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“You must want to know the truth more than you want to feel secure in order to fully awaken to the fact that you are nothing but Awakeness itself.”

Adyashanti

Art by: Dunno. You know? Lemme know!

Layered Glass Table Concept Creates a Cross Section of the Ocean ocean furniture

Layered Glass Table Concept Creates a Cross Section of the Ocean ocean furniture

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dna-repair-machinery

When it comes to genetic engineering, we’re amateurs. Sure, we’ve known about DNA’s structure for more than 60 years, we first sequenced every A, T, C, and G in our bodies more than a decade ago, and we’re becoming increasingly adept at modifying the genes of a growing number of organisms.

But compared with what’s coming next, all that will seem like child’s play. A new technology just announced today has the potential to wipe out diseases, turn back evolutionary clocks, and reengineer entire ecosystems, for better or worse. Because of how deeply this could affect us all, the scientists behind it want to start a discussion now, before all the pieces come together over the next few months or years. This is a scientific discovery being played out in real time.

Today, researchers aren’t just dropping in new genes, they’re deftly adding, subtracting, and rewriting them using a series of tools that have become ever more versatile and easier to use. In the last few years, our ability to edit genomes has improved at a shockingly rapid clip. So rapid, in fact, that one of the easiest and most popular tools, known as CRISPR-Cas9, is just two years old. Researchers once spent months, even years, attempting to rewrite an organism’s DNA. Now they spend days.

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Scientists funded by the Defense Department have just announced a breakthrough that could allow researchers to create in 220 days an extremely detailed picture of the brain that previously would have taken 80 years of scans to complete.

The military has been looking to build better brain hacks for decades with results that ranged form the frightening to the comical. This latest development could revolutionize the study of the brain but also the national security applications of neuroscience.

Scientists at Stanford University who developed the new way to see the brain in greater detail, outlined in the journal Nature Protocols, said that it could mark a new era of rapid brain imaging, allowing researchers to see in much greater detail not only how parts of the brain interact on a cellular level but also to better understand those interactions across the entire brain.

“I absolutely believe this is going to transform the way that we study the brain and how we perform neuroscience research,” said Justin Sanchez, program manager for the Neuro Function, Activity, Structure, and Technology, or Neuro-FAST, program at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which funded the research. “What we’re saying here today is that we can develop new technology that changes how we observe and interact with the circuits of the brain.”

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Just let it…

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“I am not asking you to look in any particular direction. Just look away from all that happens in your mind and bring it to the feeling ‘I am’. The ‘I am’ is not a direction. It is the negation of all direction. Ultimately even the ‘I am’ will have to go, for you need not keep asserting what is obvious. Bringing the mind to the feeling ‘I am’ merely helps turning the mind away from everything.”

Nisargadatta Maharaj

Art by: Dunno. You know? Lemme know!

Fantastic Fungi: The Startling Visual Diversity of Mushrooms Photographed by Steve Axford science nature mushrooms Australia  Marasmius haematocephalus

Fantastic Fungi: The Startling Visual Diversity of Mushrooms Photographed by Steve Axford science nature mushrooms Australia
Panus fasciatus

Fantastic Fungi: The Startling Visual Diversity of Mushrooms Photographed by Steve Axford science nature mushrooms Australia
Leratiomyces sp. / Found in Booyong Reserve, Booyong, NSW

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magnetic resonance imaging, xray

Brain scans are now starting to peer down to the molecular level, revealing what brain cells are telling one another, researchers say.

This new technique could illuminate the behavior of the human brain at its most fundamental level, yielding insights on disorders such as addiction, the scientists added. Right now the technique has been tested only on rats.

“This demonstrates a new way to study the brain — no one has ever mapped brain activity in this way before,” said study author Alan Jasanoff, a bioengineer and neuroscientist at MIT.

One of the key ways researchers use to scan brains is magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. These scanners immerse people in strong magnetic fields and then hit them with radio waves, encouraging atoms — usually hydrogen atoms — to emit signals that yield insights on the body.

By using MRIs to look at the hydrogen atoms in water, scientists can follow the flow of blood in the brain, shedding light on brain activity. However, this strategy, known as functional MRI, or fMRI, essentially reveals only what parts of the brain are talking, not what different areas of the brain are saying to each other.

Now scientists are using novel molecules that can help them use fMRI to see what specific messages brain cells are sending each other.

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Oliver Kreylos has combined three Kinects with an Oculus Rift to import a 3D representation of himself into virtual reality.

The Kinects’ video stream is merged before being fed into the Oculus headset, giving the impression of a solid 3D object. In this instance, the object is Mr Kreylos, who can be seen sitting in a virtual office. Low resolution and prone to glitches, the device is still an early prototype.

