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Social Studies

Scientists upload data into a monkey's brain Add to ...

Here's a thought

"Scientists have uploaded information into a monkey's brain via a wire and tiny electrodes in what is thought to be the first transmission of electronic data direct into a primate's brain," The Sunday Times of London reports. "The research is part of a project aimed at helping paralyzed people to walk again by linking the brain to movement sensors that generate data about gait and speed. However, the breakthrough, if confirmed, could have even wider implications, eventually allowing humans to control computers and machines by thought alone, and perhaps even to communicate with each other. 'We have succeeded in conveying direct signals into a monkey's cerebral cortex, letting the animal know that the 'treat' of a food pellet was in a particular box rather than another,' said Miguel Nicolelis, professor of neuroscience at Duke University, N.C., where he runs a centre for neuroengineering."

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How to peel a banana

"Don't start from the stem," Men's Health advises. "It may not break, so the fruit could [be crushed] Instead, use both hands to pinch the dark base and spread the halves easily apart."

Hungry little suckers

"Aquatic, meat-eating bladderworts are among the world's best suckers," Discovery News says, "and they have just been named the fastest-trapping carnivorous plants, according to a Proceedings of the Royal Society B study. Their traps suck in prey in less than a millisecond, making this one of the speediest movements in the entire plant kingdom. … Sometimes 'larger' animals, such as tadpoles or worms, wind up half in and half out of the trap, gruesomely losing part of their body to the plant's hunger."

Safety wall? For some

"Road officials who built a wall across a [110 kilometre an hour]motorway at night without warning motorists are being sued by crash victims," Orange.co.uk reports. "The [1.5-metre-high]wall - which had no lights or signs - had been built to protect road repairers working farther down the highway. But officials are facing an inquiry after dozens of cars slammed into the wall in Xian [in China's]Shaanxi province … without realizing it was there. … [F]r from apologizing, workers kept rebuilding the wall every time it was hit - saying they had put lights up but they had been pinched."

When computers were alive

"To understand why our human sense of self is so bound up with the history of computers, it's important to realize that computers used to be human," The Atlantic says. "In the early 20th century, before a 'computer' was one of the digital processing devices that permeate our 21st-century lives, it was something else: a job description. From the mid-18th century onward, computers, many of them women, were on the payrolls of corporations, engineering firms and universities, performing calculations and numerical analysis, sometimes with the use of a rudimentary calculator. These original, human computers were behind the calculations for everything from the first accurate prediction, in 1757, for the return of Halley's Comet … to the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos."

Living in cyberspace

"Humanity is migrating to cyberspace," The New York Times reports. "In the past five years, Americans have doubled the hours they spend online, exceeding their television time and more than tripling the time they spend reading newspapers or magazines. Most now play computer or video games regularly, about 13 hours a week on average. By age 21, the average young American has spent at least three times as many hours playing virtual games as reading. It took humankind eight years to spend 100 million hours building Wikipedia. We now spend at least 200 million hours a week playing World of Warcraft."

A robot buddy in orbit

"Lonely astronauts on the International Space Station may soon be getting an android friend from Japan," Associated Press reports. The country's space agency, JAXA, is looking at sending a humanoid robot to the station in 2013. It would watch the mission while astronauts are asleep, monitor their health and stress levels and communicate with Earth through Twitter. It would provide astronauts with "comfort and companionship." JAXA's Satoshi Sano said: "We are thinking in terms of a very human-like robot that would have facial expressions and be able to converse with the astronauts."

Thought du jour

"Man is the only living creature whom nature covers with materials derived from others. To the remainder she gives different kinds of coverings - shell, bark, spines, hides, fur, bristles, down, feathers, scales and fleeces. But only man is cast forth on the day of his birth naked on the bare earth."

- Pliny the Elder (23-79), Roman author and naturalist

 

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