19 May, 2008

The Fermi Paradox, not so paradoxical?

May, 19 ,2008:
In an email with a colleague, I postuled on the significance that gamma ray bursts in the young milky way might have retarded the growth rate of life in the entire galaxy. In a longer email response I listed out the mechanism for my idea. Essentially, GRB's and mettalicity may lead to conditions that periodically restart life processes on a galactic scale. Combined with the stellar level events (asteroids, comets and proto planetary body incursions) this explains a great deal of the reason why we haven't been visited by LGM's. It could simply be the fact that the galaxy and the solar system has only quited down enough for life and intelligent life in general to advance to the point that they would discover advanced technology and the ability to propel themselves between the stars. We are all (those forms of life in elementally conducive parts of the galaxy that is) at roughly the "same" level of technological advance (even if "same" can have a gap of thousands of years) and since we can't travel between the stars, neither can any of the many species that likely only recently (again can span thousands of years..which on a galactic time scale is nothing) achieved technological advancement as we have due to the quiescence in extinction events both on a galactic and planetary level. Below I include the entire email response to the original letter.



April 30, 2006

1) Prior to writing the first email where I postulated the connection between black hole merge induced GRB's and extinction events on our planets history, I had no previously researched information on the subject. I'd not seen it written in any journal, magazine, web page or any other place. ie. I was extrapolating the connection on the fly. So you'll excuse me if I, in a moment of shallow and rapid thought did not reflect more deeply upon the mitigating factor of galactic evolution (to be explained subsequently) on the occurance of GRB's. ;)

2)The connection between GRB formation and metal rich and metal poor galaxies specified in the article is likely true, and the chances of our galaxy having new GRB's may be retarded by this fact but that doesn't mean that our galaxy was not a source of such GRB's in the past. Our fossil record (as mentioned before) is strewn with currently inexplicable extinction events. Moreover, all metal rich galaxies were once metal poor ones by definition, this is how galactic evolution works according to currently accepted cosmology. Hydrogen burned in the furnaces of the original (mostly globular) clusters of stars, and aided by the crushing forces of gravity burned into the heavier elements ...helium, lithium, berylium and so fouth leading to the metals over subsequent generations of star death and rebirth. Our galaxy is metal rich only because it's gone through it's metal poor days (when it almost certainly was producing GRB's if the current black hold merge trigger is to be accepted) billions to hundreds of millions of years ago. Thus galactic core GRB production I assert is a state that all galaxies with sufficient mass have gone through at some time in the past. Note this does not factor in the other potential sources postulated for life killing gamma events like super novae, and rotating or consumed neutron star and black hole systems that are likely to be far more likely in our own galaxy.


3) There is no research readily available on exactly how a galaxy goes from being metal poor to metal rich, how quickly does this transition occur ? I gather it should vary with the density and distribution of the matter that composes the galaxy in question but is the state transition a sudden (on an astronomical time scale) one? If so, our galaxy might have changed state only in the last 500 million years or was in it's last throws of state change (and core GRB production) this would allow any remaining core GRB events to coincide with the development of early life on earth and could explain the extinctions. It would also again allow us to address the Fermi paradox mentioned in the linked article, if the galaxy only in the last 400 million years stabilized into it's metal rich (ie. slower GRB producing phase) phase any evolutionary processes on suitable worlds else where in the galaxy would have been subject to the same extinction events (likely more violent and complete ones) prior to the emergence of suitable life on earth.

4) The mentioned connection between metal content in galaxies and GRB's provides no calculation for determining the relationship between GRB likelihood and the metal content of a galaxy. Such a calculation would have to take several very amorphous factors into consideration such as the density of stellar matter in the galactic core, weather or not the metal distribution in the galaxy is homogeneous or not. These factors would be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to quantify on a galaxy by galaxy basis. And weather or not direction is important to registering the GRB. Therefor the conclusion that GRB's "only" occur in metal poor galaxies (which implies homogeniety in my view) can not be drawn without first knowing exactly what recipe is required to produce them which aside from the evidence of merging black holes of sufficient size is all that is known. The important qualification on any such statement should be, "we tend to find GRB's coming mostly from galaxies with a high metal content".

