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By Admin (from 19/02/2012 @ 08:08:50, in en - Video Alert, read 1427 times)

Described as a “knowledge collider,” and now with a pledge of one billion euros from the European Union, the Living Earth Simulator is a new big data and supercomputing project that will attempt to uncover the underlying sociological and psychological laws that underpin human civilization. In the same way that CERN’s Large Hadron Collider smashes together protons to see what happens, the Living Earth Simulator (LES) will gather knowledge from a Planetary Nervous System (PNS — yes, really) to try to predict societal fluctuations such as political unrest, economic bubbles, disease epidemics, and so on.

Orchestrated by ICT, which is basically a consortium of preeminent scientists, computer science centers around the world, and high-power computing (HPC) installations, the Living Earth Simulator hopes to correlate huge amounts of data — including real-time sources such as Twitter and web news — and extant, but separate approaches currently being used by other institutions, into a big melting pot of information. To put it into scientific terms, the LES will analyze techno-socio-economic-environmental (!) systems. From this, FuturICT hopes to reveal the tacit agreements and hidden laws that actually govern society, rather than the explicit, far-removed-from-reality bills and acts that lawmakers inexorably enact.

The scale of the LES, when it’s complete, will be huge. It is hoped that supercomputing centers all over the world will chip in with CPU time, and data will be corralled from existing projects and a new Global Participatory Platform, which is basically open data on a worldwide scale. The project also has commercial backing from Microsoft Research, IBM, Yahoo Research, and others. All told, the system will create useful knowledge in the fields of energy, networks and communication, economics, crime and corruption, migration, health, and crisis management.

The timing of EU’s billion-euro grant is telling, too. As you probably know, the European Union is struggling to keep the plates spinning, and the LES, rather handily, will probably be the most accurate predictor of economic stability in the world. Beyond money, though, it is hoped that the LES and PNS can finally tell us why humans do things, like watch a specific TV show, buy a useless gadget, or start a revolution.

Looking at the larger picture, the Living Earth Simulator is really an admission that we know more about the physical universe than the social. We can predict with startling accuracy whether an asteroid will hit Earth, but we know scant little about how society might actually react to an extinction-level event. We plough billions of dollars into studying the effects and extent of climate change, but what if understood enough of the psychology and sociology behind human nature to actually change our behavior?

Source: FutureICT Homepage & FutureICT Documentary on Vimeo - via ExtremeTech

 

Yabi simplifies supercomputing tasks through a simple web-based workflow environment, essentially replacing the need for complex software programming with a neat, accessible interface.

The web-based application is designed, developed and maintained by the WA Centre of Excellence in Comparative Genomics (CCG), home of the iVEC@Murdoch supercomputer pod.

According to CCG Director Professor Matthew Bellgard, Yabi has the potential to change the way researchers approach scientific endeavours which typically require access to large scale computing and data storage resources.

“Typically, a PhD student in areas such as life science, marine science, atmospheric research and so forth has to learn how to program; they have to know how to install the analysis tools so they can then conduct their detailed data analysis on a supercomputer,” Professor Bellgard said.

“The Yabi system takes away that need for writing scripts and tools and turns the analytic procedures into a simpler drag and drop activity, where scientists can log in, drag tools in and chain them together to create workflows.

“Each of those tools can be running on supercomputers without the need for scientists to have to worry about any of the technical details. In this way scientists can access potentially multiple supercomputing resources in a seamless and transparent fashion via a simple web-based interface.”

Simplifying supercomputing is no small task, and the technologies required to create this kind of interface are fairly young.

“The idea of Yabi has been around for about 12 years,” Professor Bellgard said.

“We’ve been thinking about it for quite some time, but it’s only in the last five years that internet technologies have matured in such a way that we can then leverage them in order to implement a really robust system.

“The system is currently being accessed by scientists around the world and there are now deployments of the Yabi system around the country.”

The CCG works with researchers both to help them improve their Yabi uptake as well as to assist them analyse the massive amounts of results generated.

“They drive their own scientific questions but we can help them with experimental design and data analysis,” Professor Bellgard said.

“We are also working on a number of other open source software projects such as laboratory information management systems and rare disease registries.”

Researchers who use any kind of supercomputing in their work are encouraged to try Yabi – visit http://ccg.murdoch.edu.au/yabi .

