Ten or twenty years from now the information stored on one million CD-ROMs should be able to be stored on just one, according to news out of Copenhagen.
This should be possible because of the work of Danish scientists, who revealed on October 26, 1998 that they had created a computer chip in which a single atom jumping back and forth--at room temperature--produced binary code.
This type of code is the foundation of digital information as processed by computers.
Team leader FranÇois Grey, by phone, informed the Reuters news agency that while previous scientists had made individual atoms leap back and forth, they had only done so with material at a temperature near absolute zero.
In the present case, a four-person team at the Danish University of Technology's microelectronics center utilized a scanning-tunnelling microscope to help them take--off a silicon chip's hydrogen layer surface--one of two hydrogen atoms attached to an individual silicon atom, so the lone hydrogen atom remaining would leap as needed.
With their warmish work, practical applications are closer to fruition.
Source: ABCNEWS.com, 10/26/98; CNN.com, 10/27/98; Smart
Computing, February 1999 (all from Reuters 10/26/98);
"UGeek: This Just In!" (www.ugeek.com), 1/28/99
Kevin Warwick, a British professor, has already been the world's first cyborg; a radio transmitter chip was implanted in his arm on August 24, 1998. This was a glass capsule approximately 23 millimeters long and 3 millimeters wide within which were a silicon chip and an electromagnetic coil. It enabled him to activate certain doors and lights. When he approached these doors, they said, "Good morning, Prof. Warwick," his computer switched on, and his movements within the building were trackable. The capsule has since been removed, for safety's sake.
Surely, employees of large corporations will someday have much to say about Warwick's work.
The professor is now working on a device to transmit physical movement, pain and even emotions between two people. And he has volunteered to be the initial human to try out what could be called a telepathy chip. This first chip to be wired to a person's nervous system is scheduled for implantation into him during 2001.
A half-inch microprocessor chip will be put into the upper part of his left arm, where a sensor collar will be clamped onto a nerve. (Also in preparation is a version of greater sensitivity in which a number of prongs would be clamped onto a nerve core.) Both versions will contain a transducer to deal with the sending and reception of radio signals to transmit pain and movement.
The objective is that the electrical signals which control his movements and feelings will be stored in a computer and then played back, so that he will subject himself to a takeover by his earlier self. He wonders whether his brain will register this as strange or not.
Since the basic procedure of these implants has been solved, according to him, present work emphasizes the lessening of the risks of nerve damage.
Warwick, who heads the University of Reading's Cybernetics Department, stated to the British Association festival in September 1999 that his ultimate quest is to be able to send thought communications between human beings--an ability he believes to be only "a few years away."
He is not the only person willing to go the limit in this special quest. If the test of sending signals between his nervous system and a computer is successful, with no problems, an implant will be placed into his wife Irena. Warwick said, "The way she puts it is that if anyone is going to jack into my limbic system--to know definitively when I'm feeling happy, depressed, angry...she wants it to be her." Internet transmissions between them, from separate countries, may follow.
The present experiments could, prior to those future developments, provide a way for people to help disabled persons learn control of their limbs.
They could also lead to the operation of workable cars without using steering wheels and other components.
Not mentioned in the known media reports about his efforts is that a workable telepathy technique could erase humanity's last privacy barrier--and be abused by unscrupulous and/or ideologically obsessed persons in many ways. Worse, people's motions could be controlled by others, a coercion that could be horrific when applied in authoritarian or wartime situations.
Warwick's worries and concerns about machines becoming dangerously more intelligent than people, delineated in his book In the Mind of the Machine, as well as in quotes he has given the media, provide an interesting contrast to his cutting-edge cyborg work, where man transforms partly into what he may fear.
Sources: CNN.COM, 2/18/98; ABCNEWS.com, 8/25/98; Wired, February 2000; Dispatch Online (www.dispatch.co.za/), 8/27/98; Sydney Morning Herald online (www.smh.com.au), 9/16/99 and 11/5/99 (from the Daily Telegraph, London; and The Guardian); also www.cyber.rdg.ac.uk/K.Warwick/
If people think computers are efficient now, will they be ready in the future for computers that perhaps make use of a processor 100 billion times more powerful than a present-day Pentium chip?
An announcement on July 15, 1999 told of the accomplishment by scientists of a "logic gate" on a molecular level. Made on a crystalline structure, molecular computers will someday be portable indeed, perhaps even usable as part or parts of clothing, and will require less power to operate than do present systems. Such vast amounts of data will be able to be stored on them that erasing files will become entirely unnecessary--except for those with something to hide.
