Wednesday, August 28, 2013

UW Researcher Moves Another Human's Finger with his Thoughts

Tiffany Kaiser

It's the first noninvasive human-to-human brain interface to do so

Many new studies have shown that people can control things -- like video games or a cursor on a screen -- only with their thoughts, but a new project takes this to the next level: people controlling other people with their thoughts.

A new study by University of Washington researchers -- led by Rajesh Rao and Andrea Stocco -- created the first human-to-human brain interface that is noninvasive. It allowed the thoughts of one researcher to manipulate movement of another.

The study used electroencephalography (EEG) -- which is used to record brain activity noninvasively from the scalp -- and transcranial magnetic stimulation, which is a noninvasive way of delivering stimulation to the brain to obtain a response.

Rao sat in his laboratory, where he wore a cap hooked up to electrodes. The electrodes were connected to an electroencephalography machine in order to read the electrical activity in his brain.

Meanwhile, Stocco was in his laboratory across campus with a swim cap marked with the stimulation site for the transcranial magnetic stimulation coil. The coil was positioned over his left motor cortex, which controls hand movement. There was a Skype connection between the two labs for coordination purposes, but neither Stocco nor Rao could see the Skype screens.

Rao was playing a video game with his mind, where he had to imagine moving his right hand in order to fire a cannon at a specific target. When he did this correctly, a cursor would hit the "fire" button.

Other researchers on the team (computer science and engineering undergraduates Matthew Bryan, Bryan Djunaedi, Joseph Wu and Alex Dadgar, along with bioengineering graduate student Dev Sarma) wrote the computer code for the study, which translated Rao’s brain signals into a command for Stocco’s brain.

While Rao did this, Stocco -- who ore noise-canceling earbuds and wasn’t looking at a computer screen back in his own laboratory -- involuntarily moved his right index finger to push the space bar on the keyboard in front of him (as if firing the cannon in the game).

“It was both exciting and eerie to watch an imagined action from my brain get translated into actual action by another brain,” Rao said. “This was basically a one-way flow of information from my brain to his. The next step is having a more equitable two-way conversation directly between the two brains.”

Previous studies have successfully connected the brains of two rats as well as a human and a rat, but never two humans.

The researchers assured that their technology could never allow one person to control another without their consent, and that it could one day be used for people with disabilities who cannot communicate in other ways.

“The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains,” Stocco said. “We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain.”

Dove Men + Care Man Manual commercial

Ad agency BBH and production company Passion Pictures have collaborated on an animated video to promote Dove's new Men+Care range.

The 30-second advert opens with an introduction to the 'man manual' – Dove's skin care instructions for the modern man. Viewers are then transported into said man's hectic world, experiencing a 6.00am wake up call from an energetic toddler and refereeing a child's football match in the rain.

All this understandably leaves modern man desperate for a nice, hot shower. But as a voiceover warns, his hardy exterior isn't built to withstand the drying effects of standard cleaning products, which is why he should use Dove. A man who uses Dove, we are told, can withstand multiple attacks – in this case, fending off a trio of children in a game of Godzilla.

As creative director Nick Allsop explains, the aim of the ad was to target an audience unenthused by images of toned and tanned 20-somethings and promises of becoming irresistible to the opposite sex. “These men are mostly married, bloke-y and quite happy with their appearance. They haven't got six packs and they don't want them,” he says.

The 2D animation is designed in the style of an instruction manual, with man described as if he was an appliance. “We wanted to find a way of talking about skincare that would appeal to men around the world [the ad will air in several countries including Germany, Brazil and Russia, as well as being available online]. Manuals put all of their guarantees in different languages but the illustrations work for everyone, which is why we chose to copy that style, and test audiences weren't insulted by our likening man to a machine – they found it very funny,” adds Allsop.

While the illustrations used in the video are designed to look simple, their creation was anything but: each picture was drawn by hand before being transformed into a 3D image and back into a 2D animation by Passion, and it took more than a year to turn the pitch into a finished product.

“Animation usually takes weeks and you don't have the option to make changes when it's done, but as we had 33 rounds of research to do, we needed a style that was flexible and could be produced quickly. Using the technique of creating CG men and turning them back into 2D images also makes the movement really fluid and quite beautiful,” he adds.

