Archive for the ‘What humans know’ Category

The development of engineering – a new direction

Friday, January 13th, 2012

We say that the world’s engineers have made great strides ahead – they can do amazing stuff: Big, smart, sophisticated, shattering…. many words can appropriately be used.

The technology is getting ever higher – more and more grand scale, more and more unlike the world we live in. We can make big machines, construct huge stuctures that that be seen from the skies, make enourmous changes to the face of the Earth. It is becoming obvious that engineering and technology does not only improve the state of the world, it often and increasingly degrades it, although we sometimes do a bit of fixing and repairs. We use brute force instead of elegant intelligence, and it is not going right.

It is not all dark – there are fine things too – intelligent little machinery that helps us in our daily lives, elegant improvements enhancing the surroundings.

Much engineering is now becoming large scale – agriculture, petrol production, planes are getting bigger and bigger, ships are huge, we dig enourmous holes in the ground to find metals and oil, transport designs are ambitious, forestry is about stripping woodland with large machines, datasystems are getting bigger and bigger and more and more integrated with each other. Technology has become a fixation – it must be always bigger and bigger, more and more comprehensive. There is money to be made.

So let us consider for a moment what we are about to do. We are influencing our surroundings negatively, some say we are destroying the environment, we are driven by the hunt for profit to larger and larger developments. Modern society is built on the mantra of more and more technology. Much of it is oil driven, totally dependent upon oil.

Let us pause for a moment and see how nature around us works – the natural world we live in.

Plants and animals are efficient creatures, and many organisms in nature show strikingly good design for their intended function. They leave no waste, they develop constantly, they even disappear when they are not needed.

Algae are one example of a perfect design where the light of the rays of the sun are utilized fully. Researchers are now modelling future solar panels from algae, related to both materials and form. So if they succeed we will have clean, efficient, cheap energy based on the designs found in the sea. Natural development over time have shown us how, we just must find it first and then we can use it.

Algae are a major part of the Earth’s biomass and are found in many sizes and shapes almost everywhere. Photosynthesis is the most important process in the world, and algae have conversion rates for sunshine that are much higher than for the silicon we use for solar panels now. The light that hits the panel must stay in there, not being reflected, just like algae.

Research is going on in Trondheim, Norway to find out what the mechanisms are, how to build the function of the algae into modern solar panels. There are tens of thousands of species of algae, the technology is advanced, nanostructured, with highly evolved shell design, transparency for good light reception.

So engineering is copying things already found in nature. Another example is how leaves are positioned on trees to give efficient growing conditions for the tree. It seems we can use nature’s methods to make energy because nature is good at converting sunlight into energy.

What else is nature good at? Should we simulate nature when possible, even to the extent of letting nature do the work for us? Maybe make nature produce more than it needs so that we can reap the surplus.

Nature obviously already does what we are trying to do. The algae builds its own powerplant as it grows – thin hard shells in a symmetric well designed form. We could search out these structures and similar ones, copy them, even use their energy for our purposes.

The leaves on trees are not growing haphazardly, they have a given well distributed structure to optimize the energy they can have from the sunlight.

So why build what nature has already built – why not let engineering’s foremost task be to tap into the possibilities of nature and find what nature can give us?

Human engineering is amazing. We can build fantastic things – tiny, big, etc., whatever.  But do we really have to do it this way? Why not let nature do what it does and then harvest its bounty sustainably?

What is really going on in nature? The fact is that we hardly know!

We know about the sun and photosynthesis (some), wind (some), waves and running water (little), sound (nothing), the radiation and magnetic fields of the Earth (little), movements of matter (nothing), thermal energy (some). The Earth is a huge energy system, a huge producer of materials/biomass, an efficient machine producing no waste, making only what it needs.

May be humans should stop doing things on their own, stop being contrary to natural processes, stop designing huge destructive machines and projects.

