find time for this sort of thing.

Printing Circuits With Conductive Ink May 20, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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Printing circuits with conductive ink

These guys were printing with (various) conductive inks, making little circuits right in front of the inquisitive crowds of Maker Faire 2014.  Sadly, I have lost their card. Sad smile

I want this.

EXCITING UPDATE: I found their card, and thence this URL: http://www.botfactory.co/blog/17-botfactory-presents-squink

SRI Tiny Robot Swarm–Basically, Big Nanites April 23, 2014

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They are very fast, magnetically-instructable robots.  Use your imagination, and then be afraid–very, very afraid.

3D Printed Calipers–Printed Fully Assembled! March 23, 2014

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angrymonk55 is printing himself a 3D toolbox.  This is his caliper set, which he printed fully assembled.  A very nice little hack.  His videos show a pretty well-rounded guy:

The Obsessive Mike Davis March 16, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Photography, Publishing Tools, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Video.
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Every once in a while you happen upon someone or something so fascinating you just have to stop and see, hear or read more. I found this guy’s webpage, and have to admit I read the whole damn thing.  Like Boy Genius, Mike Davis probably started out with only one hobby in mind: astronomy.  Of course, that sort of hobby is an open-ended sinkhole of time and money.
And genius.
Or, at least obsessive improvements.  He apparently got into grinding lenses and casting mirrors (because that’s how the big kids do it.  A high-quality telescope is an enormous expense), probably got into LINUX for governing the scope, recording the images and putting them on the web.  But wait, there’s more.
I am guessing he bought a property in Arizona far out into the boonies to avoid light pollution.  Since it is utterly remote, it is unsurprising that it’s got no electric service, so he made a windmill and later a sunmill (you know, solar panel system) to power his equipment and such…then put a cabin around it all (he didn’t build it but bought it, presumably because it had to be on-site and he doesn’t have that much vacation time available).
Go kill some time at his website: Mike’s World and you can thank me later.  I am still reading things from his Miscellaneous Projects page, like

  • Cutting Circles out of Glass
  • Home-Built Pen Plotter
  • Quick and Easy Car Laptop Tray
  • Making My Own Soap
  • New and Improved Charge Controller Design
  • improvised DC generator (lawn edger plus permanent magnet DC motor)
  • Home-Built Biomass Gasifier
  • Raspberry Pie based all-in-one computer
  • home-made swamp cooler (see also cabin in Arizona)

I’m not sure, but I think I met him at a star party on Mt. Lassen last year (~August 13).

We Might Not All Die Horribly March 12, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has become a global public-health problem since the 1960s through resistance to antibiotics. In the USA every year, a quarter-million are hospitalized and nearly 20,000 die from it, and there are only three drugs that (sort of) work, and some resistance to these is already evident.

The good news is that Big Data on the chemical level has enabled researchers to find models in software of a class of compounds that can mess with the penicillin-binding protein in MRSA and also the cell wall of the MRSA organism, which is MRSA’s secret for resisting non-penicillin-derived medications.  The class of compounds known as oxadiazoles were found by brute-force computer simulations (“brute force” here equals 1.2 MILLION compounds—outside of the scope of all the labs in the world for about twenty years, I would guess).

Good job, guys.

The guys in question are a team of University of Notre Dame researchers led by Mayland Chang and Shahriar Mobashery (see Homework, below).



“Discovery of a New Class of Non-β-lactam Inhibitors of Penicillin-Binding Proteins with Gram-Positive Antibacterial Activity.” Peter I. O’Daniel, Zhihong Peng, Hualiang Pi, Sebastian A. Testero, Derong Ding, Edward Spink, Erika Leemans, Marc A. Boudreau, Takao Yamaguchi, Valerie A. Schroeder, William R. Wolter, Leticia I. Llarrull, Wei Song, Elena Lastochkin, Malika Kumarasiri, Nuno T. Antunes, Mana Espahbodi, Katerina Lichtenwalter, Mark A. Suckow, Sergei Vakulenko, Shahriar Mobashery, and Mayland Chang. Journal of the American Chemical Society 2014 136 (9), 3664-3672