ARCHIVED: Asian Life Sciences Blog

ARCHIVED: Dr. Dave Sonntag's UNOFFICIAL Singularity View from Tokyo

Google Quantum Biology Workshop

A quick in-n-out trip, just flew into SFO from NRT for a workshop on quantum biology being sponsored by Google, back to Tokyo in just 36 hours.

Here’s the workshop agenda and abstracts.

And a first for me, a five minute video-blog doing a little desktop tour of background on why I’m investing in this research.

Videos of Talks

Hartmut Neven. Welcome and Introduction

Mohan Sarovar. Quantum Mechanics of Photosynthetic Light Harvesting Machinery

Masoud Mohseni. Optimal and Robust EnergyTransfer in Light Harvesting Complexes

Luca Turin. A Quantum of Solace -Molecular Electronics of Benzodiazepines

Geordie Rose. D-Wave – Natural Quantum Computation

Elisabeth Rieper. Classical and Quantum Information in DNA

Jiri Pokorny. Microtubules – Electric Oscillating Structures in Living Cells

Anirban Bandyopadhyay. Experimental Studies on a Single Microtubule

Stuart Hameroff. Quantum Biology: Clarifying the Tubulin bit/qubit – Defending the Penrose-Hameroff Orch OR Model

Jack Tuszynski. Electrodynamic Signaling by the Dendritic Cytoskeleton

Hartmut Neven. Learning From Examples Using Quantum Annealing

Special Workshop at University of Arizona Center for Consciousness Studies

Streaming video, Stuart Hameroff, Anirban Bandyopadyay, and Jiri Pokorny. Mac and Linux-friendly videos are here for Hameroff-Pokorny, and Anirban. Prof Pokorny’s talk begins about 31 minutes into the first file.

After Workshop Notes

Paul Davies’ Beyond Center hosted a workshop on cancer biology attended by many of the Google workshop presenters.

Prof Pokorny mentioned in his Tucson talk how creation of “nanovoltmeters” by the Kopelman group at University of Michigan has allowed, for the first time, a detailed survey of the electric-field potentials inside of the cell.  In particular, the presence of E-fields as high as 3.5 MV/m around the mitochondria extend for MICRONS into the surrounding cytoplasm.

This means a couple of things. Firstly, the traditional view of the interior of the cell as a bag of saline with random bit floating around is dead wrong. It seems more appropriate to model the intracellular space as a gel or liquid-crystal.

Secondly, E-fields of such a great magnitude suggest that water in proximity to organelles like mitochondria would be ordered, as opposed to bulk water. This has tremendous implications for how the cell performs computations, and information transfer. A compendium of the original Open Access 2007 Kopleman paper, along with eight others that have cited it, is found here.

Both the Kopelman papers, as well as Anirban’s work show how surprising developments in the life sciences will be facilitated by the application of nanotech-based tools.

New York Times article on quantum computing, mentions Google possible tie-up with D-wave and JPL.

An interesting development in the view of a holographic universe!

Digital Natives Workshop: Day Two

Digital Natives Notes, Thurs AM

(Again, these notes are extracted from a Public Google Wave, which is a lot prettier if you have an account.)

Mary Lou Maher

Enhancing creativity: implications for design cognition

(talk audio)

Does technology make people more creative? Does it matter what your tools are?

We can augment physical capability, so can we augment mental capability?

Tangible user interfaces & spatial cognition?

What computational, cognitive, social substrates & abstractions enable and facilitate the design of systems that enhance creativity?

What role do the social & interaction cues that humans rely on when interacting with one another play in collaborative design environments?

What design techniques and technical characteristics enable open systems for the fullest breadth of social creativity.

AM Working Group 2

Transformative Impacts on Education, Aiding & Training

What is gained vs what is lost as technology becomes more pervasive?

Student-centered learning vs teacher-led learning.

Structured versus Unstructured Learning?

