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Old 08-13-2008, 10:12 AM   #326
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http://environment.newscientist.com/...onky-core.html

Did iron cyclones give Earth a wonky core?
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Old 08-13-2008, 10:16 AM   #327
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http://www.reuters.com/article/scien...080807?sp=true

Material bends, stretches and conducts electricity?

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - In the latest twist on electronics, Japanese scientists said on Thursday they have developed a rubbery material that conducts electricity, a finding that could be used to make devices that bend and stretch.

The material, described by Tsuyoshi Sekitani of the University of Tokyo in the journal Science, could be used on curved surfaces or even in moving parts, they said.

Sekitani's team developed their material using carbon nanotubes, a long stretch of carbon molecules that can conduct electricity.

They mixed these into rubbery polymer to form the basic material. Next, they attached a grid of tiny transistors to the material and then put it to the test.

They stretched the sheet of material to nearly double its original size and it snapped back into place, without disrupting the transistors or ruining the material's conductive properties.

The elastic conductor would allow electronic circuits to be mounted in places that would have been impossible up to now, including "arbitrary curved surfaces and movable parts, such as the joints of a robot's arm," Sekitani and colleagues wrote.

Earlier this week, a U.S. team reported developing an elastic mesh material that allowed them to use standard electronics materials to build an electronic eye camera based on the shape and layout of the human eye.

That device could be the basis for the development of an artificial eye implant.

John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who wrote about the eye camera in the journal Nature, said the development of materials that can be shaped and molded to curved surfaces will allow for a whole new class of electronics devices that can be used to better interact with the human body, such as brain monitoring devices.

(Editing by Maggie Fox)
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Old 08-13-2008, 10:20 AM   #328
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http://www.physorg.com/news137337164.html

Compressor-free refrigerator may loom in the future
Physics / Physics
Refrigerators and other cooling devices may one day lose their compressors and coils of piping and become solid state, according to Penn State researchers who are investigating electrically induced heat effects of some ferroelectric polymers.
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Old 08-13-2008, 10:45 AM   #329
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http://www.technoccult.com/archives/...geing-process/

Scientists Stop the Ageing Process
August 12th, 2008 by TiamatsVision

“Scientists have stopped the ageing process in an entire organ for the first time, a study released today says. Published in today’s online edition of Nature Medicine, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York City also say the older organs function as well as they did when the host animal was younger.

The researchers, led by Associate Professor Ana Maria Cuervo, blocked the ageing process in mice livers by stopping the build-up of harmful proteins inside the organ’s cells. As people age their cells become less efficient at getting rid of damaged protein resulting in a build-up of toxic material that is especially pronounced in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative disorders. The researchers say the findings suggest that therapies for boosting protein clearance might help stave off some of the declines in function that accompanies old age.”
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Old 08-18-2008, 01:22 PM   #330
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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/news...ind-drugs.html

Landmines releasing brain-altering chemicals, scanners reading soldiers' minds and devices boosting eyesight and hearing could all one figure in arsenals, suggests the study.

Sophisticated drugs, designed for dementia patients but also allowing troops to stay awake and alert for several days are expected to be developed, according to the report. It is thought that some US soldiers are already taking drugs prescribed for narcolepsy in an attempt to combat fatigue.

As well as those physically and mentally boosting one's own troops, substances could also be developed to deplete an opponents' forces, it says.

"How can we disrupt the enemy's motivation to fight?" It asks. "Is there a way to make the enemy obey our commands?" Research shows that "drugs can be utilized to achieve abnormal, diseased, or disordered psychology" among one's enemy, it concludes.

Research is particularly encouraging in the area of functional neuroimaging, or understanding the relationships between brain activity and actions, the report says, raising hopes that scanners able to read the intentions or memories of soldiers could soon be developed.

Some military chiefs and law enforcement officials hope that a new generation of polygraphs, or lie detectors, which spot lie-telling by observing changes in brain activity, can be built.

"Pharmacological landmines," which release drugs to incapacitate soldiers upon their contact with them, could also be developed, according to the report's authors.

