Friday, June 29, 2012

We play God again...

I always see technology as a double-edged sword. I am usually fine with most scientific experiments whether it is about discovering of the universe, seeking the God's particles, CERN, etc or creating new materials, nanotech, even robotics with AI, etc. Medical technology advancements are also fine as long as it is for health improvement or restoration. However, I always have reservation about experiments that are related to creating, destroying, or manipulating human life. Cuz, I suspect that those scientists usually only look at what they can do technically, and ignore the moral and social consequences of their creation. The following is another piece of news that I'm still digesting what the implication will be to us in the long run. The article itself didn't say much about that, but I've a hunch that it is not good to us....

World's first GM babies born


The world's first genetically modified humans have been created, it was revealed last night.
The disclosure that 30 healthy babies were born after a series of experiments in the United States provoked another furious debate about ethics.

So far, two of the babies have been tested and have been found to contain genes from three 'parents'.
Fifteen of the children were born in the past three years as a result of one experimental programme at the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science of St Barnabas in New Jersey.

The babies were born to women who had problems conceiving. Extra genes from a female donor were inserted into their eggs before they were fertilised in an attempt to enable them to conceive.
Genetic fingerprint tests on two one-year- old children confirm that they have inherited DNA from three adults --two women and one man.

The fact that the children have inherited the extra genes and incorporated them into their 'germline' means that they will, in turn, be able to pass them on to their own offspring.

Altering the human germline - in effect tinkering with the very make-up of our species - is a technique shunned by the vast majority of the world's scientists.

Geneticists fear that one day this method could be used to create new races of humans with extra, desired characteristics such as strength or high intelligence.

Writing in the journal Human Reproduction, the researchers, led by fertility pioneer Professor Jacques Cohen, say that this 'is the first case of human germline genetic modification resulting in normal healthy children'.

Some experts severely criticised the experiments. Lord Winston, of the Hammersmith Hospital in West London, told the BBC yesterday: 'Regarding the treat-ment of the infertile, there is no evidence that this technique is worth doing . . . I am very surprised that it was even carried out at this stage. It would certainly not be allowed in Britain.'

John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said: 'One has tremendous sympathy for couples who suffer infertility problems. But this seems to be a further illustration of the fact that the whole process of in vitro fertilisation as a means of conceiving babies leads to babies being regarded as objects on a production line.

'It is a further and very worrying step down the wrong road for humanity.' Professor Cohen and his colleagues diagnosed that the women were infertile because they had defects in tiny structures in their egg cells, called mitochondria.

They took eggs from donors and, using a fine needle, sucked some of the internal material - containing 'healthy' mitochondria - and injected it into eggs from the women wanting to conceive.

Because mitochondria contain genes, the babies resulting from the treatment have inherited DNA from both women. These genes can now be passed down the germline along the maternal line.

A spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates 'assisted reproduction' technology in Britain, said that it would not license the technique here because it involved altering the germline.

Jacques Cohen is regarded as a brilliant but controversial scientist who has pushed the boundaries of assisted reproduction technologies.

He developed a technique which allows infertile men to have their own children, by injecting sperm DNA straight into the egg in the lab.

Prior to this, only infertile women were able to conceive using IVF. Last year, Professor Cohen said that his expertise would allow him to clone children --a prospect treated with horror by the mainstream scientific community.

'It would be an afternoon's work for one of my students,' he said, adding that he had been approached by 'at least three' individuals wishing to create a cloned child, but had turned down their requests.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Google Nexus 7 - How things are stacked up so far

As told before, Google is officially in the Tablet war, though the Google Nexus 7 is made by Asus. Anyway, thanks for PCWorld, the above table is a good way to start comparing most of the 7" inches tablet in the US market so far.

Personally, I don't think I would need another tablet besides my iPad. Cuz, the weight of a 7" tablet is the only selling point to me, besides that nothing of a 7" tablet out there can come close to iPad. Kindle Fire is the major competitor that would be affected by the Google tablet. However, with Kindle Fire 2 is expected to be announced later this summer. The 7" war has just officially begin. But, the wild card in the game would be the rumor 7" iPad, if it will be announced along with the 'New iPhone' in Sept/Oct, then it would be very interesting!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Terminators are coming!

