Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Future...

Not sure if this really is a joke or not...and now from our sponsors...

New Google Phone Service Whispers Targeted Ads Directly Into Users' Ears

...trouble is, I'm partially responsible for this in a small way....don't say I didn't warn you!

Friday, 21 May 2010

London 2012 Mascots

Wenlock and Mandeville....the Daily Mash has the best report so far:

MILLIONS of children are waking up this morning drenched in sweat and urine following the unveiling of the London 2012 Olympic mascots.

They smell of whisky and feast on tongues

Wenlock and Mandeville were greeted with a chorus of blood-curdling screams as onlookers trampled each other in a desperate bid to escape.

The best bit however of this article is the description of said Wenlock and Mandeville:

"What we've got here is two giant, damaged teeth, each with a massive, psychotic eye and razor sharp claws. And the blue one seems to be using bright, friendly colours to draw attention to his genital area.

"So these things - designed specifically for children - are basically lobster-clawed pervert monsters that remind them of the dentist. Bravo."

Artificial Life...

"First artifical life?", here's the news from J Craig Venter Laboratories:

Now, this scientific team headed by Drs. Craig Venter, Hamilton Smith and Clyde Hutchison have achieved the final step in their quest to create the first synthetic bacterial cell. In a publication in Science magazine, Daniel Gibson, Ph.D. and a team of 23 additional researchers outline the steps to synthesize a 1.08 million base pair Mycoplasma mycoides genome, constructed from four bottles of chemicals that make up DNA. This synthetic genome has been "booted up" in a cell to create the first cell controlled completely by a synthetic genome.
NB: Above summary truncated for space reasons (see original)

And the news from the BBC:
'Artificial life' breakthrough announced by scientists
By Victoria Gill, Science reporter, BBC News

Scientists in the US have succeeded in developing the first living cell to be controlled entirely by synthetic DNA. The researchers constructed a bacterium's "genetic software" and transplanted it into a host cell. The resulting microbe then looked and behaved like the species "dictated" by the synthetic DNA.

and the reference in Science:

Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome
20 May 2010 DOI: 10.1126/science.1190719

Daniel G. Gibson, John I. Glass, Carole Lartigue, Vladimir N. Noskov, Ray-Yuan Chuang, Mikkel A. Algire, Gwynedd A. Benders, Michael G. Montague, Li Ma, Monzia M. Moodie, Chuck Merryman, Sanjay Vashee, Radha Krishnakumar, Nacyra Assad- Garcia, Cynthia Andrews-Pfannkoch, Evgeniya A. Denisova, Lei Young, Zhi-Qing Qi, Thomas H. Segall-Shapiro, Christopher H. Calvey, Prashanth P. Parmar, Clyde A. Hutchison III, Hamilton O. Smith, J. Craig Venter

BBC World Service radio has a very good interview with Dr.Venter (Wikipedia entry here). Unfortunately this hasn't really stopped the accompanying hysteria. BBC World Service's Newshour ( 14h05, 21 May 2010 UK Time: link - which may work in the future ) has a superb interview with Prof Steve Jones, Dept. of Generics, UCL which discusses what has actually happened in clear, precise, scientific terms in a way that is readily understandable to the general public.

However, for most media outlets, Newsbiscuit has a rather more accurate take on the reporting of this and regrettably anything related to science usually:
Journalists create world’s first artificial news story

Journalists in the UK have succeeded in creating the world’s first synthetic news story about artificial DNA.The hacks developed the outline of a normal piece of reporting about a tentative, abstruse scientific discovery, and transplanted into it some organic tripe about an unprecedented scientific breakthrough which will change the world and possibly wipe out all human life

Frighteningly Newsbiscuit's report probably has more accurate, scientific comment than most mainstream media.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


Admittedly it has been years since using Usenet, but back in '92 it really was quite something - many many wonderful groups such as alt.lang.ml and the official (I was part of that!) comp.lang.ml ...

Now Duke is shutting down its Usenet server...

A Piece of Internet History
Duke to shut Usenet server, home to the first electronic newsgroups
By Cara Bonnett
Monday, May 17, 2010

This week marks the end of an era for one of the earliest pieces of Internet history, which got its start at Duke more than 30 years ago.
On May 20, Duke will shut down its Usenet server, which provides access to a worldwide electronic discussion network of newsgroups started in 1979 by two Duke graduate students, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Free Software and a Movie

This is impressive - an "free/open source" produced movie -

all produced using Blender - read more at the Sintel pages. Move over Pixar!

Happy Birthday

Been nearly a month since the last post...anyway, here are some birthday wishes for a piece of "blue-sky" research which almost accidentally became one of the most ubiquitous technologies we know*

*manager, accountants and lawyers take note!