Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Language localized in the brain

MIT researchers have found that there are parts of our brain dedicated only to language, a finding that marks a major advance in the search for brain regions specialized for sophisticated mental functions.

Functional specificity refers to the idea that discrete parts of the brain handle distinct tasks. Scientists have long known that functional specificity exists in certain domains: in the motor system, for example, there is one patch of neurons that controls the fingers of your left hand, and another that controls your tongue.

But what about more complex functions such as recognizing faces, using language or doing math? Are there special brain regions for those activities, or do they use general-purpose areas that serve whatever task is at hand?

To determine this, the researchers analyzed each subject individually using fMRI, making sure that patterns of activity in one brain would only ever be compared to patterns of activity from that same brain. The researchers spent the first 10 to 15 minutes of each fMRI scan having their subject do a fairly sophisticated language task while tracking brain activity. This way, they established where the language areas lie in that individual subject, so that later, when the subject performed other cognitive tasks, they could compare those activation patterns to the ones elicited by language.

After having their subjects perform the initial language task (a “functional localizer”),  the researchers had each one do a subset of seven other experiments: one on exact arithmetic, two on working memory, three on cognitive control and one on music, since these are the functions most commonly argued “to share neural machinery with language.”

Out of the nine regions they analyzed — four in the left frontal lobe, including the region known as Broca’s area, and five further back in the left hemisphere — eight uniquely supported language, showing no significant activation for any of the seven other tasks. These findings indicate a “striking degree of functional specificity for language,” the researchers said.

The researchers said the results don’t imply that every cognitive function has its own dedicated piece of cortex. However, they said the results give hope to researchers looking to draw some distinctions within the human cortex.

Read more: http://goo.gl/gzOjd


Global Source and/or and/or more resources and/or read more: http://goo.gl/JujXk ─ Publisher and/or Author and/or Managing Editor:__Andres Agostini ─ @Futuretronium at Twitter! Futuretronium Book at http://goo.gl/JujXk

New laser microscope sees beneath skin to diagnose melanoma

Physicists from Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) in Rome have developed a new type of laser-scanning confocal microscope (LSCM) that holds the promise of diagnosing skin cancer.

The new device is able to gather spectrographic information at a wide range of wavelengths of reflected light, from 500nm (blue) to about 2.4um (infrared), for every point within the sample. This spectroscopic “fingerprint”allows for identification of possible disease conditions. It can penetrate skin up to 0.5mm.

The image is formed pixel by  pixel. The pixel is defined by 4 coordinates: X (row index), Y (column index), Z  (the depth), and Lambda (the spectral wavelengths for each X,Y,Z physical point).

The researchers demonstrated the technology by taking high-resolution pictures of the edge of a silicon wafer and of metallic letters painted onto a piece of silicon less than half a millimeter wide. They also demonstrated that it is possible to apply this technique to a tissue sample (in this case, chicken skin) without destroying it.

“With further testing, the microscope could be used to detect early signs of melanoma,” according to CNR physicist Dr. Stefano Selci. “Until then, it may be useful for non-medical applications, such as inspecting the surface of semiconductors.”

Read more: http://goo.gl/eZKgK




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Alloy and catalyst allow for low-cost generation of hydrogen from water and air-stable, reusable storage

Using state-of-the-art theoretical computations, scientists from the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville have developed an inexpensive semiconductor material can be tweaked to generate hydrogen from water using sunlight.

They demonstrated that an alloy formed by antimony (Sb) and gallium nitride (GaN) has the right electrical properties to enable solar light energy to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, a process known as photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting.

The researchers said the GaN-Sb alloy has the potential to convert solar energy into an economical, carbon-free source for hydrogen — a zero-emissions fuel for powering homes and cars.

In related news today, scientists from the University of Southern California have developed a ruthenium catalyst system that releases enough hydrogen from its storage in ammonia borane to make it usable as a fuel source.

The system is air-stable and reusable, unlike other systems for hydrogen storage on boron and metal hydrides. This is the first reusable, air stable ammonia borane dehydrogenation process, the researchers said.

The system is sufficiently lightweight and efficient to have potential fuel applications ranging from motor-driven cycles to small aircraft, they said.

Read more: http://goo.gl/XqQRi


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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Controlling cells’ environments: a step toward building much-needed tissues and organs

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have found reproducible methods to control how pluripotent human embryonic stem cells differentiate (grow into specific heart cells, brain cells, and other kinds of cells).

Past approaches to growing stem cells have involved adding growth-regulating substances to cultures of stem cells growing in the laboratory. These conditions left scientists guessing about exactly what wound up in the stem cells.

The researchers found that chemically defined surfaces can exert control over signaling pathways. “Signaling” is how molecules talk to one another and get things done inside a cell.  They used a signaling substance, “transforming growth factor-beta” (TGF-beta) to control cell growth and differentiation.

