Over the past decade, researchers have used such techniques to pick apart topics that social scientists have chased for more than a century: from the psychological underpinnings of human morality, to the influence of misinformation, to the factors that make some artists more successful than others. One study uncovered widespread racism in algorithms that inform health-care decisions; another used mobile-phone data to map impoverished regions in Rwanda
“The biggest achievement is a shift in thinking about digital behavioural data as an interesting and useful source”, says Markus Strohmaier, a computational social scientist at the GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Cologne, Germany.
Not everyone has embraced that shift. Some social scientists are concerned that the computer scientists flooding into the field with ambitions as big as their data sets are not sufficiently familiar with previous research. Another complaint is that some computational researchers look only at patterns and do not consider the causes, or that they draw weighty conclusions from incomplete and messy data — often gained from social-media platforms and other sources that are lacking in data hygiene.
A popular political advertisement from early this summer begins with US President Barack Obama addressing a crowd of moon-eyed supporters. Suddenly, the screen goes dark to a crescendo of minor chords. Phrases such as “Fear and Loathing”, “Nauseating” and “Divide and Conquer” flash onto the screen, along with video clips of commentators complaining that Obama has used scare tactics to manipulate voters. In the final scene, the iconic poster from Obama’s 2008 election campaign appears, the word HOPE transforming into FEAR as it bursts into flames.
The advertisement, produced by the conservative organization American Crossroads in Washington DC, is typical of those that have come to dominate the US airwaves and YouTube in preparation for next month’s presidential election. Emerging from both the right and the left, these commercials increasingly resemble horror films as they seek to sway voters by triggering basic emotions such as fear, anger and disgust.
That strategy fits with emerging scientific evidence about how people acquire their political beliefs. In the past, political scientists agreed that social forces — most importantly, parents and the childhood environment — strongly influenced whether people became conservative or liberal, and whether they voted or engaged in politics at all. “We now know that it is probably not the whole story,” says John Jost, a psychologist at New York University.
Imagine a city where the temperature is always perfect and you never have to worry about a rainy day ruining your day’s plans. Sound like fiction? If you live in Dubai, a city-state already known for ambitious feats of engineering, a mini-metropolis with a thermostat is poised to become a reality.
Officials in Dubai last week announced plans to build the world’s first climate-controlled city. Dubbed the Mall of the World, the 48 million-square-foot complex will feature 100 hotels and apartment buildings, the world’s largest indoor theme park and the world’s largest shopping mall.
For years, oil was the commodity that kept the United Arab Emirates’ economic engine running, but tourism is now one of the UAE’s largest sources of revenue. In a country where summertime temperatures routinely exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, officials hope the Mall of the World will beat the heat and serve as a year-round tourist destination.
Under the Dome
The Mall of the World is expected to accommodate some 180 million visitors annually, and every visitor can savor the sealed city for a week without ever stepping foot outside. Enclosed promenades 7 kilometers long, with trams for quick transport, will connect visitors to all the facilities and districts throughout the mall.
The Mall of the World’s centerpiece will be the cultural district, which will recreate the world’s most famous landmarks from London, New York and Barcelona. The cultural district will be enclosed in a massive, golf-ball shaped dome and play host to weddings, conferences, performances, and a host of other celebrations.
And if you party too hard in the Mall of the World, the wellness district is just a tram ride away. Visitors to the city will have access to more than 3 million square feet of holistic healing options, surgical facilities, cosmetic treatments and other health-oriented services.
When the weather is perfect outside, the mall’s retractable roofs will allow fresh air into the indoor city. Developers also added that the indoor city will incorporate the latest sustainable technologies to reduce its carbon footprint. You can watch the video below to get a virtual tour of the Mall of the World.
Planning a Visit
Officials have not released a timetable for constructing the Mall of the World, but Dubai Holding, the state-owned company behind the project, hopes the mall will be the main focus at the World Expo trade fair in 2020, which Dubai will host.