Provided by Murdoch University

Source: PhysOrg via ZeitNews.org

 

You might not end up with the same sense of achievement, but it sure would be a lot quicker and easier than years of lessons and practicing. Well, we're not there yet (and perhaps we never should be), but that sort of scenario is now a little closer to reality, thanks to research conducted at Boston University and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan.

The basic idea is this: using a technique known as decoded neurofeedback, or DecNef, people could be trained to alter their brain activity, so that it matched that of someone already possessing a certain skill.

Scientists at the two institutions used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to observe the visual cortex activity pattern of test subjects as they viewed striped circles placed in various orientations. The researchers then used DecNef to train the subjects to change their brain pattern, so that it more closely resembled a predetermined target pattern. This was done by presenting them with an image of a green circle, which got larger the closer they got to achieving the target pattern.

 

It was found that once subjects had matched that pattern repeatedly, their performance at a given visual task (discriminating between different orientations of the striped circles) improved, and stayed that way for some time. This approach even worked when the subjects weren't aware of what the visual task was that they were being trained for.

While the instant acquisition of complex skills, such as flying a helicopter as seen in The Matrix, might not be possible any time soon, the researchers believe that DecNef might also have therapeutic value, as people with mental disorders could be trained to match the brain activity patterns of healthy individuals.

Source: GizMag via ZeitNews.org

 

Admittedly, it sounds like the most foolhardy of criminal capers, and one of the cheekiest, too.  Outside the police station in the small Victorian mill town of Todmorden, West Yorkshire, there are three large raised flower beds. If you’d visited a few months ago, you’d have found them overflowing with curly kale, carrot plants, lettuces, spring onions — all manner of vegetables and salad leaves.

Today the beds are bare. Why? Because people have been wandering up to the police station forecourt in broad daylight and digging up the vegetables. And what are the cops doing about this brazen theft from right under their noses? Nothing Well, that’s not quite correct.

‘I watch ’em on camera as they come up and pick them,’ says desk officer Janet Scott, with a huge grin. It’s the smile that explains everything.

For the vegetable-swipers are not thieves. The police station carrots — and thousands of vegetables in 70 large beds around the town — are there for the taking. Locals are encouraged to help themselves. A few tomatoes here, a handful of broccoli there. If they’re in season, they’re yours. Free.

So there are (or were) raspberries, apricots and apples on the canal towpath; blackcurrants, redcurrants and strawberries beside the doctor’s surgery; beans and peas outside the college; cherries in the supermarket car park; and mint, rosemary, thyme and fennel by the health centre.

The vegetable plots are the most visible sign of an amazing plan: to make Todmorden the first town in the country that is self-sufficient in food.

‘And we want to do it by 2018,’ says Mary Clear, 56, a grandmother of ten and co-founder of Incredible Edible, as the scheme is called.

‘It’s a very ambitious aim. But if you don’t aim high, you might as well stay in bed, mightn’t you?’

So what’s to stop me turning up with a huge carrier bag and grabbing all the rosemary in the town?

‘Nothing,’ says Mary.

What’s to stop me nabbing all the apples?

‘Nothing.’

All your raspberries?

‘Nothing.’

It just doesn’t happen like that, she says. ‘We trust people. We truly believe — we are witness to it — that people are decent.’

When she sees the Big Issue seller gathering fruit for his lunch, she feels only pleasure. What does it matter, argues Mary, if once in a while she turns up with her margarine tub to find that all the strawberries are gone?

‘This is a revolution,’ she says. ‘But we are gentle revolutionaries. Everything we do is underpinned by kindness.’

The idea came about after she and co-founder Pam Warhurst, the former owner of the town’s Bear Cafe, began fretting about the state of the world and wondered what they could do.

They reasoned that all they could do is start locally, so they got a group of people, mostly women, together in the cafe.

‘Wars come about by men having drinks in bars, good things come about when women drink coffee together,’ says Mary.  ‘Our thinking was: there’s so much blame in the world — blame local government, blame politicians, blame bankers, blame technology — we thought, let’s just do something positive instead.’ We’re standing by a car park in the town centre. Mary points to a housing estate up the hill. Her face lights up.

‘The children walk past here on the way to school. We’ve filled the flower beds with fennel and they’ve all been taught that if you bite fennel, it tastes like a liquorice gobstopper. When I see the children popping little bits of herb into their mouths, I just think it’s brilliant.’

