Archive for the Music-Movies-Media Category

DNA data storage or rise of genetically modified humans?

Posted in Faith & Science, Law, Money, Music-Movies-Media, Software, War on January 27, 2013 by daviddiel

I’ve noticed several news stories and advertisements lately regarding the future of data storage. Apparently, researchers at the European Bioinformatics Institute have stored and retrieved a few digital files in DNA. That’s interesting on many levels, yet the sales pitch seems to be focused on the hard drive market. Here are some example articles:

Why DNA Will Someday Replace the Hard Drive

Storing Shakespeare and “I Have a Dream” in DNA

New technique stores terabytes of data on DNA with 100% accuracy

Depending on your background, and your level of trust in scientists, you might interpret this news as a another step in the advancement of technology. It could enable lighter cell phones, thinner notebook computers, and smaller data storage centers. All of those things could be true, but the discussion is missing a very important and serious application: People will be able to store and print all forms of life, which will inevitably include genetically modified humans. Once a DNA sequence is printed or cloned, it has already been shown using sheep, that it can be inserted into an egg, and a surrogate mother can grow and bear the child.

From what I have read, a person’s DNA represents about 6 GB of data. Therefore, your genetic code, which is a large part of what makes up who you are, would probably fit on your cell phone using today’s technology. It would not be surprising if most people reading this blog have their DNA sequenced within the next 20 years. It is not a stretch to think that some of you will request to store your sequence on a reliable form of digital media, like a Blu-Ray disc, for example.

Then what? What if you could send your DNA out for a little touch-up, deleting a few flaws and disease markers here and there? What if your DNA could be virtually mated with anyone who you choose? Would you want to have a child made from a modified version of yourself and your favorite movie star? What if you could add or select features, such as better metabolism, greater intelligence, or a particular eye or hair color? Could all of this be used to make super humans or warriors?

My moral compass says that we should not go down this path. But, somebody’s going to do it anyway. Let’s just be honest and recognize that the target market for this technology is biological elitists who want to make super-babies, not those who are overburdened by the size and weight of their personal electronics.

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What led to the Adam Lanza school shooting?

Posted in Education, Law, Music-Movies-Media, Psychology, War with tags , , , , , , , on December 19, 2012 by daviddiel

Regarding the school shooting last week in Connecticut, I have been asking the questions: How did this happen? What factors led to the outcome?

Here are the elements that I think were critical:

1) Lanza had access to weapons that he knew how to use. The weapons didn’t have to be guns. They could have been mining explosives. But his killing pathology must have developed through training that matched the weapons.

2) Lanza probably trained through first person shooter video games. The pattern of aiming at a person, pulling the trigger, feeling no remorse, and targeting another person for pleasure is not innate, but learned. The creation of such games is partly funded by war money.

3) The school did not have armed security personnel. In this case, the principal acted heroically to try to stop Lanza, but failed because he did not have a sufficient weapon. An armed police officer on staff, or any adult present with a concealed weapon and proper training, might have stopped the rampage.

4) Lanza had an episode of a mental dysfunction that got out of control. This case particularly points to a childhood developmental disorder, based on who he chose to kill. Lanza’s immediate fear of treatment triggered a trap loaded with biological predispositions and parenting mistakes.

Steps could be taken on all of these issues, but #2 can be addressed for free without passing legislation. All we need to do is boycott video games and movies that trivialize murder. Which video games or movies would you boycott in honor of the Sandy Hill Elementary victims? Answer in the comments below.

Review of District 9

Posted in Music-Movies-Media on September 21, 2009 by daviddiel

District 9 is about feeling like a dirty insect refugee at the mercy of a genocidal militant para-governmental agency. I’m sure there were parallels to South Africa under Apartheid.

As a sci-fi film, it was full of holes. For example, the aliens have a body suit that, by itself, can stop bullets in mid-air and throw them back at people. Impressive, right? But, when the main character, Wikus, gets into the suit, it takes lots of damage and fails.

Meanwhile, Wikus waffles between blowing multiple people away with spider missiles and feeling unable to kill individuals because of his great compassion. What kind of hero is sorta maybe on a mission? There’s also his wife, who totally loves him, then totally betrays him, then kinda loves him again. Huh?

Overall, its unfamiliar and creatively presented themes coupled with decent acting kept my interest. I mildly recommend watching it on DVD with a cold beer in hand to prevent over-thinking.

How to use sound effect plugins with iTunes on a Mac

Posted in Music-Movies-Media, Software on July 18, 2009 by daviddiel

Want to know what your music would sound like if played through a vintage amp or special effects pedal? Want to do it using free software on a Mac? The following worked for me.

Download and install Soundflower.

Feed sound from other Mac applications into Soundflower:
System Preferences -> Sound -> Output -> Select Soundflower (2ch)

Open GarageBand and tell it to get Soundflower input:
GarageBand -> Preferences -> Audio/Midi -> Audio Input -> Soundflower (2ch)

Now tell it to send output to the speakers or headphone jack:
GarageBand -> Preferences -> Audio/Midi -> Audio Output -> Built-In Output

Now create a single track with either the “Real Instrument” or “Electric Guitar” options in GarageBand. Make sure the input source is “Stereo 1/2 (Soundflower (2ch))” and Monitor is “on” in the track settings.

Open iTunes and play music through any GarageBand effect that you like. Voila!

Now, here is the real bonus: You can add Audio Unit plugins to GarageBand by placing them here:
/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components/

For more details about plugins or Audio Units, read this.