The report, which was commissioned by the Defense Intelligence Agency, contained the work of scientists asked to examine how better understanding of how the human mind works was likely to affect the development of technology.

It finds that "great progress has been made" in neuroscience over the last decade, and that continuing advances offered the prospect of a dramatic impact on military equipment and the way in which wars are fought.

It also explains that the concept of torture could be transformed in the future. "It is possible that some day there could be a technique developed to extract information from a prisoner that does not have any lasting side effects," it states. One technique being developed involves the delivery of electrical pulses into a suspect's brain and delay their ability to lie by interfering with its neurons.

Research into "distributed human-machine systems", including robots and military hardware controlled by an operator's mind, is another particular area for optimism among researchers, according to the report. It says significant progress has already been made and that prospects for use of the field are "limited only by the creative imagination."

Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist and the author of 'Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense', said "It's too early to know which, if any, of these technologies is going to be practical. But it's important for us to get ahead of the curve. Soldiers are always on the cutting edge of new technologies."
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Old 08-18-2008, 01:27 PM   #331
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http://io9.com/5035865/a-memory+eras...-your-behavior

A Memory-Erasing Chemical That Can Change Your Behavior

Memory is one of the main reasons why drug addicts who have gone sober suddenly find themselves jumping off the wagon. Environmental cues like visiting a place where you were high can make you remember the drug and weaken your resistance to taking it again. But now researchers have discovered a way to selectively erase "drug-associated memories" and make it easier for you to just say no to the needle, pill, or pipe. It all has to do with interrupting the brain's process of "reconsolidation," or memory retrieval.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge cut down on the drug-seeking behavior of cocaine-addicted rats by giving them a chemical that blocked NMDA-type receptors in the brain. First, they gave the rats a bunch of coke while flashing a light. Later, when they flashed the same light, they inspired the rats to look really frantically for drugs and engage in behaviors that had gotten them coke before. And yet when the scientists administered a chemical that blocked the rats' NMDA receptors, the rats who saw the flashing light didn't start trying to get drugs.

NMDA receptors are associated with learning and memory. Researchers speculate that interfering with them affects with memory retrieval, blocking or changing the memories significantly. According to the Society for Neuroscience:

Several NMDA receptor inhibitors are already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including the cough suppressant dextramethorphan and the Alzheimer's disease drug memantine.

"This is an example of hypothesis-driven basic research that can be readily translated to the treatment of cocaine addiction in humans," said Yavin Shaham, PhD, at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an expert uninvolved in the study.

So drug addicts may be given the real-life equivalent of the memory-erasing technique we saw in The Manchurian Candidate. What I want to know is what exactly it feels like to have your memories tampered with so much that you no longer recall wanting to do a drug you've been addicted to. Do you literally forget taking the drug? Or do you just forget that it felt good?
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Old 08-18-2008, 01:48 PM   #332
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WOW - check this out - this is cool - magic sand:

http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/Journal.../abs40A_1.html

The first sequence shows the properties of Magic Sand. When it is dry, Magic Sand is free flowing and cannot form a structure that holds its shape. When Magic Sand is poured into water, it has a silvery sheen and doesn't become wet. It can be molded into structures that hold their shape under water. When the water is poured off, the Magic Sand is dry.
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Old 08-18-2008, 03:04 PM   #333
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Old 08-18-2008, 03:08 PM   #334
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Old 08-18-2008, 03:09 PM   #335
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Old 08-19-2008, 01:53 PM   #336
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http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/ar...hemselves.html

We've got our wires crossed: The bizarre stories of people whose brains have rewired themselves

The human brain is the most complex organ in the body and contains 20 billion cells, responsible for everything from dreaming and movement to appetite and emotions.

It consists mainly of grey matter - the brain cells or neurons where information is processed.

It also contains white matter - the nerve fibres which, like electric cables, send out chemical messengers and relay information between the cells.

