May 30, 2009

Look out, Rover. Robots are man's new best friend

Industrial robots comprise a
roughly $18 billion annual market,
according to the International
Federation of Robotics. There are
going to be a lot more of them, as
they move into homes, hospitals,
classrooms, and barracks. NextGen
Research has estimated that the
worldwide market for
consumer-oriented service robots
will hit $15 billion by 2015....

Read original article here-->

May 27, 2009

Evolving AI: Review of "The Allure of Machinic Life"

The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI
In this book Jon Johnston has been able to break down complex ideas from scientific publications to a readable version. Jon examines new types of nascent/undeveloped life that come about as a result of technical interactions within human-constructed environments. He starts off by showing how machines came about, how they operate and how they are evolving.

Using these facts as the starting point for his theories on "computational assemblage" and how current research programs on evolution of digital organisms, evolving ai, computer immune systems, artificial protocells, evolutionary robotics, and swarm systems he shows Strong AI will be the result of progress in our understanding of how the human brain actually works.

I think the most unique ideas of the book are on how Artifical intelligence and Artifical life converge as well as his take on humanistic theory. It has a very comprehensive area on the history of cybernetics and its most notable proponents.

May 26, 2009

Despite 'Terminator,' machines still on our side: Scientists say AI will be humanity's 'Salvation'

Daily News May 26, 2009

AI experts including Reid Simmons
of the Robotics Institute at
Carnegie Mellon University and Ray
Kurzweil say the post-apocalyptic
"Terminator Salvation" scenario is
unlikely. "Kurzweil believes the
technical advancement of the next
few decades will herald a literal
rewiring of the human brain. Given
the shrinking costs of

Read original article here-->

May 25, 2009

Will Google be able to predict the future?

At first it sounds like some bad science fiction movie idea but Google is attempting to do just that and in fact has been using real time search results to see what people everywhere in the world are doing and thinking at any moment which also shows intentions. So what better way to get this kind of search than to buy Twitter. Rumors around the web are suggesting just that.

Recently the Big "G's" research team has hinted that the real-time search results could possibly predict the future as well as seeing the present

Two researchers at google combined data from google trends most popular search terms with an economists models that were used to predict trends in things like travel and home sales. This turned out to be a great success and yielded better forecasts in almost every case.

Recently google showed that search data can predict flu outbreaks which that could just be the beginning. An addition of real time data could add tremendously to the predictive power

In another related story a researchers at Los Alamos Labratory in 2006 applied a mood rating system to the text of FutureMe emails to gauge people's fears,hopes for the future.In case you don't know who future me is they allow you to send yourself an email dated to arrive at a future date up to 30 years

What hey found was that between 2007/2012 the emails were more depressed. Is it possible they could have predicted the recession we now face?

One of the researcher John Bollen will be doing more future research on emotional trends on twitter as well

May 23, 2009

Salvation by Cyborg & Terminator 5 talk

Terminator 4 cyborg
McG helms next chapter in Terminator saga

Unlike the previous three Terminator installments, the plot of Salvation doesn't revolve around Skynet, the A.I.-empowered computer system that controls the machine army, sending one of its soldiers back in time in an attempt to change the future. Instead, all of the action occurs in the year 2018, before Skynet has developed the ability to time-travel. But that doesn't mean it doesn't have a few surprises up its sleeve. In a development that John's mother/mentor/drill sergeant Sarah Connor (who does not appear to have a role in the film, one of the few elements from Terminator 3 that carries over into this installment) never foresaw, Skynet has been experimenting on surviving humans in an attempt to fuse man and machine. The resistance rescues one of these "hybrids," Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), who resembles a normal person on the outside but underneath packs more iron than Iron Man. "The Marcus character is a real exploration of what it means to be human," McG explains.

"You can have metal bits and pieces running through your body, but it doesn't make you any less of a man. And the question is, where do you become a machine and let go of your humanity? I did a lot of thinking about Christopher Reeve and the idea that if you lose control of your four limbs or body, does it make you less human? Of course, the answer is no; many would argue that Chris Reeve became more human [after his accident]. So where does the soul reside, where does humanity exist? Not in your arms, your legs or your torso. That's what the movie is all about—the nature of what it is that makes us human."