The researchers said this is an advance toward using stem cells in regenerative medicine to grow organs from scratch for transplants and tissues for treating diseases.

Read more: http://goo.gl/28iNJ

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 Uncovering the spread of deadly cancer

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have imaged individual cancer cells and the routes they travel as the tumor spreads, allowing the scientists to see pathways to stop a deadly brain cancer.

Current molecular imaging techniques suffer from low resolution and difficulty in imaging through the skull.

The researchers used a mouse model that included four different cell lines of brain cancers at various stages of tumor development and dispersion. The cancer cells were modified with fluorescent markers and implanted in the model’s brain.

To get a look at glioblastoma multiforme, a particularly aggressive cancer that has no known treatments to stop it from spreading, the researchers used a novel cryo-imaging (cold temperature) technique. Using custom algorithms, the cryo-imaging system disassembled the brain, layer by layer, and reassembled it into a color three-dimensional digital image.

The researchers were able to differentiate the main tumor mass, the blood vessels that feed the cancer, and dispersing cells. The new imaging system enabled them to peer at single cells and analyze the extent and patterns of cancer cell migration and dispersal from tumors along blood vessels and white matter tracts within the brain, offering exquisite anatomic detail.

They found that two cell lines, a human brain cancer LN229, and a rodent cancer CNS-1, best resemble the actions of glioblastoma multiforme in human patients. This novel cryo-imaging technique provides a valuable tool to evaluate therapeutic interventions targeted at limiting tumor cell invasion and dispersal, they concluded.

Read more: http://goo.gl/Mi5z5


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 Astrophysicists report first simulation to create a Milky Way-like galaxy

After nine months of number-crunching on a powerful supercomputer, a beautiful spiral galaxy matching our own Milky Way has emerged from a computer simulation of the physics involved in galaxy formation and evolution by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) and the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Zurich.
Eris Simulation

Blue colors are regions of recent star formation, while redder regions are associated with older stars. The spiral arms are typically star-forming, and the central bulge is basically "red and dead" (credit: J. Guedes and P. Madau)

The “Eris” simulation solves a longstanding problem that had led some to question the prevailing cosmological model of the universe, the researchers said.

“Previous efforts to form a massive disk galaxy like the Milky Way had failed, because the simulated galaxies ended up with huge central bulges compared to the size of the disk,” said Javiera Guedes at UCSC.

The Eris galaxy is a massive spiral galaxy with a central “bar” of bright stars and other structural properties consistent with galaxies like the Milky Way. Its brightness profile, bulge-to-disk ratio, stellar content, and other key features are all within the range of observations of the Milky Way and other galaxies of the same type. “We dissected the galaxy in many different ways to confirm that it fits with observations,” Guedes said.

The project required a large investment of supercomputer time, including 1.4 million processor-hours on NASA’s state-of-the-art Pleiades supercomputer, plus additional supporting simulations on supercomputers at UCSC and the Swiss National Supercomputing Center.

The results support the prevailing “cold dark matter” theory, in which the evolution of structure in the universe is driven by the gravitational interactions of dark matter (“dark” because it can’t be seen, and “cold” because the particles are moving slowly).

Gravity acted initially on slight density fluctuations present shortly after the Big Bang, pulling together the first clumps of dark matter, which grew into larger and larger clumps through the hierarchical merging of smaller progenitors. The ordinary matter that forms stars and planets (less than 20 percent of the matter in the universe) has fallen into the “gravitational wells” created by large clumps of dark matter, giving rise to galaxies in the centers of dark matter halos.

Eris Comparison

This comparison shows the Eris simulation (top) and the Milky Way (bottom) (credit: S. Callegari, J. Guedes, and the 2MASS collaboration)

For the past 20 years, however, efforts to reproduce this process in computer simulations have failed to generate massive disk galaxies that look anything like the Milky Way, with its spiral arms in a large flat disk around a small central bulge made up of old stars. A realistic simulation of star formation was the key to Eris’s success, the researchers said.

To perform the Eris simulation, the researchers began with a low-resolution simulation of dark matter evolving to form the haloes that host present-day galaxies. Then they chose a halo with an appropriate mass and merger history to host a galaxy like the Milky Way and “rewound the tape” back to the initial conditions. Zooming in on the small region that evolved into the chosen halo, they added gas particles and greatly increased the resolution of the simulation.

The simulation follows the interactions of more than 60 million particles of dark matter and gas. A lot of physics goes into the code — gravity and hydrodynamics, star formation and supernova explosions — and this is the highest resolution cosmological simulation ever done this way, the researchers said.

