Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

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Robots Test Tools For Myanmar’s Farmers

March 31, 2014

Proximity Designs is a Myanmar-based social enterprise that designs products to improve poor people’s lives. Some of the affordable creations they’ve made include foot-powered water pumps, drip irrigation systems, solar lanterns and even infrastructure projects like bridges.

An integral part of their design and manufacturing process involves putting prototypes through trials with robots that use them until they break. The group says their line of farming aids all get pushed to failure by their lab’s robot farmers, which helps improve how they’re made.

Building a reliable product is important if it is to be used under the strain of daily life in rural Myanmar. A product like a manual water pump relieves farmers of the backbreaking work of carrying up to 10 tons of water a day on their backs from distant wells.
The country’s farmers are showing their approval by opening up their wallets—Proximity Designs reports that they will sell 31,000 irrigation products in fiscal year 2013. They say their work has also resulted in a 10 to 15 percent increase in rice yield.

“Including the newest one I bought, I have three treadle pumps,” said farmer Aung San. “I made about $1,200 last year, so I bought more land to expand my plot. That’s why I bought another pump.”

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Giant Machines Boring Tunnels Under London (…and in many other places)

March 31, 2014

By the end of 2014, London will have added 42 km of new underground rail tunnels as part of the Crossrail project. Here’s how the eight tunnel boring machines work.

These machines, manned by a 20-person crew, are working 24 hours a day under London’s streets.

Top Image: Crossrail tunnel-boring machine Victoria lowered into the shaft next to TBM Elizabeth at the Limmo site in London’s Royal Docks area. Courtesy Crossrail.

Text and Image via SINCANADA

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Seeing In The Pitch-Dark Is All In Your Head

November 8, 2013

A few years ago, cognitive scientist Duje Tadin and his colleague Randolph Blake decided to test blindfolds for an experiment they were cooking up.

They wanted an industrial-strength blindfold to make sure volunteers for their work wouldn’t be able to see a thing. “We basically got the best blindfold you can get.” Tadin tells Shots. “It’s made of black plastic, and it should block all light.”
Tadin and Blake pulled one on just to be sure and waved their hands in front of their eyes. They didn’t expect to be able to see, yet both of them felt as if they could make out the shadowy outlines of their arms moving.
Being scientists, they wondered what was behind the spooky phenomenon. “We knew there wasn’t any visual input there,” Tadin says. They figured their minds were instinctively filling in images where there weren’t any.

After conducting several experiments involving computerized eye trackers, they proved themselves right. Between 50 and 75 percent of the participants in their studies showed an eerie ability to “see” their own bodies moving in total darkness. The research, put together by scientists at the University of Rochester and Vanderbilt University, is published in the journal Psychological Science.

How were they so sure? “The only way you can produce smooth eye movements is if you’re following a target,” Tadin tells Shots. When our eyes aren’t tracking something very specific, they tend to jerk around randomly. “If you just try to make your eyes move smoothly, you can’t do it.” The researchers used this knowledge to test whether people could really distinguish their hand movements in the dark.

Text and Image via Neuromorphogenesis

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Craig Venter’s ‘Biological Teleportation’ Device

October 24, 2013

The pioneering American scientist, who created the world’s first synthetic life, is building a gadget that could teletransport medicine and vaccines into our homes or to colonists in space. Craig Venter reclines in his chair, puts his feet up on his desk and – gently stroking his milk chocolate-colored miniature poodle, Darwin, asleep in his arms – shares his vision of the household appliance of the future. It is a box attached to a computer that would receive DNA sequences over the internet to synthesize proteins, viruses and even living cells.

It could, for example, fill a prescription for insulin, provide flu vaccine during a pandemic or even produce phage viruses targeted to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It could help future Martian colonists by giving them access to the vaccines, antibiotics or personalized drugs they needed on the red planet. And should DNA-based life ever be found there, a digital version could be transmitted back to Earth, where scientists could recreate the extraterrestrial organism using their own life-printing box.

“We call it a Digital Biological Converter. And we have the prototype,” says Venter. I am visiting the office and labs of Venter’s company Synthetic Genomics Incorporated (SGI) in La Jolla, a wealthy seaside enclave north of San Diego, California, where he also lives, because the pioneering American scientist dubbed biology’s “bad boy” wants to talk about his new book, released this week.

