The Origin of Artificial Species: Creating Artificial Personalities

The Origin of Artificial Species: Creating Artificial PersonalitiesRity was developed to test the world’s first robot
“chromosomes,” which allow it to have an artificial
genome-based personality. (Right) A representation of Rity’s
artificial genome. Darker shades represent higher gene values, and red
represents negative values. Image credit: Jong-Hwan Kim, et al.
©2009 IEEE.
(PhysOrg.com) -- Does your robot seem to be acting a bit
neurotic? Maybe it's just their personality. Recently, a team of
researchers has designed computer-coded genomes for artificial
creatures in which a specific personality is encoded. The ability to
give artificial life forms their own individual personalities could not
only improve the natural interactions between humans and artificial
creatures, but also initiate the study of “The Origin of
Artificial Species,” the researchers suggest.
The first artificial creature to receive the genomic personality is
Rity, a dog-like software character that lives in a virtual 3D world in
a PC. Rity’s genome is composed of 14 chromosomes, which together
are composed of a total of 1,764 genes, each with its own value. Rather
than manually assign the gene values, which would be difficult and
time-consuming, the researchers proposed an evolutionary process that
generates a genome with a specific personality desired by a user. The
process is described in a recent study by authors Jong-Hwan Kim of
KAIST in Daejeon, Korea; Chi-Ho Lee of the Samsung Economic Research
Institute in Seoul, Korea; and Kang-Hee Lee of Samsung Electronics
Company, Ltd., in Suwon-si, Korea.

“This is the first time that an artificial creature like a or software agent has been given a genome with a personality,” Kim told PhysOrg.com.
“I proposed a new concept of an artificial chromosome as the
essence to define the personality of an artificial creature and to pass
on its traits to the next generation, like a genetic inheritance. It is
critical to provide an impression that the robot is a living creature.
With this respect, having emotions enhances natural for human-robot symbiosis in the coming years.”

As the researchers explain, an autonomous artificial creature - whether a physical robot or
agent - can behave, interact, and react to environmental stimuli. Rity,
for example, can interact with humans in the physical world using
information through a mouse, a camera, or a microphone, with 47
perceptions. For instance, a single click and double click on Rity are
perceived as “patted” and “hit,” respectively.
Dragging Rity slowly and softly is perceived as “soothed,”
and dragging it quickly and wildly as “shocked.”

To react to these stimuli in real time, Rity relies on its internal
states which are composed of three units - motivation, homeostasis, and
emotion - and controlled by its internal control architecture. The
three units have a total of 14 states, which are the basis of the 14
chromosomes: the motivation unit includes six states (curiosity,
intimacy, monotony, avoidance, greed, and the desire to control); the
homeostasis unit includes three states (fatigue, hunger, and
drowsiness); and the emotion unit has five states (happiness, sadness,
anger, fear, and neutral).


How to Use Pulsars for Interstellar Navigation

The signals from pulsars form a natural GPS system that could locate any object in the galaxy to within a meter.

The Global Position System has revolutionised navigation on Earth. It consists of a network of satellites that each broadcast a time signal. A receiver on Earth can then work out its position in
three-dimensional space by comparing the arrival times of the signals from at least three satellites. But the system cannot help with navigation on an interplanetary scale or beyond.

Today, Bertolomé Coll at the Observatoire de Paris in France and a friend propose an interstellar GPS system that has the ability to determine the position of any point in the galaxy to within a metre.

Their idea is to tune in to the signals from four pulsars: 0751+1807 (3.5ms), 2322+2057 (4.8ms), 0711-6830 (5.5ms) and 1518+0205B (7.9ms), which each generate regular millisecond radio signals.

These form a rough tetrahedron centred on the Solar System.

Why four pulsars? Coll points out that on these scales relativity has to be taken into account when processing the signals and to do this, the protocol has to specify a position in space-time, which requires four signals.

Coll then defines the origin for this system of co-ordinates as 00:00 on 1 January 2001 at the focal point of the Interplanetary Scintillation Array, the radio telescope near Cambridge in the UK that first observed pulsars. With the co-ordinate system established, any interplanetary spacecraft could then use the signals from these pulsars to determine its position in this co-ordinate system to within a few nanoseconds, which corresponds to about a metre.

Handy, and cheap too.



Plugging In $40 Computers

What would you do with a $40 Linux computer the size of a three-prong plug adapter?

Marvell Technology Group is counting on an army of computer engineers and hackers to answer that question. It has created a “plug computer.” It’s a tiny plastic box that you plug into an electric outlet. There’s no display. But there is an Ethernet jack to connect to a home network and a U.S.B. socket for attaching a hard drive, camera or other device. Inside is a 1.2 gigahertz Marvell chip, called an application processor, running a version of the Linux operating system.

All this can be yours for $99 today and probably for under $40 in two years.

“There’s not much in there,” said Sehat Sutardja, Marvell’s chief executive and co-founder, just a few chips and the sort of power supply used to charge a cellphone battery. Because this computer uses chips designed for cellphones, it uses far less power than chips designed for regular computers. Mr. Sutardja envisions an explosion of innovation about to hit home users because of the combination of open-source software and very powerful chips that are becoming available at very low costs.

The first plausible use for the plug computer is to attach one of these gizmos to a U.S.B. hard drive. Voila, you’ve got a network server. CloudEngines, a start-up, has in fact built a $99 plug computer called Pogoplug, that will let you share the files on your hard drive, not only in your home but also anywhere on the Internet.

“This creates a smart data center for the home,” Mr. Sutardja said.

Another application might be to connect a security camera to the Internet, adding enough intelligence to help analyze images to distinguish between a stray dog and a cat burglar.

Ultimately, these computers may well be used in more mainstream devices, especially for home entertainment.