The high resolution allowed for a more precise recipe for star formation. In a low-resolution simulation, with gas densities averaged out over relatively large areas, the threshold density for star formation has to be set so low that stars tend to form in diffuse gas throughout the galaxy. In the Eris simulation, the star-formation threshold allowed stars to form only in high-density regions, resulting in a more realistic distribution of stars.

Their research is being published in the Astrophysical Journal [link].

Read more: http://goo.gl/FwSV7

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 Tiny bugs are controlling your mind!

Are billions of bacteria influencing your moods? (Credit: Udo's Choice)

Before you take another probiotic cap, you may want to read this. Yet another study at McMaster University in Canada suggests that gut bacteria might be able to alter your brain chemistry and change your mood and behavior, reports Science NOW.

We reported on earlier research on gut bacteria at McMaster University and at Ohio State University. We also mentioned some heady speculations at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center on a new field of microbial endocrinology, “where microbiology meets neuroscience.”

In the new study, McMaster researchers take a slightly bolder step. They fed mice a broth containing a “benign” bacterium, Lactobacillus rhamnosus. The scientists chose this partly because, well, they had some around, so why not, and also because related Lactobacillus bacteria are a major ingredient of probiotic supplements and very little is known about their potential side effects.

How it works, maybe

They found that mice whose diets were supplemented with L. rhamnosus for 6 weeks exhibited fewer signs of stress and anxiety in standard lab tests, as reported online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For example, the mice spent more time exploring narrow elevated walkways and wide-open spaces, which are scary to rodents. (That might explain the Jackass movies?)

But how does it work? That’s the part that has been puzzling me. First, the McMaster researchers found changes in the activity of genes in the brain that encode portions of the receptor for the neurotransmiter GABA. GABA typically dampens neural activity, and many drugs for treating anxiety disorders target its receptors. (The Texas Tech guys also suggested GABA effects.)

Then they cut the vegas nerve, which runs between the stomach and brain, and lo and behold, the effects stopped. The findings “open up very exciting speculations” about using probiotics to treat mood disorders in people, says Emeran Mayer, a gastroenterologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. But he said he’s skeptical that the findings will translate easily from mice to people.

Then he squeaked and ran up the wall.

Read more: http://goo.gl/7SrUA


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Monday, August 29, 2011


A low-cost, low-power DIY cellular data network

Professor Kurtis Heimerl of the University of California, Berkeley has created a do-it-yourself GSM (global system for mobile communications, a worldwide cell-phone standard) cellular data network for areas (such as remote villages) with limited power and network resources, reports Shareable.

The network can be deployed off-the-grid because only low power is required, using solar or wind, and no connection to a cell-phone company is required.

What if devices like this were used to connect to an autonomous Internet through a collectively owned satellite? For example, Buy This Satellite is an effort to crowdfund enough money to purchase the communications satellite TerreStar-1. Non-profit Ahumanright aims to use the satellite to provide free Internet access in the developing world.

Read more: http://goo.gl/TJ6Ow


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Unexpected adhesion properties of graphene may lead to new nanotechnology devices

Graphene has surprisingly powerful adhesion qualities that could make possible graphene-based mechanical devices such as gas separation membranes, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have found.

The team measured the adhesion energy of graphene sheets, ranging from one to five atomic layers, with a glass substrate, using a pressurized “blister test” to quantify the adhesion between graphene and glass plates. The adhesion energies were several orders of magnitude larger than those in typical micromechanical structures.

“A gas separation membranes is a porous membrane that acts as a filter to separate gases,” said professor Scott Bunch. “Adhesion in this case is important because the maximum pressure difference you apply across the membrane will depend on how strongly the graphene is adhered to the surface it is supported on. At too high a pressure difference, the membrane will separate from the surface.

The researchers provided the first experimental measurements of the adhesion of graphene nanostructures, showing that van der Waals forces — the sum of the attractive or repulsive forces between molecules — clamp the graphene samples to the substrates and also hold together the individual graphene sheets in multilayer samples.

Their experiments also showed that the extreme flexibility of graphene allows it to conform to the topography of even the smoothest substrates, the researchers said.

Read more: http://goo.gl/N1Exk


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Building Crowds of Humans into Software

Enabling software to punt its toughest tasks to humans should result in smarter mobile apps and other programs, say the founders of the newly launched company MobileWorks. The startup makes it possible for programmers to build human intelligence into their software using crowdsourcing—the practice of parceling out relatively small parts of a larger problem to many different people over the Web.

Sites such as Amazon Mechanical Turk already provide a place to post tasks to be solved by a crowd of anonymous workers, paid small amounts for each task they complete. But Anand Kulkarni, one of MobileWorks's three founders, says that Amazon's service and others are too inaccurate and slow to be built into software that needs to solve problems with a quick turnaround.