Text and Image via The Guardian. Continue THERE

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THE SOUND OF TERROR: PHENOMENOLOGY OF A DRONE STRIKE

October 24, 2013

“The drones were terrifying. From the ground, it is impossible to determine who or what they are tracking as they circle overhead. The buzz of a distant propeller is a constant reminder of imminent death.” This account of what a drone feels and sounds like from the ground comes from David Rohde, a journalist who was kidnapped and held by the Taliban for seven months in 2008. Yet this kind of report rarely registers in debates in the United States over the use of drones. Instead these debates seem to have reached an impasse. Opponents of drone strikes say they violate international law and have caused unacknowledged civilian deaths. Proponents insist they actually save the lives of both U.S. soldiers, who would otherwise be deployed in dangerous ground operations, and of civilians, because of the drone’s capacity to survey and strike more precisely than combat. If the alternative is a prolonged and messy ground operation, the advantage of drone strikes in terms of casualties is indisputable, and it is not my intention to dispute it here.

But the terms of this debate give a one-sided view of both the larger financial and political costs of drones, as well as the less than lethal but nonetheless chronic and intense harm continuous strikes wage on communities. This myopia restricts our understanding of the full effects of drones; in order to widen our vision, I provide a phenomenology of drone strikes, examining both how the world appears through the lens of a drone camera and the experience of the people on the ground. What is it like to watch a drone’s footage, or to wait below for it to strike? What does the drone’s camera capture, and what does it occlude?

Excerpt from an article written by Nasser Hussain at the Boston Review. Continue THERE

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New Technique Holds Promise for Hair Growth

October 22, 2013

Scientists have found a new way to grow hair, one that they say may lead to better treatments for baldness. So far, the technique has been tested only in mice, but it has managed to grow hairs on human skin grafted onto the animals. If the research pans out, the scientists say, it could produce a treatment for hair loss that would be more effective and useful to more people than current remedies like drugs or hair transplants.

Present methods are not much help to women, but a treatment based on the new technique could be, the researchers reported Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Currently, transplants move hair follicles from the back of the head to the front, relocating hair but not increasing the amount. The procedure can take eight hours, and leave a large scar on the back of the head. The new technique would remove a smaller patch of cells involved in hair formation from the scalp, culture them in the laboratory to increase their numbers, and then inject them back into the person’s head to fill in bald or thinning spots. Instead of just shifting hair from one spot to another, the new approach would actually add hair.

The senior author of the study is Angela Christiano, a hair geneticist and dermatology professor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, who has become known for her creative approach to research. Dr. Christiano’s interest in the science of hair was inspired in part by her own experience early in her career with a type of hair loss called alopecia areata. She has a luxuriant amount of hair in the front of her head, but periodically develops bald spots in the back. The condition runs in her family.

Excerpt from an article written by Denise Grady at NYT. Continue THERE

A picture taken on April 13, 2012 and released by the Tsuji Lab Research Institute for Science and Technology of the Tokyo University of Science shows a hairless mouse with black hair on its back at the laboratory in Noda, Chiba Prefecture.

Regenerative medicine repairs mice from top to toe. Three separate studies in mice show normal function can be restored to hair, eye and heart cells.

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Senses Of Vibration: A History of the Pleasure and Pain of Sound

October 22, 2013

The study of the senses has become a rich topic in recent years. Senses of Vibration explores a wide range of sensory experience and makes a decisive new contribution to this growing field by focussing not simply on the senses as such, but on the material experience – vibration – that underpins them.
This is the first book to take the theme of vibration as central, offering an interdisciplinary history of the phenomenon and its reverberations in the cultural imaginary. It tracks vibration through the work of a wide range of writers, including physiologists (who thought vibrations in the nerves delivered sensations to the brain), physicists (who claimed that light, heat, electricity and other forms of energy were vibratory), spiritualists (who figured that spiritual energies also existed in vibratory form), and poets and novelists from Coleridge to Dickens and Wells. Senses of Vibration is a work of scholarship that cuts through a range of disciplines and will reverberate for many years to come.

Senses of Vibration
A History of the Pleasure and Pain of Sound
By: Shelley Trower

Text & Image via Bloomsbury

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The Illustrated History of Projection Mapping

October 22, 2013

While projection mapping has recently exploded into the conciousness of artists and advertisers everywhere, the history of projection mapping dates back longer than you may imagine.

If you try Googling for “Projection Mapping” you won’t find anything older than 3 years. That is because projection mapping’s older, academic name is “Spatial Augmented Reality”. The field is also known as “video mapping”, but projection mapping seems to be winning out in the United States.

