Thursday, July 9, 2015

Friday Thinking, 10 July 2015

Hello – Friday Thinking is curated on the basis of my own curiosity and offered in the spirit of sharing. Many thanks to those who enjoy this. 
In the 21st Century curiosity will SKILL the cat.

From the perspective of evolution, the colony is really the individual, because it is the colony that reproduces. Ants don’t make more ants, colonies make more colonies. So if we think about how ant behavior evolves, we have to look at colonies.

I found that a harvester ant colony’s behavior changes as it gets older and larger. Some aspects of network behavior just depend on size. In harvester ants, individual worker ants (other than the queen) live only a year, so it’s not the ants that get older and wiser, it’s the colony. That’s a puzzle, and it got me thinking about interaction networks, because I was looking for something that the ants could do in the same way but would have a different outcome if there are more ants. For example, I’m an ant, and I follow a rule that says, if I meet another ant at a certain rate, I do x. In a large colony, I might meet more ants. The same rule might have a different outcome if the colony is bigger because the rate of interaction would change.

We’re surrounded by giant networks — the Internet, our brains — so that got me interested in other systems. How does the behavior of a network scale as it gets larger?
Decoding the Remarkable Algorithms of Ants

A Copernican revolution in management
Agile and the Creative Economy thus comprise a large core idea, with many different implementations. The core idea is not just a new process or methodology, but a different ideology–a different way of viewing and acting in the world. Instead of an ideology of control with a focus on efficiency and predictability and detailed plans and internal focus, it’s an ideology of enablement, with a focus on self-organization, continuous improvement, an iterative approach, and above all, the customer is now central.

In traditional management, the firm was the stable center of the universe and the customer revolved around the firm. The customer was taken for granted.

In the new scheme of things, the customer is the center of the universe and the firm revolves around the customer.

Instead of managers asking, ‘How much more can we sell?’ now they have to ask: ‘What else does the customer need?’”

With these new questions, the guy at the top of the hierarchical pyramid doesn’t necessarily have the best knowledge any more. And so, a whole series of questions start to be asked the structure of corporations and indeed of society in general. Why should that guy be telling the workers what to do and get paid so much when they know more and better than he does?

So this transition is now under way at the team level, with hundreds of thousands of Agile/Scrum implementations all around the world.
But it is also happening at the level of the firm, as hierarchical bureaucracies transition into more agile more modes of operating, with firms like Apple, Google, Alibaba, Autodesk and so on.
Steve Denning - More On Why Managers Hate Agile

In 1964, the nation’s most valuable company, AT&T, was worth $267 billion in today’s dollars and employed 758,611 people. Today’s telecommunications giant, Google, is worth $370 billion but has only about 55,000 employees—less than a tenth the size of AT&T’s workforce in its heyday.
A World Without Work

Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), physical assets are turning into participants in real-time global digital markets. The countless types of assets around us will become as easily indexed, searched and traded as any online commodity. While some industries will be tougher to transform than others – those with physical limitations, such as manufacturing, will be harder to digitize – untold economic opportunities exist for growth and advancement. Our research shows this will create a new “Economy of Things” with significant consequences.

While industries like newspapers and music have already been completely transformed, the impact on some industries has been much less, and many still retain their essential structure and participants even if the Internet has brought great transparency to the business as a whole. The industries least transformed by the Internet are the ones with the most unstructured or unavailable information.

The IoT is now poised to bring the same real-time information and liquid marketplaces by enabling searching, managing and monetizing assets in the physical world. That won't just mean smart homes that light up when you arrive or washing machines that text you when the cycle is done. The IoT will turn physical assets into participants in real-time global digital markets.

We call this the “liquification of the physical world.” To explore the impact of this transformation, we first look at a historical case of digital industry disruption, then present the findings of macro-economic case studies that we developed in collaboration with Oxford Economics
The Economy of Things
Extracting new value from the Internet of Things

This is a great article on the relevance of science fiction by Cory Doctorow a Canadian, sci-fi writer, journalist and Internet activist. Well worth the read.
Cory Doctorow: Skynet Ascendant
As I’ve written here before, science fiction is terrible at predicting the future, but it’s great at predicting the present. SF writers imagine all the futures they can, and these futures are processed by a huge, dynamic system consisting of editors, booksellers, and readers. The futures that attain popular and commercial success tell us what fears and aspirations for technology and society are bubbling in our collective imaginations.