It's been an arduous task but BBH and Passion Pictures have successfully created an enjoyable ad that needs no translation and is perfectly suited to time-pressed Dads around the world. The largely greyscale colour scheme and old-fashioned voiceover give the ad a nostalgic feel without being twee, and Passion's attention to detail has helped create a memorable campaign in a crowded and competitive market.

Creative Team: Will Holmes, Rory McCaskill, Matt Fitch, Mark Lewis
Creative Director: Nick Allsop
BBH Producer: Helen Powlette
Director: John Robertson
Executive Producer: Samantha Plaistead
Producer: Julie Murnaghan / Gerri McCarthy

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Solar Power Down From Space By 2025

from slashdot

"A NASA veteran, aerospace entrepreneur, and space-based solar power (SBSP) expert, [John] Mankins designed the world's first practical orbital solar plant. It's called the Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large PHased Array, or SPS-ALPHA for short. If all goes to plan, it could be launched as early as 2025, which is sooner than it sounds when it comes to space-based solar power timelines. Scientists have been aware of the edge the "space-down" approach holds over terrestrial panels for decades. An orbiting plant would be unaffected by weather, atmospheric filtering of light, and the sun's inconvenient habit of setting every evening. SBSP also has the potential to dramatically increase the availability of renewable energy."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dentist Wants to Clone John Lennon Using DNA Extracted from a Tooth


People fantasizing about a Beatles comeback tour might yet see their dream come true, all thanks to Dr. Michael Zuk. This dentist is the proud owner of one of John Lennon's teeth, and plans to use it to clone the musician.

By the looks of it, Dr. Michael Zuk came in possession of the tooth in 2011. At that time, he purchased the molar at an auction organized in the United Kingdom, and paid about $30,000 (€22,424) for it.

According to The Inquisitr, the dentist is now working alongside scientists in the United States, who are helping him figure out a way to extract DNA from the tooth without damaging it in the process.

This DNA would serve to bring back John Lennon. Apparently, Dr. Michael Zuk hopes that his project will snowball into a scientific and pop-cultural revolution.

“To potentially say I had a small part in bringing back one of Rock's greatest stars would be mind-blowing.”

“I am nervous and excited at the possibility that we will be able to fully sequence John Lennon's DNA, very soon I hope,” the dentist reportedly commented on the importance of his work.

Oddly enough, Dr. Michael Zuk's confidence in the success of his scientific project stems from the fact that quite a lot of researchers are now trying to perfect a method of cloning mammoths.

The dentist says that, as long as science manages to bring these long-lost creatures back to life, there is no reason why the same technological advances could not be used to resurrect rock legends.

“With researchers working on ways to clone mammoths, the same technology certainly could make human cloning a reality,” he says.

“Many Beatles fans remember where they were when they heard John Lennon was shot. I hope they also live to hear the day he was given another chance,” he adds.

For the time being, Dr. Michael Zuk has chosen not to disclose too many details concerning how the process of cloning John Lennon will unfold. Here's hoping he'll soon release some more information.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Black American Leadership Alliance opposes amnesty

Main BALA site:

DC March for Jobs 

Facebook page for BALA

Interview with the BALA founder, Leah Durant:

Info about the signers of the petition - this site is not happy about it, but it's some info:

Paul Ryan being pressured by black leaders across the political spectrum over amnesty:

Black leaders from all political persuasions--left, right and center--are questioning House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) on the economic impacts on American workers, especially within the black community, of granting amnesty to America’s at least 11 million illegal aliens.

In a letter sent early Tuesday, the Black American Leadership Alliance (BALA) wrote to Ryan “to express our concerns over the possible trajectory that immigration reform may take in the House.”
“We write in our capacity as leaders of the Black American Leadership Alliance, a Washington, DC-based organization whose primary mission is to further the economic and social interests of the black community,” the group wrote to Ryan. “We are concerned about the irreparable damage to the black community that an earned legalization plan, or any other similar House bill granting amnesty to illegal immigrants, would cause.”

The group argues that the passage of an “amnesty bill” into law would have “disastrous effects” economically “on all low-wage workers” but specifically “that the impact on African Americans would be especially catastrophic.” It cites various research by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the Department of Labor, and Harvard economist George Borjas, among other sources, to make its case.

