SCARY SCIENCE: WE CAN SEE YOUR THOUGHTS

I’ve copied in an article on wired.com about a recent development in neuroscience below. It seems that we now have the technology at hand to reconstruct memories from within someone’s consciousness. I’m not worried about people using the tech to implant something into the brain – I think that’s way off… impossible even – but the thought of someone ‘seeing’ what you’re thinking is quite scary and a bit Outer Limits-ish.

Obviously if you’ve committed a murder, it can be proven or dis-proven by delving into your mind. This is a bit like the tech shown in Minority Report. You might be thinking “Minority Report was about pre-cognition” but remember that they had the hybrids in a pool tied up to the computer. They were able to ‘see’ what the hybrids saw in their minds. Tom Cruise assembled the snapshots of memory on the big glass screen to determine how the murder had happened, and who had done it – – or, more accurately, how it was going to happen, and who was going to do it.

When Spielberg did Minority Report, he asked some big thinkers to give him an idea of what the near-future might look like in terms of available (realistic) technology, in terms of computers, holographic devices and transportation.
Obviously given this development, they weren’t far off at all.

I’m not sure I’d like someone poking around reconstructing my dreams though.

The article from wired.com:

Neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have figured out a way of recreating visual activity taking place in the brain and reconstructing it using YouTube clips.

The team used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and computational models to decode and reconstruct visual experiences in the minds of test subjects. So far, it’s only been used to reconstruct movie trailers, but it could, it is hoped, eventually yield equipment to reconstruct dreams on a computer screen.

The participants, who were members of the research team (as they had to stay still inside the scanner for hours at a time), watched two sets of movie trailers while the fMRI machine measured blood flow in their visual cortex.

Those measurements were used to come up with a computer model of how the visual cortex in each subject reacted to different types of image. “We built a model…that describes how shape and motion information in the movie is mapped into brain activity,” said Shinji Nishimoto, lead author of the study.

After associating the brain activity with what was happening on the screen in the first set of trailers, the second set of clips was then used to test the theory. It was asked to predict the brain activity that would be generated based on the visual patterns on-screen. To give it some ammunition for that task, it was fed 18 million seconds of random YouTube videos.

Then, the 100 YouTube clips that were found to be most similar to the clip (embedded below) were merged together, forming a blurry but reasonably accurate representation of what was going on on-screen. You can see that process in action in the video above. “We need to know how the brain works in naturalistic conditions,” said Nishimoto. “For that, we need to first understand how the brain works while we are watching movies.”

The technology could be used to try and find out what’s going on in the minds of people who can’t (or, more sinisterly, won’t) communicate verbally. However, Nishimoto admits that we’re still “decades” from scanning other people’s thoughts and intentions. Oh, and Inception fans will be disappointed too — the authors say: “There is no known technology that could remotely send signals to the brain in a way that would be organized enough to elicit a meaningful visual image or thought.”

WE COULD NEVER AFFORD TO HAVE A NUCLEAR WAR

This is a pointer to an article up on wired.com/science where they talk to Michael Mills, an atmospheric chemist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
He describes how just one skirmish using 100 small Hiroshima-sized warheads would unleash untold havoc on the planet, bringing the modern world to its knees, destroying a quarter of the planets ozone layer in the process.

From the article:

Michael Mills: The initial explosions ignite fires in the cities, and those fires would build up for hours. What you eventually get is a firestorm, something on the level we saw in World War II in cities like Dresden, in Tokyo, Hiroshima and so on.

Today we have larger cities than we did then — mega cities. And using 100 weapons on these different mega cities, like those in India and Pakistan, would cause these firestorms to build on themselves. They would create their own weather and start sucking air through bottom. People and objects would be sucked into buildings from the winds, basically burning everything in the city. It’ll burn concrete, the temperatures get so hot. It converts mega cities into black carbon smoke.

The article does a very good job at presenting the true horrifying reality of a potential nuclear exchange. Surely, the new findings from the research panel illustrates just how deadly having nuclear weapons at our disposal is. The temptation to launch them will always be there so long as we have them – and the cost of doing so will never be less than putting the whole of humanity at very great risk.

Click HERE to read the article.

LUPARA BIANCA

Wired.com is running a good article, about the Mafia’s claims at being able to dissolve a body in sulphuric acid within minutes.

From the article:

Police found tanks of acid in a Palermo hideout known as the “chamber of death,” where crime boss Filippo Marchese purportedly dissolved victims after torturing them in the early 1980s, said Filippo Cascino, another study co-author at the University of Palermo.

Informants had described the disposal method, the researchers say, with statements like, “We put the people in acid. In 15, 20 minutes they were no more — they became a liquid.”

Either way, whether the mafia did use acid or not… it’s got to be better than having your remains eaten by a pig, eh?

Head on over to wired to read the whole thing HERE

And you can read about Filippo Marchese HERE

“POOF!” AND IT’S GONE!

Wired has an excellent article up on its site, concerning the recent discovery that a naturally occurring crystal, called calcite prisms, can be used to make very small objects dissapear – or rather, appear to be invisible.

When I say small, I mean ant size, or as wired puts it, even as small as a grain of sand. So we’re not at the stage where we can make an Aston Martin invisible (sorry James Bond) but surely this is a step in the right direction.

From the BBC’s reporting:

The team used a prototype to demonstrate the idea, hiding centimetre-scale objects illuminated with polarised green or red laser light.

“By using natural crystals for the first time, rather than artificial metamaterials, we have been able to scale up the size of the cloak and can hide larger objects, thousands of times bigger than the wavelength of the light,” said Shuang Zhang, the University of Birmingham physicist who led the research.

“This is a huge step forward as, for the first time, the cloaking area is rendered at a size that is big enough for the observer to ‘see’ the invisible object with the naked eye.”

What sort of uses could this technology have?

Wired reports:

It’s not a Harry Potter cloak,” says Shuang Zhang, a physicist at the University of Birmingham in England and one of the Nature Communications study coauthors. The cloak works only under one light polarization. And while it works at all angles, it’s not three-dimensional. It only cloaks when Zhang aims the light source dead-on at the crystals. But, he says, scaling up to 3-D isn’t too big of a leap from 2-D. Zhang imagines similar technology one day concealing submarines on the sea floor.

Leonhardt says the future of optical legerdemain lies not in hiding things, but in revealing them. He uses the same geometric tools to design better microscopes. “We use similar ideas not to make things disappear but to make them visible,” he says.

Go to Wired directly to read the article, by clicking HERE

and also have a look at the BBC’s article on it by clicking HERE