Wolbachia cronenbergium

My, the folks over at the Venter Institute have been busy lately. First they changed one microbe species into another by physically replacing its entire genome. They did this in their quest to create a synthetic organism, basically a chassis with the absolute minimum number of genes necessary for life, which could then be loaded […]

Posted in: biology, evolution, science by Peter Watts 12 Comments

WoW! Pandemic!

Today’s post comes on the heels of a) me answering backlogged questions from XFire’s gaming community, and b) grumbles from the peanut gallery about the recent lack of shiny techy science-speak on the ‘crawl. It just so happens that today’s subject combines elements of both, and holy shit is it cool: a paper in Lancet […]

Posted in: a-life, biology, science by Peter Watts 13 Comments

Nature Nurtures.

The Nature interview went pretty well, after a start-up technical glitch or two. I had a blast. The ideas were thick upon the ground. (I especially liked Ken MacLeod’s premise of military robots developing self-awareness on the battlefield due to programming that gave them increasingly-complex theories-of-mind as a means of anticipating enemy behaviour.) I got […]

Posted in: fellow liars, interviews, science, writing news by Peter Watts 39 Comments

The Uplift Protein

Neuropsin, that is. A prefrontal-cortex protein involved in learning and memory. There’s this one variant that’s peculiar to us Humans, 45 amino acids longer than the standard model handed out to other primates, and a team of Chinese researchers have just nailed the gene that codes for it. And the really cool part? Utterly ignoring […]

Posted in: evolution, neuro, science by Peter Watts 9 Comments

Brainoculars

You may have seen this already. It’s been out for a few days now. And at first glance it’s nothing special: technology controlled by brainwaves through an ECG electrode interface, which is so far behind the cutting edge that you’ll be finding it in games before the end of the year. But check out this […]

Posted in: neuro, science by Peter Watts 7 Comments

The anti-Moore’s Law

Anyone who’s read my fiction has probably figured out my perspective on life-support/environmental issues. I tend not to talk about such stuff here, not because I don’t find it relevant or important, but because it’s not new or cutting edge; the non-self-aggrandizing parts of this ‘crawl serve as a kind of scratch pad for things […]

Posted in: In praise of biocide, science by Peter Watts 10 Comments

Consciousness, Learning, and Neurochips

I’m starting this new post both to take the weight off the old one (which is growing quite the tail– maybe I should look into setting up a discussion forum or something), and also to introduce a new piece of relevent research. Razorsmile said Conscious trains the subconscious until it is no longer needed.. And […]

Posted in: neuro, science by Peter Watts 15 Comments

Blindsight (the malady, not the book): better than the other kind?

Now here’s a fascinating study: turns out that victims of blindsight can see better than so-called “healthy” individuals. At least, one fellow with a patchy version of the condition was able to detect subtler visual cues in his blind field than in his sighted one. (Here’s the original paper: here’s a summary.) This suggests that […]

Posted in: neuro, science by Peter Watts 32 Comments

"It’s 20 light years away. We can go there."

Now that’s the kind of attitude I like to see coming from a legitimate authority– to wit, Dimitar Sasselov of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, quoted in today’s NY Times. He was talking about Gliese 581c, a potentially earth-type planet orbiting a dim red dwarf in the constellation of Libra. 1.5 time Earth’s radius; 5 […]

Another Step Towards the Maelstrom

Those of you who read Maelstrom might remember what that book was named for: the frenetic chainsaw fast-forward jungle that the Internet had evolved into, infested by the virtual predators and parasites that evolved after we gave genes to spambots and let them breed at 50 generations/sec. (Those of you who didn’t read Maelstrom can […]

Posted in: a-life, evolution, science by Peter Watts 9 Comments