Mental health, public health, global health. New and interesting developments in technology and the arts. Meditation research. And occasionally cute animals.


Scientists Find Networks Can Get Schizophrenic

Computer networks may have more human characteristics than we know. Researchers at the university of Texas found that computer networks can show a kind of virtual schizophrenia, if they can’t forget fast enough.

The project was based on a virtual computer model designed to simulate the excessive release of dopamine in the human brain. The network was able to learn a natural language was used to investigate what happens to language as the result of eight different types of neurological dysfunction. The results of the simulations were compared by Ralph Hoffman, professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, to what he saw when studying human schizophrenics.

Talk with a dolphin via underwater translation machine

A DIVER carrying a computer that tries to recognise dolphin sounds and generate responses in real time will soon attempt to communicate with wild dolphins off the coast of Florida. If the bid is successful, it will be a big step towards two-way communication between humans and dolphins.


BBC UK has a story on this, but its headline misses the main point here.  People have made 3D images of cells for many years now.  The thing that really is a breakthrough here is that the cells are ALIVE, and the resolution is very good.

What you’re seeing in this video is a live, moving, HeLa cell, with all of its cell-surface projections.

Images and more videos are available on the Nature Methods site for the paper.

Cockroach Brains May Hold New Antibiotics?

Cockroaches may make your skin crawl, but the insects—or, to be exact, their brains—could one day save your life. That’s because the central nervous systems of American cockroaches produce natural antibiotics that can kill off bacteria often deadly to humans, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and toxic strains of Escherichia coli, scientists said this week.

New NASA Probe to Dive-bomb the Sun

First NASA “bombed” the moon in search of water ice. Now the space agency says it will send a craft diving into the sun to take direct samples from our star for the first time.

High-speed filter uses electrified nanostructures to purify water at low cost

By dipping plain cotton cloth in a high-tech broth full of silver nanowires and carbon nanotubes, Stanford researchers have developed a new high-speed, low-cost filter that could easily be implemented to purify water in the developing world.

Scientists create 'dry water' - Telegraph


The substance resembles powdered sugar and could revolutionise the way chemicals are used.

Each particle of dry water contains a water droplet surrounded by a sandy silica coating. In fact, 95 per cent of dry water is ”wet” water.

Okay, THAT is amazing.

Climate, Energy And Stem Cells: Ceding the Frontier

Yesterday’s ruling blocking federal research for embryonic stem cells represents a potentially disastrous setback for the field. Seen in and of itself, the ruling might look like another salvo in America’s endless polarizing battle over abortion rights but stepping back a bit shows a far deeper constellation of behaviors at work with much deeper consequences. We are ceding our leadership in the most vital world arenas of technological innovation to others with stiffer political will and discipline.

(Italics mine) 

Zoo with creationist agenda approved for schools (UK)

As awful as it is, I can’t help but also find it slightly refreshing to see evidence that these nutjobs aren’t limited to the US.

Sniff-Controlled Keyboards, Wheelchairs Invented


From National Geographic:

People who are paralyzed from the neck down might soon be leading themselves around by the nose—literally. A new electric wheelchair allows the severely disabled to guide their movements by sniffing into tubes.

Sniffing depends on highly coordinated motions of the back of the roof of the mouth, aka the soft palate. This region receives signals from several nerves that are often unaffected by paralytic injuries and disorders.

That means some patients with disabilities ranging from quadriplegia to “locked-in syndrome”—where a person is completely paralyzed, save for eyeblinks—retain the ability to sniff with precision.

Based on this idea, scientists with the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, devised a new sniff controller, which uses tubes placed up the nose to measure sniff-triggered changes in nasal air pressure.

Related: Brain-controlled wheelchair

Earplug provides steer-by-tongue control (by detecting changes in ear pressure)

Steering a wheelchair with tongue movements (and a magnet on the tongue)

Vaginal gel shows effectiveness in preventing HIV in women

A vaginal microbicide can cut HIV infection rates by 39 percent in women, researchers announced Monday. And female study participants who inserted the gel as directed reduced their chances of contracting HIV by more than half (54 percent). The news is a stunning, positive development, especially for women at risk for sexual transmission, in a field that has been plagued by two decades of failed and aborted trials.

Scientists to present car for blind drivers next year


From the BBC:

US Scientists and the National Federation of the Blind are developing a car for the blind and will present a prototype next year.

The vehicle will be fitted with technology that allows a blind person to drive independently, the NFB and Virginia Tech University said.

Non-visual aids include sensors indicating turns in the road via vibrating gloves.

Puffs of compressed air on the face will alert the driver to obstacles.

Other aids to be fitted include a vibrating vest to give feedback on speed and a steering wheel with audio cues and spoken commands indicating the car’s direction.


Last year Virginia Tech turned a beach buggy into an experimental vehicle for blind drivers.

They used sensor lasers and cameras to act as the eyes of the buggy.

The model to be presented next year will be a modified Ford Escape sport utility vehicle, the NFB announced.

via roshanpatel

Judge tosses creationists' effort to offer master's degrees

In 2008, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board rejected the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research’s application to offer master’s degrees, which taught science from a biblical perspective. The institute’s graduate school sued in 2009, claiming the board violated its constitutional right to free speech and religion. 

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin found no merit in the institute’s claims and criticized its legal documents as “overly verbose, disjointed, incoherent, maundering and full of irrelevant information.”

Yay Texas!