Fullerenes are Long-Lasting

I am fascinated by the possibility of using fullerenes to build eternal structures. If not eternal, extremely long-lasting. Fullerenes already exist today. See?

Above are aggregated diamond nanorods (ADNRs). The name “hyperdiamond” recently appeared to describe this material.

ADNRs, a type of fullerene (any molecule made entirely out of carbon), is the hardest and least compressible known material. Its bulk modulus, meaning resistance to compression, is 491 gigapascals (GPa), beating diamond which is only about 445 GPa. For comparison, the bulk modulus of steel is 160 GPa, glass is 30 GPa, and bone is just 15 GPa.

What else? This black stuff:

Look how dark it is. Something made out of that would be hard to see at night. Also, its melting point would be several thousand degrees.

The image above shows one of the longest nanotube forests ever created. The nanotubes are about 8 mm long.

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Josh Tenenbaum Video Again: Bayesian Models of Human Inductive Learning

I posted this only a month ago, but here’s the link to the video again. People sometimes say there’s been no progress in AI, but the kind of results obtained by Tenenbaum are amazing and open up a whole approach to AI that uses fast and frugal heuristics for reasoning and requires very minimal inspiration from the human brain.

Abstract:

In everyday learning and reasoning, people routinely draw successful generalizations from very limited evidence. Even young children can infer the meanings of words, hidden properties of objects, or the existence of causal relations from just one or a few relevant observations — far outstripping the capabilities of conventional learning machines. How do they do it? And how can we bring machines closer to these human-like learning abilities? I will argue that people’s everyday inductive leaps can be understood as approximations to Bayesian computations operating over structured representations of the world, what cognitive scientists have called “intuitive theories” or “schemas”. For each of several everyday learning tasks, I will consider how appropriate knowledge representations are structured …

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Josh Tenenbaum: Bayesian Models of Human Inductive Learning

Here’s the link. Abstract:

In everyday learning and reasoning, people routinely draw successful generalizations from very limited evidence. Even young children can infer the meanings of words, hidden properties of objects, or the existence of causal relations from just one or a few relevant observations — far outstripping the capabilities of conventional learning machines. How do they do it? And how can we bring machines closer to these human-like learning abilities? I will argue that people’s everyday inductive leaps can be understood as approximations to Bayesian computations operating over structured representations of the world, what cognitive scientists have called “intuitive theories” or “schemas”. For each of several everyday learning tasks, I will consider how appropriate knowledge representations are structured and used, and how these representations could themselves be learned via Bayesian methods. The key challenge is to balance the need for strongly constrained inductive biases — critical for generalization from very few examples — with the flexibility to learn about the structure of new domains, to learn new inductive biases suitable for environments which we could not have …

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2013 Solar Maximum Resources

2008 report from US National Academies of Sciences’ Space Studies Board:

Severe Space Weather Events — Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts: A Workshop Report

NASA Science News, June 4, 2010, “As the Sun Awakens, NASA Keeps a Wary Eye on Space Weather”

Richard Fisher, head of NASA’s Heliophysics Division, explains what it’s all about:

“The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity. At the same time, our technological society has developed an unprecedented sensitivity to solar storms. The intersection of these two issues is what we’re getting together to discuss.”

The National Academy of Sciences framed the problem two years ago in a landmark report entitled “Severe Space Weather Events—Societal and Economic Impacts.” It noted how people of the 21st-century rely on high-tech systems for the basics of daily life. Smart power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications can all be knocked out by intense solar activity. A century-class solar storm, the Academy warned, …

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Assorted Links 10/10/10

Anders Sandberg: What did you learn about the singularity today? BBC News — Smart specs unite world and data First-Ever Immersive Tech Summit to Convene in LA How to better understand and participate on Less Wrong Neurons cast votes to guide decision-making Salk Institute finds neural code used by the retina to relay color information to the brain Tiny generators turn waste heat into power Nanotechnology team reports the strongest organic nanomaterial ever developed Titanium foams replace injured bones Mapping the Brain on a Massive Scale Highly Flexible and All-Solid-State Paperlike Polymer Supercapacitors