I've long been fascinated by our technological advancements. I know the Asimov's three rules on robotics. However, I'm just not buying that robots are all good to human. The evil twins of robots and AI would wipe us all some days! Believe it or not! Well, we are just helpless bystanders watching the few genius among us creating wonders that would do us harm ultimately. After watching the clips below, it just reminded me the words that I read in one of Michael Crichton's books ( I got which one): "Just because we can do it, doesn't me that we should!"

DARPA Drones and Robots
DARPA Robots 1
HRP-4C Miim's Human-like Walking
Most Human Like Robot Ever human robots !!
 BigDog Overview (Updated March 2010)
DARPA Cheetah Sets Speed Record for Legged Robots
Real Swarm of Flying Nano Quadrotors Doing Flight Tricks HD
Amazing 8 foot robot seriously advanced
Robot Snake

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Microsoft Surface (few more thoughts...)

After day 1of the announcement of new gadget by Microsoft, I've further read more news and comments about this product. I still keep the comments in my last post as valid and I've few more thoughts as follow:

8. MS decided (for now) to sell Surface in 25 of its own stores and online means that MS is not confident of this product. Some news stories said that MS has to sell Surface at a loss in order to make it a hit. That's something that I agree. Just see HP's Touchpad as an example, the fire sale of that generated a lot of buzz of that product, unfortunately that was after HP abandon it for good. So, in order for MS to get as many people to buy Surface as possible under iPad's dominance and to compete with Kindle Fire/Samsung Galaxy Tab II, it has to undercut its profit margin for Surface for now. To be honest, with 60B (if I read it right) of cash, MS can take this loss. Cuz, MS has to plan for long term. What makes money is the services and software/apps. That's what Amazon is doing, and MS is no Apple. Since MS is not gonna sell Surface nation wide in the U.S. Unless it wanna to build lines around the blocks to create buzz for Surface, otherwise, MS is not planning to sell Surface cheap. That's just stupid!

9. MS seems only inform its hardware partners last minute before Steve Ballmer show Surface to the world in L.A. I don't blame MS to keep ASUS, HP, Dell, Acer, Lenovo, etc in the dark. That's business strategy. Today, many news stories saying that those hardware makers are gonna be upset and even revolt down the road against MS. I think this idea is overblown. Cuz, what choice do they have? Another story bought my attention that Google is gonna announce its own bland-named Tablet before end of this month. So, most hardware makers can't flock to Android for cover to give a middle finger to MS. Cuz, all OS makers also makes their own hardware. If they wanna stay in the game, they just have to stay in line and suck it up. The upside is that those hardware makers just have to innovate and make better tablets and manage to stay profitable after paying Window license fee to MS, or as I would predict, they will put more effort on make Android based tablet just for the reason of no license fee and better app markets then the Window camp. Basically, picking the less of two evils!

10. I think the Surface itself is not a bad product, the engineers in MS did do a good job making this machine. The type cover is sure a 'bridge' of the tablet and ultrabook world. I wouldn't be surprise that some 3rd party manufacturers will make such cover for iPad in few months. Then, the hardware gap or highlight of Surface will be gone! As I said before, it all goes back to Apps, costs, security, easy-to-use, and ultimately the eco-system that will determine the winner in Tablet, just like smartphone. MS is far behind in Smartphone market, I doubt it will catch up anytime soon. Nokia's hardware is fine, but you just don't see many people has a Window 8 phone. Tablet is similar. For MS, it will thank God that Android's footing in Tablet market is nowhere like it is in smartphone market. However, both markets share actually share more than deviate from each other. They are about mobility, communication and content consumption. MS's skype would help a lot, but not for the rest. Who care about MS Office these days? With my prediction of hardware makers will tilt more to Android than Window, I would predict that the future market share breakdown among iOS, Andriods, and Window 8 would more or less the same as that in smartphone.