"Crowdsourcing is attractive because computers are much worse than humans at some tasks," says Kulkarni, "but what is out there today is not giving us the full potential of having a human inside your computer program." Many of MobileWorks's ideas originated at the University of California, Berkeley, where Kulkarni used to research crowdsourcing and its potential to solve immediate problems, such as robot navigation, that are challenging for software. "A task like that, where you need an answer in real time, could not be solved by Mechanical Turk because it does not behave like a computer," says Kulkarni. "It can take days to get an answer back, and it may be wrong."

MobileWorks can take on such tasks, he says. Existing crowdsourcing services involve a person filling out an online form to specify a task to be completed. By contrast, MobileWorks takes on jobs sent in by software using application programming interfaces (APIs), which allow one piece of software to tap into another. MobileWorks's software translates the job sent in over its APIs into tasks distributed to the company's crowd of workers. The results are then collated and sent back to the software that made the request, which behaves as if it got the answer from another piece of software, not a crowd of humans. "It's a black box for human intelligence," says Kulkarni. "Software can treat us like another piece of software with the intelligence of a human."

MobileWorks has so far created dedicated APIs to extract data from Web pages or transcribe handwriting into text. Kulkarni says the company can also "push the limits" of crowdsourcing and tackle tasks such as speech transcription or image processing in real time. Such requests are flagged as needing rapid answers. MobileWorks's software pushes those requests ahead of others and will call on extra workers by text message if the current number online is not sufficient.

The company's workers have been recruited from the developing world, including people from the slums of Mumbai, India, and a group of housewives in Rewadi, near Delhi, India. One-third of those workers contribute using mobile phones. "Our crowd is not anonymous, and we sometimes call and talk with them directly," says Kulkarni. "You get a workforce that is loyal and motivated that way." That, along with a commitment to paying reasonable wages, ensures reliable performance, he says, and provides work to motivated people stuck in places with scant other opportunities.

In a test that used both MobileWorks and Mechanical Turk to find e-mail addresses on a Web page, MobileWorks won, its founders claim. Mechanical Turk provided answers in 40 minutes, but they were only half correct. MobileWorks got fully correct answers back in under a minute.

Says Michael Bernstein, who researches crowdsourcing at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and last year developed a word processor called Soylent that can do things like shorten a selected sentence by tapping into Mechanical Turk, "It's exciting that MobileWorks is taking a trend that's happening in research and making it more widely available." Although growing numbers of academics are working on ways to build crowds into software, the strategy hasn't been used commercially.

Bernstein adds that the startup's hands-on attitude to its workforce, and ability to use text messaging to tell them when their help is needed, also sets MobileWorks apart. "The ability to spin up more workers as you need them is very powerful," says Bernstein. "On Mechanical Turk, your tasks can just stall because not enough people choose to work on them." Amazon's crowdsourcing platform has also earned such a reputation for unreliable quality, says Bernstein, that researchers like him typically send each task to Mechanical Turk three to five times to be sure of a good answer.

Read more: http://goo.gl/q7Y40



Global Source and/or and/or more resources and/or read more: http://goo.gl/JujXk ─ Publisher and/or Author and/or Managing Editor:__Andres Agostini ─ @Futuretronium at Twitter! Futuretronium Book at http://goo.gl/JujXk

Building Crowds of Humans into Software

Enabling software to punt its toughest tasks to humans should result in smarter mobile apps and other programs, say the founders of the newly launched company MobileWorks. The startup makes it possible for programmers to build human intelligence into their software using crowdsourcing—the practice of parceling out relatively small parts of a larger problem to many different people over the Web.

Sites such as Amazon Mechanical Turk already provide a place to post tasks to be solved by a crowd of anonymous workers, paid small amounts for each task they complete. But Anand Kulkarni, one of MobileWorks's three founders, says that Amazon's service and others are too inaccurate and slow to be built into software that needs to solve problems with a quick turnaround.

"Crowdsourcing is attractive because computers are much worse than humans at some tasks," says Kulkarni, "but what is out there today is not giving us the full potential of having a human inside your computer program." Many of MobileWorks's ideas originated at the University of California, Berkeley, where Kulkarni used to research crowdsourcing and its potential to solve immediate problems, such as robot navigation, that are challenging for software. "A task like that, where you need an answer in real time, could not be solved by Mechanical Turk because it does not behave like a computer," says Kulkarni. "It can take days to get an answer back, and it may be wrong."

MobileWorks can take on such tasks, he says. Existing crowdsourcing services involve a person filling out an online form to specify a task to be completed. By contrast, MobileWorks takes on jobs sent in by software using application programming interfaces (APIs), which allow one piece of software to tap into another. MobileWorks's software translates the job sent in over its APIs into tasks distributed to the company's crowd of workers. The results are then collated and sent back to the software that made the request, which behaves as if it got the answer from another piece of software, not a crowd of humans. "It's a black box for human intelligence," says Kulkarni. "Software can treat us like another piece of software with the intelligence of a human."

