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Posts Tagged ‘Jack Kilby

“Do you think that the soul first shows itself by a gnashing of teeth?”*…

In January 2020, as a new plague began to upend life on Earth, a small research team from Tufts, the University of Vermont, and Harvard announced that they, too, had turned life on Earth upside-down. Their discovery wasn’t quite so dramatic at first glance. Any regular person peering through a microscope at their creation would see little more than a few globs of dirty pond water in a petri dish. But those globs were alive; in fact, they were alive in a way that nothing has ever been alive before, in an uncharted space between biology and technology. They called them Xenobots, the world’s first living robot—the world’s first programmable organism.

Xenobot: Xeno as in Xenopus laevis, a voracious frog native to the wetlands of Sub-Saharan Africa; bot, of course, as in robot. It’s an unconventional name for an unconventional organism, so novel that even its makers struggle to conceptualize it. “The terminology that has served us well for many years is just not any good anymore,” concedes Michael Levin, the team’s iconoclastic biologist. His collaborator Josh Bongard, a computer scientist and robotics expert, has called Xenobots “novel living machines.” Sam Kriegman—the team’s postdoc—prefers the term “Computer Designed Organism,” although he’s been trying on “living deepfake” for size recently.

And they’re all right, in a way. Xenobots are deepfakes in the sense that they aren’t what they seem. They’re robots in the sense that they’re autonomous, programmable agents. They’re Computer Designed in the sense that their morphology—the form their tiny bodies take—was designed by an evolutionary computer algorithm in Bongard’s UVM lab. They’re living in the sense that they’re made of embryonic frog cells, and they’re machines in the sense that humans are machines: biological mechanisms made up of constituent parts.

Xenobots are the first living creatures whose immediate evolution occurred inside a computer and not in the biosphere. The result is a simple organism. Xenobots have no brains; the shape of their bodies is what determines how they behave. And yet, Levin and Bongard do not fully understand why Xenobots behave the way they do. “What you’re seeing de novois a completely novel creature with new proto-cognitive capacities, preferences, capabilities, IQ,” Levin explains. “All of those things appear out of nowhere.” Sometimes a Xenobot will head in one direction and then abruptly double back, as though changing its mind. What force guides such behaviors? Can a frog’s cells, in some way, think? Xenobots seem to have “nano free-will,” Levin jokes.

And this is where the can of worms—or tadpoles, maybe—pops open…

The word “robot” recently celebrated its centennial. It comes from the Czech playwright Karel Čapek’s 1920 play “Rossum’s Universal Robots,” about a worker uprising in a robot factory. Čapek’s robots are biological, the result of a vaguely alchemical process involving “albumen” with a “raging thirst for life.” Our conception of a robot as being something metallic, with clanging gears and servo-motors, is more recent baggage, a consequence of the science-fiction stories and films of the mid-twentieth century. In order to understand what Xenobots might mean for our future, we’ll have to divest ourselves from the idea that a robot—or any kind of autonomous being—can be wholly defined by its materiality…

As Norbert Weiner, the father of cybernetics, observed: “Let us remember that the automatic machine is the precise economic equivalent of slave labor. Any labor which competes with slave labor must accept the economic consequences of slave labor.”

Claire Evans (@TheUniverse) explains how “Xenobots may change how we think about intelligence.”

For apposite background, see also “The Link Between Bioelectricity and Consciousness.”

Karel Čapek, R.U.R. (Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti, or in English, Rossum’s Universal Robots)

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As we ponder life itself, we might recall (with, perhaps, a touch of nostalgia) that it was on this date in 1959 that Texas Instruments (TI) demonstrated the first working integrated circuit (IC), which had been invented by Jack Kilby. Kilby created the device to prove that resistors and capacitors could exist on the same piece of semiconductor material. His circuit consisted of a sliver of germanium with five components linked by wires. It was Fairchild’s Robert Noyce, however, who filed for a patent within months of Kilby and who made the IC a commercially-viable technology. Both men are credited as co-inventors of the IC. (Kilby won the Nobel Prize for his work in 2000; Noyce, who died in 1990, did not share.)

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 24, 2021 at 1:01 am

“Please cut off a nanosecond and send it over to me”*…

960px-Commodore_Grace_M._Hopper,_USN_(covered)

 

“Amazing  Grace” Hopper, seminal computer scientist and Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy, explains a “nanosecond”…

* Grace Hopper

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As we celebrate clarity, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that Robert Noyce was issued patent number 2981877 for his “semiconductor device-and-lead structure,” the first patent for what would come to be known as the integrated circuit.  In fact another engineer, Jack Kilby, had separately and essentially simultaneously developed the same technology (Kilby’s design was rooted in germanium; Noyce’s in silicon) and had filed a few months earlier than Noyce… a fact that was recognized in 2000 when Kilby was Awarded the Nobel Prize– in which Noyce, who had died in 1990, did not share.

