Simulating the Brain

Human BrainCan we scan, store and simulate the human brain, and with it bring to life all our memories, experiences, emotions, and personality? This is a big philosophical question, but here I assume for the moment that this is a problem with only technical challenges, and not ones that relate to mystical aspects of being.

The human brain contains around 75 billion neurons. If each one has at most 100,000 inputs, then we could store information about the sources of all Continue reading

Trees, Fractals and Solar Power

SunflowerThe Wall Street Journal recently ran a story about Aidan Dwyer, a 13 year old, who has created a stir with his science project which purported to show that if solar cells are arranged in space like leaves on a tree rather than on a flat surface, they collect more solar energy. His project write-up can be found here. The internet response has ranged from praise and offers of business capital to aggressive attacks and charges that his experiment is pseudoscience.

Unfortunately Aidan did not measure the right quantity (power) when performing his experiments, so in the original form they are not conclusive. What aspects of his ideas Continue reading

Are we Engineering a Flu Pandemic?

Avian Flu Virus

At a mid-September influenza conference in Malta, Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, reported that his team had managed to take the avian H5N1 virus (which has high mortality in humans but is difficult to transmit) and engineer it so that it became highly contagious, at least among lab animals. They had in fact engineered a super-bug which, although currently contained in their facility, has the capacity to cause a devastating flu pandemic. In a sort of scientific synchronicity, similar experiments have been reported by Continue reading