Remember that time you were drinking Coke with Ronald McDonald and Tony the Tiger while the Energizer Bunny danced in your living room? Yeah, that never happened….but that doesn’t mean you can’t remember it happening. A new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research reveals that not only do vivid ads give us false memories related to what we’re shown in marketing images, but we are remarkably confident that those memories are true. Long after you watch a commercial picturing a happy family enjoying Nestle cookies around a fire, or laughing on a beach, you may begin to remember those events not as ads, but as real memories of your life. This ‘false experience effect’ may have profound effects not only on our purchasing habits, but on the very way we perceive ourselves and reality. You thought our memories were our own? Silly reader, advertising tricks are screwing with your kids.
I recently gave a talk at the Directors Guild of America as part of a panel on the “Science of Cyborgs” sponsored by the Science Entertainment Exchange. It was a fun time, and our moderators, Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant from the HowStuffWorks podcast, emceed the evening with just the right measure of humor and cultural insight. In my twelve minutes, I shared a theory of how consciousness evolved. My point was that if we understand the evolutionary basis of consciousness, maybe this will help us envision new ways our consciousness might evolve further in the future. That could be fun in terms of dreaming up new stories. I also believe that part of what inhibits us from taking effective action against long-term problems—like the global environmental crisis — may be found in the evolutionary origins of our ability to be aware.
The human enterprise now consumes nearly 60 billion metric tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and plant materials, such as crop plants and trees for timber or paper. Meanwhile, the seven billionth person on the planet is expected to be born this year—and the human population may reach 10 billion by this century’s end, according to the latest United Nations analysis. Hundreds of millions of people in Europe, North America and Asia live a modern life, which largely means consuming more than 16 metric tons of such natural resources—or more—per person per year. If the billions of poor people living today or born tomorrow consume anything approaching this figure, the world will have to find more than 140 billion metric tons of such materials each year by mid-century, according to a new report from the U.N. Enviromental Programme.
With age and enough experience, we all become connoisseurs of a sort. After years of hearing a favorite song, you might notice a subtle effect that’s lost on greener ears. Perhaps you’re a keen judge of character after a long stint working in sales. Or maybe you’re one of the supremely practiced few who tastes his money’s worth in a wine.
DNA could replace silicon as the core component of chips in future computers, according to recent coverage online. DNA is a complex protein molecule which contains a living thing’s genetic blueprint. Every cell of every human body contains DNA, and some researchers believe that this building block of life could spell the way forward for the next generation of supercomputers.
As promised last week, I would like to share some audio recordings I made of Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer taking questions from the press during the opening of the new IBM and ETH Zurich nanotechnology laboratory named in their honor.
Pity the lowly astrocyte, the most common cell in the human nervous system.
Long considered to be little more than putty in the brain and spinal cord, the star-shaped astrocyte has found new respect among neuroscientists who have begun to recognize its many functions in the brain, not to mention its role in a range of disorders of the central nervous system.
Since the dawn of the 1970′s television action show the Six Million Dollar Man, the public has been fascinated by bionics and the integration of technology into the human body. What once seemed to be a far-off science fiction fantasy, is increasingly, however, becoming real. For years, surgeons have been replacing human body parts with human donor-supplied biological alternatives. It has become commonplace in medicine to transplant a human heart, kidney or liver from a deceased individual and place it into a living donor. These procedures would have been unthinkable just 50 years ago, yet today are now commonplace.
After Rob Summers was paralyzed below the chest in a car accident in 2006, his doctors told him he would never stand again. They were wrong.
Despite intensive physical therapy for three years, Summers’ condition hadn’t improved. So in 2009, doctors implanted an electrical stimulator onto the lining of his spinal cord to try waking up his damaged nervous system. Within days, Summers, 25, stood without help. Months later, he wiggled his toes, moved his knees, ankles and hips, and was able to take a few steps on a treadmill.