In fact, the brain contains more nerve fibres than there are wires in the entire international telephone network and sometimes the brain's 'wires' can become crossed, as a result of injury, illness or genetics.

Scientists used to think a brain injury resulted in permanent damage to the brain's functions, but new research suggests this is not necessarily the case.

'When one area of our brain is damaged we now know from scans that the functions of that area are distributed elsewhere,' says Dr Keith Muir, a senior lecturer in neuroscience at Glasgow University.

'That is why after a stroke people sometimes lose the use of their hand or leg then regain it because another area of the brain eventually takes up the job of movement.'

In fact, says Dr Muir, rather than talking about different areas of the brain it is better to think of it as having numerous different systems which link up and work together.

When the brain is injured, the systems learn to link up differently - sometimes with surprising results.

Some people are actually born with this kind of altered wiring. At birth we all have far more brain cells than we need and as we develop there's a period of so-called 'pruning' - when only the connections and brain cells needed and used survive.

In some cases it's thought that this process goes awry - perhaps because of a faulty gene - resulting in cross wiring or extra connections.

Here, we talk to people whose brains have been 'scrambled' as a result of illness or birth.

But far from being a hindrance, some of them believe it is actually beneficial.

(see source for full story)
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Old 08-19-2008, 01:54 PM   #337
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http://mysterytopia.com/2008/08/is-t...on-europa.html

Is there life on Jupiter's moon Europa ?

With average temperatures of minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit, an almost nonexistent atmosphere and a complex web of cracks in a layer of ice encompassing the entire surface, the environment on Jupiter’s moon Europa is about as alien as they come. So are the enormous forces behind the surface display, namely an ocean beneath the ice nine times deeper than Earth’s deepest ocean trench and gravitational affects from a planet 318 times the mass of Earth. For nearly a decade, it has been Simon Kattenhorn’s passion to understand the amazing surface features on Europa and how they are formed. And supported by new grants from NASA, his research may provide clues to one of Mankind’s biggest questions—is there life outside of Earth? Kattenhorn—an associate professor of geology at the University of Idaho—delights in dissecting the beautiful and complex web of cracks, faults and ridges on the surface of Jupiter’s fourth largest moon. The first of his two recent grants totaling $358,000 will allow him to study the most recent geological features on the highest resolution photos NASA has to offer of Europa. These subtle cracks will reveal if there is any current geological activity on the distant moon, which would also be the best place to look for signs of life. “In order to really get at the issue, ‘Is there life out there?’, we have to know the best place to look,” said Kattenhorn, who is also currently authoring a chapter for a book on the moon. “And in the case of Europa, the best place to look is where cracks on its icy surface are active today.

” But finding signs for current geological activity is no easy task. Kattenhorn can tell a lot about fractures because they form very specific patterns that allow him to unravel their relative ages. His goal in this project is to find the youngest fractures and compare them to the tidal forces that Europa would be experiencing today to see if the features and recent forces match up.
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Old 08-19-2008, 01:55 PM   #338
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http://www.disinfo.com/content/story...Sleeping-Pills http://abcnews.go.com
Posted by AmericanDrugWar 2 days ago View profile
Obama not only admits to having tried marijuana, he freely admits to having inhaled saying, "that was the whole point." McCain has solemnly vowed to lock up even medicinal pot smokers but regularly uses powerful sleeping pills known to have hazardous side effects.

Patriot or hypocrite? You decide.
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Old 08-19-2008, 01:56 PM   #339
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http://www.disinfo.com/content/story...-9%2F11%2F2001

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Old 08-19-2008, 01:57 PM   #340
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http://gawker.com/5037013/the-histor...f-in-8-minutes

The History Of Xenu, As Explained By L. Ron Hubbard In 8 Minutes
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Old 08-20-2008, 10:13 AM   #341
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http://www.disinfo.com/content/story...s-Mass-Arrests