Kids’ time is very structured. Where is time for unstructured play? What role does technology play in overscheduling their day? Oversaturation of attentional options means something has to give.

AAP report on kids & unstructured play:

As computing becomes more pervasive, giving rise to the Internet of Things, opportunities are actually increasing for tinkering.

Discovery Channel, short video on open source hardware hacking

John Seely Brown, on tinkering as a mode of knowledge production in a digital age

Embeding expertise.

Language Weaver for online chat in multiple languages.

Seth Godin on Tribes

Roland Kelts

Digital Displacement

(talk audio)

How Tokyo as a city is a virtual reality unto itself.

The Empire of Signs

If Japan did not exist, Barthes would have had to invent it

NPR, Studio 360 Piece

Two good books on digital tribes and online community building–Seth Godin’s Tribes, and Jono Bacon’s Art of Community.

fMRI studies of motor learning in string players, amateur vs professional.

Wired Magazine’s article, “The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society is Coming Online.”

Digital Social Phenomena in Japan

Otaku culture. Term means “hello sir,” a phrase the geeks would use to greet each other with. “Akiba stabbings reflect the degree to which a virtual world can explode.” (Tomohiro Kato incident).

Hikikomori phenomenon.

Soushoku danshi phenomenon.

Parasite singles phenomenon.

Train Man.

Amazing convergence of digital media conferences going on this week!

1) Media140, from Sydney.

2) FOSI09, from Washington DC

3) The ACTA Internet agreement in Seoul?


My Sidebar Commentary on Amaterasu Omikami and the Mythical Magic Japanese Looking Glass

Amaterasu Omikami, and the Mirror in Japanese Mythology.

Self-awareness, and Shinto in Japanese popular culture. Many Japanese keitai have a built-in “mirror mode,” and keitai are used on trains directly in front of the face, like looking into a mirror. When Omikami saw herself for the first time in the mirror, she said “omo-shiroi,” literally meaning “white face.” Omoshiroi is used today in general Japanese speech to mean interesting, or funny. Historically, the Japanese emperor, on assuming the throne, is given the same mirror supposed to have been used by Omikami herself, and looks at his own reflection as being one of deity. And perhaps he laughs and thinks his godlike reflection is interestingly funny.  So when a Japanese person stares into the digital mirror and sees something funny or interesting, she is looking back into her own mythical past.

Douglas Gentile

The behavioral effects of games: five dimensions

(talk audio)

Research on both intended and untended effects of video games.

What makes a great teacher?

Example of Halo software. Pacing, practice, feedback, over-learning.

Video games do all of the things that make them great teachers.

Stacking of risk factors

Predisposition toward violence (high/low quartiles) vs Violent Video Game (yes/no)

Effects of content

Effects of structure

Digital Natives Workshop: Day One

This has been a learning-lab for me in use of Google Wave. I took notes within Wave, as well as capturing real-time commentary of working groups. It was awesome to be able to rapidly look up references as people made them, drag and drop multimedia into the Wave. Publishing from the Wave into other formats like this blog is something Google has promised, but not yet delivered. [Taps foot impatiently!]

It will be a lot nicer when multiple meeting participants are on Wave and can participate in the real-time Wave-building process.

Cool stuff, lots of great discussions today, and way too much good food. I’ve tried to capture some of the functionality of my Google Wave notes, but some of the media, including Twitter streams, Powerpoint slides, are simply too cumbersome to easily publish on WordPress from Wave.

What follows is but a pale reflection of the public Google Wave, located here.


Morning Plenaries

Digital Natives Workshop Notes

Weds AM

Soo-Young overview of KAIST, artificial brain and artificial cognitive systems

Ken Boff, “Did you know” video.

Group Self-Introductions

Wortley, community network-building–bringing globalization local. Finding local champions to bring expertise in. [Tieback to Hackerspace movement–his milkman story.]

Alvin Yeo, crowd-sourcing, and rural informatics on Sarawak. “Virgin territory” technology sites.