In a phone interview, Phil Kuekes, a Hewlett-Packard computer architect, spoke of how two teams working together built extremely simple working logic gates. James Heath, a chemistry professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, heads one of these teams. The other team is at the Palo Alto-based Hewlett Packard Company.
The latter team compounded rotaxane, which, as stated, grows in a crystalline structure. The molecules of rotaxane, in between metal electrodes, work as the aforementioned logic gates. The journal Science reported their development, likely to eventually replace silicon chips.
There are even mightier computers in the offing. Recent experiments which successfully teleported photons may well lead to computers in the future which will be powerful beyond present conceptions.
Source: The Washington Post, 7/16/99
One of the smallest motors built so far consists of only 78 atoms, but four years of work was involved in its construction.
T. Ross Kelly, a Boston College professor of chemistry, thought it would be "neat" to fabricate a molecule that operated like a motor. He published a report about his and his Boston College colleagues' rather successful results in the September 9, 1999 issue of Nature.
Similar things exist in nature, such as corkscrew flagella on mobile bacteria, but they are little understood. Kelly, in his creation, offers just one scenario among many for such biological machines. His molecular motor is in need of improved configuration though, since its "paddle water wheel" jams after rotating only 120 degrees. According to Trinity College chemist Anthony Davis of Ireland, "It's really just a proof of principle."
Yet Kelly is sure that continuous rotation is possible and will be achieved.
In the same issue of Nature, a 58-atom molecule, which spins continually when light is applied to it, is described by Dutch and Japanese scientists. Their motor is a very slow one, taking several minutes to revolve. And, at present, 140 degrees Fahrenheit is the minimum heat requirement for its operation. Viability at room temperature is, of course, sought.
There are potential computing and medical applications for further-developed molecular motors, but they are likely decades away from fruition.
Source: ABCNEWS.com, 9/9/99
A gene therapy technique has proved more successful than anticipated on aged Rhesus monkeys, and will hopefully eventually assist Alzheimer's disease sufferers to recover more youthful brains and brain functions.
On September 14, 1999, a study appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that revealed some promising results. The study's senior author, Dr. Mark H. Tuszynski of the University of California, San Diego, mentioned how the experiments made clearer the newer understandings that brain neurons do not die, they just shrink and atrophy. In the aged Rhesus monkeys studied, genes for nerve growth factor (NGF) were put into their brains and their basal forebrain cells were restored to near their youthful size and number. (Basal forebrain cells could well be called air traffic controllers for the organ.)
A promising detail in these Rhesus monkey tests was that, after NGF genes were applied into the non-control monkeys, the modified cells themselves began manufacturing NGF. In a follow-up endeavor, another group of senior rhesus monkeys is being used to ascertain whether this NGF-application technique can bring back memory and thinking abilities as well. In June 1999, the researchers applied to the FDA so that, if given permission, they can test the NGF gene technique on people suffering from Alzheimer's disease. According to Tuszynski, the first phase would only involve a small group, for safety-determination reasons.
In the meantime, according to the September 15 Journal of Neuroscience, humans wanting better memory should probably eat blueberries. Boston and Denver researchers obtained promising results after feeding old rats a blueberry-heavy diet.
Sources: CNN.com, 9/14/99 (from the Associated Press);
The Washington Post, 9/20/99; PNAS Online
Were dinosaurs cold-blooded or hot-blooded? In other words, were they like reptiles or like mammals and birds? New evidence shows that they may have been cold-blooded after all--but turbocharged for maximum sustained levels of activity.
According to a late January 1999 media report, Oregon State University's John A. Ruben and his associates utilized ultraviolet light to study fossilized impressions found in Salerno, Italy. These imprints had been made by a baby Scipionyx, a little carnivorous therapod of 110 million years ago which resembled velociraptors, and were very useful, as they showed indications of not usually preserved soft tissues, such as of muscles, intestines--even the liver. More importantly, they showed a partition which kept apart the liver and guts from the heart and lungs--a sort of rudimentary diaphragm. This feature allowed the lungs to be ventilated at times of heavy activity.
Previously, Ruben had maintained that the respiratory structures of dinosaurs were so simple that they would not work with a warm-blooded system. The new evidence indicated to Ruben that they had especially effective cold-blooded physiologies, giving them the metabolism for the types of activities of which both birds and mammals--being makers of their own body heat--were and are capable. This worked for dinosaurs as long as Earth's climate was of a high enough temperature. When global cooling came, they could no longer compete.