For the purposes of this history, I’m only including work that considered projection onto an arbitrarily complex surfaces. Projection onto flat and cylindrical/spherical surfaces has a much older history and goes back to the invention of cinema.

Via Projection Mapping Central. See it HERE

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A blind man has had his sight restored after pioneering surgery that involved implanting one of his teeth into his eye

October 10, 2013

Ian Tibbetts, 43, who first damaged his eye in an industrial accident when scrap metal ripped his cornea in six places, had his sight restored by the radical operation, chronicled in the new BBC documentary The Day I Got My Sight Back.

The surgery allowed Mr Tibbetts to see his four-year-old twin sons, Callum and Ryan, for the first time, a moment he describes as “ecstasy”.

The procedure, called osteo-odonto-keratoprothesis, or OOKP, was conducted by ophthalmic surgeon Christopher Liu at the Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton, Sussex. Mr Tibbetts and his wife Alex agreed to the revolutionary surgery after all other options had failed, leaving Mr Tibbetts depressed and out of work.

The complex surgery is a two-part procedure. First, the tooth and part of the jaw are removed, and a lens is inserted into the tooth using a drill. The tooth and lens are then implanted under the eye socket. After a few months, once the tooth has grown tissues and developed a blood supply, comes the second step: part of the cornea is sliced open and removed and the tooth is stitched into the eye socket. Since the tooth is the patient’s own tissue, the body does not reject it.

VIA

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Inside CERN

October 10, 2013

CERN is the European organization for Nuclear research and it’s considered the biggest particle physics experiment. it’s located at geneva and scientists, engineers and students from 113 nationalities are hosted. 29 September of 1954 was the ratification of this organization by 12 countries in Europe. Several important achievements have been made during experiments at CERN with the most important the development of World Wide Web.

A project by Anna Pantelia. See +++ HERE

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Whole-body CT Scans of 137 Mummies: How Studying Mummies Could Cure Modern Diseases

October 10, 2013

By comparing diseases from then and now, researchers can learn how they spread. Maybe they can learn how to stop them, too.

Earlier this year, scientists published a study of whole-body CT scans of 137 mummies: ancient Egyptians and Peruvians, ancestral Puebloans of southwest America, and Unangan hunter-gatherers of the Aleutian Islands. They reported signs of athero­sclerosis—a dangerous artery hardening that can lead to heart attacks or stroke—in 34 percent of them. What struck the research team, led by Randall Thompson of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri, was that it afflicted mummies from every group. Frank Rühli, head of the Swiss Mummy Project at the University of Zurich, also sees the condition in about 30 to 50 percent of the adult specimens he studies. The breadth of these findings suggests that atherosclerosis today may have less to do with modern excesses such as overeating and more with underlying genetic factors that seem present in a certain percentage of humans living almost anywhere in the world. Someday, identifying those genes could lead to new drugs for heart disease.

Ancient mummies can provide a wealth of information about the health of early civilizations, which may help us better treat diseases today. But because mummies are both rare and delicate, researchers have been limited in what they could do to them—and therefore what they could learn from them. Recent improvements of two medical tools—DNA sequencing, which can reveal microbial infections, and CT scanning—are letting paleopathologists diagnose mummies’ causes of death in detail. They’re now finding signs of everything from prostate cancer to malaria in mummies across the globe. By comparing the ancient forms of those diseases with their contemporary equivalents, researchers can learn how those diseases evolved, what makes them so harmful, and—possibly—how to stop them.

Text (Roxanne Khamsi) and Images (Getty Images/Kenneth Garrett) via Popular Science. Continue THERE

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Neurons Could Outlive the Bodies That Contain Them

October 10, 2013

Most of your body is younger than you are. The cells on the topmost layer of your skin are around two weeks old, and soon to die. Your oldest red blood cells are around four months old. Your liver’s cells will live for around 10 to 17 months old before being replaced. All across your organs, cells are being produced and destroyed. They have an expiry date.

In your brain, it’s a different story. New neurons are made in just two parts of the brain—the hippocampus, involved in memory and navigation, and the olfactory bulb, involved in smell (and even then only until 18 months of age). Aside from that, your neurons are as old as you are and will last you for the rest of your life. They don’t divide, and there’s no turnover.

