Bio · Human-ities · Philosophy · Theory

The Role of Bodily Perception in Emotion: In Defense of an Impure Somatic Theory

In this paper, we develop an impure somatic theory of emotion, according to which emotions are constituted by the integration of bodily perceptions with representations of external objects, events, or states of affairs. We put forward our theory by contrasting it with Prinz’s (2004) pure somatic theory, according to which emotions are entirely constituted by bodily perceptions. After illustrating Prinz’s theory and discussing the evidence in its favor, we show that it is beset by serious problems—i.e., it gets the neural correlates of emotion wrong, it isn’t able to distinguish emotions from bodily perceptions that aren’t emotions, it cannot account for emotions being directed towards particular objects, and it mischaracterizes emotion phenomenology. We argue that our theory accounts for the empirical evidence considered by Prinz and solves the problems faced by his theory. In particular, we maintain that our theory gives a unified and principled account of the relation between emotions and bodily perceptions, the intentionality of emotions, and emotion phenomenology.

READ HERE

Bio · Theory

Plants perform molecular maths

As if making food from light were not impressive enough, it may be time to add another advanced skill to the botanical repertoire: the ability to perform — at least at the molecular level — arithmetic division.

Computer-generated models published in the journal eLife illustrate how plants might use molecular mathematics to regulate the rate at which they devour starch reserves to provide energy throughout the night, when energy from the Sun is off the menu. If so, the authors say, it would be the first example of arithmetic division in biology.

But it may not be the only one: many animals go through periods of fasting — during hibernations or migrations, for example — and must carefully ration internal energy stores in order to survive. Understanding how arithmetic division could occur at the molecular level might also be useful for the young field of synthetic biology, in which genetic engineers seek standardized methods of tinkering with molecular pathways to create new biological devices. Text and Image via NATURE. Continue THERE

Bio · Paint/Illust./Mix-Media

C-MOULD: living paints

C-MOULD, the world’s largest collection of microorganisms for use in the arts, with over 50 different kinds of microorganism. We have bacteria and fungi that glow in ethereal shades of green and blue light, bacteria that make gold and electrically conductive nanowires, and bacteria that produce biotextiles. We also possess the largest collection of pigmented bacteria. Here is the palette of living colours that is available through C-MOULD. Behind the obvious colour, each bacterium has its own unique personality and history (see below) and when used in paintings each one adds it own character to the work. Text and image via Exploring The Invisible. Continue THERE for more info.

Bio · Human-ities · Theory

About FACE

For half a century, one theory about the way we experience and express emotion has helped shape how we practice psychology, do police work, and even fight terrorism. But what if that theory is wrong?

Forty-six years ago a young San Francisco–based cowboy of a psychologist named Paul Ekman emerged from the jungle with proof of a powerful idea. During the previous couple of years, he had set out trying to prove a theory popularized in the 19th century by Charles Darwin: that people of all ages and races, from all over the world, manifest emotions the same way. Ekman had traveled the globe with photographs that showed faces experiencing six basic emotions—happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, and surprise. Everywhere he went, from Japan to Brazil to the remotest village of Papua New Guinea, he asked subjects to look at those faces and then to identify the emotions they saw on them. To do so, they had to pick from a set list of options presented to them by Ekman. The results were impressive. Everybody, it turned out, even preliterate Fore tribesmen in New Guinea who’d never seen a foreigner before in their lives, matched the same emotions to the same faces. Darwin, it seemed, had been right. Continue at BOSTON MAGAZINE

Art/Aesthetics · Bio · Design · Science · Technology

The Great Work of the Metal Lover: A strain of bacteria that POOPS GOLD

Historically, Magnum Opus, or The Great Work, was an alchemical process that incorporated a personal, spiritual and chemical method for creating the Philosopher’s Stone, a mysterious red colored substance that was capable of transmuting base matter into the noble metal of gold. Discovering the principals of the Philosopher’s Stone was one of the defining and at the same time seemingly unobtainable objectives of Western alchemy.

The Great Work of the Metal Lover is an artwork that sits at the intersection of art, science and alchemy, re-examining the problem of transmutation through the use of modern microbiological practice and thus solving the ancient riddle.

