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Jun 8, 2016

Slime mold gives insight into the intelligence of neuron-less organisms

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, neuroscience

How do organisms without brains make decisions? Most of life is brainless and the vast majority of organisms on Earth lack neurons altogether. Plants, fungi and bacteria must all cope with the same problem as humans — to make the best choices in a complex and ever-changing world or risk dying — without the help of a simple nervous system in many cases.

A team of researchers from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), the University of Sydney, the University of Sheffield and the University of Leeds recently studied this problem in the unicellular slime mold, Physarum polycephalum, a single-cell organism that can grow to several square meters in size. This giant cell, which typically lives in shady, cool and moist areas of temperate forests, spreads out to search its environment like an amoeba, extending oozy tendrils along the forest floor in search of its prey of fungi, bacteria and decaying vegetable matter.

Neither plant, animal nor fungus, P. polycephalum has become an unlikely candidate for studies of cognition, due to its spectacular problem-solving abilities. In recent studies, Physarum has been shown to solve labyrinth mazes, make complicated trade-offs, anticipate periodic events, remember where it has been, construct transport networks that have similar efficiency to those designed by human engineers and even make irrational decisions — a capability that has long been viewed as a by-product of brain circuitry.

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Jun 8, 2016

An optical window for deep brain imaging

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

Very nice; researchers have now discovered a method for viewing deep brain imaging through using NIR light at wavelengths of 1600–1870nm Very big deal especially for patients with things like Giloblastoma Multiforme (GBM), and other neuro disorders and diseases.

I remember when my two aunts suffered from GBM, and many doctors could not get iimaging view in some areas of my aunts brains which would have been beneficial in understanding how ingrain the GBM was in their brain cells. So, hopefully this finding will help others in getting better answers to diseases like GBM and in turn better treatment as well developed.

Near-IR light at wavelengths of 1600–1870nm offers the best transmittance for deep brain imaging.

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Jun 8, 2016

Origami Ninja star inspires new battery design

Posted by in categories: energy, innovation

Seokheun “Sean” Choi, assistant professor of computer and electrical engineering at Binghamton University, along with two of his students, developed the device, a microbial fuel cell that runs on the bacteria available in a few drops of dirty water. They report on their invention in a new paper published online in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics (“A disposable power source in resource-limited environments: A paper-based biobattery generating electricity from wastewater”).

disposable battery that folds like an origami ninja star

A new disposable battery that folds like an origami ninja star could power biosensors and other small devices for use in challenging field conditions.

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Jun 8, 2016

The Elderly May One Day Swap Their Motorized Scooters for Robotic Suits

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, cyborgs, robotics/AI, wearables

Robotic exoskeletons, long a staple of sci-fi novels, comic books, and movies, are now part of the real world—and they’ve mostly followed the sci-fi model. That is, exoskeletons are wearable robots. All metal, all the time. But metal suits are heavy and power hungry, and the human body isn’t metal. If you actually plan to use an exoskeleton for an extended period of time, this can be a bit of a design flaw.

That’s where a new exosuit developed by SRI International is looking to flip the script. Instead of working to build exoskeletons—which are rigid like their namesake—SRI is using soft robotics to make lightweight, wearable “exomuscles” and “exotendons.”

Instead of a human-shaped heavy metal frame, SRI’s exosuit is soft, pliable, and intelligent. The suit learns and adapts to its wearer’s movements to give them a boost when needed. It’s quick to put on and relatively energy efficient.

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Jun 8, 2016

China Plans Oceanic ‘Space Station’ in South China Sea

Posted by in categories: economics, military, space

(Bloomberg) — China is speeding up efforts to design and build a manned deep-sea platform to help it hunt for minerals in the South China Sea, one that may also serve a military purpose in the disputed waters.

Such an oceanic “space station” would be located as much as 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) below the surface, according to a recent Science Ministry presentation viewed by Bloomberg. The project was mentioned in China’s current five-year economic plan released in March and ranked number two on a list of the top 100 science and technology priorities.

Authorities recently examined the implementation of the project and decided to accelerate the process, according to the presentation.

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Jun 8, 2016

US intelligence unit to advance management of virtual desktop security, systems

Posted by in categories: computing, security

Getting a handle on cloud-based virtual operations is no easy task. Next month researchers from the Intelligence Advance Research Projects Activity (IARPA) will introduce a new program that looks to address that management concern by developing better technology to manage and secure Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environments.

+More on Network World: Intelligence agency wants computer scientists to develop brain-like computers +

IARPA, the radical research arm of the of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will introduce the Virtuous User Environment (VirtUE) which it says aims to “creatively define and develop user environments that are more dynamic, secure, auditable, transferrable, and efficient than the current offerings provided by traditional physical workstations and commercial VDI; develop innovative, dynamic analytics and infrastructures that can leverage these newly developed user environments to both automatically detect and deter security threats that IC user environments will be subject to in the new cloud infrastructure.”