May 21, 2009

Harnessing science to create the ultimate warrior

New Scientist Science in Society May 20, 2009

Super-soldiers could be selected
for specific duties on the basis of
their genetic makeup and then
constantly monitored for signs of
weakness, says a report by the US
National Academies of Science. If a
soldier is struggling, a digital
"buddy" might step in and warn them
about nearby threats, or advise
comrades to zap them with an

Read original article here-->

May 20, 2009

Sending Genes into the Brain

The brain has long presented a special challenge to drug developers: tightly enclosed by the blood brain barrier, it remains locked to many therapies delivered orally or intravenously.
However, thanks to more-precise methods of targeting the brain, advances in brain imaging, and the growing popularity of implanted stimulators for treating neurological diseases, the brain is no longer off limits. This is highlighted by a number of new clinical trials involving Parkinson's patients, in which a therapeutic gene or another treatment is delivered directly to a specific part of the brain.

Read original article here-->

May 19, 2009

Tiny Machine Commands a Swarm of Bacteria

Technology Review May 15, 2009

A solar-powered micro-machine that
can carry out basic sensing tasks
and indirectly control the movement
of a swarm of magnetically sensitive
bacteria, using an external MRI
machine, has been developed by
researchers at the Ecole
Polytechnique de Montreal.
Micro-machines could one day be used
for medical purposes....

Read Original Article Here-->

For a video demonstration of this click here-->

May 17, 2009

Tiny Implants for Treating Chronic Pain

Technology Review May 15, 2009

A tiny (smaller than a grain of
rice) injectable implant designed to
treat chronic pain and other
neurological disorders has been
developed by MicroTransponder using
RFID technology. (MicroTransponder)
Radio waves transmitted by the
external coil generate a magnetic
field in the internal coil, which
powers the...

Read original article here-->

May 15, 2009

Illusion Cloak Makes One Object Look like Another

The physics arXiv blog May 13, 2009
Metamaterials could be used for an
even more exotic effect than
invisibility cloaks: to create the
illusion that a different object is
present, Hong Kong University of
Science and Technology researchers...

Read original article here-->

May 14, 2009

Cutting-Edge Robots Show Off in Japan

Researchers at the IEEE
International Conference on Robotics
and Automation are discussing the
latest advances in robotics--from
robotic cars to cutting-edge
climbing machines and robots that
can find their way around a city by
asking pedestrians for directions
and using gesture tracking and voice
recognition to interpret...  

Read original article here-->

"Project Cyborg" Kevin Warwick

A man that I have found to be a great source of inspiration for my own transhuman dreams is Professor Kevin Warwick. Professor Warwick has been carrying out cybernetic implant experiments for the last 10 years and has had great success.

Starting with a project called "Project Cyborg 1.0" in 1998 involved an operation to surgically implant a silicon chip transponder in his forearm. This allowed him to be monitored by a computer as he walked through the Department of Cybernetics at the University of Reading. This also allowed him to operate doors, lights, heaters and other computers without lifting a finger

The second phase dubbed "Project Cyborg 2.0" started in march 2002. A 100 electrode array was surgically implanted into the median nerve fibres of Kevin's left arm. The signals detected by the array allowed him to be able to control an electric wheelchair, an intelligent artificial hand. In addition to being able to measure the nerve signals transmitted down Professor Wariwck’s left arm, the implant was also able to create artificial sensation by stimluating individual electrodes within the array. This was demonstrated with the aid of Kevin’s wife Irena and a second, less complex implant connecting to her nervous system. Other important projects involved monitoring the effects the implant had on Professor Warwick's hand functions

There have been a number of other experiments carried out involving the same electrode array as Professor Warwicks like Dr. Peter Kyberd's neural inferface

For Kevin Warwicks homepage go here-->
For 8 interviews with Professor Warwick go here-->
To check out Kevin's books including "I Cyborg" go here-->
For excellent videos of Kevin Warwick's work go here-->
For further information about Dr. Peter Kyberd go here-->

May 13, 2009

In Attics and Closets, 'Biohackers' Discover Their Inner Frankenstein

Some researchers and law-enforcement officials have raised red flags about biohackers, and have called for better oversight of "synthetic DNA," an ingredient widely used by professional biologists and hobbyists, saying it could theoretically lead to the creation of harmful viruses like Ebola or smallpox.