MobileWorks has so far created dedicated APIs to extract data from Web pages or transcribe handwriting into text. Kulkarni says the company can also "push the limits" of crowdsourcing and tackle tasks such as speech transcription or image processing in real time. Such requests are flagged as needing rapid answers. MobileWorks's software pushes those requests ahead of others and will call on extra workers by text message if the current number online is not sufficient.

The company's workers have been recruited from the developing world, including people from the slums of Mumbai, India, and a group of housewives in Rewadi, near Delhi, India. One-third of those workers contribute using mobile phones. "Our crowd is not anonymous, and we sometimes call and talk with them directly," says Kulkarni. "You get a workforce that is loyal and motivated that way." That, along with a commitment to paying reasonable wages, ensures reliable performance, he says, and provides work to motivated people stuck in places with scant other opportunities.

In a test that used both MobileWorks and Mechanical Turk to find e-mail addresses on a Web page, MobileWorks won, its founders claim. Mechanical Turk provided answers in 40 minutes, but they were only half correct. MobileWorks got fully correct answers back in under a minute.

Says Michael Bernstein, who researches crowdsourcing at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and last year developed a word processor called Soylent that can do things like shorten a selected sentence by tapping into Mechanical Turk, "It's exciting that MobileWorks is taking a trend that's happening in research and making it more widely available." Although growing numbers of academics are working on ways to build crowds into software, the strategy hasn't been used commercially.

Bernstein adds that the startup's hands-on attitude to its workforce, and ability to use text messaging to tell them when their help is needed, also sets MobileWorks apart. "The ability to spin up more workers as you need them is very powerful," says Bernstein. "On Mechanical Turk, your tasks can just stall because not enough people choose to work on them." Amazon's crowdsourcing platform has also earned such a reputation for unreliable quality, says Bernstein, that researchers like him typically send each task to Mechanical Turk three to five times to be sure of a good answer.

Read more: http://goo.gl/1qsYC



Global Source and/or and/or more resources and/or read more: http://goo.gl/JujXk ─ Publisher and/or Author and/or Managing Editor:__Andres Agostini ─ @Futuretronium at Twitter! Futuretronium Book at http://goo.gl/JujXk

Achieving substrate-independent minds: no, we cannot ‘copy’ brains

On August 18, IBM published an intriguing update of their work in the DARPA SyNAPSE program, seeking to create efficient new computing hardware that is inspired by the architecture of neurons and neuronal networks in the brain.

At carboncopies.org, we strive to take this research a step further: to bring about and nurture projects that are crucial to achieving substrate-independent minds (SIM). That is, enable minds to operate on many different hardware platforms — not just a neural substrate. And we seek realistic routes to SIM.

But what is it that those projects should accomplish?

When you transfer a mind from its biological substrate to another sufficiently powerful computing architecture, that mind has become substrate-independent. In that case, complete access is gained in a way that enables you to transfer its relevant data. Such minds still depend on a substrate to run, but you can operate on a variety of different substrates.

Life expansion

What do you do with a substrate-independent mind? Backing up, copying and restoring minds can be aspects of a robust route to life extension. But SIM researchers are particularly interested in enhancement, competitiveness and adaptability.

We can think of this as “life expansion.”

This has been described to some degree in my article, Pattern survival versus Gene survival. Imagine a mind that can think many times faster than we do now, and can access knowledge databases such as the Internet as intimately as we access our memories now.

In addition to minds that are copies of a human mind, we are interested in man-machine merger, or rather in the ability of man to keep pace with machine and share the future together. Other-than-human substrate-independent minds are therefore necessarily also topics of SIM. In this context, it is worth noting that a SIM is a type of artificial general intelligence (AGI). But an AGI is also a type of SIM, since the AGI should be able to take advantage of any sufficiently powerful computing platform. The two areas of research are closely related.

How to create a SIM

So there are at least two ways to  successfully create a substrate-independent mind: implementing a mind in a synthetic neural system or transferring the existing characteristic information — and the functions that process that information — from a specific  mind into an implementation that operates in another substrate.

Are both of those legitimate goals of SIM?

A synthetic neural system and the transfer of information about an existing neural system to a synthetic implementation do share many technological requirements, but there are some significant differences that appear when you consider the possible scope of each of those aims. For example, how complex must the neurons of a synthetic neural system be? A simple spiking neuron is a computational element that integrates weighted input received through numerous synaptic connections and delivers a spike of activity when that integral reaches a threshold.

We can certainly imagine that a synthetic neural system composed of simple spiking neurons could carry out useful work as a flexible and powerful neuromorphic computer.