When you read an era’s popular SF, you don’t learn much about the future, but you sure learn a lot about the past. Fright and hope are the inner and outer boundaries of our imagination, and the stories that appeal to either are the parameters of an era’s political reality.

Pay close attention to the impossibilities. When we find ourselves fascinated by faster than light travel, consciousness uploading, or the silly business from The Matrix of AIs using human beings as batteries, there’s something there that’s chiming with our lived experience of technology and social change.

This is a great 6 min video conversation about the Future of Work. Worth the view.
The Future of Work in America
Derek Thompson sits down with Atlantic editor in chief James Bennet to discuss “A World Without Work,” an investigation into the current economy and the future of jobs in America. In the interview, Thompson explains the impetus for his article, discusses the automation of certain forms of work, and hypothesizes about the possible outcomes for a country in which career stability is harder to find. “If technology replaces great swaths of work that is terrible,” Thompson says, “it might open up the possibility that we have room to find jobs that align with purpose and fulfillment.”

A much longer article by Derek Thompson is here
A World Without Work
For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?
In the past few years, even as the United States has pulled itself partway out of the jobs hole created by the Great Recession, some economists and technologists have warned that the economy is near a tipping point. When they peer deeply into labor-market data, they see troubling signs, masked for now by a cyclical recovery. And when they look up from their spreadsheets, they see automation high and low—robots in the operating room and behind the fast-food counter. They imagine self-driving cars snaking through the streets and Amazon drones dotting the sky, replacing millions of drivers, warehouse stockers, and retail workers. They observe that the capabilities of machines—already formidable—continue to expand exponentially, while our own remain the same. And they wonder: Is any job truly safe?

Futurists and science-fiction writers have at times looked forward to machines’ workplace takeover with a kind of giddy excitement, imagining the banishment of drudgery and its replacement by expansive leisure and almost limitless personal freedom. And make no mistake: if the capabilities of computers continue to multiply while the price of computing continues to decline, that will mean a great many of life’s necessities and luxuries will become ever cheaper, and it will mean great wealth—at least when aggregated up to the level of the national economy.

But even leaving aside questions of how to distribute that wealth, the widespread disappearance of work would usher in a social transformation unlike any we’ve seen. If John Russo is right, then saving work is more important than saving any particular job. Industriousness has served as America’s unofficial religion since its founding. The sanctity and preeminence of work lie at the heart of the country’s politics, economics, and social interactions. What might happen if work goes away?

This is a very interesting article about Wikipedia and its relevance for the open distribution of serious scientific knowledge - this is an important though short piece for anyone interested in research supporting knowledge, information management and open access.
Why Wikipedia + Open Access = Revolution
The way scientific information diffuses through the knowledge economy is changing, and the first evidence from Wikipedia shows how.
There is a quiet revolution occurring in the way science diffuses into the public consciousness. One of the most significant aspects of this is Wikipedia, the crowdsourced encyclopedia that has rapidly become the first port of call for anyone researching more or less any scientific subject.

But there’s a problem. Many of the world’s highest quality and highest impact journals sit behind expensive paywalls that prevent all but the most privileged and well-resourced from gaining access. So it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Wikipedia editors tended to ignore these high quality papers in favor of articles that were easier to access.

That raises an important question. Do Wikipedia entries really reflect the best scientific evidence available?
Today we get an answer thanks to the work of Misha Teplitskiy and pals at the University of Chicago who have worked out what constitutes an important paper in the world of science and then checked to see whether this is reflected in the references that appear in Wikipedia entries.

Teplitskiy and co begin by analyzing the citation patterns in over 4,000 peer-reviewed journals in 26 different research fields ranging from dentistry and medicine through physics and astronomy to psychology and the social sciences.

The results make for interesting reading. “The odds that an open access journal is referenced on the English Wikipedia are 47% higher compared to closed access journals,” say Teplitskiy and co.