That's all for now!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Microsoft Surface

Well, what a surprise! Microsoft announced its new hardware - Microsoft Surface, not the big ass table that nobody really use, but a hybrid of tablet and notebook. Would it be another so-called 'iPad-killer', or it will go down like Xoom, Playbook, etc, it remains to be seen. However, based on what I've read and the youtube videos that I saw so far. I would have the following comment on this new product.

1. I don't like the way that MS announce its product. Compared with Apple, they just didn't give out most of the critical information that people wanna know...
Price? Release date? They are all withheld. It is just stupid. If you really think that your product is so good that people would really wanna buy, tell them how much and when they can buy!

2. Battery life is unknown. For a mobile gadget, what more important than that given the current state of battery technology is still the short end of hardware advancement.

3. Software availability. Tablet computer is about apps. Just keep telling people about your Window 8 is not enough! What they are gonna run? Just Office? or games on Xbox? Can they run desktop old apps? Do some demo or what apps they can see? If they don't know what to show, go back to see some old Apple keynotes!

4. Window 8 RT vs professional? Why MS has to make things so complicated. I guess it must have something to do with the chips and capability of running different things. If I'm not wrong, it means some program may run on professional version of the Surface, but not on RT. If that's true, go to hell then! It just confuse a hell lot of normal users. Why can't they just make things easier for consumers to understand?

5. Be clear of who your customers are? Regular consumers or professional? I think MS want the Surface to be the solution to everybody. If so, show what it can do! I'm not clear what it can do.Cuz, if MS is bold enough to put its name on a new hardware, just tell everybody how good it is, particularly to iPad owner like me or potential iPad owners why they should by Surface. Is it a better ebook reader? Has it intergrated with iTunes/AppStore type of distribution channel? Show us something, damn it!

6. The smart-cover keyboard. Yes, it is a highlight of great engineering. There is the only thing that I would say was a surprise in the whole product package. Though, I hate the stupid colors of those keyboards except the black.

7. The build in stand. Many people said that it is a good point of the device. It is firm and the angle was right. Well, maybe. But showing that stand and also the way that all MS people hold the Surface. It just gave a message to everyone that they device should only be used with landscape mode. Would that means vertical mode should not be used? I guess the stand can be folded, but what if I want to make it stand vertically?

Well, that's my take so far. More will be seen in coming future. However, as a 3rd gen iPad owner myself. I'm not sold of this new gadget from MS, not yet.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Few Thoughts on NBA Playoff (part 2)

Well, my beloved Boston Celtics lost Game 7 to Miami Heat over the weekend. Here are some further thoughts about that and beyond.

Heat vs. Thunder will be the showcase of the primary battle of NBA’s next generation of rivalry. Heat’s 3 stars are in their prime while Thunder’s duo are as good as them be at even younger age. As long as these two teams are healthy, it will be their first but certainly not their last NBA final battle. Personally, I’m not a ‘Heat-hater’, but I like Thunder, particularly Kevin Durant more. So, I will root for Thunder. My prediction is Thunder in 6.

Regarding Celtics’ future, I think it will be fine. The Truth will stay for 2 more years, and Rondo is about the hit his prime. They can lead younger players to become a decent playoff team. Of course, our dream would be KG and Ray Allen to be back for less money and stay on the team. Honestly, in spite of the high NBA mileages, their performance this year have shown that they still can play 2 more quality years before their skills decline enough to become role players on the bench, provided that they are healthy. KG is certainly is healthy now, and Ray would need surgery. It’s too hard to predict what they will do.

For KG to leave Boston, the reason may be that KG has never played cheap for the last 15 yrs, if he is asked to stay and perform at his current level for a cheaper price. I’m not sure if he can accept that. Given his age, I doubt other teams will play a high price to get him. So, he may simply retire for good. On the contrary, KG may stay in Boston because of his good relationship with Doc River and his teammates, and his character of being loyal to a team unless the team wants him to go. Also, if he can sacrifice and put his ego aside in 2007 to work with PP and Ray Allen, he may be able to put his ego on $ aside this time to stay with the team to make it work again. Who knows?

