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November 27, 2006

Paper Storage

This is pretty neat:

How much information can you store on an A4 sheet? Well, according to some new technology designed by an Indian engineering student, an extraordinary 256GB.

With new "rainbow technology", devised by Sainul Abideen who has just completed an MCA degree in Kerala, data can be encoded into coloured geometric shapes and stored in dense patterns on paper.


An A4 sheet of paper is a bit longer and a bit narrower than a standard US letter size sheet; let's assume for the moment that they can hold the same amount of data. A megabyte of data is roughly 100 pages of single-spaced text (12-point Times in Microsoft word.) If this paper storage technology works out, a single page of paper can encode 25.6 million pages of text! If you prefer, that single sheet of paper could store more than 4600 hours of MP3 music or about 3000 hours of streaming Flash video.

Not too shabby!

I wonder if the tape storage vendors are worried about this? Of course, rather than being worried, they ought to think about investing in this guy.

Via Instapundit.

UPDATE: Don't write those checks just yet, storage industry folks. Looks like this may be a scam. Ouch, here's more: "the storage equivalent of perpetual motion."

November 02, 2006

Liver from Scratch

miniliver.jpg Well, okay, not scratch but something even better -- stem cells harvested from umbilical cord blood:

British scientists have grown the world's first artificial liver from stem cells in a breakthrough that will one day provide entire organs for transplant.

The technique that created the 'mini-liver', currently the size of a one pence piece, will be developed to create a full-size functioning liver.

Described as a 'Eureka moment' by the Newcastle University researchers, the tissue was created from blood taken from babies' umbilical cords just a few minutes after birth.

Bear in mind, these are small pieces of liver tissue. A fully grown and transplantable liver is still some years away. Even so, this is an enormous step in that direction. Plus, such tissues have uses other than transplantation. They can be subjected to tests that otherwise may have required the use of an animal liver. Not only does this spare the animal subject, results from living human liver tissues will obviously be more relevant and useful.

It's been about six months since we reported on the early success in transplanting lab-grown bladders into human patients. At the time, we wrote:

[A]s Virginia Postrel commented a while back when preparing for kidney donor surgery, this is a procedure that may not be around that much longer. With bladders grown successfully, and hearts and other organs under development, I don't think it will be long before someone in [that] position will have options not quite available today: like getting a new kidney without anyone having to give one up -- a kidney that won't require immune system suppressants to avoid rejection.

It's also satisfying to see something that I thought was very likely come to pass. Here we see individualized organ farming/harvesting without any stem cells/bastocysts/human beings with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereunto (whatever terms suits you) being harmed in the process.

In defending therapeutic cloning some time ago, I wrote:

There is an enormous difference between reproductive and therapeutic cloning. The latter need not require the production of an entire "replacement human;" it may be possible to grow "replacement organs" on their own, or to develop stem cell lines that can be used to treat a wide variety of illnesses and injuries.

Several critics took me to task for this statement. One of them responded as follows:

Therapeutic cloning does require the creation of a whole human embryo... There is no method currently in existence or on the drawing board that would let you grow organs directly, or that could get you to stem cells without an embryo--a replacement human.

I may have bee wrong in my use of the word "cloning," but otherwise my statement seems to hold up pretty well. Here we have embryonic stem cells -- or something much like them -- gathered without an embryo being destroyed and organs grown directly. But maybe my critic was correct. Maybe two and a half years ago, this capability wasn't even "on the drawing board."

In which case, look at what an amazing difference two and a half years can make!