Terry D. Jones, another member of the team at Oregon State University, called the amazing fossil of the Scipionyx to be "like a Rosetta stone for palaeontology, and [it] shows us more about dinosaur biology than we ever knew before."
Source: The Independent, 1/22/99; The
Washington Post, 1/25/99; Science magazine
Antarctica's Lake Vostok is enormous but has not been seen by humanity. Nor will it be drilled into by machinery until risks of contamination can be eliminated. Vostok's liquid water is thought to resemble that beneath the ice of Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. Like that location, Vostok is cut off from light, heat and a known nutrient supply. It is underneath two miles of South Polar Plateau ice. Drillings of ice in its vicinity are to approach no closer than 393 feet above it.
In the December 10, 1999 issue of Science, University of Hawaii and Montana State University scientists wrote about the hidden lake in a number of articles. One of these was entitled "Microorganisms in the Accreted Ice of Lake Vostok, Antarctica." Written about were the many types of bacteria found in some ice 11,700 feet below surface level. The bacteria had managed to survive millions of years in the dark and cold. Their existence bids well for the probability of life in Vostok itself.
Source: New York Times, 12/13/99; www.sciencemag.org
During July 1998, the Russian Orthodox Church declined to recognize the remains of Czar Nicholas II as being the real article, despite the results of DNA tests and other evidence.
Yet in August 1998 an Associated Press report revealed that the church deemed authentic the remains of Alexander of Svira, a 16th-century saint.
This was because there were drops of a substance resembling honey between the toes of the mummy, which priests, including Patriarch Alexy II, who is the head of the Orthodox church, claim is myrrh.
Olga Bykhovskaya, who is deputy head of the Forensic Examination Service in St. Petersburg, said, "The church had doubts about the royal remains, when all of science had proven their authenticity. And here they have no doubts when science has not proved it."
In December 1997, the mummy had been found in a cupboard in the Anatomical Museum at the Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg. Initial tests were suggestive that the remains were those of the saint, whose relics had been confiscated in 1919, but were hardly conclusive.
The Orthodox faithful have what they need, since to them the apparent myrrh is proof positive of sainthood.
Source: Austin American-Statesman, 8/23/98
PROD, a newly developed remotely operable drill recently tested off Perth, Australia, is expected to help find a great harvest of minerals on the seafloor, and to aid research. It may also disrupt ecosystems that humans know little or nothing about--and perhaps lead to the extinctions of as yet unknown lifeforms.
The robotic drill, controlled from the surface, can prospect deeply, even two kilometers below the water's surface. The device, most of it created by Benthic Geotech of Sydney, is likely to be deployed in a volatile area near Papua New Guinea, where continuous volcanic underwater activity creates heated water, which carries a polymetalic wealth of silver, gold, copper and zinc. Also present there are unusual forms of life, some as yet unknown to science and others previously thought to be extinct.
The non-living things are what are apt to start a mining boom. Dr. Ray Binns, the CSIRO Exploration and Mining chief research scientist, told a Sydney Mining Club luncheon not long ago about worldwide commercial interest. Binns is one of the few people to actually have been present at "way down under" smoking vents and metal-bearing "chimneys" when riding in the Shinkai-6500 deep-water submersible in 1994.
Odd fish, prawns, snails and crabs, as well as the newly discovered tubeworms, are among the creatures off the New Guinea vents. One of these vents is called the Roman Ruins, another is termed Snowcap, while a black-smoke-emitting one is named in the plural as the Satanic Mills.
During February 1999, in Madang, Papua New Guinea (PNG), an international workshop on seabed mining, where both the possible economic gains and the potential environmental losses were debated, attracted Pacific Islands nations' participations. Since just one important "strike" could change the economy of any of their economies, a gold-rush mentality was on the increase.
Organizations like Greenpeace became involved, since the fates of the world's oceans were concerned. They were and are worrying about tampering with ecosystems before their true functions in the world are understood. Benedict Southward, Greenpeace's Australian campaign manager, said, "They will carve up the deep oceans in the same way they have carved up the lands."
The financial possibilities of deep-water marine mines may push aside other concerns--in PNG and elsewhere.
Most of Australia's large sea floor area is a mystery, and decisions are being made to protect some of these areas so that exploitation will not ruin them all.
A portion of the Tasmanian Seamounts, for example, has been made a deep-sea marine reserve. The other 80% of them are open to exploitation, and for possible PROD-ing.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald online (www.smh.com.au), 6/4/99