Brain decoder for your inner voice

 

As you read this, your neurons are firing – that brain activity can now be decoded to reveal the silent words in your head…

The team found that certain neurons in the brain’s temporal lobe were only active in response to certain aspects of sound, such as a specific frequency. One set of neurons might only react to sound waves that had a frequency of 1000 hertz, for example, while another set only cares about those at 2000 hertz. Armed with this knowledge, the team built an algorithm…

It’s an already old article but still very good to read HERE.

The living robot


WHAT

We can nowadays remotely control a living dragonfly by connecting on its nervous system an electronic device embarked on its back.

WHY

I read some days ago an article1 which struck me a bit. This made me feel like: “Hey! In the big family of the new technologies which take place in between the alive world and the mechanical one, here is a newcomer!”. The basic idea is to remotely control a dragonfly. A real one?! (“WTF, you’re a dragonfly and you don’t fly where you want to?”). The objectives shown by the Draper company, at the origin of the project with the Howard Hugues Medical Institute, are the participation in operations of surveillance, the transport of light loads and the pollination of cultures.

HOW

Long story short, the functioning of the flying thingy leans on three different technologies:

1) the genetic engineering. Actually, the used dragonfly is not simply captured in the nature: it is also “modified”. By modifying his genome, we make photosensitive the neurons in charge of the activation of the wings muscles;

2) we fix to the dragonfly a device which is going to generate bright flashes on demand (remotely provided), activating the “modified” neurons and thus the wings, making move the dragonfly where it is wished;

3) a source of energy to activate the bright flashes: thus we embark mini-solar panels on the back of the dragonfly, which will produce the electricity used to supply the mechanical part of the “enhanced dragonfly”.

As this project intrigued me, I made some additional researches and it turns out that this one is not the only one of that kind: other identical attempts are currently running. Among them: a cockroach piloted by generating electric impulses on its antennas (project of Darpa)2, a beetle remotely controlled during flight by implanting electrodes on its nervous system3. And certainly many others! (already available or to come soon).

These projects bring in numerous knowledge in very complex and miscellaneous areas: the physics of the flight of the insect, the bio-mechanical process in action during this flight, the functioning of the nervous system of the insect (in order to know which neurons must be activated and which signals must be send to these), the design of a miniature and energetically autonomous embarked electronic device, and finally, for the project of the dragonfly at least, the genetic engineering. That much, huh!!

WHAT CAN BE DONE WITH IT

All this technique, OK, but what for, will you tell me? Well, as said above, military objectives mainly (surveillance, recognition), possibly some industrial ones (transport of light loads), but also much more cooler things (as the cultures pollination). We can also imagine numerous other things to do with this shit (like coordinating attacks of swarms of stinging insects, studying insect colonies, etc.) and also more ambitious operations, in which the human intervention is not required: we could program insects (or thick clouds of insects) to react automatically in a non-natural way (that is to be as we wish it, without any limit other than the imagination of the programmer) to a particular event, or even to its environment in general. We thus see that we could continue like that for a long time trying to enumerate in an exhaustive way all the possibilities offered by these new researches, these being almost infinite. What matters the most in this story is the proof of concept: we are from now on able to mechanically enslave a living being, to bypass its free will! Then, all right, it remains possible with insects only. And still it remains rather complicated to build up a systematic knowledge of the influence of their environment on their behavior, their bio-mechanical, neurological and genetic functioning. Nevertheless, we can imagine… could we eventually later remotely control, let’s say a lizard? Or a mouse? A cat?… A man?

Well, I can imagine that I may seem to be messing around when I say things like this, that could be part of the plot of a science fiction film. But science, the real one, is still progressing… And then, well, it is certainly for in a long time, but one day some men will certainly be crazy enough to try to develop this…

Oh, wait a minute, the centralized storage and the statistical study of all the information4 on your private and biomedical life5, doesn’t it remind you anything?

Science fiction film: remotely controlled cockroach scene from “The 5th element” (Besson, 1997).