The three Kinects – peripherals for Microsoft’s Xbox – are positioned in an equilateral triangle to accurately capture the subject, whose image is then beamed into Facebook’s Oculus Rift headset. Mr Kreylos is able to control the camera in such a way that he can see himself in both a first and third person perspective.

Unlike an ordinary 2D camera, the Kinect is equipped with a 3D camera, which provides the missing bits of information necessary for 3D reconstruction that a regular camera does not have. Mr Kreylos, researcher at University of California, Davis, said in his blog that despite the low quality of the image, it still feels very real.

“I believe it’s related to the uncanny valley principle, in that fuzzy 3D video that moves in a very lifelike fashion is more believable to the brain than high-quality avatars that don’t quite move right.”

The Uncanny Valley principle is a hypothesis that suggests human features that are designed to move similarly, but not exactly, like natural human beings – such as in robotics or 3D animation – can cause revulsion in observers. Mr Kreylos first started experimenting with the Kinect back in 2010 and this appears to be the first time the device has been used to create this particular effect in conjunction with the Oculus Rift.

Imagine that!

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This image shows an astrocyte.

Scientists studying brain diseases may need to look beyond nerve cells and start paying attention to the star-shaped cells known as “astrocytes,” because they play specialized roles in the development and maintenance of nerve circuits and may contribute to a wide range of disorders, according to a new study by UC San Francisco researchers.

In a study published online April 28, 2014 in Nature, the researchers report that malfunctioning astrocytes might contribute to neurodegenerative disorders such as Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), and perhaps even to developmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

David Rowitch, MD, PhD, UCSF professor of pediatrics and neurosurgery and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, led the research.

The researchers discovered in mice that a particular form of astrocyte within the spinal cord secretes a protein needed for survival of the nerve circuitry that controls reflexive movements. This discovery is the first demonstration that different types of astrocytes exist to support development and survival of distinct nerve circuits at specific locations within the central nervous system.

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Okay, we’re slightly kidding about the bad 3D movie thing. But British researchers really did get a million dollar grant to outfit praying mantises with tiny little 3D glass to try and figure out how the insects’ stereoscopic 3D vision works.

Mantis are the only invertebrates (with the exception of the mantis shrimp, I think) who can see in stereo, so part of the point of this research is to try and figure out how this capability evolved in the insects, and whether it’s similar to how stereo vision works in us vertebrates. If this research reveals that the mantis has stereo vision that works differently somehow, it could lead to new techniques for perceiving depth in computer vision and robotics.

The testing itself involves using beeswax to glue the world’s smallest pair of polarized glasses to the mantis’ face, and then showing them 3D movies of moving objects to see how they react. The insect brains are fooled into thinking that the movies are in 3D, just like humans are, so you can imagine that if the mantis flinches at virtual 3D objects coming at them (like we do), the researchers can then make inferences about whether they’re seeing things the same way that humans are.

And for all you bug lovers out there, rest assured that the glasses are removable without any harm to the insects, and after every test they’re put back in a special mantis pleasure palace where they’re fed and pampered. So basically, their lives consist of eating, relaxing, and watching 3D movies. We should all be so lucky.

We’re all familiar with ant colonies, where every tiny creature is running around doing just what it needs to. Well it looks like SRI International has taken inspiration from the giant mounds of insects, to create their own swarms of tiny worker robots that can put together mechanical assemblies and electronic circuits.

Diamagnetic Micro Manipulation (DM3) uses tiny magnets that move under a circuit board, to get the micro-robots to follow a set pattern based on a set of preprogrammed instructions. The system can be set up so just one or a couple of robots are working together, or you can have giant groups of them moving together in sync like some bizarre gymnastics routine. Despite their tiny size, the robots can move up to a foot in a single second, so they can haul around your micro manufacturing supplies pretty swiftly.

SRI says that DM3 can be used for prototyping parts, electronics assembly, biotech lab-on-a-chip experiments, and assembling small mechanical systems in hostile environments. Eventually they plan to scale up the technology, by developing a manufacturing head containing thousands of the little buggers that can build much larger assemblies.

As you might expect, the funding comes from the military, and is part of DARPA’s Open Manufacturing program.

Check out the video where you can see swarms of the micro-robots moving in unison, and then as a couple of them work together to build some pretty amazing truss structures. They even manage to dispense the super glue used to hold the rods together without getting it all over their fingers and sticking everything together.

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Scientists have developed an “off-switch” for the brain to effectively shut down neural activity using light pulses.

In 2005, Stanford scientist Karl Deisseroth discovered how to switch individual brain cells on and off by using light in a technique he dubbed ‘optogenetics’.

Research teams around the world have since used this technique to study brain cells, heart cells, stem cells and others regulated by electrical signals.

However, light-sensitive proteins were efficient at switching cells on but proved less effective at turning them off.

Now, after almost a decade of research, scientists have been able to shut down the neurons as well as activate them.