Gold production is accomplished by the pairing of a highly specialized metallotolerant extremophilic bacterium and an engineered atmosphere contained within a customized alchemical bioreactor. The extreme minimal ecosystem within the bioreactor forces the bacteria to metabolize high concentrations of toxic AuCl3 (gold chloride), turning soluble gold into usable 24K gold.

All text and Images via Adam Brown. Continue THERE

Animalia · Bio · Science

What Cannibals Could Teach Us About Evolution

In the past few decades, scientists studying the eating habits of Earth’s creatures have noticed something strange: the babies of several species, from tiger sand sharks to fruit flies, are eating each other.

Thing is, they aren’t freaks of nature. And in fact, the mechanisms behind animal cannibalism are helping scientists ask–and answer–some important evolutionary questions. These three recent studies provide a glimpse into this gruesome diet and what it means for evolution.

Why paternity might still matter after fertilization

Sand tiger sharks have been known to have cannibalistic embryos since the 1980s, when detailed autopsies revealed embryos in the stomachs of other shark embryos. But a new study published in Biological Letters could give some clues as to why.

Female sand tiger sharks aren’t the most faithful–they tend to mate with multiple male partners. And if you’re a male sand tiger shark trying to further your lineage, it’s not just about the speed and strength of sperm. The competition continues even after the eggs turn to embryos. After about five months of gestation, the embryo to first hatch from its egg in utero (the female sand tiger shark has two uteri) begins to feed on its smaller siblings–specifically those fathered by a different male. Some litters may start at 12 but this alpha embryo will eat all but one, leaving its brother or sister from the same mister alive. So despite the litters starting out with various fathers, the offspring that make it through the gestational massacre tend to be from the same father–and they’re large and strong enough to survive potential predators after birth. “It’s exactly the same sort of DNA testing that you might see on Maury Povich to figure out how many dads there are,” Stony Brook University marine biologist and study author Demian Chapman told LiveScience.

Text and Image via POPSci. Continue THERE

Architectonic · Bio · Design · Earthly/Geo/Astro · Paint/Illust./Mix-Media · Science

Inorganic Flora: Macoto Murayama’s Intricate Blueprints of Flowers

The worlds of architecture and scientific illustration collided when Macoto Murayama was studying at Miyagi University in Japan. The two have a great deal in common, as far as the artist’s eye could see; both architectural plans and scientific illustrations are, as he puts it, “explanatory figures” with meticulous attention paid to detail. “An image of a thing presented with massive and various information is not just visually beautiful, it is also possible to catch an elaborate operation involved in the process of construction of this thing,” Murayama once said in an interview.

Continue at The Smithsonian HERE

Bio · Science · Technology · Vital-Edible-Health

How A Virus Hid In Our Genome For Six Million Years

In the mid-2000s, David Markovitz, a scientist at the University of Michigan, and his colleagues took a look at the blood of people infected with HIV. Human immunodeficiency viruses kill their hosts by exhausting the immune system, allowing all sorts of pathogens to sweep into their host’s body. So it wasn’t a huge surprise for Markovitz and his colleagues to find other viruses in the blood of the HIV patients. What was surprising was where those other viruses had come from: from within the patients’ own DNA.

HIV belongs to a class of viruses called retroviruses. They all share three genes in common. One, called gag, gives rise to the inner shell where the virus’s genes are stored. Another, called env, makes knobs on the outer surface of the virus, that allow it to latch onto cells and invade them. And a third, called pol, makes an enzyme that inserts the virus’s genes into its host cell’s DNA.

It turns out that the human genome contains segments of DNA that match pol, env, and gag. Lots of them. Scientists have identified 100,000 pieces of retrovirus DNA in our genes, making up eight percent of the human genome. That’s a huge portion of our DNA when you consider that protein coding genes make up just over one percent of the genome.

Excerpt form an article written by Carl Zimmer. Continue HERE

Bio · Science · Technology · Vital-Edible-Health

Russian billionaire reveals real-life ‘avatar’ plan – and says he will upload his brain to a hologram and become immortal by 2045

32 year-old Dmitry Itskov believes technology will allow him to live forever in a hologram body. His ‘2045 initiative’ is described as the next step in evolution, and over 20,000 people have signed up on Facebook to follow its progress, with global conferences planned to explore the technology needed.

