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How Technology May Soon "Read" Your Mind

This story was first published on Jan. 4, 2009. It was updated on June 26, 2009.

How often have you wondered what your spouse is really thinking? Or your boss? Or the guy sitting across from you on the bus? We all take as a given that we'll never really know for sure. The content of our thoughts is our own - private, secret, and unknowable by anyone else. Until now, that is.

As 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl first reported in January, neuroscience research into how we think and what we're thinking is advancing at a stunning rate, making it possible for the first time in human history to peer directly into the brain to read out the physical make-up of our thoughts, some would say to read our minds.

Compass

Why Saints Sin and Sinners Get Saintly

Evanston, Illinois. --- To many, New York Gov. Eliott Spitzer's fall from grace seemed to make no sense at all. But a new Northwestern University study offers provocative insights that possibly could relate to why the storm trooper of reform -- formerly known as the Sheriff of Wall Street -- seemingly went from saint to sinner overnight.

The study suggests that people with ample moral self-worth in one aspect of their lives can slip into immorality or opposite behavior in other areas -- their abundant self-esteem somehow pushing them to balance out all that goodness.

Think, for example, of that sugar- and fat-laden concoction that you wolf down after an especially vigorous run, said Douglas Medin, professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. "That pretty much eliminates the benefits of running an extra 20 minutes," he said.

Northwestern's Sonya Sachdeva, Rumen Iliev and Medin are co-authors of "Sinning Saints and Saintly Sinners: The Paradox of Moral Self-Regulation," published by the journal Psychological Science.

Conversely, the study shows, people who engage in immoral behavior cleanse themselves with good work.

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Showcasing the secrets of Caistor Roman Town

© University of Nottingham
High-resolution images give insight into the plan of the Roman town of Venta Icenorum at Caistor St Edmund in Norfolk.
In December 2007 a team of experts, led by The University of Nottingham, unveiled an extraordinary set of high-resolution images that gave an insight into the plan of the Roman town of Venta Icenorum at Caistor St Edmund in Norfolk.

The new research demonstrated that Caistor is a site of international importance - and tomorrow there will be an event to showcase the work and to clarify some of the mysteries of this buried roman town and highlight the impact of the research in developing Caistor as a cultural resource for Norfolk.

The high-resolution geophysical survey used a Caesium Vapour magnetometer to map buried remains across the entire walled area of the Roman town. It produced the clearest plan of the town yet seen confirming the street plan, the town's water supply system, and the series of public buildings including the baths, temples and forum, known from earlier excavations.

Info

Work begins on world's deepest underground lab

© AP Photo/Steve McEnroe

Sioux Falls, South Dakota - Far below the Black Hills of South Dakota, crews are building the world's deepest underground science lab at a depth equivalent to more than six Empire State buildings - a place uniquely suited to scientists' quest for mysterious particles known as dark matter.

Scientists, politicians and other officials gathered Monday for a groundbreaking of sorts at a lab 4,850 foot below the surface of an old gold mine that was once the site of Nobel Prize-winning physics research.

The site is ideal for experiments because its location is largely shielded from cosmic rays that could interfere with efforts to prove the existence of dark matter, which is thought to make up nearly a quarter of the mass of the universe.

Cow Skull

Within a few years, the Franken-insects could be airborne


Aedes Aegypti is a tricky enemy with a dangerous weakness for travel. Unlike other mosquitoes, it can survive the cold and thrives on city life. The increase of international trade and the accelerating pace of urbanization have broadened its horizon with grim consequences. The disease it carries, dengue fever - debilitating and sometimes lethal - is spreading fast. More than 100 million people in 100 countries are afflicted every year. Fatality rates can top 20 percent. There is no vaccine, no cure and no solution - none, at least, that conventional medicine can offer.

A new strategy involves a subtle reconfiguring of the bug's DNA. Scientists working in labs near Oxford have devised a genetic modification that sterilizes the male Aedes, transforming the critter into his own worst enemy. He can still mate - but he can't breed. Any offspring dies before becoming fully developed. The idea is to release a huge, all-conquering swarm of the doctored insects into the wild, let them find partners among the native females and wait for the mosquito population to decline. Preliminary trials, looking at both safety and effectiveness, have already taken place in Malaysia. Within a few years, the Franken-insects could be airborne.