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Repairing the Heart

From Eurekalert:

Gladstone scientists discover new method for regenerating heart muscle by direct reprogramming

Next-generation reprogramming of native cells offers therapeutic advantages

Scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (GICD) have found a new way to make beating heart cells from the body’s own cells that could help regenerate damaged hearts. Over 5 million Americans suffer from heart failure because the heart has virtually no ability to repair itself after a heart attack. Only 2,000 hearts become available for heart transplant annually in the United States, leaving limited therapeutic options for the remaining millions. In research published in the current issue of Cell, scientists in the laboratory of GICD director Deepak Srivastava, MD, directly reprogrammed structural cells called fibroblasts in the heart to become beating heart cells called cardiomyocytes. In doing so, they also found the first evidence that unrelated adult cells can be reprogrammed from one cell type to another without having to go all the way back to a stem cell state.

The researchers, led by Masaki Ieda, MD, PhD, started off with 14 genetic …

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New Book Examines the Flawed Human Body

From the Genetic Archaeology blog:

Humanity’s physical design flaws have long been apparent – we have a blind spot in our vision, for instance, and insufficient room for wisdom teeth – but do the imperfections extend to the genetic level?

In his new book, Inside the Human Genome, John Avise examines why – from the perspectives of biochemistry and molecular genetics – flaws exist in the biological world. He explores the many deficiencies of human DNA while recapping recent findings about the human genome.

Distinguished Professor of ecology & evolutionary biology at UC Irvine, Avise also makes the case that overwhelming scientific evidence of genomic defects provides a compelling counterargument to intelligent design.

Here, Avise discusses human imperfection, the importance of understanding our flaws, and why he believes theologians should embrace evolutionary science.

Our brains and bodies are both full of flaws. According to the pre-transhumanist worldview, the plan is just to sit around for the rest of eternity with these flaws, even as we colonize the Galaxy. According to the transhumanist worldview, the plan is to …

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Naked Mole Rats Return

Naked mole rats — is there anything they can’t do? A University of Illinois at Chicago press release reminds us that mole rats can withstand oxygen deprivation for up to 30 minutes, which may give us clues for protecting the brain from stroke.

Another recent brain-related news item concerned therapeutic hypothermia to minimize trauma to injured brain issue. It seems as if there is a wave of research in this direction.

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Praise Luna — “Significant” Water Found on Moon

Holy crap, the Moon has a ton of water. 25 gallons were kicked up by the probe that impacted it a month ago. This is huge, huge news, because everyone thought that the Moon was as dry as a bone. I see that various studies predicted this recently. A pessimistic article from Space.com from a month ago said “one ton of the top layer of the lunar surface would hold about 32 ounces of water”, but now it’s looking like a lot more.

Now all we need to do is ship nitrogen and other essential nutrients there in huge amounts using mass drivers, a nuclear cannon, or space elevator, put up a few aerogel-insulated domes, and start partyin’! (Well, maybe not exactly, but water does give us huge amounts of oxygen, which we need to breathe, and hydrogen, which can be used as fuel.) This article from LiveScience has more details.

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Robin Hanson on SETI in USA Today

Robin Hanson, economist and author of Overcoming Bias, recently appeared in USA Today talking about SETI. He appears as a counterpoint to Seth Shostak, a guy who I believe is totally out of it. Here’s the relevant section:

But researchers such as Robin Hanson of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., wonder whether the big picture really looks so promising when it comes to advanced life. Hanson supports SETI but finds it telling that humans haven’t come across anything yet. “It has been remarkable and somewhat discouraging,” Hanson says, “that the universe is so damn big and so damn dead.”

Great quote, love it. To quote Marshall T. Savage, author of that superlative masterpiece, The Millennial Project:

There is a program to actively search for signals from other civilizations in the galaxy: SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). This is a noble cause, but it seems slightly absurd. Scientists huddle around radio telescopes listening intently to one star at a time for the sound of dripping water, when what they are seeking would sound like …

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