5) You are assuming that any gamma ray event that occurs in our galaxy need be as potent as the ones we detect in galaxies hundreds of millions of light years away (ie way back in time) We do know as fact that gamma rays are easier to propagate in a space that isn't filled with heavy nuclei, after all the heaver the nuclei is the more energetic particles are needed to move it or modify it. In so doing the source particle looses energy, gamma rays hit heavy atoms and turn to lower energy photons like x rays and scatter atom bits about. Also, if a galaxy does produce a core gamma event the momentum of the produced nuclei would be quickly retarded by the heavy nuclei in the surrounding galactic material...this indicates that the intensity of a core gamma ray event (to distinguish them from "bursts" which we'll uniquely define as detectable from neighbor galaxies) will vary non linearly with galactic evolution. In other words, as the galaxy goes from metal poor (high levels of low atomic weight elements) to metal rich (after a few generations of star death and rebirth to produce heavier nuclei) it also goes from being a great catalyst to the distribution of gamma rays to being a poor catalyst to such distribution. Does that mean that the core becomes incapable of producing gamma events sufficient to cause extinction events on planetary systems that might be evolving life ? NO It only means that the extent of the gamma events distribution may not travel through the galactic void in such a way as to signal sentients in other galaxies that "hey that milky way looking galaxy just had a really bad day" ;) So, the situation would be that gamma ray conduction and intensity will reduce as more heavy elements (not just metals IMO) are produced in a galaxy as it undergoes galactic evolution. Since gamma rays are impeded more readily by heavier nuclei, the more heavy elements there are the less likely enough gamma rays produced by a merge event would ever make it to the edge of the galaxy and be ejected out into intergalactic space to be picked up in distant galaxies. Thus, simply because we don't see them coming from what appear to be "metal heavy" galaxies does not preclude their occurance in the form of weaker events within such galaxies with sufficient virulence to extinguish life on systems in such galaxies without us every knowing a thing about it. Bolstering this view is the fact that gamma events (both core and non core based) likely have preferential directions in all the theorized possible sources(see 6), if we aren't in the path of the burst astronomers won't even know it is happening.

6) Finally, host galactic core events are not the only candidates for life killing gamma bursts. rotating neutron stars and even super novae have been implicated as sufficiently energetic sources capable of producing life killing gamma ray events that don't have to be in the galactic core of the host galaxy.


So I'd say gamma ray events (from inside our own galaxy) are still very relevant as a possible explanation for the apparent dearth of intelligent life forms in our galaxy. (namely the "why don't we get alien radio signals" question) I think it is way too early to go claiming that we are safe from GRB events as was implied in the original article you sent which admitted that it only studied a 4 galaxy sample of galactic burst sources to make it's conclusion! Now don't get me wrong I am not saying we should be worried (You republicans are paranoid enough!), I am just pointing out that I think the study cited in that link is leaving a LOT out of the picture of your purpose in sending it was to down play the possibility that a core GRB event in our galaxy could wipe us out.



References history:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ionizing_radiation
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galactic_cosmic_ray
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma_ray_burster
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proterozoic

http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=1932&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0 (original)

15 May, 2008

Your value is in your mind.

The modern world and the diminishing returns of educating an ever increasing population.
LinkLink
Podcast:

Linkhttp://davidsaintloth.podbean.com/2011/09/27/your-power-is-in-your-mind/

One of the biggest catalysts of change in the global economy has been the unleashing of the massive people power behind the borders of countries like China, India and even Russia. These massive pools of human resource combine two types of human potential that prior to their release on world markets were restricted to the respective economies of the countries that contained them. The large number of individuals and the potential for physical labor that they represent has allowed China and India in particular to leverage the low cost for physical labor in their borders to produce powerhouse manufacturing facilities for western corporations that were experiencing years of slowed growth under the increased cost load incurred by the much higher physical labor costs in their native western markets.

