Thursday, December 9, 2010

Redefining Life With a Single Microbe

Science and technology correlate greatly and when the discoveries of science advance technology that inevitably will effect media.

Recently, scientists have found a Arsenic eating bacterium that has ultimately redefined the way we look at the fundamental building blocks of life, and although it's still debatable as to how this will effect technology and media, this discovery has already altered many theories of life on earth, making me almost positive that in the future it will change technology and therefor media.

“The idea of alternative biochemistries for life is common in science fiction,” said Carl Pilcher, director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. “Until now a life form using arsenic as a building block was only theoretical, but now we know such life exists in Mono Lake.”

We’ve been taught our entire lives that the six most abundant elements of life are Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Sulfur and Phosphorus.

However, recently, scientists have been shaken up by one microbe, Arsenic. The same chemical used in weed killers and the toxic chemical found in contaminated groundwater.

NASA scientists have confirmed that they have found a bacterium that grows on a diet of arsenic in place of phosphorus (the backbone of DNA), opening up the possibility that organisms could exists elsewhere in the universe or even here on Earth.

MEDIUM(arsenic)- The bacterium, scraped from the bottom of Mono Lake in California and grown for months in a lab mixture containing arsenic (which shares many of same chemical properties as phosphorus), gradually swapped out atoms of phosphorus in its body for atoms of arsenic.

These results, if confirmed, would expand the notion of what life could be and where it could be.

It also lends weight to the idea that extraterrestrial life could have a fundamentally different chemical makeup from life on Earth.

Gerald Joyce, a chemist and molecular biologist at Sripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. said, “It’s a really nice story about adaptability of our life form. It gives you food for thought about what might be possible in another world.”

The results could impact a space mission to Mars and elsewhere looking for life using new experiments that are designed to eliminate the chemical elements and reactions that have been known to characterize life on earth.

The newly discovered bacterium, also known as GFAJ-1 doesn’t just tolerate arsenic- it can incorporate the poisonous stuff into its DNA and other vital molecules in place of the usual phosphorus, leading to a potential application in the medical field. GFAJ-1 could prospectively be used as an antioxidant to counteract the effects of toxic elements in the body.

GFAJ-1 could also be used to detoxify people with arsenic related diseases such as cancer of the kidney, skin, lung, and bladder.

It’s also been speculated that the use of arsenic in place of phosphorus on earth may date back to the origin of life, which may have occurred in a arsenic-rich hydrothermal vent (a fissure in the planet’s surface from which geothermally heated water issues) environments. This could be the microbe that supports the Iron-sulfur World Theory advanced by a German Chemist, Gunter Wachtershauser.

Something strange: Active hydrothermal vents are believed to exist on Jupiter’s moon, Europa, and ancient hydrothermal vents have been speculated to exist on Mars.

THE PEAK- (finding/GFAJ-1/finding a shadow biosphere/extraterrestrial life)

Also, the possibility of finding a shadow biosphere where life based on alternative chemicals live is much more feasible.

This is huge because it’s commonly assumed that life originated only once on Earth.

Shadow biosphere- a radiation of organisms on Earth with a different origin and evolutionary history than “normal life.

The confirmation of a shadow biosphere would be one of the biggest scientific discoveries of all time. It would suggest that life as we know it is not terribly special, and that it can take root easily. If life originated more than once on Earth, the chances that it took root elsewhere in the universe are increased.

Interface: Because we live in the biosphere with microbes, we don’t really have an organic physical barrier between humans and microorganisms. In that case, the only thing that prevents us from observing microbes are the fact that they are microscopic. Therefore, the microscope is the interface between human and the microbes, because it’s optical lens forms a boundary between two different phases.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ten Questions to Ask about Technology

Here are Ten Questions (ok there are more, because some questions are kind of nested) to ask about a new technology tool that help us think about it in its wider cultural context. I am working off of, as usual, Cultural Studies founder Stuart Hall's idea of the circuit of culture, in which production, consumption, regulation, representation, and identity are all mutually informing. When we combine this with the historical trajectory perspective I am always harping on--which puts any given cultural text (game, device, app, film, dvd menu, etc) in a lineage of antecedents, looks for its peak if it has had it yet, and then speculates wildly on what might come next--we will always have a lot to talk about when we talk about any new aspect of technology, beyond the thumbs up/thumbs down reaction from which we might start and then come back to at the end, perhaps more thoughtfully.

Ten questions to ask about a new technology:

1) What is its purpose?

2) What was its analog, if there was one? How does a mediated, digital, or networked version of the tool or technique change it?

3) Who uses it? How? When? Where? Why? Does the use change over time? Do different users use it differently?

4) How does a user learn how to use it?

5) Who makes it? Who profits? How?

6) How is it regulated?

7) How does it spread?

8) Does it create or fill a need?

9) What is the interface? Is it also an object? Or a practice? Both? (think cell phone)

10) How does the user change the technology as he or she uses it? (mods and hacks and appropriations) How does the technology change the user? How does it become part of a person's sense of self?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

McCloud's 6 Steps

Here are Scott McCloud's 6 Steps. You can see them better in the second image, but I love the metaphor of the apple, especially the shiny, hollow one that is all surface! Let's come up with some examples of that.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Touchable Holography

I did my project on touchable holography. This is definitely the future of entertainment, not to mention the future of hospitality, gaming, and cleanliness. The technology uses a WiiMote placed above a display rack to track the users hand motion. An airborne ultrasound tactile display is used to create the sensation of touch.