Read original article here-->

Other articles about Biohackers include:

-"Biohackers attempt to Unstitch the Fabric of Life" from Times Online

-"Biohackers Push DIY Science in the Basement" from Newser

May 11, 2009

Color E-Paper That Rivals the Real Thing Technology Review May 8, 2009

A new approach to electrophoretic
displays being developed by Philips
Research -- moving pixels
horizontally instead of vertically
-- may finally mean high-quality
color electronic paper. Prototype
in-plane electrophoretic display...

Read original article here

May 9, 2009

Magic and the Brain: Teller Reveals the Neuroscience of Illusion

Wired, May 2009
Our brains don't see everything -- the world is too big, too full of stimuli. So the brain takes shortcuts, constructing a picture of reality with relatively simple algorithms for what things are supposed to look like.

Magicians capitalize on those rules.

Read original article here

May 8, 2009

Five futurist visionaries and what they got right

New Scientist profiles five of the most interesting future-movers and shapers: Vernor Vinge, Walt Disney, H. G. Wells, The Club of Rome, and Alvin Toffler.

Click here for original article

May 7, 2009


A film has been made about Ray Kurzweil and his ideas, with superhuman nomenclature, the "Transcendant Man". The film was screened at the Tribeca festival.

The film was designed to showcase the ideas in a sympathetic but not uncritical light:

Ptolemy says the title of the documentary, “Transcendent Man” is a play on words — it is meant to describe the human-machine constructs Kurzweil envisions, as well as his efforts to live out his own views. For instance, Kurzweil takes more than 100 nutritional supplements each day, as he hopes to live long enough to benefit from artificial life extension technologies.
Kurzweil, who travels around the world, is an accomplished lecturer and his audiences are largely self-selecting enthusiasts.
The film is available on torrent.

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Research gives clues for self-cleaning materials, water-striding robots May 4, 2009

Self-cleaning walls, counter tops,
fabrics, even micro-
robots that can walk
on water could be
closer to reality
because of research
on super-hydrophobic
materials by scien-
tists at the University
of Nebraska-Lincoln
and at Japan's RIKEN
institute. Using the
supercomputer at RIKEN (the fastest in the world when the
research started in 2005), the...

May 6, 2009

Artificial Blood Research: Giving Artificial Cells Movement Ability

Scientists in Japan are reporting an advance toward giving
artificial cells another hallmark of life: the ability to
tap an energy source and use it to undergo sustained
movement. They developed self-propelled oil droplets
equipped with chemical "engines" (highly reactive catalysts) that provide
self-propelled motion in the presence of a....

In artificial blood research the artificial cells are currently being worked upon by NASA to help with the depleted blood supplies in hospitals.

Other artificial blood research

1) US researchers are developing artificial cells capable of
synthesizing genes and making them into proteins.
Click here for original article

2) International Society or Artificial Cells,Blood
Substitutes and Biotechnology(ISABB) does research on
artificial cells for clinical applications in blood
substitutes, nanomedicine, regenerative medicine, tissue
engineering and cell/stem cell therapy.

Concentration Science: Ear Plugs to Lasers

Imagine that you have ditched 
your laptop and turned off your 
smartphone. You are beyond the 
reach of YouTube, Facebook, 
e-mail, text messages. You are 
in a Twitter-free zone, sitting 
in a taxicab with a copy of 
“Rapt,” a guide by Winifred 
Gallagher to the science of 
paying attention.
The book’s theme, which Ms. Gallagher chose after she learned she had an especially nasty form of cancer, is borrowed from the psychologist William James: “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” You can lead a miserable life by obsessing on problems. You can drive yourself crazy trying to multitask and answer every e-mail message instantly.

Or you can recognize your brain’s finite capacity for processing information, accentuate the positive and achieve the satisfactions of what Ms. Gallagher calls the focused life. It can sound wonderfully appealing, except that as you sit in the cab reading about concentration science, and you realize that ... you’re not paying attention to a word on the page.