But do neurons have a maximum lifespan, just like skin, blood or liver cells? Yes, obviously, they die when you die, but what if you kept on living? That’s not a far-fetched question at a time when medical and technological advances promise to prolong our lives well past their usual boundaries. Would we reach a point when our neurons give up before our bodies do?

Image above: Stainless steel sculpture “Neuron” by Roxy Paine. Outside the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.
Excerpt from an article written by Ed Yong at NATGEO. Continue THERE

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Silicon and surveillance: A tale of big data and bigger conspiracies

September 24, 2013


Thomas Pynchon’s novels have several recurring themes: paranoia and conspiracy, pastiches of high and low culture, synchronicity and coincidence, shadowy networks lurking around every corner, and the impact of science and technology. With the coming of the Internet age and the surveillance society that sprang up in the wake of 11 September 2001, it seems as though reality has finally caught up with his vision. In his latest work, Bleeding Edge, Pynchon takes full advantage of this convergence.

The first question asked of a new Pynchon book is: is this one of the sprawling, spiralling, time-tripping monsters with innumerable characters and a plot that is tricky to bring into focus, like Gravity’s Rainbow or Against the Day; or is it one of the fun detective stories with a well-defined protagonist, like The Crying of Lot 49 or Inherent Vice? Bleeding Edge is definitely in the latter category. There is a colourful cast of memorable personalities, and high jinks often ensue, but the tale is told linearly, from the point of view of an acknowledged main character, with something approximating an explicit goal.

Excerpt from an article written by Sean M. Carroll at Nature. Continue THERE

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The Drone Philosopher

September 24, 2013

From the thumbnail headshot accompanying his essay in the Times, “the drone philosopher,” as I’ve begun to think of him, appears to be in his late twenties, or a boyish 30. In an oddly confessional-style first paragraph, he recalls what it was like to watch the second Iraq War from his college dorm television. He has clean-shaven Ken-doll looks and a prominent squarish jaw, recalling the former Republican vice-presidential candidate and representative from Wisconsin’s First Congressional District, Paul Ryan. I doubt the drone philosopher would be flattered by the comparison. The tone of his article makes him out to be a thoughtful liberal, more interested in weighing complexities than in easy solutions, simultaneously attracted by and wary of power, not unlike the commander in chief he hopes will one day read his papers.

I can make out a bit of wide-striped collegiate tie, a white collar, and the padded shoulders of a suit jacket in the photograph. I know I’m being unfair, but I don’t trust his looks. Since Republicans have become so successful at branding themselves the party of white men, I now suspect that any white guy in a suit may harbor right-wing nationalist tendencies, much as the CIA’s rules governing drone strikes have determined that groups of “military age” men in certain regions of Pakistan and Yemen may be profiled as terrorists. Even more unkindly, I catch myself thinking the drone philosopher’s portrait looks like it was taken for the high school debate club he surely belonged to. Maybe that was where — for competitions in dim auditoria from state to regional to national level, prepping in a series of carbon-copy cheap motels, four to a room — he first learned to be rewarded for making audacious arguments. It was like a job or a sport. Maybe there was one particularly formative debate, “Resolved: The United States was right to use the atomic bomb against Japanese civilians.” He would have parsed this proposition into a value, such as “Right Action” or “Justice,” made up of a checklist of criteria: saving American lives, the primary but not sole duty of the deciders; weighing potential lives lost or saved on both sides when contrasted with the alternative policy of full-scale invasion of Japan.

Excerpt from an article written by MARCO ROTH at n+1. Continue THERE

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Boyan Slat: The Ingenious 19-year-old that Developed a Plan to Clean up Oceans in 5 Years

September 20, 2013

With millions of tons of garbage dumped into the oceans annually and repeat incidence of oil spills like the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, it’s the Ocean which has taken the brunt of unsustainable methods from man. In effect, it’s estimated almost 100,000 marine animals are killed due to debris entanglement and continually rising pollution.

To a degree, individual lessening of consumerism and utilizing sustainable methods to re-use and eliminate waste is very beneficial. However, reducing the already-toxic state of the Earth is the biggest concern of environmentalists and engineers, seeking to utilize the technological advances already available. To this avail, it was 19-year-young Boyan Slat that ingeniously created the Ocean Array Plan, a project that could remove 7,250,000 tons of plastic from the world’s oceans in just five years.