She takes me over to the front garden of her own house, a few yards away.  Three years ago, when Incredible Edible was launched, she did a very unusual thing: she lowered her front wall, in order to encourage passers-by to walk into her garden and help themselves to whatever vegetables took their fancy.

There were signs asking people to take something but it took six months for folk to ‘get it’, she says. They get it now. Obviously a few town-centre vegetable plants — even thousands of them — are not going to feed a community of 15,000 by themselves.

But the police station potatoes act as a recruiting sergeant — to encourage residents to grow their own food at home. Today, hundreds of townspeople who began by helping themselves to the communal veg are now well on the way to self-sufficiency. But out on the street, what gets planted where? There’s kindness even in that.

‘The ticket man at the railway station, who was very much loved, was unwell. Before he died, we asked him: “What’s your favourite vegetable, Reg?” It was broccoli. So we planted memorial beds with broccoli at the station. One stop up the line, at Hebden Bridge, they loved Reg, too — and they’ve also planted broccoli in his memory.’ Not that all the plots are — how does one put this delicately? — ‘official’.

Take the herb bushes by the canal. Owners British Waterways had no idea locals had been sowing plants there until an official inspected the area ahead of a visit by the Prince of Wales last year (Charles is a huge Incredible Edible fan).

Estelle Brown, a 67-year-old former interior designer who tended the plot, received an email from British Waterways.

‘I was a bit worried to open it,’ she says. ‘But it said: “How do you build a raised bed? Because my boss wants one outside his office window.”’

Incredible Edible is also about much more than plots of veg. It’s about educating people about food, and stimulating the local economy.

There are lessons in pickling and preserving fruits, courses on bread-making, and the local college is to offer a BTEC in horticulture. The thinking is that young people who have grown up among the street veg may make a career in food.

Crucially, the scheme is also about helping local businesses. The Bear, a wonderful shop and cafe with a magnificent original Victorian frontage, sources all its ingredients from farmers within a 30-mile radius. There’s a brilliant daily market. People here can eat well on local produce, and thousands now do.

Meanwhile, the local school was recently awarded a Ł500,000 Lottery grant to set up a fish farm in order to provide food for the locals and to teach useful skills to young people.

Jenny Coleman, 62, who retired here from London, explains: ‘We need something for our young people to do. If you’re an 18-year-old, there’s got to be a good answer to the question: why would I want to stay in Todmorden?’

The day I visit, the town is battered by a bitterly-cold rain storm.  Yet the place radiates warmth. People speak to each other in the street, wave as neighbours drive past, smile.  If the phrase hadn’t been hijacked, the words ‘we’re all in this together’ would spring to mind.

So what sort of place is Todmorden (known locally, without exception, as ‘Tod’)? If you’re assuming it’s largely peopled by middle-class grandmothers, think again. Nor is this place a mecca for the gin-and-Jag golf club set.

Set in a Pennine valley — once, the road through the town served as the border between Yorkshire and Lancashire — it is a vibrant mix of age, class and ethnicity. A third of households do not own a car; a fifth do not have central heating.  You can snap up a terrace house for Ł50,000 — or spend close to Ł1?million on a handsome stone villa with seven bedrooms.  And the scheme has brought this varied community closer together, according to Pam Warhurst.  Take one example. ‘The police have told us that, year on year, there has been a reduction in vandalism since we started,’ she says. ‘We weren’t expecting this.’

So why has it happened?

Pam says: ‘If you take a grass verge that was used as a litter bin and a dog toilet and turn it into a place full of herbs and fruit trees, people won’t vandalise it. I think we are hard-wired not to damage food.’

Pam reckons a project like Incredible Edible could thrive in all sorts of places. ‘If the population is very transient, it’s difficult. But if you’ve got schools, shops, back gardens and verges, you can do it.’ Similar schemes are being piloted in 21 other towns in the UK, and there’s been interest shown from as far afield as Spain, Germany, Hong Kong and Canada. And, this week, Mary Clear gave a talk to an all-party group of MPs at Westminster.

Todmorden was visited by a planner from New Zealand, working on the rebuilding of his country after February’s earthquake.

Mary says: ‘He went back saying: “Why wouldn’t we rebuild the railway station with pick-your-own herbs? Why wouldn’t we rebuild the health centre with apple trees?” ‘What we’ve done is not clever. It just wasn’t being done.’