The redistribution of access to physical labor is behind the success of companies like Walmart and the explosion of the Chinese economy, at the same time the redistribution of mental labor allowed India to make massive inroads into the service based IT segments of western markets that could easily be exported and imported to achieve desired goals. This has forced individuals working in those markets to adjust their expectations regarding the potential for increased payment going into the future and also forced many to gain new expertise in order to avoid market obsolescence as their potential skills are exported to India where the same mental labor is done for a fraction of the cost charged in the western markets. As population increases, the per individual value of a unit of knowledge goes down since more individuals can have that knowledge, the lower value on the knowledge by virtue of its ubiquity in the market thus causes increased competition among the individuals for the buyers of the knowledge (ie. the corporations that hire the workers) this forces the individuals to look for ways to distinguish themselves in the market by acquiring new knowledge that is less ubiquitous and simultaneously more valuable to the knowledge buyers.

The individuals that are able to keep up their value relative to the needs of the knowledge buyers are the ones that succeed regardless the environment but this requires constant diligence to maintain an advantage through increased education to match the needs of the knowledge buyers. The greater the population of individuals seeking this edge the lower the value of the acquired knowledge regardless its uniqueness to the industry, and this necessitates an even faster consumption of unique knowledge to maintain a distinct advantage over the fellow knowledge consumers. (the people and potential employees) The key is unique education is more required for individuals the larger the population is, seeking the unique knowledge that is required by the local or global business environment becomes an increasingly important task. This spells out a diminishing return for the value of knowledge as population increases, it is interesting though to explore how we are able to acquire new knowledge and change our value relative to the needs of a market, that requires a bit of anthropological history.

History of brain evolution in early primates, the reasons it happened and what it gave us.

The history of our ability to acquire new information of the world and use that information to improve our ability to survive in it is an inheritance of the large brains that we possess. In particular the massive cortical hemispheres that sit on the more ancient and primitive regions of the brain provide the seat of reason and associative learning capabilities that have allowed us to inhabit every single habitat on this planet. In fact unlike any other species, we actively find pleasure in going to habitats that under normal circumstances we could not possibly survive in. The human desire to conquer environments led to the migration of our ancestors from their ancient African nascent lands in the rift valley to all the continents and most of the islands of the world in little under 100,000 years. This remarkable journey conducted over hundreds of generations highlights the amazing ability for our brains to experience, acquire, assimilate and adapt to environments and use our brains to synthesis the ability to survive and even thrive in regions of our choosing. The history of the large brains that allow this is a fascinating one, a story of accidents and happenstance. It all starts about 4.5 million years ago when our earliest homonid ancestors separated from the common ancestor that we share with the Pan Troglodytes (the Chimpanzee).

Approximately 4.5 million years ago the modern day rift valley that weaves it's way across more than 5 countries was a different place from what it is today, for one thing it was not a rift at all. Geological processes that have resulted in 4.5 million years in the present situation of western dense forests one one side of the rift and savanna and more arid climate on the eastern side of the rift were only just beginning to form. The processes slow and imperceptible would be the seed of the aforementioned separation from common ancestry with the chimps. Geology has shaped the speciation events of a significant number of species on our planet and was pivotal to the speciation event that led to the creation of the branch of hominid ancestors from which we are descended.


