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What is the Brain Activity Map? A Q&A with George Church

March 4, 2013

400px-George_Church_at_TED

Last summer, six scientists proposed a project they compared in scope and ambition to the Human Genome Project: to map the activity of the human brain. In February, news media reported that the Obama administration plans to move forward with that effort, known as the Brain Activity Map.

One of those six scientists was George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School… read more

Eyes ‘see’ without a brain

How can tadpoles see without eyes wired directly to the brain? The answer could lead to new inventions for the blind.
March 4, 2013

Researchers at Tufts University have shown that transplanted eyes located far outside the head in a vertebrate animal model can confer vision without a direct neural connection to the brain. In this image, a "blind" tadpole without its native (normal) eyes is able to see using functioning ectopic eye located in tail. Dark area in midsection is the stomach. (Credit: D. Blackiston and M. Levin/Tufts University)

Transplanted eyes located far outside the head in  tadpoles can give them vision without a direct neural connection to the brain, biologists at Tufts University have found.

The research sheds new light (literally) on one of the major questions in regenerative medicine, bioengineering, and sensory augmentation research.

“Our research reveals the brain’s remarkable ability, or plasticity, to process visual data coming from misplaced eyes,… read more

The brain-computer interface goes wireless

March 3, 2013

Neural interface implanted in pig (credit: David A Borton et al./J. Neural Eng.)

A team of neuroengineers at Brown University has developed a fully implantable and rechargeable wireless brain sensor capable of relaying real-time broadband signals from up to 100 neurons in freely moving subjects.

Several copies of the novel low-power device, described in the open-access Journal of Neural Engineering, have been performing well in animal models for more than year, a first in the brain-computer interface field.… read more

The Google Glass feature no one is talking about

March 3, 2013

When everything is connected --- a scene from Watchdogs, a future PS4 game (credit: Ubisoft)

“Google Glass might change your life, but not in the way you think. There’s something else Google Glass makes possible that no one — no one — has talked about yet, and so today I’m writing this blog post to describe it,” says Mark Hurst on Creative Good.

“It’s lifebits, the ability to record video of the people, places, and events around you, at all times. with a… read more

DNA and amino-acid precursor molecules discovered in interstellar space

March 2, 2013

GBT_Molecules

Researchers have discovered prebiotic (pre-life) molecules in interstellar space that may have formed on dusty ice grains floating between the stars.

The molecules were detected in a giant cloud of gas some 25,000 light-years from Earth, near the center of our Milky Way Galaxy — specifically, the star-forming region Sagittarius(Sgr) B2(N), which is the richest interstellar chemical environment currently known.

One of the newly-discovered molecules, called… read more

The interspecies internet

Could the Internet connect us with dolphins, apes, elephants and other highly intelligent species?
March 2, 2013

(Credit: Peter Gabriel)

At TED 2013 Thursday, Diana Reiss, Peter Gabriel, Neil Gershenfeld, and Vint Cerf launched the idea of the “interspecies internet.”

Diana Reiss, a cognitive psychologist, has been been teaching dolphins to communicate through an underwater keyboard of symbols that correspond to whistles and playful activities.

Through this keyboard, the dolphins learned to perform activities on demand, and also to express their desire for them. (Also see… read more

Secrets of human speech uncovered

How the brain exerts symphony-like control of the vocal tract during the act of speaking
March 1, 2013

ba

A team of researchers at UC San Francisco has uncovered the neurological basis of speech motor control, the complex coordinated activity of tiny brain regions that controls our lips, jaw, tongue and larynx as we speak.

The work has potential implications for developing brain-computer interfaces for artificial speech communication and for the treatment of speech disorders. It also sheds light on this ability, which is… read more

‘Rain Man’-like brains mapped with network analysis

March 1, 2013

The connectome of brain malformation

Researchers at UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley have mapped the three-dimensional global connections within the brains of seven adults who have genetic malformations that leave them without the corpus callosum, which connects the left and right sides of the brain.

These “structural connectome” maps, which combine hospital MRIs with the mathematical tool known as network analysis, reveal new details about the condition known as… read more

The next generation of vertical flight

March 1, 2013

VTOLXPlane1

The DARPA Tactical Technology Office is soliciting proposals on the design, development and demonstration of a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) experimental aircraft (X-Plane) with exceptional performance in vertical and cruise flight, and operational capability through transition from vertical to forward flight

Higher speeds, increased efficiency, elegant designs are the focus of DARPA’s new VTOL X-Plane.

The versatility of helicopters and other vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft… read more

4D printed objects ‘make themselves’

March 1, 2013

Cube self-folding strand (credit: Self-Assembly Lab, MIT/Stratasys)

At the TED conference in Los Angeles, architect and computer scientist Skylar Tibbits showed how the process allows objects to self-assemble, BBC News reports.

It could be used to install objects in hard-to-reach places such as underground water pipes, he suggested.

It might also herald an age of self-assembling furniture, said experts.

Smart materials

“We’re proposing that the fourth dimension is time… read more

Flying moths inspire robotics

Imagine robots with parallel processing ability in a complex 360 degree visual environment
March 1, 2013

flying_moth

The hawk moth’s wings are a blur of mottled gray motion as it hovers tethered to a steel rod in large white plastic orb. Outside the orb in the darkened room, a projector casts moving patterns of dimmed light onto the sphere’s surface, illuminating the moth’s field of vision with oscillating stripes. …

These changing light patterns create altered visual environments for the moth inside to simulate real-world visual… read more

First direct brain-to-brain interface between two animals

Remote collaborative brain linking, networks of rat brains solving problems, mind-swapping ... what's going on here?
March 1, 2013

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Researchers have electronically linked the brains of pairs of rats for the first time, enabling them to communicate directly to solve simple behavioral puzzles.

They even brain-linked two animals thousands of miles apart — one in Durham, North Carolina and one in Natal, Brazil.

The researchers think linking multiple brains could form the first “organic computer.”

“Our previous studies with brain-machine interfaces had convinced us… read more

3D printed car is as strong as steel, half the weight, and nearing production

March 1, 2013

urbee

Picture an assembly line not that isn’t made up of robotic arms spewing sparks to weld heavy steel, but a warehouse of plastic-spraying printers producing light, cheap and highly efficient automobiles.

If Jim Kor’s dream is realized, that’s exactly how the next generation of urban runabouts will be produced, Wired reports. His creation is called the Urbee 2 and it could revolutionize parts manufacturing while creating… read more

Flexible battery completes stretchable electronics package

February 28, 2013

Researchers have demonstrated a stretchable lithium-ion battery -- a flexible device capable of powering their innovative stretchable electronics (Credit: Northwestern University)

Northwestern University scientists have demonstrated the first stretchable lithium-ion battery — a flexible device capable of powering innovative stretchable electronics.

This development makes it now possible that these stretchable electronic devices could be used anywhere, including inside the human body.

The implantable electronics could monitor anything from brain waves to heart activity, succeeding where flat, rigid batteries would fail.

The battery can work… read more

Space-based solar farms power up

February 28, 2013

spsalpha-concept

Space-based solar power (SBSP) has once again begun to attract attention with projects emerging in the US, Russia, China, India and Japan, among others. All are driven by increasing energy demands, soaring oil and gas prices, a desire to find clean alternatives to fossil fuels and by a burgeoning commercial space industry that promises to lower the cost of entry into space and spur on a host of new industries,… read more

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