Monday, November 28, 2005

Blog editorial note

I have been running this blog on and off for a while now and have come to the inevitable conclusion that this blog needed better focus. The blog was already evolving into one focused almost exclusively on science and technology and that is what it will be henceforth. Any political discussion will be restricted to science and technology aspects.

One area that I hope to blog more about is the business of technology since that is what I do for a living.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Futurists

I found this interview with a "futurist" and it got me thinking about something that has been rankling me for a while. What are the criteria that define a futurist? Shouldn't every scientist working on problems that might have an impact 10-15 years down the road be called one? Or is it someone who talks about how our life is going to change? Most of the futurists I have run into are neo-Luddites (Bill Joy's classic wired article comes to mind), or AI evangelists like Ray Kurzweil. I have great respect for both Joy and Kurzweil, but I do think that while it is wonderful to have thinkers looking far into the future, I wonder if there is a disconnect from reality. In a way, I think some of the conclusions that futurists come to are in a way quite simplistic, while the underlying assumptions are often very complex.

Further reading:
  • Law of accelerating returns
  • What is the Singularity?

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  • Krauss and String Theory

    String theory as a science is something I have not spent much time trying to understand. I am still a firm believer in the capabilities of Newtonian mechanics and quantum mechanics, but this article in Slate about Krauss' latest book makes an interesting read. Do you believe in String Theory? I am going to safely sit on the fence till I actually understand the concept properly. That said count me as a cautious skeptic. It's difficult to dismiss something that could be an answer to "every question", but my experience with string theorists makes it very hard not to be a skeptic. Someday I will actually sit down with a book and try and understand it properly.

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    Wednesday, November 23, 2005

    RNAi

    I heard about RNAi for the first time about 4 years ago and didn't quite appreciate the elegance and beauty behind the technique at the time. As time has gone on, I have strongly come to believe that RNA interference is likely to play a significant therapeutic role in modern medicine. The idea that small pieces of RNA can shut off the expression of certain genes is remarkable not only in its simple elegance, but in the fact that it eluded researchers for such a long time. RNAi-based treatments and therapies are likely to find general usage a lot faster than other forms of gene therapy that we are used to hearing about.

    Further Reading:
    Delivering Interference RNA

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    Monday, November 21, 2005

    Communication in the 21st century

    I wonder how many forms of communication people use today. One of my frustrations is that there are so many options and to keep in touch with friends and family I have to use a variety of options. These days, I use the following (in decreasing order of usage)

  • Cell Phone

  • Google Talk

  • Skype

  • Yahoo Messenger

  • Good ole land line


  • I don't use msn messenger much anymore in my efforts to keep some handle on what I use.

    In a perfect world, I would use a cell phone for work-related calls or calls on the run, google talk would communicate with other traditional IM apps (why can't everyone use jabber as the communication standard) and Skype would fulfil my VOIP needs (or maybe gizmo someday) for calls to friends and family.

    Related Articles:
    One login to bind them all
    My hard disk on the web

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    Saturday, November 19, 2005

    Native Instruments B4 II now available

    The B4 from Native Instruments redefined computer-based music when it was originally released with the quality of its sound, so much so that it has to be included in any serious discussion of clonewheels. After a significant gap (in a world where updates are frequent), the B4 II was released recently (the demo is available too)

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    Sunday, November 06, 2005

    Tribute to Bob Moog

    I realized that there had been no mention of the passing of Bob Moog in my blog. I don't think I can ever provide the historical perspective that Ray Kurzweil does in an article for Wired. Bob Moog was the synthesizer. The Moog Modular is still my favorite synth of all time, and his creations have launch many a wonderful (and many really bad) careers. Every Keith Emerson lick I hear, every Klaus Schulze sequence reminds me of the genius of a techie who changed music forever. Now the day of the analog might well be behind us, but as technology moves on to its next phase, the warm, punchy sound of the Moog most people probably first heard on "Switched on Bach" will live forever as the holy grail.

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    Nanotechnology and Life

    One of the conversations I follow closely (and occasionally with some amusement) is the definition of nanotechnology. As someone in the field, it is useful to know how people define nanotechnology and what makes nanotech special. A recent article by futurist Jeffrey Harrow (a discussion on the word “futurist” will follow some other day) makes interesting reading in this context. He talks about moving away from “tear down” manufacturing, and trying to learn from machines that know how to do that, i.e. the human body. I strongly believe what we learn from biology/life sciences will play a very important part in realizing those dreams. Proteins, DNA, viruses and other biological machines have already mastered “bottom up” design and can provide the template by which molecular manufacturing may some day be possible. But I would like to add a note of warning: the body is extremely complex and blindly mimicking biomolecular machinery is unlikely to work.



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