Oct 28, 2010

What the heck is Nano?

You know it - nano are these strange, probably evil, tiny little thingies, well, yes? No? Maybe?
Ask a chemist and he will talk about particles on the nanometer scale (0,000000001m), a pharmacist might emphasize how these nanoparticles can permeate through your skin, the physicist, meanwhile, thinks of semiconductor-structures as you have them in your computer-chips.
So, what the heck is Nano?
The European Commission is asking you (and me and your neighbour plus some friends - literally everybody) to find a definition of the term "nanomaterial" that the European Commission may use as an overarching, broadly applicable reference term for any EU communication addressing nanomaterials.
Any ideas?
You may discuss them with us here, or go directly to the EU website.
You might help prevent "Nano" from bearing any bias like "Atom" or "Gene".

Oct 18, 2010

Smartass now open for comments

The times of one-way entertainment are over at Smart-S.
We give in to the pressure and open the possibility to comment to everybody. There is a brief review-process to reduce the amount of automated SPAM - so publishing of your input may sometimes be delayed a bit. Don't panic.

Oct 13, 2010

The binary beer

What do you think of when you see your empty beer-glass in front of you? Right: it could be full. This is ok with me, you seem to be no techie. Would you have taken up the essence of the binary world through your umbilical cord, your first response would be: Beer=1, noBeer=0 - hey, what a great way to exchange messages in a bar! Rows of full and empty beer-glasses representing zeroes and ones, a wonderfull virtual world!
No, I am not drunk - yet.
While building a computer out of lined-up beverages might be a bit off mainstream, expensive and a never acceptable misappropriation of digestible goods, some tech-kids made the youtube-charts with a presentation of their computer built from stone and dust in the virtual world of minecraft.
As Wired Magazine reports, some geek called Ben Craddock (or theinternetftw in his world) built a computer entirely out of the virtual matter redstone. When redstone is destroyed it forms redstone dust, which itself can be used to build wires with two possible states: powered and not powered - voila! The binary code.
While Craddock and others are building very basic prototypes of 'derivative-computers', it will get exciting, when more advanced material is entered into the game. It is not necessary, to rely on binary code alone - the analog computer is shadowed by the success of binary, but nature takes advantage of it's special properties - and built that still not replicated supermachine: the brain.
If the nerds in virtuality pick up on this and use analog signals (sound, wind, force,...) to build an operating machine ... and if the building blocks they design can be packaged, miniaturized and reused by others for even more complex meta-machines ... who knows, maybe one day something starts thinking or even feeling - on either side of the screen.

Oct 10, 2010

What is the commercial value of an idea?

Ideas are floating around in the gazillions. Most are irrelevant, some are cute, others nifty and a few might even be good or extraordinary. But what commercial value does an idea have if it is not followed up?
If I had friends and if they had any creative brains I am sure many would rant about ideas stolen from them for commercial gain. Well, maybe not many, but some - certainly scaled with the rate of alcohol-intake. Ideas like the one to set up a tool for easy sharing and showing of likes and dislikes in the form of picture, sounds, data and relations over the internet that we know as Facebook. What commercial and social impact would Facebook have today if the alleged thieve (Marc Zuckerberg, if you believe the plausible plot of the movie) would not have cared to steal it?
Would Facebook be such a tremendous success if Marc Zuckerberg wasn't around to push it? Would it be around at all? What about all those mini-facebook lookalikes? Those platforms for special interest groups, students, romance-seekers, political activists. Why does Facebook have so much more bang? Because of Zuckerberg.
You don't have to like him, you can even 'defriend' him. But his role as a catalyst for an otherwise unexplored idea is invaluable. (May anybody please call Marc and tell him of the brilliant concepts I am stashing away in my drawer?)

Oct 7, 2010

It is not about the money - but it doesn't hurt

David Gelernter's company "Mirror Worlds Technologies" was way ahead of her time.
Developing software that makes access to computers easier and more intuitive was a nice idea at the beginning of this century, but less than enthusiastically received by the market. Based on ideas layed out in Gelernter's book "Mirror Worlds: or the Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox... How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean" the company brought only one product to live: "Scopeware" (2001). Scopeware displays a stack of registry-cards on screen, where the user can thumb through, bringing their content (fotos, emails, webpages...) to the focus - a technique well known today from Apples "cover flow". While Mirror worlds was disbanded in 2003 because of the lack of revenue - Apples sleak and intuitively interfaced devices are tremendously popular must-haves.
A federal court in Tyler, Texas awarded $625.5 million to Gelernter for patent violation by Apple.
While Gelernter emphasized in an interview with the blog "Big Think" before the verdict was announced that "money is not the issue" - the sum might still send a smile on Gelernter's face.
(Apple is challenging the verdict)