Roland Kelts, on liminal states. 80% of people in subway cars are physically present, but “not there.” Displacement. Finding a place of refuge. Early adopter-trend in Japan.

Damien Spry, Sydney private high school using digital media. Tie-up to YIS.

Cathy Davidson, HASTAC, RFP.

Keynote talk: Cathy Davidson

The kids are all right: paying attention in our multi-tasking, multi-distractingn, media-stacking always-on age

Talk audio

Diagnostics of the age.

Immigrant literature” creating a false image of what the old country represented. Nostalgia a pitfall of the immigrant. Nationalistic movements not in the actual country, but the country the immigrant has moved to.

Taylor’s work on worker productive may have been fabricated of whole cloth in many cases. Mentioned a recent book review.

A number of interesting Youtube videos by Cathy.

Digital Media & Learning.

Digital Media & Labor

The science of attention, and adolescents.

Howard Rheingold. Five minutes with cell phones, laptops shut off, and eyes closed. Write down about thinking.

80% of neural energy taken up by external distraction–the mind talking to itself.

Jonathan Schooler uses a stopwatch to gauge common mental meanderings, uses that to determine “meta-awareness.” Distracted workers are actually more productive. Time where you have no distractions is our most distracted time.

Morcom & Fletcher insist there is no such thing as “single-tasking.” Memory encoding and dopamine in the aging brain. [Dave Atkinson’s question about dopamine & learning.]

The mind always wanders off task because the mind’s task is to wander.

Westerners have a Taylorist idea of how attention should be focused.

The Management Myth book review mentioned, pointing out that some of Taylor’s work may have been made up of whole cloth.

Attention is always partial.

The Dumbest Generation, Bauerline calls Davidson “enemy #1.”

US Dept of Labor stats on changing careers, Toffler’s idea of not teaching fields, but teaching students how to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Need to teach the skill of how to cope when you can’t reach the bottom.

Flow: of games and gamers.

After Columbine, parents raced to blame external causes such as first-person shooter games, like Wolfenstein 3-D, and cross-dressing singer Marilyn Manson. Impact on R&D funding cycle happened as well. Nearly all of the work before Colubmine showed beneficial effects of digital gaming.

ADD, ADHD, and OCD diagnoses have soared. 25% of Univ of North Carolina entering class at one point had been diagnosed with some kind of attention deficit. To get into UNC you basically have to be #1 in your class.

“America’s Army” official game.

Csikszentmihalyi–four types of “flow” experiences.

John Seely Brown, practical implications of game playing

The leading edge of “net generation” are turning 30 this year.

Dopamine & learning, game playing.

Charter school in Durham where kids are learning everything in Mandarin.

Roland Kelt’s comment on continuous partial attention, James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake.

Becky Goolsby, on the power of text changing

Yong-Se Kim, creative designers. Using multi-tasking in effective ways. Studies from UC Berkeley.

David Wortley

Impact of immersive technologies on next generation learners

Talk audio

Serious Games Institute. Second Life URL.

Afternoon Working Groups

Weds Afternoon Working Group

Training, Aiding & Education, Rm 2206

Public education’s historic views toward reining in generational differences goes back a long ways. Davidson’s comments on concern about “the novel” and its impact on the rising generation, during American Revolutionary period.

Technology is an easy scapegoat.

Where we learn, and how we learn is changing, Much more peer to peer learning.

The “guide on the side,” versus the “sage on the stage” model of teaching?

ALEKS educational software, and knowledge space theory.

Social learning theory.

Digital Natives are more about digital literacy than about a demographic bracket.

Behaviors and attitudes about what they do in cyberspace, and how they relate to others. Concepts of privacy. File-sharing.

What is the cost of not using digital media?

The “basket of technology”–Digital Natives rapidly embrace technologies they are not familiar with.

