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January 03, 2007

World Future Society predictions are wrong

The World Future Society makes forecasts which show that the forecasters do not seem to really understand some of the technology that they are forecasting.

Forecast #2: The era of the Cyborg is at hand. Researchers in Israel have fashioned a "bio-computer" using the DNA of living cells instead of silicon chips. This development may soon allow a computer to connect directly with a human brain.

Note: brain interfacing is happening but not with the DNA computer technology that they are referring to.

It is mixing sections of input, program DNA that then combine to combine to generate answers. It takes a week to prepare the strands. The main innovation was being able to use the energy from the DNA input strands to drive the process.

It's not like we're going to save the energy store of the world with this,'' said Ehud Shapiro, a computer scientist and the lead researcher of the Weizmann project. ''But lo and behold, we have been able to compute without using [additional] energy.''

From the nytimes
Like all current DNA computers, Dr. Shapiro's frugal model is mostly a laboratory curiosity. And there is skepticism, even from some DNA computer researchers, that today's demonstrations can be transformed into practical tools. But if that happens, Dr. Shapiro isn't hoping to create a rival to electronic computers. Instead he foresees new biological devices, including what he calls ''a doctor in the cell.''

Dr. Shapiro said it might be possible to program a DNA computer with medical knowledge and insert it into cells. Once there, it could track its host's condition and synthesize molecules to create drugs. ''But this is the ultimate vision,'' he added. ''The 50-year vision.
all the energy needed to push the process forward comes from a small amount of heat released from the input DNA after it is snipped by the reading and cutting enzyme. ''It provides both information and fuel,'' Dr. Shapiro said.

Of course, no DNA computer produces its results on a conventional monitor. Instead, results must be divined by using a electrophoretic gel to create the kind of black-and-white DNA charts that are displayed by expert witnesses at criminal trials.

The lack of an easy method for displaying DNA computing results is one reason that they are better suited to performing biological tasks rather than being developed as a rival to electronic computers, Dr. Shapiro said. While he acknowledged that his ''doctor in a cell'' scenario is a distant dream, he said it might be possible to develop some way to use the process for DNA sequencing.

From cnet
The designer molecule begins to sense ribonucleic acid (RNA), a similar molecule crucial to the replilcation of DNA, the chemical building block of genes. In particular, it is attracted to abnormal forms of RNA that are associated with lung or other types of cancer. The attraction occurs, because the sequence of the enzymes on the DNA strand corresponds to complementary sequences found on RNA from malignant cells.

Once detected, the designer molecule can then release chemicals to inhibit growth of malignant cells or even kill them.

They have not figured out how to make it work in the body. Let alone interface it with human brain cells


Forecast #3: By 2015, New York, Tokyo and Frankfurt may emerge as hubs for high-speed, large-capacity supersonic planes. NASA's X-43A Scramjet recently flew at 7,000 mph (nearly ten times the speed of sound). These hyperspeed planes will whisk passengers across continents in the time it takes most people to drive to the airport.

The military will be fortunate to get hypersonic missiles working in that time frame. Probably another ten years to get fighter jets and bombers and then another ten before civilian aircraft might go hypersonic

In the linked to PDF, the project milestones are to try to put test vehicles together by about 2014. They have to work out materials and structures that go beyond a design that is strapped onto rocket and then lit up. they have to make something that can fly by itself. Integrating the different kinds of engines that work at different speeds. Hypersonic engines do not work at lower than 5 times of the speed of sound. what other engines are being integrated to get something that can fly repeatedly by itself ?
So first you get a missile that is self contained and only needs to fly once. then you get a fighter where it can fly repeatedly but where risk of failure is more ok Or maybe some kind of better space launch system. Then down the road you figure how to make it safe and efficient enough for commercial flight. Can you get one that can fly out of commericial airports? How about environmental , sound and all the other certifications? Those will take a decade or more especially on a new plane.

A crude hypersonic missile might be tested in 2008. carried aloft by plane and then started off by rocket before the hypersonic engine kicks in

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