But how does that compare with a human brain? The neurons of the human brain, or of any biological brain, are not simple spiking neurons. As we zoom in and examine the composition of a biological neuron, as we take note of the intricacy of its biological machinery, we learn that each individual neuron is in fact an incredibly complex biological entity. To capture all of its behavior might require analysis and simulation down to the molecular level, or even to the subatomic level if we care about every possible environmental effect that interaction with the neuron can have.

Does that matter? That depends on your goals. We must concede that at some level, somewhere between the spiking of the neurons and their subatomic behavior, cumulative non-linear behavior may lead to results that differ significantly from those of a simple spiking neuron. This is certain, as it has proven to be quite hard for computational neuroscientists to develop precise models of single neurons that produce spikes at exactly the same times as a biological neuron would, given the same input1. And spike timing is crucial for computation in many operations of the biological brain.

Mind uploading

If we care about more than just the train of spikes generated by a neuron, the challenge becomes ever so much greater. If the goal is to create a synthetic neural system that can do useful things, those intricacies may not matter. But what if the goal is to take one person’s specific human mind and move it to another substrate in such a way that the experience of the mind’s thought processes and sensations are not disturbed? What if we want to consider a transfer to SIM as a means of continuing a human being’s existence? That is the putative achievement often called “mind uploading.”

Could we create a synthetic brain that is not identical with the biological brain on the molecular or subatomic level, but is functionally identical at every level at which it could interact with its environment, interact within itself, and through time?

The answer is no. That is simply not possible.

At some level, no matter how precise the emulation in another substrate, there is a divergence. In the parlance of information theory, this is a Kullback-Leibler divergence (or KL divergence). KL divergence measures the divergence, expressed as additional bits required to code samples from a probability distribution P when using a code based on a probability distribution Q. The most optimal encoding of samples from Q will not be optimal for samples from P if P ≠ Q.

In plain English, KL divergence evaluates the overhead of an emulation. Physically, what does this overhead mean? It means that we pay a penalty for implementing one computing method in another method. We cannot, using exactly the same space and time, carry out the same computational processes as in the original biological brain and produce the exact same effects, both internal and external interactions. We cannot do better than the physical elements that are carrying out their own natural processes (or computations, if you like). E.g., a particle’s spin is the optimal expression of that characteristic and is not represented as efficiently in any model of that spin.

Fidelity trade-offs

Fortunately for SIM, this problem is actually a straw man. Do we really care about every possible process, every possible interaction? By analogy, when we want to run Macintosh programs on a PC, do we actually care about the precise patterns in space and time in which the Mac computer architecture is heating up its environment? We usually do not care about such things. We just want the programs to run and to produce the expected results.

We can emulate the Mac on a PC and run Mac programs, even if the underlying architectures are different. We may even be able to emulate one architecture on another and thereby improve the performance of the programs we wish to run!

Similarly, SIM is not about crafting perfect copies of brains or copying everything about the way they work in their environment. Since we already have the original biological implementation that interacts and decays exactly as it does, what would be the point?

SIM certainly includes the goal of creating a synthetic neural system. It is both about creating something that can perform as well or outperform the original system in the ways that we care about, and about creating a process that, when desired, can provide for a faithful transition from one system to another by emulation.

It is possible to select abstraction levels within a functional architecture and to create alternate implementations of the functions at that level. If this were not the case, the entire field of artificial intelligence (AI) research would have no hope of achieving human-level or better performance on tasks that human brains can carry out. We already know that AI systems can match and exceed human performance in a variety of tasks.

When we speak of SIM as a combination of a process (“uploading”) and of an objective (to achieve a “substrate-independent mind”), it is really about collecting the parameter values at the chosen abstraction level and re-implementing the dynamics with those parameter values at that abstraction level in a desired target platform. That is SIM.

There certainly is some relationship between such a process and means of life-extension that the notion of “copying the brain” evokes, a transition from human to post-human existence. Unfortunately, most discussions that focus on this aspect of the endeavor are relatively vague and unclear. In contrast, the ideas behind SIM are actually quite crisp and clear.

Note that it is also possible to devise an uploading procedure that provides the experience of an unbroken transition, even if it is a transition to something that is at some implementation level different from a prior existence based on a biological brain. For example, it is not necessary for the process to be perceived as abrupt, strange, or even uncomfortable. Avoiding such experiences is a matter of process implementation. The mind, at least at the level chosen for re-implementation (and further work), can be quite good at making everything it experiences seem perfectly sensible. We do that all the time (and sometimes we even confabulate reality).

So, despite objections about the differences between biological and other hardware — and the resulting implementation of a SIM, it is quite possible that if each of your neurons and synapses were replaced one by one with something else, you might not notice.