Open access publishing has changed the way scientists communicate with each other but Teplitskiy and buddies have now shown that its influence is much more significant. “Our research suggests that open access policies have a tremendous impact on the diffusion of science to the broader general public through an intermediary like Wikipedia,” says Teplitskiy and co.

Here’s an innovation for humans to navigate with visual information and pictures.
Army researcher invents new ways for intelligence analysts to visualize, interact with information
Army researchers are improving how computers manage a myriad of images, which will help analysts across the DOD intelligence community.

In a new user interface developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Dr. Jeff Hansberger designed and created a system that facilitates the visualization, navigation and manipulation of tens of thousands of images.

"That is quite an achievement for Jeff and another example of our superior science and engineering staff and the great work we are doing for the Soldier," said Dr. Thomas Russell, ARL director.

The DARPA VMR system aids intelligence analysts in searching, filtering, and exploring visual media through the use of advanced computer vision and reasoning techniques.

"The goal of DARPA's VMR program is to extract mission-relevant information, such as the who, what, where and when, from visual media captured from our adversaries and to turn unstructured, ad hoc photos and video into true visual intelligence," Hansberger said. "Our adversaries frequently use video, still and cell phone cameras to document their training and operations and occasionally post this content to widely available websites. The volume of this visual media is growing rapidly and is quickly outpacing our ability to review, let alone analyze, the contents of every image."

On the issue of open access and open source - this is something that  every community could consider.
Where Cellular Networks Don’t Exist, People Are Building Their Own
The tower—which Hernández, Yaee’s blacksmith, welded together out of scrap metal just a few hours earlier—is the backbone of Yaee’s first cellular network. The 90,000 pesos come in the form of two antennas and an open-source base station from a Canadian company called NuRAN. Once Hernández and company get the tower installed and the network online, Yaee’s 500 citizens will, for the first time, be able to make cell phone calls from home, and for cheaper rates than almost anywhere else in Mexico.

Strategically ignored by Mexico’s major telecoms, Yaee is putting itself on the mobile communications grid with the help of a Oaxaca-based telecommunications non-profit called Rhizomatica. Its founder, Peter Bloom, is among the men currently getting soaked on the roof of town hall. It’s May of 2014, and this is the third of what he jokingly calls “artisanal cell phone installations” that he’s led in the Sierra Juárez in the past year and a half—the first of their kind in the world.

By the end of the year, he will have installed six more networks all over the state of Oaxaca, bringing the total to nine. Armed with an experimental concession from the Mexican government that grants Rhizomatica access to coveted cellular spectrum all over the country, Bloom is slowly but surely bringing coverage to towns that have been left out of the 21st century’s most important technological revolution.

This is a wonderful 23 min video interview with Paul Graham a co-founder of Y-Combinator. He talks about the tasks of Sysyphus - but in the world of trying to enact change in the domain of enterprise IT. A great quote: What’s happening is a shift from ‘bring your own device’ to ‘bring your own tools’. But it may be more like ‘access the tools people find most useful - that are outside the great wall. Another - I have never seen a company that has done ‘too much open-source’.  And another - no developer/inventor knows what they are building - till their users show them.
Fireside Chat with Paul Graham
Paul Graham — programmer, author, investor and Y Combinator co-founder — will be chatting with Cloudant co-founder and YC alum Mike Miller about the new role developers play in our society. What developers are doing today will decide how we live our lives tomorrow. Find out what that means for small indie shops and corporate enterprises alike.

Another interesting article of the predictions from 1993-94 of the future that AT&T would enable with a 4 min video of 7 ads. This is interesting to refresh our memory of just how much has changed.
21 Years After AT&T Showed Us Their Vision of the Future, How Right Were They?
In 1994, the future seemed pretty amazing. I was spending most of my senior year at Boston University either browsing USENET through my BU Internet account (for which you had to apply, you didn’t just “get one” back then) or hanging out in the chat rooms on America Online (not AOL, it wouldn’t make that formal change for another few years) as PSPhotog.

And AOL had it all, let me tell you. For a few extra cents (plus the $2.99 per dial-up hour we were already being charged) I could write a letter and AOL would send it as a fax! The future really was here, and, if you believed AT&T, it was only going to get better.