Notes

1■ Science et avenir, mars 2017; a more developed article on the same subject is available on this website: http://www.futura-sciences.com/tech/actualites/robotique-libellule-transformee-insecte-cyborg-telecommande-41095/

2■ http://www.lefigaro.fr/sciences/2012/09/07/01008-20120907ARTFIG00514-un-cafard-vivant-pilote-comme-un-robot.php

3■ http://www.usine-digitale.fr/article/quand-le-scarabee-se-pilote-comme-un-drone.N320315 ;

4■ by the surveilling of your internet activity

5■ with the sportive training app on your smartphone or your connected watch

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Privacy news : google and iOS 03-2018

1) Google logs

Google is also giving customers ways to verify what it’s up to in case they don’t trust Google enough to take the company at its word.

For instance, Google is expanding Access Transparency by offering customers a real-time log of any accesses to their data by Google’s own engineers and support staff, as well as justifications for that access. In doing so, Google is giving enterprise customers a way to make sure that its employees aren’t poking around when they shouldn’t be.

2) Siri on your locked phone

With iOS 11, Apple added a new setting that lets you choose whether you want previews of your notifications to appear on your lock screen. By default, iOS shows a preview of your notifications only when your phone is unlocked, via some form of authentication like Face ID. But Siri will read your notifications from third-party apps aloud even if your phone is locked. This means anyone with physical access to your phone could hear messages meant just for you. MacMagazine first reported the issue after one of its readers noticed the peculiar behavior.

 

Brain plasticity podcast

Is it possible to enhance and rewire the adult brain?

To find out more about plasticity in the brain, host Nicola Davis speaks to Dr Tamar Makin, a neuroscientist at the University of College London’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience; Nick Ward, a professor of neurology and neurorehabilitation at University College London; and Prof Allan Young, chair of mood disorders at King’s College London and a coauthor of a recent study into possible drug treatments to enhance brain plasticity.

See and here it there on the Guardian.

By the way, you will probably like this one too :  is the internet addictive? (podcast)

 

Big brother is hearing you!


 

« Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. » A wise sentence at the godfather’s time, but we shall note that Don Corleone didn’t know about smartphones… If smartphone became man best friend these few last years, it is also becoming his worst enemy … The cause? It dwells much too close to you! You use it as an intermediary in all that you make: when you communicate with other people, visit Web sites, take photos or videos … It never leaves you alone, and thus, a big part of your life passes through it. What makes it an informer of choice for whom wants to know what your life looks like.

Maybe you think that you’re not so important, that your common life couldn’t be interesting for whoever, but that’s very wrong! Advertising executives, sellers of all kinds, and even government intelligence agencies of numerous countries are interested in your private life …

 

That’s why we wrote this article. They noticed recently that several smartphone’s applications listened to us without knowing it. And when we say “listen to”, we do not talk about the history of your browser, but about your smartphone’s hot mic! Among them, unsurprisingly, the Google1 application… It naturally collects all your vocal requests and this is why you use it. But did you already wonder how Google knew that you had said ” OK Google “, informing the application that your next sentence would be a request? There is only one possible answer: well, Google has to permanently listen to you, to know when you are going to pronounce ” OK Google “! This is the way the firm records your phone calls, your private conversations and in a general way all the sounds that reach your smartphone’s mike. That’s hard news. But on the other hand, the application is very forced to listen your mike to function, and you know that. Then OK, recording all of this instead of erasing could be considered unfair, but not unexpected. Just you to know, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, had said in 2009: ” if you make something and if you want that nobody knows it, maybe you should begin by not making it. “!

Google allows you to see what was recorded on you, and even to erase these contents … At least in theory (because before being erased, the data could have been be stored in another server designed to Google’s internal use, or simply because they were hacked before being erased!). You can see your history and delete it via this link (if you are not connected to your Google account, the page will be empty):

Let’s remember here that every good IT specialist will confirm you that on the Internet, to fully erase something isn’t completely guaranteed!