Slat’s idea consists of an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms that could be dispatched to garbage patches around the world. Working with the flow of nature, his solution to the problematic shifting of trash is to have the array span the radius of a garbage patch, acting as a giant funnel as the ocean moves through it. The angle of the booms would force plastic in the direction of the platforms, where it would be separated from smaller forms, such as plankton, and be filtered and stored for recycling. The issue of by-catches, killing life forms in the procedure of cleaning trash, can be virtually eliminated by using booms instead of nets and it will result in a larger areas covered. Because of trash’s density compared to larger sea animals, the use of booms will allow creatures to swim under the booms unaffected, reducing wildlife death substantially.

Excerpt from an article written by Amanda Froelich at True Activist. Continue THERE

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The Turing Normalizing Machine: An experiment in machine learning & algorithmic prejudice

September 20, 2013

In the 1930s British Mathematician Alan Turing studied normal numbers. During World War 2 he cracked the Nazi Enigma code, and then laid the foundations for computing and artificial intelligence. In the 1950s he was convicted of homosexuality and was chemically castrated. And in June 7th 1954, depressed by the anti-homosexuality medical treatment, and alienated by the society who deemed him abnormal, Alan Turing ate a cyanide laced apple.

In the following decades many of Turing’s ideas have materialized through the digital revolution, while many of them are still being researched. Inspired by Turing’s life and research we seek to finally crack the greatest enigma of all:

“Who is normal?”

Learn more about this project by Yonatan Ben Simhon & Mushon Zer-Aviv HERE

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Virtual Violence, Immersion, and Harun Farocki

September 17, 2013

War, seen by the lay viewer through the lens of television news, seems distant; the people and the lands in the images are Other — other people, other cultures, other lands, other tragedies. War is not something that happens to me. War happens to others, elsewhere.

Read Full Articles:

How to Live in a Game Harun Farocki’s War Games

Virtual Violence: On war at a distance.

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Copenhagen Suborbitals: DIY Space Exploration

September 16, 2013

Copenhagen Suborbitals is a suborbital space endeavor, based entirely on private donators, sponsors and part time specialists

According to them: “Our mission is to launch human beings into space on privately build rockets and spacecrafts. The project is both open source and non-profit in order to inspire as many people as possible, and to involve relevant partners and their expertise. We aim to show the world that human space flight can be different from the usual expensive and government controlled project. We are working full time to develop a series of suborbital space vehicles – designed to pave the way for manned space flight on a micro size spacecraft. The mission has a 100% peaceful purpose and is not in any way involved in carrying explosive, nuclear, biological and chemical payloads. We intend to share all our technical information as much as possible, within the laws of EU-export control.

They work in a 300 sqm storage building, called Horizontal Assembly Building (HAB), placed on an abandoned but yet historic shipyard in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The areas around HAB provides them with enough space to test their own rocket engines, and being situated close to the harbour of Copenhagen makes it easy for them to go into sea for our sea launch operation.

They have no administration or technical boards to approve our work, so they move very fast from idea to construction. Everything they build is tested until they believe it will do. Then they (attempt to) fly it!

Some of their main design drivers are:

- Keep as much work in-house as possible
- Choose mechanical solutions over electrical
- Use “ordinary” materials for cheaper and faster production
- Cut away (anything), instead of adding

Images and Text via Copenhagen Suborbitals

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Machines Made to Know You, by Touch, Voice, Even by Heart

September 14, 2013

How does a machine verify the identity of a human being? Irises, heartbeats, fingertips and voices, for starters.

Authentication has been a tough nut to crack since the early days of the Web. Now comes a batch of high-tech alternatives, some straight from science fiction, as worries grow about the security risks associated with traditional user name and password systems.

Apple on Tuesday introduced two new iPhones, including for the first time a model with a fingerprint sensor that can be used instead of a passcode to open the phone and buy products. The new feature is part of a trove of authentication tools being developed for consumers, and not just for phones.

Some of these, like the fingerprint sensor, involve the immutable properties humans are encoded with, while others turn our phones into verification devices.

Excerpt from an article written by SOMINI SENGUPTA at NYT. Continue THERE

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Space Ownership and the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 by NASA

September 12, 2013

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967

Treaty on principles governing the activities of states in the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies.