Noyce (left) and Kilby (right)

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 25, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Man is not born to solve the problem of the universe, but to find out what he has to do; and to restrain himself within the limits of his comprehension”*…

 

Half a century ago, the pioneers of chaos theory discovered that the “butterfly effect” makes long-term prediction impossible. Even the smallest perturbation to a complex system (like the weather, the economy or just about anything else) can touch off a concatenation of events that leads to a dramatically divergent future. Unable to pin down the state of these systems precisely enough to predict how they’ll play out, we live under a veil of uncertainty.

But now the robots are here to help…

In new computer experiments, artificial-intelligence algorithms can tell the future of chaotic systems.  For example, researchers have used machine learning to predict the chaotic evolution of a model flame front like the one pictured above.  Learn how– and what it may mean– at “Machine Learning’s ‘Amazing’ Ability to Predict Chaos.”

* Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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As we contemplate complexity, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that Robert Noyce was issued patent number 2981877 for his “semiconductor device-and-lead structure,” the first patent for what would come to be known as the integrated circuit.  In fact another engineer, Jack Kilby, had separately and essentially simultaneously developed the same technology (Kilby’s design was rooted in germanium; Noyce’s in silicon) and had filed a few months earlier than Noyce… a fact that was recognized in 2000 when Kilby was Awarded the Nobel Prize– in which Noyce, who had died in 1990, did not share.

Noyce (left) and Kilby (right)

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 25, 2018 at 1:01 am

Finding a higher use for those left-over Easter eggs…

From the always-inspirational Instructables, and user bbstudio (among whose passions is carving that natural geometric marvel, the egg shell, as above):

This was done simply to discover if I could do it. I went though a stage where my goal was to remove as much material from an egg shell as possible while still retaining the shape and image of the egg.

More views of this minimalist marvel here; links to more views of the scrimshaw egg shell, and to other contra-seasonal sensations here.

As we gratefully put away the Rit dye, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that Robert Noyce was awarded the patent for the integrated circuit that changed electronics.  Readers may recall that Jack Kilby had (separately and independently) patented the integrated earlier than Noyce— and won a Nobel Prize for it.  But Noyce’s design (rooted in silicon, as opposed to the germanium that Kilby used) was more practical… and paved the way for an altogether new kind of “Easter egg.”

Noyce made his breakthrough at Fairchild Semiconductor, of which he was a founding member.  He went on to co-found Intel, then to serve as the unofficial “Mayor of Silicon Valley,” a mentor to scores to tech entrepreneurs– including Steve Jobs.

Noyce with a print of his integrated circuit (source: BBC)

A model citizen…

Michael Paul Smith is a photographer and model builder who’s combined those passions to create an album of idealized photos from his past:

The telephone pole, stop sign, the white house and the tree are real and are about a block away from the models. The models themselves are sitting on a table.

What started out as an exercise in model building and photography, ended up as a dream-like reconstruction of the town I grew up in. It’s not an exact recreation, but it does capture the mood of my memories.

And like a dream, many of the buildings show up in different configurations throughout the photos. Or sometimes, the buildings stay put and the backgrounds change. Visually, this is heading towards the realm of ART.

NO PHOTOSHOP WAS USED IN THESE PICTURES. IT’S ALL STRAIGHT FROM THE CAMERA.

It’s the oldest trick in the special effects book: line up a model with an appropriate background and shoot. The buildings are 1/24th scale [or 1/2 inch equals a foot]. They are constructed of Gator board, styrene plastic, Sintra [a light flexible plastic that can be carved, and painted] plus numerous found objects; such as jewelery pieces, finishing washers and printed material.

Spend more time in Michael’s history here.  And check out his other sets of model shots— amazing.

As we let our fingers do the walking down memory lane, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments filed the first patent for an integrated circuit (U.S. Patent 3,138,743).  In mid-1958, as a newly employed engineer at Texas Instruments, Kilby didn’t yet have the right to a summer vacation.  So he spent the summer working on the problem in circuit design known as the “tyranny of numbers” (how to add more and more components, all soldered to all of the others, to improve performance).  He finally came to the conclusion that manufacturing the circuit components en masse in a single piece of semiconductor material could provide a solution. On September 12, he presented his findings to the management: a piece of germanium with an oscilloscope attached. Kilby pressed a switch, and the oscilloscope showed a continuous sine wave– proving that his integrated circuit worked and thus that he had solved the problem.  Kilby is generally credited as co-inventor of the integrated circuit, along with Robert Noyce (who independently made a similar circuit a few months later).  Kilby has been honored in many ways for his breakthrough, probably most augustly with the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Kilby’s first integrated circuit

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