And how much does an indoor city cost? Well, officials also haven’t released that information.
People tend to talk about the Internet the way they talk about democracy—optimistically, and in terms that describe how it ought to be rather than how it actually is.
This idealism is what buoys much of the network neutrality debate, and yet many of what are considered to be the core issues at stake—like payment for tiered access, for instance—have already been decided. For years, Internet advocates have been asking what regulatory measures might help save the open, innovation-friendly Internet.
But increasingly, another question comes up: What if there were a technical solution instead of a regulatory one? What if the core architecture of how people connect could make an end run on the centralization of services that has come to define the modern net?
It’s a question that reflects some of the Internet’s deepest cultural values, and the idea that this network—this place where you are right now—should distribute power to people. In the post-NSA, post-Internet-access-oligopoly world, more and more people are thinking this way, and many of them are actually doing something about it.
Among them, there is a technology that’s become a kind of shorthand code for a whole set of beliefs about the future of the Internet: “mesh networking.” These words have become a way to say that you believe in a different, freer Internet.
“They are called excavator mulchers. That’s polite. What they really do is swallow trees. This one, a DAH Forestry Mulcher from Quebec’s manufacturer Denis Cimaf, consumes a 30-foot-tall, mature spruce (starting at the top, landing at the bottom) in 15 seconds. The tree that was, suddenly isn’t.”
“Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing an audio reading device to be worn on the index finger of people whose vision is impaired, giving them affordable and immediate access to printed words.
The so-called FingerReader, a prototype produced by a 3-D printer, fits like a ring on the user’s finger, equipped with a small camera that scans text. A synthesized voice reads words aloud, quickly translating books, restaurant menus and other needed materials for daily living, especially away from home or office.”
Our ancestors could spot natural predators from far by their silhouettes. Are we equally aware of the predators in the present-day? Drones are remote-controlled planes that can be used for anything from surveillance and deadly force, to rescue operations and scientific research. Most drones are used today by military powers for remote-controlled surveillance and attack, and their numbers are growing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicted in 2012 that within 20 years there could be as many as 30.000 drones flying over U.S. Soil alone. As robotic birds will become commonplace in the near future, we should be prepared to identify them. This survival guide is an attempt to familiarize ourselves and future generations, with a changing technological environment.
This document contains the silhouettes of the most common drone species used today and in the near future. Each indicating nationality and whether they are used for surveillance only or for deadly force. All drones are drawn in scale for size indication. From the smallest consumer drones measuring less than 1 meter, up to the Global Hawk measuring 39,9 meter in length.
A simple change in electric charge may make the difference between someone getting the medicine they need and a trip to the emergency room—at least if a new study bears out. Researchers investigating the toxicity of particles designed to ferry drugs inside the body have found that carriers with a positive charge on their surface appear to cause damage if they reach the brain.
These particles, called micelles, are one type of a class of materials known as nanoparticles. By varying properties such as charge, composition, and attached surface molecules, researchers can design nanoparticles to deliver medicine to specific body regions and cell types—and even to carry medicine into cells. This ability allows drugs to directly target locations they would otherwise be unable to, such as the heart of tumors. Researchers are also looking at nanoparticles as a way to transport drugs across the blood-brain barrier, a wall of tightly connected cells that keeps most medication out of the brain. Just how safe nanoparticles in the brain are, however, remains unclear.
So Kristina Bram Knudsen, a toxicologist at the National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Copenhagen, and colleagues tested two types of micelles, which were made from different polymers that gave the micelles either a positive or negative surface charge. They injected both versions, empty of drugs, into the brains of rats, and 1 week later they checked for damage. Three out of the five rats injected with the positively charged micelles developed brain lesions. The rats injected with the negatively charged micelles or a saline control solution did not suffer any observable harm from the injections, the team will report in an upcoming issue of Nanotoxicology.
