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Dr. Paul W.K. Rothemund and Dr. Eric Winfree awarded the Feynman Prize at nanoTX Conference

Dr. Paul W.K. Rothemund and Dr. Eric Winfree were awarded the 2006 Foresight Institute Feynman Prizes at the nanoTX Conference last week, at a special awards reception. (I earlier blogged about H. Ross Perot’s keynote address at this conference.)

Rothemund was on-hand to receive the award, and I was fortunate to be able to attend his presentation on his and Winfree’s research. Rothemund delivered first a presentation on his work, and then he delivered a presentation on behalf of Winfree who could not attend.

Rothemund’s work is fantastic — he works upon Algorithmic Self-Assembly. He’s been able to program long strands of viral DNA such than when mixed in a suspension with other short DNA snippets (and heated slightly), the snippets or “staples” will bind to the long strand in particular order, causing it to fold back upon itself to form precise shapes. Rothemund has nicknamed what he does as “DNA Origami”, although the key concept is the ability to program the DNA to order itself into near two-dimensional, or even three-dimensional shapes. As proof of concept, Rothemund has programmed DNA to fold itself into words, stars, smiley faces, and other shapes.

DNA Smiley
Smiley composed of one long DNA strand
The staple snippets of DNA are not shown in this representation.
(Illustration copyright 2006 by Chris Silver Smith.)

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Governor Rick Perry & H. Ross Perot open Nanotech Conference, nanoTX ’06

Yesterday morning, Governor Rick Perry and H. Ross Perot each gave opening remarks at the nanoTX nanotechnology conference here in Dallas.

Kelly Kordzik (President of the board of the Texas Nanotechnology Initiative organization), and Rich Templeton (CEO of Texas Instruments) each gave some introductory remarks. Templeton’s talk was interesting, touching on work done by TI, and on how Nanotech is still in its infancy and very much dependent upon government investment/support. Governor Rick Perry spoke for a short while, mainly trying to hype up his support of the Texas Emerging Technology Fund which has enabled a lot of research in the field of nanotech, enabling Texas to be on the leading end of the work, worldwide.

Read on for more details…

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Towards a New Cyberpunk Reality

I recently discovered something interesting about my company, Verizon.

Do you remember the old Oliver Stone tv mini-series from the early 90s called “Wild Palms”? It was about a dystopian future of America where a fascist political group has risen to power, headed up by a senator who founded a new philosophy called “Synthiotics” or “New Realism”, which apparently involves the next stage of human evolution and virtual reality (VR).

The Senator, named Anton Kreutzer, owns a company named Mimecom which has developed some sort of advanced VR technology and 3-d display technology which they are about to deploy out to households through a television company, called Channel 3, in a new drama series they’ve named “Church Windows”. They seemed to be using Church Windows as a platform for propagandizing Synthiotic tenets, as well. The Senator is seeking one last piece of technology from Japan, a “Go Chip”, which will essentially give him eternal life, and seal up his political power. The Go Chip is named after the game of Go, an ancient Chinese strategy game that has been used by artificial intelligence researchers as a test case for building systems which can learn and immitate human intelligence (though, they don’t really spell out that AI tie-in during the series).

Cyberpunk Photo - Sony Center at night
Berlin’s Sony Centre in Potsdamer Platz reflects the global reach of a Japanese corporation. Much cyberpunk action occurs in urbanized, artificial landscapes, and “city lights at night” was one of the genre’s first metaphors for cyberspace (in Gibson’s Neuromancer).

The Wild Palms series was likely intended to be a very cutting-edge, conceptual story that was inspired in large part by the cyberpunk movement in science fiction. One of the prime “founders” of the cyberpunk movement, the author William Gibson, actually puts in a cameo appearance in the series, as well. Oliver Stone likely intended the story to use semiotic literary devices as well, since many of the plot items and names seemed to be intended to have multiple layers of meanings.

Here’s where fiction begins to turn into reality. MimEcom was the name of an actual ecommerce/hosting/technology firm that was later started up in San Francisco, and considered IPOing in 2000, though the dot-bombs happened, and it halted plans to go public.

Later, MimEcom changed their company name to “Totality”.

In about 2005, Totality was acquired by MCI. MCI was merged into Verizon later on in 2005. The Totality part was folded under the Verizon Business division of the company. (more…)


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