The Denver Police's Detention Camp Setup for DNC Protestors and Mass Arrests
Avatar http://www.youtube.com
Posted by ralph 3 days ago View profile
ColoradoChange writes: Denver officials weren't planning to reveal details about where activists would be detained in the event of mass arrests during the Democratic National Convention until after the event had started, but those plans were quickly dashed this week when CBS 4News reporter Rick Sallinger not only revealed that protesters would be locked up in a city-owned warehouse, but he also obtained clear video footage inside the facility, a building that includes barbed wire-topped cages and signs warning of stun-gun use.
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Old 08-20-2008, 10:14 AM   #342
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http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=5561455

Most Companies in US Avoid Federal Income Taxes

Report Says Most Corporations Pay No Federal Income Taxes; Lawmakers Blame Loopholes
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Old 08-20-2008, 10:46 AM   #343
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http://www.brainsturbator.com/articl..._mind_control/

Rigid Hierarchy: Failure by Design

I could harly put it better than Hagbard Celine, and this whole post has been all plagarism anyway:

Every citizen in every authoritarian society already has such a “radio” built into his or her brain. This radio is the little voice that asks, each time a desire is formed, “Is it safe? Will my wife (my husband/my boss/my church/my community) approve? Will people ridicule and mock me? Will the police come and arrest me?” This little voice the Freudians call “The Superego,” with Freud himself vividly characterized as “the ego’s harsh master.” With a more functional approach, Peris, Hefferline and Goodman, in Gestalt Therapy, describe this process as “a set of conditioned verbal habits.”

This set, which is fairly uniform throughout any authoritarian society, determines the actions which will, and will not, occur there. Let us consider humanity a biogram {the basic DNA blueprint of the human organism and its potentials) united with a logogram (this set of “conditioned verbal habits"). The biogram has not changed in several hundred thousand years; the logogram is different in each society. When the logogram reinforces the biogram, we have a libertarian society, such as still can be found among some American Indian tribes. Like Confucianism before it became authoritarian and rigidified, American Indian ethics is based on speaking from the heart and acting from the heart—’that is, from the biogram. No authoritarian society can tolerate this. All authority is based on conditioning men and women to act from the logogram, since the logogram is a set created by those in authority.

Every authoritarian logogram divides society, as it divides the individual, into alienated halves. Those at the bottom suffer what I shall call the burden of nescience. The natural sensory activity of the biogram— what the person sees, hears, smells, tastes, feels, and, above all, what the organism as a whole, or as a potential whole, wants —is always irrelevant and immaterial. The authoritarian logogram, not the field of sensed experience, determines what is relevant and material. This is as true of a highly paid advertising copywriter as it is of an engine lathe operator. The person acts, not on personal experience and the evaluations of the nervous system, but on the orders from above. Thus, personal experience and personal judgment being nonoperational, these functions become also less “real.” They exist, if at all, only in that fantasy land which Freud called the Unconscious. Since nobody has found a way to prove that the Freudian Unconscious really exists, it can be doubted that personal experience and personal judgment exist; it is an act of faith to assume they do. The organism has become, as Marx said, “a tool, a machine, a robot.”

Those at the top of the authoritarian pyramid, however, suffer an equal and opposite burden of omniscience. All that is forbidden to the servile class— the web of perception, evaluation and participation in the sensed universe— is demanded of the members of the master class. They must attempt to do the seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling and decision-making for the whole society.

But a man with a gun is told only that which people assume will not provoke him to pull the trigger. Since all authority and government are based on force, the master class, with its burden of omniscience, faces the servile class, with its burden of nescience, precisely as a highwayman faces his victim. Communication is possible only between equals. The master class never abstracts enough information from the servile class to know what is actually going on in the world where the actual productivity of society occurs.

Furthermore, the logogram of any authoritarian society remains fairly inflexible as time passes, but everything else in the universe constantly changes. The result can only be progressive disorientation among the rulers. The end is debacle. The schizophrenia of authoritarianism exists both in the individual and in the whole society.