Let us change our ways, find a new direction, find out what is there already, use it sustainably. It could be great stuff. It should also relieve the workload we have to put in so we can spend more time thinking, socializing and playing.

The bio-electronic man: bionics

Monday, January 9th, 2012

When we scan a human brain we can see electronic signals forming patterns, giving us a picture of the brain activity. The body is a low-energy electrical system.

We can now find blind people with vision via electronics, curing diseases electronically, regulating body functions by means of circuits, switching off neurological disorders, circuits as being part of your bodys systems – we can do it today and serious work is progressing. We use implanted electronic devices that stimulate nerve or muscular tissue to operate limbs or fix nerve pathways. Heart peacemakers, hearing improvement by cochlear implants are well known.

The evolution of bionics via robotic arms and legs, bionic leg braces that can help arthritis patients, electronic eyes and more goes on. We are becoming machine assisted or neuro-bionic creatures.

Biology, electronics and output devices make bionics.

We have the bionic eye with camera, lenses, microchips connected to the retina and the optic nerve – a few signals now, later thousands. Fairly good vision will be possible.

Technology is being prototyped, and also neurological and psychiatric disorders are being considered.

Neurobionics goes right into the brain function controlling neural activity by delivering correctional electronic stimulation. Examples are epilepsy controlled by implant, electronic correction of neurological  disorders like schizofrenia or obsessive disorder.

There are also other aspects: Building interface for brain and computer, controlling computers with our microchipped brains, healing memory loss.

There are heavy ethical aspects to this, about what we can do to a perfectly healthy person, like enhancing ordinary thinking, focus your mind, stimulate parts of the brain that we don’t normally use, even increase intelligence.

The are also politics and commercial interests.

The ultimate question is: when the great chip is ready  and it can be used to control human behaviour, then should this be allowed to happen? Are there people out there evil enough to let this happen? Or is it enough to let development go on in full transparency?

The discussion about this should be kept open. Technology is often fine, but the possibility of misuse is always there. Strong ethics will, however, save the day.

Remember also that one day we will be able to scan the brain , interpret the signals so that we can se people’s thoughts. You may also be able to think up a document and transfer it via your thoughts to  a machine, have the machine give you messages via wireless signals, search the net via thinking, interacting with the mass of information that is building up in the cloud. It would be impossible to lie, unless you learn how to lock up your thoughts!

Scary yes, but definitely coming to us, gradually. Useful also, but beware!

Wolfram: Developing science by computation

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Stephen Wolfram is working on establishing a new kind of science based on the hypothesis that all of nature, all scientific processes are working from a set of computational rules. The basic building blocks are cellular automata and they can be described by computer programs.

He thinks we need these computer programs to describe the processes in nature, mathematics is not enough. Nature works from computational rules that are already there, and our task is to find these programs that often are very complex.

So he implies that we need to look at science in a new way.

Stephen Wolfram has made an Apple App Wolfram Alpha that can compute or give answers to your questions. This is based on data we have already, data that has been collected, controlled, made coherent, useful – and the mass of data is not to big to do that. The ambition is to collect the world’s data into a well functioning set that has practical use. Search engines help you find data, Wolfram Alpha is working on making it computable. This is a work in progress: Finding more data, checking and coding it, allowing more and more questions to be answered.

He has also made Mathematica which is a popular program for engineers, scientists for calculation, presentation of their work.

He runs a company of about 500 people.

His main challenge now is developing a new kind of science. His thesis is that nature can best be explained using computer programs – he wants to build a new kind of science NKS.

The basic building blocks are cellular automata. They are hugely varied, but can show great complexity, and the universe and the processes taking place there are the results of structures of simple computations. There are a set of simple rules at the bottom of it all, and nature is a sampler of what is already there.

If this is right it will change the sciences, even make a new science: a proper life science.

The practical use has already been shown through Wolfram Alpha and Mathematica.

So searching the computational universe you find the answers via algorithms that are already there. Algoritms and programs are the mainstay of our future, and the job is to find out how to put this together in a new way never seen before.

