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The ethics of brain science: Open your mind

May 26, 2002

Advances in neurotechnology raise ethical and legal questions.

  • Neuroscientists will soon be able to screen people’s brains to assess their mental health; functional MRI can identify depressed individuals and other personality traits and detect lies. That information could be available to employers or insurers.
  • Faulty personality traits, brain deficiencies and psychological ailments can be enhanced with drugs or implants, leading to haves and have-nots.
  • The Ethics of Creating Consciousness

    June 14, 2005

    Next month, IBM is set to activate the most ambitious simulation of a human brain yet conceived. It’s a model they say is accurate down to the molecule.

    No one claims the “Blue Brain” project will be self-aware. But this project, and others like it, uses electrical patterns in a silicon brain to simulate the electrical patterns in the human brain — patterns which are intimately linked to thought.… read more

    The Evelyn Wood of Digitized Book Scanners

    May 13, 2003

    New book-scanning robots can turn the pages of small and large books as well as bound newspaper volumes and scan more than 1,000 pages an hour — speed and quality control unattainable by manual systems.

    The Even-More-Compact Disc

    August 30, 2002

    The new miniaturized DataPlay digital media offers CD performance and 500 MB storage at a tiny size but at expensive prices initially for media and players.

    DataPlay discs will be available in blank, recordable form as well as prerecorded, copy-protected albums.

    The evolution of life, on a wall

    July 8, 2010

    A wall-painted animation created by the street artist Blu tries to illustrate the history of the universe since the big bang, with a particular focus on the evolution of life on Earth.

    BIG BANG BIG BOOM – the new wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

    The evolution of robot soccer

    February 13, 2012


    “By mid-21st century, a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players shall win the soccer game, complying with the official rule[s] of the FIFA [Fédération Internationale de Football Association], against the winner of the most recent World Cup.”

    This is the official goal of the RoboCup soccer competition, IEEE Spectrum Automaton reports.

    The new version of Honda’s ASIMO kicks a soccer ball in… read more

    The evolution of Web search

    December 18, 2007

    Integration of various kinds of content, speech recognition, and phone interfaces are among the coming new directions for Google search, says Google director of research and AI expert Peter Norvig.

    The Evolution Will Be Mechanized

    September 8, 2004

    “A singularity looks great in special f/x, but is there any substance in the idea?” asks writer Bruce Sterling.

    “When Vinge first posed the problem, he was concerned that the imminent eruption in artificial intelligence would lead to ubermenschen of unfathomable mental agility. More than a decade later, we still can’t say with any precision what intelligence is, much less how to build it. If you fail to define… read more

    The evolutionary origins of optimism

    June 13, 2012


    Positive feeling evolved to make us do critical tasks — but new findings suggest it can also help us live longer.

    This article is an adapted excerpt from the new book Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain from Basic Books.

    The function of our pleasure system is to entice us into doing things that are biologically good for us. This is why delicious food, especially in the company of… read more

    The expanding electronic universe

    December 6, 2005

    The Dec. 1 issue of Nature looks at what wikis, blogs, digital libraries, Google Base, and other Internet technologies may mean for the future of scientific communication beyond the confines of scientific journals.

    These tools offer fresh opportunities both before publication, when people are debating ideas and hypotheses, and after, when they are finding and discussing published results. They also provide scientists with exciting new possibilities for communicating with… read more

    The Expert Mind

    August 16, 2006

    Studies of the mental processes of chess grandmasters have revealed clues to how people become experts in other fields as well.

    The Extraordinary Tale of Red Rain, Comets and Extraterrestrials

    September 1, 2010

    Optical microscope images of red cells: (A) red cells before autoclaving (400x): cells evenly dispersed in the rain water. (B) red cells after 1 hour incubation at 121oC (1000x).(C) after 2 hour incubation at 121oC (1000x).

    For years, claims have circulated that red rain that fell in India in 2001 contained cells unlike any found on Earth. Now new evidence that these cells can reproduce is about to set the debate alive.

    “The flourescence behaviour of the red cells is shown to be in remarkable correspondence with the extended red emission observed in the Red Rectangle planetary nebula and other galactic and extragalactic… read more

    The Eyes Have It — For Now

    November 6, 2002

    Even as homeowners gleefully wire up their homes with inexpensive Web cams, even as employers put up closed-circuit TV and cities install surveillance equipment on everything from traffic intersections to school buses, a small group of skeptics is beginning to question the effects of all this technology. They ask: Will you trust your neighbor in the 21st century? Or in putting up a security camera — just to make sure… read more

    The Faculty Is Remote, but Not Detached

    March 10, 2008

    College instructors are increasingly using online distance learning tools such as streaming video that remote students can view online, virtual worlds, and Web forums.

    Nearly 3.5 million students were taking online courses in the fall of 2006, and more than two-thirds of all higher-education institutions have online offerings in some form.

    The Fantasy and Reality of 2004

    December 30, 2003

    Experts say what they’d like to see happen in 2004 and what they think will happen.

    Howard Rheingold, author and virtual community pioneer:

    “I wish an interdisciplinary investigation (PDF) of human cooperation and collective action would begin to emerge in 2004, bringing together scientists, scholars and practitioners in self-organizing Internet politics, peer-to-peer computation, the sociology of managing common pool resources, the economics of open-source production, the… read more

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