Category Archives: Technology and Society

Attack Of The Flying Robots

It’s actually a potentially serious problem:

The technology for remote-controlled light aircraft is now highly advanced, widely available — and, experts say, virtually unstoppable.

Models with a wingspan of five metres (16 feet), capable of carrying up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds), remain undetectable by radar.

And thanks to satellite positioning systems, they can now be programmed to hit targets some distance away with just a few metres (yards) short of pinpoint accuracy.

Security services the world over have been considering the problem for several years, but no one has yet come up with a solution.

Sounds like a job for the hive mind of the blogosphere.

Word To The Wise

Hosting Matters probably thought that it was a coup to host Instapundit, and it was, in the sense that they’ve gotten a lot of other high-profile bloggers as well. But there’s a down side. It’s not clear whether or not this DOS attack is an attack on so-called “right-wing” bloggers, but right now, I’m glad that I don’t share a pipe with him, and the others. It should be noted that, even if the attacks appear to be originating from Saudi Arabia, this doesn’t meant that the Saudis are doing it. There’s a reasonable chance that it’s being done by zombie machines directed from elsewhere (perhaps as an attempt to frame the Saudis for it, or just because they may have more unprotected machines).

When one sees the long list of quality blogs that were brought down due to this, it makes one think that there should be some diversification in hosting services, to eliminate this potential single-point failure for a significant part of the blogosphere.

Death Is Dying

This seems like good news:

This decline in death rates was so big it offset the increase in population, so the number of total deaths actually dropped by about 50,000 to 2,398,343 in 2004 from 2,448,288 recorded for 2003. Declines are rare — the last one was in 1997 — and this one was huge — the biggest decline in 6 decades.

Creeping Technology

You thought the Mini was a small car? Behold, the nanocar. Sounds a little too small for me, but it should get great mileage:

The nano-car’s molecular motor contains a pair of bonded carbon molecules that rotate in one direction if illuminated by a specific wavelength of light. After fixing the molecular engine to the car’s chassis and shining a light on it, Tour’s team confirmed that the engine was running by using nuclear magnetic resonance to monitor the position of the hydrogen atoms within it…

…Tour estimates that the car could travel two nanometres per minute but says his team has yet to find a way to watch their molecular automobile in action. “We think the car would drive along, but we wouldn’t be able to see it and I don’t think people would believe us,” he says.

You don’t say…

Even if they can get them working, I’ll bet they still can’t find a parking space in Manhattan.

Tissue Engineering

I remember reading about this technique, using inkjet technology for constructing artificial organs, a few years ago. It’s starting to pay off:

Cells seem to survive the printing process well. When layers of chicken heart cells were printed they quickly begin behaving as they would in a real organ. “After 19 hours or so, the whole structure starts to beat in a synchronous manner,” says Forgacs.

The future may be here sooner than we think. And it makes things like Larry Niven’s concern about people harvesting corpsickles for body parts seem pretty silly.

Anti-Viral Breakthrough?

This could have huge implications for almost any viral-borne disease (including avian flu):

Aethlon Medical, a small San Diego biotech company, is developing a portable de-vice that removes viruses from blood. Known as the Hemopurifier, it filters not only smallpox but numerous other viruses, including Marburg and Ebola.

The Hemopurifier resembles a shrunken dialysis cartridge, the rolling-pin-size de-vice that purifies the blood of patients whose kidneys have failed. Both use a filter to remove toxins from blood. But unlike traditional dialysis, the Hemo-purifier also includes plant-derived antibodies, such as cyanovirin, that bind to a variety of viruses and eliminates them from the bloodstream. The plant solution can be modified to weed out even genetically engineered germs.

Growing New Organs

in the lab:

They took a bladder biopsy from each patient and isolated muscle cells and special bladder cells called urothelial cells, which they grew in the lab.

The cells were then placed onto a specially designed bladder-shaped scaffold and left to grow for seven to eight weeks.

The researchers surgically attached the engineered bladder to the patient’s own bladder and followed progress for up to five years.

They’re working on hearts as well. This sort of thing seems inevitable to me, and it’s exciting that it seems to be coming along very quickly, because I (curiously, like everyone I know) am not getting any younger.