A Japanese research team led by Yusuke Sugahara at Tohoku University has built a robotic prototype of a free-flying, ground-effects vehicle that floats within inches of the road. Called Aero Train, this ground-effects vehicle will be used to test an autonomous three-axis stabilization system.
Robots are better than humans at fomenting human interaction on the Internet and creating online communities, according to recent experiments in social engineering.
The research was conducted by the Web Ecology Project, a community of researchers dedicated to better understanding Web culture through quantitative research.
“We wanted to see if it’s possible to design bots that have a statistically significant and reliable effect on the way people are connecting and talking online,” said Tim Hwang, WEP’s director and an organizer of the experiment.
Like many of you I grew up reading science fiction, and to me Isaac Asimov was a god of the genre. From 1929 until the mid 90s, the author created many lasting tropes and philosophies that would define scifi for generations, but perhaps his most famous creation was the Three Laws of Robotics. Conceived as a means of evolving robot stories from mere re-tellings of Frankenstein, the Three Laws were a fail-safe built into robots in Asimov’s fiction. These laws, which robots had to obey, protected humans from being hurt and made robots obedient. This concept helped form the real world belief among robotics engineers that they could create intelligent machines that would coexist peacefully with humanity. Even today, as we play with our Aibos and Pleos, set our Roombas to cleaning our carpet, and marvel at advanced robots like ASIMO and Rollin’ Justin, there’s an underlying belief that, with the proper planning and programming, we can insure that intelligent robots will never hurt us. I wish I could share that belief, but I don’t. Dumb machines like cars, dishwashers, etc, can be controlled. Intelligent machines like science fiction robots or AI computers cannot. The Three Laws of Robotics are a myth, and a dangerous one.
It’s called Rasberry Pi and the price for the new computer is as delicious as its name. Under development by The Raspberry Pi Foundation in the UK, the barebones PC is hoped to cost somewhere between £10 and £15, or roughly $15 to $25. An early prototype of the device is built on a flashdrive style PCB, so not only is Rasberry Pi cheap, it’s tiny too! Yet inside that tiny package is enough hardware for basic experimentation and development – there’s a 700 MHz ARM11 processor, 128 MB of RAM, and ports for HDMI, USB 2.0, and SD memory card. Check out David Braben, a famous British game developer and pillar of the foundation, describe the purpose behind Rasberry Pi in the video below. If they can actually mass manufacture this tiny PC for $25, it could become the platform that allows young people everywhere a chance to explore and innovate computing.
Technology. An ever-changing beast! So much so, that the sinfully thin iPad 2 packs the same power as the jumbo-sized four-processor version of the Cray 2, a supercomputer, which was the world’s faster computer in 1985.
Supercomputers may soon approach the brain’s power, but much is unknown about how it works
In “Too Hard for Science?” I interview scientists about ideas they would love to explore that they don’t think could be investigated. For instance, they might involve machines beyond the realm of possibility, such as particle accelerators as big as the sun, or they might be completely unethical, such as lethal experiments involving people. This feature aims to look at the impossible dreams, the seemingly intractable problems in science. However, the question mark at the end of “Too Hard for Science?” suggests that nothing might be impossible.
Did you know that police cars these days are now outfitted with cameras that can automatically scan all license plates within their visual range? Cameras mounted on a patrol car driving 80 mph can capture plates from cars driving the opposite way traveling at the same speed. Side-mounted cameras can be used to collect plates in a parking lot as the officer cruises leisurely back and forth through the lanes! Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technologies mounted on police cars and various stationary sites are vastly improving the monitoring capabilities of the police force, and pissing off civil rights groups just as effectively.
Turns out it was OK for me to be unwell last week. It gave me enough time to ponder some of the major stories of the moment without being compelled to write about them. Whether it was Amazon’s outage, Sony’s network breach or the drama around Apple’s location data collection policies (or lack thereof) — the hue and cry was quite astonishing. I mean, even South Park and Stephen Colbert had to weigh in on Apple’s location problems!