‘We are in the process of creating focus groups of experts,’ said Itskov. ‘Along with these teams, we will prepare goal statements and research programs schedules.’ The foundation has already planned out its timeline for getting to a fully holographic human, and claims it will be ready to upload a mind into a computer by 2015, a timeline even Itskov says is ‘optimistic’.

‘The four tracks and their suggested deadlines are optimistic but feasible,’ he said of the foundation’s site.
‘This is our program for the next 35 years, and we will do our best to complete it.’
The ultimate aim is for a hologram body.
‘The fourth development track seems the most futuristic one,’ said Itskov.
‘It’s intent is to create a holographic body. Indeed, its creation is going to be the most complicated task, but at the same time could be the most thrilling problem in the whole of human evolution.’

Continue HERE

Bio · Science · Technology

How to Make an Implant that Improves the Brain

The abilities to learn, remember, evaluate, and decide are central to who we are and how we live. Damage to or dysfunction of the brain circuitry that supports these functions can be devastating, leading to Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, PTSD, or many other disorders. Current treatments, which are drug-based or behavioral, have limited efficacy in treating these problems. There is a pressing need for something more effective.

One promising approach is to build an interactive device to help the brain learn, remember, evaluate, and decide. One might, for example, construct a system that would identify patterns of brain activity tied to particular experiences and then, when called upon, impose those patterns on the brain. Ted Berger, Sam Deadwyler, Robert Hampsom, and colleagues have used this approach. They are able to identify and then impose, via electrical stimulation, specific patterns of brain activity that improve a rat’s performance in a memory task. They have also shown that in monkeys stimulation can help the animal perform a task where it must remember a particular item.

Their ability to improve performance is impressive. However, there are fundamental limitations to an approach where the desired neural pattern must be known and then imposed. The animals used in their studies were trained to do a single task for weeks or months and the stimulation was customized to produce the right outcome for that task. This is only feasible for a few well-learned experiences in a predictable and constrained environment.

Text (Loren M. Frank) and Image via MIT Technology Review. Continue HERE

Bio · Science · Technology · Vital-Edible-Health

Researchers Identify The Key to Aging In The Hypothalamus

An exciting new study published in the prestigious journal Nature shows for the first time that manipulation of a brain chemical in a single region influences lifespan.

The researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine measured the activity of a molecule called NF-κB in the brains of mice. Specifically they looked as levels of NF-κB in an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. This region is considered a deep old brain region and is involved in circadian rhythm, sleep/wake, hunger and thirst functioning.

NF-κB itself is a protein that controls DNA transcription and is involved in stress and inflammatory responses.

They discovered that NF-κB levels became higher as the mice age, and the high levels were due to increasing age-related inflammation in the hypothalamus. When they blocked NF-κB activation, the mice lived longer. Increasing NF-κB activity reduced lifespan.

Furthermore inhibition of NF-κB produced dramatically reduced evidence of cognitive and motor decline in the animals suggesting the molecule stimulates the development of disease.

They were also able to increase the mean and maximum lifespan by 23% and 20% respectively in middle aged mice by inhibiting IKK-β, an enzyme that activates NF-κB.

It is also reported that NF-κB blocks gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), and by giving mice GnRH aging was slowed.

This research is being hailed as a major breakthrough in aging and could quickly lead to real therapies to prolong human lifespan, which could even simply involve regular administration of GnRH.

It suggests that cumulative stress and inflammation in the body and the hypothalamus in particular signals increased production of NF-kB in the hypothalamus which then accelerates aging leading to decline and death. It also proves that a small crucial brain region may control aging in the whole body.

The authors conclude:

To summarize, our study using several mouse models demonstrates that the hypothalamus is important for systemic ageing and lifespan control. This hypothalamic role is significantly mediated by IKK-band NF-kB-directed hypothalamic innate immunity involving microglia–neuron crosstalk. The underlying basis includes integration between immunity and neuroendocrine of the hypothalamus, and immune inhibition and GnRH restoration in the hypothalamus or the brain represent two potential strategies for combating ageing-related health problems.

Full text HERE. Text and Image via Extreme Longevity

Animalia · Bio · Earthly/Geo/Astro · Eco/Adaptable · Science · Technology

Synthetic biologists and conservationists open talks

Female Rheobatrachus silus giving birth through the mouth.

Australian scientists made headlines last month when they revealed that they were close to cloning a frog, Rheobatrachus silus, last seen in the wild three decades ago. If they succeed, it may take another emerging technology to keep that frog alive.

