5-minute Molecular Nanotech Intro

Mike Treder at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology reminds us that a 5-minute introduction to the concepts behind molecular manufacturing is available online, here’s how it begins:

“Molecular manufacturing refers to a revolutionary near-future manufacturing technology. Whereas today’s manufacturing uses large and imprecise machines, molecular manufacturing will use molecular machines to build engineered molecular products. The performance, value, and scope of this technology will be revolutionary and disruptive.

The root idea of molecular manufacturing is that molecule-scale fabricators can output their own mass of product in a few minutes. Built from precisely positioned and strongly bonded molecules, the products will be precise and strong. Computer control will enable a wide range of products, including more manufacturing systems. Doubling the number of fabricators every hour would scale a single fabricator into a kilogram-scale personal nanofactory (PN) in a few days. The fully automated PN would contain arrays of fabricators and equipment to join their output into large-scale, integrated, heterogeneous, complete products…”

Read the rest.

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Meetings on Thorium

Brian Wang forwarded this along: Thorium Power Co. is talking to India about their Thorium energy tech, they and DBI are involved in putting on a forum in Washington DC to inform the DC media and others about Thorium on Nov 30.

Clean Nuclear Energy: Thorium 2006

DBI, a California-based aerospace company involved in the research and development of thorium-fueled reactors, will host a forum on Thursday, November 30, from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on thorium as an abundant source of clean energy to meet the world’s growing energy needs.

The forum will address the role of thorium in three key areas: the environmental benefits of thorium; the safety and national security aspects of thorium; and the economic benefits and commercial applications of thorium. A detailed agenda and list of speakers can be found below.

WHO: DBI, a California-based company established in 1965 and involved in the research and development of thorium-fueled reactors joined by Thorium Power, Ltd., of Virginia

WHAT: Forum on thorium as an …

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Solar/Kinetic Weapons in the News

From IOL Technology in NZ:

Reports in the US suggest that ideas either on the drawing board, or else already in development, include killer satellites that could destroy an enemy’s satellites, a Common Aero Vehicle (CAV) that could swoop with hypersonic speed up to 3000 miles to attack a target, Hyper-Velocity Rod Bundles which would fire tungsten bars weighing 100kg from a permanently orbiting platform – and even a space-based laser that uses mirrors to direct the sun’s rays against ground targets.

I talked about rods earlier… also, I’m starting to get worried about trends in the direction of solar weapons, i.e., weapons that use the sun’s power to incinerate things. These have a lot of potential, and are potentially much stronger than nuclear weapons. It’s one of three superweapons that should be banned forever – nuclear (ICBMs), solar (beams), and kinetic weapons (meteors), with ascending severity. Following is a (rough) excerpt from a work in progress that reviews twelve major existential threats in detail, “Catastrophic Technological Risk”:

Solar weapons are a serious concern because there is both the tendency …

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Reversible Molecular Computing

Found on John Baez’s weekly finds in mathematical physics:

K. Eric Drexler writes:

Dear John,

John Baez wrote:

> [...] with a perfectly tuned dynamics, an analogue system > can act perfectly digital, since each macrostate gets > mapped perfectly into another one with each click of > the clock. But with imperfect dynamics, dissipation > is needed to squeeze each macrostate down enough so it > can get mapped into the next – and the dissipation > makes the dynamics irreversible, so we have to pay a > thermodynamic cost.

Logically reversible computation can, in fact, be kept on track without expending energy and without accurately tuned dynamics. A logically reversible computation can be embodied in a constraint system resembling a puzzle with sliding, interlocking pieces, in which all configurations accessible from a given input state correspond to admissible states of the computation along an oriented path to the output configuration. The computation is kept on track by the contact forces that constrain the motion of the sliding pieces. The computational state is then like a ball …

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Fact or Fiction?

Seen earlier this month on an obscure message board:

Ten months from now, on September 11, 2007, a thermonuclear device will be detonated over Ground Zero, the memorial ground of the 911 event. The bomb will be detonated by mobile phone, at the end of the 911 memorial service. It will have a yield of approximately 5 kilotons. Within 24 hours, a mutated strain of the ebola virus developed by the former Soviet Union as a biological weapon will be dumped into the water supply. The combination of nuclear fallout and the virus is expected to cripple all emergency response systems in place, killing at least 500,000.

