Mar 252008

Ever since I first read I, Robot by Isaac Asimov I have been interested in robotics and AI. Back in 1996 or so I had no idea that simulation of a brain might be possible in my lifetime. John Lehrer with Seed Magazine has written a very interesting article, “Out of the Blue“, which covers the Blue Brain project led by Henry Markram. One of the biggest challenges was determining how exactly a neuron is supposed to behave. Without that information, it would be impossible to simulate it. One of the freaky things about this project is that they have a robot conducting experiments and recording data 24/7. This robot is more efficient than 10 experienced lab technicians combined. I would assume that this robot only has enough programming to complete these experiments, but what if robots become sentient? What would keep them from creating other more capable robots? The current project aims to first simulate the brain of a 2 week old rat, which would then be transferred to a robot body to see how it develops.

With the current progression of technology, Markram suggests, “In ten years, this computer will be talking to us.” That seem a bit crazy, but who would have thought 10 years ago that there would technology capable of simulating 10,000 neurons and 30 million synaptic connections? That currently only represents a small slice of a 2 week old rat brain, but given how fast computing power is growing, I can’t see why Markram’s prediction would be impossible. If not 10 years from now, why not 20, or 30? I think that it is just a matter of time. I highly recommend reading the full article, especially if you have any interest in robotics or AI.

Mar 192008

Arthur C. Clarke died early this morning after a long battle with post-polio syndrome. The New York Times has an interesting summary of his life and major accomplishments. I’m ashamed to say that I still haven’t read 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it is on my ever expanding reading list. Hopefully I can review it some time in the near future. Clark is well known for his laws of prediction, which are as follows:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Mar 192008

It looks like Hollywood just can’t get enough of Dune. I’m midway through my reading the novels written by Frank Herbert (currently on God Emperor of Dune), have seen the 1984 movie and Sci-Fi Channel Miniseries. I’m about to watch the Children of Dune Sci-Fi Miniseries and just ran across this bit of news about a new Dune movie.

Found via Variety, actor turned director Peter Berg is set to direct the next adaptation which doesn’t appear to have any type of ETA. Hopefully they will get good script writers that can be faithful to the book. Although the Sci-Fi Channel remake was more true to the book than the 1984, the special effects were pretty bad due to a low budget. Most of the backgrounds were simply matte paintings. I’d like to see a new movie that looks great and is also true to Frank Herbert’s vision.

Mar 182008

Frank Herbert caps off his Dune Trilogy with Children of Dune. Paul “Muad’Dib” Atreides embraced his fate as a blind Fremen by walking into the desert approximately 9 years ago. His sister Alia oversees the religion of Muad’dib, and seems to be enjoying the power that comes with it as the de facto leader of the Empire. Paul’s twin children Leto II and Ghanima are being protected by Stilgar at Sietch Tabr. The main concern, which is well justified, is the fear that the Atreides twins will be assassinated. Continue reading »

Mar 012008

I first saw the trailer online for Jumper a few months ago. Since then many different ones have been released, most making the movie look better than it turned out to be. Don’t get me wrong though, the movie was pretty good for a Sci-Fi action movie. First off, I didn’t realize that Hayden Christenson was playing the main character, David Rice. I guess he has done a few movies since he was Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith, but I never heard of any of them.
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