Around mid-1994, AT&T released a series of ads called “You Will,” highlighting things that seemed completely futuristic at the time, and now seem either normal, quaint, or ridiculously outdated. Directed by David Fincher, who would later go onto direct Fight Club, Gone Girl, and be part of the creation of House of Cards, the ads made most geeks like myself giddy for the future, amazed by what was coming just a few years down the road.

Twenty-one years later, I thought it might be fun to take a look at what Fincher and AT&T got right and got wrong. Enjoy!
If you just want to see the video of all 7 add (3:30 min here it is.
AT&T 1993-1994 'You Will' Ad Campaign Compilation - All 7 Ads

This article complements the one above - the digital environment is enabling an ever lower barrier to innovation - making innovation cheaper.
The end of interest rates
Why the return on capital will gradually converge to zero
Entrepreneurs and tech people love to fantasise about the future. How self driving cars will change transportation. How drone delivery disrupt logistics and how bitcoins make sovereign currencies obsolete. But besides dreamful tech fantasies, how will financial markets look like? How will, especially, interest rates and the return on capital develop over the next 50 years driven by technological disruption?

There is substantial evidence that the return on capital (or cost of capital, depending on your position) will converge to zero as the slope of technological progress approaches one.

Technology makes innovation cheaper, making capital abundant
During the industrial revolution it was impossible for a person without substantial capital to start a business. Innovation was asset heavy (mining, steel etc) and thus required a substantial investment. Today, things have changed significantly. It was never cheaper to innovate or to start a business and the result is a rapid increase in the supply of capital. Corporations are pilling massive amounts of cash. Non-financial US companies alone had more than $1 trillion in cash on their balance sheets end of 2014.

The causality is simple: A lower demand for capital means higher supply, which causes lower returns.

And conveniently here an article that demonstrates this shift in less capital intensive manufacturing - as well as accelerating the shift to solar and other renewable energy sources.
New manufacturing approach slices lithium-ion battery cost in half
Reinventing how these batteries are made also improves their performance and recyclability.
An advanced manufacturing approach for lithium-ion batteries, developed by researchers at MIT and at a spinoff company called 24M, promises to significantly slash the cost of the most widely used type of rechargeable batteries while also improving their performance and making them easier to recycle.

“We’ve reinvented the process,” says Yet-Ming Chiang, the Kyocera Professor of Ceramics at MIT and a co-founder of 24M (and previously a co-founder of battery company A123). The existing process for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries, he says, has hardly changed in the two decades since the technology was invented, and is inefficient, with more steps and components than are really needed.

The new process is based on a concept developed five years ago by Chiang and colleagues including W. Craig Carter, the POSCO Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. In this so-called “flow battery,” the electrodes are suspensions of tiny particles carried by a liquid and pumped through various compartments of the battery.

The new battery design is a hybrid between flow batteries and conventional solid ones: In this version, while the electrode material does not flow, it is composed of a similar semisolid, colloidal suspension of particles. Chiang and Carter refer to this as a “semisolid battery.”

Another advantage of this approach, Chiang says, is that factories using the method can be scaled up by simply adding identical units. With traditional lithium-ion production, plants must be built at large scale from the beginning in order to keep down unit costs, so they require much larger initial capital expenditures. By 2020, Chiang estimates that 24M will be able to produce batteries for less than $100 per kilowatt-hour of capacity.

The speed of Solar energy! Now where will it have travelled by 2025?
Cheapest Solar Ever: Austin Energy Gets 1.2 Gigawatts of Solar Bids for Less Than 4 Cents
“We expect to see prices out in the future that are possibly below $20 a megawatt-hour.” Stephen Lacey
A lot more cheap solar is coming for Austin, Texas.
The city's utility, Austin Energy, just released new data on developer bids for PV projects as part of a 600-megawatt procurement. The numbers show how far solar prices have come down over the last year -- and will continue to drop.

According to Khalil Shalabi, Austin Energy's vice president of resource planning, the utility received offers for 7,976 megawatts of projects after issuing a request for bids in April. Out of those bids, 1,295 megawatts of projects were priced below 4 cents per kilowatt-hour.