“As you likely know, the African American unemployment rate is 12.6%, nearly double the national average,” BALA wrote to Ryan. “A number of studies have emerged in recent years by reputable organizations, such as the DC-based Center for Immigration Studies, which indicate that black workers will suffer the greatest harm if any far-reaching amnesty bill becomes law. We are asking that you oppose the passage of an amnesty bill for illegal immigrants, because of the dramatic effect it will have on the availability of employment for African American workers.”

The group agrees with Ryan that America’s immigration system “is broken,” and said it does “appreciate how vocal you have been on the immigration issue in recent months.” BALA said it supports improving border security and interior immigration enforcement and points to some positive developments on those fronts over the past few years.

“Unfortunately, these positive developments have recently been overshadowed by the specter of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act [the Senate’s ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration bill, S. 744],” BALA wrote. “Specifically, we worry that the ‘earned legalization’ component of the bill spells disaster for the low wage communities of color that we advocate for."
"Many studies have emerged in recent years that detail the harm that mass immigration and amnesty cause the African American community," they explained. "Both illegal and legal immigration has compounded the black unemployment rate.”

BALA cited several witnesses who provided testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights who unanimously “found that illegal immigration disproportionately impacted the wages and employment opportunities of African American men.” While some experts disagreed on how disproportionate of an impact amnesty and illegal immigration has on black men, BALA notes there is a consensus that black Americans are harmed by illegal immigration.

The BALA leaders pointed also to Borjas’ latest April 2013 research. “Illegal immigration reduces the wages of native workers by an estimated $99 to $118 billion a year,” Borjas wrote in April. “A theory-based framework predicts that the immigrants who entered the country from 1990 to 2010 reduced the average annual earnings of American workers by $1,396 in the short run. Because immigration (legal and illegal) increased the supply of workers unevenly, the impact varies across skill groups, with high school dropouts being the most negatively affected group.”

Overall, since the high school dropout rate is higher among African-Americans than others, BALA argues based on Borjas’ research that “blacks are especially harmed by illegal immigration.”
BALA thanked Ryan for not publicly pushing the Senate “Gang of Eight” bill, but said it was nonetheless worried about some comments he has made in recent interviews. “Now, we at the Black American Leadership Alliance, realize that you are not necessarily a champion of SB 744 and as a thoughtful legislator have weighed the benefits and drawbacks of any major immigration reform proposal,” the group wrote. “However, we are still concerned with some of the recent positions you have taken regarding immigration reform during interviews." "

One particular concern that we have is your insistence that any type of major enhancement of border security must be accompanied by an ‘earned legalization’ program," the letter reads. "A great deal of previous research indicates that any type of legalization program will inevitably encourage more illegal immigration in the future.”

Black leaders who comprise the BALA include conservatives like the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, the president and founder of the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND), and Kevin Jackson of The Black Sphere. Liberals like former U.S. Department of Justice immigration attorney Leah Durant and former Congressional Black Caucus foundation executive director Frank Morris also head the group. Both Morris and Durant work for Progressives for Immigration Reform.
The BALA sponsored the recent March For Jobs against amnesty in Washington, D.C.
Ryan’s office did not respond to a request for comment in response to this letter.

Related, Bob Woodson:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Virtuix pre-orders $500 - Stationary treadmill w/ harness for gaming

Video demo here from previous post:

Good news for everyone who's been eagerly awaiting an opportunity to run in place. A fortnight after closing the door on a successful Kickstarter campaign, Virtuix is ready to open up Omni pre-orders. $500 will get you the massive Oculus Rift add-on, a price that includes the treadmill, a harness, those special shoes and the necessary tracking hardware and software. That price, however, doesn't include a Rift, shipping or Gatorade. Still, for a limited time, entering the "VR50" coupon code at checkout will get you $50 off.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Malaria vaccine 100% effective

New malaria vaccine proved 100% effective in providing protection against the disease 

New malaria vaccine has become the first to be 100% effective in providing protection against the deadly disease. The promising results provide hope for a future cure.