The reason there is a rift at all has to do with plate tectonics the slow process of geological creation, drift and destruction of the Earth's crust. 4.5 million years ago the African plate and the Indian plate to which it abuts, began to accelerate as they separated, going in two directions. This separation set the process of slow ecological drift first in the climate and then to the flora and fauna on both sides of what would become the "rift valley". As the separate populations of many ancestral common ancestors were separated on both sides of the forming rift, the selection pressures to conform to the increasingly divergent ecologies was impressed on the individuals over successive generations. By 4.5 million years ago this process yielded the first evidence of a distinct species of hominid from the previous common ancestor. The species has been dubbed Australopithecus Aferensis and forms the first ancestor in a line of homonids that lead directly to us. This species was found on the Eastern side of the rift, having been forced to adapt to drier conditions and different flora and fauna which also evolved to accommodate the new conditions. An interesting and fortunate consequence of the thinning out of the forests was the necessity for these ancestors to leave the safety of the forests, this requirement is theorized to have spurred several important events in our ancestors, first is the ability for upright locomotion. Primate locomotion on land is more efficient with a bipedal than a quadrupedal gait and so individuals who could employ bipedal locomotion tended to survive and reproduce. These changes led to the emergence of Homo Ergaster and Homo Habilis as intermediate forms then about 2 million years ago emerged Homo Erectus, the upright walking man. Along the way changes in diet led to the consumption of more protein in the form of insects, small rodents and scavenged kills of large savanna species like Lions. The formerly mostly herbivorous diet migrated to a more omnivorous one with a heavy helping of protein. Protein is a star in our story as it is the chief constituent of our most powerful organ, our brains. The switch over to a protein heavy diet lead to increased growth in the brain which manifested mostly in significantly large frontal cortex regions. Compared to previous ancestors the skulls became higher toward the front to accomodate the large amount of cortical brain matter. These regions of the brain we know now control critical aspects of mediation, planning, reward and consequence and social behavior.



These capabilities distinctly define our humanity and delineate how we are different from all other animals. They also allow us to mediate information stored in lower regions of the brain in ways that other animals can not. With the emergence of Homo Erectus and the arrival of a large pre frontal cortex came the flowering of social behaviors we uniquely identify with the human family. We began to adorn ourselves, we started to build tools rather than just use what was available, we buried our dead and along with the ability to plan came our desire to move across the land. Homo Erectus was the first Hominid species to leave Africa. It would later evolve in isolation in different environments in Europe into Homo Neanderthalensis but we aren't descended from them. Homo Erectus in the rift continued to evolve as the climate continued to apply a constant need to *adapt* to the roving bands of Erectus. This pressure was fortuitous for without it, the continued mental advances in brain size , social behavior and technological development would not have occurred. As the march of time neared 200,000 years ago our ancestors had again reached distinction in the species of Homo Sapien. His extensive migrations, along with re migrations periodically since then from Africa form the foundation of the modern populations that populate the world today. The story of our big thinking brain is one of adaptation under continuously changing conditions in the rift, these conditions spurred a change in diet which increased the brain size and gave us the advantages of planning, for thought, empathy and other tools of social interaction that make us distinct from other intelligent animals. We used our large brains to internalize the ability to modify our environment by creating or using tools, actively hunting instead of scavenging for food with those tools and planning to move our selves in search of optimal living environments across the globe. We maximized the value of the environment to us, and minimized the effects of environmental vagaries on our existence. This made our species more robust from such changes in an entirely new way, rather than be subject to the whims of our environment and the limited resources it presented, we could seek to shape our environment to the form we required. It was a revolution in the story of life on Earth. These capabilities are with us still today, unfortunately few individuals seek to reap the rewards of the gift of the large brains we have to maximize our value in the face of economic change.


Big brains to individuals, how they are useful and why most governments just don't get it.

