03 February 2006

Three Bridges to Tomorrow

JW Bats of Tech Future Blog has provided an intriguing story about the quest for nano-factories. The full story is available at this link, or you can read the abbreviated version here.

Snowcrash at Biosingularity presents a study from UC Irvine that examines how single memories are processed in multiple regions of the brain simultaneously. Different aspects of the same "memory" were processed in the hippocampus, the amygdyla, and the anterior cingulate cortex. Snowcrash also earlier discussed a research study on a related topic from Johns Hopkins.

Bio.com presents the observation of evolution in action.
While biologists have understood the basic machinery underlying polyphenisms, the mystery remained how such complex traits, which involve mutations in multiple genes, could evolve and persist.

"It's long been known that polyphenisms are controlled by hormones, with the brain sensing environmental signals and altering the pattern of hormonal secretions," said Nijhout. "In turn, these hormonal patterns turn sets of genes on or off to produce different traits. However, we understood only the developmental mechanism, and how it is possible with a single genome in an animal to produce two very different phenotypes," he said.

"There had been theoretical models to explain the evolutionary mechanism -- how selective pressures can maintain polyphenisms in a population, and why they don't converge gradually into one form or another," said Nijhout. "But nobody had ever started with a species that didn't have a polyphenism and generated a brand-new polyphenism. Such a demonstration could offer important insights into the evolutionary mechanism underlying such traits."

There you have three stories indicating progress in the understanding of nanotechnology, evolutionary genetics, and the science of memory formation. All three relate to the singularity and have the potential to bring about great changes in human society when they are better understood.

Learning the language of mind and memory, gaining the ability to master nano-level creation and manipulation, and understanding the complexities of the evolutionary mechanism--these are three important bridges to another level of understanding the world that we are all a part of.


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