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How to preserve competing memories by zapping your brain

July 12, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

(Credit: iStockphoto)

Attention, mind-control victims: mad scientists want to zap your brain. But you knew that.

It’s a problem every student has when cramming for an exam: some of the information is usually forgotten. The common belief is that your brain simply doesn’t have the capacity necessary to process both memories in quick succession. But is that true?

Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) decided… read more

Sex and the Red Queen hypothesis

July 12, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

Off with their heads! (Credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

Biologists at Indiana University have discovered why it takes two to tango. (Insert obligatory geeks-who-can’t-get-a-date joke here.)

The biologists claim their research shows that sex allows parents to produce offspring that are more resistant to co-evolving parasites, while self-fertilization dooms populations to extinction at the hands of their biological enemies.

It’s the Red Queen hypothesis, a reference to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland: “It takes all… read more

Thinking quantitatively about technological progress

July 11, 2011 by Anders Sandberg

Production growing exponentially (credit: Béla Nagy, Santa Fe Institute)

I have been thinking about progress a bit recently, mainly because I would like to develop a mathematical model of how brain scanning technology and computational neuroscience might develop.

Experience curves

In general, I think the most solid evidence of technological progress is Wrightean experience curves. These are well documented in economics and found everywhere: typically the cost (or time) of manufacturing… read more

Grow a new eye

July 11, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

EyeTanya

“I am attempting to recreate my eye with the help of a miniature camera implant in my prosthetic artificial eye. The intraocular installation of an eye-cam will substitute for the field of vision of my left eye that I lost in 2005 from a car accident.”

So says Tanya Marie Vlach, who lost her left eye in a car accident. After she received “hundreds of international engineering proposals, support from my … read more

Can taking probiotics improve your mental health?

July 6, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

Gastrointestinal system (credit: iStockphoto)

Professor Mark Lyte and associates at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center have come up with a radical concept: that you may be able to fine-tune your mental and emotional states by the right combination of probiotics!

Probiotics are “good” bacteria that normally reside in your gut and are available OTC in any drug store or health food store. Lyte suggests that they can generate… read more

How to measure emotions

July 6, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

Q Sensor Curve is designed to wear on the wrist, so it is comfortable and unobtrusive to wear all day at work, play, or sleep. This makes it ideal for long-term measurement in clinical and therapeutic research. (Credit: Affectiva)

Are you a geek who has trouble “reading” people? Now there new hope.

Research at the MIT Media Lab and the University of Cambridge to help people on the autism spectrum has spawned two new technologies to measure emotional response, along with a company called Affectiva to market them.

In the videos below, MIT’s Dr. Rosalind Picard demonstrates these technologies.

The Affectiva Qread more

Stoner alert: McDonald’s gets you legally high

July 5, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

(Credit: McDonald's)

Fats in foods like potato chips and french fries make them nearly irresistible because they trigger natural marijuana-like chemicals in the body called endocannabinoids, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, have found.

The researchers discovered that when rats tasted something fatty, cells in their upper gut started producing endocannabinoids, while sugars and proteins did not have this effect.

How fats create,read more

How to remote-control a robot on another planet

July 4, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

justin_the_robot

Meet Justin, an android on Earth who will soon be controlled remotely by an astronaut in the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station. The astronaut will don an exoskeleton to remotely control Justin.

The long-range goal: explore the Moon and planets with tele-operated robots.

How your memories can be twisted under social pressure

July 4, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

False memories show a strong co-activation and connectivity between two brain areas: the hippocampus and the amygdala (credit: Weizmann Institute)

Listen up, Facebook and Twitter groupies: how easily can social pressure affect your memory?

Very easily, researchers at the Weizmann Institute and University College London have proved, and they think they even know what part of the brain is responsible.

The participants conformed to the group on these “planted” responses, giving incorrect answers nearly 70% of the time.

Volunteers watched a… read more

Are you ready for robots with sensitive skin?

June 30, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

Robots have just taken another (slightly weird) step toward becoming our overlords.

Technische Universität München (TUM) scientists are developing an artificial skin for robots that will provide tactile information to the robot to supplement information from cameras, infrared scanners, and gripping hands.

The idea is to let the robot know when it touches an object so it can then visually search for whatever it… read more

The physics of Jackson Pollock

June 30, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

Jackson-Pollock

Can you tell the difference between a painting by an elephant and Jackson Pollack? (Take this test before reading further.)

A mathematician at Harvard University and a physicist-art historian at Boston College think they can. Pollock was an “intuitive master” of laws that govern the flow of liquids under gravity, they believe.

The researchers examined the black and red painting “Untitled… read more

Ads for monkeys: sign of the end times?

June 28, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

Monkey trades a coin for grapes, picking the better deal (credit: Laurie Santos/Yale University)

This is not an Onion story. No, really.

Turns out Laurie Santos gave a TED talk last year on “monkeynomics” — the realization that monkeys understood an abstract idea like currency. Unfortunately, two advertising executives happened to be in the audience, New Scientist reports today.

The result: a monkey ad campaign (shown at the Cannes Lions Festival) to see if they can change the monkeys’… read more

‘Orca ears’ inspire researchers to develop ultrasensitive undersea microphone

June 27, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

A miniature underwater microphone (credit:  L.A. Cicero)

Imagine a miniature microphone that responds to ocean sounds from 1 to 100kHz (a deep inaudible rumble to ultrasonic sounds) with a dynamic range of 160 dB (a whisper in a quiet library to the sound from 1 ton of TNT exploding 60 feet away) and operates at any depth.

An amazing microphone that does all that — modeled after the extraordinarily acute hearing of orcas — has been… read more

Stealth mold genes take over human genome, jump to databases and chips!

June 27, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

“Earlier this year, molecular biologists announced that 20 per cent of nonhuman genome databases are contaminated with human DNA, probably from the researchers who sequenced the samples,” Technology Review‘s The Physics ArXiv blog said on Thursday.

“Now, the human genome itself has become contaminated. Bill Langdon at University College London and Matthew Arno at Kings College London say they’ve found sequences from mycoplasma bacteria… read more

New brain-computer interface mobilizes patients, opens up new mind-control scenarios

June 20, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

BioBolt brain implant with the thin-film microcircuit and sensor pad

In the Green Lantern movie, a ring takes orders from Jordan’s mind, enabling him to fly, take down multiple bad guys, and create wormholes through which he can travel thousands of light-years in minutes.

University of Michigan Center for Wireless Integrated Microsystems professor Euisik Yoon and colleagues are developing a brain-computer interface (BCI) that would handle the mind-to-ring communication part. DARPA is working on the other stuff,… read more

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