In brief, all this to say: think before trusting technologies. In that case, you directly authorized Google to listen to you all day and all night long!!

However, things can be more pernicious: imagine that approximately 250 Android games2 does the same as Google! Well, then, officially, not exactly the same: the responsible code for the leak of data is thought ” to detect television programs as a background sound, and not your private conversations ” says the Alphonso company, which developed it. They say that the user is warned of the use of his smartphone’s mike: you know, during the installation of an app, the list of the demanded access rights which you never read … The New York Times specifies that if the general conditions mention an access to the microphone, they do not specify it’s use nor that this one will continue to be listened to when the application will be closed and even when you’re not using your smartphone! All of this only to play to Basketball 3D! But then again you can find the incriminated games by typing “Alphonso Automated” in the Google Play search bar. And then erase (but too late) the indiscreet applications from your smartphone.

That can be a little bit tiresome, but it becomes necessary to read the list of demanded access rights when you download an app. At least if you want to be able to chat quiet of intimate subjects. During your read, wonder about the real requirements for the smooth running of the application, and if strange authorizations are demanded, do not download the app! Once again, contrary to Google, Basketball 3D shouldn’t need to access your microphone to work on your smartphone! That makes this request suspicious …

 

 

Now is the time for a small word about Facebook, which is also interested in your smartphone. In an article from January 21st, 2018, Marianne3 gives you an example of what is nowadays possible to do and what explains sometimes certain coincidences of friends’ suggestions with people that you just met at the bar: ” it is possible to them to detect that two smartphones are in the same place at the same time. But it’s even more intrusive: by comparing the data of every available smartphones, the social network is able to determine if the people face each other or walk together. “.

 

 

And we shall end our article with the worst. There are things against whom the common sense and stubbornness (for the reading of the terms of sale) are insufficient. The Russian company of IT security Kaspersky Lab published on January 16th, 2018 a report on the malware named Skygofree4 which spread on smartphones using Android since 2014. This malware infects smartphones through Web sites imitating those of the main telephony operators. Very difficult to detect, it is able to locate the mobile and to cross its position with the listening. Skygofree could also pirate WhatsApp, listen to phone conversations, read SMS and more widely see contents of the memory of the smartphone. And also take photos and videos without acknowledging the user of that. It’s clearly spy material!

Thus in conclusion: as your smartphone watches you, watch your smartphone!

Cool stuff : Webcam Cover 0.7mm THIN – Magnet Slider – Protects your privacy

Notes

1■ Article from Sputniknews website Google vous écoute en permanence

2■ Article from New-York Times website That game on your phone may be tracking what you’re watching on TV

3■ Article from Marianne magazine : Facebook redouble de nouveautés pour vous espionner

4■ AFP article Un logiciel de surveillance cible les mobiles Android

 

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Well-being by walking

WHAT

Did you know that walking benefits your body and your mind?

WHY

Remember, we talked already in another article about the necessity of relaxing body and mind to feel at ease. And well, there is a magical activity which works on these two sides. And you know what? This activity, you can practice it anytime, day or night, and there is no need to buy specific equipment to do it. That’s because it is just about… walking! Let’s go and see what are the miraculous benefits of walking, on the body and mind.

HOW

There are specific routes well designed to get in touch with our predecessors ( pilgrimages, for example, are routes that numerous men walked on for centuries) or our contemporaries (meeting other walkers is frequent on many hiking paths, and the stories which you will live during your pedestrian holidays can be shared with your colleagues when you will come back to work!). Also, it is obvious that walking in nature is more pleasant than walking in town (you have a better contact with your environment, contact which can be improved by walking barefoot: to walk barefoot is an interesting experience, but which must be done in good conditions. Avoid going alone, take a pair of shoes and a medical kit with you, and, of course, go walk in a “clean” place (for example, cities are not appropriate for this exercise!). However, what’s magic, is that if you just walk in a non-specific way, for example to go home after work, you’ll already benefits all these virtues, even if it is to a lesser extent.