Knudsen speculates that one of the attributes that makes positive micelles and similar nanoparticles such powerful drug delivery systems may also be what is causing the brain damage. Because cells have a negative charge on their outside, they attract positively charged micelles and bring them into the cell. The micelles’ presence in the cell or alteration of the cell’s surface charge, she says, may disrupt the cell’s normal functioning.
Negatively charged nanoparticles can also enter cells, according to other research. However, they do so less readily and must be able to overcome the repulsion between themselves and the cell surface. It is possible that the reason the negatively charged micelles were not found to be toxic was that they did not invade cells to the same extent as the positively charged micelles.
The findings are intriguing, says biomedical engineer Jordan Green of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. But he cautions that there is no evidence that all positively charged nanoparticles behave this way. Other factors can also play a role in the toxicity of nanoparticles, adds pharmaceutical expert Jian-Qing Gao of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. The size and concentration of the particles, as well as the strain of rat used, could all have influenced the results, he says.
Humans have spent the last 10,000 years mastering agriculture. But a freak summer storm or bad drought can still mar many a well-planted harvest. Not anymore, says Japanese plant physiologist Shigeharu Shimamura, who has moved industrial-scale farming under the roof.
Working in Miyagi Prefecture in eastern Japan, which was badly hit by powerful earthquake and tsunamis in 2011, Shimamura turned a former Sony Corporation semiconductor factory into the world’s largest indoor farm illuminated by LEDs. The special LED fixtures were developed by GE and emit light at wavelengths optimal for plant growth.
The farm is nearly half the size of a football field (25,000 square feet). It opened on July and it is already producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day. “I knew how to grow good vegetables biologically and I wanted to integrate that knowledge with hardware to make things happen,” Shimamura says.
I stand at the junction of several dusty, well-traveled roads. Passersby hurry through, chattering and laughing as they make their way from the city looming in the distance to the north, along the paths to the southeast, which branch out as the land grows less dense, winding through lakes and forests.
I haven’t been here in years, but it’s as familiar to me as if I’d been away only a few weeks. There are no familiar faces, and no one recognizes me. By memory, I make my way along the winding road and soon end up in a clearing by a lake. Trees bend over the water, dragging their tendrils across its mirrored surface. Birds chirp contentedly.
This is it; I’m home.
That’s because, in this case, “home” is actually “grove,” as in “a small wood.” It’s a term used in the text-adventure game I am currently playing, a Multi-User Dungeon (MUD) set in a vaguely Tolkien-esque world with touches of Greek mythology. I spent the better part of five years playing this game, all through high school and into college. It’s still running today, and it remains immersive to an astonishing degree, even compared with contemporary games—it has its own social mores, cultural life, history and folklore. Its political systems are complicated and well-developed, and to this day I still use some of the slang terms that were common. And it’s all presented via simple text on a screen.
Henri Lefebvre’s magnum opus: a monumental exploration of contemporary society.
Critique of Everyday Life Volume One: Introduction. A groundbreaking analysis of the alienating phenomena of daily life under capitalism.
Critique of Everyday Life Volume Two: Foundations for a Sociology of the Everyday. Identifies categories within everyday life, such as the theory of the semantic field and the theory of moments.
Critique of Everyday Life Volume Three: From Modernity to Modernism. Explores the crisis of modernity and the decisive assertion of technological modernism.
Verso Books:Henri Lefebvre’s three-volume Critique of Everyday Life is perhaps the richest, most prescient work by one of the twentieth century’s greatest philosophers. Written at the birth of post-war consumerism, the Critique was a philosophical inspiration for the 1968 student revolution in France and is considered to be the founding text of all that we know as cultural studies, as well as a major influence on the fields of contemporary philosophy, geography, sociology, architecture, political theory and urbanism. A work of enormous range and subtlety, Lefebvre takes as his starting-point and guide the “trivial” details of quotidian experience: an experience colonized by the commodity, shadowed by inauthenticity, yet one which remains the only source of resistance and change.
This is an enduringly radical text, untimely today only in its intransigence and optimism.
