Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Artificial Liver Grown From Stem Cells! (Well, a mini version anyway)

My dream of turning myself into a cyborg and live a few centuries (or a few millenia) is one step closer! Mwahahahaha! Mwahahahaha!

From the article:

British scientists have grown the world's first artificial liver from stem cells in a breakthrough that will one day provide entire organs for transplant. The technique that created the 'mini-liver', currently the size of a one pence piece, will be developed to create a full-size functioning liver.

Here is an estimate of the timeframe:

Within five years, pieces of artificial tissue could be used to repair livers damaged by injury, disease, alcohol abuse and paracetamol overdose. And then, in just 15 years' time, entire liver transplants could take place using organs grown in a lab.

I guess I would double the estimate to 30 years as the time that I must keep my liver working before I can get a new replacement then.

Now, we need a good way to back up my brain state, a good processor to run my brain image, and an easily repaired body, and my dream would be fulfilled.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

But The Hearts of Men Are Easily Corrupted


และยังเห็นนักเล่าข่าวที่ไม่มีทั้งกึ๋นและจริยธรรม ยังอ้าปากพะงาบๆตามทีวีช่องต่างๆ กรอกหูประชาชนดั่งพวกเราโง่กว่ากระบืออยู่ทุกวัน

แล้วผมก็คิดถึงคำพูดของ Galadriel ที่พูดในหนัง The Lord of the Rings ที่ผมนั่งดูกับธีธัชเมื่อวันก่อน (ผมลอกมาจากเว็บที่แฟนหนังจับภาพจาก DVD และจด subtitleไว้อย่างยอดเยี่ยม อย่าลืมกดเข้าไปดู) ผมกำลังสงสัยว่าผู้นำผู้มีอำนาจของประเทศไทยหลายๆคนอาจอยากจะเลียนแบบ Isildur ถ้าเป็นอย่างนั้นจริง เหล่า Hobbits ก็เตรียมเหนื่อยอีกได้

ผมหวังว่าผู้นำประเทศของเราจะไม่ทำพลาดง่ายๆเหมือน Isildur

Galadriel: "One by one, the free lands of Middle-Earth fell to the power of the Ring. But there were some who resisted. A last alliance of Men and Elves marched against the armies of Mordor, and on the slopes of Mount Doom they fought for the freedom of Middle-Earth."

[Vast armies of Men, Elves and Orcs assemble on a battlefield. The Elves and Humans regard their enemies as the Orcs snarl back. The Orcs attack the Alliance, rushing across the field that separates the two armies. An Elven lieutenant gives the command to the Elven archers to engage.]

Elrond: "Tangado haid! Leithio i philinn!" (Hold positions! Fire arrows!)

[The Elves raise their bows and release arrows at the oncoming Orcs, knocking down the first line of Orcs. As the wave of the Orc infantry reaches the first line of the Elven troops, the Elves swing their swords up, slicing the Orcs, one after the other down the line. The Eves and the Men are fully engaged in combat, taking down many of the Orc troops. The leader of Men raises his sword in triumph.]

Galadriel: "Victory was near."

Galadriel: "But the power of the Ring could not be undone."

[Sauron strides onto the battlefield, towering over both Elves and Men. Sauron wields a mace, hitting a group of warriors and sending them flying across the field. He repeats it with another fell swoop. The leader of Men raises his sword to strike Sauron, but Sauron parries the blow and flings him against the rock, crushing him to death. Horrified, one of the Men rushes to the fallen warrior.]

Galadriel: "It was in this moment, when all hope had faded, that Isildur, son of the King, took up his father's sword."

[Isildur grasps the hilt of the sword, but Sauron stomps it down, shattering it. Sauron, with the Ring on his finger, reaches down towards Isildur. Isildur lets out a battle cry and strikes Sauron's hand with the shard of the sword, slicing the finger that bears the One Ring. Sauron lets out a cry as the Ring is separated from him. Sauron implodes, sending a shock wave throughout the battlefield, knocking the warring troops off their feet. His armor falls unto the ground, his body vaporized.]

Galadriel: "Sauron, the enemy of the free-peoples of Middle-Earth, was defeated."

Galadriel: "The Ring passed to Isildur, who had this one chance to destroy evil forever. But the hearts of Men are easily corrupted. And the Ring of Power has a will of its own."

[Isildur, proudly wearing the Ring of Power on a chain round his neck, returns from the battle. On the way, his troop is attacked by a band of Orcs. In the fighting, Isildur grabs the chain and snaps it, putting the Ring on his finger, and immediately vanishes. Isildur dives into the river. But the Ring slips off his finger and falls down to the river bottom.]

Galadriel: "It betrayed Isildur…"

[Isildur, visible again, is spotted by Orcs and shot by arrows.]

Galadriel: "…to his death."

[His body floats down the river.]

Galadriel: "And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Quantum Computing Since Democritus

In the ongoing upgrade process of my brain, I found Scott Aaronson's lecture notes of "PHYS771 Quantum Computing Since Democritus*" very interesting. Only the first four lectures are available as of today, but I eagerly await the rest.

I haven't learned much about quantum computer yet, but I really like the way he reviewed the math/computer science/philosophy ideas (that took me decades to haphazardly absorbed) in four lectures. I especially like his lecture about sets and different types of infinities--I remember having a lot of fun trying to understand them when I was young.

According to some scientists (such as Seth Lloyd and Ed Fredkin), we are already parts of a quantum computer called the Universe, therefore knowing the nature of quantum computation should help to understand Nature better. (No, when we talk about quantum computer and computation, we are not talking about a Matrix-like simulation; we are talking about the way elementary particles interact and change their states to update the Universe's status, following the rules of quantum mechanics. If the Universe is a simulation, the type of simulation is lower-leveled than in the Matrix--the simulation is at the elementary particles and space-time level, not at the level of human neural inputs.)

I have a few favorite questions that are about two decades old now: How can an atom know when to fall to the ground? Why should anything obey the law of Nature? Where is the law of nature stored? How is it accessed by the particles in our space-time**? I suspect that clues to these questions might come from thinking of Nature as information transformation. Unfortunately, I'm too stupid to refine my suspicion into guesses that can be checked for correctness (or incorrectness) by experiments or observations.

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*Democritus, by the way, was the guy who proposed the existence of atoms (and void) around 2,500 years ago.

From Wikipedia: "...According to legend, Democritus was supposed to be mad because he laughed at everything, and so he was sent to Hippocrates to be cured. Hippocrates pointed out that he was not mad, but, instead, had a happy disposition. That is why Democritus is sometimes called the laughing philosopher..."

**Some people think everything is made of space-time, including elementary particles, which are various braids of space-time. These people study loop quantum gravity. Other people think space-time and elementary particles are separate and elementary particles are modes of vibration of something called strings. These people study string theory. If I'm a betting man, I would bet on loop quantum gravity, but I'm quite ignorant in both fields--I'm just biased about the background-independence idea.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Our Earth = A Pale Blue Dot

The picture was taken by the spacecraft Voyager 1 on Februry 14, 1990 when it was leaving our solar system. It looked back at the the Sun and the planets one last time. That small dot at the tip of the arrow is our Earth.

Carl Sagan, one of my scientist heroes, said:

"We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam..."

You need to go see the picture and read the rest of what he said at this page.

Wikipedia also has more information about the picture and the book of the same name.

By the way, my favorite Sagan's book is "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark".