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Archive for the ‘ideas’ Category

Bruce Schneier’s “AI and Democracy” talk at Capricon 44

Sunday, February 4th, 2024

Bruce Schneier talked at Capricon about fifteen ideas he had on AI that are forming up into a 2024 book. One thing he mentioned is that AI would make lawsuits much cheaper to launch and carry out, and multiplying the number of lawsuits would mean that courts would need to adopt AI adjudication to adapt to this. Bruce passed over this pretty quickly, but I think this will have early and pronounced effect on society.

It looks like legal work is a problem AI will be able to solve soon. That is, AII tools will be able to contribute effectively to the process of filing and carrying out lawsuits. This is not one problem, but a set of related problems that AI will soon be able to do effectively. Given a set of facts and objectives, an AI will be able to determine what type of lawsuit to file, write it up in the proper jargon and format suitable for submission, determine and write a response to opposing counsel motions, summarize and prioritize discovery material, etc. A lot of legal work is routine, repetitive, and very similar to previous cases. Really, a perfect problem for AI.

The immediate upshot is that a lawyer using AI tools will be able to do much more legal work, work faster, and lawsuits will be much cheaper to launch. The short-term impact is that the number of lawsuit filed will go up multiple-fold and this will crash the courts. Gum them up. Bring things to a standstill. US courts are operating at capacity already and can’t handle more cases.

There isn’t any way for courts to prevent this. The lawsuits will be filed by lawyers at established law firms. Lawyers will use AI as a tool, review AI written suggestions and briefs, and from the court’s perspective these lawsuits will look just like the existing lawsuits, there will just be many more of them.

In the long term, it will make sense for judges and the courts to adopt AI tools to accelerate their end of things, but this will require new laws. New laws means years of hearings, discussion, negotiation, etc. Government functions require deliberation and consideration before making big changes. And who will develop AI tools for courts? The market is smaller and more uncertain than the market of making these tools for private law firms. And judges are very conservative, notoriously slow to act, to react, to adopt new technology.

So AI-assisted lawyering will hit the courts at some point in the next few years, but it will take a decade or more for the courts to effectively react.

Multi-color 3D print head idea

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

Saw this paper, “Voxelated soft matter via multimaterial multinozzle 3D printing“, pdf. Two or more fluids come together at bend, and static pressure is enough to keep the current printing liquid moving towards the outlet, not backing up into the second material source tube. And the pressure of the current print liquid keeps the other fluids back.

There is effectively no mix chamber, so the change from one fluid to the other is quite quick, and there is little mixing after a switch.

This works because of the size and orientation of the fluid tubes in relation to the viscosity and other properties of the liquids. The authors make the print heads out of plastic and print with silicon and wax.

To use this for 3D printing plastic, the print head should be made out of a material with better heat resistance, such are metal or ceramic.

Make a print head like this out of ceramic (alumina, or similar ‘technical ceramic’). 1) 3D print the flow chamber and nozzle geometry out of a thermoplastic (or wax), then 2) slip cast ceramic around this. 3) When the ceramic is fired, the plastic will melt out or vaporize, leaving the desired nozzle geometry.

Idea 2
The geometry needed is simple, at least for two inputs. The thin join can be a very short segment, a few mm in length. The lead in tube can be drilled 2-3mm wide, then the 0.5 or 0.25 mm join tubes can be drilled out. Drill the outlet from the bottom, then drill the inlets from the bottom of the lead in holes. This would require precision to make the segments join up correctly, but the drill holes would be short.

Idea: steampunk clock

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Have the time displayed by colored liquids in glass tubes, either a column of liquid or a large segment. The time tube can be straight or circular.

Move the liquid by a mechanism where brass gears compress a bellows. The brass mechanism would be driven by a microcontroller.

New public health measures

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Could new measures substantially improve public health?

What would be the effect if, say, 90% of the country wore filter masks for one week, and concentrated on washing hands?

Infection is a chain, one individual infects one or more others, and an infection gets passed on. That is how disease persists–for most infectious agents, not in one person for months on end, but passed serially every few months as an individual gets infected, and over a few weeks mounts an immune response and fights it off.

An infectious agent requires a basic reproduction factor, an R0, of more than one. If R0 > 1, an infection is growing more common, if R0 < 1, an infection is disappearing. For more diseases, for infection to persist it must spread.

Currently there are constant but weak efforts to reduce the spread of infection–encouraging the sick to stay home and hand washing. Vaccines for influenza. But what if a serious effort was made? A big effort could not be sustained, at least not in the US culture.

But what would be the effect of a large, short effort? If infection transmission can be stomped down for a short period, but long enough to break the chain of infection, it might have a large effect on public health. I wonder if this has been modeled?

App game idea

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Flip it

This game board is an array of tiles. The tiles have letters. The game play involves flipping a pair of letters, as if the two tiles can move through the screen on the axis that connects them. In any case, they move switches them. The goal is to rearrange the tiles to spell words.

cat --flip c:a--> act
dog ------------> dog

cat --flip c:d--> dat
dog ------------> cog

The game can be played different sized boards, and with boards with cutouts.
Variation 1: Have the tiles have both color and a letter, to distinguish common letters.
Variation 2: Have the tiles be two sided, so that flipping them exposes the other sides.

What is interesting about this is that it is a class of games easy to implement in the computer but which is hard or impossible to implement as a physical game. There is a whole class of variations on pen and pencil or board games that haven’t been tried because of this!

App Ideas

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Idea 1:

Laser level. Ther are apps that use the orientation sensor in the phone to turn it into a level. Take it a step further. Combine hte orientation sensor and the phone to show a live camera view but draw a level line on it.

This can be taken further (if the phone is accurate enough), to draw a ‘same’ height line on the camera view, useful for hanging pictures and checking the level of things.

Idea 2:

Novelty ‘which protein is your name in’. Check human proteome first for good matches, then orangatang, pig, rat, bacteria. Show the protein sequence with the name highlighted, and a picture of the organism.

Allow the user to send this in an email or post on FB.

Ideas for using gut microbes

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

I went to a panel that discussed gut microbes at Chicon, and had a few ideas for making use of them:

1) Microbes as sensors. Take existing gut bacteria, electroporate in a reporter plasmid, reintroduce orally. The reporter can be a sensor protein hooked up to GFP or an enzyme that acts on a microbial product to make a derivative not found normally in bacteria, and easily detectable and distinguished from normal chemicals in the gut.
1a) Detection can be by examining poop. A souped up Japanese toilet would be the least obtrusive solution.
1b) if the product is fluorescent, detection can be by direct gut imaging, as is done for mice.

2) Introduce GFP producing bacterial into the gut, and use them like barium is used for gut imaging. Imaging would be done using transilluminated epifluorescence microscope or a fluorescence light box
and thermoelectrically cooled CCD camera. By moving the detector and light source around, enough images can be made for low resolution computed tomographic imaging.

3) Introduce gut bacteria that absorb methane. Natural methane absorbing bacteria, normally present in low numbers can be introduced to increase total gut methane absorbtion, or if methane absorbtion happens at low levels, bacteria could be selected to find strains that do it at a higher level. A third option is to engineer normal gut bacteria to have this capability.

Extra-science news

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

I would like a source for science news articles that actually has the science. Biology articles that include gene names and what a study actually found. Stories that describe things with the correct technical terms, not ‘the internet is like a series of tubes’. News stories written at an old-time Scientific American level, at the level of medical or graduate school alumni magazines. Stories that link to the journal article, to the institution or lab’s page, the patent, that link to Wikipedia or a relevant site for background.