WHAT CAN BE DONE WITH IT

From a very concrete point of view, walking in whatever environment generates unsuspected physiological profits. Actually, the WHO insists heavily on the benefactions of walking in its ” World Recommendations on the physical activity for the health” edited in 20101. Furthermore, in 2012, the WHO has listed and validated all the modern studies on the benefactions of walking2. It recommends in particular to everyone to make at least 10000 steps a day (it takes approximately 10 minutes to make 1000 steps). Here are listed some of the physical benefactions: reinforcement of muscles and fortification of bones, improvement of the vital capacities, reduction of the risks of heart attack, stimulation of the immune system, decrease of the risk of AVC, reduction of the risk of breast and colon cancer, and of the type 2 diabetes … In brief, according to the WHO, the settled way of life is the 4th world cause of “avoidable deaths”! …

But the most beautiful is that walking also has an action on the mind: it improves memory, attention, creativity, because walking improves, among others, the irrigation of the brain (and as a consequence, its functionning2).

We made the tour of the walking subject. And now on, let’s go!

Look further / Useful link(s)

NOTES

1■ http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/44436/1/9789242599978_fre.pdf

2■ Ca m’intéresse, may 2017, article “Les bienfaits de la marche” (FR)

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A biological basis of culture ?


And 2 other news

 

In attempts to define what makes us uniquely human, emotions and feelings are often marginalized. These deeply ingrained, often irrational aspects of our behaviour seem destined to be the poor cousins of the rational cognitive functions that enable the formulation of mathematical theorems or operatic scores. In his bold and important book The Strange Order of Things, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio argues that in underestimating the contributions of such ‘lower-level’ brain phenomena to ‘higher-level’ cognitive functions, science might have been missing out on some important biology. Similarly, neuroscience’s emphasis on the origins of language as a shaper of culture might have eclipsed the role of feelings.

[…]

Damasio traces core components of the human “cultural mind”, such as social behaviour and cooperation, back to the non-human biology of unicellular organisms present at the inception of life. Bacteria do not sit up at night to contemplate the nature of their existence, and are unable to calculate the trajectories of distant planets. Nevertheless, they are in full command of an impressive repertoire of social behaviours. For example, when nutrients are scarce, bacteria eschew their hermit-like lives and clump together. They can also align into defensive palisades that can confer resistance to antibiotics.

Although compelling and refreshingly original, Damasio’s thesis would have benefited from a more detailed exposition of the scientific evidence supporting his assertions.

Read full article in nature.

2 other titles that grabbed our attention:

 

The love drug that could draw people away from any addiction

The “cuddle chemical” oxytocin boosts social bonds. Soon a version of it will be tested in pill form to see if it can reset the brain wiring that gets us hooked

Article from new scientist.

 

Chemical controllers: How hormones influence your body and mind

WE LIKE to think we are in charge of our own behaviour – that our thoughts are under our conscious control and that our actions are mostly reasonable. But our behaviour is also in the sway of an ancient system of mind control: hormones. These protein messengers are best known for their fundamental duty as regulators – think of insulin and blood sugar, for example – but they also bathe the brain in chemical information that tells us about the world around us and the people in it.

Can a surge in a particular hormone make us feel and act like a totally different person?

Article from new scientist.

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The children of the digital technology: a generation of “sick”?

 

Fears, addictions, confinement, insomnias, diseases: the risks connected to the digital technology are to be seriously taken. The young people are affected by new mental illnesses or described as such. The list is long and does not stop lengthening. The young people found in the digital technology a refuge in front of their ill-being, but it finally seems to aggravate their solitude.

So, in 2015, a new syndrome was born: Fobo (for Fear Of Being Offline). This one is characterized by the fear of being disconnected. Since then, the list stretches out and after the syndrome of the ghost vibrations and the “nomophobia”, which is translated by the anxiety to be separated from its mobile phone, the selfitism has just been described as a mental illness.

