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Laptop

New computer, smart phone app would monitor 'mental health' through social media

Researchers at the University of Rochester have developed an innovative approach to turn any computer or smartphone with a camera into a personal mental health monitoring device.

In a paper to be presented this week at the American Association for Artificial Intelligence conference in Austin, Texas, Professor of Computer Science Jiebo Luo and his colleagues describe a computer program that can analyze "selfie" videos recorded by a webcam as the person engages with social media.

Apps to monitor people's health are widely used, from monitoring the spread of the flu to providing guidance on nutrition and managing mental health issues. Luo explains that his team's approach is to "quietly observe your behavior" while you use the computer or phone as usual. He adds that their program is "unobtrusive; it does not require the user to explicitly state what he or she is feeling, input any extra information, or wear any special gear." For example, the team was able to measure a user's heart rate simply by monitoring very small, subtle changes in the user's forehead color. The system does not grab other data that might be available through the phone - such as the user's location.

The researchers were able to analyze the video data to extract a number of "clues," such as heart rate, blinking rate, eye pupil radius, and head movement rate. At the same time, the program also analyzed both what the users posted on Twitter, what they read, how fast they scrolled, their keystroke rate and their mouse click rate. Not every input is treated equally though: what a user tweets, for example, is given more weight than what the user reads because it is a direct expression of what that user is thinking and feeling.

To calibrate the system and generate a reaction they can measure, Luo explained, he and his colleagues enrolled 27 participants in a test group and "sent them messages, real tweets, with sentiment to induce their emotion." This allowed them to gauge how subjects reacted after seeing or reading material considered to be positive or negative.

They compared the outcome from all their combined monitoring with the users' self reports about their feelings to find out how well the program actually performs, and whether it can indeed tell how the user feels. The combination of the data gathered by the program with the users' self-reported state of mind (called the ground truth) allows the researchers to train the system. The program then begins to understand from just the data gathered whether the user is feeling positive, neutral or negative.
Bulb

Researchers discover environmentally-friendly process for the purification of water

water purification process
© Thor Nielsen/SINTEF
When biologist Netzer (left), who specialises in bioprocesses, met electrochemist Colmenares, whose field is water purification, they came up with the idea of a practical, microbial, energy-generating water purification system. Today their demonstration plant is up and running.
Researchers in Trondheim have succeeded in getting bacteria to power a fuel cell. The "fuel" used is wastewater, and the products of the process are pure water droplets and electricity.

This is an environmentally-friendly process for the purification of water derived from industrial processes and suchlike", says SINTEF researcher Luis Cesar Colmenares, who is running the project together with his colleague Roman Netzer. "It also generates small amounts of electricity - in practice enough to drive a small fan, a sensor or a light-emitting diode", he says.

In the future, the researchers hope to scale up this energy generation to enable the same energy to be used to power the water purification process, which commonly consists of many stages, often involving mechanical and energy-demanding decontamination steps at its outset.
Robot

Swedish office puts chips under staff's skin


Want to gain entry to your office, get on a bus, or perhaps buy a sandwich? We're all getting used to swiping a card to do all these things. But at Epicenter, a new hi-tech office block in Sweden, they are trying a different approach - a chip under the skin.

Felicio de Costa, whose company is one of the tenants, arrives at the front door and holds his hand against it to gain entry. Inside he does the same thing to get into the office space he rents, and he can also wave his hand to operate the photocopier.

That's all because he has a tiny RFID (radio-frequency identification) chip, about the size of a grain of rice, implanted in his hand. Soon, others among the 700 people expected to occupy the complex will also be offered the chance to be chipped. Along with access to doors and photocopiers, they're promised further services in the longer run, including the ability to pay in the cafe with a touch of a hand.

On the day of the building's official opening, the developer's chief executive was, himself, chipped live on stage. And I decided that if was to get to grips with this technology, I had to bite the bullet - and get chipped too.
Battery

Skin patches to turn people into batteries

Battery
© National University of Singapore
In the sci-fi classic The Matrix, one of the film's most bananas moments reveals that futuristic machines are using cocooned human bodies as a kind of bioelectric power source. Those rascally science fiction writers - always with the crazy concepts.

