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  • May 25, 2015
  • 01:40 PM
  • 9 views

Echoborgs: Psychologists Bring You Face To Face With A Chat-bot

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Last year I blogged about the creepy phenomenon of cyranoids. A cyranoid is a person who speaks the words of another person. With the help of a hidden earpiece, a 'source' whispers words into the ear of a 'shadower' , who repeats them. In research published last year, British psychologists Kevin Corti and Alex Gillespie showed that cyranoids are hard to spot: if you were speaking to one, you probably wouldn't know it, even if the source was an adult and the shadower a child, or vice versa.


... Read more »

  • May 20, 2015
  • 06:04 PM
  • 77 views

Tiny grains of lithium dramatically improve performance of fusion plasma

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

While fusion might still be a far off dream, a new discovery may help bring that dream closer to reality. Scientists have discovered a phenomenon that helps them to improve fusion plasmas, a finding that could quicken the development of large scale fusion energy. The scientists found that when they injected tiny grains of lithium into a plasma undergoing a particular kind of turbulence then, under the right conditions, the temperature and pressure rose dramatically.... Read more »

Kaye, S., Abrams, T., Ahn, J., Allain, J., Andre, R., Andruczyk, D., Barchfeld, R., Battaglia, D., Bhattacharjee, A., Bedoya, F.... (2015) An overview of recent physics results from NSTX. Nuclear Fusion, 55(10), 104002. DOI: 10.1088/0029-5515/55/10/104002  

  • May 19, 2015
  • 12:30 PM
  • 24 views

When did we start using information theory in neuroscience?

by neuroecology in Neuroecology

This question came up in journal club a little while ago. The hypothesis that neurons in the brain are attempting to maximize their information about the world is a powerful one. Although usually attributed to Horace Barlow, the idea arose almost … Continue reading →... Read more »

Dimitrov, A., Lazar, A., & Victor, J. (2011) Information theory in neuroscience. Journal of Computational Neuroscience, 30(1), 1-5. DOI: 10.1007/s10827-011-0314-3  

MacKay, D., & McCulloch, W. (1952) The limiting information capacity of a neuronal link. The Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics, 14(2), 127-135. DOI: 10.1007/BF02477711  

von Neumann. (1956) Probabilistic logics and the synthesis of reliable organisms from unreliable components. Automata Studies. info:/

  • May 8, 2015
  • 09:30 AM
  • 95 views

do memristor chips remember electric sheep?

by Greg Fish in weird things

Humans beware. Our would-be cybernetic overlords made a leap towards hyper-intelligence in the last few months as artificial neural networks can now be trained on specialized chips which use memristors, an electrical component that can remember the flow of electricity through it to help manage the amount of current required in a circuit. Using these specialized chips, robots, supercomputers, and sensors could solve complex real world problems faster, easier, and with far less energy. [...] ...... Read more »

  • April 27, 2015
  • 02:03 PM
  • 126 views

Google searches for ‘n-word’ associated with black mortality

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Google searches could unveil patterns in Black mortality rates across the US, according to a new study. Researchers found that those areas with greater levels of racism, as indexed by the proportion of Google searches containing the “n-word,” had higher mortality rates among Blacks. The study is the first to examine an Internet query-based measure of racism in relation to mortality risk.... Read more »

Chae, D., Clouston, S., Hatzenbuehler, M., Kramer, M., Cooper, H., Wilson, S., Stephens-Davidowitz, S., Gold, R., & Link, B. (2015) Association between an Internet-Based Measure of Area Racism and Black Mortality. PLOS ONE, 10(4). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0122963  

  • April 11, 2015
  • 01:58 PM
  • 168 views

A glass fiber that brings light to a standstill

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Light is an extremely useful tool for quantum communication, but it has one major disadvantage: it usually travels at the speed of light and cannot be kept in place. A team of scientists at the Vienna University of Technology has now demonstrated that this problem can be solved – not only in strange, unusual quantum systems, but in the glass fiber networks we are already using today.... Read more »

Sayrin, C., Clausen, C., Albrecht, B., Schneeweiss, P., & Rauschenbeutel, A. (2015) Storage of fiber-guided light in a nanofiber-trapped ensemble of cold atoms. Optica, 2(4), 353. DOI: 10.1364/OPTICA.2.000353  

  • April 10, 2015
  • 08:06 PM
  • 192 views

The universe is expanding, but how fast?

