My picks for 2008: Top 11 People and lists reporting on and/or predicting breakthroughs in Science and Technology. You’ll notice I cheated a lot; but, I still left a LOT of stuff out:
Big Bang Theory giving way to the Big Bounce Theory? Einstein’s relativity comes up short in simulations of the beginning of the Universe, but the theory of this Universe emerging from the gravity-driven collapse of a previous Universe has potential, according to this article in New Scientist
ABHAY ASHTEKAR remembers his reaction the first time he saw the universe bounce. “I was taken aback,” he says. He was watching a simulation of the universe rewind towards the big bang. Mostly the universe behaved as expected, becoming smaller and denser as the galaxies converged. But then, instead of reaching the big bang “singularity”, the universe bounced and started expanding again. What on earth was happening?
Ashtekar wanted to be sure of what he was seeing, so he asked his colleagues to sit on the result for six months before publishing it in 2006. And no wonder. The theory that the recycled universe was based on, called loop quantum cosmology (LQC), had managed to illuminate the very birth of the universe – something even Einstein’s general theory of relativity fails to do.
Original, July 9, 2008 http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23997209-2,00.html
COMPUTER users frustrated by slow internet connections could soon be surfing the web 100 times faster, all thanks to new Australian technology.
University of Sydney scientists say they have developed a new technology that could speed up the internet – and not cost users an extra cent.
Described as “a small scratch on a piece of glass”, the university’s photonic integrated circuit boosts the performance of traditional optic fibres, Professor Ben Eggleton said.
“This circuit uses the ‘scratch’ as a guide or a switching a path for information – kind of like when trains are switched from one track to another – except this switch takes one picosecond to change tracks,” Prof Eggleton said of the technology developed over the past four years.
Original, July 21, 2008 KurzweilAI.net
25 percent of the planet will be connected to the Internet by 2012, according to a Jupiter Research report, with highest growth rate in areas such as China, Russia, India and Brazil.
Many of these users will be able to understand each other’s language, says Ray Kurzweil.
He cites current developments in the speed and accuracy of statistical translation systems, which have improved exponentially in the past 10 years, such as Language Weaver’s automatic language translation software, which can now translate between 2,000 and 5,000 words per minute on a single CPU, using proprietary statistical translation algorithms. He also cites Apptek’s hybrid machine translation (HMT) system, which integrates statistical and rule-based processing.
Original, July 13, 2006 http://www.kurzweilai.net/articles/art0683.html?printable=1
Of the three primary revolutions underlying the Singularity (G, N, and R), the most profound is R, which refers to the creation of nonbiological intelligence that exceeds that of unenhanced humans. A more intelligent process will inherently outcompete one that is less intelligent, making intelligence the most powerful force in the universe.
While the “R” in GNR stands for robotics, the real issue involved here is strong AI (artificial intelligence that exceedshuman intelligence). The standard reason for emphasizing robotics in this formulation is that intelligence needs an embodiment, a physical presence, to affect the world. I disagree with the emphasis on physical presence, however, for I believe that the central concern is intelligence. Intelligence will inherently find a way to influence the world, including creating its own means for embodiment and physical manipulation. Furthermore, we can include physical skills as a fundamental part of intelligence; a large portion of the human brain (the cerebellum, comprising more than half our neurons), for example, is devoted to coordinating our skills and muscles.
Artificial intelligence at human levels will necessarily greatly exceed human intelligence for several reasons. As I pointed out earlier machines can readily share their knowledge. As unenhanced humans we do not have the means of sharing the vast patterns of interneuronal connections andneurotransmitter-concentration levels that comprise ourlearning, knowledge, and skills, other than through slow,language-based communication. Of course, even this methodof communication has been very beneficial, as it has distinguished us from other animals and has been an enabling factor in the creation of technology.
Human skills are able to develop only in ways that have beenevolutionarily encouraged. Those skills, which are primarily based on massively parallel pattern recognition, provide proficiency for certain tasks, such as distinguishing faces, identifying objects, and recognizing language sounds. But they’re not suited for many others, such as determining patterns in financial data. Once we fully master pattern-recognition paradigms, machine methods can apply these techniques to any type of pattern.2
Original, July 17, 2008: http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/21086/?a=f
An international team of researchers has shown that it can control the quantum state of a single electron in a silicon transistor–even putting the electron in two places at once. Their discovery could help pave the way toward a practical quantum computer.
Quantum computers take advantage of the strange properties of subatomic particles to perform certain types of calculations much faster than classical computers can. Researchers are exploring a host of different approaches to quantum computing, and some have even built primitive quantum circuits that can perform calculations. But practical quantum computing would require the ability to manufacture devices with millions of quantum circuits–rather than the 12 or 16 achievable now–that can be integrated with more-conventional electronics.