Well, it turns out the people-as-batteries scenario is actually well on its way. A new device unveiled last week at a European research conference is designed to do just that - tapping the energy of human body to generate power for wearable computers and devices.

The postage-stamp sized generator, developed by researchers at the National University of Singapore, actuall y leverages the power of static electricity. When certain kinds of dissimilar surfaces are put in close contact, an electrical charge builds that can be harvested when the surfaces are flexed or pulled apart.

The phenomenon is called the triboelectric effect, and the new device radically miniaturizes the approach by using nanoscale elements - plus the wearer's skin itself as one of the opposing surfaces. The research was presented at this year's IEEE MEMS 2015 conference in Portugal.
Eye 1

Psychopath's brain structurally different - can't understand punishment


Psychopathic violent offenders have abnormalities in the parts of the brain related to learning from punishment
, according to an MRI study led by Sheilagh Hodgins and Nigel Blackwood.

"One in five violent offenders is a psychopath. They have higher rates of recidivism and don't benefit from rehabilitation programmes. Our research reveals why this is and can hopefully improve childhood interventions to prevent violence and behavioural therapies to reduce recidivism," explained Professor Hodgins of the University of Montreal and Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal. "Psychopathic offenders are different from regular criminals in many ways. Regular criminals are hyper-responsive to threat, quick-tempered and aggressive, while psychopaths have a very low response to threats, are cold, and their aggressivity is premeditated," added Dr. Nigel Blackwood, who is affiliated with King's College London. "Evidence is now accumulating to show that both types of offenders present abnormal, but distinctive, brain development from a young age."

Comment: The vast majority of psychopaths never get in contact with the criminal system, but still leave a trail of psychological and economical destruction behind. The criminal psychopath is a "failed psychopath".

To learn more about this eminently important topic, see:

Ponerology 101: The Psychopath's Mask of Sanity

Bug

Spider able to weave nano-scale filaments

A spider commonly found in garden centres in Britain is giving fresh insights into how to spin incredibly long and strong fibres just a few nanometres thick.

The majority of spiders spin silk threads several micrometres thick but unusually the 'garden centre spider' or 'feather-legged lace weaver' Uloborus plumipes can spin nano-scale filaments. Now an Oxford University team think they are closer to understanding how this is done. Their findings could lead to technologies that would enable the commercial spinning of nano-scale filaments.

The research was carried out by Katrin Kronenberger and Fritz Vollrath of Oxford University's Department of Zoology and is reported in the journal Biology Letters.

Instead of using sticky blobs of glue on their threads to capture prey Uloborus uses a more ancient technique -- dry capture threads made of thousands of nano-scale filaments that it is thought to electrically charge to create these fluffed-up catching ropes.

To discover the secrets of its nano-fibres the Oxford researchers collected adult femaleUloborus lace weavers from garden centres in Hampshire, UK. They then took photographs and videos of the spiders' spinning action and used three different microscopy techniques to examine the spiders' silk-generating organs. Of particular interest was the cribellum, an ancient spinning organ not found in many spiders and consisting of one or two plates densely covered in tiny silk outlet nozzles (spigots).

'Uloborus has unique cribellar glands, amongst the smallest silk glands of any spider, and it's these that yield the ultra-fine 'catching wool' of its prey capture thread,' said Dr Katrin Kronenberger of Oxford University's Department of Zoology, the report's first author. 'The raw material, silk dope, is funnelled through exceptionally narrow and long ducts into tiny spinning nozzles or spigots. Importantly, the silk seems to form only just before it emerges at the uniquely-shaped spigots of this spider.'
Saturn

Astronomers find a solar system more than double ours in age

new solar system
© www.theprovince.com
Newly discovered solar system is nearly as old as the universe. Photograph by: Tiago Campante, Peter Devine , AP
A newly discovered solar system - with five small rocky planets - makes ours look like a baby.

An international team of astronomers announced Tuesday that this extrasolar system is 11.2 billion years old. With the age of the universe pegged at 13.8 billion years, this is the oldest star with close-to-Earth-size planets ever found.

By comparison, our solar system is 4.5 billion years old.