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

We are expanding, well more accurately the universe is expanding. However researchers have found certain types of supernovae, or exploding stars, are more diverse than previously thought. The results have implications for big cosmological questions, such as how fast the universe has been expanding since the Big Bang. Most importantly, the findings hint at the possibility that the acceleration of the expansion of the universe might not be quite as fast as textbooks say.... Read more »

  • April 7, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 188 views

Star Trek Shields For Tanks

by Mark E. Lasbury in The 'Scope

Star Trek deflectors absorbed or deflected energy beams, but would they work against bullets or asteroids? Scientists are on working on armors and plasma systems that can stop projectiles. In some cases we use explosions to stop explosions. In others, tanks are turned into electrical pulse generators that zap incoming rockets. But the most amazing is the wall of exploding plasma that will be the first true defensive energy shield.... Read more »

Mayseless, M. (2011) Effectiveness of Explosive Reactive Armor. Journal of Applied Mechanics, 78(5), 51006. DOI: 10.1115/1.4004398  

Yoo, Y., Zheng, H., Kim, Y., Rhee, J., Kang, J., Kim, K., Cheong, H., Kim, Y., & Lee, Y. (2014) Flexible and elastic metamaterial absorber for low frequency, based on small-size unit cell. Applied Physics Letters, 105(4), 41902. DOI: 10.1063/1.4885095  

  • March 31, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 218 views

Shields Up! Lay In A Course For Mars

by Mark E. Lasbury in The 'Scope

Deflector shields allowed Star Trek and other sci-fi franchises to have long space battles. Without them, one good strike and everyone was dead – that wouldn’t lend itself to sequels.

We don’t need shields for space battles yet, but we do need them to get to Mars. Cosmic radiation will kill or injure every astronaut unless we can deflect the radiation away from the spacecraft. We’re just about to build real deflectors, and our teachers are the magnetic fields we find ........ Read more »

  • March 24, 2015
  • 07:00 AM
  • 202 views

A Universal Translator By Any Other Name…

by Mark E. Lasbury in The 'Scope

Star Trek wouldn’t have been possible without the universal translator. Who would want to watch a show where characters don’t understand each other – of course, that doesn’t stop people from watching political debates. The technology of a universal translator is easy, we have camera phones that will show you a foreign sign in your own language. It’s the software to decipher a previously unencountered language that’s proving tough to overcome. Are there any uni........ Read more »

Rao, R., Yadav, N., Vahia, M., Joglekar, H., Adhikari, R., & Mahadevan, I. (2009) Entropic Evidence for Linguistic Structure in the Indus Script. Science, 324(5931), 1165-1165. DOI: 10.1126/science.1170391  

Snyder, Benjamin, Regina Barzilay and Kevin Knight. (2010) A Statistical Model for Lost Language Decipherment. Proceedings of the 48th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics, ACL 2010. info:/

  • March 18, 2015
  • 06:43 PM
  • 225 views

How alien cell membranes could form in methane seas

by This Science is Crazy in This Science Is Crazy!

Scientist identify 'azotosomes' - short carbon chains with a nitrogen terminus native to the atmosphere of Titan which can potentially self-assemble into bilayers in liquid methane.... Read more »

  • March 17, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 276 views

I See, Said The Blind Man

by Mark E. Lasbury in The 'Scope

I can’t stand it when I get dust in my eye. Can you imagine having a neural implant in your eye? Star Trek’s Geordi LaForge had implanted electrodes that, along with his visor, let him see. Visual neural prostheses are no longer a thing of science fiction, making the blind see is science fact. The only difference is that he saw in all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. But there’s no reason we can’t do that as well. ... Read more »