Read more: http://goo.gl/HvosF


Global Source and/or and/or more resources and/or read more: http://goo.gl/JujXk ─ Publisher and/or Author and/or Managing Editor:__Andres Agostini ─ @Futuretronium at Twitter! Futuretronium Book at http://goo.gl/JujXk
Schmidt's brilliant criticism of U.K. (and Google) commentary There's clearly something wrong with the British education system.British youths are rioting in the streets and somehow the nation has produced far fewer great comedies that are then destroyed in the American versions.Who, therefore, could not applaud Google Chairman Eric Schmidt for a bravura, even Braveheart performance in Edinburgh today?As the Guardian spells out, Schmidt stood before the collected brains listening to his McTaggart Lecture, stared them down and gave them his most withering engineer's frown.He said that the U.K. education system had performed a "drift to the humanities." Which perhaps has gone out of control, given that the recent riots suggested a drift to the inhumanities.He also declared: "Over the past century the U.K. has stopped nurturing its polymaths. You need to bring art and science back together."I ought to disclose that I was educated the British way. No, not so much the cold showers and learning to talk without moving your lips, but a definite and heartfelt derision for both science and business. Physics and chemistry were subjects beloved by those who could neither hit a ball nor hit on a girl. Engineers were people who grew beards in the hope of making themselves attractive. Science and business were as declasse as nose picking.Schmidt is unquestionably correct in reminding his audience: "Lewis Carroll didn't just write one of the classic fairytales of all time. He was also a mathematics tutor at Oxford." Carroll was a couple of other things too, but we needn't go into them here.There can't be a Brit who doesn't feel slightly troubled by his or her nation today on hearing Schmidt inform them: "I was flabbergasted to learn that today computer science isn't even taught as standard in U.K. schools."Sliding the dagger of his argument a little further into British complacency, he added: "Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it's made. That is just throwing away your great computing heritage."This is the nation that built the world's first home office computer.And yet before the Brits take off their shirts and begin to whip themselves into a forlorn frenzy, there is another entity that might think of joining them in the self-flaggelationfest.That entity is Google.This place of brilliant engineering minds carries as its cudgel its disdain for many of the arts. As Steven Levy's fine "In The Plex" pointed out, Larry Page was no great believer in, for example, the creative art of advertising.As former Google designer Douglas Bowman blogged, anyone of an artistic bent surely couldn't bear the idea of Google's management researching 41 shades of blue to see which might be the right one.Bowman wrote: "I won't miss a design philosophy that lives or dies strictly by the sword of data."Schmidt's excellent and withering words might also therefore be contemplated by those at Google who have made engineering constructs their goal, rather than their emotional delivery to people. That's what the arts remind you: to connect with and move human hearts-- and then minds.Few academic institutions and even fewer companies have managed to breathe new life into their work by successfully melding the arts and the sciences. Although there's a little company down the road from Google that might offer it a few hints. You know the company. The CEO resigned this week.Source: http://goo.gl/jXTRm

Global Source and/or and/or more resources and/or read more: http://goo.gl/JujXk ─ Publisher and/or Author and/or Managing Editor:__Andres Agostini ─ @Futuretronium at Twitter! Futuretronium Book at http://goo.gl/JujXk
Astronomers: We've found a planet made of diamondPerhaps the biggest frustration for astronomers is that they can't get to the places that most interest them.So please imagine the excitement--and vexation--of skygazers who believe they have discovered a planet that might just be the shiniest piece of bling out there. Reuters paints a picture of astronomers who feel like someone who has just been offered 27 carats over their chocolate pudding.For there seems to be a planet orbiting tightly around a small star just down the road (in celestial terms) from Earth that is "a massive diamond."Those last three words aren't mine. They are those of a seemingly very excited Matthew Bailes, a professor at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. For he told Reuters: "The evolutionary history and amazing density of the planet all suggest it is comprised of carbon...i.e a massive diamond orbiting a neutron star every two hours in an orbit so tight it would fit inside our own sun."The discovery was reported yesterday in the journal Science.Astronomers are theorizing that this as-yet unnamed planet--just 4,000 light years from us--is actually a relic of a star shed its outer layer to reveal its inner riches. Planet Tiffany (you have a problem with the name I've given it?) appears to be merely five times the size of Earth. The star it orbits every 2 hours and 10 minutes does have a very fetching name: J1719-1438.Though radio telescopes have been detecting beams from the star, it is as yet impossible to know what Planet Tiffany really looks like. Some suggest it won't be quite the shiny object that one might imagine.However, having witnessed Kim Kardashian's utter meltdown when she lost a $75,000 diamond earring in the water (her then-fiance threw her in as a little joke), I feel sure we have found the perfect location for the next season of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians."Source: http://goo.gl/dr1bJ

Global Source and/or and/or more resources and/or read more: http://goo.gl/JujXk ─ Publisher and/or Author and/or Managing Editor:__Andres Agostini ─ @Futuretronium at Twitter! Futuretronium Book at http://goo.gl/JujXk

Friday, August 26, 2011











Global Source and/or and/or more resources and/or read more: http://goo.gl/JujXk ─ Publisher and/or Author and/or Managing Editor:__Andres Agostini ─ @Futuretronium at Twitter! Futuretronium Book at http://goo.gl/JujXk
Is This a "Sputnik Moment"?