This project aims to raise public awareness of the environmental pollution by artistic means. Digioxide is a portable wireless device equipped with sensors of air pollution gases and dust particles that is connected to computer via bluetooth. This allows a person with digioxide to freely move around a city, seek out ecologically problematic places and turn their data into digital artworks.
Could you send olfactory messages in the future? Could you capture the scent of a delicious meal or something unpleasant and share it? Probably soon but for now, we are beginning to hear (or smell) about devices able to diffuse over 300,000 unique aromas. Among some of these devices entering the market and our consciousness, there are the apparently real, like the oPhone; and the hoaxy, like the Google Nose. Designer Lloyd Alberts has created an speculative product based on the Google Nose. It is called the Sniffer and it is featured in Next Nature.
“There is a landfill somewhere filled with all the products that have miserably failed in their quest to deliver a high quality aromatic communication experience (Smell-O-Vision, Odorama, iSmell, etc).” Lets take a smell at the Ophone. Developed by the inventor and Harvard professor David Edwards and his ex-student developer Rachel Field. According to their Indiegogo writeup:
What is the oPhone?
The oPhone is a revolutionary device that, in combination with our free iPhone app “oSnap”, allows you to send and receive electronic aroma messages. Think of it as a kind of telephone for aromas. With the oPhone, you can now bring complex scent texting into your mobile messaging life, and share sensory experience with anyone, anywhere.
How it Works
The oPhone DUO is able to diffuse over 300,000 unique aromas thanks to the small, inexpensive circular cartridges we call oChips, that fit inside the device. The oPhone DUO works with 8 oChips and each oChip contains 4 aromas – so the oPhone DUO works with 32 primitive aromas. They last for hundreds of uses, sort of like link cartridges, but for aroma. You can swap them in and out and capture any scent for which we have designed an oChip. And while we are starting with oChip families (what we call “aromatic vocabularies”) around specific foodie and coffee experiences, we will soon be diversifying these in exciting ways.
Using oSnap with oPhone is like using an aroma palette with a paintbrush and canvas. You will want to try your hand at it, or as we say, “aroma doodle”. And with the oPhone, you’ll quickly get the hang of how it all works.
Humans have sought immortality since at least the 22nd century B.C., if the ancient story “Epic of Gilgamesh” is any indication. And if we’re looking for biological immortality, we might have to keep looking. But if you don’t mind living a virtual life, immortality might be yours for the taking.
Our new digital lives have opened up countless ways for us to express thoughts and share ideas, particularly on social media. While you’re busy posting your latest selfie, something much more meaningful is happening. With each photo you take or message you write, technology is slowly capturing digital artifacts of your life. Artifacts that someday not too far from now might be reassembled into your virtual avatar.
Instead of flipping through photo albums, imagine if your great-grandchildren walk over to the latest voice-controlled computer of their day and say, “I want to talk to grandma.” In just seconds, a “virtual you” is projected into the room ready for a quick conversation. Your thoughts, stories, favorite phrases and even mannerisms are all correct. Sounds far-fetched, but not as much as you might think.
In fact, there are several companies who promise to collect your digital content and create a virtual you, including Eterni.me, LifeNaut and LIVESON.
The TellSpec laser scanner appears, at least in its demo form, to have potential. The device is a raman spectrometer that uses an algorithm to calculate what’s in your food. You point the laser at a potato chip for instance, and the accompanying app on your smartphone gives you a read-out of the ingredients.
The creators raised more than $380,000 on Indiegogo at the end of last year. Now the company has to take some big steps towards getting the device on store shelves.
According to TellSpec: TellSpec is a three-part system which includes: a spectrometer scanner, an algorithm that exists in the cloud; and an easy-to-understand interface on your smart phone. Just aim the scanner at the food and press the button until it beeps. You can scan directly or through plastic or glass. TellSpec analyzes the findings using the algorithm and sends a report to your phone telling you the allergens, chemicals, nutrients, calories, and ingredients in the food. TellSpec is a fast, simple, and easy-to-use way to learn what’s in your food. We need your help to make it smaller and manufacture it as a handheld device.
