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Sun, 25 Sep 2016
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Science & Technology


Scientists develop new 'mind reading' analysis that decodes emotion flickering across brain

© Philip Kragel, Kevin LaBar, Duke University
A Duke team has mapped the distinct patterns of brain activity that correspond to seven different emotional states. The brain anatomy presented here is an average of data from 32 study subjects.
New statistical analysis powers "mind reading" ability

As you relax and let your mind drift aimlessly, you might remember a pleasant vacation, an angry confrontation in traffic or maybe the loss of a loved one.

And now a team of researchers at Duke University say they can see those various emotional states flickering across the human brain.

"It's getting to be a bit like mind-reading," said Kevin LaBar, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke. "Earlier studies have shown that functional MRI can identify whether a person is thinking about a face or a house. Our study is the first to show that specific emotions like fear and anger can be decoded from these scans as well."

The data produced by a functional MRI hasn't changed, but the group is applying new multivariate statistics to the scans of brain activity to see different emotions as networks of activity distributed across areas of the conscious and unconscious brain.

These networks were first mapped by the team in a March 2015 paper in the journal Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. They identified seven different patterns of brain activity reflecting contentment, amusement, surprise, fear, anger, sadness and neutrality.

To build these maps, they had put 32 research subjects into the scanner and exposed them to two music clips and two film clips that had been shown to induce each of the seven emotions. The subjects also completed self-report questionnaires on their mood states for further validation.


Walmart patents a self-driving shopping cart

© U.S. Patent Office
The Roomba-like device, seen under the cart, would slide into position and pull the cart.
If it has wheels, there's a good chance someone, somewhere is going figuring out how to make it roll on its own.

Last week, for example, the United States government granted Walmart's patent request (thank you, Patent Yogi) for a system of self-driving shopping carts. Forget yanking carts from a train of clanking metal, or wheeling the things back to their corrals after your car is loaded.

The carts themselves won't change; instead, a fleet of Roomba-like transport units would slide under carts and ferry them through the store.

According to Walmart's patent request, customers will be able to summon one of these cart-pullers — each equipped with cameras and sensors — with their "user interface device", perhaps a smartphone app, and a motorized unit will attach to a cart parked in a docking station and pull it to the customer. Once customer and cart meet, the transport unit will serve as a personal store escort.


1bn stars mapped by 3D Gaia satellite

© ESA / Gaia / DPAC
The European Space Agency (ESA) has released the most detailed map of the Milky Way to date after cataloging the precise positions and brightness of more than 1.1 billion stars.TrendsViral

The 3D map released Wednesday, is based on observations from ESA's Gaia spacecraft, which was launched in 2013 with the express purpose of charting the most detailed map ever of the stars in our galaxy.


Eclipse of the harvest moon on 16th September

According to folklore, this Friday's full moon is the Harvest Moon--a bright orb that shines down on the ripening fields of the northern hemisphere, allowing farmers to harvest their crops late into the night. The Harvest Moon of Sept. 16th won't be as bright as usual, though. It's going to pass through Earth's shadow, producing a penumbral lunar eclipse.

© Shadow and Substance
This is a penumbral eclipse of the Moon that is centered south of India. For us in the United States, we will not see it. This eclipse is interesting, because it appears like a cloud is shading the northern portion of the Moon. If you were on the Moon, looking back towards Earth, the Sun would appear partially eclipsed. If you are in the eastern hemisphere, try looking for it. (Information derived from USNO.)
A penumbral eclipse happens when the Moon passes through the pale outskirts of Earth's shadow. It is much less dramatic than a total lunar eclipse. In fact, when observers are not alerted beforehand, they often do not realize an eclipse is underway. Nevertheless, the subtle shadow of Earth is visible to the naked eye if you know it's there.

Life Preserver

Russian scientists discover that treating cells with cold plasma leads to their regeneration and rejuvenation

Fig. 1. Low-temperature plasma generator. Left: (1) gas flow, (2) SHF electrode, (3) plasma jet, (4) power source, (5) ground electrode. Right: (6) metal tube, (7) power, (8) plasma jet.
Russian scientists have found that treating cells with cold plasma leads to their regeneration and rejuvenation. This result can be used to develop a plasma therapy program for patients with non-healing wounds. The paper has been published in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics.

Non-healing wounds make it more difficult to provide effective treatment to patients and are therefore a serious problem faced by doctors. These wounds can be caused by damage to blood vessels in the case of diabetes, failure of the immune system resulting from an HIV infection or cancers, or slow cell division in elderly people. Treatment of non-healing wounds by conventional methods is very difficult, and in some cases impossible.

Cold atmospheric-pressure plasma refers to a partially ionized gas—the proportion of charged particles in the gas is close to 1 percent, with a temperature below 100,000 K. Its application in biology and medicine is possible through the advent of plasma sources generating jets at 30-40?°C.