Opened for signature at Moscow, London, and Washington on 27 January, 1967

THE STATES PARTIES. TO THIS TREATY,

INSPIRED by the great prospects opening up before mankind as a result of man’s entry into outer space,

RECOGNIZING the common interest of all mankind in the progress of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes,

BELIEVING that the exploration and use of outer space should be carried on for the benefit of all peoples irrespective of the degree of their economic or scientific development,

DESIRING to contribute to broad international co-operation in the scientific as well as the legal aspects of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes,

BELIEVING that such co-operation will contribute to the development of mutual understanding and to the strengthening of friendly relations between States and peoples,

RECALLING resolution 1962 (XVIII), entitled “Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space”, which was adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 December 1963,

RECALLING resolution 1884 (XVIII), calling upon States to refrain from placing in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction or from installing such weapons on celestial bodies, which was adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly on 17 October 1963,

TAKING account of United Nations General Assembly resolution 110 (II) of 3 November 1947, which condemned propaganda designed or likely to provoke or encourage any threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression, and considering that the aforementioned resolution isapplicable to outer space,

CONVINCED that a Treaty on Principles Governing the Activitiesof States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, will further the Purposes and Principles ofthe Charter of the United Nations,

HAVE AGREED ON THE FOLLOWING:

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Paperscape: A map of 871,888 scientific papers from the arXiv until today

September 11, 2013

A chart of 870,000 scientific studies so far. Paperscape shows each scientific paper as a circle, with the size of each determined by how many others cite it. Users can toggle the heat map, which colors each study according to its age. ArXiv began in 1991. A cluster around the topic dark energy shows that it spans multiple fields, including quantum cosmology, quantum physics, and condensed matter.

The study of the universe is a universe itself. An infographic designed by two physicists maps the hundreds of thousands of studies in arXiv, an open repository for physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, finance, and statistics papers that is maintained by Cornell University. The category of a paper’s research determines the color of its circle, and the more cited the paper is, the bigger its circle. Each marker is placed according to the number of references it takes to get from it to each other paper. Accordingly, papers are clustered around topics, such as extrasolar planets, dwarf stars, and superconductivity. Some multicolored clusters show where disciplines intersect around topics like neutrinos, dark matter, dark energy, and networks. Toggle the heat map to color each study according to its age to see which topics are getting the most attention. To learn more about how the infographic works, see its blog.

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The 21st Century Will Be Defined By Games, a Manifesto.

September 10, 2013

Previous centuries have been defined by novels and cinema. In a bold manifesto we’re proud to debut here on Kotaku, game designer Eric Zimmerman states that this century will be defined by games.ore

Below is Zimmerman’s manifesto, which will also appear in the upcoming book The Gameful World from MIT press. We invite you to read it, to think about it and even to annotate it. Zimmerman’s manifesto is followed by an exploration of the ideas behind it, in an essay by author and professor Heather Chaplin. In the days to come, we’ll be expanding the discussion even further with perspectives from other gamers and game-thinkers. But let’s start with the big ideas. Let’s start with a manifesto by gamers, about games, for the world we live in…

Games are ancient.

Digital technology has given games a new relevance.

The 20th Century was the century of information.

In our Ludic Century, information has been put at play.

In the 20th Century, the moving image was the dominant cultural form.

The Ludic Century is an era of games.

We live in a world of systems.

There is a need to be playful.

We should think like designers.

Games are a literacy.

Gaming literacy can address our problems.

In the Ludic Century, everyone will be a game designer.

Games are beautiful. They do not need to be justified.

Expand on each of these claims HERE

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Miniature brains grown in test tubes – a new path for neuroscience?

September 10, 2013

Scientists have grown miniature human brains in test tubes, creating a “tool” that will allow them to watch how the organs develop in the womb and, they hope, increase their understanding of neurological and mental problems.

Just a few millimetres across, the “cerebral organoids” are built up of layers of brain cells with defined regions that resemble those seen in immature, embryonic brains.

The scientists say the organoids will be useful for biologists who want to analyse how conditions such as schizophrenia or autism occur in the brain. Though these are usually diagnosed in older people some of the underlying defects occur during the brain’s early development.

Human brain ‘organoid’ grown from human pluripotent stem cells. This is a cross-section of the entire organoid showing development of different brain regions. All cells are in blue, neural stem cells in red, and neurons in green. Photograph: Madeline A Lancaster.

The organoids are also expected to be useful in the development and testing of drugs. At present this is done using laboratory animals or isolated human cells; the new organoids could allow pharmacologists to test drugs in more human-like settings.

Scientists have previously made models of other human organs in the lab, including eyes, pituitary glands and livers.