Jung, J., Aloni, D., Yitzhaky, Y., & Peli, E. (2014) Active confocal imaging for visual prostheses. Vision Research. DOI: 10.1016/j.visres.2014.10.023  

Nirenberg, S., & Pandarinath, C. (2012) Retinal prosthetic strategy with the capacity to restore normal vision. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(37), 15012-15017. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1207035109  

Stingl, K., Bartz-Schmidt, K., Gekeler, F., Kusnyerik, A., Sachs, H., & Zrenner, E. (2013) Functional Outcome in Subretinal Electronic Implants Depends on Foveal Eccentricity. Investigative Ophthalmology , 54(12), 7658-7665. DOI: 10.1167/iovs.13-12835  

  • March 13, 2015
  • 02:20 AM
  • 265 views

How photosynthesis is inspiring solar power research

by GrrlScientist in Maniraptora

SUMMARY: To meet humanity’s growing energy demands, scientists are taking lessons from plants, which perfected the process of capturing the sun’s rays and transforming that into starch. Might scientists be able to adapt the photosynthetic process pioneered by plants and adapt it to meet human demands? ... Read more »

Barber James. (2007) Biological solar energy. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 1007-1023. DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2006.1962  

Porter G. (1966) Studies of Triplet Chlorophyll by Microbeam Flash Photolysis. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 295(1440), 1-12. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspa.1966.0222  

Porter G. (1978) The Bakerian Lecture, 1977: In Vitro Models for Photosynthesis. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 362(1710), 281-303. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspa.1978.0134  

Cogdell R. J., P. I. Molina, & L. Cronin. (2013) The use and misuse of photosynthesis in the quest for novel methods to harness solar energy to make fuel. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 371(1996), 20110603-20110603. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2011.0603  

  • March 10, 2015
  • 07:00 AM
  • 201 views

Pulling Us Toward Tractor Beams

by Mark E. Lasbury in The 'Scope

Tractor beams pulling space ships are things of science fiction, but tractor beams pulling small objects on Earth are science fact. Beams usually push things away with their force, but we have learned to manipulate them so that they push things back to the source – we can do it with water, sound and even laser light.... Read more »

Shvedov, V., Davoyan, A., Hnatovsky, C., Engheta, N., & Krolikowski, W. (2014) A long-range polarization-controlled optical tractor beam. Nature Photonics, 8(11), 846-850. DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2014.242  

Mo Li, W. H. P. Pernice, & H. X. Tang. (2009) Tunable bipolar optical interactions between guided lightwaves. Nature Photonics. arXiv: 0903.5117v1

Démoré CE, Dahl PM, Yang Z, Glynne-Jones P, Melzer A, Cochran S, MacDonald MP, & Spalding GC. (2014) Acoustic tractor beam. Physical review letters, 112(17), 174302. PMID: 24836252  

Punzmann, H., Francois, N., Xia, H., Falkovich, G., & Shats, M. (2014) Generation and reversal of surface flows by propagating waves. Nature Physics, 10(9), 658-663. DOI: 10.1038/nphys3041  

Ruffner DB, & Grier DG. (2012) Optical conveyors: a class of active tractor beams. Physical review letters, 109(16), 163903. PMID: 23215079  

  • March 3, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 229 views

Star Trek Phasers, Coming To Us Sooner or Laser

by Mark E. Lasbury in The 'Scope

Can we make a Star Trek phaser? In a classic example of life imitating art, the militaries of many countries are actively pursuing such directed energy weapons. So far, we’ve developed high-energy lasers and masers, particle beams, and something that looks a lot like an aimed lightning bolt. But our versions are huge, what must be overcome to make hand-held versions?... Read more »

Shao, L., Cline, D., Ding, X., Ho, Y., Kong, Q., Xu, J., Pogorelsky, I., Yakimenko, V., & Kusche, K. (2013) Simulation prediction and experiment setup of vacuum laser acceleration at Brookhaven National Lab-Accelerator Test Facility. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment, 25-29. DOI: 10.1016/j.nima.2012.09.053  