"The technology is getting better and the prices are decreasing with time," said Shalabi during a presentation in front of the Austin city council last week.
Shalabi displayed the chart below showing an "exponentially declining curve" for PV projects in Texas.

"If you continue the curve, you can see that if the cost points continue along this sort of exponentially declining curve. We expect to see prices out in the future that are possibly below $20 a megawatt-hour," he said.

Here’s an interesting article about the decentralized nature of ant exploration.
Decoding the Remarkable Algorithms of Ants
The biologist Deborah Gordon has uncovered how ant colonies search efficiently without central organization, an insight that might improve computer networks.
Ants are capable of remarkable feats of coordination. They can forge complex paths through the jungle, build sophisticated structures, and adapt foraging patterns to fit their environment, all without orders from a centralized source. Deborah Gordon, a biologist at Stanford University, hopes to uncover the simple rules that produce complex patterns from simple individual actions.

Ants in particular excel at collective search, automatically tailoring their search strategy to efficiently cover large areas of ground. Gordon has found parallels between the algorithms ant colonies use for foraging and the man-made ones that underlie the Internet. Given how long ants have been solving these kinds of problems, Gordon hopes that she will uncover new algorithms that will ultimately make large-scale computing networks cheaper and more efficient.

Quanta met with Gordon at a social insects conference in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., shortly before she left for a trip to Mexico to study routing algorithms in arboreal ants.

Here’s a interesting project related to this researcher’s interest - A citizen science project - for adults and children.
Help discover how ants search
Join a citizen science project to investigate how ants work together, without a plan, to explore new areas.
Do a simple, easy experiment with inexpensive materials. The same experiment was done in microgravity on the International Space Station.

The goal is to discover some of the collective search strategies that more than 14000 species of ants have evolved in diverse environments - everything but microgravity - on Earth.

This short animation explains the problem of collective search and why discovering new ant algorithms will be of great interest in robotics.

This is an article about an App that some may find useful.
Alibi App Lets Smartphones Record Video, Audio, Location 24/7
It could be an argument with a friend over what was said, an uncomfortable interaction with a co-worker or a routine police stop that turns sour. These are the kinds of situations that leave people wishing they could hit rewind on their lives and re-watch the situation to prove they were in the right.

A new smartphone app could be that reliable witness. Alibi works in the background to record audio, video and location 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to document what really happened when there are conflicting accounts.

"So many of us — you know, even myself — are constantly in situations where we wish we had been recording and didn't have the wherewithal to pull out our phone or ... a recording device at the time," said the app's co-founder, Ryan Saleh, in an upcoming interview with Nora Young on CBC Radio's Spark.

"The point of Alibi is to kind of make that a thing of the past, so that you're always recording."

This is a great article looking at the future of the brain implant as not only a brain enhancement but as a way to link our minds with the digital environment. This is well-worth the read.
Update on the leading edge of brain implant research and Kurzweils predictions for brain implants in twenty years
Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, says that in the 2030s we will have brain implants that will help us connect to the cloud, allowing us to pull information from the internet. Information will also be able to sent up over those networks, letting us back up our own brains.

As the cloud that our brains access improves, our thinking would get better and better, Kurzweil said. So while initially we would be a “hybrid of biological and non-biological thinking”, as we moved into the 2040s, most of our thinking will be non-biological.
Kurweil is describing particular kinds of brain prosthetics. There is substantial work going on with electronics that communicates with the brain.

Artificial hippocampus used for communicating memories to the brain of rats and monkeys, human trials soon
Theodore Berger and his colleagues at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles have developed a working hippocampal prosthesis that passed the live tissue test in 2004. In 2011, in collaboration with Drs. Sam A. Deadwyler and Robert E. Hampson at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, a proof-of-concept hippocampal prosthesis was successfully tested in live rats. The prosthesis is in the form of multisite electrodes positioned to record from both the input and output "sides" of the damaged hippocampus, the input is gathered and analyzed by external computation chips, an appropriate feedback is computed, then used to stimulate the appropriate output pattern in the brain so that the prosthesis functions like a real hippocampus. In 2012, the team of Berger, Deadwyler and Hampson tested a further implementation in Macaques prefrontal cortex, further developing the neural prosthesis technology. In 2013, Hampson et al. successfully tested a hippocampal prosthesis on non-human primates. While the device does not yet consist of a fully implantable "chip," these tests, from rat to monkey, demonstrate the effectiveness of the device as a neural prosthetic, and the labs plan to begin human trials in a few years…..