In the latest work researchers at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna started with stem cells and grew them into brain cells in a nourishing gel-like matrix that recreated conditions similar to those inside the human womb. After several months the cells had formed spheres measuring about 3-4mm in diameter.

Text by Alok Jha, science correspondent at The Guardian. Continue article THERE

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Fascinating Theory On Life’s Origins Getting NASA’s Attention and Money

September 10, 2013

A unique theory about how life arose on Earth may reveal clues to whether and where else it might have arisen in the universe.

Does life exist elsewhere or is our planet unique, making us truly alone in the universe? Much of the work carried out by NASA, together with other research agencies around the world, is aimed at trying to come to grips with this great and ancient question.

“Of course, one of the most powerful ways to address this question, and a worthy goal in its own right, is to try to understand how life came to be on this planet,” said Elbert Branscomb, an affiliate faculty member at the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “The answer should help us discover what is truly necessary to spark the fateful transition from the lifeless to the living, and thereby, under what conditions and with what likelihood it might happen elsewhere.”

While many ideas about this fundamental question exist, the real challenge is to move beyond speculation to experimentally testable theories. A novel and potentially testable origin-of-life theory—first advanced more than 25 years ago by Michael Russell, a research scientist in Planetary Chemistry and Astrobiology at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory—was further developed in a recent paper published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (PTRSL-B), the world’s first science journal, by Russell, Wolfgang Nitschke, a team leader at the National Center for Scientific Research in Marseille, France, and Branscomb.

All text via Dan Satterfield at AGU Blogosphere. Read full article HERE

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IR SCANS HUMANS and their Multi-Sky 3D Scan Demo

September 10, 2013

Infinite Realities® is the 3D scanning service provided by Lee Perry-Smith, the leading 3D modelling and Scanning specialist based in Suffolk, UK. In simple terms, according to them: “We can scan any human being and replicate them in three dimensions as data held in a computer. Our scanning process picks up every detail of their eyes, face, hair, skin colour, body shape and distinguishing features – everything that makes them who they are.”

A downloadable demo by Infinite-Realities put together in Unity features high resolution 3D scans of people in a virtual environment. Incredibly realistic, and can be viewed through an Occulus Rift headset. You really need a next-gen PC to run this demo.

Below are two videos which demonstrate the demo:

Combining 3D scans of real life models in ultra high detail with the Oculus Rift and the Razer Hydra for movement controls to make one of the most realistic and uncanny experiences in Virtual Reality.

Thanks to Yoni Goldstein.

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The Rio 2016 Olympics: sun, sea and absolutely no swimming

September 9, 2013

The Olympic architects reveal that Rio 2016 will take over a lagoon site. But the water’s too polluted to swim – and many of the city’s communities do not fit into the glossy urban legacy plan.

One year after the London 2012 Olympics, the gates to the east London site have reopened to reveal the new Queen Elizabeth Park, the first tangible piece of the two-week sporting circus’ promised legacy. You would think the architects behind the Olympic masterplan might be able to breathe a sigh of relief: the games were deemed a success, and the “legacy communities” still remain safely on the drawing board, judgments withheld. But in the Holborn studios of Aecom, the Olympic team is as busy as ever – working on the next one.

“Rio 2016 is a whole different animal to London 2012,” says project lead Bill Hanway, who heads up the Americas section of the global giant’s 10,000-strong buildings and places division. “Brazil is still an emerging nation, and we’re having to compress what took nine years of planning for London into half that time for Rio.” Text by Oliver Wainwright. Continue at The Guardian

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Cancer’s origins revealed

September 8, 2013

Researchers have provided the first comprehensive compendium of mutational processes that drive tumour development. Together, these mutational processes explain most mutations found in 30 of the most common cancer types. This new understanding of cancer development could help to treat and prevent a wide-range of cancers.

Each mutational process leaves a particular pattern of mutations, an imprint or signature, in the genomes of cancers it has caused. By studying 7,042 genomes of people with the most common forms of cancer, the team uncovered more than 20 signatures of processes that mutate DNA. For many of the signatures, they also identified the underlying biological process responsible.

All cancers are caused by mutations in DNA occurring in cells of the body during a person’s lifetime. Although we know that chemicals in tobacco smoke cause mutations in lung cells that lead to lung cancers and ultraviolet light causes mutations in skin cells that lead to skin cancers, we have remarkably little understanding of the biological processes that cause the mutations which are responsible for the development of most cancers.