The final word goes to an outsider. Joe Strachan is a wealthy U.S. former sales director who decided to settle in Tod with his Scottish wife, after many years in California.  He is 61 but looks 41. He became active with Incredible Edible six months ago, and couldn’t be happier digging, sowing and juicing fruit. I find myself next to him, sheltering from the driving rain. Why, I ask, would someone forsake the sunshine of California for all this?

His answer sums up what the people around here have achieved.

‘There’s a nobility to growing food and allowing people to share it. There’s a feeling we’re doing something significant rather than just moaning that the state can’t take care of us.  ‘Maybe we all need to learn to take care of ourselves.’

Source: DailyMail via ZeitNews.org

 

In September 2002, one hundred million cubic metres of rock and ice separated from the northern slope of the Kazbek massif in North Ossetia, Russia. The resulting avalanche killed 125 people and caused widespread damage. Ice avalanches can travel great distances at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, but it is not fully understood how they travel so far or so fast. The difficulty lies in observing the processes within avalanches closely. But by creating a laboratory avalanche one researcher at The University of Nottingham has helped us to understand how melting effects flows of ice — even at temperatures below freezing.

Dr Barbara Turnbull, a member of the Fluid and Particle Processes Group in the University’s Faculty of Engineering, has found that the same layer of liquid water at an ice particle’s surface that helps skaters to skate across an ice rink also enhances ice avalanche speeds. The water lubricates particle contacts, resulting in more collisions and melting, which in turn leads to a snowball effect of ever-faster speeds.

 

To measure this effect Dr Turnbull half filled a narrow Perspex drum with flash-frozen water droplets, rotating it so that the droplets formed a slope down which the ice granules bounced and slipped — simulating ice avalanches.

“Ice avalanches from collapsing glaciers are not common in populated areas, but that may change as global temperatures rise. The Ossetia avalanche alerted researchers to the urgency of gaining a better understanding of the processes that control such flows,” Dr Turnbull said.

“This is a simple experiment, but it tests the theory that surface melting in ice particles as they collide plays a role in the speed at which avalanches travel — and therefore the amount of damage they can potentially inflict on the local environment and populations.”

Source: University of Nottingham - via ZeitNews.org

 

The first evidence of empathy-driven helping behavior in rodents has been observed in laboratory rats that repeatedly free companions from a restraint, according to a new study by University of Chicago neuroscientists.

The observation, published today in Science, places the origin of pro-social helping behavior earlier in the evolutionary tree than previously thought. Though empathetic behavior has been observed anecdotally in non-human primates and other wild species, the concept had not previously been observed in rodents in a laboratory setting.

"This is the first evidence of helping behavior triggered by empathy in rats," said Jean Decety, PhD, Irving B. Harris Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Chicago. "There are a lot of ideas in the literature showing that empathy is not unique to humans, and it has been well demonstrated in apes, but in rodents it was not very clear. We put together in one series of experiments evidence of helping behavior based on empathy in rodents, and that's really the first time it's been seen."

The study demonstrates the deep evolutionary roots of empathy-driven behavior, said Jeffrey Mogil, the E.P. Taylor Professor in Pain Studies at McGill University, who has studied emotional contagion of pain in mice.

"On its face, this is more than empathy, this is pro-social behavior," said Mogil, who was not involved in the study. "It's more than has been shown before by a long shot, and that's very impressive, especially since there's no advanced technology here."

The experiments, designed by psychology graduate student and first author Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal with co-authors Decety and Peggy Mason, placed two rats that normally share a cage into a special test arena. One rat was held in a restrainer device — a closed tube with a door that can be nudged open from the outside. The second rat roamed free in the cage around the restrainer, able to see and hear the trapped cagemate but not required to take action.

The researchers observed that the free rat acted more agitated when its cagemate was restrained, compared to its activity when the rat was placed in a cage with an empty restrainer. This response offered evidence of an "emotional contagion," a frequently observed phenomenon in humans and animals in which a subject shares in the fear, distress or even pain suffered by another subject.

While emotional contagion is the simplest form of empathy, the rats' subsequent actions clearly comprised active helping behavior, a far more complex expression of empathy. After several daily restraint sessions, the free rat learned how to open the restrainer door and free its cagemate. Though slow to act at first, once the rat discovered the ability to free its companion, it would take action almost immediately upon placement in the test arena.

