Monthly Archives: February 2013

Two rats, Thousands of Miles Apart, Cooperate Telepathically via Brain Implant

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Two rats, thousands of miles apart, cooperate telepathically via brain implant

Nicolelis lab / Duke University

If you’re a lab rat, life is full of choices.

By Nidhi Subbaraman

Two rats — one in North Carolina, the other in Brazil — worked together on a task by communicating telepathically, thanks to implants in their brain.

Electrical signals from a “leader” rat’s brain were collected, encoded and then zapped into the “follower” rat’s cortex in the form of an electrical signal. The follower rat then pressed one of two levers based on a light visible only to the leader rat. The Duke University experiment is the first time two animals have collaborated through such an artificial link, and shows that the mammal brain can be trained to act on electrical signals from another animal.

Miguel Nicolelis, the Duke neuroscientist who led the team from Duke and the International Institute for Neuroscience of Natal in Brazil, believes that information transfer could extend to other senses, too. “You could think about taste, vision — I don’t see any problem doing this,” he told NBC News.

He says his wired rat duo show that the linking of mammalian brains is possible, but why stop at just two? “I could see a swarm of rats be informed by one rat,” he says, “Most of them driving to the source based on information from another individual,” a concept he calls a “Brain Net.”

Nicolelis and crew published their findings in Scientific Reports Thursday.

“I still think it’s wild that he made it possible,” Ron Frostig, a neurobiologist at the University of Irvine who was not involved with the experiments told NBC News.

This experiment is in many ways extension of brain-machine tech that has been on slow boil at the Nicolelis lab for over a decade. Earlier in February, the Nicolelis lab showed that rats could be trained to act on infrared cues. Rats, like people, can’t naturally sense infrared light — an infrared sensor activated a implant in the rats’ brains. Eventually they learned to follow that signal, approached the right hole, and received a reward.

In the latest “mind-reading” experiment, both lead and follow rats went through a series of training phases. The leader rat was trained to use a lit light bulb to choose which of two levers to press. The second rat was trained to receive and act on gentle zaps of electrical stimulation in its brain. Once the two were wired up together, the second rat received signals from the leader rat’s brain indicating which lever to choose. When the follower pressed the right lever, it was rewarded with water, and the leader was rewarded as well.

The leader rat eventually figured out that the clearer he was with his “instructions,” the better his chances of getting a double reward. Frostig pointed out that this training was crucial to the success of this series of demonstrations.

While the link between the rats seems telepathic to casual observer, the rats don’t necessarily know the other exists, Nicolelis explains. The follower rat feels a tingle in its brain and discovers that interpreting it one way rather than another leads to a reward. Marshall Shuler — a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University who was Nicolelis’ student in the late 1990s — describes it as a “special and powerful case of conditioning.” “What’s unique about this is that one animal is getting information that has nothing to do with it environment,” he told NBC News.

How about human telepathy?
The researchers are years away from testing this kind of electronic telepathy in people. Still, based on what is known about how people respond to brain stimulation and implants, Shuler says we might be better than the rats at interpreting intracranial cues.

“I would think that humans would be able to exploit this information even more efficiently,” Shuler says.

Nicolelis says they are “perfecting the experiment” in monkeys, training them to collaborate in a virtual game. In the past, the Nicolelis lab has trained brain-implanted monkeys to control a cursor on a screen using only their thoughts. In another computer game, a monkey pawed at virtual discs of different simulated textures, and was trained to pick one texture over the other, demonstrating one way information about touch could be fed back into the brain.

Shuler says that this line of research isn’t just about person-to-person telepathy, but may very well help computers talk back to human brains. “We’re quite comfortable with patterns arising from our own sensory mechanisms,” he explained, “What’s less intuitive to us is that, as experimentalists and engineers impose artificial patterns, the brain is able to render that information useful.”

Take the field of prosthetics, a zone the Nicolelis lab is at home in. Ultimately, Shuler says, the goal is to get prosthetics to send touch data back to the user. A number of labs have shown that the brain or residual nerves can move a prosthetic limb. What many of those smart body parts lack is a way of relaying sophisticated feedback back to the brain. The Nicolelis lab may well provide the answer.

