Archive for the ‘Nanotechnology’ Category

Intelligence, Artificially Created   Leave a comment


Credit:  Brain Art Posted on Flickr

If only.

If only there had been a substitute pilot, perhaps one of artificial origin, perhaps the passengers flying that day on Germanwings might’ve experienced an eventless flight.

If only artificial intelligence was just like those robots in those movies, they’d come to the rescue.

Which of the above sentences are true?

Well, in theory, all of them.

Presently, the airline industry is investing in planes operated by either robots or remote operators.  Not exactly drones, these alternatives to flesh-and-blood pilots are being designed to work alongside a pilot or, in some instances, instead of one.  As it is, the technology is already present in F-16 fighter jets and is credited with saving the life of an American pilot during a battle with Islamic State forces.  Airbus uses software that guides the pilots and only seven minutes of the pilot’s time is required to manually fly the plane.  Had there been either software or some sort of AI present in the cabin of the ill-fated Germanwings plane, perhaps things might have turned out differently.

But is this an example of AI?  Not in the purest sense, but it’s a step in the right direction.  Software is making decisions to operate a plane in a specific manner – keeping it aloft – and as such, is preventing tragedy.

With this weekend’s premiere of Ex Machinaa new kind of more complex, believable robot makes its premiere.  True, it’s more about the character of the Ava, the new artificial life form.  But then again, Steven Spielberg already explored such a concept with his 2001 film, A.I. Artificial Intelligence.  Or, why not consider I, Robot – either the film or the masterful Issac Asimov short-story series upon which it’s based?  Heck, right now I’m reading his Caves of Steel and it tells the story of a humanlike robot passing for a detective.

One can correctly argue that true artificial intelligence is the result of a manufactured being (i.e. robot/android) thinking and feeling and dreaming and wishing, like Bicentennial Man.  And yes, Robin Williams’ character Andrew did, in fact, evolve to close as human as one can get, but he had the benefit of multiple upgrade surgeries to accomplish his goal.  But someone had to put that notion in that circuited brain first, right?  So instead of God, man becomes His substitute and creates an artificial version of what He rendered.

Now, here’s something to consider: if artificial intelligence is dependent upon its creator, then will the created be only as smart as the person who coded it?  What exactly is embedded in that code to get that ‘bot a-thinkin’? Will it reflect the coder’s own limited pool of experiences, or will the code be such that it takes on a life of its own via nano-sperm and ovaries, replicating its own Matrix-y ilk?

Ponder that one and see what your brain comes up with – artificial or not.

Faster, Stronger, Better – Now!   Leave a comment


Credit: Nanotech Magazine, December 2 2014 issue

How can one humble carbon atom change the world?  This mighty element, the giver of life of all that inhabits the universe, never ceases to wonder those who study it, apply it and make good use of its properties.  It’s responsible for planets, stars, people, steel, lighting, pencils – if there’s something to use, then it’s a safe bet carbon might have had a hand in it.

But you don’t need a whole truckload of the stuff to create something wonderful.  All you need is the tiniest of dabs, smaller than a dot.  Graphene, a carbon-based material only one atom in thickness and arranged in a honeycomb lattice, is what Superman is to humans – nearly indestructible.  Yet, in its simplest of forms, it’s not visible.  Stack it, however, and you have a mighty material even the most powerful of action heroes would have a tough time dismantling.

Haydale, a Welsh firm that specializes in the use of graphene, entered the limitless future of working with this one-atom thick miracle of carbon.  One of their projects is partnering with four other European firms to create biosensors for use in the medical field.  These biosensors will be used to detect the presence of pesticides, airborne pathogens, drug residues and more.

Graphene isn’t new news to the nanotech world.  Neither are metamaterials.

Metamaterials are constructed with subcomponents that are smaller than the wavelength of the radiation they are designed to manipulate.  Additionally, they contain properties that bend light, radio, sound and seismic waves in ways that don’t naturally occur.  There’s also testing to see if their properties can enhance magnification, dampen earthquake tremors, block the sun from damaging skin, among other applications.

What’s trending, though, is the combination of the two tiny technologies to produce giant wonders.  Now, when the two are combined, near-miraculous innovations occur. Coatings that deflect lasers is one application. The imagination is limitless when it comes to others.

Imagine a sheet of paper electronically charged, composed entirely of graphene and metamaterials.  There’s something like that already in the works.  Cars become safer, MRIs, X-Rays, most medical equipment completely rethought and repurposed.  Even cloaking capabilities, a necessary requirement of every single mode of off-world transportation in science fiction can theoretically become fact.

Look at it this way: carbon is the giver of life, in all its useful purposes and applications.  It’s an immortal being, utterly without prejudice.  Give it a task, it’ll handle it with pride.

If only the other carbon construction – humans – were so flexible, imagine the kind of place our world would be today.



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