In a lab at Harvard Medical School, a man is using his mind to wag a rat’s tail. To send his command, he merely glances at a strobe light flickering on a computer screen, and a set of electrodes stuck to his scalp detects the activity triggered in his brain. A computer processes and relays the electrodes’ signal to an ultrasound machine poised over the rat’s head. The machine delivers a train of low-energy ultrasound pulses into the rat’s brain, stimulating its motor cortex – the area that governs its movements. The pulses are aimed purposely at a rice-grain-sized area that controls the rat’s tail. It starts to wag.
This link-up is the brainchild of Seung-Schik Yoo, and it works more than 94% of the time. Whenever a human looks at the flickering lights, the rat’s tail almost always starts to wag just over a second later. The connection between them is undeniably simple. The volunteer is basically flicking a switch in the rat’s brain between two positions – move tail, and don’t move tail. But it is still an impressive early example of something we will see more of in coming years – a way to connect between two living brains.
Science-fiction is full of similar (if more flamboyant) brain-to-brain links. From the Jedi knights of Star Wars to various characters in the X-Men comics, popular culture abounds with telepathic characters that can read minds and transmit their thoughts without any direct physical contact or the use of their senses. There’s no evidence that any of us mere mortals share the same ability, but as Yoo’s study shows, technology is edging us closer in that direction. The question is: how far can we recreate telepathy using electronics? A human wagging a rat’s tail is one thing. Will we ever get to the point where we can share speech or emotions or memories?
Excerpt from an article written by Ed Yong at Phenomena/NatGeo. Continue HERE
“If you are interested in the use of graphic art and communication in political struggles, don’t miss the latest issue of Signal, which has just come out. The first issue appeared in 2010, and for the last few months Amazon has been sending status updates saying that the new issue would be later than expected. The publishers must have unjammed the logs, though, and in the end it arrived early.
I can’t think of any other design or visual arts publication quite like Signal in form and content. “Journal” is exactly the right word here because Signal, published by PM Press in Oakland, California, is half way between a magazine and a book in appearance and tone. Its dinky size, combined with astutely pitched, matt-laminated cover designs, make it immediately intriguing and attractive. The page design is poised between scholarly seriousness and newsstand techniques of appeal. Signal is generously illustrated and would be rewarding merely to browse, but everything about it says: read this (because it will be a pleasure).”
Excerpt from an article written by Rick Poynor at Design Observer. Continue HERE
When the Cold War ended, the work of America’s intelligence analysts suddenly became vastly more difficult. In the past, they had known who the nation’s main adversaries were and what bits of information they needed to acquire about them: the number of SS-9 missiles Moscow could deploy, for example, or the number of warheads each missile could carry. The U.S. intelligence community had been in search of secrets—facts that exist but are hidden by one government from another. After the Soviet Union’s collapse, as Bruce Berkowitz and Allan Goodman observe in Best Truth: Intelligence in the Information Age (2002), it found a new role thrust upon it: the untangling of mysteries.
Computer security expert Susan Landau identifies the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran as one of the first indicators that the intelligence community needed to shift its focus from secrets to mysteries. On its surface, Iran was a strong, stable ally of the United States, an “island of stability” in the region, according to President Jimmy Carter. The rapid ouster of the shah and a referendum that turned a monarchy into a theocracy led by a formerly exiled religious scholar left governments around the world shocked and baffled.
Excerpt of an article written by Ethan Zuckerman, at The Wilson Quarterly. Continue HERE
This year’s Microsoft’s Imagine Cup in Sydney, has produced a finalist project called EnableTalk by the Ukrainian team QuadSquad. The gloves automatically translate sign language into spoken words with the aide of a text-to-speech engine.
Worldwide, there are currently about 40 million deaf, mute and deaf-mute people and many of them use sign language to communicate. The problem is, there are very few people who actually understand sign language.
MAS Context, a quarterly journal created by MAS Studio, addresses issues that affect the urban context. Each issue delivers a comprehensive view of a single topic through the active participation of people from different fields and different perspectives who, together, instigate the debate.
MAS Context is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization based in Chicago, Illinois. Donations to MAS Context are tax-deductible.
WE live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.
At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates. My students tell me about an important new skill: it involves maintaining eye contact with someone while you text someone else; it’s hard, but it can be done.
Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile connection and talked to hundreds of people of all ages and circumstances about their plugged-in lives. I’ve learned that the little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are.
Excerpt of an article written by SHERRY TURKLE, at NYT. Continue HERE
Adrian Owen still gets animated when he talks about patient 23. The patient was only 24 years old when his life was devastated by a car accident. Alive but unresponsive, he had been languishing in what neurologists refer to as a vegetative state for five years, when Owen, a neuro-scientist then at the University of Cambridge, UK, and his colleagues at the University of Liège in Belgium, put him into a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine and started asking him questions.
Incredibly, he provided answers. A change in blood flow to certain parts of the man’s injured brain convinced Owen that patient 23 was conscious and able to communicate. It was the first time that anyone had exchanged information with someone in a vegetative state.
Excerpt of an article written by David Cyranoski, at Nature. Continue HERE
Having children changes a man. All of us know examples of that. I’m pretty sure, for instance, that the only time I ever saw my father sing was to his kids. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was pure Dad.
But is there something about fatherhood that actually changes the male brain? Studies suggest that it does, including one published a few years ago which found that new sets of neurons formed in brains of mouse dads that stayed around the nest after their pups were born.
Still, there’s much yet to be learned about the effects of being a father. And so scientists continue to explore the eternal question: “What’s with this guy?”
HERE are 10 recent studies deconstructing dad. Text and Image via Smithsonian.