SciBits

As any non IT person will notice on a daily basis, there is plenty of magic built into ubiquitous gadgets and applications most people do not understand, but nevertheless operate with gusto.

Even the scientifically backgrounded educational overachievers will not, or at least not seriously, pretend to perfectly understand the inner workings of their MacBook, iPad or iPhone (anyone from Apple reading this: please feel free to engage in a sponsorship relationship with Troim, iTunes vouchers graciously accepted).

It can be hard to tell apart science and science fiction:

  • Serious folk have been throwing their brains (and huge budgets) at fusion technology for 30 years now. According to them, viable applications are  just round the corner. The marginality of another 30 years away, at most. This status means fusion technology research qualifies as very real science.
  • Other equally serious folk call the fusion technology propaganda very soft SciFi.  Or a wombat. Or both.

A  day job involving a little science and IT provides Troim with an infinite stream of inspiration. SciBits notes funny scientific developments for use in the Kitschery:

Will we ever understand the brain?

If we don’t, it won’t be for lack of trying. Unfortunately, no fly, mouse or rat made itself available for comment, on this virtual reality approach as reported by The Scientist Magazine. Let’s just hope the participants appreciate we don’t mean bad, just try to understand.

Spooky action at a distance

Quantum state transfer, as close to teleportation as physics gets, doesn’t get less weird by becoming more familiar. Rather the opposite. If you can read the example relayed by the folks from Calgary University without your mind going boggle, you lack either either, you might want to read again more slowly, or with more emphasis on the getting it part.

Autonomously active brain

Not yet convinced introspection is going to make a big comeback in cognitive psychology and a literature blog is not the most obviously reliable source of SciBits, but here we go anyway: A nice piece about how to interpret the chatter inside our skull courtesy of The Story Reading Ape.

Awesome brain

Do you consider the 100 plus billion galaxies in our universe awe inspiring? Probably yes, unless you suffer from a lack of imagination. Here is another impressive number: 100 billion uniquely configured neurons. In one single human brain. And there are 8 plus billions of those most fascinating organs around. Please refer to this inspiring article in The Scientist for details. 

More or less open AI

Some Artificial Intelligence advances, as e.g. summarised in an overview kindly provided by The Economist, sound like this year’s science fiction is at risk of being called stand-of-the-art technology ten years from now. Machines learning to ape human intelligence by playing video games, interesting approach. There is even an open AI initiative. What’s not to like about this Universe

The real true tough guys don’t come big

Being able to survive dehydration, freezing, boiling and radiation would come in handy, in some environments we are busy to multiply. There is on fellow who won’t mind. Please meet the ultimate survivalist, a tardigrade with astounding abilities, courtesy of the BBC. It’s also called a water bear. Kind of misleading, considering the toughest guy of all times grows to the size of 0.3 mm.

The physics of time

Feeling in control? Making sense of it all? Wondering why anyone would still be doing any research on fundamentals, because what really matters is by now so well understood? This one will swing back to humble, awed, puzzled in no time:  A Debate Over the Physics of Time courtesy of Quanta Magazine

Facial Personality Profiling

Thanks to the BBC, Troim and the admin discovered Faception.  If you ever doubted all science needs ethics committees, please do have look at their technology and reconsider. The future of racial profiling has already begun. Easy to guess who will be selected for stop and search or worse. Any bets on middle aged white women?  

Ant brain GPS

French popular science magazine Science et avenir reports that ants display an astounding ability to orient themselves and stay on a straight track even when they walk backwards or sideways.  Details of the ant GPS are still mysterious, but you’d certainly want your autonomous robot to replicate this skill.

Transcend your body

French news site 20 minutes reports from the European Forum on Bioethics in Strasbourg. Listening to neurologists discussing enhanced humans, and to which extent they might be able to control their brains in the not so far future, suggests developments ahead.

Brain language maps

Scientific American reports interesting findings concerning the whereabout of language resources: “Where words are stored, the brain’s meaning map”.

Monster wave magic

You’re a captain and want to impress more terrestrial folks? Pretend to be able to conjure monster waves by using this predictive tool from MIT. And it’s good for you and your crews safety, too.

Bean counter image revisited

Welcome to the 21st century reformatting the image of bean counters. With BeanIOT the bean counters are as cool as technologically advanced gets. And the designers…

Cybersecurity for CEO’s

Not exactly scientific outer edge, only marginally funny, but good to know anyway: Publications targeted at the 1 % very prominently feature lots of adverts for “Navigating the Digital Age”. Mental note always to know at least as much about cybersecurity as the CEOs of the companies selling you stuff. Gotcha?

Beyond Moore’s law of computational progress

In the March 2016 Technology Quarterly the Economist provides a nice overview of recent and expected advances. Quantum machines like the D-Wave 2x do of course feature prominently, but there is more. Ever heard of “Electronic blood“? Spoiler alert: The name of the vampire pumping the blood is IBM.

Language foundation speculation

In “Why only us” Noam Chomsky and Robert Berwick propose a new approach to the human ability to acquire language. There is a bit of a controversy around the the book an its anglocentrism, but the whole discussion serves as a welcome reminder of how little we do no about the most basic abilities.

Photonic hide and seek spoiler

The journal Nature Photonics describes how a single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) camera can be used to “see” a hidden object.  Now who would want to achieve this kind of positional transparency? Kids playing at hide and seek?…

Inbuilt compasses

The Guardian reports the discovery of minuscule magnetic field sensors in a range of cells across different species, including humans.  These inbuilt compasses align themselves with terrestrial geomagnetic field lines and might supply location information to neighboring cells.

Hooperons?

A new twist in the chase for the identification of WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles) or dark matter: Economist magazine reports that Fermilab has endorsed the theory of Dan Hooper and Lisa Goodenough postulating these particles as the source of otherwise unexplained gamma rays emanating from the center of the Milky Way.

Group Swagger

The popularizing science magazine La Recherche mentions this odd little experimental finding on page 110 of its October 2014 issue:

Social psychologists at the UCLA had two groups of students marching: One in synch, the control without synch. When presented with photographs of aggressive people, the synch marchers reacted differently from the control group, they perceived the aggressors as markedly smaller and weaker.

Learning: Don’t honk at that parade, they might throw their horns at your car.

Quantum Biology

In the November 22nd 2014 edition, The Economist reviews “Life on the Edge: The coming of Age of Quantum Biology” by Jil Al-Khalili and Johnjoe McFadden, Bantam Press.

Basically, quantum entanglements might be facilitating all kinds of biological processes, from solar energy harvest by photosynthesis to  olfactory sense differentiation. The undead cat jumps out of the physics black box to make genetics just a wee bit more not really understood.

Dark Matter

Dark matter being most noticeable for not being directly noticeable because it does not interact with normal stuff, any news of any forms of indirect ‘sightings’ are highly welcome.

One prime ‘sighting’ example is being reported in the  very wider neighborhood, Galaxy cluster Abell 3827, by the BBC reporting on results from the Royal Astronomical Society.