“Addressing a field that has been dominated by astronomers, physicists, engineers, and computer scientists, the contributors to this collection raise questions that may have been overlooked by physical scientists about the ease of establishing meaningful communication with an extraterrestrial intelligence. These scholars are grappling with some of the enormous challenges that will face humanity if an information-rich signal emanating from another world is detected.”
I write in praise of air. I was six or five
when a conjurer opened my knotted fist
and I held in my palm the whole of the sky.
I’ve carried it with me ever since.
That is the opening stanza from “In Praise of Air” by British poet, playwright and novelist Simon Armitage.
There’s beauty to this poem that goes beyond the ideas it conveys and the careful craftsmanship of the writer. The work doesn’t just praise the air, it clears it.
Or, more accurately, the 65-foot-high banner upon which the poem is printed clears it. That’s because the material is coated with nanotechnology that chews up airborne pollutants.
In Praise of Air, a collaboration between Armitage and physical chemistry professor Tony Ryan, has been unfurled on a building at the University of Sheffield in the UK to bring attention to Ryan’s innovation.
Text and Image via TXCHNOLOGIST. Read full article at the TXCHNOLOGIST
Right now, there about 1,100 satellites whizzing above our heads performing various functions like observation, communication, and spying. There are roughly another 2,600 doing nothing, as they died or were turned off a long time ago.
How did each of these satellites get up there? And what nations are responsible for sending up the bulk of them?
The answers come in the form of this bewitching visualization of satellite launches from 1957 – the year Russia debuted Sputnik 1 – to the present day. (The animation starts at 2:10; be sure to watch in HD.) Launch sites pop up as yellow circles as the years roll by, sending rockets, represented as individual lines, flying into space with one or more satellites aboard.
A 12-year-old student from California has created a Braille printer by repurposing parts from a Lego set. Shubham Banerjee, a seventh-grade student from Santa Clara, Calif., developed the Braille printer using toy construction Lego pieces. The low-cost invention could be an accessible solution for blind and disadvantaged people across the globe, Banerjee said.
The printer, dubbed Braigo (short for Braille with Lego), was created from the Lego Mindstorms EV3 set, which retails for $349. Banerjee also added $5-worth of additional materials, which means the finished product costs about $350. This makes Braigo much more affordable than other Braille printers, which can retail for more than $2,000, according to Banerjee. [10 Inventions That Changed the World]
The innovative youngster developed Braigo to prove it is feasible to make an inexpensive Braille printer, he said. Banerjee now plans to make the project open-source, by releasing the design free-of-charge to the online community.
“I’ll make this Braille printer and make the steps and the program software open to the Internet, so anyone who has a set can make it,” Banerjee said in a YouTube video about the Braigo project.
The printer is programmed to produce the letters “A” through “Z” in Braille. It takes roughly seven seconds to print each letter, according to Banerjee. In a video uploaded to YouTube, Banerjee demonstrates how to print the letter “Y,” and then shows how simple it is to combine letters to form words, like “cat.”
“This is so easy even my little sister can do it,” he said. Enhancements can be made to the printer’s software, and Banerjee said he now plans to program Braigo to print the numbers one to 10.
The Lego Group has already voiced their praise for the project, tweeting: “We’re very proud. Impressive work for a great cause!” An estimated 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide, and 90 percent of these individuals live in developing countries, according to the World Health Organization. An inexpensive Braille printer could bring affordable, 21st-century computing to millions of people facing visual impairment, Banerjee said.
he humanities are in crisis again, or still. But there is one big exception: digital humanities, which is a growth industry. In 2009, the nascent field was the talk of the Modern Language Association (MLA) convention: “among all the contending subfields,” a reporter wrote about that year’s gathering, “the digital humanities seem like the first ‘next big thing’ in a long time.” Even earlier, the National Endowment for the Humanities created its Office of Digital Humanities to help fund projects. And digital humanities continues to go from strength to strength, thanks in part to the Mellon Foundation, which has seeded programs at a number of universities with large grants—most recently, $1 million to the University of Rochester to create a graduate fellowship.