"We are not training these rats in any way," Bartal said. "These rats are learning because they are motivated by something internal. We're not showing them how to open the door, they don't get any previous exposure on opening the door, and it's hard to open the door. But they keep trying and trying, and it eventually works."

To control for motivations other than empathy that would lead the rat to free its companion, the researchers conducted further experiments. When a stuffed toy rat was placed in the restrainer, the free rat did not open the door. When opening the restrainer door released his companion into a separate compartment, the free rat continued to nudge open the door, ruling out the reward of social interaction as motivation. The experiments left behavior motivated by empathy as the simplest explanation for the rats' behavior.

"There was no other reason to take this action, except to terminate the distress of the trapped rats," Bartal said. "In the rat model world, seeing the same behavior repeated over and over basically means that this action is rewarding to the rat."

As a test of the power of this reward, another experiment was designed to give the free rats a choice: free their companion or feast on chocolate. Two restrainers were placed in the cage with the rat, one containing the cagemate, another containing a pile of chocolate chips. Though the free rat had the option of eating all the chocolate before freeing its companion, the rat was equally likely to open the restrainer containing the cagemate before opening the chocolate container.

"That was very compelling," said Mason, PhD, Professor of Neurobiology. "It said to us that essentially helping their cagemate is on a par with chocolate. He can hog the entire chocolate stash if he wanted to, and he does not. We were shocked."

Now that this model of empathic behavior has been established, the researchers are carrying out additional experiments. Because not every rat learned to open the door and free its companion, studies can compare these individuals to look for the biological source of these behavioral differences. Early results suggested that females were more likely to become door openers than males, perhaps reflecting the important role of empathy in motherhood and providing another avenue for study.

"This model of empathy and helping behavior opens the path for elucidating aspects of the underlying neurophysiological mechanisms that were not accessible until now." Bartal said.

The experiments also provide further evidence that empathy-driven helping behavior is not unique to humans – and suggest that Homo sapiens could learn a lesson from its rat cousins.

"When we act without empathy we are acting against our biological inheritance," Mason said. "If humans would listen and act on their biological inheritance more often, we'd be better off."

Source: University of Chicago Medical Center - via ZeitNews.org

 

Anyone who has watched as Alzheimer's disease robs a friend or family member of their memories and faculties before ultimately claiming their life knows just what a truly horrible disease it is. According to the World Health Organization, it is the fourth leading cause of death in high-income countries and, due to an aging worldwide population, it is predicted to affect one in 85 people worldwide by 2050 - unless a treatment can be found. Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have high hopes for a new drug they have developed that has improved memory and prevented brain damage in mice and is a promising candidate for the first drug capable of halting the progression of Alzheimer's in humans.

Although scientists have as yet been unable to pin down the causes and progression of Alzheimer's, research indicates it is associated with amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. For this reason, much of the search for a treatment by the pharmaceutical industry has focused on the biological pathways involved in the formation of amyloid plaques. However, to date, all amyloid-based drugs have failed in clinical trials.

The Salk team decided to take a different approach by developing methods for using living neurons grown in laboratory dishes to test the effectiveness of new synthetic compounds in protecting the brain cells against several pathologies associated with brain aging. Starting with a lead compound originally developed for the treatment of stroke and traumatic brain injury and guided by test results from each chemical iteration of the compound, the team says they were able to alter its chemical structure to make a much more potent Alzheimer's drug, known as J147.

"Alzheimer's is a complex disease, but most drug development in the pharmaceutical world has focused on a single aspect of the disease - the amyloid pathway," says Marguerite Prior, a research associate, who led the project along with Qi Chen, a former Salk postdoctoral researcher, working in Salk's Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory headed by David Schubert. "In contrast, by testing these compounds in living cell cultures, we can determine what they do against a range of age-related problems and select the best candidate that addresses multiple aspects of the disease, not just one."

Testing the promising compound as an oral medication in mice, the team, working with Amanda Roberts, a professor of molecular neurosciences at The Scripps Research Institute, conducted a range of behavioral tests that showed that the drug improved memory in normal rodents.

Further testing showed that the compound prevented brain damage in animals with Alzheimer's and that mice and rats treated with the drug produced more of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) - a molecule involved in memory formation that helps support the survival of existing neurons and encourages the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses.