Schools will be about this too – finding, creating, putting together programs and algorithms that can be put to use.

So what do you want to do, what do you want to know? Go find the data, the programs, the algorithms that will help you. Science will change, business will change.

A new Pythagoras, a new Newton? Maybe – but the thinking is hugely interesting.

So it will be programs also instead of just mathematics. Simple programs often show complex behaviour. This implies a radical rethinking of how processes in nature and elsewhere work: Nature can produce seemingly complex creations effortlessly based on simple programs.

So if Stephen Wolfram is right: Computation is our future – the basis for all developments.

See Wikipedia about cellullar automata

The cancer mystery

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

The numbers are there to tell us what is going on: more and more people get cancer, more and more people die from cancer, more and more people are healed, more and more people live longer and longer with cancer. If you live by making drugs and equipment to treat these people, you are in the right place. You will get rich as people die around you.

In Norway there are about 25.000 new cancer cases every year, 60 % are healed and 40% die. There are about 190.000 people now being treated for cancer. The numbers are going up. Proportionally similar numbers can be found in most countries.

DNA and genes are now providing – they say – a means for targeting therapies at many types of cancer. The gene fault or gene mutation of the cancer is known and specific medicines can be made to fix the given gene-fault, all depending on the type of cancer you have.

There is a conflict of interest built into the drug industry: do they really want to get rid of illness? The strongest inclination is of course to keep treating people and getting paid as long as they live – the longer they live the more money. If people die soon or get well there is no money in it.

Amazing research is taking place to find the mutations of cancer – the gene structures of the cancer cells or the molecular composition of bad cells.

The research is based on the wrong principles as it is about how to make more money from patients living ever longer. This is why there is no amazing research into the starting mechanisms of cancer – what creates the conditions for cancer and what starts it? What triggers its development? Why can we not make sure that it is not there after treatment, metastase is still a real danger.

Prevention should be the number one issue of cancer research so that a healthy body can stay that way: What do you do, eat, what is your environment, what do you let come near your skin, the air you breathe, radiation and emissions of many kinds and so on – how do the factors put you at risk?

Why is there no amazing research being done here?

All sorts of advanced techniques are being developed – even how to fool your immune system to get drugs into your body tissue to keep you alive. This should all be part of a holistic cancer research where prevention is important, even permanent cure.

So the techniques are amazing but the focus is wrong – it is to narrow. Amazing research should also go into how you can avoid cancer – scientifically based and more substantial than “keep fit and eat veggies” – then we would have good lives and really save money.

The present cancer regime is absurd. One day we will see amazing research, with the right focus, finding how to avoid cancer – in the future.

The sciences – why are they so divided?

Monday, November 7th, 2011

The century of physics has passed, huge progress of understanding was made, the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, practical adoption of many things. We also made the fundamental mistake of making the atomic bomb and using it to kill people.

The chemists are claiming the last century was theirs with huge progress and thousands of chemicals created or discovered, lots of products made possible. Chemistry is now running wild, the all-embracing use of chemicals is starting to hurt us.

Now we are entering the century of biology, or life sciences as it increasingly is being called, where genes, DNA, understanding evolution fully, cloning, designer medicine are coming to us. We will be able to map everything, new methods. We can create new life, new structures never seen. Let us hope it does not go haywire. Why on Earth should we clone sheep and pigs? What is the purpose of new lifeforms when thousands are dying around us? Are we aware of the consequences of what we are doing?

This not only good, it is clearly sad also. The thinking is moving forward, but is far too narrow, it is directed at profit from discoveries, at power from discoveries. The scientists of our world live in silos. They think in silos and they find their solutions and discoveries there. It must be a frustrating world. They know what they are doing, but they have been tied in.

The division of thinking is limiting what we will find, it is too mechanistic, it is too mathematical, the experiments set up are not wide enough, the interaction of forces and elements are not seen, there is no element of cosmos in the work.