The idea of GM mosquitoes was first floated 20 years ago. But it's only recently gained the support of mainstream health officials. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested $38 million into the research. In May, experts from around the world gathered in Geneva for a meeting sponsored by the World Health Organization to discuss progress and develop global guidelines for testing. Some environmental groups are alarmed at the development, and a confrontation looks certain. This is one they may lose. Unlike GM crops, whose benefits have more often gone to farmers, GM insects address a global health problem that causes great human suffering and death.

Cloud Lightning

India turns to 'cloud seeding' to make rain

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A delay in the arrival of this year's monsoon has left India's paddy fields parched and caused water-shortages throughout the main cities Photo: AFP/Getty

India is developing new techniques to create rain artificially amid growing fears over the late arrival of the monsoon season.

Scientists at its Institute of Tropical Meteorology disclosed a new series of "cloud seeding" experiments as fears of a drought grip a country praying for the heavens to open.

A delay in the arrival of this year's monsoon has left India's paddy fields parched and caused water-shortages throughout the main cities. A heatwave has claimed at least 24 lives, with the absence of the rain's cooling effect on 45 degree C temperatures has caused power-cuts, while school summer holidays have been extended by a week in the hope of a downpour.

Telescope

Herschel opens its Infrared Eyes

© ESA & the PACS Consortium
Glowing light from clouds of dust and gas around and between the stars is visible clearly. These clouds are a reservoir of raw material for ongoing star formation in this galaxy. Blue indicates regions of warm dust that is heated by young stars, while the colder dust shows up in red.
The Herschel Space Observatory has snapped its first picture since blasting into space on May 14, 2009. The mission, led by the European Space Agency with important participation from NASA, will use infrared light to explore our cosmic roots, addressing questions of how stars and galaxies are born.

The new "sneak preview" image was taken in an early attempt to demonstrate that Herschel works, and, in particular, that its telescope is focused and correctly aligned with the science instruments, and to whet our appetites for what's yet to come. It shows the Whirlpool galaxy, which lies relatively nearby, about 35 million light-years away, in the constellation Canes Venatici.

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Uncovering How Cells Cover Gaps

Researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, came a step closer to understanding how cells close gaps not only during embryonic development but also duringwound healing. Their study, published this week in the journal Cell, uncovers a fundamental misconception in the previous explanation for a developmental process called dorsal closure.

Scientists study dorsal closure, which occurs during the development of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, to gain insights into wound healing in humans, as both processes involve closing a gap in the skin by stretching the surrounding epithelial cells over it.

Dorsal closure involves three entities: the cells that fill the gap, called amnioserosa cells, a cable of the protein actin which runs around the gap, and the epithelial cells that eventually stretch over and seal the gap. Until now, scientists believed dorsal closure started when some unknown signal made the amnioserosa cells and the actin cable contract. The actin cable would then act like the drawstring on a purse together with the gradually contracting amnioserosa cells, it would pull the epithelial cells together until the gap was closed.

Telescope

Supernovas Blast Out Hugely Powerful Cosmic Rays

© NASA
The supernova remant Cassiopeia-A.
As astronomers have long expected, exploding stars called supernovas can accelerate particles up to almost the speed of light, a new study shows.

The discovery helps explain where the extremely energetic cosmic rays we find near Earth come from.

Cosmic rays are charged particles, mostly protons, that come swooping through space from beyond the solar system. They carry such an energetic punch they can knock out electronics systems on Earth if they manage to make it past our atmosphere.

Until now, scientists couldn't be sure how cosmic rays acquire their energy and speed.

Sherlock

Ancient Well, and Body, Found in Cyprus

© AP Photo
Archaeologists have discovered a water well in Cyprus that was built as long as 10,500 years ago, and the skeleton of a young woman at the bottom of it, an official said Wednesday.
Archaeologists have discovered a water well in Cyprus that was built as long as 10,500 years ago, and the skeleton of a young woman at the bottom of it, an official said Wednesday.

Pavlos Flourentzos, the nation's top antiquities official, said the 16-foot (5-meter) deep cylindrical shaft was found last month at a construction site in Kissonerga, a village near the Mediterranean island nation's southwestern coast.

After the well dried up it apparently was used to dispose trash, and the items found in it included the poorly preserved skeleton of the young woman, animal bone fragments, worked flints, stone beads and pendants from the island's early Neolithic period, Flourentzos said.