Archive for July, 2012
First map of the human brain reveals a simple, grid-like structure between neurons. How these connections actually work to construct who we are is a different, far more fascinating matter.
Modern culture emerged in southern Africa at least 44,000 years ago, more than 20,000 years earlier than anthropologists had previously believed, researchers reported Monday.
That blossoming of technology and art occurred at roughly the same time that modern humans were migrating from Africa to Europe, where they soon displaced Neanderthals. Many of the characteristics of the ancient culture identified by anthropologists are still present in hunter-gatherer cultures of Africa today, such as the San culture of southern Africa, the researchers said.
The new evidence was provided by an international team of researchers excavating at an archaeological site called Border Cave in the foothills of the Lebombo Mountains on the border of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and Swaziland. The cave shows evidence of occupation by human ancestors going back more than 200,000 years, but the team reported in two papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they were able to accurately date their discoveries to 42,000 to 44,000 years ago, a period known as the Later Stone Age or the Upper Paleolithic Period in Europe.
Among the organic — and thus datable — artifacts the team found in the cave were ostrich eggshell beads, thin bone arrowhead points, wooden digging sticks, a gummy substance called pitch that was used to attach bone and stone blades to wooden shafts, a lump of beeswax likely used for the same purpose, worked pig tusks that were probably use for planing wood, and notched bones used for counting.
If you’ve always wanted to live on a distant world, Dutch company Mars One wants to give you your chance to settle on the red planet. There’s only one catch: You’ll never be able to return to Earth.
Next year, Mars One will hold a worldwide lottery to select 40 people to train to be civilian astronauts. That group will be sent to live in a desert simulation for three months, after which the initial pool will be whittled down to 10. By 2023, this group will be sent to Mars to form the first permanent human settlement.
According to Bas Lansdorp, founder of Mars One, “We will send humans to Mars in 2023. They will live there the rest of their lives. There will be a habitat waiting for them, and we’ll start sending four people every two years.”
Once the new settlement has begun to thrive, the possibility for a return visit to Earth may open up. Still, that’s not guaranteed. Says Lansdorp, “our astronauts will be offered a one-way trip. We have no idea when it will be possible to offer return tickets.”
Joining up with Mars One is probably the most cost-effective way you’ll ever set foot on Mars. After all, buying a round-trip ticket to Mars from space tourism company Space X will cost you $500,000
A Russian mogul wants to achieve cybernetic immortality for humans within the next 33 years. He’s pulled together a team intent on creating fully functional holographic human avatars that house our artificial brains. Now he’s asking billionaires to help fund the advancements needed along the way.
The man behind the 2045 Initiative, described as a nonprofit organization, is a Russian named Dmitry Itskov. The ambitious timeline he’s laid out involves creating different avatars. First a robotic copy that’s controlled remotely through a brain interface. Then one in which a human brain can be transplanted at the end of life. The next could house an artificial human brain, and finally we’d have holographic avatars containing our intelligence much like the movie “Surrogates.”
Why do humans and their primate cousins get more stress-related diseases than any other member of the animal kingdom? The answer, says Stanford neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky, is that people, apes and monkeys are highly intelligent, social creatures with far too much spare time on their hands. “Primates are super smart and organized just enough to devote their free time to being miserable to each other and stressing each other out,” he said. “But if you get chronically, psychosocially stressed, you’re going to compromise your health. So, essentially, we’ve evolved to be smart enough to make ourselves sick.”
A professor of biological sciences and of neurology and neurological sciences, Sapolsky has spent more than three decades studying the physiological effects of stress on health. His pioneering work includes ongoing studies of laboratory rats and wild baboons in the African wilderness. All vertebrates respond to stressful situations by releasing hormones, such as adrenalin and glucocorticoids, which instantaneously increase the animal’s heart rate and energy level. “The stress response is incredibly ancient evolutionarily,” Sapolsky said. “Fish, birds and reptiles secrete the same stress hormones we do, yet their metabolism doesn’t get messed up the way it does in people and other primates.”
To understand why, he said, “just look at the dichotomy between what your body does during real stress—for example, something is intent on eating you and you’re running for your life—versus what your body does when you’re turning on the same stress response for months on end for purely psychosocial reasons.”
In the short term, he explained, stress hormones are “brilliantly adapted” to help you survive an unexpected threat. “You mobilize energy in your thigh muscles, you increase your blood pressure and you turn off everything that’s not essential to surviving, such as digestion, growth and reproduction,” he said. “You think more clearly, and certain aspects of learning and memory are enhanced. All of that is spectacularly adapted if you’re dealing with an acute physical stressor—a real one.”
In the end, it’s not going to matter how many breaths you took,
but how many moments took your breath away!
Photo by: Dunno. You know? Lemme know!
Samsara is the first film by director and cinematographer Ron Ficke (Koyaanisqatsi, Baraka) in nearly 20 years. Following in the footsteps of his earlier work, it will be completely devoid of dialogue and text, relying solely on compelling visuals shot on 70mm film. Do yourself a favor and watch the trailer below full-screen.
Gun enthusiast “HaveBlue” has documented the process of what appears to be the first test firing of a firearm made with a 3D printer.
Before you go about locking yourself in your closet, you should know that the only printed part of the gun was the lower receiver. But, according to the American Gun Control Act, the receiver is what counts as the firearm.
HaveBlue reportedly used a Stratasys 3D printer to craft the part, assembled it as a .22 pistol and fired more than 200 rounds with it.
The tester then attempted to assemble a rifle with the part and a .223 upper receiver but had “feed and extraction issues.” The problem may not in fact be with the 3D-printed part, though, as the issues remained when a standard aluminum lower was used.
3D printer gun designs have been floating around the Internet for some time now, but HaveBlue seems to be the first to take it to the next level.
“The indoctrination is so deep that educated people think they’re being objective.”
Did you know your face actually turns slightly red each time your heart beats, when fresh blood pumps through it? Neither did I, and that’s because it’s so slight that our visual perception system doesn’t pick up on it. Ah, but what if you could use a computer program to magnify the changes so they become visible? That’s just what computer scientists at MIT did, and the result is fascinating: watch the video (starting at 1:25) and see how with every heartbeat, a man’s face turns tomato red, then fades to a pallid yellow. The program is so precise that it can accurately calculate a person’s heart rate from the color changes.
University of Florida researchers have moved a step closer to treating diseases on a cellular level by creating a tiny particle that can be programmed to shut down the genetic production line that cranks out disease-related proteins. In laboratory tests, these newly created “nanorobots” all but eradicated hepatitis C virus infection. The programmable nature of the particle makes it potentially useful against diseases such as cancer and other viral infections. The research effort, led by Y. Charles Cao, a UF associate professor of chemistry, and Dr. Chen Liu, a professor of pathology and endowed chair in gastrointestinal and liver research in the UF College of Medicine, is described online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “This is a novel technology that may have broad application because it can target essentially any gene we want,” Liu said. “This opens the door to new fields so we can test many other things. We’re excited about it.”
During the past five decades, nanoparticles — particles so small that tens of thousands of them can fit on the head of a pin — have emerged as a viable foundation for new ways to diagnose, monitor and treat disease. Nanoparticle-based technologies are already in use in medical settings, such as in genetic testing and for pinpointing genetic markers of disease. And several related therapies are at varying stages of clinical trial. The Holy Grail of nanotherapy is an agent so exquisitely selective that it enters only diseased cells, targets only the specified disease process within those cells and leaves healthy cells unharmed.