This method comes in essence from the Greeks where the foundation was laid for the methods we use today, and has been adhered to ever since. Combining this with strong commercialism we have a locked up science with strong built in limitations. We need to change this, to broaden the field of thinking to add elements that we do not consider today. We need more free thinking, wider  activity.

Many Greeks had other visions, more all-inclusive ideas, more holistic, but they were thrown out – eg. Parmenides – and we chose the wrong way forward.

There is only one world, there is only one science really, the specialists are no longer useful, they are drilling deeper and deeper into their silos. We need broader thinking, and must make science less eager to change the world, make it support the systems that run our lives and the Earth’s development.

The basis of all science should be the world we live in and what goes on here, what we can do well here, what is useful to find out here, so we can support life as it unfolds.

So a new broad, holistic focus in science is needed – let us find it – a sustainable world needs it. A true life science – a true cosmological  science is what it is all about – understanding the greatness of it all.

The drugstore in your own body

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

On the sea

What can and must we do to heal this patient is the basic question of health care. Scientific medicine or school medicine is what we do here in the West: We take tests, we give drugs, we operate, we change the lifestyle – there are many things that we can do.

But our own body is a fine piece of intelligent machinery – it is constantly healing itself. Our immune system protects against disease by finding and removing pathogens and tumor cells. When we are healthy this system works fine, when get sick some action is taking place that the immune system can not handle or need time to fix. Some people have weak immune systems, others have strong systems. We know that the immune system can be strengthened by positive action like good  and right food, exercise, rest, reducing stress in our lives, etc.

The body produces substances and run processes of many kinds: antimicrobial peptides or defensins, or processes like phagocytosis etc. This is going on all the time with varying intensity.

So the question arises if we can stimulate the immune system methodically and use the body’s own forces to heal people?

We then run into the domain of alternative medicine with healing, homeopathy, even placebo effects.

The Chinese and their TCM use these effects to the full and get results. But in the West these methods are largely ridiculed.

But recent research at SINTEF/NTNU, Norway show for a fact that the mind can stimulate what goes on in your body. We dispense from the outside manmade drugs that are the same as the substances already produced and found in our body to combat sickness, thinking that they will do the trick, which they often do.

But what about changing the approach and try to stimulate the body by mental techniques so that it produces enough of the stuff required?

This is probably mindboggling, and not good for the drug industry, but it has been found to work in many cases. The Chinese say it works very often.

So where do we go from here? Free research of course – we need more of that for a good future. The drugstore of your own body can probably fix a lot of things.

We know that pills seldom work fully as intended – some pills work only 20% of what they are supposed to, some even kill people.

More insight in this area please, and no ridicule when we try to find the right path. Medicine is clearly still very young.

Maybe there is more to be found: What if the body can produce what it needs regardless of what we do, eat – it simply balances out the needs it finds? So that vitamins, healthy foods, exercise and all are not really needed as the body makes up for deficiencies, also so that unhealthy living does not matter that much? (All within reason of course)

Pure speculation, you say? Well then prove me wrong.

A good whole life

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Many people feel that their lives should be changed – they want it different. The space for personal initiative is too small, habits and routines are heavy, making enough money is a heavy load, you are tied up in things you must do, there is little real action, no excitement, even too little money, insecure job. Life could be better.

So you must change, and trying to think about the good life, here are some considerations:

