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Touch sensing skin for the iCub

April 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Skin has been one of the big missing technologies for humanoid robots, according to italian roboticist Giogio Metta.

It is only possible to interact closely with people if the robot is exactly aware of what its limbs are interacting with.

See more: http://www.robotcub.org/misc/papers/08_cannata.pdf.

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Orgasm snapshot

April 28, 2012 Leave a comment

One moment in time in different slices through the brain. More precisely, the brain of Kayt Sukel as she is having an orgasm, while being inside a brain scanner.

Kayt Sukel in the scanner.

As the orgasm arrives, activity shoots up in two parts of the brain called the cerebellum and the frontal cortex, perhaps because of greater muscle tension. During orgasm, activity reaches a peak in the hypothalamus, which releases a chemical called oxytocin that causes pleasurable sensations and stimulates the uterus to contract. Activity also peaks in the nucleus accumbens, an area linked to reward and pleasure

Quotes from a Guardian newspaper article.

War and brain manipulation

April 28, 2012 Leave a comment

According to a 2011 report from the UKs royal society:

Wars of the future might be be decided through manipulation of people’s minds. New technology will allow new targets in the brain to identified, and while some will be vital for medicine, others might be used to incapacitate people.

It is old news that DARPA tests ways of improving soldiers mental capabilities, but other research might be going on. Research on gases and electronics to temporarily disable enemy forces (brain functioning). Which, btw, might be a violation of human rights, i.e. the human right to have ones own thought processes protected.

Lovely stuff, In love and war, everything goes…

Quotes from NewScientist upfront story, 2011.

Categories: fear, intelligence

Speakers Club arrangement med Per Wimmer

April 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Var idag til Speakers Club arrangement med Per Wimmer.
På deres hjemmeside skriver Speakers Club:

….finansmanden Per Wimmer – den moderne eventyrer, der i 2013, som den første dansker vil bryde den ultimative grænse – at rejse i rummet. Forinden da, vil han i juli 2012 dykke ned til Titanic, der ligger i 3.8 km dybde.
Per Wimmer er 41 år, millionær og indehaver af investeringsbanken Wimmer Financial i London.
Han har to studenterhuer, eksamener fra både Københavns Universitet, Europakollegiet i Brügge, University of London og Harvard, og imellem studierne har han arbejdet som assistent for EU-kommissær Henning Christoffersen i Europakommissionen og som konsulent for McKinsey. Efter Harvard arbejdede Wimmer i en stilling som investeringsrådgiver og siden afdelingsdirektør i investeringsbanken Goldman Sachs. Da banken gik på børsen, kunne den unge Wimmer lægge nogle millioner til sin pæne årsløn. Kort derefter købte han sin første billet til rummet.
Siden har han været aktierådgiver i Collins Stewart og i MF Global/Man Securities.

Speakers Club havde lagt denne inspirations video ud før arrangementet:

Før Per Wimmer gik på scenen blev alle vi tilhørere bedt om at fortælle vores allerstørste drøm til vores sidemand (i.e. kan man ikke det, er det næppe sandsynligt at drømmen er ret godt formuleret, og derved heller ikke sandsynligt at noget kan ske).

Således testede kom Per ind – iført rumdragt –
Som Speakers Club manden sagde – en mand med en drøm, som har handlet på det.

Først var der en kort introduction til hans liv som finansmand i London, Wimmer Financial – og det job hos Goldman Sachs, som gør ham rig nok til at holde ferie 365 dage om året, og forfølge drømmene.

Derefter gik vi over til det egentlige – visionen om rummet.
Se detaljerne på Wimmer Space.

Vi mennesker lever hele vores liv i et 11 km bånd. Vi kommer maksimalt 10 km op. Og max 1 km ned. Det vil han gerne udvide – længere ned, og navnligt højere op.

Per har sat sin mission statemement op (sådan een har alle fornuftige mennesker jo):
1. Think out the box.
2. Follow (feel) heart and passion.
3. Focus and execution.
(udfør, udfør, udfør – vær fokuseret, og få tingene gjort. En af gangen).
4. Time discipline. Alle resourcer kan vindes og tabes igen – bortset fra tid. Så man skal være meget omhyggelig med hvad man bruger tiden til.
5. Teamwork. Sum of all the parts is greater than the individual parts.
6. Calculate risk. Risk reward ratio. Upside vs. downside.
Giver det nok at forfølge det givne mål.
7. Inspire others. esp. Children.
Encourage others. Opmuntre andre til at udleve deres drøme.

Hans første projekt var Mt. Everest. Ifølge Per er chancen for at dø her 10 % ved hver opstigning (internet er lidt uenig, og giver 2 % – risk of dying on Everest – 216 døde, og 3,142 havde nået toppen i 2010.

In the last ten years, advances in climbing equipment and more experienced guides have resulted in a steep drop in fatality statistics: from 37% in 1990 to 4.4% in 2004.