The taxi’s television, which can’t be turned off, is showing a commercial of a guy in a taxi working on a laptop — and as long as he’s jabbering about how his new wireless card has made him so productive during his cab ride, you can’t do anything productive during yours.

Why can’t you concentrate on anything except your desire to shut him up? And even if you flee the cab, is there any realistic refuge anymore from the Age of Distraction?

I put these questions to Ms. Gallagher and to one of the experts in her book, Robert Desimone, a neuroscientist at M.I.T. who has been doing experiments somewhat similar to my taxicab TV experience. He has been tracking the brain waves of macaque monkeys and humans as they stare at video screens looking for certain flashing patterns.

When something bright or novel flashes, it tends to automatically win the competition for the brain’s attention, but that involuntary bottom-up impulse can be voluntarily overridden through a top-down process that Dr. Desimone calls “biased competition.” He and colleagues have found that neurons in the prefrontal cortex — the brain’s planning center — start oscillating in unison and send signals directing the visual cortex to heed something else.

These oscillations, called gamma waves, are created by neurons’ firing on and off at the same time — a feat of neural coordination a bit like getting strangers in one section of a stadium to start clapping in unison, thereby sending a signal that induces people on the other side of the stadium to clap along. But these signals can have trouble getting through in a noisy environment.

“It takes a lot of your prefrontal brain power to force yourself not to process a strong input like a television commercial,” said Dr. Desimone, the director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at M.I.T. “If you’re trying to read a book at the same time, you may not have the resources left to focus on the words.”

Now that neuroscientists have identified the brain’s synchronizing mechanism, they’ve started work on therapies to strengthen attention. In the current issue of Nature, researchers from M.I.T., Penn and Stanford report that they directly induced gamma waves in mice by shining pulses of laser light through tiny optical fibers onto genetically engineered neurons. In the current issue of Neuron, Dr. Desimone and colleagues report progress in using this “optogenetic” technique in monkeys.

Ultimately, Dr. Desimone said, it may be possible to improve your attention by using pulses of light to directly synchronize your neurons, a form of direct therapy that could help people with schizophrenia and attention-deficit problems (and might have fewer side effects than drugs). If it could be done with low-wavelength light that penetrates the skull, you could simply put on (or take off) a tiny wirelessly controlled device that would be a bit like a hearing aid.

In the nearer future, neuroscientists might also help you focus by observing your brain activity and providing biofeedback as you practice strengthening your concentration. Researchers have already observed higher levels of synchrony in the brains of people who regularly meditate.

Ms. Gallagher advocates meditation to increase your focus, but she says there are also simpler ways to put the lessons of attention researchers to use. Once she learned how hard it was for the brain to avoid paying attention to sounds, particularly other people’s voices, she began carrying ear plugs with her. When you’re trapped in a noisy subway car or a taxi with a TV that won’t turn off, she says you have to build your own “stimulus shelter.”

She recommends starting your work day concentrating on your most important task for 90 minutes. At that point your prefrontal cortex probably needs a rest, and you can answer e-mail, return phone calls and sip caffeine (which does help attention) before focusing again. But until that first break, don’t get distracted by anything else, because it can take the brain 20 minutes to do the equivalent of rebooting after an interruption.

“Multitasking is a myth,” Ms. Gallagher said. “You cannot do two things at once. The mechanism of attention is selection: it’s either this or it’s that.” She points to calculations that the typical person’s brain can process 173 billion bits of information over the course of a lifetime.

“People don’t understand that attention is a finite resource, like money,” she said. “Do you want to invest your cognitive cash on endless Twittering or Net surfing or couch potatoing? You’re constantly making choices, and your choices determine your experience, just as William James said.”

During her cancer treatment several years ago, Ms. Gallagher said, she managed to remain relatively cheerful by keeping in mind James’s mantra as well as a line from Milton: “The mind is its own place, and in itself/ Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n.”

“When I woke up in the morning,” Ms. Gallagher said, “I’d ask myself: Do you want to lie here paying attention to the very good chance you’ll die and leave your children motherless, or do you want to get up and wash your face and pay attention to your work and your family and your friends? Hell or heaven — it’s your choice.”