Hope for a cure to malaria is, at long-last, in large supply.
Sanaria, a company in Rockville, Maryland, has developed a malaria vaccine that has become the first in providing 100% protection against the deadly disease. The vaccine, which is called PfSPZ because its makeup is comprised of sporozoites (SPZ,) a stage of malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum (Pf,) uses a weakened form of the malaria organism to instigate a response from the immune system.

In the safety trial's first phase, the six subjects who were given five doses intravenously were completely protected from test bites of infectious mosquitos, whereas five of six unvaccinated control subjects developed malaria.

"The trial results constitute the most important advance in malaria vaccine development since the first demonstration of protection with radiation attenuated sporozoite immunization by mosquito bite in the 70s. This is a pivotal success," said Stefan Kappe, a malaria researcher at the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute in Washington, to

The trial will need to be carried over to a wider array of subjects to see if the vaccine will work on the varied strains of the disease and if it continues to provide the same protection for different genders and ages.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Federal Judge Declares Bitcoin a Currency

Federal judge: Bitcoin, “a currency,” can be regulated under American law

Bitcoin Savings and Trust's founder has been accused of running a Ponzi scheme.

In the case of a Texas man accused of massive Bitcoin-based fraud, a federal judge has ruled that bitcoins are “a currency or form of money," and are therefore subject to relevant US laws.
The case revolves around Bitcoin Savings and Trust (BTCST), a virtual Bitcoin-based hedge fund that many suspected of being a scam. BTCST shut down in August 2012, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last month formally charged founder Trendon Shavers with running a Ponzi scheme.
As we previously reported, the SEC has said Shavers “raised at least 700,000 bitcoins in BTCST investments, which amounted to more than $4.5 million based on the average price of bitcoins in 2011 and 2012 when the investments were offered and sold.”
Shavers did not immediately respond to our request for comment.
In a four-page memorandum opinion issued on Tuesday, Judge Amos Mazzant wrote (PDF) to determine whether his court has jurisdiction in the case.
However, the question currently before the Court is whether the BTCST investments in this case are securities as defined by Federal Securities Laws. Shavers argues that the BTCST investments are not securities because Bitcoin is not money, and is not part of anything regulated by the United States. Shavers also contends that his transactions were all Bitcoin transactions and that no money ever exchanged hands. The SEC argues that the BTCST investments are both investment contracts and notes, and, thus, are securities.
. . .
It is clear that Bitcoin can be used as money. It can be used to purchase goods or services, and as Shavers stated, used to pay for individual living expenses. The only limitation of Bitcoin is that it is limited to those places that accept it as currency. However, it can also be exchanged for conventional currencies, such as the U.S. dollar, Euro, Yen, and Yuan. Therefore, Bitcoin is a currency or form of money, and investors wishing to invest in BTCST provided an investment of money.
Earlier this year, a US federal agency, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), published new guidelines stipulating that Bitcoin-related businesses should be considered as Money Services Businesses under US law.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Branding for Fox News Latino

Why does the branding/font for Fox News Latino look like a label for a wild animal display?
Or is it more evocative of guerilla warfare or communist rebels?

Red, italicized, and slightly calligraphic but as if it were either written in blood or shredded into flesh by a big cat or possibly a machete. That's silly - cats don't know calligraphy.

And they used the whole map of the globe minus the poles to represent Latino?
Is this meant to include Latin Europe?
It's either a sign of political correctness, patronizing grandeur, or Fox is just plain being greedy.

Regardless, it's clearly spicy and zesty and possibly savage or slightly war-torn.

Now, I know it's Fox - so, in this polarized society, maybe you're a democrat and you think it's a negative, anti-amnesty, warning-kind-of look. Or, you're a Republican, and you figure it's a way to reach the demographic that both parties are dying to win. But, if you're an independent, it's just kind of funny and you'd just like to peek behind the curtain on the marketing.

The real question is how do Latinos feel when they see it? Does the marketing connect?

On a similar note, I won't even begin to address the notion of 'urban' demographics.
After all, some folks targeted in the so-called 'urban' demographic live in the sub-urbs, ya know.

The worst stereotypes are those manufactured by media.

More thoughts on Latino branding from NBC commentator Julio Ricardo Varela:

When Latino Branding Goes Too Far