Men for en rigtig eventyrer er det jo heller ikke sjovt at være nr. 3.143 ….Så med relativ høj risici og ikke megen fame and fortune, lavede han så istedet et Mount Everest Skydrive:

Per var med i første gruppe der lavede i Everest Skydives 2008. Nu er det vist nærmest rutine, og noget der kan købes som pakkerejser….
Lufthavnen (skydivet startede fra, og landede ved) oppe på Everest ser dog stadig noget usikker ud …

Han var så sådan set klar til turen med Virgin Galactica op i rummet. Men desværre har der været en del forsinkelser. Så han er først med der i 2013. Og han skulle jo også lave noget i 2012 – så der dykker han ned til Titanic her i sommerferien.

Lidt uklart for mig hvem der egentlig arrangerede (om det var Per eller nogen andre), men hos en arrangør, Centennial Titanic dive, kommer man med for 300.000 (from $ 66,257 pp (for submarine divers) to $12,498 pp (for Non Submarine Divers) – hvilket jo er et fund for prisen.
Mange spændende detaljer om Titanic (vi fik også en bog om vraget) –
Stort skib, 269 m langt. Megen historie. Se Titanic.

Sej tur med at sejle rundt i undervandsbåd (der er kun 5 ubåde i verden der kan gå så langt ned, 3.8 km) om forstavnen. 3 timer dyk ned, og 3 timer op igen.

Efter det holdes eventyr-lysten levende med et forsøg på at lave hastigheds rekord på landjorden i diverse amerikanske ørkener.
Målet er der 800 miler/pr hour. i en raketmotor man har sat hjul på.
Div flymekanikere fra Boing fabrikkerne arbejder med på det projekt. Og Per og Ed skiftes så til at side i maskinen ….

Men ellers er der jo astronaut træningen:

Der er Fighter Jet Flying:

The MIG 25 reaches speeds around Mack 2.5 – 3.0 (approx. 2.500 – 3.000 Km/h) and reaches altitudes at the edge of space

Se MIG 25.
Som Per har prøvet flere gange i Rusland. Lyder som et værre hostende, rystende, skrammel fly … 🙂 Der bare flyver vanvittigt hurtigt.

Incredibel adventures sælger turene for ca. $17.000 dollars, se Adventures.
Hvor man så for ladet sit fly op med 14 tones brændstof. Den russsiske pilot brænder det så af for een, når han da ikke på dårligt engelsk overlader styrepinden til een (man står der for forsvaret af moder Rusland?).
Og ifølge Per, også Topgun lignende akrobatik omkring det russiske kontrol tårn …. drikker man også vodka i cockpittet tænker man så?

Så er der zero g træning:

Zero-G flights aim at building up resistance and level of comfort in the state of weighlessness. Specially designed Russian built Ilyushin 76 planes nose dives from approx. 14 km of altitude, creating approx. 30 seconds of weightlessness

Og centrifuge træning:

The ABB centrifuge is one of the largest centrifuges in world and capable of delivering up to 30 G for non-human experiments; the human body can only resist up to 12 G. An F 16 fighter pilot must withstand 7.5 G to qualify

Altsammen i Rusland.

Der er herlige videoer på Wimmer space siden fra træningen.

Men det skal jo ende med rigtige missioner, og Per har så foreløbigt købt sig 3 ture.
Først i slutningen af 2013 med Virgin Galactica, Virgin Space.

Tickets cost $200,000 and deposits start from $20,000.

Meget kort tid efter med http://www.incredible-adventures.com/xcor-lynx.html. Hvilket er en rigtigt ”right stuff”experience.

Og så hos Space adventures, som jeg forstod det. Som allerede har sendt folk kommercielt op.
Charles Simony m.fl.
Detaljerne omkring mission 3 virkede dog noget usikre. Men jeg forstod det sådan at nr. 3 også var booket.
De 2 første virkede mere sikre. Og skulle være ready to go.

Og endelig er der jo selvfølgelig den langsigtede ambition om at komme til Månen.

I pausen lovede Per mig at der vil være live streaming ud på Wimmer Space sitet fra hans første tur med Virgin Galactica i 2013.
Det glæder jeg mig rigtigt meget til at se!

Categories: astronomy, fear, technology

Todays links, April 21st 2012

April 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Tomorrows worlds:
http://www.art-spire.com/en/3d/stunning-3d-sci-fi-works-by-stefan-morrell/

People of tomorrow:
What faces will be like – The faces of tomorrow:
http://www.faceoftomorrow.com/index.php
With different personalities? Personality variation by region (USA):
http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2008/09/personality-variation-by-region-usa.php

A strange world for sure:
Brain illusions – The break of the curveball:
http://illusioncontest.neuralcorrelate.com/2009/the-break-of-the-curveball/
Quantum suicide:
http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/science-questions/quantum-suicide.htm

A world of XNA – not DNA?

Artificial genetic material XNA:
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/04/20/scientists-create-artificial-genetic-material-xna/
Artificial genetic material that can store information and evolve over generations in a similar way to DNA. A team at the J Craig Venter Institute , in Rockville, Maryland, are hoping to make synthetic organisms from scratch.