Emotional Robot Tries to Create Relationships

The world’s first robot with its own Facebook page is part of an ambitious experiment to build long-term meaningful relationships with humans.

The world's first robot with its own Facebook page (and that can use its information in conversations with "friends") has been developed by the Interactive Robots and Media Lab at the United Arab Emirates University.

  We all love robots, right? And yet that special relationship never seems to materialise. However intensely they begin, our relationships with robots gradually wane as the realisation dawns that it wasn’t love that brought us together, but mere infatuation.

The relationship quickly and inevitably breaks down, like the morning after a Las Vegas wedding. (Japanese researchers have even measured the decline in interaction levels as humans lose interest in robot toys.)

But building a meaningful relationship with a robot may soon get easier if Nikolaos Mavridis and pals from the Interactive Robots and Media Lab at the United Arab Emirates University have anything to do with it. They say the key to building a longer, meaningful relationship with a robot is to become embedded in the same network of shared friends and together build a pool of shared memories that you can both refer to. Just like a real friend.

So the team has created the world’s first robot that does both these things–it has its own Facebook page and it can use the information it gathers from this social network in conversations with “friends”.

That seems a useful approach provided the robot can make sense of the interactions it has with humans. One key challenge will be determining the emotional state of the friends it meets and then empathising with them in an appropriate way. That’s not always easy for humans.

Nevertheless, humans are fairly predictable animals. There are numerous shortcuts and tricks that a clever programmer can exploit to give the impression of empathy and understanding appearing like an emotional robot.

One of the most extraordinary things about ELIZA, the world’s first chatbot created in 1966, was the number of people reported to have fallen in love with it. The program used a simple trick to give the impression of empathy and compassion: it asked general leading questions and then turned the responses into questions which it repeated back to its conversational partner. Here’s real example from the ELIZA archives:

young woman: Men are all alike.
eliza: In what way?
young woman: They’re always bugging us about something specific or other.
eliza: Can you think of a specific example?
young woman: Well, my boyfriend made me come here.
eliza: Your boyfriend made you come here?
young woman: He says I’m depressed much of the time.

And so on. Perhaps the new UAE robot might continue with: “Remember when we both…”.

Sadly, the UAE team are about to make their work much harder. They’re planning to implement their programme in a humanoid robot called IbnSina (see picture), that they have developed at their lab. That will introduce an entirely new problem into any prospective relationship–the uncanny valley that various Japanese roboticists talk about. This is the feeling of revulsion that almost-but-not-quite humanoids seem to generate in humans.

And revulsion is about as big a barrier to a meaningful relationship as you can get.

Original article by the physics arXiv blog, May 5, 2009

May 5, 2009

Magnetic Bacteria Used as Drug Carriers

Bacteria take fantastic voyage through bloodstream

Canadian engineers have sent swimming magnetic bacteria through the bloodstreams of rats. The work is a step towards the team's goal of harnessing them as drug mules steered through human bodies using magnetic fields.

Microscopic machines have proven attractive to medics trying to make treatments ever more targeted and less invasive than surgery. But although it is now possible to make micromachines from individual molecules, providing them with power is another matter.

Propulsion systems or even swimming motions that work at larger scales don't work when scaled down because of the treacly forces that dominate fluids at microscopic scales.

Sylvain Martel's team at the École Polytechnique de Montréal in Canada think tapping the skills of bacteria that have evolved to swim with ease at the microscopic scale is the best solution.

Speed demon

"Instead of trying to build a nanomachine it makes more sense to spend effort trying to control what nature provides," says Martel. He and his team are focusing on a bacterium dubbed MC-1 – a microbial speed demon that swims 10 times faster than most species and can travel at top speeds of 200 micrometres per second using its twirling flagella.

If MC-1 was to be loaded with a drug and given the ability to target a particular tissue it could provide a nimble addition to the medical arsenal.

Apart from speed, the bacterium has another property that makes it a perfect candidate for the role: each cell contains a chain of magnetic nanoparticles, allowing the bacteria to sense and swim along magnetic fields.