I wants! [3D Printing Pen]

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The World’s First 3D Printing Pen that Lets you Draw Sculptures

The Worlds First 3D Printing Pen that Lets you Draw Sculptures sculpture printing pens drawing device

The Worlds First 3D Printing Pen that Lets you Draw Sculptures sculpture printing pens drawing device

The Worlds First 3D Printing Pen that Lets you Draw Sculptures sculpture printing pens drawing device

The Worlds First 3D Printing Pen that Lets you Draw Sculptures sculpture printing pens drawing device

The Worlds First 3D Printing Pen that Lets you Draw Sculptures sculpture printing pens drawing device

The Worlds First 3D Printing Pen that Lets you Draw Sculptures sculpture printing pens drawing device

Forget those pesky 3D printers that require software and the knowledge of 3D modeling and behold the 3Doodler, the world’s first pen that draws in three dimensions in real time. Imagine holding a pen and waving it through the air, only the line your pen creates stays frozen, suspended and permanent in 3D space. Sound like magic? Well it certainly looks like it, watch the video above to see the thing in action. The 3Doodler was designed by Boston-based company WobbleWorks who recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to sell the miraculous little devices that utilizes a special plastic which is heated and instantly cooled to form solid structures as you draw. I don’t know about you but for me this might have just won the most impulsive Kickstarter purchase in history. Check it out.

Photographer Captures Detailed Photos of the Sun From His Backyard

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Photographer Captures Detailed Photos of the Sun From His Backyard

  • Michael Zhang · Feb 13, 2013

Photographer Captures Detailed Photos of the Sun From His Backyard sunphotos 1

Alan Friedman of Buffalo, New York is an amateur astrophotography enthusiast who captures amazing photographs of the Sun through a telescope in his backyard. His highly detailed photographs show the sun in ways you never see with your naked eye. Using special filters that allow the photos to be captured without destroying his camera or his eyes, Friedman creates images of our life-giving star that look more like something you might see under a microscope.

In his artist statement for the work, Friedman writes,

My photographs comprise a solar diary, portraits of a moment in the life of our local star. Most are captured from my backyard in Buffalo, NY. Using a small telescope and narrow band filters I can capture details in high resolution and record movements in the solar atmosphere that change over hours and sometimes minutes.

The raw material for my work is black and white and often blurry. As I prepare the pictures, color is applied and tonality is adjusted to better render the features. It is photojournalism of a sort. The portraits are real, not painted. Aesthetic decisions are made with respect for accuracy as well as for the power of the image.

Friedman says that the filter (called a Hydrogen Alpha filter) he uses blocks everything but a very narrow slice of the deep red end of the visible spectrum. After attaching the filter to the front of his 3 1/2-inch telescope (the equivalent of a 450mm f/5 telephoto lens), he uses an industrial webcam to capture the photos. The camera can capture images at 15fps to 120fps.

Our atmosphere is a formidable obstacle to capturing sharp photos of a distant object. Streaming many frames in a short period of time allows me to temper the blurring effects of air turbulence. Each photo is made from many thousands of frames. Most frames are unusable, distorted by the heat currents rising from rooftops and asphalt driveways. But a few will be sharp. I review the video frame by frame for these moments of “good seeing.” The high quality frames are selected and then averaged to form the raw material for my photographs.

Without further ado, here’s a small gallery of some of Friedman’s finest work:

Photographer Captures Detailed Photos of the Sun From His Backyard sunphotos 2

Photographer Captures Detailed Photos of the Sun From His Backyard sunphotos 3

Photographer Captures Detailed Photos of the Sun From His Backyard sunphotos 4

Photographer Captures Detailed Photos of the Sun From His Backyard sunphotos 5

Photographer Captures Detailed Photos of the Sun From His Backyard sunphotos 6

Photographer Captures Detailed Photos of the Sun From His Backyard sunphotos 7

Photographer Captures Detailed Photos of the Sun From His Backyard sunphotos 8

Photographer Captures Detailed Photos of the Sun From His Backyard sunphotos 9

Zooming in a little closer, we get to see the details of the ejections:

Photographer Captures Detailed Photos of the Sun From His Backyard sunphotos 10

Photographer Captures Detailed Photos of the Sun From His Backyard sunphotos 11

Photographer Captures Detailed Photos of the Sun From His Backyard sunphotos 12

Here’s the telescope Friedman for the images. He calls it Little Big Man:

Photographer Captures Detailed Photos of the Sun From His Backyard sunphotos 13

If you’re at all interested in this work, be sure to watch this TED Talk Friedman gave last year regarding it:

6 Words Advertisers Love (That Don’t Mean A Damn Thing)

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6 Words Advertisers Love (That Don’t Mean A Damn Thing)

Duh Marketing is when a product makes a claim so obvious that it’s inconceivable you thought otherwise. Like an energy bar that “Helps Satisfy Appetite!” or a Hawaiian Punch that “Contains 100% DV of Vitamin C per serving!” Did you know that 100% DV of Vitamin C is so little that it’s the actual bare minimum to avoid scurvy? If you accidentally drop a grapefruit in a corn syrup plant you’ll contaminate everything with 100% DV of Vitamin C per serving. Your grocery store thinks you are a moron, and here are 6 examples of how:

#6.
Real!