Synthetic biology aims to endow organisms with new sets of genes and new abilities. Along with cloning, it has been portrayed in the press as a hubristic push to do fantastical things: bring back woolly mammoths or resurrect the passenger pigeons that darkened the skies of North America before they were eradicated by nineteenth-century settlers.

But at a first-of-its-kind meeting, held on 9–11 April at the University of Cambridge, UK, leading conservationists and synthetic biologists discussed how the technology could be applied in less fanciful ways to benefit the planet: to produce heat-tolerant coral reefs, pollution-sensing soil microbes and ruminant gut microbes that don’t belch methane. Also on the list were ways to help frogs to overcome chytridiomycosis, the fungal disease threatening amphibians worldwide that is thought to have contributed to the extinction of R. silus.

Excerpt from an article written by Ewen Callaway, at Nature. Continue HERE

Art/Aesthetics · Bio · Design · Public Space · Science · Technology

3D Portrait Sculptures using DNA Samples from Strangers

Through an un-usual DNA collection method, American artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg creates portrait sculptures from the analyses of genetic material collected in public places. From cigarette butts to hair samples, she works using random traces left behind from un-suspecting strangers. In a statement by Dewey-Hagborg, ‘Stranger Visions’ calls attention to the impulse toward genetic determinism and the potential for a culture of genetic surveillance. Using DNA facial modeling software and a 3D printer, physical models are conceived – reconstructed from ethnic profiles, eye color and hair color.

Text and Images via DesignBoom

Bio · Earthly/Geo/Astro · Science · Technology

Is life on Earth older than the Earth itself?

As life has evolved, its complexity has increased exponentially, just like Moore’s law. Now geneticists have extrapolated this trend backwards and found that by this measure, life is older than the Earth itself. Here’s an interesting idea. Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles every two years or so. That has produced an exponential increase in the number of transistors on microchips and continues to do so.

But if an observer today was to measure this rate of increase, it would be straightforward to extrapolate backwards and work out when the number of transistors on a chip was zero. In other words, the date when microchips were first developed in the 1960s.

A similar process works with scientific publications. Between 1990 and 1960, they doubled in number every 15 years or so. Extrapolating this backwards gives the origin of scientific publication as 1710, about the time of Isaac Newton.

Via MIT Technology Review. Continue HERE

Bio · Design · Digital Media · Science · Technology · Videos

The Powers Project: A Re-Imagining of Charles and Ray Eames’ Powers of Ten

Celebrating the landmark 1977 Eames film, Powers of Ten™, The Powers Project invited 40 innovative artists from around the world to produce original segments for each power of ten using a variety of digital and film techniques. This new, collaborative homage playfully transplants the film’s journey from the physical universe to a unique, imagined universe of graphic abstractions.

The Powers Project is a wildly creative re-imagining of the film featuring the contributions of dozens of the most innovative artists working in moving image today. While the structure and narration of the original film remain, the visual journey is transplanted from our physical universe to an imaginary, collaboratively-created universe of dynamic and continually changing abstractions. Rather than a strict remake of the original’s realistic journey (a remake of a perfect film would be pointless!), this is more like Powers of Ten at a party. The Powers Project is a hearty nod to an important film, a celebration of Charles and Ray Eames’ love for creative play, and a reflection of the exponential influence of their landmark film over the past 35 years.

Text and Images via The Powers Project

Bio · Photographics · Vital-Edible-Health

Malformed – A Collection of Human Brains from the Texas State Mental Hospital

Two years ago Scientific American magazine sent me to the University of Texas at Austin to borrow a human brain. They needed me to photograph a normal, adult, non-dissected brain that the university had obtained by trading a syphilitic lung with another institution. The specimen was waiting for me, but before I left they asked if I’d like to see their collection.

I walked into a storage closet filled with approximately one-hundred human brains, none of them normal, taken from patients at the Texas State Mental Hospital. The brains sat in large jars of fluid, each labeled with a date of death or autopsy, a brief description in Latin, and a case number. These case numbers corresponded to micro film held by the State Hospital detailing medical histories. But somehow, regardless of how amazing and fascinating this collection was, it had been largely untouched, and unstudied for nearly three decades.