I call this the Snafu Principle.
No Easy Answers

You might be wondering why an organization committed to the liberation of the human species would be seriously discussing the mass manipulation of human consciousness. That’s because we’re committed to the liberation of the human species wether they want it or not, because for the most part, they don’t. If the capacity exists for this kind of martial art, then we’re not going to pretend it’s not there. We’re especially not going to leave that tool in the hands of monsters because of “our principles”. We are humans of Earth, all that is human is our birthright, from fire to atom bombs, from Mozart to NASCAR.

What if it turned out you had total power over your life and your world? Would you want it? Here at the BIPT, we have teachers but no Gods. Human power is strictly a human responsibility.
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Old 08-20-2008, 12:10 PM   #344
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http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/08/15/min....ap/index.html

Military wants to study mind-reading

# Story Highlights
# Army gives scientists $4 million grant to study ways to read people's thoughts
# The goal is to translate the thoughts of soldiers who suffered brain injuries
# Concerns include mind-reading technology could be used to interrogate the enemy
# Scientists say technology cannot be used without subjects' "active cooperation"
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Old 08-20-2008, 12:12 PM   #345
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http://www.scienceagogo.com/news/200...runc_sys.shtml

Quantum "Uncollapse" Muddies Definition Of Reality

Quantum theory says that quantum particles have wave-like properties and can exist in many places at once. Why the objects we see around us every day — in what physicists call the classical world — don't behave this way despite being made of these very same quantum particles is a deep and fundamental question in modern physics.

Measuring (observing) a quantum object supposedly forces it to collapse from a waveform into one position. This collapse, according to quantum mechanics dogma, is what makes objects "real," but new verification of "collapse reversal" suggests that we can no longer assume that measurements alone create reality. It was back in 2006 that physicist Andrew Jordan, at the University of Rochester, together with Alexander Korotkov, at the University of California, Riverside, first mooted the possibility of collapse reversal.

Until then, it was believed that the instant a quantum object was measured it would "collapse" from being in all the locations it could be, to just one location like a classical object. But Jordan proposed that it would be possible to weakly measure the particle continuously, partially collapsing the quantum state, and then "unmeasure" it, causing the particle to revert back to its original quantum form, before it collapsed. Jordan's hypothesis suggests that the line between the quantum and classical worlds is not as sharply defined as had been long thought, but that it is rather a gray area that takes time to cross.

Now, in Nature News, Postdoctoral Fellow Nadav Katz explains how his team put the idea to the test and found that, indeed, it is possible to take a "weak" measurement of a quantum particle, triggering a partial collapse. Katz then "undid the damage," altering certain properties of the particle and performing the same weak measurement again. The particle was returned to its original quantum state just as if no measurement had ever been taken.

Katz contends being able to reverse the collapse "tells us that we really can't assume that measurements create reality because it is possible to erase the effects of a measurement and start again."
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Old 08-20-2008, 12:17 PM   #346
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http://www.sciencenews.org/view/gene...e_free_will%3F

Do subatomic particles have free will?

If we have free will, so do subatomic particles, mathematicians claim to prove.
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Old 08-20-2008, 12:57 PM   #347
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http://www.physorg.com/news137947216.html

Slipping through cell walls, nanotubes deliver high-potency punch to cancer tumors in mice

Now researchers at Stanford University have addressed that problem using single-walled carbon nanotubes as delivery vehicles. The new method has enabled the researchers to get a higher proportion of a given dose of medication into the tumor cells than is possible with the "free" drug—that is, the one not bound to nanotubes—thus reducing the amount of medication that they need to inject into a subject to achieve the desired therapeutic effect.

"That means you will also have less drug reaching the normal tissue," said Hongjie Dai, professor of chemistry and senior author of a paper, which will be published in the Aug. 15 issue of Cancer Research. So not only is the medication more effective against the tumor, ounce for ounce, but it greatly reduces the side effects of the medication.

Graduate student Zhuang Liu is first author of the paper.

Dai and his colleagues worked with paclitaxel, a widely used cancer chemotherapy drug, which they employed against tumors cells of a type of breast cancer that were implanted under the skin of mice. They found that they were able to get up to 10 times as much medication into the tumor cells via the nanotubes as when the standard formulation of the drug, called TaxolŽ, was injected into the mice.