Despite all this enthusiasm, the question of what the digital humanities is has yet to be given a satisfactory answer. Indeed, no one asks it more often than the digital humanists themselves. The recent proliferation of books on the subject—from sourcebooks and anthologies to critical manifestos—is a sign of a field suffering an identity crisis, trying to determine what, if anything, unites the disparate activities carried on under its banner. “Nowadays,” writes Stephen Ramsay in Defining Digital Humanities, “the term can mean anything from media studies to electronic art, from data mining to edutech, from scholarly editing to anarchic blogging, while inviting code junkies, digital artists, standards wonks, transhumanists, game theorists, free culture advocates, archivists, librarians, and edupunks under its capacious canvas.”
We live in the age of life-hacking. The concept, which denotes a kind of upbeat, engineer-like approach to maximizing one’s personal productivity, first entered the mainstream lexicon in the mid-2000s, via tech journalists, the blogosphere, and trendspotting articles with headlines like “Meet the Life Hackers.” Since then the term has become ubiquitous in popular culture—just part of the atmosphere, humming with buzzwords, of the Internet age.
Variations on a blog post called “50 Life Hacks to Simplify Your World” have become endlessly, recursively viral, turning up on Facebook feeds again and again like ghost ships. Lifehacker.com, one of the many horses in Gawker Media’s stable of workplace procrastination sites, furnishes office workers with an endless array of ideas on how to live fitter, happier, and more productively: Track your sleep habits with motion-sensing apps and calculate your perfect personal bed-time; learn how to “supercharge your Gmail filters”; oh, and read novels, because it turns out that “reduces anxiety.” The tribune of life hackers, the author and sometime tech investor Timothy Ferriss, drums up recipes for a life of ease with an indefatigable frenzy, and enumerates the advantages in bestselling books and a reality TV show; outsource your bill payments to a man in India, he advises, and you can enjoy 15 more minutes of “orgasmic meditation.”
Imagine looking out over Tokyo Bay from high above and seeing a man-made island in the harbor, 3 kilometers long. A massive net is stretched over the island and studded with 5 billion tiny rectifying antennas, which convert microwave energy into DC electricity. Also on the island is a substation that sends that electricity coursing through a submarine cable to Tokyo, to help keep the factories of the Keihin industrial zone humming and the neon lights of Shibuya shining bright.
But you can’t even see the most interesting part. Several giant solar collectors in geosynchronous orbit are beaming microwaves down to the island from 36 000 km above Earth.
It’s been the subject of many previous studies and the stuff of sci-fi for decades, but space-based solar power could at last become a reality—and within 25 years, according to a proposal from researchers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The agency, which leads the world in research on space-based solar power systems, now has a technology road map that suggests a series of ground and orbital demonstrations leading to the development in the 2030s of a 1-gigawatt commercial system—about the same output as a typical nuclear power plant.”
A small consumer-level molecular scanner lets you analyze the objects around you for relevant information, from food calories or quality, medicine, nature, etc.
When you get your SCiO, you’ll be able to:
Get nutritional facts about different kinds of food: salad dressings, sauces, fruits, cheeses, and much more.
See how ripe an Avocado is, through the peel!
Find out the quality of your cooking oil.
Know the well being of your plants.
Analyze soil or hydroponic solutions.
Authenticate medications or supplements.
Upload and tag the spectrum of any material on Earth to our database. Even yourself.
The Kickstarter was launched a few day ago and made it’s $200,000 goal within 24 hours – the potential for this tech is huge. Watch the video embedded below to see the potential:
German based watchmakers NOMOS Glashütte are known for their high caliber of watchmaking and this video proves it. Aptly titled Look over the watchmakers’ shoulder we get an intimate look at the intricate process that goes into the making of a watch.
