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The Speculist has a good weekend

By Brian | July 6, 2009 | Share on Facebook

My friend Ilya turned me on to a blog called The Speculist, which I glance at periodically. Most of the time, it’s mildly interesting but nothing to blog home about. But this past weekend, it ran four stories that really caught my eye, so I figure I’ll force them upon share them with you.

1) Robots That Eat Vermin

Not so much interesting (or even practical), just really cool. The robots not only lure the creatures and “digest” them, but they use the energy from the digestion process to power the robot for capturing more pests:

2) Stephen Hawking on Evolution

Stephen Hawking believes we’ve developed the ability to evolve as a species based on more than just genetics:

But we are now entering a new phase, of what Hawking calls “self designed evolution,” in which we will be able to change and improve our DNA. “At first,” he continues “these changes will be confined to the repair of genetic defects, like cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy. These are controlled by single genes, and so are fairly easy to identify, and correct. Other qualities, such as intelligence, are probably controlled by a large number of genes. It will be much more difficult to find them, and work out the relations between them. Nevertheless, I am sure that during the next century, people will discover how to modify both intelligence, and instincts like aggression.”

Anyone want to tell Dr. Hawking he’s wrong? And remember, if this makes you angry, Dr. Hawking can rewire your brain to help with that…

3) The Declaration of Singularity

Just a little something to make Jeff Porten’s head spin off…

4) Coffee May Reverse Alzheimer’s

The 55 mice used in the University of South Florida study had been bred to develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. First the researchers used behavioural tests to confirm the mice were exhibiting signs of memory impairment when they were aged 18 to 19 months, the equivalent to humans being about 70.

Then they gave half the mice caffeine in their drinking water. The rest were given plain water. The mice were given the equivalent of five 8 oz (227 grams) cups of coffee a day – about 500 milligrams of caffeine.

When the mice were tested again after two months, those who were given the caffeine performed much better on tests measuring their memory and thinking skills and performed as well as mice of the same age without dementia. Those drinking plain water continued to do poorly on the tests.

In addition, the brains of the mice given caffeine showed nearly a 50% reduction in levels of the beta amyloid protein, which forms destructive clumps in the brains of dementia patients.

(emphasis is mine)

Now how’s that for great news? Next up – the Starbucks Center for Memory Enhancement.

Topics: The Future is Now | 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “The Speculist has a good weekend”

  1. Jeff Porten says at July 8th, 2009 at 1:47 pm :
    Nice to know that not only am I protected from Alzheimer’s, but I probably radiate an anti-Alzheimer’s field.

    Not sure what is supposed to be head-exploding about singularity. I agree with most of the points made….

  2. Brian says at July 9th, 2009 at 10:11 am :
    Really? In the comments of another post, you’ve written 10,000 (whoops – just checked my comments queue – make that 15,000) words on how the private sector can’t or shouldn’t replace government with respect to stimulating economic growth, and yet here you’re OK with taking the word “government” out of the Declaration of Independence and replacing it with phrases “technologies and economic activity” or “the intelligent beings [of the] existing civilization?”

    I fail to see the substantative difference between that against which you fight valiantly and that with which you mostly agree…

  3. Jeff Porten says at July 10th, 2009 at 4:52 am :
    Ah. I see your point. I wasn’t reading that as *replacing* the Declaration, but as concurrent.

    And if anything like the singularity actually occurs, pretty much everything about modern theories of governance and the private sector will need to be rethought regardless. It’s pretty much the game-changer.


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