Mr Deisseroth’s team has now re-engineered its light-sensitive proteins to switch cells much more adequately than before. His findings are presented in the journal Science.

Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which funded the study, said this improved “off” switch will help researchers to better understand the brain circuits involved in behavior, thinking and emotion.

“This is something we and others in the field have sought for a very long time,” Mr Deisseroth, a senior author of the paper and professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioural sciences said.

“We’re excited about this increased light sensitivity of inhibition in part because we think it will greatly enhance work in large-brained organisms like rats and primates.”

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Illustration by Jamie Cullen.

Sitting in a small, computer-lined room trying to remember a succession of different-coloured words scrolling past on a screen doesn’t sound like the cutting edge of scientific research. However, academics at the University of East London are using word tests to assess the impact synaesthesia can have on memory – and the potential it might have to ward off the decline in cognitive function that can affect the elderly.

Synaesthesia, the neurological condition that causes a blending of the senses – colours can be connected to letters and numbers, smells and tastes to music or touch to vision – has long been linked to creativity: famous synaesthetes include Sibelius and more recently Pharrell Williams.

But among the wider population it has remained a mysterious condition, although it is known to affect at least 4.4% of adults across its many forms.

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Buckle up, there may be some turbulence... or fractals <i>(Image: DR Fred Espenak/SPL)</i>

Feeding black holes develop a fractal skin as they grow. That’s the conclusion of simulations that take advantage of a correlation between fluid dynamics and gravity.

“We showed that when you throw stuff into a black hole, the surface of the black hole responds like a fluid – and in particular, it can become turbulent,” says Allan Adams at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “More precisely, the horizon itself becomes a fractal.”

Fractals are mathematical sets that show self-similar patterns: zoom in on one part of a fractal drawing, like the famous Mandelbrot set, and the smaller portion will look nearly the same as the original image. Objects with fractal geometries show up all over nature, from clouds to the coast of England.

Adams and his colleagues have now found evidence that fractal behaviour occurs in an unexpected place: on the surface of a feeding black hole. Black holes grow by devouring matter that falls into them; the black hole at the centre of our galaxy is due to feast on a gas cloud later this year. But the details of how feeding black holes grow, and how this might affect their host galaxies, are still unknown.

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Friendly Reminder…

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Railguns aren’t the only thing the U.S. Navy is bragging about this week. Scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. announced they have successfully turned seawater into fuel.

When your car runs out of gas, you find a gas station and fill it up. For ships and planes, however, there aren’t any stations out in the middle of the ocean. Instead, the Navy’s vessels are refueled by oil tankers that come to them.

All of that will change in the future. By extracting carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas simultaneously from seawater, and then using a catalytic converter, scientists created fuel that looks and smells pretty much the same as regular ol’ petroleum-based fuel.

The advantages of seawater-based fuel is twofold. First, the ships don’t need to be redesigned in order to use the new seawater-based fuel since it’s basically the same. Second, the ability to create fuel from all that water around aircraft carriers means less dependence on oil. The U.S. Navy envisions ships will be able to create their own fuel for themselves and for planes. So long oil tankers!

“Game-changing” as the breakthrough is, the U.S. Navy says ships that generate their own fuel from seawater aren’t going to start sailing the seas anytime soon — they’re at least ten years away. For now, the U.S. Navy’s scientists are focusing on how to produce larger quantities of seawater-based fuel.

Smart contact lens

Search and advertising giant Google is developing a “smart” contact lens that monitors blood sugar levels for diabetes sufferers.

The lens includes a small piece of circuitry that measures glucose levels from the tears that naturally lubricate the eye. It also includes a wireless sensor, which Google has stated could be used to communicate data collected with an app.

Tears were chosen, Google has explained, as they are one of numerous fluids the body produces alongside blood that can carry details of a person’s glucose levels. The use of a contact lens may transpire to be an easier way to monitor these levels, and potentially display the results to a wearer using small LED lights that blink when readings are above or below a healthy threshold.

Google has said it has completed several studies to advance development of a prototype, which currently reads glucose levels once per second. The company is also in talks with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to bring the technology to US diabetes sufferers in future. The company has not commented on any UK-specific launch or testing, although Wired.co.uk understands talks have taken place with British medical charities.

It is estimated that three million people in the UK have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, with a further 850,000 suffering without diagnosis. Most home monitoring involves pricking the finger to extract a drop of blood, and using strips of material or a machine to determine the current status of glucose levels.

The smart contact lens project is being run at Google X, the company’s research and development lab for projects outside of the business’s core focus areas. Other projects known to be underway at the lab include self-driving cars and internet-equipped air balloons.

Unified Unseen Theory

boom
Through quantum mechanics—the new physics—we have started to recognize that the invisible energy fields are actually more primary in shaping the material world than the material world is in shaping itself.”
Bruce H. Lipton
Art by: Dunno. You know? Lemme know!

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