They say: “Plenty of tradition and handcraft—combined with high-tech, where it outperforms handcraft: That is NOMOS Glashütte. All our movements are built in-house and by ourselves in Glashütte. This also applies to our watches—Tangente, Orion, Zürich and all the other models—many of which are already considered classics. You can find out how we do this by visiting us in Glashütte and taking a tour. In the meantime, this short film can give you a first impression of what we do.”
Proximity Designs is a Myanmar-based social enterprise that designs products to improve poor people’s lives. Some of the affordable creations they’ve made include foot-powered water pumps, drip irrigation systems, solar lanterns and even infrastructure projects like bridges.
An integral part of their design and manufacturing process involves putting prototypes through trials with robots that use them until they break. The group says their line of farming aids all get pushed to failure by their lab’s robot farmers, which helps improve how they’re made.
Building a reliable product is important if it is to be used under the strain of daily life in rural Myanmar. A product like a manual water pump relieves farmers of the backbreaking work of carrying up to 10 tons of water a day on their backs from distant wells.
The country’s farmers are showing their approval by opening up their wallets—Proximity Designs reports that they will sell 31,000 irrigation products in fiscal year 2013. They say their work has also resulted in a 10 to 15 percent increase in rice yield.
“Including the newest one I bought, I have three treadle pumps,” said farmer Aung San. “I made about $1,200 last year, so I bought more land to expand my plot. That’s why I bought another pump.”
A few years ago, cognitive scientist Duje Tadin and his colleague Randolph Blake decided to test blindfolds for an experiment they were cooking up.
They wanted an industrial-strength blindfold to make sure volunteers for their work wouldn’t be able to see a thing. “We basically got the best blindfold you can get.” Tadin tells Shots. “It’s made of black plastic, and it should block all light.”
Tadin and Blake pulled one on just to be sure and waved their hands in front of their eyes. They didn’t expect to be able to see, yet both of them felt as if they could make out the shadowy outlines of their arms moving.
Being scientists, they wondered what was behind the spooky phenomenon. “We knew there wasn’t any visual input there,” Tadin says. They figured their minds were instinctively filling in images where there weren’t any.
After conducting several experiments involving computerized eye trackers, they proved themselves right. Between 50 and 75 percent of the participants in their studies showed an eerie ability to “see” their own bodies moving in total darkness. The research, put together by scientists at the University of Rochester and Vanderbilt University, is published in the journal Psychological Science.
How were they so sure? “The only way you can produce smooth eye movements is if you’re following a target,” Tadin tells Shots. When our eyes aren’t tracking something very specific, they tend to jerk around randomly. “If you just try to make your eyes move smoothly, you can’t do it.” The researchers used this knowledge to test whether people could really distinguish their hand movements in the dark.
The pioneering American scientist, who created the world’s first synthetic life, is building a gadget that could teletransport medicine and vaccines into our homes or to colonists in space. Craig Venter reclines in his chair, puts his feet up on his desk and – gently stroking his milk chocolate-colored miniature poodle, Darwin, asleep in his arms – shares his vision of the household appliance of the future. It is a box attached to a computer that would receive DNA sequences over the internet to synthesize proteins, viruses and even living cells.
It could, for example, fill a prescription for insulin, provide flu vaccine during a pandemic or even produce phage viruses targeted to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It could help future Martian colonists by giving them access to the vaccines, antibiotics or personalized drugs they needed on the red planet. And should DNA-based life ever be found there, a digital version could be transmitted back to Earth, where scientists could recreate the extraterrestrial organism using their own life-printing box.
“We call it a Digital Biological Converter. And we have the prototype,” says Venter. I am visiting the office and labs of Venter’s company Synthetic Genomics Incorporated (SGI) in La Jolla, a wealthy seaside enclave north of San Diego, California, where he also lives, because the pioneering American scientist dubbed biology’s “bad boy” wants to talk about his new book, released this week.