A lot of food claims to be real, but it’s never really made clear what the alternative to that is. For example, if you read the ingredients on a jar of mayonnaise and a jar of REAL mayonnaise, you’ll see they’re exactly the same– soybean oil, eggs, latex house paint, hog semen. If there’s any difference at all it’s usually that “fake” mayonnaise contains modified corn starch and xanthan gum– two thickening additives with the nutritional value of sawdust. They’re what you add to a vat when you want to turn 300 pounds of food into 500 pounds of food-scented pudding.

“Real” has very little meaning in food. You can say a cat food has REAL chicken flavor because your cat doesn’t know how to call you liar and cat owners are so used to puns that they can’t spot horrible violations of language. But sometimes “real” on a food implies actual legal classification and not that one or more ingredients were replaced with quick-dry cement.

For example, on a box of Chips Ahoy!, the words “REAL CHOCOLATE Chip Cookies” appears next to a worried cookie with a face that says he wasn’t ready to deal with the existential burden of finding out there was a debate about whether or not he was real.

A quick check of the REAL CHOCOLATE ingredients, and I see that it’s made of five things, no one knows what two of them are, and chocolate isn’t first. That’s like saying Tila Tequila’s breasts are “real” because one of them is filled with actual cadaver fingers.

From the FDA’s perspective, “real chocolate” means a candy with actual cocao fat in it, the thing that gives it its creamy texture and a melting temperature of human mouth. This doesn’t quite add up either, since a Chips Ahoy! cookie takes 3 weeks to break down inside a mouth and has the texture of ancient brick. If you throw a Chips Ahoy! cookie into the ocean, the sea level drops 11 inches around the world. They added a nervous face to their mascot to warn consumers that this food will put up a struggle if you try to digest it.

Aside from Chips Ahoy!’s obvious misunderstandings of the words “real,” “chocolate,” and “cookie,” there have been many controversial semantic arguments about what is and isn’t chocolate over the years. In 2007 the FDA tried to reclassify standardized chocolate to include products that had no cocao fat in it, and it quickly turned into a war. You might be able to trick fat people into disposing of political prisoners by calling their remains “McNuggets,” but don’t you dare try to call chemically flavored vegetable fat “chocolate.” After months, the FDA lost the battle and now if you replace cocao fat with a different oily by-product of man’s hubris you’re not legally allowed to call it chocolate. It seemed like a victory at first, but by the end of this sentence they’ll realize that they pissed off the organization in charge of regulating how much cockroach debris is okay to leave in a candy bar. One day they’re going to use food descriptions against us and force Chips Ahoy! to rename their product, “Mass insect graves and rodent droppings in bleached wheat flour.”

#5.
Fat Free!

Almost every sugary candy calls itself “A FAT FREE FOOD,” as if we’re idiots. Why would we think there’s fat in a Lemon Head? Is some mad man running loose in your factory and putting a drop of love handle in every box? Of course candy is fat free– it’s technically everything free since edible glue and corn syrup aren’t food groups.

Are you insecure, candy? Because you don’t see gravy bragging about being sugar free. This label is so irrelevant to consumer health that I think it’s only there so doctors can laugh when they ask you questions about how you got diabetes. If someone is really stupid enough to need a fat free label on their candy, it does more harm than good from a marketing perspective. They’re probably telling the clerk, “Red Vines are fat free? Fuck that, give me the pizza. I didn’t come to the movies to work out.”

And nothing’s worse than vegetables that are proud of themselves for not having fat. Way to go, fat free refried beans. You managed to get smashed into a can before a time traveler from the ’40s put lard in you. And while I’m on the subject, stop labeling things “vegetarian” when there’s no reason they wouldn’t be. The only thing that clearly labeled vegetarian products do is make life easier for vegetarians, and if that’s what they wanted, they wouldn’t have done hormone therapy to turn their penises into flowers.

#4.
All Natural!

After a lifetime of eating, no words mean less to me than “all natural.” A bottle of Arrowhead water claims to be 100% NATURAL* CALORIE-FREE. Why did anyone speculate that I’d think differently? Was there a conspiracy going around that their product was bottled android sweat? Outside of a hydrogen fuel cell, where does one even find unnatural water? Witch toilets? Arrowhead, are you implying that your competitors get their product from witch toilets? Because that’s fucking crazy, Arrowhead.

On that same bottle of what I assume was non-witch toilet water, I searched for the asterisk referred to by “100% NATURAL*” and it led to the explanation, “*100% Natural Ingredients.” Oh, ingredients. That clears it up, Arrowhead. I’d like to kick the shit out of bottled water marketers just to see how long it would take for them to describe it to authorities. “The attacker used pure, viking violence… his intentions as clear as an alpine waterfall I felt a 100% natural blend of pain* and discomfort.”

