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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rewinding the Dodo Bird???

When Lewis Carroll published Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, Darwin's first edition On the Origin of Species had been in print for a mere six years. The dodo bird, a native to the island Mauritius, had been extinct for possibly two hundred years before that, as the last recorded sighting was made in 1662. The poor dodo, which had previously enjoyed a life of peace and plenty on the island, was unable to defend its genetic lineage against the Dutch colonists of the 17th century, and vanished from the earth for ever. Or so we believe...
Everybody has won, and all must have prizes!!!

Fast forward to 2007, cavers on an expedition to the island discover a fully intact Dodo skeleton. And thanks to DNA analysis learn that its closest genetic relative is a pigeon....

And this year a far more ancient extinct animal specimen, the woolly mammoth, was found frozen, intact, and in excellent condition.... including its fur, flesh, and blood. Can science soon de-extinct animals?  Which advances in genome sequencing and cloning have brought us, at full speed, to this new realm of possibilities, and should we forge a path into the unknown? Do we dare?

                                             More about mammoth de-extinction

What do you think? Should extinct animals just go the way of the Dodo, to be lost in time? Or should we rewind time and bring them back to life? Might there be good reasons for mankind to advance this technology, so we have the means to resurrect and clone vanished species, or what about present species? For example, what if there were a biological or other deadly threat to life on earth? Should we have a  de-extinction "genetic preservation plan",  in case of disaster ?
 USA Science & Engineering Festival NiftyFifty Speaker Dr. Beth Shapiro is an evolutionary biologist :

Thursday, September 5, 2013

get smart ...with your watch?

I'm on it, Chief!

This fall's smart watch race is officially on, with the new Samsung product that came out today. Not sure why the user in the demo video is not WEARING the wearable device but that is another issue,
(one which I do touch upon at the end of this post.)

From Dick Tracy to James Bond, wrist devices that offer more functionality than mere "wearable time keeping" have been on our sci-tech radar for a while. So it was only a short matter of time that we are now promised to be inundated with smart watches in every shape and style.

 But how smart are they? Right now the device needs a constant connection to something "smarter" , i.e., your smart phone, in order to work. What do they come loaded with, and what do you have to download and install? Do you really want to have your wrist buzz and shake with every new text or tweet? And looking down this road a bit further, what if this seemingly innocent "social media" wrist candy ushers in a new era of mandatory wearable accessories ( think: military, factory, corporation), bringing human/digital connectivity to more inevitable dystopia? After all, wasn't Chief Brandon barking orders through Dick Tracy's watch?

 Just saying...

An Ad for a wearable watch radio in a 1963 magazine. Note that it needs an earphone jack so that the iconic cool Dick Tracy moment of "listening to your watch" might have been just a bit more awkward with this model.

Anyway, I think that neither the current standard, which is the awkward, rectangular shaped, rigid smart phone , nor it's geeky new cousin, the over sized smart watch, represent much more than primitive prototypes for future personal, mobile computing and communication devices.  It's easy to predict big and inevitable advances in ergonomic designs, thanks to better flexible display screen technologies coupled with ever shrinking nano microprocessors.

What do you think?  What would Al think, I wonder?

Al Gross, pioneering inventor of mobile wireless technology
Cartoonist Chester Gould once visited Gross and saw his wristwatch-radio prototype. After the visit, Gould called up Gross and asked if he could use this concept for his Dick Tracy comic strip. Gross said yes, and in January 1946 the Dick Tracy cartoon was changed forever with the introduction of the iconic two-way wrist radio.
( photo : Digital Library and Archives, University Libraries, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.)