Live From Korea: Digital Natives Workshop & Barcamp

I’m in chilly Taejeon, south of Seoul, getting ready for our Digital Natives workshop and Barcamp.

Here are details for folks who would like to try to follow live. All dates and times are Seoul/Tokyo, which is UST+9 Hrs.

We will use the #hashtag #dnws for the Workshop, which is being held 4-6 November, at the Korean Advanced Institute of Technology (KAIST). I just checked out the venue’s WiFi, and barring objections by the organizers and presenters, we will try to Livestream at least the Plenary talks, as well as some of the summary sessions. Updates to these plans will go out live over Twitter, and Live streaming will be at

In case you missed it, the Wiki for the workshop is located here:

On Friday, the workshop attendees will board buses to Seoul, and most of us will be at the 4th Seoul Barcamp of 2009., with #hashtag #barcampseoul4.

Schedule of presentations.

Weds, 4 Nov 2009

1030, Cathy Davidson: The kids are all right: Paying attention in our multi-tasking, multi-distracting, media-stacking always-on age.

Cathy N. DAVIDSONʼS work for the last decade has focused on the role of technology in the twenty-first century. In 1999 she helped create ISIS (the
program in Information Science + Information Studies) at Duke and, in 2002, co-founded HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory, pronounced “haystack”). Davidson blogs regularly as Cat in the Stack at

1315, David Wortley: Impact of immersive technologies on next-generation learners.

David WORTLEY is Director of the Serious Games Institute (SGI) at Coventry University. He is responsible for the development of the Institute as
a brand new self-financing initiative to establish a centre of excellence for the emerging serious games application area. Working with academics, regional development agencies and leading computer games companies, David aims to make the SGI a thought leader and focal point for games based learning, simulation and immersive 3D virtual environments. Davidʼs career began with a university scholarship from Post Office Telecommunications and has embraced the converging and emerging technologies of telecommunications, computing (IBM), digital media (Mass Mitec) and the creative industries (De Montfort University). He is a serial entrepreneur and innovator with a passion for applying technology to social and economic development.

Thurs, 5 Nov 2009

0830, Mary Lou Maher: Enhancing creativity and implications for design cognition

Mary Lou MAHER is developing an emphasis on research in creativity in CISE (CreativeIT). She joined the Human Centered Computing Cluster in CISE in July 2006. She is the Professor of Design Computing and the Co-Director of the Key Centre of Design Computing and Cognition at the University of
Sydney. She received her BS (1979) i n Civil Engineering at Columbia University and her MS (1981) and PhD (1984) in Civil Engineering at Carnegie
Mellon University. She was an Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University before joining the University of Sydney in 1990. She has held joint appointments in the Faculty of Architecture and the School of Information Technologies at the University of Sydney. She is a researcher in NICTA (National Information and Communication Technologies Australia) and a member of the Research Committee in the Collaborative Research Centre for Construction Innovation in Australia. Her current research interests include intelligent rooms, adaptive agents in design environments, motivated
learning in physical and virtual worlds, tangible user interfaces for 3D design, empirical studies and new technologies for computer-supported collaborative design, and generative design systems in 3D virtual worlds.

1315, Roland Kelts: Digital displacement

Roland Nozomu KELTS is the half-Japanese American author of Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture has Invaded the US (, published by Palgrave Macmillan in the U.S. and Europe, and in Japanese by Random House Kodansha. He is also a professor at The University of Tokyo, Sophia University and The University of the Sacred Heart Tokyo, a contributing writer and editor for A Public Space and Adbusters magazines, and a columnist for The Daily Yomiuri. He is the editor in chief of Anime Masterpieces, a U.S.- based anime lecture and screening series, and his writing appears in numerous publications in both the U.S. and Japan. He has been a featured speaker at numerous venues in the US, Japan and UK, including the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Smithsonian Museum, the University of California, Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Last summer he delivered a paper on Digital Isolation at the “Digital Youth Asia” conference at Temple University Japan. Keltsʼs forthcoming novel is called ACCESS, due out next year.
He divides his time between New York and Tokyo

