Tagged: cyberpunk

self-healing polyurethane

Following on the self-healing rubber from a few months ago, new work (by different people) has made self healing polyurethane coatings.

The secret of the material lies in using molecules made from chitosan, which is derived from the shells of crabs and other crustaceans.

In the event of a scratch, ultraviolet light drives a chemical reaction that patches the damage.

The work by University of Southern Mississippi researchers is reported in the journal Science.

They designed molecules joining ring-shaped molecules called oxetane with chitosan.

The custom-made molecules were added to a standard mix of polyurethane, a popular varnishing material that is also used in products ranging from soft furnishings to swimsuits.

Scratches or damage to the polyurethane coat split the oxetane rings, revealing loose ends that are highly likely to chemically react.

In the ultraviolet light provided by the sun, the chitosan molecules split in two, joining to the oxetane’s reactive ends.

Cool stuff, though I wonder how many bathing suits you need to replace before you make up the cost difference between your self-healing one and a normal one.

on artificial eyes

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7919645.stm

The BBC posted this article describing a 73-year-old man who has been blind for nearly 30 years and is getting his sight backā€”or something that vaguely resembles sight and is a whole hell of a lot better than not seeing.

He says he can now follow white lines on the road, and even sort socks, using the bionic eye, known as Argus II.

That’s actually pretty impressive given that most of the previous stuff I’ve read here really only involves people seeing colors and lights. There’s two cool videos, one’s an interview with the actual guy using the eye and another explains the basics of how it works, though at a level that you could have probably figured out on your own.

It’s not quite to the point where I can have a chip in my optic nerve which gives me the augmented reality that I’ve wanted since I was about 10, but it’s still damn cool and a really impressive first step. Maybe I’ll get it my wish in my lifetime.

neurons on silicon

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/7867724.stm

Edinburgh University has developed a technique, which allows neurons to grow in fine, detailed patterns on the surface of tiny computer chips.

Cool stuff. I mean it’s really just at the very beginning, but the idea that we can control how human tissues grow over the same materials that we use to create our electronics is a huge step forward if we eventually want to be able to use electronics to help repair, replace and augment our own bodies.

I’ve been saying for years that I want a chip in my optic nerve that gives me a heads-up display without any of the focusing and perspective issues. It’s not there yet, but everything happens in baby steps.

bot-mediated reality

http://blog.longnow.org/2008/08/19/daniel-suarez-daemon-bot-mediated-reality/

http://fora.tv/media/rss/Long_Now_Podcasts/podcast-2008-08-08-suarez.mp3

I picked this up from a friend because it referred to botnets and I ostensibly do research about combating botnets, but it turned out to be both very different than I expected and as a consequence much more interesting.

The basic observation is that we’ve built a massive number of “bots” which are really small pieces of carefully automated routines which aim to do what humans do, only more of it or faster. However, we have unwittingly ceded some of our own power and decision-making to these bots. This is true from the innocuous (letting Google Maps get our directions for us) to the somewhat scary (letting automated programs determine whether we get a mortgage).

The point made is that, we’ve gotten here without really thinking about where here is and whether it’s a place we want to be. Also, we haven’t considered how all of our bots interact with each other. The recent near destruction of United Airline’s stock because of an article from 2002 being accidentally reprinted by a bot is a poignant example that these bots are not sandboxed away from causing real harm the way we might think or hope.

The podcast then goes on to talk about a “darknet” where we impose strong identity on all participants so that we know who is touching, modifying and using our data. That part is much less fleshed out and I have trouble even believing.