Driving back to my studio with a brain snugly belted into the passenger seat, I quickly became obsessed with the idea of photographing the collection, preserving the already decaying brains, and corresponding the images to their medical histories. I met with my friend Alex Hannaford, a features journalist, to help me find the collection’s history dating back to the 1950s.

Excerpt from a text by Adam Voorhes. Continue HERE

Bio · Performativity · Science · Technology

The end of sleep? Emerging technologies that could radically reduce our need to sleep

Work, friendships, exercise, parenting, eating, reading — there just aren’t enough hours in the day. To live fully, many of us carve those extra hours out of our sleep time. Then we pay for it the next day. A thirst for life leads many to pine for a drastic reduction, if not elimination, of the human need for sleep. Little wonder: if there were a widespread disease that similarly deprived people of a third of their conscious lives, the search for a cure would be lavishly funded. It’s the Holy Grail of sleep researchers, and they might be closing in.

As with most human behaviours, it’s hard to tease out our biological need for sleep from the cultural practices that interpret it. The practice of sleeping for eight hours on a soft, raised platform, alone or in pairs, is actually atypical for humans. Many traditional societies sleep more sporadically, and social activity carries on throughout the night. Group members get up when something interesting is going on, and sometimes they fall asleep in the middle of a conversation as a polite way of exiting an argument. Sleeping is universal, but there is glorious diversity in the ways we accomplish it.

Different species also seem to vary widely in their sleeping behaviours. Herbivores sleep far less than carnivores — four hours for an elephant, compared with almost 20 hours for a lion — presumably because it takes them longer to feed themselves, and vigilance is selected for. As omnivores, humans fall between the two sleep orientations. Circadian rhythms, the body’s master clock, allow us to anticipate daily environmental cycles and arrange our organ’s functions along a timeline so that they do not interfere with one another.

Excerpt from an article written by Jessa Gamble at Aeon. Continue HERE

Bio · Digital Media · Science · Technology

Medical Stereograms (Crossview)

Images based on CT and MRI data, to be viewed in crossview technique. See entire gallery HERE

Bio · Digital Media · Science · Technology · Videos

See-through brains clarify connections

A chemical treatment that turns whole organs transparent offers a big boost to the field of ‘connectomics’ — the push to map the brain’s fiendishly complicated wiring. Scientists could use the technique to view large networks of neurons with unprecedented ease and accuracy. The technology also opens up new research avenues for old brains that were saved from patients and healthy donors.

“This is probably one of the most important advances for doing neuroanatomy in decades,” says Thomas Insel, director of the US National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, which funded part of the work. Existing technology allows scientists to see neurons and their connections in microscopic detail — but only across tiny slivers of tissue. Researchers must reconstruct three-dimensional data from images of these thin slices. Aligning hundreds or even thousands of these snapshots to map long-range projections of nerve cells is laborious and error-prone, rendering fine-grain analysis of whole brains practically impossible.

The new method instead allows researchers to see directly into optically transparent whole brains or thick blocks of brain tissue. Called CLARITY, it was devised by Karl Deisseroth and his team at Stanford University in California. “You can get right down to the fine structure of the system while not losing the big picture,” says Deisseroth, who adds that his group is in the process of rendering an entire human brain transparent.

Excerpt from an article written by Helen Shen at Nature. Continue THERE

Bio · Design · Fashion · Science · Technology

Ultra-Thin Circuits On Your Skin

Transistors. Resistors. Capacitors. Inductors. Diodes. RF antennas. Inductive coils. Lithium ion batteries. These are the components of microprocessors, wireless communications, and energy storage. Today you’ll find them in your phone. Tomorrow, you may wear them right on your body.

Research by John Rogers, a materials scientist at the University of Illinois, has woven each of these technological building blocks into incredible skin-wearable circuits. They stick on your skin with a stamp. They can stretch and flex with the natural movements of your body, lasting about two weeks until they flake off from natural exfoliation. And since they’re in direct contact with the skin, they can integrate with you more seamlessly than the iPhone, Nike+ Fuelband or any other wearable product that’s been conceived to date.

“Our aim is to enable hardware that integrates much more naturally with the body,” Rogers says. “Conventional hard electronics, built on silicon wafers in the usual way, are unacceptable for generalized, everyday continuous use and monitoring, due to extreme mismatches in shape, weight and stiffness from tissues of the body.”

