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:
According to one of the companies active in this sector
Around 500 people have been cryopreserved since 1967, mostly in America. Additionally, about 5000 people are currently signed up to be cryopreserved. In Europe, we and our partners have been involved in a high percentage of the cases over the last years.https://www.tomorrow.bio/faq
Brain Interfaces for Blind People
Loss of vision alters the day to day life of blind individuals and may impose a significant burden on their family and the economy. Cortical visual prosthetics have been shown to have the potential of restoring a useful degree of vision via stimulation of primary visual cortex. Due to current advances in electrode design and wireless power and data transmission, development of these prosthetics has gained momentum in the past few years and multiple sites around the world are currently developing and testing their designs. In this review, we briefly outline the visual prosthetic approaches and describe the history of cortical visual prosthetics. Next, we focus on the state of the art of cortical visual prosthesis by briefly explaining the design of current devices that are either under development or in the clinical testing phase. Lastly, we shed light on the challenges of each design and provide some potential solutions.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30194614/
Brain Interfaces for Tetraplegics
The aim of scientists at the University of Padova in Italy was to prove that a brain-machine interface-controlled wheelchair could be used by paralized patients in real-world settings, so long as the patients and machine algorithms were properly trained through brain-machine interface skill acquisition workshops.
To achieve this goal, the team used a sensorimotor rhythm-based brain-machine interface to drive an intelligent robotic wheelchair and tested the robotic wheelchairs on three patients who were effectively paralyzed from the neck down. A sensorimotor rhythm brain-machine interface is based on the electrical signals that are emitted from the brain when people think about moving parts of their bodies. In this study, when the patients thought about moving both hands, the wheelchair would turn left. If they thought about moving both of their feet, the wheelchair would turn right. To move forwards, the participants would have to think of both commands at the same time.https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamhaseltine/2023/01/05/tetraplegics-can-now-control-their-wheelchairs-by-brain-waves-alone/?sh=48bc97f235df
Creating Human Hearts in Pigs
New techniques in regenerative medicine may soon enable the creation of human organs inside animals using induced pluripotent stem cells. This technology has the potential to solve the organ scarcity problem by providing a limitless source of personalised organs for transplantation, but also raises several ethical issues, particularly concerning animal welfare, the ‘human features’ problem and human dignity.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25378549/
Science has a habit to catch up with science fiction. Ten years ago, a plot suggesting someone could be identified at a distance by the subtle specifics of his heartbeat would have been called far fetched. Now, it’s here, as reported by the Economist. Surveillance technologies, definitely an area worth watching.
Now this is a nice one: Just managed to pretend making sense of the concept of dark matter and energy, and what happens? The whole circus moves on to dark fluids. Physicists, one has to love the guys!
Let’s get that procrastination gene edited
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience reports the first step to a life without procrastination, if such was desirable. Or to an excellent excuse. Who could blame anyone for behaving as primed. Quest for the free will gene, anyone? Troim and the admin are volunteering, because anecdotal evidence suggest…
Next step: Genomic teaching
Worms pass on acquired knowledge to their offspring, reports The Scientist. Will future parents want to make sure their kids excel at path finding and danger avoidance? Could a talent for maths get inserted into the genome prenatally? Once we understand how c. elegans does it, some folks will start clamouring for a catalogue and we are but one billionaire’s fancy away from…
Ready for intermittency?
Low Tech Magazine is perfectly real, and very laudable. This project gives us an idea how a sustainable world is going to work. Takes quite a lot of precautions, to keep just one website online, for most of the time. Perfect template for extrapolation. Solarpunk surgery? Sowing and harvesting? Food processing?
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.
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
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?…
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.
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.
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.
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 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.