Globalization has created a new paradigm in the annals of human competition for survival. Gone are the days of hunting on a day to day basis for survival for most of us. The massive populations of China and Asia stand poised to utilize the large brains that we have evolved to help us survive. As mentioned previously , being able to adapt locally to the requirements of business or industry allows us to increase our value relative to those businesses. We no longer have a direct life and death struggle but our ability to "survive" is tightly correlated to how we are able to use our brains to extract the most value from the local business climate. Unfortunately, most governments are oblivious to the importance of the natural resource that they all have in abundance, namely the brains and bodies of their people. An efficient use of these resources would require an assessment of the precise needs for industry and business through application of metrics, followed by tailor made programs of education that ensure the younger generations are trained to fill the roles that will be demand as forecast by the business and industry needs. Finally, the buyers(industry) and the sellers (the people) need to be brought together to satisfy the mutual demand. This simple process will maximize the usefulness of all that brain matter to a government, it will also ensure that each individual extracts maximized value from the base of knowledge that they've acquired and thus is able to provide a standard of living for themselves that allows them to prosper. This in turns livens the economy as these individuals exercise their spending power on the local economy and thus advance the economic position of their nation. Where internal supply and demand requirements are not met, governments can seek to outsource their supply of workers knowledge to outside countries where they are needed. This in fact is precisely what the Indians and Russians have been doing and what the Chinese are just getting into. Exportation of the human commodity has a unique advantage that comes with no other type of resource export. The value derived from a human is not fixed, as the investment of education is exercised in a working individual, the ties of that individual to a mother country invariably bind that individual to that country economically. Most people who have immigrated to western countries and found success, export money back to their native lands. This livens those economies. Mexico stands as a easy example, which takes in billions of dollars of US funds from the remittances of individuals who have immigrated to the United States. The power of these receipts to expand an economy or provide for wiggle room during down times can not be down played. Unfortunately, the United States has been slow to embrace the importance of educating its most important resource, its people, rather than focus on education as the primary focus, it has attempted to restrict access to its economy or to apply military might to gain or maintain access to resources that at best will only provide temporary economic reprieve and then only to a small subset of the American people. Thus the answer is clear, America needs to radically change how it approaches the idea of competing in the new globalized economy and the answer lies in education.

How you can increase your value by feeding your brain

To the individual the problem is clear, an increasingly globalized economy. Domestic corporations seeking endless profits are forced to outsource as much of their operating costs to the places where the necessary services and or goods are cost effective. The trend is inexorable and will lead to an equalization of the global value of individuals across disparate markets in different countries. Already the price of labor in China has significantly affected the standard of living of Americans in middle America. Americans , and all humans can fight the trend by analyzing their skills, analyzing the requirements of their local area or even global area, acquire the skills that will give them the knowledge necessary to have value in those areas and then marketing their skills to the buyers where ever they may be. Your greatest asset is the higher cortical functioning that you have in your mind, only by feeding it knowledge that is relevant to the needs expressed somewhere on Earth can you increase your value relative to those requirements. Knowledge is the only thing that I am aware of that can be ingested constantly by humans without us suffering adverse effects. Unlike other things in which moderation is key, knowledge helps us the more of it we have. When we focus our acquisition practices to match the needs of our local or global environment we make ourselves more robust in the constantly changing economic conditions of a rapidly globalizing economy.


Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prefrontal_cortex

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Rift_Valley

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globalization

13 May, 2008

killing for religion

http://richarddawkins.net/articleComments,2560,My-daughter-deserved-to-die-for-falling-in-love,Guardian,page1#comments


If you ever wanted a reason to know why any belief not based on empirical data should be thrown out of consideration, this is it.

So sad , so pathetic. I have no more words.

We (those of reason) can not let this poison continue to infect our planet, for all our sakes.

07 May, 2008

monetizing IP in the digital age

The following is a post I wrote in response to this article at the NYTimes web site.

Just wanted to correct a misunderstanding that seems to be rampant here. The idea that the software won't be able to filter legitimate copies from copy violated ones. It is possible for Microsoft to do this but it will be expensive, they would simply monitor the file sharing networks for the illegal copies, determine some unique aspect of those copies and use that in the filter. They would then have to force Zune users to upgrade their players monthly, you know with a nice annoying security alert that can't be turned off, maybe every two weeks to keep up with the flood of copies that will be hitting the net for any particular show. It sounds next to insane yes, but it is not much less insane than the plan itself IMO.

