Archive for January, 2006


Monday, January 9th, 2006

Congratulations to Lucas Gonze on the /Yahoo! merger. (Via Kevin Burton.)

Yahoo! made a very wise decision to be acquired by the light side rather than the dark side.

My favorite Gonze post: Totally fucking bored with Napster (more at CC).

Also have a listen to the best track on ccMixter (if you share my taste, probably not), also a Gonze creation.

I could gonze on, but enough of this!

Ten year life extension, available now

Wednesday, January 4th, 2006

Review article Three Different Paths to Age One Hundred, text posted, sans notes, maybe eventually available at the New England Centenarian Study publications page, points out some interesting data.

I’m not sure how they’re obtaining these numbers, but three studies cited claim that 25-35% of variance in longevity is can be attributed to genetic influences, leaving 65-75% to environmental effects.

A compelling example of the large impact of environment is that benefit from their otherwise nutty attempt to follow by avoiding meat, tobacco, alcohol and sloth, obtaining a life expectancy of 88 years, versus 78 years for (presumably genetically very similar) average Americans. I have heard many times that Adventists practice healthy lifestyles, but this is the first time I’ve seen a number attached to their health outcomes (not that I’ve looked).

The article also seems to generally comport with economist Robert Fogel‘s research–environment early in life has long term health effects and those who achieve exceptional longevity tend to greatly delay or avoid aging related disease rather than fulfilling the stereotype of merely living longer, but in a miserable state. A healthy lifestyle may substantially increase your lifespan and simultaneously decrease the total amount of time you spend in a disabled state. What a deal.

For whatever it’s worth, the researchers at the NECS have a Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator. It expects me to live to 94.

XTech 2006 CFP deadline

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006

I mentioned elsewhere that I’m on the program committe for XTech 2006, the leading web technology conference in Europe, to be held in Amsterdam May 16-19.

Presentation, tutorial and panel proposals are due in less than a week–January 9. If you’re building an extraordinary Web 2.0 application or doing research that Web 2.0 (very broadly construed) developers and entrepreneurs need to hear about, please consider submitting a proposal.

See the CFP and track descriptions.

MPrize impact predictions

Monday, January 2nd, 2006

Last June I wrote about Methuselah Mouse Prize related prediction market claims and suggested that claims conditioned on MPrize fundraising goals would be interesting. I just noticed that makes predictions of its own via its ill-explained The Life Line Equation calculator.

I couldn’t find any discussion of the calculator and it is not very prominent on the site. I suspect not much thought was put into it, but the implicit claims are interesting anyway. Given a year of birth, the calculator provides an expected lifespan and an estimate of funds required to reverse aging before you die, as well as a plot like the following:

One problem with the calculator is that it apparently doesn’t use . The average 75 year old is not expected to die next year, as per the calculator.

In the table below I’ve taken the output of the Life Line Equation calculator, supplemented with age-adjusted data from U.S. National Center for Health Statistics life tables (italicized).

Birth Expected
1990 2072 2068 $244,000
1980 2061 2058 $407,000
1970 2050 2049 $800,000
1960 2040 2040 $2,100,000
1950 2029 2031 $9,850,000
1940 2018 2023 $226,800,000
1930 2007 2017 $40,000,000,000

The implication is that to reverse aging by 2029, the MPrize needs $9,850,000, and furthermore that aging could be reversed very shortly with enough incentive and that aging will be reversed 2030 or so regardless of MPrize funding (the funds needed to reverse aging after that date are insignificant, so I think it would be fair to discount the role of the MPrize in reversing aging after that date, if not much sooner).

MPrize funding currently stands at $1.4m, with an additional $1.8m committed. So according to I (born 1970) have nothing to worry about. Hooray!

Well, perhaps not. The calculator seeems pretty poorly conceived and implemented. Still, it would be very interesting to obtain estimates of the impact various levels of MPrize funding might have on anti-aging breakthroughs. Such estimates would be great marketing fodder for MPrize fundraisers–even a very modest impact would save many lives.

As I mentioned before one means of obtaining such (collective) estimates would be to condition anti-aging prediction contracts on MPrize funding levels. Very simplistically, “what is the chance aging will be reversed by 2030?” and “what is the chance aging will be reversed by 2030 if the MPrize raises $100m by 2010?” (Obviously a real claim would define some specific indicator for aging reversal, e.g., a 90 percent drop in 75 year old mortality relative to 75 year old mortality in 2005.)

I still strongly recommend supporting the Methuselah Mouse Prize and the generally.

While I’m peeving away, I wish Rejuvenation Research were an journal. “[M]most important of all: this journal needs to be read.” At $263/year for a personal online-only subscription I don’t think so.

Addendum 20060118: There is a claim on FX very much like the aging reversal claim I outlined above — 90% drop in overall death rate before 2050 relative to 1994 rate. I almost certainly read this claim in the past and forgot about it, but not its general thrust.

Hacking Matter: Levitating Chairs, Quantum Mirages and the Infinite Weirdness of Programmable Atoms

Sunday, January 1st, 2006

I saw author give a talk at Etech nearly two years ago and read the book shortly after. Now (via Boing Boing) Hacking Matter is available as a free download (under the most restrictive Creative Commons license), so I guess it’s time to post a mini-review.

is any bulk substance that can have its physical properties altered on demand. McCarthy’s focus is on woven into bulk matter and controlled by electricity.

The quantum dots can form arbitrarily sized on demand, radically changing the bulk matter’s properties. Examples (from p. 119 of the PDF):

Transparent ↔ Opaque
Reflective ↔ Absorptive
Electrically Conductive ↔ Electrically Insulative
Thermally Conductive ↔ Thermally Insulative
Magnetic ↔ Nonmagnetic
Flexible ↔ Rigid
Luminous ↔ Nonluminous

Not all of these could be changed arbitrarily and simultaneously, as many are correlated, but the point is “doped” matter becomes practically . Apart from obvious many billion dollar applications in fashion, personal and household goods and industrial processes, cheap bulk programmable matter would enable the conservation bomb to go nuclear (figuratively speaking), producing super efficient heating, cooling, and solar engergy collection. Beyond that, the possibilities quickly go into the realm heretofore of science fiction and magic.

There is a problem of course–making quantum dots in bulk cheaply. Apparently progress is being made, but there’s a long way to go to anything that could be called cheap. As far as I can tell a hot application now is “nanosensing” which isn’t really bulk.

could presumably produce programmable matter with abandon, but MNT may be some ways off. From about as far away from any related field as possible, quantum dots lack the hype and controversy surrounding “” and MNT, though research and small scale applications are well underway. As solid state, programmable matter also shouldn’t scare some people has –no self replication.

Hacking Matter is a popular science book and tries to balance between describing the personalities doing the research, technical information, and wild speculation. I could’ve done without the anecdotes. I’m sorry to admit that the technical parts were at about the right level for me, having a very weak science background, which also leaves me largely unable to pass judgement on the speculative parts. There definitely needs to be a more rigorous but still somewhat accessible treatment.

I was convinced that programmable matter will be an important technology in the not too distant future, though not inspired a la , though that comparison is probably unfair.

I recommend skimming Hacking Matter if you’re interested, and skimming the brief programmable matter FAQ even if you aren’t particularly interested, just for the purpose of being informed.

At Etech I asked McCarthy if he had any easily judged predictions about the development of programmable matter technology (for use as prediction market claims of course). He didn’t have anything concrete on the spot–something about “bulk material should be available” if I recall. The Cheaper Dots story cited above mentions “$2,000 a gram”. Are cost per gram or grams produced good general metrics?