The five planets are smaller than Earth, with the largest about the size of Venus and the smallest just bigger than Mercury. These planets orbit their star in less than 10 days at less than one-tenth the Earth's distance from the sun, which makes them too close for habitation, said the University of Sydney's Daniel Huber, part of the team.

"We've never seen anything like this - it is such an old star and the large number of small planets make it very special," Huber said in a statement. "It is extraordinary that such an ancient system of terrestrial-sized planets formed when the universe was just starting out, at a fifth its current age."

Comment: Another knowledge-stretching discovery! Why is "science" always so surprised?

Saturn

Gigantic ring system around J1407b much larger, heavier than Saturn's

© Ron Miller
Artist’s conception of the extrasolar ring system circling the young giant planet or brown dwarf J1407b. The rings are shown eclipsing the young sun-like star J1407, as they would have appeared in early 2007.
Astronomers at the Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands, and the University of Rochester, USA, have discovered that the ring system that they see eclipse the very young Sun-like star J1407 is of enormous proportions, much larger and heavier than the ring system of Saturn. The ring system - the first of its kind to be found outside our solar system - was discovered in 2012 by a team led by Rochester's Eric Mamajek.

A new analysis of the data, led by Leiden's Matthew Kenworthy, shows that the ring system consists of over 30 rings, each of them tens of millions of kilometers in diameter. Furthermore, they found gaps in the rings, which indicate that satellites ("exomoons") may have formed. The result has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.
Fireball

Asteroid flying past Earth today has mini-moon!

2004 BL86
© NASA/JPL-Caltech
This animation, created from 20 individual radar images, clearly show the rough outline of 2004 BL86 and its newly-discovered moon. Click for larger animation.
Wonderful news! Asteroid 2004 BL86, which passed closest to Earth today at a distance of 750,000 miles (1.2 million km), has a companion moon. Scientists working with NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, have released the first radar images of the asteroid which show the tiny object in orbit about the main body.

While these are the first images of it, the "signature" of the satellite was seen in light curve data reported earlier by Joseph Pollock (Appalachian State University, North Carolina) and Petr Prave (Ondrejov Observatory, Czech Republic) according to Lance Bennerwho works with the radar team at Goldstone.

2004 BL86 measures about 1,100 feet (325 meters) across while its moon is approximately 230 feet (70 meters) across. The asteroid made its closest approach today (Jan. 26th) at 10:19 a.m. (CST), however it will peak in brightness this evening around 10 p.m. (4:00 UT) at magnitude +9.0. Unlike some flybys, 2004 BL86 will remain within a few tenths of a magnitude of peak brightness from 6 p.m. tonight (CST) through early tomorrow morning, so don't miss the chance to see it in your telescope.
Black Magic

Biotech firm using climate change hysteria to persuade Florida residents to accept GMO mosquitoes

gmo mosquitoes
© Reuters / Ricardo Rojas
Pointing to climate change and the rise of tropical diseases, British researchers hope to sell their idea of releasing millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. Almost 140,000 people have signed a petition against the plan.

For many years, the neighborhoods of the Florida Keys have been sprayed with insecticides to ward off a host of bugs, including perhaps the mother of all pests, the mosquito. Over time, however, Aedes aegypti, a mosquito that can spread the dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever viruses has built up resistance to many of the insecticides used to kill them.

The rising risk of a mosquito infestation and disease outbreak presents an opportunity for one British firm, Oxitec, which has developed a method for breeding Aedes aegypti that kills mosquito larvae, AP reported.

According to Oxitec's website, the process involves injecting a "lethal gene" into either the male sperm or female egg that eventually kills the offspring.

Comment: Last year a town in Brazil issued an emergency decree due to the abnormal situation characterized as a biological disaster of dengue epidemic during a trial of GM mosquito releases. Even though concerns were raised by biologists who reported that in some circumstances releases of these GM mosquitoes could make dengue worse, they were ignored. The corporations developing and promoting GM organisms always claim that such organisms are safe, yet no independent risk studies have been undertaken. Thus people are left to rely on the word of the profiteers whose research is kept secret.

Fooling Mother Nature with Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

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