"J147 enhances memory in both normal and Alzheimer's mice and also protects the brain from the loss of synaptic connections," said Schubert. "No drugs on the market for Alzheimer's have both of these properties."

The team says J147 could be tested for treatment of Alzheimer's in humans in the near future and, because of its broad ability to protect nerve cells, may also be effective for treating other neurological disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), as well as stroke.

Source: GIZMAG - via ZeitNews.org

 

Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, along with two Swiss institutions, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the University of Lausanne, created a batch of super-strong mice and worms by tweaking a gene that normally inhibits muscle growth.

The scientists acted on a genome regulator - known as NCOR1 - and were able to change the activity of certain genes. In simpler English, the scientists shut off the thyroid hormone that keeps most mammals from turning into the Incredible Hulk. The result was a strain of mice with muscles that were twice as strong as normal.Besides nearly bringing the world's second most popular cartoon mouse to life (Mickey comes in at number one) and making the premise of the film Tremors seem slightly more feasible, the findings could help in the creation of new treatments for muscle degeneration.

"This could be used to combat muscle weakness in the elderly, which leads to falls and contributes to hospitalizations," Johan Auwerx, the lead author from EPFL says. "In addition, we think that this could be used as a basis for developing a treatment for genetic muscular dystrophy.

Gain without the pain

The research could also yield more good news for the epidemic of obesity that plagues many western countries.

"There are now ways to develop drugs for people who are unable to exercise due to obesity or other health complications, such as diabetes, immobility and frailty," says Ronald M. Evans, who led the Salk team. "We can now engineer specific gene networks in muscle to give the benefits of exercise to sedentary mice."

Auwerx describes molecules such as NCOR1 as "molecular brakes" that slow down the activity in genes. Releasing these brakes through gene manipulation increases that activity level, providing more energy to build muscle.

The benefits of releasing those molecular brakes don't stop at increased muscle strength. The stronger mice also saw improved endurance, and were capable of running both faster and longer before tiring, covering twice the distance of normal mice in experiments. Researchers say the mutated mice were also more tolerant to cold.

Going after the genetic inhibitor is the inverse of previous approaches that involved "genetic accelerators." Researchers believe that because the method proved successful in both mice and worms, then the same techniques could be applied to a wide range of species.

Potential for drugs and cheating in sport?

The scientists say they have not seen any harmful side effects from zapping NCOR1 in muscles, and are beginning to investigate the potential for drugs that could serve the same function.

While the results have not yet been confirmed in humans, they're likely to spark a lot of interest among athletes who wouldn't mind a quick short cut to doubling their strength and endurance. As it stands right now, however, so-called "gene doping," which includes the use of genetically-modified cells, is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Source: GIZMAG - via ZeitNews.org

 

IBM formally unveiled the fifth annual "Next  in Five" – a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years: You'll beam up your friends in 3-D, Batteries will breathe air to power our devices, You won’t need to be a scientist to save the planet, Your commute will be personalized, and Computers will help energize your city.

The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s Labs around the world that can make these innovations possible.

In the next five years, technology innovations will change people’s lives in the following ways:

You'll beam up your friends in 3-D

In the next five years, 3-D interfaces – like those in the movies – will let you interact with 3-D holograms of your friends in real time. Movies and TVs are already moving to 3-D, and as 3-D and holographic cameras get more sophisticated and miniaturized to fit into cell phones, you will be able to interact with photos, browse the Web and chat with your friends in entirely new ways.

Scientists are working to improve video chat to become holography chat - or "3-D telepresence." The technique uses light beams scattered from objects and reconstructs a picture of that object, a similar technique to the one human eyes use to visualize our surroundings.

You'll be able to see more than your friends in 3-D too. Just as a flat map of the earth has distortion at the poles that makes flight patterns look indirect, there is also distortion of data – which is becoming greater as digital information becomes “smarter” – like your digital photo album. Photos are now geo-tagged, the Web is capable of synching information across devices and computer interfaces are becoming more natural.

Scientists at IBM Research are working on new ways to visualize 3-D data, working on technology that would allow engineers to step inside designs of everything from buildings to software programs, running simulations of how diseases spread across interactive 3-D globes, and visualizing trends happening around the world on Twitter – all in real time and with little to no distortion.