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Jun 8, 2016

Insight: Wormholes can fix black holes

Posted by in category: cosmology

According to Einstein’s theory of general relativity (GR), black holes are ferocious beasts able to swallow and destroy everything within their reach. Their strong gravitational pull deforms the space-time causal structure in such a way that nothing can get out of them once their event horizon is crossed. The fate of those incautious observers curious enough to cross this border is to suffer a painful spaghettification process due to the strong tidal forces before being destroyed at the center of the black hole.

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Jun 8, 2016

E.O. Wilson Chases The ‘Great Riddle’ Of Human Existence

Posted by in categories: cosmology, neuroscience

For those who missed my 2014 review of E.O. Wilson’s book, “The Meaning of Human Existence.”

With a title as audacious as “The Meaning of Human Existence,” even a casual reader couldn’t be faulted for expecting a veritable Rosetta Stone to the cosmos and life as we know it. But in his latest book, Edward O. Wilson offers no philosophically-satisfying answers to this age-old “existence” question. And maybe that’s his point.

After all, the ability to ponder our own existence is at once a blessing and a curse. Neither sharks nor swallows seem to worry about too much more than their next meal. Yet in fifteen chapters, Wilson — a renowned biologist, naturalist, author and Harvard University professor emeritus, strips humanity of its soul.

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Jun 8, 2016

The Wrestler

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

I have fond memories of both of my grandfathers as a boy growing up in the American Southwest. My mother’s father was a master gardener, able to grow plants in an arid environment that should have thrived only in tropical rainforests. Botanists from the Department of Biology at the local university surveyed his garden, and promptly asked him to help with problems they were experiencing in their greenhouses. There were large fruit trees scattered throughout his backyard perfect for climbing and eating apples, peaches, or cherries fresh off the branch. The foliage of these trees was dense, making it possible to hide and pounce down on unsuspecting younger brothers or cousins wandering too near the danger zone. Not saying I ever did such a thing, just saying it was possible. You know?

Every Friday night we ate dinner at my mother’s parents’ house. I poignantly remember an after dinner ritual. My grandfather would retire to his recliner, toothpick in his mouth, and instruct one of his grandchildren to turn on the bulky multicomponent console color television with built in radio, turntable, and speakers. It was time to watch Friday night boxing. There was no remote control, we kids were the channel changers and volume knob manipulators. My grandfather was usually not an emotional man, but he would become quite animated and occasionally agitated watching the fight, particularly if there was a boxer he favored in the match. The grandchildren enjoyed watching him more than we did the pugilists on the flickering television screen.

My father’s father, on the other hand, was a wrestling fan. By wrestling, I mean the wrestling seen on Saturday afternoon television featuring men in tight shorts, outlandish costumes, some wearing hoods or masks over their heads, entering the ring wearing colorful capes to either wild applause or catcalls and hisses, bouncing off the ropes to clothesline their onrushing opponent, and jumping from the turnbuckles to land on their hapless opponent laid out on the mat below. Even to a boy it was obvious bad theater and fraud, but I enjoyed watching my grandfather yelling at the television, berating the bad guys and the referees during these spectacles. He knew the name of every hero and villain, and he would hurl epitaphs at the masked men in tight wrestling suites while openly cheering for those he admired. He particularly loved the chaos of tag team matches, guaranteed to degenerate into a free-for-all with all the combatants in the ring, throwing chairs, and occasionally even body slamming the referee to the canvas. I still remember some of the names and can mentally visualize the antics; Gene Kiniski, The Sheik, Ray Mendoza, Dory Funk Jr., Terry Funk, Mad Dog Vachon, Hard Boiled Haggarty, Raul Reyes, Killer Kowalski, and Johnny Valentine. As I grew older I mistakenly pointed out these matches were all rehearsed and the outcomes were scripted; this wasn’t real sport. He fixed me with a glare, informed me I was getting, “a little too big for my britches”, and asked me if I thought 250 lb. men climbing to the top of the ropes to hurl themselves on their foe below, or the prostrate , seemingly stunned wrestler on the mat absorbing the flying blow delivered from above should be considered as anything less than athletic.

Good point. I wouldn’t want to do it.

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Jun 8, 2016

Future humans: Immortal, jobless and genius

Posted by in categories: augmented reality, biotech/medical, computing, cyborgs, drones, internet, life extension, mobile phones, virtual reality

What will we do when money has no meaning? And if everyone gets life extension what will today’s mega rich think and/or do about it?

May you live in interesting times – A curse, origin unknown

One of the ‘curses’ usually attributed to ancient China, but frequently thrown around in today’s society is ‘May you live in interesting times’, suggesting that living in turbulent times, no matter the cause, is somehow a bad thing.

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