Still, we are part of the universe:

And kids still play:
Kids Send 3D GoPro Cameras Into Space, Get Back Stunning Footage:
http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/20/kids-send-3d-gopro-cameras-into-space-get-back-stunning-footage/
Throwable Ball Camera Captures Spherical Panoramas:
http://laughingsquid.com/throwable-ball-camera-captures-spherical-panoramas/

As do grownups:
Rotating Images:
http://www.dhteumeuleu.com/dhtml/rotate3D.html
Flying balls … :
http://www.seb.cc/particles/

It is all in the mind:
Amsterdam Anatomie:
http://www.anatomie-amsterdam.nl/sub_sites/anatomie-zenuwwerking/123_neuro/start.htm
Info overload? Don’t worry, there might be a pill for that coming up soon….
Just take a synapse-regulating inhibitor, induce temporary autism,….
http://io9.com/349956/one-pill-makes-you-autistic-++-and-one-pill-changes-you-back

Enjoy the times:
While they last …(Time might be running out, or slowing down):
http://www.breakingnews.ie/world/mheykfkfeyau/

Its all right here, on the internet:
The internet. Where people swap files:
https://simplicity.wetransfer.com/
And stay invisible:
http://www.stayinvisible.com/
Like one giant brain?

Or, just browse on.

Determinism and Free Will

April 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Free will is a tricky subject.
In the book ”Who is in charge” Michael Gazzaniga has some good insights.

The two main positions within that debate are the claim that determinism is false and thus that free will exists (or is at least possible); and hard determinism, the claim that determinism is true and thus that free will does not exist.

See more at Wiki.

The hard determinists will tell us, that:

1. The brain enables the mind and the brain is a physical entity.
2. The physical world is determined. so our brains must also be determined.
3. If our brains are determined, and if the brain is the necessary and sufficient organ that enables the mind, then we are left with the belief that the thoughts that arise from our mind also are determined.
4. Thus, free will is an illusion. And we must revise our thoughts about what it means to be personally responsible for our actions.
Put, differently, the concept of free will has no meaning.

Most people agree that the first claim is ok. Claim 2, however, is under attack.
From the 3 body problem and moving on to non linear complex systems it is seen that complex systems does not allow exact predictions of future states.

Which, obviously, puts claim 3 (and then claim 4) on shaky ground…

There are other problems though.
Can we derive the macro story from the micro story – find a mental state from neural state?
According to Gazzaniga, ”analyzing nerve states may be able to inform us how the thing could work, but not how it actually does.”
It has to do with emergence.
Gazzaniga quotes nobel prize winner Philip W. Andersen:

The ability to reduce everything to simple fundamental laws does not imply the ability to start from these laws and reconstruct the universe.

Emergence is not very much liked. Finally, we have gottan rid of the homunculus inside our brains, and finally, we have gottan rid of Descartes dualism – and other ghosts in the machine – and then people propose, that there are still ghosts in there …

According to Gazzaniga:

You cannot analyze traffic at the level of the individual car.
You have to throw in location, time, weather, society and other drivers, then a new set of laws emerge, that can predict traffic.

So, once a mental state exist – is there downward causation. Can a thought constrain the brain that produced it?
Not, really, it is more complex than that.
Take genes. Codons are controlling the construction of the whole (enzymes), but the whole is, in part, controlling the the identification of the parts (translation) and the construction itself (protein synthesis). Its not upward or downward. Its complementary.

How do we get from brain state M1 to brain state M2?
M1 is produced by a physical state P1 and M2 is produced by P2.
If we just go from P1 to P2 – then there is no free will, and we are just along for the ride.
The tough question is though, does M1, in a downward constraining process, guide P2, thus affecting M2?

In genetics there is a multiplicity of events going on? And the same might be the case for action? Downward and upward causation working together.
Maybe:

Action is the result of complementary components arising from within and without.

And different levels and in different languages. Some levels completely emergent from the levels below?
And it gets worse. Social context and social constraints on the group level might also influence our actions. In a language that is completely emergent (not producible) from the level of brain hardware.

Free will is a tricky thing ….
And we didn’t even throw in quantum mechanics and the observer problem to make it tricky…. 🙂

Todays links, April 14th 2012

April 13, 2012 1 comment

“Why” is, in that sense, the most dangerous word in history, Because as soon as you ask that question, you open up the possibility of change. So asking “why” may be the hardest thing for people to do..

See more: The power of imagination.

“You must see yourself see. It’s about observation and curiosity, having a sense of wonder, becoming aware of the connection between the past and the present. Becoming an observer of yourself enables you to do amazing things.”

Dreams

And we can indeed improve:

New research, led by Swiss postdoctoral fellows Susanne M. Jaeggi and Martin Buschkuehl, working at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, suggests that at least one aspect of a person’s IQ can be improved by training a certain type of memory.

See more: Improved IQs.

Still, humans are pretty strange creatures: 9 Strange human behaviours

In a pretty strange world. With plenty of places like ours, out there…
See: Astronomer Finds Evidence for Record-Breaking Nine Planet System.

Carl Sagan had something to say about it.

From Carl Sagan speaks – The Humans.

Here’s to you, Carl. An inspiration.
See more: Sagan series.

Todays pics: Fractals, Lunar Parthenon and Future cities.

Finally:
100 Web sites you should know: 100 Essential web pages.

And search it, not with a browser, but, with a Wowser.