Atom Wave: November 2006

Atom Wave

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Gunfighter

Normally I like to let it slide, but it is a tedious job being a gunfighter. I stand my ground and make no sudden movements, and ease my hands very slowly. Than I move like lightning and the bullets start to fly. With any skill, my opponent misses with just inches left to spare.
If I screw up, well than I need not mention that. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a new stealth material was on the horizon. It is known as a metamaterial and it exhibits the sexy characteristic of being left-handed. To you jackasses out there, it is not what you think! Left-handed materials display the cool talent of having a negative refractive index, which equates to the ability to refract light at an angle opposite to its incidence.
This means that you can refract light rays around an object, a slick trick by any standards. To completely hide an object you would have to enclose it in a shell of the material, but if it means winning that count me in. The invisibility cloak of the Harry Potter series might be built someday, but it is unlikely to be so benign. The currently available material for visible light is Opal, which is composed of a metastable silica spheres. A metastable structure is a non-stable system that can persist in that state for a long period of time. The last type of known metamaterials is susceptible to microwave radiation, and it is artificial, built of arrays of conducting wire loops.
It is unavoidable that in time these magical materials will come into regular use by the military, and in time by everyone else. Than perhaps it’s not magic, just science being utilized by the magical human mind.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Artificial Intelligence and Other Horrors

I’ve just returned from the front, and the situation is dire. The machines are advancing and it will soon be the death of us. Technology is evolving at such a pace that we may very well witness machines of our same intelligence and power within the next few decades.
Just consider the long history of human struggle with technology. It was only 50 years ago that the United States built the first digital general-purpose computer, the ENIAC. Earlier computer designs were mechanical and/or utility specific. Today we use computers in all aspects of our life, from the cash register at the local grocery store to the microchips running our automobile. Now we have to struggle with having our identities stolen while checking our e-mail, while knowing that government computers are mining our activities in search of terrorists.
The struggle will not end anytime soon, not with the emergence of artificial intelligence technologies into our modern life. It is already here and closer than the keyboard of your computer. Artificial intelligence is used in medicine to filter images in the first step of diagnosis. Banks use data mining to uncover abnormal behavior in its transactions. It is an integral component of every search engine, and a common part of e-mail spam filters.
Now I’m just a battlefield journalist, but I’m tired of seeing my brethren swimming upstream. The Cylon disaster in Battlestar Galactica should remove all doubt about my position, unless you prefer to someday be staring down the barrel of a Centurion.
The impending apocalypse might still be averted, but it will require the complete elimination of all artificial intelligence from military and robotic systems. It is either that or witness the complete destruction of humankind somewhere down the road in the next few centuries.