For Ray Allen, he is older, but as a 3 point sniper, that doesn’t matter. Given his work ethic and his way of taking good care of his conditioning, as long as he can recover from surgery this summer, he will still be a very formidable player on the court. I think fans in Boston love him and he likes Boston as well. However, it is all business, I would say it is only 50-50 that he will stay in Boston, what a shame if Danny Ainge lets him go!

Thank God for Rondo to stay this year without being traded. I dare Celtics to trade him in the next few years. Where else can you find someone better than Rondo? CP3 will stay in LA. Derrick Rose will stay in Chicago. Deron William? What makes people think that he is any better than Rondo who has developed his mid-ranged jumper this year? Rondo has almost a complete game with tons of triple-doubles and his competitive strength can take over a game and it showed. Consistency would be an issue only if you want to may it into one. He is about to hit his prime, it will be a fool to let him go. So, given Doc River will stay as well, Rondo and Doc would be attractive enough to get good players to play for Celtics. Would D. Howards consider to join the Cs? It would be a sweet dream for Cs fans if it comes true. Cuz, if D. Howards join Rondo, it would be good enough to go against Heat and Bulls (provided D. Rose becomes healthy again) in the East. Otherwise, Cs would only be good enough to be in playoff, but would be hard to reach Conference final.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Few thoughts on NBA Playoff

First of all, I’ve been a long time C’s fan. So, no matter what I’m rooting for them on the emotional side. However, putting that aside, I do have objective things to say about what I’ve seen so far about this playoff.

As of today, the Celtics just won Game 4 over Miami Heat and the series is tied at 2-2, same as the Western Conference between Spurs and Thunder. I’ve not got the chance to watch as many games as I want to, but based on 2 games of each conference and few in previous round that I saw so far, I do wanna share few thoughts about the games.

Celtics’ resilience is very respectful. We all know that they are old; they can’t run much and are injured. However, in the playoff with their half-court tempo that they play, it works into their advantage. They barely survived from the ‘should-not-be-that-difficult’ series with 76ers, many people thought they will be crushed by Heat in spite of the absence of Chris Bosh. Well, they didn’t. Celtics has been playing with the heart and emotion throughout the series so far, perhaps that’s the drive that keep them afloat. Heat is injured, but they are clearly overrated. In spite of all the hype and the real talent that LeBron and Wade have, they are still searching for their heart! Nonetheless, the game is played by 5 players; just 2 superstars are not enough. Though almost everyone says that the result of this series will be Heat-in-6, I will doubt that based on what I’ve seen so far. It will go to Game 7 and who know which team will win, it is so 50-50. Anyway, the only word that I think best describe this series is ‘Grind’.

On the Western Conference side, it is no ‘Grind’ at all. It is really a ‘fight’. Similarly, it is about an old experienced team against a younger team with superstars. However, I think the Thunders this year is no Thunders of last year. It is definitely an upgraded team. Just seeing in the eyes of Kevin Durant, he is just more patient than last year. Thunders have a great Game 4, the offense was amazing, besides Kevin Durant and David Westbrook, the rest of the players were involved and contributed. They just look dangerous and would kill the opponent if you fell asleep. However, what was amazing to me was that Spurs though lost, they could stay very close to Thunder scoring wise even though they didn’t play very well. When they play good, they are just hard to beat. Spurs has never been my favorite, not even like to watch their game. I don’t mind, and actually love low scoring games with lots of defense. That’s why I wouldn’t mind watching those old Piston games back then. Spurs are not that though in defense, they can score, but their games to me just somehow…boring. I don’t know why, that’s just my feeling. Anyway, I don’t know who will win in this conference. But, honestly, I think either team will beat either team from the East. Cuz, I think both Celtics and Heat are so beaten up with injuries that they are no match to the power of the West.

Thus, my objectively prediction is that the West will win the champion this year in this tired and short NBA season.