Tag Archives: Technology

The great cryptocurrency heist

By E J Spode – We need to talk about trust and its place in the fabric of our lives. Trust seems to be in short supply these days, although we have no choice but to rely on it.

We trust schools and babysitters to look after our children. We trust banks to hold our money and to transfer it safely for us. We trust insurance companies to pay us should we meet with some disaster. When we make a large purchase – such as a house – we trust our solicitors or an escrow company to hold the funds until the transaction is complete. We trust regulators and governments to make sure these institutions are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

A good way to wrap our minds around ‘blockchain’ concept is to think of its most famous application: Bitcoin. And the best way to think about Bitcoin is not in terms of coins at all but rather as a giant ledger.

Bitcoin is just one version of the blockchain. The fundamental technology has the potential to replace a much wider range of human institutions in which we use trust to reach a consensus about a state of affairs. It could provide a definitive record for property transfers, from diamonds to Porsches to original Picassos. It could be used to record contracts, to certify the authenticity of valuable goods, or to securely store your health records (and keep track of anyone who’s ever accessed them).

But there’s a catch: what about the faithful ‘execution’ of a contract? Doesn’t that require trust as well?

What good is an agr’ement, after all, if the text is there but people don’t respect it, and don’t follow through on their obligations? more> https://goo.gl/rW7huO

How to play mathematics

BOOK REVIEW

The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace, Author: Margaret Wertheim.
Physics on the Fringe, Author: Margaret Wertheim.
African Fractals: Modern Computing and Indigenous Design, Author: Ron Eglash.

(glasbergen.com)By Margaret Wertheim – The world is full of mundane, meek, unconscious things materially embodying fiendishly complex pieces of mathematics. How can we make sense of this? I’d like to propose that sea slugs and electrons, and many other modest natural systems, are engaged in what we might call the performance of mathematics.

Rather than thinking about maths, they are doing it.

In the fibers of their beings and the ongoing continuity of their growth and existence they enact mathematical relationships and become mathematicians-by-practice. By looking at nature this way, we are led into a consideration of mathematics itself not through the lens of its representational power but instead as a kind of transaction.

Rather than being a remote abstraction, mathematics can be conceived of as something more like music or dancing; an activity that takes place not so much in the writing down as in the playing out.

Since at least the time of Pythagoras and Plato, there’s been a great deal of discussion in Western philosophy about how we can understand the fact that many physical systems have mathematical representations: the segmented arrangements in sunflowers, pine cones and pineapples (Fibonacci numbers); the curve of nautilus shells, elephant tusks and rams horns (logarithmic spiral); music (harmonic ratios and Fourier transforms); atoms, stars and galaxies, which all now have powerful mathematical descriptors; even the cosmos as a whole, now represented by the equations of general relativity.

The physicist Eugene Wigner has termed this startling fact ‘the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics’.

Why does the real world actualize maths at all? And so much of it?

Even arcane parts of mathematics, such as abstract algebras and obscure bits of topology often turn out to be manifest somewhere in nature. more> https://goo.gl/ifKV2Z

Updates from Adobe

How to Create a Surreal Photo Collage
By Terri Stone – When you composite photos, you usually don’t want the result to look like a composite. Even if the final scene is fantastical, your aim is to transport viewers into another world. Filip Hodas, a 24-year-old freelance artist from Prague, has been creating convincing digital realities for years. Now he’’ agreed to share his process.

To make the otherworldly landscape featured here, Hodas relied heavily on Adobe Photoshop CC layer masks. He placed each source image on its own layer and then used layer masks to hide and reveal parts of each. He also used layer masks to adjust color and add highlights and shadows.

Next came a Color Balance adjustment layer, which he added to the background images so their colors would be a better match. Trees on the right side of the horizon image were distracting, so he removed them with the Clone Stamp tool.

Hodas knows that small details can have a big impact on a composite’s overall look, so his next step was to refine the foreground image’s mask. That softened jagged edges a little and removed a slight yellow outline. more> https://goo.gl/7jat2c

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Updates from Aalto University

A new method for converting wastewater nutrients into fertilizer
By Riku Vahala – Researchers of Aalto University have developed a new, energy-efficient method for capturing nitrogen and phosphorus from different liquid waste fractions. In laboratory studies, with the help of the method, it is possible to separate 99% of the nitrogen and 90-99% of phosphorus in wastewater and produce granular ammonium sulphate (NH4)2SO4 and phosphorus precipitate suitable for fertilizers.