Comment: Researchers discover cold plasma has ability to kill norovirus

Eye 1

Now that the genie is out of the bottle, it is too late to consider the ethics of mind control technology?

There seems to be a troubling uptick around "ethics" recently within scientific circles that are focusing on robotics, artificial intelligence, and brain research. I say troubling because embedded within the standard appeals for caution which should appear in science, there also seems to be a tacit admission that things might be quickly spiraling out of control, as we are told of meetings, conventions, and workshops that have the ring of emergency scrambles more than debating society confabs.

Yesterday, Activist Post republished commentary from Harvard which cited a 52-page Stanford study looking into what Artificial Intelligence might look like in the year 2030. That report admits that much of what the general public believes to be science fiction - like pre-crime, for example - is already being implemented or is well on the way to impacting people's day-to-day lives. We have seen the same call for ethical standards and caution about "killer robots" when, in fact, robots are already killing and injuring humans. Really all that is left to be considered, presumably, is the degree to which these systems should be permitted to become fully autonomous.


Candidatus Frackibacter: New genus of bacteria discovered in fracking wells

© Rebecca Daly/OSU
Researchers analyzing the genomes of microorganisms living in shale oil and gas wells have found evidence of sustainable ecosystems taking hold there, populated in part by a never-before-seen genus of bacteria they have dubbed "Frackibacter."

The new genus is one of the 31 microbial members found living inside two separate fracturing wells, Ohio State University researchers and their colleagues report

Even though the wells were hundreds of miles apart and drilled in different kinds of shale formations, the microbial communities inside them were nearly identical, the researchers discovered.


Robot used during NY Fashion Week had to be disabled after it kept bumping into people

Robots dominated New York Fashion Week, but not all of them behaved themselves.

Michael Kors used the Double robot camera for its installation at Refinery29's 29 Rooms event held to coincide with NYFW in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. The luxury designer re-created a digital street at 29 Rooms complete with shops and flowers and the robot camera—controlled by an individual user's iPad— was at the center of the action. The robot camera was designed to follow people entering the Michael Kors installation.

But the Double robot was disabled after it kept bumping into people and signs, a Michael Kors source told Heat Street.

Comment: A Silicon Valley startup is also using robots instead of people to help run their pizza business:

© AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez


Mad scientists seek to bypass fertilization process to manufacture human babies

© University of Bath
Motherless babies could be a real possibility in the near future, according to scientists who managed to create a litter of mice without fertilizing a female egg. The breakthrough could help infertile women have children. The old-fashioned way of making a baby is quite simple - sperm fertilizes an egg, and a baby is born nine months later. But scientists from the University of Bath are questioning the necessity of an egg in the equation, after successfully producing a litter of mice by bypassing the fertilization process.

The trick lies within something called parthenogenotes - egg cells that have been "tricked" into becoming embryos without being fertilized by sperm. However, scientists had to come up with a way to keep the parthenogenotes alive, as they die by themselves after just a few days. It turned out injecting them with mouse sperm was the answer.

Instead of dying, the embryos developed normally. They were then transferred into female mice, and became perfectly healthy mouse pups. In total, the researchers produced 30 pups, with a success rate up to 24 percent. Some of those pups are now grand-mice and great-grand-mice, as their offspring have gone on to have pups of their own.

Comment: It is the hubris of humans who think we know better than nature. Have these scientists considered that the fertilization process serves a purpose that is unseen and unknown to them? There is more to the human condition and development than just a bag of meat and bones.


Physicists say 'time crystals' may actually be real

© Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images
Red fluorite crystals shown at the Natural history Museum in Paris.
Cutting edge physics research gives us another remarkable idea that sounds like something out of a science fiction novel. In 2012, Nobel-Prize winning Frank Wilzcek and a team of theoretical physicists at MIT came up with an idea that hypothetical structures exist that would appear to move without using energy. He called them "time crystals". While most physicists since then have dismissed the idea as "impossible", a new paper shows how these time crystals could actually exist, possibly changing our understanding of fundamental principles of nature.

What's special about time crystals is that, if they exist, they could break the symmetry of time and space. The way time crystals would move is in a repeating pattern, without using stored energy, in a sort of perpetual motion.
"I was thinking about the classification of crystals, and then it just occurred to me that it's natural to think about space and time together," said Wilczek about his idea. "So if you think about crystals in space, it's very natural also to think about the classification of crystalline behavior in time."
The reason crystals gave Wilczek the idea is because they exhibit unusual growth behavior, with their atoms spontaneously organizing into rows, columns and 3D lattices, without becoming symmetrical like a sphere. This breaks the spatial symmetry of nature, which maintains that all places are equivalent. Knowing this, Professor Wilczek came up with mathematical proof that showed the atoms of crystallizing matter could regularly form repeating lattices in time, but without consuming or producing any energy. They would return to their "ground state" and start the process all over again. Such a system would be breaking time-translational symmetry (TTS), another fundamental symmetry in physics.