 

Batteries will breathe air to power our devices

Ever wish you could make your laptop battery last all day without needing a charge? Or what about a cell phone that powers up by being carried in your pocket?

In the next five years, scientific advances in transistors and battery technology will allow your devices to last about 10 times longer than they do today. And better yet, in some cases, batteries may disappear altogether in smaller devices.

Instead of the heavy lithium-ion batteries used today, scientists are working on batteries that use the air we breath to react with energy-dense metal, eliminating a key inhibitor to longer lasting batteries. If successful, the result will be a lightweight, powerful and rechargeable battery capable of powering everything from electric cars to consumer devices.

But what if we could eliminate batteries alltogether?

By rethinking the basic building block of electronic devices, the transistor, IBM is aiming to reduce the amount of energy per transistor to less than 0.5 volts. With energy demands this low, we might be able to lose the battery altogether in some devices like mobile phones or e-readers.

The result would be battery-free electronic devices that can be charged using a technique called energy scavenging. Some wrist watches use this today – they require no winding and charge based on the movement of your arm. The same concept could be used to charge mobile phones. for example – just shake and dial.

You won’t need to be a scientist to save the planet

While you may not be a physicist, you are a walking sensor. In five years, sensors in your phone, your car, your wallet and even your tweets will collect data that will give scientists a real-time picture of your environment. You'll be able to contribute this data to fight global warming, save endangered species or track invasive plants or animals that threaten ecosystems around the world. In the next five years, a whole class of "citizen scientists" will emerge, using simple sensors that already exist to create massive data sets for research.

Simple observations such as when the first thaw occurs in your town, when the mosquitoes first appear, if there’s no water running where a stream should be - all this is valuable data that scientists don’t have in large sets today. Even your laptop can be used as a sensor to detect seismic activity. If properly employed and connected to a network of other computers, your laptop can help map out the aftermath of an earthquake quickly, speeding up the work of emergency responders and potentially saving lives.

IBM recently patented a technique that enables a system to accurately and precisely conduct post-event analysis of seismic events, such as earthquakes, as well as provide early warnings for tsunamis, which can follow earthquakes. The invention also provides the ability to rapidly measure and analyze the damage zone of an earthquake to help prioritize emergency response needed following an earthquake.

The company is also contributing mobile phone "apps" that allow typical citizens to contribute invaluable data to causes, like improving the quality of drinking water or reporting noise pollution. Already, an app called Creek Watch allows citizens to take a snapshot of a creek or stream, answer three simple questions about it and the data is automatically accessible by the local water authority.

Your commute will be personalized

Imagine your commute with no jam-packed highways, no crowded subways, no construction delays and not having to worry about being late for work. In the next five years, advanced analytics technologies will provide personalized recommendations that get commuters where they need to go in the fastest time. Adaptive traffic systems will intuitively learn traveler patterns and behavior to provide more dynamic travel safety and route information to travelers than is available today.

IBM researchers are developing new models that will predict the outcomes of varying transportation routes to provide information that goes well beyond traditional traffic reports, after-the fact devices that only indicate where you are already located in a traffic jam, and web-based applications that give estimated travel time in traffic.

Using new mathematical models and IBM’s predictive analytics technologies, the researchers will analyze and combine multiple possible scenarios that can affect commuters to deliver the best routes for daily travel, including many factors, such as traffic accidents, commuter's location, current and planned road construction, most traveled days of the week, expected work start times, local events that may impact traffic, alternate options of transportation such as rail or ferries, parking availability and weather.

For example, by combining predictive analytics with real-time information about current travel congestion from sensors and other data, the system could recommend better ways to get to a destination, such as how to get to a nearby mass transit hub, whether the train is predicted to be on time, and whether parking is predicted to be available at the train station. New systems can learn from regular travel patterns where you are likely to go and then integrate all available data and prediction models to pinpoint the best route.

Computers will help energize your city

Innovations in computers and data centers are enabling the excessive heat and energy that they give off to do things like heat buildings in the winter and power air conditioning in the summer. Can you imagine if the energy poured into the world's data centers could in turn be recycled for a city's use?

With up to 50 percent of the energy consumed by a modern data center goes toward air cooling. Most of the heat is then wasted because it is just dumped into the atmosphere. New technologies, such as novel on-chip water-cooling systems developed by IBM, the thermal energy from a cluster of computer processors can be efficiently recycled to provide hot water for an office or houses.