The nuclear device, a relic from the former Soviet Union, is currently in Jordan. It is expected to be transported to the US inside a shipping container sometime in the next three months. A sample of the biological weapon has already been smuggled inside the US and is currently being cultured to produce the massive required quantities.

Better deploy that new radiation detection technology for our ports, fast!

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Prediction: Artificial Skyfish by 2025

In cryptozoology, a skyfish, or “rod”, is a supposed atmospheric entity that travels too fast to be seen by the unaided eye. A relatively new addition to the cryptozoological laundry list, rods were ‘discovered’ in the early 1990s but debunked by 2003 at the latest. It turns out that they are just videographic artifacts, produced by the motion blur of a conventional insect being filmed at 60 fps.

How fast does something need to travel to move too fast to be seen? Of course this depends on its size and distance. According to this analysis of human vision, Air Force pilots were able to identify an image of a plane flashed in front of them for only 1/250th of a second. This is around the limits of human vision. If the flash were only for 1/500th of a second, it is nearly certain that they wouldn’t even notice it.

Imagine a rod that moves 500 times its own length in a second. Even using a super-expensive 500 fps video camera, the skyfish wouldn’t show up …

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NewScientist: “Brilliant Minds Forecast the Next 50 Years”

Most of the respondents only discussed advances they hope will happen in their own scientific field.

But wait, you can’t talk about the future, because it hasn’t happened yet, right? Looking any further than five years into the future must mean you are childish, and have your head in the clouds.

Well, the point of this section in New Scientist is to say that this attitude is wrong, and that futurism deserves a place in scientific discourse. We make predictions and continuously refine them according to new evidence. For example, the possibility of wireless energy transfer changes the picture for the next 20 or so years, and beyond. There’s nothing wrong with futurism, and many futurist predictions of the past have borne out – though more have failed than succeeded.

Remember, Singularitarians such as myself forsee a prediction horizon in the future – a horizon caused by the arrival of superintelligence. One respondent, Steven Pinker, unsurprisingly, brought up his uncertainty about the future in his response:

I absolutely refuse even to pretend to guess about how …

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Hank Conn on the Singularity Issue

From an ImmInst thread:

(1) Matter, from atoms, to molecules, to molecular components, to cells, to trees, to animals, humans and the human brain (i.e. hardware), when combined with other matter in specific ways, from the strong force within an atom, to atomic and molecular bonding, chemical signaling within an organism, or electrical signaling in the human brain (i.e. software), produces changes to the environment around it (i.e. executes an algorithm).

(2) The algorithm that the human brain and body execute is the algorithm of the human mind. The human mind that you know of as yourself is exactly one instance of one particular implementation in hardware and software out of the infinitely large set of all possible implementations of one specific algorithm out of the infinitely large set of all possible goal-seeking, domain independent, common sense, generally intelligent algorithms (i.e. mind designs- not all mind designs have a psychology anything like that of humans- see this for a more in-depth explanation). This specific algorithm and implementation have been evolved through many generations of natural selection …

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Tech Items

The world’s largest mobile machine is 300 meters long and weighs 45,500 tons. It is used for pit mining.

Kalpana One is a superior space colony design. It avoids all the shortcomings of past designs, while maximing the ratio of habitable area to hull mass. It is a cylinder and receives natural lighting 24/7 through its endcaps.

We are using gene doping to create supermice in a new way. This same technology can be used to enhance brain size and neuron density in humans.

Soon we will be able to tell exactly how we differed from Neanderthals.

A breakthrough in the theory underlying self-healing robots.

The wireless energy transfer everybody’s been talking about.

Launch rings may one day be used to send raw materials up into space.

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Questioning the Origin of Priors

This evening I read a recent paper by Robin Hanson, entitled Uncommon Priors Require Origin Disputes. It is quite fascinating and has far-reaching implications for everyday reasoning, in addition to artificial intelligence and decision theory. The paper is only six pages, so you might as well go take a look if the topic interests you.

A prior probability is the likelihood that some event will happen, some condition will be met, or that some belief is true. Priors are always subjective, just like everything else, but are often commonly accepted knowledge. For example, according to Wikipedia, there are about 1,000 winners of the California State Lottery every year, out of a total California population of approximately 33 million. So the prior probability of a California state resident winning the lottery in an average year, ignoring any other information, is about .003%.

But not every prior is common knowledge. For scenarios where the prior is not so clear-cut, such as in complex political, economic, and social situations, priors may differ between individuals. For example, what is the …

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