This is a great 23 min video on the mind from a co-author of a soon to be released book with Simon Baron-Cohen - on the theory of mind.
Rebecca Saxe: The Brain vs. The Mind
Monkey see - Monkey do
Cognitive neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe tells Piya Chattopadhyay what the difference is between the brain and the mind, and why this matters in our understanding of human nature.

New materials - new interfaces and new computational capacity - thus Moore will continue differently.
The Computer Chip That Never Forgets
Melding spin-based logic and memory could lead to low-power, instant-on electronics
...shortcomings have led memory researchers to consider alternative, nonvolatile memories that use spin. Spin is a basic quantum-mechanical property of subatomic particles, such as electrons. In magnetic materials such as iron, cobalt, and nickel, it is the spins of the electrons that give those metals their overall magnetic properties—that is, their north and south poles. A particle’s spin is closely related to intrinsic angular momentum, which is the property that causes the particle to interact in particular ways with magnetic fields. But despite its name, spin does not have anything to do with actual physical rotation. Yes, the concept of spin is pretty abstruse, but for our purposes here you really need to know just two things. One is that spin has a direction; in other words, if a particle has spin, then that spin points somewhere. The other important concept is that in a material that has been magnetized, most of the individual electrons have spins that point in the same direction. That is what gives the material its magnetization.

Ordinary hard disk drives are, in fact, a form of spin-based memory. On the disk, each bit of data is stored as a microscopic patch of magnetic material, where all of the electrons have the same spin direction. To select a bit to read or write, the disk physically rotates underneath a read/write head, which also moves. To change a bit from a 1 to a 0, the head reverses the polarity of the magnetic material in the tiny patch, so that the spins in it point in the opposite direction.

The term “spintronic memory” refers to a specific kind of memory, also called magnetic RAM, of which there are several variants. These memories have no moving parts. The basic memory element in MRAM is a magnetic tunnel junction, a nanoscale sandwich of two magnetic layers separated by a thin insulating dielectric barrier. (In practice, several other layers are added to boost performance and provide contacts to the outside world.)

In the junction, one of the magnetic layers is pinned, which means the direction of its magnetization is fixed to serve as a reference. The other magnetic layer, which is referred to as the free layer, is where information is stored. The free layer’s magnetization can be switched so that it’s either oriented in the same direction as the pinned layer or 180 degrees in the other direction. The orientation of this free layer affects how readily current can quantum mechanically “tunnel” across the device, through the insulating barrier. So the value of the resistance of the device indicates the orientation of the free-layer magnetization, and thus whether the bit is 0 or 1.

Overall, the space needed for the wiring and other components makes spintronic memories less dense than hard disk drives. But they’re also much faster, less energy hungry, and more reliable because there is no mechanical motion involved.

3D printing continues its progress - here are two short articles on some advances.
Micron 3DP announces breakthrough in 3D printing glass materials
Although we’ve seen quite the gamut of 3D printing material options over the past few years, many of those materials have been focused on improving upon existing materials to make them more reliable or to suit a specific purpose such as making tools for space exploration or for reusing e-waste.

But what about developments in entirely new materials for 3D printed to increase our arsenal of material options when it comes to creating custom physical objects?

Thanks to recent developments by Micron3DP, we’ll soon be able to 3D print structures out of glass using fused deposition modeling methods.   

The company has spent months developing advanced glass 3D printing methods in their R&D department and have found a solution by printing the glass in liquid form.  While many attempts have been made by other individuals and companies to 3D print glass, this is the first time that it has been printed in liquid hot form using a hot extruder.  