  • First you must have money, and paid activity is usually necessary. But it must not be your end all, your everything, as there are many worthwhile things to consider. And too much money is not really required. In work follow what you would love to do, they say. That gives you passion, interest, energy and moves you forward. And avoid big companies as they tend to tie you down, to involve you in bureaucracy, jobs are standardised.
  • You must eat so you must consider growing some food, get some food from close sources, or even take part in procuring food. Most people do not go near growing food themselves, but interest is growing in urban agriculture, small-scale projects, aquaponics in your home, even permaculture in your garden or backyard. This could be both healthy, wise and economical, even challenging and fine as a part of a diversified life.
  • You want to be a creative person, use you creative abilities, see that you can use your abilities, hands, feelings, make things grow from your hands, and using your creative side of the brain. So you must find activity that suits you, that you like to do, that is enjoyable or challenging. The possibilities are endless – it is all your choice. Goldsmithing, making dolls, calligraphy?
  • You must contribute to a better society by looking around, offering your services to needy people, personally or through an organisation, voluntary is good. Near you there will always be people, groups, institutions that need help, so go find out.
  • You must have free time to reflect, and you must educate yourself all the time  so you know what is good, what we know now and what would be good to know. The world is progressing, and there is always new knowledge to be had. See to it that you are active in this area – life will be fun, interesting and rewarding. Writing a blog or a book can also be rewarding in several ways.
  • Fitness is a good thing – and a daily routine is good, variation is good, and need not be heavy or a strain.
  • You must travel to see what others do, tell them what you do, tell them new things, what about travelling at least one month a year – the world is big and very interesting. You can see things, learn things new, even participate in local projects with local people, learn their language perhaps.

If you can manage to be active on all these fronts, life will be fine.

Time spent is another matter: you sleep about 8 hours a day, so you have 16 hours a day to do your living, or  you have about 3 or 4 hours a day for each of these things. That would be a great combination. It is rather radical to say that work for money need not be more than 4 hours a day?

In addition to 3-4 hours of paid work you could do:

  • permaculture or finding out about the new sustainable frontier of agriculture
  • play the flute, do photography or……
  • craftmanship of your choice
  • social work that is useful, an activity that you love to do.
  • free time, what you fancy, socialise, play, think, exercise or whatever – you have 3-4 hours on average every day for that
  • be a local politician in a transparent, sharing and loving society

These activities could also maybe add to your income?

Remember there is no time on or off, everything you do is part of living your life.  You have integrated what you do into a whole, a seamless life that is good. And a good life is superior to any career.

Well,  you should really think about doing it.

The genes’ favourite food

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

A third of each – fat, carbohydrates, protein – in all your meals will do wonders for you. The genes like that as this is what the genes are built for : balance. If you can achieve this sort of balance your life style related illnesses will be reduced or may even disappear.

The researchers at the Norwegian university NTNU have found that this should be our aim. The truth is finally emerging they say, and they keep working to give it an even firmer footing.

In the West we are presently eating about 65% carbohydrates which makes our metabolism work very hard and we risk infections in our body – followed by circulation trouble, dementia, cancer, diabetes2. We risk having a metabolic inflammation and become slightly sick, hot and uncomfortable, and the long term consequences are awful.

It is all about reducing the need for making insulin which is what the body makes to defend itself against too much glucose in the blood.

So all meals should be balanced with a third each of fat, carbo, protein. You should also eat small meals 5-6 times a day so the body can keep the glucose level stable and right.

This should do the trick: Your health will improve. And if everybody does it we should have healthy communities, countries etc…And surprise – less illness leads to better lives, lower health expenditures.

So simple really and let us hope it is true – it is surely worth a try. Keep up the good work, you folks in Trondheim, Norway.

Evolution goes on

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Darwin did not conclude, he merely pointed the way. The science of evolution is progressing nicely and genes and epigenes, memes and other factors are weighing in.

So what are the ordinary language we can use to explain it all, how can we make ordinary people understand the action.

We now see a development of our thinking, the evolution of what is knowledge. Scepticism is the start, then we have forward thinking, development of ideas and building of knowledge. We need critical thinking as part of our culture so that the world can move forward.

The book The selfish gene was published in 1976 and still stands. Organisms are the recipients of memes that control the development of organisms, that may modify the the DNA, the genes. Some genes are used, others are not, and genes are subtle. We need more of this kind of writing. Sadly scientists are no longer popularisers?

The central dogma is that genes, the DNA, are the main driver of development. We are servants of controlling mechanisms known as the genes.

