This is last weeks's finds, a relatively short list.
Genetic control over ant social structure Constructing Biological Motor Powered Nanomechanical Devices
The main reason for the short list was that I participated as a guide/mentor at LARK, an event where gymnasie students (17-19) visited various Stockholm universities. I was responsible for the computer science part, and it turned out to be a quite transhuman weekend.
The students were among other things introduced to neural networks and computational neuroscience (the professor was convinced that we would have AI and an understanding of the brain within one or two decades), cryptography, robotics (including "self conscious" robots that modelled themselves and learned how to slither - http://www.sics.se/piraia/), a riveting talk about wearables, smart badges and future communications by professor Gerald Q. "Chip" Maguire Jr (http://www.it.kth.se/~maguire/Talks/Wearable-981129.pdf) and a final talk about quantum computers, teleportation and cryptography.
At the end the students happily debated the socio-economical consequences of widespread AI, human enhancement and uploading. The best thing was, I didn't need to add any memes myself, they got them from the researchers :-)
Genetic control of social organization in an ant K. G. Ross and L. Keller, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 95:24 14232--14237, Nov 24 1998.
A single gene can switch the social structure of a species of ants between single and multiple queens per colony. It influences the reproductive phenotypes and strategies of the queens, as well as what queens the workers tolerate. Most likely switching between the two alleles of the gene is useful for setting up "frontier" colonies where speed of expansion is important and more stable colonies in already colonized areas. From a transhuman point of view, this suggests that we might one day control ant and insect societies to do useful things.
The Foresight Conference papers continue to appear:
Constructing Biological Motor Powered Nanomechanical Devices Carlo Montemagno, George Bachand, Scott Stelick, Marlene Bachand http://www.foresight.org/Conference/MNT6/Papers/Montemagno/index.html
They have created a hybrid system where the F1-ATPase molecular motor was connected to a metal substrate and connected to fluoroscent microspheres. The bonding strength was more than 600 pN. The motors managed to move the spheres around at 9.5-10.5 Hz in a hexagon; given that the spheres were much larger than the ATPases it seems quite impressive. A very nice result, and likely to be extended in a lot of ways.
Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension! firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.nada.kth.se/~asa/GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y