The tumor cells were allowed to proliferate for about two weeks prior to being treated. After 22 days of treatment, tumors in the mice treated with the paclitaxel-bearing nanotubes were on average less than half the size of those in mice treated with Taxol.

Critical to achieving those results were the size and surface structure of the nanotubes, which governed how they interacted with the walls of the blood vessels through which they circulated after being injected. Though a leaky vessel—nautical or anatomical—is rarely a good thing, in this instance the relatively leaky walls of blood vessels in the tumor tissue provided the opening that the nanotubes needed to slip into the tumor cells.

"The results are actually highly dependent on the surface chemistry," Dai said. "In other words, you don't get this result just by attaching drugs to any nanotubes."
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Old 08-20-2008, 12:58 PM   #348
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http://blogs.zdnet.com/emergingtech/?p=1009&tag=nl.e550

Exclusive: A robot with a biological brain

University of Reading scientists have developed a robot controlled by a biological brain formed from cultured neurons. And this is a world’s premiere. Other research teams have tried to control robots with ‘brains,’ but there was always a computer in the loop. This new project is the first one to examine ‘how memories manifest themselves in the brain, and how a brain stores specific pieces of data.’ As life expectancy is increasing in most countries, this new research could provide insights into how the brain works and help aging people. In fact, the main goal of this project is to understand better the development of diseases and disorders which affect the brain such as Alzheimer or Parkinson diseases. It’s interesting to note that this project is being led by Professor Kevin Warwick, who became famous in 1998 when a silicon chip was implanted in his arm to allow a computer to monitor him in order to assess the latest technology for use with the disabled. But read more…
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Old 08-20-2008, 12:59 PM   #349
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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle4547511.ece

The man with the answer to life, the universe and (nearly) everything
British scientist Peter Higgs dreamt up a theory explaining the tiny particles that make up everything, including you, decades ago. At last he's set to be proved right.
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:54 PM   #350
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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/12/sc...ewanted=1&_r=1

While a Magician Works, the Mind Does the Tricks

By BENEDICT CAREY

A decent backyard magic show is often an exercise in deliberate chaos. Cards whipped through the air. Glasses crashing to the ground. Gasps, hand-waving, loud abracadabras. Something’s bound to catch fire, too, if the performer is ambitious enough — or needs cover.

“Back in the early days, I always had a little smoke and fire, not only for misdirection but to emphasize that something magic had just happened,” said The Great Raguzi, a magician based in Southern California who has performed professionally for more than 35 years, in venues around the world. “But as the magic and magician mature, you see that you don’t need the bigger props.”

Eye-grabbing distractions — to mask a palmed card or coin, say — are only the crudest ways to exploit brain processes that allow for more subtle manipulations, good magicians learn.

In a paper published last week in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience, a team of brain scientists and prominent magicians described how magic tricks, both simple and spectacular, take advantage of glitches in how the brain constructs a model of the outside world from moment to moment, or what we think of as objective reality.

For the magicians, including The Great Tomsoni (John Thompson), Mac King, James Randi, and Teller of Penn and Teller, the collaboration provided scientific validation, as well as a few new ideas.

For the scientists, Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen Macknik of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, it raised hope that magic could accelerate research into perception. “Here’s this art form going back perhaps to ancient Egypt, and basically the neuroscience community had been unaware” of its direct application to the study of perception, Dr. Martinez-Conde said.

“It’s a marvelous paper,” Michael Bach, a vision scientist at Freiburg University in Germany who was not involved in the work, said in an e-mail message. Magicians alter what the brain perceives by manipulating how it interprets scenes, Dr. Bach said, “and a distant goal of cognitive psychology would be to numerically predict this.”