The capture method is based on the use of calcium hydroxide Ca(OH)2 to convert ammoniacal nitrogen NH4+ into ammoniacal gas NH3, which are separated through a semi-permeable membrane. Following this, the ammonium is dissolved into sulphuric acid to produce ammonium sulphate. In the process, the phosphorus is precipitated with the help of calcium salt.

‘A patent application for the method is currently under way, and the aim of the project is to find company partners who could make use of the patent in the best possible manner, create products with its help and market the new process. If successful, the new process will also create a competitive export product’, Anna Mikola, DSc (Tech), points out. more> https://goo.gl/kOrqHP

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Updates from Georgia Tech

Pioneer of Modern Electronics
By Michael Baxter – The smartphone you peer into, the LED bulb in your desk lamp, the Blu-Ray player that serves up your favorite film – all are here largely because of Russell Dupuis, a professor in electrical and computer engineering at Georgia Tech.

That’s because an essential component of their manufacturing traces back to a process that Dupuis developed in the late 1970s, a process that ushered in a new breed of mass-produced compound semiconductors. These electronic components – particularly those forged of elements from columns III and V in the periodic table — can operate at extremely high frequencies or emit light with extraordinary efficiency. Today, they’re the working essence of everything from handheld laser pointers to stadium Jumbotrons.

The process is known as metalorganic chemical vapor deposition, or MOCVD, and until Dupuis, no one had figured out how to use it to grow high-quality semiconductors using those III-V elements. Essentially, MOCVD works by combining the atomic elements with molecules of organic gas and flowing the mixture over a hot semiconductor wafer. When repeated, the process grows layer after layer of crystals that can have any number of electrical properties, depending on the elements used. more> https://goo.gl/eG2G8e

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Make Chips Do More and Last Longer with Embedded FPGA


By Geoff Tate – The cost and the time to design ASSP/ASIC/SoCs keeps rising.

Also, customers are demanding more flexibility in chips so their systems can be upgraded for critical changes (such as protocols/standards), which increases the useful life of their systems and increases their ROI.

For example, in data centers, customers are now seeking reconfigurability. Rather than a fork-lift upgrade when standards evolve, data centers want programmable chips so they can upgrade the data center’s ability during the life of the center without touching the hardware. This also gives the data center the option to customize for added competitive advantage. As Doug Burger of Microsoft said at a recent talk at FPL 2016, (Re)Configurable Clouds will change the world with the ability to reprogram a datacenter’s hardware protocols: networking, storage, security. Adding FPGA technology into the mix is a key in doing this. Embedded FPGA technology is now available to increase performance while lowering cost and power.

Another example is microcontrollers. In older process nodes such as 90nm where mask costs are cheap, a line card can have dozens or hundreds of versions. This offers each customer the small differences in, for example, the number and types of serial interfaces (SPI, I2C, UART, etc). However, now that leading edge microcontrollers are moving to 40nm where masks cost $1M each, microcontroller manufacturers need a programmable way to customize their chips and offer multiple SKUs. Adding this capability also opens the path for their customers to customize the MCUs themselves, similar to how they now write C code for the on-board processors. There are a few microcontrollers today, such as Cypress’ PSoC, which offer some limited customizability. However, only embedded FPGA can provide more and scalable customizability. more> https://goo.gl/9xx7sC

Updates from GE

GE Just Turned the World’s Most Powerful Jet Engine Into A 65-Megawatt Power Plant
By Tomas Kellner – GE is taking the world’s largest jet engine and turning it into a power plant. The machine’s beating heart comes from the GE90-115B, which is the largest and most powerful jet engine, capable of producing 127,900 pounds of thrust, according to Guinness World Records. The electricity generator, which GE calls LM9000, will be able to generate a whopping 65 megawatts — enough to supply of 6,500 homes — and reach full power in 10 minutes.

The technology is also a good example of what GE calls the GE Store — the system of sharing technology, research and expertise among its many businesses. Today, aeroderivatives power towns and factories but also oil platforms and ships. more> https://goo.gl/dSwnhF

Is greatness finite?