A pilot project in Switzerland involving a computer system fitted with the technology is expected to save up to 30 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, the equivalent of an 85 percent carbon footprint reduction. A novel network of microfluidic capillaries inside a heat sink is attached to the surface of each chip in the computer cluster, which allows water to be piped to within microns of the semiconductor material itself. By having water flow so close to each chip, heat can be removed more efficiently. Water heated to 60 °C is then passed through a heat exchanger to provide heat that is delivered elsewhere.

Provided by IBM

Source: PhysOrg - via ZeitNews.org

 

Emotional differences between the rich and poor, as depicted in such Charles Dickens classics as "A Christmas Carol" and "A Tale of Two Cities," may have a scientific basis. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that people in the lower socio-economic classes are more physiologically attuned to suffering, and quicker to express compassion than their more affluent counterparts.

By comparison, the UC Berkeley study found that individuals in the upper middle and upper classes were less able to detect and respond to the distress signals of others. Overall, the results indicate that socio-economic status correlates with the level of empathy and compassion that people show in the face of emotionally charged situations.

"It's not that the upper classes are coldhearted," said UC Berkeley social psychologist Jennifer Stellar, lead author of the study published online on Dec. 12 2011 in the journal, Emotion. "They may just not be as adept at recognizing the cues and signals of suffering because they haven't had to deal with as many obstacles in their lives."

Stellar and her colleagues' findings challenge previous studies that have characterized lower-class people as being more prone to anxiety and hostility in the face of adversity.

"These latest results indicate that there's a culture of compassion and cooperation among lower-class individuals that may be born out of threats to their wellbeing," Stellar said.

It has not escaped the researchers' attention that the findings come at a time of rising class tension, expressed in the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Rather than widen the class divide, Stellar said she would like to see the findings promote understanding of different class cultures. For example, the findings suggest that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds may thrive better in cooperative settings than their upper-class counterparts.

"Upper-class individuals appear to be more self-focused, they've grown up with more freedom and autonomy," she said. "They may do better in an individualist, competitive environment."

More than 300 ethnically diverse young adults were recruited for the UC Berkeley study, which was divided into three experiments that used three separate groups of participants. Because all the volunteers were college undergraduates, their class identification – lower class, lower middle class, middle class, upper middle class or upper class – was based on parental income and education.

In the first experiment, 148 young adults were rated on how frequently and intensely they experience such emotions as joy, contentment, pride, love, compassion, amusement and awe. In addition, they reported how much they agreed with such statements as "When I see someone hurt or in need, I feel a powerful urge to take care of them," and "I often notice people who need help." Compassion was the only positive emotion reported at greater levels by lower-class participants, the study found.

In the second experiment, a new group of 64 participants viewed two videos: an instructional video on construction and an emotionally charged video about families who are coping with the challenges of having a child with cancer. Participants showed no differences while watching the "neutral" instructional video, and all reported feeling sad in response to the video about families of cancer patients. However, members of the lower class reported higher levels of compassion and empathy as distinct from sorrow.

The researchers also monitored the heart rates of participants as they watched the neutral and emotionally charged videos. Lower-class participants showed greater decreases in heart rate as they watched the cancer family video than upper-class participants.

"One might assume that watching someone suffering would cause stress and raise the heart rate," Stellar said. "But we have found that, during compassion, the heart rate lowers as if the body is calming itself to take care of another person."

Finally, a new set of 106 participants was randomly divided into pairs and pitted against one another in mock interviews for a lab manager position. To further raise the stress level in interviews, those who performed best were to win a cash prize. Post-interview reports from the participants showed that the lower-class interviewees perceived their rivals to be feeling greater amounts of stress, anxiety and embarrassment and as a result reported more compassion and sympathy for their competitors. Conversely, upper-class participants were less able to detect emotional distress signals in their rivals.

"Recognizing suffering is the first step to responding compassionately. The results suggest that it's not that upper classes don't care, it's that they just aren't as good at perceiving stress or anxiety," Stellar said.

Source: EurekAlert

 
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Hi, it's Nathan!Pretty much everyone is using voice search with their Siri/Google/Alexa to ask for services and products now, and next year, it'll be EVERYONE of your customers. Imagine what you are ...
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Now Colorado is one love, I'm already packing suitcases;)
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