“We wanted to seed the thinking of people in the market place with what you can do with our processors,” Mr. Sutardja said. “Eventually you won’t see the plug. We want this device to be in your TV, your stereo system, your DVD player.”

The plug computer idea is clearly a step in that direction. And it is part of an even broader array of chips designed initially for phones that will add features to many other devices.

Mr. Sutardja talked about the sort of digital photo frame you can now buy for about $50. Add $2 in chips, and it can display high-definition movies, he said. Another $2 adds a camera. And less than a dollar adds several microphones.

“You now have the sort of video conferencing that corporations buy for much more money,” he said.

“The uses of an application processor are endless,” he said. “It is up to smart people to imagine what it can do.”


Improving Space Elevators By Having a Rototating Hoop

By have a rotating hoop for a space elevator then objects sliding along Rotating Space Elevator(RSE) strings do not require internal engines or propulsion to be transported from the Earth's surface into outer space. (H/T Tom Craver)

A previous article had noted that the strength of the space elevator tether and the power of the engines driving the climbers were inter-related in terms of how feasible the space elevator was. By removing the need for powered climbers this could improve the overall feasibility of space elevators.



Here's a website that lets you generate distinct calculated music. There are a trillion trillion trillion possibilities for the musical composition, or you can influence the style, scale, and instrumentation of the composition.



A Third Revolution in DNA Nanotechnology

In a new paper, Shawn Douglas and his colleagues at William Shih’s lab have demonstrated the first systematic method for building multilayer 3D nanostructures of DNA. In his commentary, Tom LaBean calls this “a third revolution in DNA nanotechnology”, following Seeman’s launch of the field and Rothemund’s development of the breakthrough origami technique.
In the authors’ words:

We anticipate that our strategy for self-assembling
custom three-dimensional shapes will provide a general route to the
manufacture of sophisticated devices bearing features on the nanometre

This paper closely follows the report of 3D structural-DNA technique that demonstrated a way to build closed boxes from single-layer origami sheets (in a sense, the first folded DNA origami). What the new technique adds to the engineering toolkit is a way to bundle DNA helices into sturdier structures, and to use those structures as building blocks for yet larger structures.

This is a further step toward the development of a methodology for building atomically precise self-assembled structures in which DNA forms an addressable framework for organizing other components (nanotubes, quantum dots, proteins…) into functional systems (circuits, sensors, fabrication tools…). Tom LaBean himself has been a pioneer in developing these DNA-based composite systems.

Examples of 3D DNA origami





47 Million Year Old Skeleton Reveals the Missing Link Between Lemurs and Humans

Meet Ida, the 47 million year old fossil who may represent one of our earliest known ancestors. She's probably the most complete primate fossil ever discovered, and she explains where humans (and lemurs) come from.

Hailing from the Middle Eocene (about 47 million years ago), this discovery will help to shed light on the early history of a potential human ancestor. Discovered in the late 1980s, the specimen was divided into two separate parts and sold to different buyers, and wasn't reassembled until 2007.

This new species, now called Darwinius masillae, is named for Charles Darwin, and is believed to exist very close to an evolutionary branch that would eventually lead to modern primates and humans. This specimen in particular is a young female, named Ida, and is so highly preserved that soft tissues and fur impressions were preserved, along with the digestive tract that allowed researchers to discover the last meal that it ingested - fruits and leaves. She also had a broken wrist, which had since healed, and it is believed that she would have been about 9 months old. Alive, she would have weighed around two pounds, and about two feet in length.

This finding is a remarkable one, not only for the high preservation of the fossil, but for the potential implications for paleontologists. A mere twenty million years prior to this is the KT boundary, a major extinction line that saw the demise of the Dinosaurs. With their passing came the rise of the mammals, and a world that looked much like ours today. The location where Ida was discovered is known as the Grube Messel, a World Heritage Site, and 47 million years ago, it was a para-tropical rain forest.


A Map of Science

The image above is a view of an extraordinarily information-dense representation, not just of connections among fields, but of their content. At 13,566,672 pixels, most of the text is readable. I have the printed version and examined it with a magnifying glass.

Under the title “A Map of Science”, it was featured by Nature in 2006. Here’s a description by the developers at informationesthetics.org:

As to what the image depicts, it was constructed by sorting roughly 800,000 scientific papers into 776 different scientific paradigms (shown as red and blue circular nodes) based on how often the papers were cited together by authors of other papers. Links (curved lines) were made between the paradigms that shared common members, then treated as rubber bands, holding similar paradigms closer to one another when a physical simulation forced them all apart: thus the layout derives directly from the data. Larger paradigms have more papers. Labels list common words unique to each paradigm.

Each “list of common words unique to each paradigm” forms a streaming ribbon in the image above. What the authors call a paradigm, I would call a field, or topical area (such as seismology, organometallic chemistry, cryptology, virology, and stellar dynamics), clustered within broader areas (such as geophysics, chemistry, computer science, molecular biology, and astrophysics).


Chocolate-Fueled Race Car Unveiled By Scientists

LONDON — Scientists unveiled on Tuesday what they hope will be one of the world's fastest biofuel vehicles, powered by waste from chocolate factories and made partly from plant fibers. Its makers hope the racer will go 145 mph and give manufacturers ideas about how to build more ecologically friendly vehicles.

The car runs on vegetable oils and chocolate waste that has been turned into biofuel. The steering wheel is made out of plant-based fibers derived from carrots and other root vegetables, and the seat is built of flax fibre and soybean oil foam. The body is also made of plant fibers.

Scientists at the University of Warwick say their car is the fastest to run on biofuels and also be made from biodegradable materials. It has been built to Formula 3 specifications about the car's size, weight, and performance.