BOOK REVIEW

Round About the Earth: Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit, Author: Joyce E Chaplin.
Utopia, Author: Thomas More.
The Population Bomb, Author: Paul Ehrlich.

By Joyce E Chaplin – To see human nature and the rest of nature as out of sync is important – if done consciously. Today it is easy to find repudiations of neoliberalism, the doctrine, ascendant since the 1980s of Margaret Thatcher‘s UK and Ronald Reagan‘s US, that private activities produce public good and personal happiness more effectively than any public investment or oversight.

Nearly 40 years on, we finally query the wisdoms of a neoliberal society. But without knowing exactly what it got wrong, it’s impossible to do better.

The Tudor humanist Thomas More and the Regency clergyman Thomas Robert Malthus, of all people, can help us. They are experts on our moment. Together, their key works turn a spotlight on the much disparaged, pre-neoliberal 1970s, when things could have gone differently.

The 1970s represent the last serious discussion of whether and how humans can manage the rest of nature for the greater good. We need that forthright mix again, bitter Malthusian tea served, nevertheless, with a sweet lump of Utopia.

The last days of disco, the 1970s, were the glorious times before the buzz of neoliberalism. Before greed was good and environmental limits were negotiable, people worried about staying alive and danced to ‘Stayin’ Alive’. Circumstances warned against the easy acquisition of happiness, yet people sought it, indeed, preached that it should be available to all.

Now, nations, states, innovators and cultural leaders have accepted the dubious promise of neoliberalism, that to extract private wealth from everything is an excellent way of being.

The good news is that the upcoming arguments – indeed they have already begun – about what to do next can do more than repeat the nearly parodistic Adam SmithKarl Marx confrontation that has dominated for at least a generation. more> https://goo.gl/sjnI4f

What is logic?

BOOK REVIEW

Critique of Pure Reason, Author: Immanuel Kant.
A History of Formal Logic, Author: J M Bocheński.
Principles of Philosophy, Author: René Descartes.
Summa Theologica, Author: Thomas Aquinas.
Meditations on First Philosophy, Author: René Descartes.
Port-Royal Logic, Authors: Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole.
The Mathematical Analysis of Logic, Author: George Boole.
Begriffsschrift, Author: Gottlob Frege.
Principia Mathematica, Authors: Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell.

By Catarina Dutilh Novaes – The history of logic should be of interest to anyone with aspirations to thinking that is correct, or at least reasonable.

Descartes hits the nail on the head when he claims that the logic of the Schools (scholastic logic) is not really a logic of discovery. Its chief purpose is justification and exposition, which makes sense particularly against the background of dialectical practices, where interlocutors explain and debate what they themselves already know. Indeed, for much of the history of logic, both in ancient Greece and in the Latin medieval tradition, ‘dialectic’ and ‘logic’ were taken to be synonymous.

Up to Descartes’s time, the chief application of logical theories was to teach students to perform well in debates and disputations, and to theorize on the logical properties of what follows from what, insofar as this is an essential component of such argumentative practices. It’s true that not everyone conceived of logic in this way: Thomas Aquinas, for example, held that logic is about ‘second intentions’, roughly what we call second-order concepts, or concepts of concepts. But as late as in the 16th century, the Spanish theologian Domingo de Soto could write with confidence that ‘dialectic is the art or science of disputing’. more> https://goo.gl/iFCWw4

Updates from Autodesk

Motion CaptVRe
CADInnovation.com – Motion capture, and the way it is used in game development, is improving rapidly. No longer used solely by animators to record and store an actor’s performance, the technology is expanding into new areas. Those working with it on a daily basis are excited to see where this might lead.

Technology’s inevitable march forward means that motion capture can now occur in realtime, with an actor’s movements being instantly reflected in a game. Not only does this benefit animators by streamlining their process, but it also opens doors to other applications, like virtual reality. The HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR all take advantage of motion capture technology to allow players to interact with virtual worlds. Not as advanced as that used in an animation studio, perhaps, but with time this can only improve.

“The biggest advance in mo-cap, in my opinion, is linked to the VR push,” says Alexandre Pechev, CEO of motion capture middleware provider IKinema. more> https://goo.gl/3vY2NT