Bartal, T., Foord, M., Bellei, C., Key, M., Flippo, K., Gaillard, S., Offermann, D., Patel, P., Jarrott, L., Higginson, D.... (2011) Focusing of short-pulse high-intensity laser-accelerated proton beams. Nature Physics, 8(2), 139-142. DOI: 10.1038/nphys2153  

Oxborrow, M., Breeze, J., & Alford, N. (2012) Room-temperature solid-state maser. Nature, 488(7411), 353-356. DOI: 10.1038/nature11339  

Peralta, E., Soong, K., England, R., Colby, E., Wu, Z., Montazeri, B., McGuinness, C., McNeur, J., Leedle, K., Walz, D.... (2013) Demonstration of electron acceleration in a laser-driven dielectric microstructure. Nature, 503(7474), 91-94. DOI: 10.1038/nature12664  

  • March 2, 2015
  • 11:55 PM
  • 206 views

Short history of iterated prisoner’s dilemma tournaments

by Artem Kaznatcheev in Evolutionary Games Group

Nineteen Eighty — if I had to pick the year that computational modeling invaded evolutionary game theory then that would be it. In March, 1980 — exactly thirty-five years ago — was when Robert Axelrod, a professor of political science at University of Michigan, published the results of his first tournament for iterated prisoner’s dilemma […]... Read more »

  • February 28, 2015
  • 04:42 PM
  • 266 views

Coding Responsibly Part II: Keeping a Notebook

by Geoffrey Hannigan in Prophage

In my last post I started writing about the next step a coding student can take after learning the basics. This next step is of course learning not just to code, but to code responsibly. Last time I talked about using version control to keep track of code changes as you work through a project. For this next post, I want to take the conversation further by discussing...... Read more »

Perkel, J. (2011) Coding your way out of a problem. Nature Methods, 8(7), 541-543. DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1631  

  • February 28, 2015
  • 09:15 AM
  • 247 views

Five motivations for theoretical computer science

by Abel Molina in Evolutionary Games Group

There are some situations, perhaps lucky ones, where it is felt that an activity needs no external motivation or justification.  For the rest, it can be helpful to think of what the task at hand can be useful for. This of course doesn’t answer the larger question of what is worth doing, since it just distributes […]... Read more »

Barton, N.H., Novak, S., & Paixão, T. (2014) Diverse forms of selection in evolution and computer science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(29), 10398-9. PMID: 25009183  

  • February 27, 2015
  • 11:17 AM
  • 213 views

How Deep Mind learns to win

by neuroecology in Neuroecology

About a year ago, DeepMind was bought for half a billion dollars by Google for creating software that could learn to beat video games. Over the past year, DeepMind has detailed how they did it. Let us say that you were … Continue reading →... Read more »

Mnih V, Kavukcuoglu K, Silver D, Rusu AA, Veness J, Bellemare MG, Graves A, Riedmiller M, Fidjeland AK, Ostrovski G.... (2015) Human-level control through deep reinforcement learning. Nature, 518(7540), 529-533. PMID: 25719670  

Volodymyr Mnih, Koray Kavukcuoglu, David Silver, Alex Graves, Ioannis Antonoglou, Daan Wierstra, & Martin Riedmiller. (2013) Playing Atari with Deep Reinforcement Learning. arXiv. arXiv: 1312.5602v1

  • February 24, 2015
  • 10:56 AM
  • 217 views

A Few Citizen Scientists Do Most of the Work

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



Nothing turns your internet procrastination time into feelings of goodwill and teamwork like a citizen science project. You can click through a set of penguin photos or moon craters and know that your data are contributing to real science. As more citizens take part, and more researchers discover the joys of free labor, these projects are gaining popularity. But not all citizen scientists pull their weight. In fact, most do nearly nothing.

Henry Sauermann, a management professor at the G........ Read more »

Sauermann, H., & Franzoni, C. (2015) Crowd science user contribution patterns and their implications. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(3), 679-684. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1408907112  

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