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This is the archive for March 2006

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Here's an interesting bit of news from the BBC.
UK scientists from Norwich have used a plant virus to create nanotechnology building blocks.

The virus, which infects black-eyed peas, was employed as a "scaffold" on to which other chemicals were attached.

By linking iron-containing compounds to the virus's surface, the John Innes Centre team was able to create electronically active nanoparticles.

The researchers tell the journal Small that their work could be used in the future to make tiny electrical devices.

... After isolating a virus particle from the peas, the researchers then bound ferrocene compounds to amino acids on its surface.

The team managed to attach approximately 240 of the organometallic compounds, each containing an electronically active iron atom.

The addition of these compounds meant the nanoparticle became like a molecular capacitor - a device that could store electronic charge, explained Dr Evans.

After further development, this could lead to the particles being used in biosensors, nanoelectronic devices, or for electrocatalytic processes. ...

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Virus used to make nanoparticles

Thursday, March 23, 2006

This explains all the nasty looks I've been getting.
American's increasing acceptance of religious diversity doesn't extend to those who don't believe in a god, according to a national survey by researchers in the University of Minnesota's department of sociology. From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in "sharing their vision of American society." Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.
First, I'm not sure America's acceptance of religious diversity is increasing. I suspect it is rather limited, and wouldn't be surprised to find the average American ranking "Muslims, recent immigrants, [and] gays and lesbians" below, well, Christians. Moreover, the Evangelical Crusades seem very much alive and are clearly visible in US foreign policy. Second, I find it exceedingly disappointing to see moral values continuously tied to religious belief. There seems to be no correlation between moral values/behavior and religiosity. Prisons are filled with religious people; and many atheists have strong reflective moral values. On reflection, I don't even see a conceptual relationship.

America's most distrusted minority: News Releases: UMNnews: U of M.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

They're using carbon nanotubes to build stronger muscle fiber
University of Texas at Dallas nanotechnologists have made alcohol- and hydrogen-powered artificial muscles that are 100 times stronger than natural muscles, able to do 100 times greater work per cycle and produce, at reduced strengths, larger contractions than natural muscles. Among other possibilities, these muscles could enable fuel-powered artificial limbs, "smart skins" and morphing structures for air and marine vehicles, autonomous robots having very long mission capabilities and smart sensors that detect and self-actuate to change the environment.
And they don't even need to be wired to a stationary power source (which severly limits mobility). It just takes a few shots of alcohol as fuel. I'll drink to that!

Nanotechnologists demonstrate artificial muscles powered by highly energetic fuels

Friday, March 17, 2006

The test results are in and my hunch was confirmed. I'm a liberal.
Based on your answers to the questionnaire, you most closely resemble survey respondents within the Liberal typology group. This does not mean that you necessarily fit every group characteristic or agree with the group on all issues.

Liberals represent 17 percent of the American public, and 19 percent of registered voters.

Basic Description
This group has nearly doubled in proportion since 1999, Liberals now comprise the largest share of Democrats and is the single largest of the nine Typology groups. They are the most opposed to an assertive foreign policy, the most secular, and take the most liberal views on social issues such as homosexuality, abortion, and censorship. They differ from other Democratic groups in that they are strongly pro-environment and pro-immigration, issues which are more controversial among Conservative and Disadvantaged Democrats.

Defining Values
Strongest preference for diplomacy over use of military force. Pro-choice, supportive of gay marriage and strongly favor environmental protection. Low participation in religious activities. Most sympathetic of any group to immigrants as well as labor unions, and most opposed to the anti-terrorism Patriot Act.

Who They Are
Most (62%) identify themselves as liberal. Predominantly white (83%), most highly educated group (49% have a college degree or more), and youngest group after Bystanders. Least religious group in typology: 43% report they seldom or never attend religious services; nearly a quarter (22%) are seculars. More than one-third never married (36%). Largest group residing in urban areas (42%) and in the western half the country (34%). Wealthiest Democratic group (41% earn at least $75,000).

Lifestyle Notes
Largest group to have been born (or whose parents were born) outside of the U.S. or Canada (20%). Least likely to report having a gun at home (23%) or attending bible study or prayer group meetings (13%).

2004 Election
Bush 2%, Kerry 81%

Party ID
59% Democrat; 40% Independent/No Preference, 1% Republican (92% Dem/Lean Dem)

Media Use
Liberals are second only to Enterprisers in following news about government and public affairs most of the time (60%). Liberals%u2019 use of the internet to get news is the highest among all groups (37%).

Typology Test at the Pew Research Center for People and the Press

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

This AP article suggests there may be as few as 5,000 bonobos left in the Congo, down from over 100,000 in 1984. The big problem is that they are frequently hunted for food.
... for poor villagers, bonobos can be lucrative business, with much of the meat heading for expensive, clandestine meals at restaurants in the cities.

One bonobo can earn $200 for Richard Ipaka, a 50-year-old part-time poacher who lives in the provincial capital, Mbandaka.

"That's enough money for two months," he said.

Like many Congolese, he said he did not know bonobos are found in the wild only in his country. And like many others, he was skeptical that the ape is endangered.

"Our ancestors have been eating bonobos for centuries. How could they disappear?" Ipaka said.
There are three motivations for the continued hunting mentioned here: economics, ignorance, and tradition. If it is important enough to us--the third chimpanzee--, then we should be able to address all three. On the other hand, we're the chimpanzee for whom a good burger is often considered better than sex.

`Hippie Chimps' Fast Disappearing in Congo - Forbes.com
This is really about building robots that we can love. (It's a similar problem to how you build/raise/develop people that we can love.) Reading the article, I guess that what I believed all along was true: excessively happy people/robots really are just annoying, especially when I'm in a bad mood.
At Carnegie Mellon University, Rachel Gockley, a graduate student, found that in certain circumstances people spent more time interacting with a robotic receptionist--a disembodied face on a monitor--when the face looked and sounded unhappy. And at Stanford, Clifford Nass, a professor of communication, found that in a simulation, drivers in a bad mood had far fewer accidents when they were listening to a subdued voice making comments about the drive.
Read more here.