Eight computer science experts discuss, in the New York Times "Room for Debate" feature, the meaning of a new boom in interest in the subject that appears to be happening on American campuses.  What does growing enrollment in the field mean for students, the economic outlook, and the field itself?   Contributors include such stalwarts of the science labor force debates as Vivek Wadhwa, who has gigs at University of California, Berkeley, and at Harvard and Duke Universities, and computer science professor Norman Matloff of the University of California, Davis. Numerous knowledgeable readers add astute comments.

 "If we want a real Sputnik moment, we need to create the same demand -- and excitement -- we had for engineers and scientists in the 60s, when it seemed the nation's survival was at stake," Wadhwa writes.  That's only one of illuminating points the contributors make about what differentiates the days of "The Right Stuff" from those of "The Social Network" -- and what those differences may mean for the future.


Source: http://goo.gl/0NVMi

Global Source and/or and/or more resources and/or read more: http://goo.gl/JujXk ─ Publisher and/or Author and/or Managing Editor:__Andres Agostini ─ @Futuretronium at Twitter! Futuretronium Book at http://goo.gl/JujXk

Our 'Sputnik moment' is China's space program

February 04, 2011|By Douglas MacKinnon | Guest columnist

As President Obama and much of his administration genuflected before President Hu Jintao from the People's Republic of China at the recent state dinner at the White House, all in attendance worked overtime to ensure there was no mention of China's ultimate threat to our national security.

That being the PRC's military space program.

At his State of the Union address last month, President Obama seemed like he was about to wave the red flag on that subject when he said, "Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon. The science wasn't there yet. NASA didn't even exist…This is our generation's Sputnik moment…"

Source: http://goo.gl/qMCDy


Global Source and/or and/or more resources and/or read more: http://goo.gl/JujXk ─ Publisher and/or Author and/or Managing Editor:__Andres Agostini ─ @Futuretronium at Twitter! Futuretronium Book at http://goo.gl/JujXk







The Quadrennial Defense Review (2006 QDR) of the DoD describes four approaches an enemy can use to challenge the military capabilities of the United States. These include a traditional strategy (conventional warfare), an irregular strategy (insurgencies), a catastrophic strategy (mass-destruction terror attack), and a disruptive strategy (technological surprise, such as a cyberattack or an antisatellite attack). The 2006 QDR went on to describe the introduction of disruptive technologies by international competitors who develop and possess breakthrough technological capabilities. Such an act is intended to supplant U.S. advantages and marginalize U.S. military power, particularly in operational domains. Before the 2006 QDR, the DoD did not have a strategy to address disruptive warfare. Given the cycle time of research and development (R&D), strategy and concept of operations development, and the cycle time of defense procurement, the sponsor felt it would be most useful to develop a method for forecasting disruptive technologies that might emerge within 10 to 20 years.






Global Source and/or and/or more resources and/or read more: http://goo.gl/JujXk ─ Publisher and/or Author and/or Managing Editor:__Andres Agostini ─ @Futuretronium at Twitter! Futuretronium Book at http://goo.gl/JujXk
Andres Agostini: “...‘…Things’ don’t happen to you. You interfere with root causes, knowingly or unknowingly, in order to get catastrophic consequences onto your persona. Isn’t fun to sabotage your own self incessantly and progressively…” ─ August 26, 2011 (Friday) ─ 1:54 a.m.

Global Source and/or and/or more resources and/or read more: http://goo.gl/JujXk ─ Publisher and/or Author and/or Managing Editor:__Andres Agostini ─ @Futuretronium at Twitter! Futuretronium Book at http://goo.gl/JujXk

Thursday, August 25, 2011


REVISITING FOOD FOR THOUGHT WITH A SCIENTIFIC PERSPECTIVE?

ONE
What is the ultimate aim?

“…The Heritage of the Past Is The Seed That Brings Forth the Harvest of The Future…”

TWO
What is the larger maxim to hold closely at all times?

“…Science is the desire to know the causes…”

THREE
How do one and two above get resolved?

"…The grand aim of all science is to cover the greatest number of empirical facts by logical deduction from the smallest number of hypotheses or axioms..."



Global Source and/or and/or more resources and/or read more: http://goo.gl/JujXk ─ Publisher and/or Author and/or Managing Editor:__Andres Agostini ─ @Futuretronium at Twitter! Futuretronium Book at http://goo.gl/JujXk