1400, Doug Gentile: The behavioral effects of games: Five dimensions

Douglas GENTILE is a developmental psychologist, and is an assistant professor of Psychology at Iowa State University and the Director of
Research for the National Institute on Media and the Family. His experience includes over 20 years conducting research with children and adults. Dr.
Gentile has authored numerous studies, including “The Effects of Violent VIdeo Game Habits on Adolescent Aggressive Attitudes and Behaviors,” “A Validity Test of Movie, Television, and Video Game Ratings,” and “A Normative Study of Family Media Habits.” He is the editor of the book Media
Violence and Children (2003, Praeger Press), and co-author of the book Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research, and Public Policy (2007, Oxford University Press).

Fri, 6 Nov 2009

0830, Larissa Hjorth (via Skype): The politics of the personal: mobile and social media in the Asia-Pacific

Larissa HJORTH is artist, digital ethnographer and Senior Lecturer in the Games and Digital Art Programs at RMIT University. Since 2000, Hjorth has been researching and publishing on gendered customizing of mobile communication, gaming and virtual communities in the Asia–Pacific — these studies are outlined in her book, Mobile Media in the Asia-Pacific (London, Routledge, 2009). Hjorth has published widely on the topic in national and International journals in journals such as Games and Culture journal, Convergence journal, Journal of Intercultural Studies, Continuum, ACCESS, Fibreculture and Southern Review and recently co-edited two Routledge anthologies, Games of Locality: Gaming cultures in the Asia-Pacific (with Dean Chan) and Mobile technologies: from Telecommunication to Media (with Gerard Goggin). In 2007, Hjorth co-convened the International Mobile media conference with Gerard Goggin ( and the Interactive Entertainment (IE) conference with Esther
Milne ( In 2009 she began her ARC discovery fellowship (with Michael Arnold) exploring the role of the local and online with communities in the Asia-Pacific region. This three year cross-cultural case study will focus on six locations — Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai,
Singapore, Manila, and Melbourne. larissa.hj

DIY: Hacking H1N1

If you read this recent Atlantic Monthly piece, you know the US anti-flu strategy of relying on vaccines and anti-virals is, politely put, of questionable efficacy. And besides, that strategy is kinda hard for a DIY hacker. Having recently spent a few days on the couch hacking with what was probably a mild case of H1N1, I had plenty of time to consider the alternatives. It turns out that Japan is a great place to Hack your H1N1.

I’m reminded of an old wag physiology professor, who described the Three F’s of human motivation as Food, Fear, and Reproduction. In a nod to him, I describe my Japan-based DIY anti-H1N1 strategy in two words: Fomites and Food.

“Fomites” is just a ten-dollar word that means “stuff  you wipe your snot on and other people pick up and stick in their mouth”. The ubiquitous Japanese face mask, while offering little protection to the wearer, protects the rest of the herd from his snot. If you have sniffles or feel unwell, wear one in public, or even at home around others. The other part of the Fomites connection is likewise simple. Wash your hands. A lot. Alcohol-based sanitizers work well too.

On to my favorite topic: Food.

It turns out that Japan has probably the most sophisticated regulatory structure of any country in the world in the area of “functional foods.” This is just another fancy term that means “foods that do more than just taste good.” Kinda more like “foods Grandma tells you to eat when you feel sick.”

Turns out Grandma has absorbed generations of conventional wisdom, which in a lot of cases has a scientific basis. Food companies, especially in Japan, do sophisticated research to isolate the active ingredients in Grandma’s feel-good foods, and then fortify them with more of it, or even cross-pollinate foods with functional ingredients from other  sources.

If the food company can show clinical data that their repackaged functional foods are the next Viagra, or whatever, the Japanese government will let them put this FOSHU logo on their product.