Excerpt from an article written by Mark Wilson at Co.Design. Continue HERE

Art/Aesthetics · Bio · Science · Technology

Genetically modified bacteria and yeast can make gold, pharmaceutical compounds and fuels.

When Michigan State University artist Adam Brown learned of a type of bacteria, Cupriavidus metallidurans, that can extract pure gold from the toxic solution gold chloride (a totally artificial salt), he hurried to an expert colleague, microbiologist Kazem Kashefi, with a question: “Is it possible to make enough gold to put in the palm of my hand?” Brown merely wanted to satisfy his intellectual and artistic curiosity, inspired by the gold-tinted roots of alchemy, the precursor of modern chemistry.

Soon thereafter, Kashefi and Brown set to work designing a half-experiment, half-art-exhibit that exposes C. metallidurans to gold chloride in a hydrogen-gas-rich atmosphere that serves as a source of food. Over the course of a week, the bacteria gradually strip-mined the toxic liquid, leaving flecks of pure 24-karat gold behind.

The inefficient technique won’t supplant traditional mining, but the idea of using microbes as production facilities for a range of rare and difficult-to-produce materials has been gaining traction over the past several years.

Excerpt from an article written by Gregory Mone at Discover. Continue HERE

Escherichia coli. Science Photo Library/Pennsylvania State University

Animalia · Architectonic · Bio · Eco/Adaptable

The Bat Tower: Bats, Mosquitoes and Dollars

Before the Florida Keys meant sun, sea, and Jimmy Buffet, they were famous for mosquitoes—dense, black clouds of them that hummed and bit without pause, spread malaria, dengue, and yellow fever, and drove visitors temporarily insane with irritation.

In the 1920s, hordes of mosquitoes were the major obstacle standing between Richter Clyde Perky, a real estate developer from Denver, and the success of his fishing resort on Lower Sugarloaf Key. The construction manager Perky had hired to oversee the project complained that “in the late afternoon, you would just have to rake the bugs off your arm” and that “they’d form a black print on your hand if you put it against a screen and suck all the blood right out of it.

In his search for a solution, Perky came across a book called Bats, Mosquitoes, and Dollars by Dr. Charles Campbell. A doctor and “city bacteriologist” based in San Antonio, Texas, Campbell had been experimenting with attracting bats to artificial roosts since the turn of the century, in the belief that they were the natural predators of mosquitoes. As an article in BATS magazine explains, Campbell initially thought that the design of bat architecture would be a simple matter:

“Can bats like bees be colonized and made to multiply where we want them?” he wondered. “This would be no feat at all!…Don’t they just live in any old ramshackle building? They would be only too glad to have a little home such as we provide for our song birds…”

After a handful of expensive failures, followed by several months spent in the caves of West Texas, observing bats in their natural environment, Campbell came up with his pioneering design for a Malaria-Eradicating Guano Producing Bat Roost, “built according to plans furnished by the greatest and only infallible of all architects, Nature,” and equipped with “all the conveniences any little bat heart could possibly desire.”

Excerpt from an article via VENUE. Continue THERE

Bio · Design · Science · Sculpt/Install

Glass Microbiology

HIV

This body of glass work has been developed since 2004. Made to contemplate the global impact of each disease, the artworks were created as alternative representations of viruses to the artificially coloured imagery we receive through the media. In fact, viruses have no colour as they are smaller than the wavelength of light. By extracting the colour from the imagery and creating jewel like beautiful sculptures in glass, a complex tension has arisen between the artworks’ beauty and what they represent.

The sculptures are designed by Luke Jerram in consultation with virologists from the University of Bristol, using a combination of different scientific photographs and models. They are made in collaboration with glassblowers Kim George, Brian Jones and Norman Veitch.

Glass Microbiology

Malaria

T4 Bacteriophage

Bio · Vital-Edible-Health

The Marvels in Your Mouth

Dr. Van der Bilt and his colleagues have laid claim to a strange, occasionally repugnant patch of scientific ground. They study the mouth — more specifically, its role as the human food processor. Their findings have opened up new insights into quite a few things that most of us do every day but would rather not think about.

The way you chew, for example, is as unique and consistent as the way you walk or fold your shirts. There are fast chewers and slow chewers, long chewers and short chewers, right-chewing people and left-chewing people. Some of us chew straight up and down, and others chew side-to-side, like cows. Your oral processing habits are a physiological fingerprint.