Remote control

By placing a patient inside an MRI machine it would be possible to create a magnetic field to steer the magnetic bacteria in any direction, towards targets just a few micrometres across, says Martel.

Martel says initial tests suggest the bacteria are not harmful – and generally not harmed – inside the body. His team injected a 50 microlitre solution containing some 50 million MC-1 bacteria into the bloodstream of rats, and found no adverse reaction.

"More work needs to be done, but it appears a sufficient quantity of these bacteria can be injected without causing toxicity," he told New Scientist. The bacteria naturally die after about 40 minutes in the blood, and would then be cleaned up by the immune system.

The initial rat trials simply assessed the health impact of injecting the bacteria – the next step is to guide them using magnetic fields, which will be precisely controlled via computer, says Martel. The team has already shown that's possible in principle by steering the magnetic bacteria in a 50-micrometre-diameter tube system.

Metal mules

In 2007, the same team piloted metal particles through the blood stream of a living pig using an MRI machines. Using magnetic bacteria is a more attractive option because the applied field needs only to direct the microbes as they propel themselves towards the target.

Bradley Nelson at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, who earlier this year designed a magnetically controlled artificial bacteriumMovie Camera, thinks the work is an improvement on a 2004 study by Howard Berg at Harvard University.]

Berg used another bacterial species to create a simple propulsion system. "By using MC-1 instead, Martel had been able to demonstrate steering in addition to propulsion," Nelson says. "I am sure there are issues in keeping the bacteria happy, but it is certainly a clever idea."

Lithium Water Curbs Suicide

BBC News, May 1, 2009

The suicide rate is significantly lower in areas in Japan with the highest levels of lithium water, scientists at the universities of Oita and Hiroshima have found.

Drinking water which contains the element lithium may reduce the risk of suicide, a Japanese study suggests.

Researchers examined levels of lithium in drinking water and suicide rates in the prefecture of Oita, which has a population of more than one million.

The suicide rate was significantly lower in those areas with the highest levels of the element, they wrote in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

High doses of lithium are already used to treat serious mood disorders.
But the team from the universities of Oita and Hiroshima found that even relatively low levels appeared to have a positive impact of suicide rates.

Levels ranged from 0.7 to 59 micrograms per litre. The researchers speculated that while these levels were low, there may be a cumulative protective effect on the brain from years of drinking this tap water.

Added element

At least one previous study has suggested an association between lithium in tap water and suicide. That research on data collected from the 1980s also found a significantly lower rate of suicide in areas with relatively high lithium levels.
Any suggestion that it should be added, even in tiny amounts, to drinking water should be treated with caution and researched very thoroughly
Sophie Corlett

The Japanese researchers called for further research in other countries but they stopped short of any suggestion that lithium be added to drinking water.

The discussion around adding fluoride to water to protect dental health has proved controversial - criticized by some as mass involuntary medication.

In an accompanying editorial, Professor Allan Young of Vancouver's Institute for Mental Health said "this intriguing data should provoke further research.

"Large-scale trials in creating lithium water may then be feasible, although this would undoubtedly be subject to considerable debate. Following up on these findings will not be straightforward or inexpensive, but the eventual benefits for community mental health may be considerable."
Sophie Corlett, external relations director at mental health charity Mind said the research "certainly merits more investigation.

"We already know that lithium can act as a powerful mood stabilizer for people with bipolar disorder, and treating people with lithium is also associated with lower suicide rates.

"However, lithium also has significant and an unpleasant side effects in higher doses, and can be toxic. Any suggestion that it should be added, even in tiny amounts, to drinking water should be treated with caution and researched very thoroughly."

Can E-Readers Save the Daily Press?

The recession-ravaged newspaper and magazine industries are hoping for their own knight in shining digital armor, in the form of portable reading devices with big screens.Unlike tiny mobile phones and devices like the Kindle that are made to display text from books, these new gadgets, with screens roughly the size of a standard sheet of paper, could present much of the editorial and advertising content of traditional periodicals in generally the same format as they appear in print. And they might be a way to get readers to pay for those periodicals — something they have been reluctant to do on the Web.