Read full article HERE

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Why the West Loves Sci-Fi and Fantasy: A Cultural Explanation

September 5, 2013

Hollywood’s had a long love affair with sci-fi and fantasy, but the romance has never been stronger than it is today. A quick glance into bookstores, television lineups, and upcoming films shows that the futuristic and fantastical is everywhere in American pop culture. In fact, of Hollywood’s top earners since 1980, a mere eight have not featured wizardry, space or time travel, or apocalyptic destruction caused by aliens/zombies/Robert Downey Jr.’s acerbic wit. Now, with Man of Steel, it appears we will at last have an effective reboot of the most important superhero story of them all.

These tales of mystical worlds and improbable technological power appeal universally, right? Maybe not. Bollywood, not Hollywood, is the largest movie industry in the world. But only a handful its top hits of the last four decades have dealt with science fiction themes, and even fewer are fantasy or horror. American films in those genres make much of their profits abroad, but they tend to underperform in front of Indian audiences.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t folk tales with magic and mythology in India. There are. That makes their absence in Bollywood and their overabundance in Hollywood all the more remarkable. Whereas Bollywood takes quotidian family dramas and imbues them with spectacular tales of love and wealth found-lost-regained amidst the pageantry of choreographed dance pieces, Hollywood goes to the supernatural and futurism. It’s a sign that longing for mystery is universal, but the taste for science fiction and fantasy is cultural.

Excerpt from an article written by CHRISTINE FOLCH at The Atlantic. Continue THERE

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Zone: The Spatial Softwares of Extrastatecraft

September 4, 2013

“Today urban space has become a mobile, monetized technology, and some of the most radical changes to the globalizing world are being written, not in the language of law and diplomacy, but rather in the spatial information of infrastructure, architecture and urbanism. Massive global systems — meta-infrastructures administered by public and private cohorts, and driven by profound irrationalities — are generating de facto, undeclared forms of polity faster than any even quasi-official forms of governance can legislate them — a wilder mongrel than any storied Leviathan for which there is studied political response.

One of these meta-infrastructures is the phenomenon of the free zone — a highly contagious and globalized urban form and a vivid vessel of what I have termedextrastatecraft. A portmanteau meaning both outside of and in addition to statecraft, extrastatecraft acknowledges that multiple forces — state, non-state, military, market, non-market — have now attained the considerable power and administrative authority necessary to undertake the building of infrastructure.

The zone — a.k.a., the Free Trade Zone, Foreign Trade Zone, Special Economic Zone, Export Processing Zone, or any of the dozens of variants — is a dynamic crossroads of trade, finance, management and communication. If, in the contemporary scene, diverse spatial types demonstrate the ways in which architecture has become repeatable and infrastructural, then it is the zone that demonstrates the ways in which urbanism has become infrastructural. Though its roots are ancient, dating back to the free ports of classical antiquity, only in recent decades has the zone emerged as a powerful global form, evolving rapidly from an out-of-way district for warehousing custom-free goods to a postwar strategy for jump-starting the economies of developing countries to a paradigm for glittering world cities like Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. [...]“

An essay by Keller Easterling featured in Places. Read it THERE

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How Do Our Brains Process Music? by David Byrne

August 3, 2013

In an excerpt from his new book, David Byrne explains why sometimes, he prefers hearing nothing:

“I listen to music only at very specific times. When I go out to hear it live, most obviously. When I’m cooking or doing the dishes I put on music, and sometimes other people are present. When I’m jogging or cycling to and from work down New York’s West Side Highway bike path, or if I’m in a rented car on the rare occasions I have to drive somewhere, I listen alone. And when I’m writing and recording music, I listen to what I’m working on. But that’s it.

I find music somewhat intrusive in restaurants or bars. Maybe due to my involvement with it, I feel I have to either listen intently or tune it out. Mostly I tune it out; I often don’t even notice if a Talking Heads song is playing in most public places. Sadly, most music then becomes (for me) an annoying sonic layer that just adds to the background noise.

As music becomes less of a thing—a cylinder, a cassette, a disc—and more ephemeral, perhaps we will start to assign an increasing value to live performances again. After years of hoarding LPs and CDs, I have to admit I’m now getting rid of them. I occasionally pop a CD into a player, but I’ve pretty much completely converted to listening to MP3s either on my computer or, gulp, my phone! For me, music is becoming dematerialized, a state that is more truthful to its nature, I suspect. Technology has brought us full circle.”

Text and Image via the Smithsonian. Continue THERE