Science Technology

Connecting human brains to computers

Art by MattiasA 

“You could just think your query and download the relevant knowledge directly in your mind.”

Forget Ritalin. Forget Google and Evernote acting as our second brains holding all the information we can’t. And instead, prepare for brain implants where the mind melds with machines. We don’t even have to type, click, or touch anything. We just think and imagine commands.

As part of a clinical trial called “Brain Gate,” 13 applicants at Brown University have had a sensor placed into their motor cortex and so far have been able to control cursor movement on a screen. Says doctor John Simerall at Brown University building the neurotechnology device:

“Simply by imagining intuitive movements participants can immediately control a robotic device.”

Here come the cyborgs.


Scientist Madeline Lancaster grows ‘mini-brains’

Neurological biologist Madeline Lancaster develops cerebral organoids or mini-brains, which she describes as “three-dimensional neural tissues generated from human stem cells which allow us to model human brain development.”

In other words, organoids can model the architecture of a human embryonic brain.

According to the Financial Times who interviewed the scientist, each organoid is about the size of a lentil.

The implications of Lancaster’s work are enormous, as are the ethics at stake.

She’s building a standalone brain, one that exists without a human body. That to me sounds like some potential hybrid between robot and human, aka cyborg.

Of course, the organoids don’t have a consciousness — at least yet. But Lancaster established a connection between organoid neurons and mouse neurons in tests. “In theory you could make a fully formed human brain in a pig,” said Lancaster.

Lancaster’s stem cell research could also one day treat neurological diseases, including autism, dementia, and epilepsy.

As Lancaster creates the future, obvious moral questions come up around the harvesting of brains with further testing on lab-approved animals. As a scientist, she is willing to drive the discussion over so-called mini-brains forward.


The spherical nature of the Earth

The world is round, and it has been for some time despite the rise of the flat earth movement.

Take a look at some of the armillary spheres below, starting with the Chinese diagram from 1092. Even back then, they had could rationalize that the Earth adopted a round shape.

The curvy nature of the Earth is manifest.

Chinese Diagram, 1092

From Su Song’s book of 1092 

Damascus, 1526

Work of Taqi al-Din from the Constantinople observatory

Germany, 1585

Sphere on top of an astronomical clock, made in Kassel, Germany by Jost Bürgi and Antonius Eisenhoit
Science Space

What the sunset looks like on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity Rover photographed this view of the sun setting from its 956th Martian day on Mars.

The above image is actually a sequence of four images taken over a span of 6 minutes, 51 seconds. Check out the full GIF below.

Said Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, College Station who planned the Curiosity mission: “The colors come from the fact that the very fine dust is the right size so that blue light penetrates the atmosphere slightly more efficiently.

“When the blue light scatters off the dust, it stays closer to the direction of the sun than light of other colors does. The rest of the sky is yellow to orange, as yellow and red light scatter all over the sky instead of being absorbed or staying close to the sun.”

So cool, at least nearly as interesting as the heart-shaped craters also discovered on Mars.