Dr. Van der Bilt studies the neuromuscular elements of chewing. You often hear about the impressive power of the jaw muscles. In terms of pressure per single burst of activity, these are the strongest muscles we have. But it is not the jaw’s power to destroy that fascinates Dr. Van der Bilt; it is its nuanced ability to protect.

Excerpt from an article written by MARY ROACH at NYT. Continue HERE

Bio · Human-ities · Projects · Science · Technology

The Human Brain Project

The Human Brain Project’s first goal is to build an integrated system of six ICT-based research platforms, providing neuroscientists, medical researchers and technology developers with access to highly innovative tools and services that can radically accelerate the pace of their research. These will include a Neuroinformatics Platform, that links to other international initiatives, bringing together data and knowledge from neuroscientists around the world and making it available to the scientific community; a Brain Simulation Platform, that integrates this information in unifying computer models, making it possible to identify missing data, and allowing in silico experiments, impossible in the lab; a High Performance Computing Platform that provides the interactive supercomputing technology neuroscientists need for data-intensive modeling and simulations; a Medical Informatics Platform that federates clinical data from around the world, providing researchers with new mathematical tools to search for biological signatures of disease; a Neuromorphic Computing Platform that makes it possible to translate brain models into a new class of hardware devices and to test their applications; a Neurorobotics Platform, allowing neuroscience and industry researchers to experiment with virtual robots controlled by brain models developed in the project. The platforms are all based on previous pioneering work by the partners and will be available for internal testing within eighteen months of the start of the project. Within thirty months, the platforms will be open for use by the community, receiving continuous upgrades to their capabilities, for the duration of the project.

The second goal of the project is to trigger and drive a global, collaborative effort that uses the platforms to address fundamental issues in future neuroscience, future medicine and future computing. A significant and steadily growing proportion of the budget will fund research by groups outside the original HBP Consortium, working on themes of their own choosing. Proposals for projects will be solicited through competitive calls for proposals and evaluated by independent peer review.

The end result will be not just a new understanding of the brain but transformational new ICT. As modern computers exploit ever-higher numbers of parallel computing elements, they face a power wall: power consumption rises with the number of processors, potentially to unsustainable levels. By contrast, the brain manages billions of processing units connected via kilometres of fibres and trillions of synapses, while consuming no more power than a light bulb. Understanding how it does this – the way it computes reliably with unreliable elements, the way the different elements of the brain communicate – can provide the key not only to a completely new category of hardware (Neuromorphic Computing Systems) but to a paradigm shift for computing as a whole, moving away from current models of “bit precise” computing towards new techniques that exploit the stochastic behaviour of simple, very fast, low-power computing devices embedded in intensely recursive architectures. The economic and industrial impact of such a shift is potentially enormous.

Text via The Human Brain Project

Animalia · Bio · Science · Technology · Videos

De-Extinction: The Case for Reviving Extinct Species

Many extinct species—from the passenger pigeon to the woolly mammoth—might now be reclassified as “bodily, but not genetically, extinct.” They’re dead, but their DNA is recoverable from museum specimens and fossils, even those up to 200,000 years old.

Thanks to new developments in genetic technology, that DNA may eventually bring the animals back to life. Only species whose DNA is too old to be recovered, such as dinosaurs, are the ones to consider totally extinct, bodily and genetically.

But why bring vanished creatures back to life? It will be expensive and difficult. It will take decades. It won’t always succeed. Why even try?

Excerpt from an article written by Stewart Brand for National Geographic News. Continue THERE

Animalia · Bio · Design · Performativity · Science · Sculpt/Install

Algaculture Symbiosis Suit

Will humans be compared to lichen, sea slugs and salamanders in the future? With the future in mind, U.K.-based designers Michiko Nitta and Michael Burton study and design alternative ways to fuel the body. Algaculture offers a symbiotic relationship between humans and algae. It proposes humans to be semi-photosynthetic allowing us to gain food from light, the way plants do and, apparently, lichen, sea slugs and salamanders. Burton and Nitta have come up with an Algaculture Symbiosis Suit enabling the mutually beneficial relationship with algae to occur. Last September, one of these suits was used in The Algae Opera at the V&A in London. An opera singer sang using her large lung capacity to produce high-quality algae-product. The photosynthetic plant-like organisms fed on the carbon dioxide from the singer’s breath, creating a sample of the future food source. The audience was not only invited to appreciate her music, but also to savor her unique blend of algae. If you think this sounds unappealing, think again; Burton & Nitta’s Republic of Salivation is much harder to swallow.