As for what the technology could be used for, the applications are seemingly boundless.  Although there haven’t been any cost estimates released yet, it could prove to be a much more economical method of automated glassware production compared to glassblowers - similar to how ceramic based 3D printers can theoretically take over the job of creating bowls.

Realizing Futuristic 3D Printing Technology
Capable of producing ultra-fine 3D patterns, thinner than a red blood cell
3D printing technology has recently attracted significant media attention. However, there seems to be a multitude of problems with current 3D printers, as they have failed to deliver on its promise to revolutionize manufacturing due to the higher costs, long print times, as well as low resolution.

On June 15, a team of researchers at UNIST has announced that they may have developed a high-resolution 3D printing technology that is capable of producing flexible, bendable, or curved electronic circuits on a flexible substrate, , ranging from low conductivity plastics to high conductivity metal materials.

According to the team, led by Prof. Jang-Ung Park (School of Materials Science and Engineering) at UNIST, this method is capable of producing affordable high-resolution 3D patterns at room temperature. Moreover, these printed 3D patterns are as small as 0.001 millimeter in size, which is even thinner than a red blood cell.

The research team expects that this 3D e-jet method will offer a promising strategy as an additive process to be combined with conventional fabrication techniques for highly integrated devices, and indicates substantial promise for use in next-generation electronics.

This next article is about assemblage advances that are even smaller.
Sweeping Lasers Snap Together Nanoscale Geometric Grids
New technique developed by Brookhaven Lab scientists rapidly creates multi-layered, self-assembled grids with fully customizable shapes and compositions
Down at the nanoscale, where objects span just billionths of a meter, the size and shape of a material can often have surprising and powerful electronic and optical effects. Building larger materials that retain subtle nanoscale features is an ongoing challenge that shapes countless emerging technologies.

Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed a new technique to rapidly create nano-structured grids for functional materials with unprecedented versatility.

"We can fabricate multi-layer grids composed of different materials in virtually any geometric configuration," said study coauthor and Brookhaven Lab scientist Kevin Yager. "By quickly and independently controlling the nanoscale structure and the composition, we can tailor the performance of these materials. Crucially, the process can be easily adapted for large-scale applications."

The results—published online June 23 in the journal Nature Communications—could transform the manufacture of high-tech coatings for anti-reflective surfaces, improved solar cells, and touchscreen electronics.

Taking manufacturing approaches toward the domestication of DNA here’s another recent moment of progress.
Microfluidic Device Mixes And Matches DNA For Synthetic Biology
Synthetic Biology: Device assembles rings of DNA and plugs them into cells
Building microbes that could act as factories for making fuels or pharmaceuticals requires incorporating novel DNA sequences into the cells. But assembling all of the genetic pieces needed to engineer these new microbial strains can be slow. In a step toward speeding up this process, researchers developed a microfluidic device that quickly builds packages of DNA and delivers them into bacteria or yeast for further testing (ACS Synth. Biol. 2015, DOI:10.1021/acssynbio.5b00062).

Building a novel organism can take a lot of trial and error, says Steve C. C. Shih, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Anup K. Singh at Sandia National Laboratories, in Livermore, Calif. First, scientists must identify a gene that could give an organism a desired function. They must then put the gene into a ring of DNA called a plasmid that carries it into the cell and facilitates gene expression. Finally, they test the new microbe for the desired traits. This process often doesn’t work the first time, so researchers have to go through this cycle many times, Shih says. One bottleneck is building plasmids, which requires substantial time in the lab.

To speed the production of synthetic organisms, Shih and his colleagues developed a droplet-based microfluidic device that automates plasmid construction and delivery to cells. The device contains interconnecting pathways made from electrode “bricks.” To move a droplet of liquid along these pathways, Shih controls the electrodes, flipping the switch on one brick to create an electrostatic force that pulls a droplet along the pathway toward the next. Brick by brick, the researchers can move a droplet, or series of droplets, through the device’s electrode pathways, assembling plasmids by drawing from different pools of DNA pieces, mixing them, incubating them, and then transfecting them into cells.