One theory of perception, for instance, holds that the brain builds representations of the world, moment to moment, using the senses to provide clues that are fleshed out into a mental picture based on experience and context. The brain uses neural tricks to do this: approximating, cutting corners, instantaneously and subconsciously choosing what to “see” and what to let pass, neuroscientists say. Magic exposes the inseams, the neural stitching in the perceptual curtain.

Some simple magical illusions are due to relatively straightforward biological limitations. Consider spoon bending. Any 7-year-old can fool her younger brother by holding the neck of a spoon and rapidly tilting it back and forth, like a mini teeter-totter gone haywire. The spoon appears curved, because of cells in the visual cortex called end-stopped neurons, which perceive both motion and the boundaries of objects, the authors write. The end-stopped neurons respond differently from other motion-sensing cells, and this slight differential warps the estimation of where the edges of the spoon are.

The visual cortex is attentive to sudden changes in the environment, both when something new appears and when something disappears, Dr. Martinez-Conde said. A sudden disappearance causes what neuroscientists call an after-discharge: a ghostly image of the object lingers for a moment.

This illusion is behind a spectacular trick by the Great Tomsoni. The magician has an assistant appear on stage in a white dress and tells the audience he will magically change the color of her dress to red. He first does this by shining a red light on her, an obvious ploy that he turns into a joke. Then the red light flicks off, the house lights go on and the now the woman is unmistakably dressed in red. The secret: In the split-second after the red light goes off, the red image lingers in the audience’s brains for about 100 milliseconds, covering the image of the woman. It’s just enough time for the woman’s white dress to be stripped away, revealing a red one underneath.

In a conference last summer, hosted by Dr. Martinez and Dr. Macknik, a Las Vegas pickpocket performer and co-author named Apollo Robbins took advantage of a similar effect on the sensory nerves on the wrist. He had a man in the audience come up on stage and, while bantering with him, swiped the man’s wallet, watch and several other things. Just before slipping off the timepiece, Mr. Robbins clutched the man’s wrist while doing a coin trick — thereby lowering the sensory threshold on the wrist. The paper, with links to video of Mr. Robbins’ performance, is at http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/va...l/nrn2473.html.

“That was really neat, and new to me,” said Dr. Bach, who was in the audience. The grasp, he said, left “a sort of somatosensory afterimage, so that the loss of the watch stays subthreshold” in the victim. The visual cortex resolves clearly only what is at the center of vision; the periphery is blurred, and this is likely one reason that the eyes are always in motion, to gather snapshots to construct a wider, coherent picture.

A similar process holds for cognition. The brain focuses conscious attention on one thing at a time, at the expense of others, regardless of where the eyes are pointing. In imaging studies, neuroscientists have found evidence that the brain suppresses activity in surrounding visual areas when concentrating on a specific task. Thus preoccupied, the brain may not consciously register actions witnessed by the eyes.

Magicians exploit this property in a variety of ways. Jokes, stagecraft and drama can hold and direct thoughts and attention away from sleights of hand and other moves, performers say.

But small, apparently trivial movements can also mask maneuvers that produce breathtaking effects. In a telephone interview, Teller explained how a magician might get rid of a card palmed in his right hand, by quickly searching his pockets for a pencil. “I pat both pockets, find a pencil, reach out and hand it to someone, and the whole act becomes incidental; if the audience is made to read intention — getting the pencil, in this case — then that action disappears, and no one remembers you put your hand in your pocket,” the magician said. “You don’t really see it, because it’s not a figure anymore, it has become part of the background.”

The magician’s skill is in framing relevant maneuvers as trivial. When it’s done poorly, Teller said, “the actions immediately become suspicious, and you instantly click that something’s wrong.”

David Blaine, a New York magician and performance artist, said he started doing magic at age 4 and quickly learned that he did not need any drama or special effects. “A strong and effective way to distract somebody is to directly engage the person,” with eye contact or other interaction, Mr. Blaine said. “That can act on the subconscious like a subtle form of hypnosis.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with a dove, a plume of smoke or a burst of fire. As long as it doesn’t break magic’s unwritten code: First, do no harm. Frightening neighborhood parents, however, is allowed.
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