The next one on the list of the World Health Organization: the addiction in the video games. Then, why the WHO made such a decision? The answer is maybe near pharmaceutical companies. Indeed, qualifying the disorders of the video game as a disease involves that the people recognized as sick will get a medicinal prescription (to pay!). Yet, labs think they finalized of “the molecules specially targeted at the adolescent depressions with compulsive behavior”, which is obviously the case at the players.

The problem? According to Emilie Danchin, ” give medicine to young people who have a narcissistic fragility entail a risk of making them hooked to medicine. It is necessary to begin with questioning the practice and wondering what makes that we have a dependent personality “.

Read full article in French on “alternativesante”.

 

AI Super-readers, better than humans!

 

January the 15th of year 2018 will be remembered in the history of human beings and robots. This day, two AI outscored human beings at the Stanford Questions Answering Dataset, which is a reading test designed by Stanford researchers where you have to answer more than 100.000 questions using 500 Wikipedia articles.

One of the two concerned AI was created by Alibaba’s researchers (Alibaba is a Chinese big store) and scored 82,44 at this test. The other one was developed by Microsoft’s researchers and scored 82,65. The human contestants scored 82,304.

This result is very significant in the sense that we all already know that computers have supremacy over human kind in the areas of memory (storage) and calculation (and they also can do multiple things simultaneously). From now on, as machines not only remember or access more resources than human beings, not only they read that faster, but they also understand it better!! From now on, human beings won’t ever be competitive against machines again, in many ways.

Click the link to read the original article.

 

When people sleep more they also eat less sugar…

and 2 other news we found for you.

 

When people sleep more they also eat less sugar and carbs

Want to eat better? Sleep more. Increasing the amount of sleep a person gets has been linked to eating fewer sugary foods, and making better nutritional choices.
Wendy Hall, at King’s College London, and her team enlisted 42 volunteers to help them investigate the link between sleep and diet. Half the participants were given advice on how to get more sleep – such as avoiding caffeine before bed, establishing a relaxing routine, and trying not to go to bed too full or hungry. This advice was intended to help them boost the amount of sleep they each got by 90 minutes a night. The remaining 21 volunteers received no such advice.
The team found that, of those who were given the advice, 86 per cent spent more time in bed, and around half slept for longer than they used to. These extended sleep patterns were associated with an average reduction in the intake of free sugars of 10 grams a day. People who were getting more sleep also ate fewer carbohydrates. There were no significant changes in diet in the control group.

Read article on newscientist.

 

A reboot for chronic fatigue syndrome research

Research into this debilitating disease has a rocky past. Now scientists may finally be finding their footing.
After decades of pleading, people with the condition have finally caught the attention of mainstream science — and dozens of exploratory studies are now under way. Scientists entering the field are using the powerful tools of modern molecular biology to search for any genes, proteins, cells and possible infectious agents involved. They hope the work will yield a laboratory test to diagnose ME/CFS — which might have several different causes and manifestations — and they want to identify molecular pathways to target with drugs.
Read article on nature.

 

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing review

– timely guide Daniel H Pink’s engaging book reveals the best times of day to make optimum décisions.

In 2011, two Cornell researchers, Michael Macy and Scott Golder, began an unusual project. They gathered approximately 500m tweets that had been posted by more than 2 million users in 84 countries over the previous two years. Then they subjected these tweets to careful analysis.
The sociologists’ aim was straightforward. The pair wanted to measure how people’s feelings varied from morning until night and, by using an analysis program called Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), they attempted to measure the emotional states revealed by individuals in the electronic texts they sent. The patterns that were uncovered were striking.
Macy and Golder found that with remarkable consistency – and regardless of time of year – people’s positive emotions rose in strength as the morning progressed and then fell significantly in the afternoon, before climbing back in the evening. “Whether a tweeter was North American or Asian, Muslim or atheist, black, white or brown, it didn’t matter,” Daniel Pink tells us. “Across continents and time zones was the same daily oscillation – a peak, a trough and a rebound.”

Read article on theguardian.