Friday, July 24, 2009

Gaia vs. Medea

This article in the always enjoyable Chronicle of Higher Education Review touches on a theme from an I.S. meeting of many years ago: James Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis. An interesting twist is the recent "Medea Hypothesis", which portrays life on Earth not as a self-sustaining force restoring the planet to equlibrium, but an ultimately self-destroying force that (echoing another IS theme) pushes it away from equlibrium.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Brain Control

An article by Erico Guizzo, called "Monkeys Control Computer With Thought" in the July 2009 IEEE Spectrum online, describes the work of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. The work of Jose Carmena and his students, published in PLos Biology, shows how "a monkey’s brain is able to develop a motor memory for controlling a virtual device in a manner similar to the way it creates such a memory for the animal’s body." Lena Ting, a professor of biomedical engineering at Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, in Atlanta, says that the findings may "... change the whole way that people have thought about how to approach brain-machine interfaces." "Previous research," she explains, "tried to use the parts of the brain that operate real limbs to control an artificial one. The Berkeley study suggests that an artificial arm may not need to rely on brain signals related to the natural arm; the brain can assimilate the artificial device as if it were a new part of the body."

The Smart Grid

IEEE Spectrum has a special report called The Smart Grid. "Taking the latest in computing and communications technology to make the electrical system more interactive, efficient, and robust is not a new idea. What’s new is that suddenly more than 10 billion federal dollars are being poured into it. But all that money will be well spent only if regulators are as inventive and intelligent as transmission and distribution engineers have been."

Brain hacking

WIRED, via /technology, reports on concerns raised by Tadayoshi Kohno of the University of Washington in a July 1, 2009 article in Neurosurgical Focus, that developments in neural engineering could pose future security risks. The article, "Neurosecurity: security and privacy for neural devices" considers what would happen if hackers focused on exploiting weaknesses in neural devices, such as the deep-brain stimulators used to treat Parkinson's and depression, or electrode systems for controlling prosthetic limbs. "It's very hard to design complex systems that don't have bugs," Kohno said. "As these medical devices start to become more and more complicated, it gets easier and easier for people to overlook a bug that could become a very serious risk. It might border on science fiction today, but so did going to the moon 50 years ago."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Where Art Meets Social Networking Sites

The New York Times published an article on July 2, 2009 called "Where Art Meets Social Networking Sites" about the current art show, "Status Update" at the Gallery@Haskins at Haskins Laboratories, curated by Debbie Hesse of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven and Donna Ruff. The article included comments by Debbie and Philip Rubin, CEO of Haskins, and coverage of the work by many of the artists, including Cat Balco, Matt Held, Keith Johnson, Jeremiah Teipen, Lee Walton, Rachel Perry Welty, and An Xiao. The show, which focuses on the intersection of art and emerging technologies, runs through August 1, 2009.
(photo by Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times)

Robotic Rat

NewScientist Tech has an article and video about SCRATCHbot, a robot that uses its whiskers to sense the environment. The robot was developed by Tony Prescott from the University of Sheffield and Anthony Pipe from the University of Bristol. Thanks and hat tip to Richard Crane for sending us the video.

The Federation has a new name: FABBS

The Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences has changes its name to the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences (FABBS). FABBS promotes human potential and well-being by advancing the sciences of mind, brain, and behavior. It is a coalition of scientific societies that communicates with policy makers and the public about the importance and contributions of basic and applied research in these sciences. I (Philip Rubin) am a member of the FABBS Executive Committee.

Temporal Powers of Ten

Mike Treder , in an online article on the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) website, speculates on what would happen if we try a mental exercise, similar to that created in the Charles and Ray Eames 1977 film, "Power of Ten," that focuses on time instead of space. Check it out.

Cineradiography of Singing Northern Cardinals

The Suthers Laboratory at Indiana University, which is devoted to the study of the neural and physiogical bases of acoustic behavior, has a wonderful QuickTime video that shows x-ray images of a northern cardinal singing, along with a 3d polygonal model of the oropharyngeal-esophogeal cavity. Thanks and a hat tip to Mark Tiede for sending us the url.

Vanishing New York: Music Row

We have received, though a circuitous route, some very sad news. Robert Remez alerted us to an entry in Jeremiah's Vanishing New York blog
that relates that Lost City has reported that Manny's Music will be vanishing from 48th Street, where it has been since 1935. Music Row is on its way out as the Times Square area continues to transform. I used to shop for guitars at Manny's and Sam Ash in the 1960s ad 1970s and will miss this concentrated world of musical instruments. Thanks to Robert for letting us know about this.