Result: Holographic image that creates tactile feedback, without degrading the image.

This technology is still in its early stages. It was founded and is being developed at the University of Tokyo. This being very new technology, we are only able to manipulate very small holographic projections.

The future of this technology is limitless. This includes uses in video games, 3D CAD (models), hospitals (touch contamination), books, and even adult entertainment.

Holograms could replace the need for making new interfaces for technology, since they could be changed without having to make a new physical product.


Eric Jackowitz

Gestural Computer Interface

Soon enough, we may be searching through data on our computer in the same way Tom Cruise searches through memories/video for evidence of a crime about to be committed in Minority Report. Since the film's 2002 release, many companies have tried to develop similar gestural computer interfaces in the real world. In fact, the science and technology adviser for the film, John Underkoffler, was given a significant amount of money to research the subject for the film, and recently debuted a prototype at TED talks this year. However, such interfaces require an entire room for setup, not to mention expensive screens, gloves and other accessories, rendering them impractical at the moment. Touch screen technology on iPhones and other devices allow for similar zoom and scroll capabilities, but they can be cumbersome and the technology has only been applied to simple apps.

But the future may be closer than we think. This year, at Music Hack Day Boston, a team of hackers created a gestural interface over the course of a weekend that can manipulate MIDI data. The program is called Toscanini, named after an Italian conductor famous for his wild and exuberant gestures. It only requires simple software that can be downloaded for free, and a Texas Instruments watch that sends signals to a receiver that attaches to your computer via USB. This second device only costs $50. While the program is in its alpha stage and has plenty of flaws, it is designed to improved upon and customized by other users. The intended users, in fact, are musicians, dancers, and other artists who will be able to have more intimate and personal control over their work on their computers through movement.

The potential for gestural computer interfaces cannot be overstated. In the next year, a dance troupe wearing the TI watch and Toscanini could create a visual program on the computer that could project a visual display behind them while they dance, responding to their actual movements. Musicians are no longer limited to clicking and dragging, no longer inhibited by the mouse as they work with Logic, ProTools and a myriad of other programs. Later on, it seems that Toscanini and more complex programs like Underkoffler's will meet somewhere in the middle, improving their ability to deal with complex programs while meeting practical needs and budgets in the real world. When that happens, users will be able to organize, render, and view data in the way that is easiest for them, i.e. scanning through photos, videos and music from the visual perspective that they choose -- and there will be an infinite number of ways to choose from. It will make computer use more action, like the Wii has done for video games, and will allow more than one person to work on the same computer at the same time, once they are no longer confined by the mouse. And the gestural computer interface is far from reaching its peak, as it is not widely available. But it is likely the future of human-computer interaction -- if you ask John Underkoffler, all computers will use such interfaces within 5 years.

Minority Report clip:

John Underkoffler @ TED talks:

The Toscanini website:

What Is Watson?

I chose IBM's "BLUE GENE" supercomputer WATSON for my new media example.

WATSON is the world's most advanced "question answering" machine that is due to appear on a special series of Jeopardy! in which it will compete in a computer vs. human contest against the best Jeopardy! players in the world.

Developed by David Ferrucci, IBM's Senior Manager for Semantic Analysis & Integration, WATSON is a three year long project - a computer that has the ability to distinguish exact intended meaning of a question using complex algorithms and search engines to come up with an accurate answer. It's greatest challenge is deciphering meanings of questions that have cultural references or puns. A great example of this was a question actually posed to Watson:

"The name of this hat is elementary, my dear contestant."

Humans readily detect the wordplay here — “elementary, my dear Watson,” is the famous phrase associated with Sherlock Holmes and most would be able to peice together the question to answer what kind of hat the famous detective wore. But for a computer, there's no easy way to identify “elementary, my dear contestant” as wordplay. Matching phrases or different fragments of the sentence, which partly how most modern engines like Google operate these days, isn’t enough. WATSON successfully fills in these gaps in technology and processes human language a step further to produce a correct answer to most any question.

The implications of Watsons capabilities on the future of Artificial Intelligence are limitless. When you consider the idea that what David Ferrucci really developed was a machine capable of thinking for itself, one can assume that if this technology developed further, we might start to see computers that are made with equal intelligence and ability as a human being. A computer could be capable of anything. For hundreds of years great thinkers and writers have speculated on a future world able to be controlled by machines - WATSON is simply a real reminder that for better or worse, this is certainly a possibility!

For more info, you can read the NYTimes article here:

New media Presentation

Hi All,
My medium of my choice: Video Blogging

- How is it done?: Well, simply you can take any digital visual recording device such as your phone, laptop camera, create a video of something you wish to show, upload it on to various websites that post in publicly, or privately. Allowing for the possibility for millions to see and to comment and re-act to your video.

- Interface: Internet streaming via phone, computer, mp3 etc

- It began in early year 2000 blogging was used for informative reasons, youtube was then founded in February 2005 it allowed bloggers to post and administrate their own videos.

- It's still peaking

- An example: A make-up artist applied for a job as a make up consultant in a beauty boutique store like saks fifth ave or sephora and got rejected, she the decided to do her own make-up tutorials on youtube and after an ever increasing fan base she now does video tutorials for Lancome.

- Video blogging will continue to grow, and increasingly become the new way of informing the general public of all sorts of things such as products, news, procedures etc. Just as simple as posting a link you can send a piece of information to millions within minutes.

Radio Stations and television stations are now using video blogging as a way to help interact more with listeners and viewers