The rise of epigenetics have made this picture more complete. Development is about the meeting of hereditary factors and environmental factors, and what happens when these meet.

Genes will respond to what happens, what we do, think, eat, learning and so on. They are activated in a process called methylation.

The term epigenetics is used to describe what happens when cells differentiate from their initial state in embryo. Epigenetics is about factors other than DNA that influence how an organism develops. This has led to a debate about what factors really matter in the development of man. Genes seem to be turned on and off, we are in a new field of thought.

We do not know what happens all the time, you may be surprised. Genes are somewhat flexible, they adapt to the environment.

Now we need to know better what this is all about.

The concept of the meme was introduced as a cultural parallell to the genes, it is widely criticized and not fully accepted. The idea is that a meme is a cultural concept that spreads to many people and may influence their genes and consequently their development. The memes may become replicas and are standardized. This is thought to happen to many things we say, do, think, eat. So do these memes, like religion, become part of our genes or decide what genes are activated. We may therefore be a product of our genes as well as the memes that are found in the environment. The memes become hardwired like our genes. Roll out the new fables, please! Let nobody stop you!

The debate is sometimes very funny as people insist they can see these developments taking place – evolution right under your nose? Instant evolution? The people coming after us will see the truth – our present thinking will surely be renewed and improved upon.

See, we are not there yet, but knowledge increases, we know more all the time. Darvin was not right, but he pointed us in the right direction. So we move ahead, and new thinking is coming up. Make sure we facilitate that.

Hypnosis – why not more of that?

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Hypnosis is a Greek word meaning sleep. The history of hypnosis is a long one. We have used it in the form we know for several hundred years, and similar techniques have been used for thousands of years, by the Greeks, the Mongols, Indians. We have almost forgotten it.

It has been used in medicine, as a pain killer instead of drugs – this is still done – to heal, to find resources in the person herself,  to concentrate people’s mind and to relax, to remove outside influences, to focus on unwanted thoughts or activities, to get rid of neuroses, bad habits.

Unconscious resources may cause illness, symptoms, functional disturbances. Hypnosis  aims to activate the persons own resources to achieve healing. You defocus on the harmfull effects, and focus on the positives.

The tool is inducements into a hypnotic state through repetition, monotony, rhytm, going down suggestions. We must enter into a yes state of acceptance and lead on from there. Hypnosis is when you have an unconscious reaction to a suggestion. You stop using your will, and your critical and logical senses. Your ability to be hypnotised vary, and about 10% are easily hypnotised, 80% are medium and 10% will not be hypnotised.

There are risks as hypnotism can lead to hallucination, strong feeling domination, repetition of ideas, wild imaginary conditions. The risk must be evaluated.

There is also a show side to it as hypnotised persons can do funny things on the stage.

It has become part of the alternative medicine as scientific thinkers shrug and deny – in spite of concrete evidence that it works.

Hypnosis is a state of concentrated attention, it is a natural condition, you get there by being induced by others or yourself – selfhypnosis – and the work is done through suggestions about what to do. The hypnotised person is awake or at sleep .

In the medical world there is a big lack of knowledge, it seems we are trying to forget what is there.

Through hypnosis we try to access our unconscious resources, find how to activate them , they are part of our psyche, wellness, mental condition. The aim is a possible cure or prevention of certain conditions of the psyche.

Among unconscious resources we have breathing, heartbeat, metabolism, blood pressure, movement or working of internal organs, healing of wounds, feelings, others we know little about. We can learn to use these resources if we accept they are there / this is not just talk, rich evidence exists.

Hypnosis and trance are the same – see it as an enlarged consciousness, a fading of reality orientation, relaxation, sleepiness, or it can be an active-awake trance or somnambulism.

We do not fully understand this so why not work towards a better fuller understanding?

We can maybe find a solution inside ourselves / to be well and stay well. And what about being more selfdetermined?