You would think that at this late date the media companies would have realized that the users simply don't want any restrictions on the use of content on their devices. Give up the game and find other ways to monetize the IP, DRM will continue to be rejected or worked around by the consumer as the corporations simply waste money trying to implement it.

Prior to the development of digital media and ubiquitous distribution a la the internet corporations could sit back on a fat collection of IP copyrights and periodically print cash by releasing the products as new consumer technologies appear (VHS > DVD for example) there is no expiration on copyright so this gave these corporations the ability to periodically liven their businesses with old content. The internet has eliminated this endless business model for copyrighted IP by allowing a single copy to eventually spread to the point that the value of the property to the corporations is diluted. The new model for corporations will be to take advantage of the rapid spread of IP content as it is consumed by users. How do they do this? One way which I've come up with is to tie new content IP to the old, for example. You know that the latest Shrek movie will soon be all over BitTorrent for people to download in 6 months , so instead of trying to DRM restrict every possible device that could use that digital data you instead try to make money around the digital distribution. For example, the corporations could release pristine copies of the content *themselves* laden with advertisements for new content that is yet to hit the market. They can also advertise on behalf of third parties, as the content is consumed now, and the IP is diluted they have a built in distribution mechanism for a wide ocean of content categories. If they control the distribution of the "free" content, they now have the ability to take metrics on the effectiveness of the associated advertisements as they spread through bit torrent land. This model allows them to do something else, they could reduce the availability of the content to ONLY the digital media. (No more DVD's...just download from online) this would eliminate the revenue derived from the physical media but that may be compensated by the increased revenue derived from the advertising deals that are struck to distribute the media online in "free" ad supported forms. They have to kiss the cash cow of repeated reinvention of IP away, it is an obsolete model but in a world where cell phones out number pc's and television sets combined, the revenue potential that awaits advertising on a global scale may just make up for what is lost, and then some.

05 May, 2008

On open networks...

Recently the CEO of Google Inc. Eric Schmidt stated

"If it's not searchable by Google, it's not open, and open is best for the consumer,"

and

"People should be able to move from place to place, and their data is available everywhere,"

as he was speaking at IBM's Business Partner Leadership Conference.

I got the quotes from this blog post at CNET but couldn't find the original transcript of the talk to ensure contextual integrity of the quotes. As they stand and assuming the author of the post didn't lose any context I would say I agree and disagree with the statement.

I agree with the statement if he is only talking about data that a user wishes to be public online. If a user wishes to have their data be private then it should NOT be searchable by google or any other public service sites. The problem with many social networks that Schmidt is pointing out is that in many social networks even "public" means, "public only to other members of this site" as opposed to "public to the entire internet" which would open that data to the mining and searching capability of google. I think the user should be given both options and most social networks do not even offer this choice to their users and Schmidt is correct in pointing this out. Unfortunately, his word selection implies public in only one way (public to the internet)

There are many examples of users that specifically do not want their data to be publicly searchable. Businesses who are using social networks to manage events or collaborate with employees and partners will not want this information to be public (to the internet) as that may weaken their competitive advantages with respect to competitors by making their plans known to them. Also, users who join relationships sites and provide the large amount of personal data that many such networks ask for in order to facilitate the relationship matching services offered will also be reticent to making that data public to the internet. There are many more examples where people create accounts to gain access to a social network precisely because it is NOT open to the internet public and is open only to a subset of users who are looking to match some provided good or service with another user or users. Chat is a perfect example, for business purposes chat ideally would be secure and private to the guests or participants speaking but controllable by the chat initiator. Access to any transcripts of the chat is something that the user wants total control over at any time, they rarely want to share this information with the internet. The choice to do so should be theirs before there is any talk of that data being made public to the internet.