And here is an amazing breakthrough. There’s a great 6 min video demonstrating the device as well.
Smartphone-Sized Genetic Sequencer Transcribes Entire Bacterial Genome
Scientists first transcribed the genome—or complete genetic code—of a free living organism in 1995. Sequencing the bacterium H. Influenzae took a little over a year, cost about $1 million, and required a (then) significant amount of computing power. In 1997, Escherichia coli (E. coli) similarly surrendered its genetic secrets.

Less than two decades on, the entire genome of E. coli has again been sequenced. This time, however, researchers used a handheld machine the size of a smartphone. Oxford Nanopore’s MinION genetic sequencer plugs into a laptop by USB and taps cloud computers for the heavy lifting.

The study, led by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research’s Dr. Jared Simpson and recently published in the journal Nature Methods, shows just how much can be done with the tiny device, and the researchers believe more complex reads are possible. How does it work?

The MinION device’s nanopore technology embeds special proteins in an electrically resistant membrane. DNA molecules are drawn through these protein “gates” and, as they flow through, they disrupt an electric field. Sensors record each molecule’s unique electrical fingerprint and send it on to the central computer for identification.

In recent years, the price of human genome sequencing has fallen dramatically—going from hundreds of millions over a decade ago to $1,000 per genome last year. But the machines doing the work are still expensive, large, and confined to laboratories.
MinION is small, of course, but also relatively affordable. Oxford Nanopore expects to offer each device for a retail price of less than $900.

Manufacturing building materials tends to require large energy consumptions. Here’s a potential solution for some of these materials. There’s a 2 min video as well.
MIT Students Create A Brick That Could End Pollution From Dirty Brick Kilns
We use a lot of bricks. Making them, though, is pretty bad. The Eco BLAC brick is made with waste ash and requires no firing at all.
India's brick industry, spread out over 100,000 kilns and producing up to 2 billion bricks a year, is a big source of pollution. To fire to hot temperatures, the kilns use huge amounts of coal and diesel, and the residue is horrendous: thick particulate matter, poor working conditions, and lots of climate-changing emissions.

MIT students have created an alternative. The Eco BLAC brick requires no firing at all and makes use of waste boiler ash that otherwise clogs up landfills.

"Clay bricks are fired to 1,000 degrees Celsius," says Michael Laracy, a graduate student who's worked on the project. "They consume a tremendous amount of energy from coal and there's also the issue that these bricks are made completely of topsoil, so they're depleting the amount of farmable land [the Indians] have."

The Eco BLAC brick is 70% boiler ash from paper mills mixed with sodium hydroxide, lime, and a small amount of clay. It cures at ambient temperature, relying on "alkali-activation technology" to give it strength. It was developed in by MIT’s Tata Center for Technology and Design and is part of a bigger project to develop low-cost, low-emission housing for India's inner city slums.

Sort of for Fun
Anger in Moscow as Russian village prints own currency
Locals warned to abandon 'Kolion,' which is used to trade goods and labour, because it 'threatens Russia's economy'.
Shlyapnikov told Al Jazeera's Rory Challands that "people have always exchanged things among each other".

"We haven't created this process, we just made it digital. In Russia, for any type of village work you used to give a bottle of vodka and it was stable currency," he says.
"So we are doing the same thing - though we don't use vodka. We printed these pieces of paper."

Mikheil and more than a 100 friends use the paper for loans, and to trade goods and labour with each other. It means their real money can be saved for more ambitious things, like building a village bathhouse.

Another advantage from the Kolion is that it has proven to be resilient to the storms buffeting Russia's official currency, the rouble.
When your purchasing power is pegged to the potato, it does not much matter what is happening in the money markets.

This is a 1 min video of how computers visualize a face - worth the view - especially for anyone interested in fractals.
Journey through the layers of the mind
A visualization of what's happening inside the mind of an artificial neural network.
By recognizing forms in these images, your mind is already reflecting what's going on in the software, projecting its own bias on to what it sees. You think you are seeing things, perhaps puppies, slugs, birds, reptiles etc. If you look carefully, that's not what's in there. But those are the closest things your mind can match to what it's seeing. Your mind is struggling to put together images based on what you know. And that's exactly what's happening in the software. And you've been training your mind for years, probably decades. These neural networks are usually trained for a few hours, days or weeks.

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