Nanowalker gets moving

Posted by jerry on May 17th, 2004 — Posted in Journal, Technology

Even at microscopic levels its about engineering! Nanomachines (tiny machines made up of a few molecules) have gone back to renaissance machine elements to come up with simple elements that can move in complex ways – and where it doesn’t necessarily matter if you get the odd atom in the wrong place!

While nanomotors made from variations on carbon ‘buckyballs’ have been made before, a walking robot is a whole other ball game!

A series of scanning electron microscope pictures of the spinning rotor of a nanomotor fabricated in the lab of UC Berkeley physicist Alex Zettl. The entire electric motor is about 500 nanometers across, 300 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.(Credit: Zettl lab)

Then DNA and RNA molecules have been formed into a working motor powered by the reaction by which we turn food into energy in our own bodies.

Now New York University chemists Nadrian (Ned) Seeman and William Sherman have come up with a microscopic robot made from DNA strands. New Scientist explains that the robot walks along a track – also made of DNA – which is covered in spikes to provide footholds. Of course actually seeing the robot is tricky at these sizes. But if you think of ‘seeing’ in the phenomenological sense as that which can be sensed, then these guys get around the seeing problem by looking for footprints – and finding them using a DNA ‘fingerprinting’ technique.

There will of course be many doomsayers who want to announce that this is the worst thing since white bread, I reckon the challenge will be to come up with ‘under what conditions can we…?


Coding the Grail?

Posted by jerry on May 14th, 2004 — Posted in History, Journal, Travel, Writing

The Brits have a real penchant for anything related to the Arthurian legend and the quest for the Holy Grail. And now it seems that a mysterious 18th Century inscription has set people again wondering if the Grail might yet be found. Now some of the best codebreakers have got together to see if they can read the inscription – including past and present codebreakers from Bletchley Park and its present day version, GCHQ.

It may of course just be a special message to a dear departed loved one. Some of those who have begun to examine the inscription feel that it contains Classical allusions, but it remains to be seen whether there is enough of the inscription to provide a key or way into the code. The inscription is on a monument at Shugborough Hall in the grounds of Lord Lichfield’s estate in Staffordshire, UK, and The Guardian has a picture of the inscription here


Musicplasma – the music visual search engine

Posted by jerry on May 12th, 2004 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology

Now here is a site you have to check out! It’s a search engine showing links between musicians. the interface is great! it displays results like a 3D fly-through so you get the sense of being inside the data. The site is called musicplasma – you just enter the name of a musician or band and up come the results, along with all the other musicians that have been associated with that band. It’s real six degress of separation stuff 🙂

The interface looks as though it owes something to an early alternative interface design called HotSauce, developed by Ramanthan v. Guha while he was at Apple Research in the early-mid 1990s.

Hotsauce interface
An example of the HotSauce interface

Guha’s aim was to produce a feeling of flying through the data stream to provide a visual representation of web pages in space. I remember having a go with it – must’ve been about 1996 – when a version was released in MacFormat magazine on a 3.5″ floppy disk. It was great fun, but I found it tricky to get back to places I’d been to once I’d flown past. Somehow HotSauce never quite caught on, but it clearly laid some important groundwork for data visualisation and interface design. The latest iteration of Guha’s concept is actually quite useable – check out Map Net which uses more of a terrain metaphor. It is certainly easier to become oriented in the information. Guha is a technical adviser on – who have developed the map net technology.


Book a Minute

Posted by jerry on May 11th, 2004 — Posted in Journal, Writing

As the blurb says – who has the time to read a whole book these days? The bods at Book-A-Minute have ultra condensed a whole bunch of classics, sci fis, even movies down to a bare sentence or two – it’s a great hoot!



More recording

Posted by jerry on May 10th, 2004 — Posted in Music, Technology

Phew what a night!

Another night another track down – this time it’s a set of Irish jigs: Freize Britches and Lark in the Morning

You can find the music for these in although the versions we use are from the Adelaide Celtic Music club repertoire from about thirty years ago – the same source as Suzette Watkins and Chris O’Conner’s “Begged Borrowed and Stolen” tune book.

Fairly happy with the result – and the Tracktion software is a breeze to use! I highly recommend this application. It accepts VST filters and is truly drag and drop. And everything you need is on the desktop – not hidden behind layers of menus.

Still have to put the bass tracks down, but we have three or four quite useable tracks now, and that with probably three or four songs should give us a fair demo CD for the festival crowd and to generally secure us a bit more work.

Must get some sleep now.