What I would really like a source that linked standard news accounts of science to an extra-science version of the news. This site could write the extra-science article, but no need for redundancy–if some other site has an account with the relevant details then this site would just link to it. ars technica’s Nobel Intent science news site often does the job, but of course they only cover some of the news and don’t provide the nexus–linking the weak tea news stories to their articles.

The nexus should facilitate the connection. Allow the user to enter the news site URL, story title, or a sentence of text and recognize the story and link to the extra-science article. Standard keyword searching would be useful as well. The Reeves lab had an almost perfect example of the empty science news story taped up: ‘Scientists clone brain gene. This discovery will lead to an understanding of how the brain works.’

Phonic bestiary

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

There are many things that go bump in the night, and more that put up an awful clamor. It would be interesting to put a microphone outside, pipe it to a computer, and have the computer identify what’s out there. Many animals make distinctive, repetitive calls of the sort that should be recognizable by fairly simple audio analysis. The cricket, cicada, and frogs, to name a few.

So put a microphone outside, pipe the data in by cord, or wireless internet, and record and analyze it. Run it first through Fourier analysis and then identify duration/frequency patterns. Calls with a certain pitch lasting for a certain interval. Some calls are more complex, a chord, a pattern of notes, etc. Calls range from simple insect calls to complex bird calls. Then run repetitive patterns found through a species identification algorithm.

The output would indicate what animals were detected and at what times, and perhaps record audio samples of each type. This sort of data collected routinely each night would give a dynamic picture of the fauna of an area. Crickets at night, birds at daybreak.

If many people used this software and sent data to a central collection point, it could be used to monitor animal range and abundance, and perhaps indicate aspects of regional and year to year variation by detecting what species appear and when each emerges after winter.

Some work has already been done on the software end of this. Here are papers on bird calls, bird calls, and insect recognition.

Cooling a cooler

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Can a solar panel be used to cool a beer cooler? The lid of a picnic cooler is big enough to hold a typical 20W solar panel ($60).

How much energy does it take to keep a cooler cold?
Heat conduction Q/ Time = (Thermal conductivity) x (Area) x (Thot – Tcold)/Thickness

Equation from here.

I couldn’t find specifications for cooler insulation. I guess picnicers don’t ask. Figures for styrofoam are available, figure 2 in. of styrofoam. Styrofoam has a thermal conductivity of 0.033 W/m°C (or here).

Let’s assume air temp of 90F, cooler temp of 40F, that gives a delta T of 28 °C.

Heat flows in through the walls of the cooler. A cooler has an internal surface area of about a foot on each of six sides, 6 sq ft, about 0.67 m2.

Plug the figures in, the cooler heats up at rate of 12 Watts an hour. So 12W of cooling should keep it cold.

So the 20W solar panel powering a Peltier cooler with heat sinks inside and outside the cooler should be able to keep a picnic cooler cold during the day. The solar panel will provide less power when the sun isn’t overhead. The Peltier cooler is inefficient, figure 50% efficiency, effectively 10W of cooling when it gets 20W of solar power. Peltier coolers also have a peak temperature difference of about 20°C, so poor heat exchangers will cut its effectiveness.

Extra heating by the having the cooler sitting in the sun, or not enough sunlight on the solar panel, or opening the cooler will decrease the system effectiveness. Perhaps it would only cool the contents to 50°F.

This assumes that the cooler starts cold. This system does not have the power to cool down a room temperature cooler full of liquid. Figuring two and a half gallons of liquid (10 l) in the cooler, it would take nearly a day to cool it from 90°F down to 40°F running off a battery or wall current.

The limits of Peltier cooling is a delta T of about 60°C, achieved by sandwiching several layers of coolers together. A small 4 in. square chamber surrounded by 3-4 inches of Styrofoam only needs one Watt of cooling. Sandwiched Peltier coolers are inefficient. At a guess, the same 20W solar panel would work. At night, the chamber would heat up at a rate of about 1°C an hour, reaching say -15°C at dawn. So small scientific samples could be frozen in a portable, off-grid cooler of this type.