The use of xml based feeds like rss allows social networks to easily compile data of various internally provided services and publish that data to public or private resource locations. Many social networks provide these features as convenience to their users but they should not be a requirement put on the networks from outside. If users demand the ability to publicly export their data then they should be given that right or they can leave the network for one that does. Google's motives of course in wishing for public access to data revolves around how they are able to compile metrics over the patterns of interaction that users perform online while on these networks. This would allow them to refine the algorithms they use to provide advertisements (many of the social networks uses Google's adsense internally) and give them the ability to target advertisements relevant not only to a particular topic of discussion but also to a particular moment. The holy grail of advertising is to target an ad about something someone is interested in when they are most interested in seeing it. Google would be more able to provide this capability if they had access to internal social network patterns so it is not surprising they make this statement.


Curiously, one of the fastest growing social networks Facebook is also building the ability to target advertisements both by relevance in topic and time just as Google hopes to do. Google has a bunch of loosly related products that are not easily mined to determine focused likelyhood for the Users (many of them holding different logins across different Google properties) to want to see a given advertisement. Facebook on the other hand is growing by providing an integrated start point for users that is effectively targeting all the interests of the user in one place allowing advertisements to be targeted to unprecedented levels. At the same time Facebook profiles provide a deep level of control for the User to determine who can see what part of their profile data, these customizations are precisely what bring so many people to Facebook but they are anethema to Googles attempt to mine that user data for search and advertising purposes. So we see a polar relationship between the need of the user to control their data and the desire of Google to mine and search what is "public" (internet sense). The conflating of "public to internet" and "public to my contacts" was possibly an accident on Schmidt's part as it seems to undermine the users ability to make their data private or public to a limited set of individuals IF that is what they chose over making it public to the internet. However it is clear that the only "public" that is useful to Google is the "public to internet" definition which is currently not provided by one of the fasting growing social networks in the world. It is impossible to tell if this was more than just a coincidence.

02 May, 2008

OLED displays on the way

I remember the first time I saw a digital picture frame, an electronically driven screen that can be loaded with digital images and be made to cycle images over time. The early ones were bulky and didn't have much memory for images, more recent devices allow wireless delivery of the images but are battery hogs. I remember in the early days thinking it was an interesting technology but would really take off after one important event. Namely, the creation of a truly energy efficient display technology that provided a realistic image without the need for the backlighting of all the LCD driven units on the market.

That technology has been in the labs for quite some time and it is poised to be released on the masses , it is called OLED (Organic Light Emmitting Diode/Display). An OLED display combines the advantages of a CRT and an LCD, it has amazingly high dynamic range and a wide gamut (roughly the subtly of tones that can be rendered for each color channel) and is incredibly power efficient. It also adds something to the mix that Plasma, CRT's nor LCD's can do, an OLED display can be flexible. Take a look at this video and this video from youtube. As a sign that Sony is serious about bringing this technology to light last night at the Iron Man premiere here in NYC, one of the commercials was a rather interesting advertisement for the new OLED display that is going on sale this year.

OLED will allow the digital picture frame market to blossom by providing true "any angle" viewing thanks to its lack of the angle of view constraints of LCD's and the fact that the light comes from the pixels and not from a backlight. The energy efficiency will allow wireless devices to run for significantly longer periods of time as well. Beyond this, the resolution advantages and the ability to create transparent and flexible displays will really open up the display market. So any current method of displaying imagery will be made more efficient through the use of the coming OLED displays. Imagine having these displays all over your wall and tied to your home computer systems, any OLED embedded surface can then be used to view data, images what have you. As an undergrad EE student I remember reading an engineering trade journal that covered the then first optical digital video disk device (we know it today as DVD) the prototype was about as big as a washing machine, after reading that article I resigned not to buy another VCR (I had only purchased one up to that time around 1988) as I waited for DVD, which finally debuted almost 10 years later for the masses. The cost reduction over that time for the technology is going to hit OLED and thanks to the elegence of the technology will allow it to gain amazing ubiquity in a very short time. So I am putting a bet on a really explosive market in OLED driven display technologies.