*Painful Bowel Evacuation

Of all the products meaninglessly described as “all natural,” I think I have the most problem with clam juice. What loathsome lack of ethics would allow someone to make synthetic clam juice? And how in the world would it be easier than making it the regular way? Do you hold a jar under a fisherman while he jogs? Do you milk a dumpster outside a Chinese restaurant? Any factory worker trying to scare a fish into peeing will tell you: artificial clam juice is more trouble than it’s worth.

#3.
Dermatologist Developed!

If you look at the label of most skin products, it will boast that it was developed by dermatologists. No shit? You’re selling a complicated combination of chemicals designed to rub on the skin, and at one point you consulted a skin scientist? I’m worried you felt the need to bring that up. Was your first attempt at hand lotion something a janitor found in his bathtub after a cleaning supply fight?

From now on, save yourself some trouble and only tell us who made your product if it’s not obvious, like if a school teacher(!) made your cold medicine or if actor Paul Newman made your salad dressing. When a lotion company advertises that it hired a dermatologist, that’s like an airline advertising that it hired a real pilot. Duh, Lubriderm. I fucking went to sixth grade. If you really wanted to give your consumers useful information, you’d tell them how long your product takes to transform from lubricant into paste during masturbation. And even then, my response would be the same: Duh, Lubriderm. I fucking went to sixth grade.

#2.
From a Non-Insane Source!

A lot of products brag that they come from a specific source. For example, almost all orange juice excitedly claims to be from California or Florida. And while those states sound mouth-watering, they also happen to produce 95% of all our oranges. So hooray, your oranges came from one of the two places oranges come from. If you really want to impress me, find me some that you grew in Detroit.

Domino’s Pizza has an entire ad campaign where they reveal to startled focus groups that their tomatoes come from tomato farms and their cheese comes from cows. Are we really that cynical that we thought evil pizza technicians were growing crops without sunshine and turning spiders into milk? Of course you bought your tomatoes from a tomato farmer, Domino’s– that’s like the fucking whole point of that guy’s life. And I assume it’s cheaper to do it that way than to develop some kind of sinister cloned tomatoes in a moon lab. We’re all glad you’re not wizards, Domino’s, but it’s kind of a dick move to assume we were crazy enough to think you were to begin with.

Hey, Domino’s, if you have to start an entire ad campaign to convince us that you use food in your food, maybe you should stop and think about how an entire consumer market was convinced that your sauce was made of pressed tampons and burned tires in the first place. Yes, I understand that with each of your pizzas we buy, we make it more and more clear that we know nothing about nutrition and flavor. Still, we know where tomatoes and milk come from. That’s not the problem. The problem is that by the time these ingredients get to our front door they also have toenails and a condom in them.

#1.
Less Fat, Asterisk!

Sometimes instead of declaring itself to have no fat, a product might brag that it has less fat. For example, Reduced Fat Jif has 25% less fat than regular Jif. Great job. So does a 3/4 full jar of fat. If you look at the nutritional information on reduced fat peanut butter, it just says, “It’s too late to care now, so scream the word ‘doctor.’ Your dumb ass is about to have a heart attack.”

Replacing 25% of your fat intake with maltodextrin is about as health conscious as finding a prostitute with a fake leg. Hilariously, if you look at a jar of regular Jif, its selling point is “Yes, Still 18 Ounces!” which really loses its impact when it’s on a shelf with 30 other brands of 18 ounce peanut butter jars and right above and below it are different sized jars of Jif. The word “nothing!” would actually make this retarded peanut butter’s point in 9 fewer letters.

Some products don’t even make it clear what they have less fat than. A York Peppermint Patty claims “As Always… 70% Less Fat!” Cool! I’ll cancel my situps! But after searching the bag for actual context, I found that their 70% less fat is 70% less fat than “the average of the leading chocolate candy brands*.” No fucking shit, York Peppermint Patty. I kind of figured toothpaste had fewer calories than nougat.

Still curious, I searched for the other end of that asterisk and saw, “*3 grams of fat per 41 gram serving vs. 11 grams of fat in the average of the leading chocolate candy brands.” I’m not a mathematician, but those leading candy brands are more than 25% pure fat. Do you want a medal for defeating that? If those figures described a man, nutritionists would categorize him as “obese,” and he’d be so easy to defeat that you’d have to give a discount to the billionaires hunting him. Oh, were the stakes not made clear to you, York Peppermint Patty? This hunt started five minutes ago and the dogs can smell your refreshing mint sensation from 14 miles away.

I suggest you run.

Seanbaby invented being funny on the Internet when he made Seanbaby.com. You can follow him on Twitter or face him on Facebook.