Probably the most ubiquitous and popular FOSHU product in Japan are these little Yakult bottles that the obasans pedal around Tokyo neighbourhoods delivering. One bottle contains as many lactobacilli as ten cups of yogurt. Good for boosting non-specific immune system, especially the gut-related part.

Morinaga Dairy  has probably the best product, with specific evidence of efficacy against H1N1. It contains lactoferrin, which is an iron-binding protein abundant in tears and mucosal fluids. Besides being a potent antioxidant, it also has antiviral properties. The company name in kanji is 森永。 They sell both drink and yogurt form, and the label says ラクトフエリン.

Other functional foods that are probably good for DIY H1N1 hacking:

– Morinaga’s BB536 yogurt

– Any of the catechin-enhanced green teas. I think Healthya’s is probably the best, with the most clinical data to back their claims. Green tea in general is a great astringent, excellent for drying out those pesky mucous-draining membranes

Other great healing foods
Brazil Nuts. Two or three a day give you great bioavailable selenium, a useful antiviral antioxidant.

Finally, there’s an excellent book called Japanese foods that heal.

Some of my favorites:

Maitake mushrooms.
Shiitake mushrooms
Burdock root

I’m a firm believer in listening to food cravings, especially when I’m sick. Hack, hack.

Wow, a Shiny New Google Wave Account!

Except a number of zen koan come to mind, like “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Nobody to wave to? That’s OK, because there are tons of cool bots and add-ons to play with. I’ve already made my first Twitter posting using Tweety the Twitbot. I’m still working on figuring out how to post to WordPress from within a Wave.

Cool as it is, I have serious doubts about how my employer’s IT infrastructure will adapt to Wave, or any other HTML 5 app for that matter. We are so entrenched in the Microsoft IE view of the world, embracing a completely open-web application is unlikely to happen any time soon. It’s a pity, because my office’s charter is to interact with the real world of basic science. Most of the university people I deal with are heavily involved in this world. It just means I will always be stuck using two separate networks. The official work one, and the one that I get actual work done with.

If you haven’t been following web development issues, it boils down to Microsoft’s entrenched 65% market share of the browser, mainly built on the backbone of corporate networks. Corporations like the so-called security that IE’s piecemeal implementation of web standards gives them. Or should I say, at least the illusion of security it gives them.

Google created Wave almost entirely within the framework of HTML 5. They only had to use Google Gears to add the drag and drop functionality. This means that if you want to run Google Wave over a corporate network, better be prepared to load the Google Chrome frame, Safari, or Firefox, since they are way more HTML5 compliant than IE. In case you missed it, Microsoft cried foul last week when Google released the Google Chrome IE frame for IE8. Ars Technica has a nice review calling BS:

MegaDIY Day

Lotsa dirt under the nails, it was mega-DIY marathon Saturday. Drove my wife’s car out to Yokota this morning, and installed a new CV boot.

Then this afternoon, I came home and worked on rebuilding an old bike for a kid who’s outgrown his current ride.

We live on a cul-de-sac, but it’s near a train station, so there’s always a steady stream of pedestrians while I’m out wrenching.

I should probably put out a hat and make it clear that if people stop and stare, they should pay for my performance. I’m not too proud to busk.

There aren’t a lot of DIY mechanics in Tokyo, and I suppose watching a gaijin laying in the gutter as he swears at corroded bolts must have some entertainment value. One of my Japanese coworkers says my mechanical misadventures are larger than life. He calls me a manga-mechanic.

My biggest problem is that used vehicles here are dirt cheap, mostly because of the horrendous Japanese Compulsory Insurance. In order to renew your JCI every two years, you have to pass a stringent inspection. Teeny tear in your CV boot? Fail! BTW, that’ll cost you $400 to repair.

Unless of course you do it youself. My wife’s repair cost me forty bucks in parts, plus whatever my time is worth. At least it gets me away from a computer screen one day a week, and it keeps the neighbors entertained.

DIY-Dave, the manga mechanic.