Text and Image via Collabcubed

Animalia · Bio · Earthly/Geo/Astro · Science

New Lizard Species Found in Peru Look Like Evil Dinosaur Hybrids

If these lizards were larger, they’d look like featherless dinosaurs: With spiky spines and gleaming red eyes, two newly described species of wood lizard look a bit like stegosaur-evil velociraptor hybrids.

The lizards, reported Mar. 15 in ZooKeys, live in the Peruvian mountains and belong to the genus Enyalioides, which includes 10 previously described species. After comparing the lizards’ morphology and genetic sequences with known wood lizards, a team of scientists concluded that they could add two new members to a group most commonly found in Central and South America.

One of the lizards is now named E. azulae, after the Cordillera Azul mountain range in northeastern Peru, where it was first discovered in 2010. The 10-centimeter long lizard lives in montane forests at 1,100 meters elevation, near the Rio Huallaga basin. Males are flecked with bright green, while females are more dusty brown and resemble juveniles in color.

The other newly described lizard is E. binzayedi, after Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates, who created a conservation fund to support international conservation projects. This 12-centimeter long lizard bears more pronounced dorsal spikes, and is more colorful, than E. azulae — though not as colorful as E. rubrigularis, another species described by several of the same authors in 2009.

Text by Nadia Drake. See more at WIRED

Animalia · Bio · Science · Technology

The Power of Swarms Can Help Us Fight Cancer, Understand the Brain, and Predict the Future

Thanks to new observation technologies, powerful software, and statistical methods, the mechanics of collectives are being revealed. Indeed, enough physicists, biologists, and engineers have gotten involved that the science itself seems to be hitting a density-dependent shift. Without obvious leaders or an overarching plan, this collective of the collective-obsessed is finding that the rules that produce majestic cohesion out of local jostling turn up in everything from neurons to human beings. Behavior that seems impossibly complex can have disarmingly simple foundations. And the rules may explain everything from how cancer spreads to how the brain works and how armadas of robot-driven cars might someday navigate highways. The way individuals work together may actually be more important than the way they work alone.

Excerpt from an article written by Ed Yong at WIRED. Continue THERE

Bio · Human-ities · Philosophy · Science · Theory

SPLIT BRAIN, SPLIT VIEWS

1) Given that the brain consists in a mass of connections, whose power depends on the number and complexity of those connections, why is it divided? Or is that just random, and we should give up trying to find a pattern which make sense in terms of evolutionary advantage? (Animal ethologists have already found that asymmetry is an evolutionary advantage, and some of the reasons why – I take those into account in the book.) 
2) Is it logical or just a prejudice to dismiss the idea that there are significant hemisphere differences? 
3) If it is logical, why? If it is not logical, should we not all be interested in what sort of difference this might be? 
4) If not, why not? If so, what sort of difference would he himself suggest? 
5) Failing any suggestion of his own, why is he opposed to others making suggestions? 
6) Since it is in the nature of a general question that the answer will be general, what sort of criticism is it that an answer that has been offered is general in nature (though highly specific in its unfolding of the many aspects of cerebral function involved, of the implications for the phenomenological world, and in the data that are adduced)? 
7) It is in the nature of generalisations that they are general. It is also almost always the case that there will be exceptions. Does that mean that no generalisations should ever be attempted for fear of being called generalisations or because there are exceptions? 
8) I have never tried to hide the difficulties surrounding generalisations. My book is replete with caveats, qualifications, and admonitions to the reader. Does either KM or Ray Tallis think they have said anything substantial by calling a generalisation ‘sweeping’? What kind of generalisation is not, other than one that is qualified?

Excerpt from a response from Kenan Malik to Iain McGilchrist. Read it HERE

Kenan Malik is an Indian-born English writer, lecturer and broadcaster, trained in neurobiology and the history of science.

Iain McGilchrist is a psychiatrist, doctor, writer, and former Oxford literary scholar. McGilchrist came to prominence after the publication of his book The Master and His Emissary, subtitled The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.