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  • "Ambulance Drone" Prototype Unveiled In Holland

    schwit1 writes with news about a flying defibrillator designed by a Dutch student. A Dutch-based student on Tuesday unveiled a prototype of an "ambulance drone", a flying defibrillator able to reach heart attack victims within precious life-saving minutes. Developed by Belgian engineering graduate Alec Momont, it can fly at speeds of up to 100 kilometres per hour (60 miles per hour). "Around 800,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest in the European Union every year and only 8.0 percent survive, the main reason for this is the relatively long response time of emergency services of around 10 minutes, while brain death and fatalities occur with four to six minutes,"

    80 comments | yesterday

  • We Are All Confident Idiots

    An anonymous reader writes: If you've ever heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect, you'll be familiar with David Dunning, professor of psychology at Cornell. He's written an article on the "psychology of human wrongness," explaining how confidence in one's answers tends to be high for people who don't know what they're talking about. He says, "What's curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge."

    Dunning goes on: "A whole battery of studies conducted by myself and others have confirmed that people who don't know much about a given set of cognitive, technical, or social skills tend to grossly overestimate their prowess and performance, whether it's grammar, emotional intelligence, logical reasoning, firearm care and safety, debating, or financial knowledge. College students who hand in exams that will earn them Ds and Fs tend to think their efforts will be worthy of far higher grades; low-performing chess players, bridge players, and medical students, and elderly people applying for a renewed driver's license, similarly overestimate their competence by a long shot."

    295 comments | 2 days ago

  • Scientists Engineer Cancer-Killing Stem Cells

    SternisheFan writes with news that medical researchers from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital have successfully cultivated stem cells that will kill brain cancer cells in mice without damaging healthy cells. "They used genetic engineering to make stem cells that spewed out cancer-killing toxins, but, crucially, were also able to resist the effects of the poison they were producing. ... In animal tests, the stem cells were surrounded in gel and placed at the site of the brain tumor after it had been removed. Their cancer cells then died as they had no defense against the toxins (abstract)." The next step in the research is to try the treatment on humans. Chris Mason, a professor of regenerative medicine, said, "This is a clever study, which signals the beginning of the next wave of therapies. It shows you can attack solid tumors by putting mini pharmacies inside the patient which deliver the toxic payload direct to the tumor. Cells can do so much. This is the way the future is going to be."

    46 comments | 5 days ago

  • Machine Learning Expert Michael Jordan On the Delusions of Big Data

    First time accepted submitter agent elevator writes In a wide-ranging interview at IEEE Spectrum, Michael I. Jordan skewers a bunch of sacred cows, basically saying that: The overeager adoption of big data is likely to result in catastrophes of analysis comparable to a national epidemic of collapsing bridges. Hardware designers creating chips based on the human brain are engaged in a faith-based undertaking likely to prove a fool's errand; and despite recent claims to the contrary, we are no further along with computer vision than we were with physics when Isaac Newton sat under his apple tree.

    145 comments | about a week ago

  • Ebola Does Not Require an "Ebola Czar," Nor Calling Up the National Guard

    Lasrick writes: David Ropeik explores risk-perception psychology and Ebola in the U.S. "[O]fficials are up against the inherently emotional and instinctive nature of risk-perception psychology. Pioneering research on this subject by Paul Slovic, Baruch Fischhoff, and others, vast research on human cognition by Daniel Kahneman and colleagues, and research on the brain's fear response by neuroscientists Joseph LeDoux, Elizabeth Phelps, and others, all make abundantly clear that the perception of risk is not simply a matter of the facts, but more a matter of how those facts feel. ... People worry more about risks that are new and unfamiliar. People worry more about risks that cause greater pain and suffering. People worry more about threats against which we feel powerless, like a disease for which there is no vaccine and which has a high fatality rate if you get it. And people worry more about threats the more available they are to their consciousness—that is, the more aware people are of them."

    384 comments | about two weeks ago

  • NASA's HI-SEAS Project Results Suggests a Women-Only Mars Crew

    globaljustin writes "Alan Drysdale, a systems analyst in advanced life support and a contractor with NASA concluded, "Small women haven't been demonstrated to be appreciably dumber than big women or big men, so there's no reason to choose larger people for a flight crew when it's brain power you want," says Drysdale. "The logical thing to do is to fly small women." Kate Greene, who wrote the linked article, took part in the first HI-SEAS experiment in Martian-style living, and has some compelling reasons for an all-women crew, energy efficiency chief among them: Week in and week out, the three female crew members expended less than half the calories of the three male crew members. Less than half! We were all exercising roughly the same amount—at least 45 minutes a day for five consecutive days a week—but our metabolic furnaces were calibrated in radically different ways. During one week, the most metabolically active male burned an average of 3,450 calories per day, while the least metabolically active female expended 1,475 calories per day. It was rare for a woman on crew to burn 2,000 calories in a day and common for male crew members to exceed 3,000. ... The calorie requirements of an astronaut matter significantly when planning a mission. The more food a person needs to maintain her weight on a long space journey, the more food should launch with her. The more food launched, the heavier the payload. The heavier the payload, the more fuel required to blast it into orbit and beyond. The more fuel required, the heavier the rocket becomes, which it in turn requires more fuel to launch.

    399 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Brain Patterns Give Clues To Why Some People Just Keep Gambling

    Research from several UK universities, as reported by Time, indicates that the brain activity of compulsive gamblers shows a marked difference in response to pleasure-triggering behavior, which may help explain why they have trouble stopping: [The participants] took an amphetamine capsule, which unleashes endorphins with similar effects to the rush you get from exercise or alcohol, the study says. An additional PET scan revealed that pathological gamblers responded differently to the drug. They released fewer endorphins than those who didn't gamble, and they also reported lower levels of euphoria on a questionnaire afterward. This might help explain the addictive part of pathological gambling: to get pleasure from the act, problem gamblers might need more of it or to work harder for it.

    59 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Scientists Find Rats Aren't Smarter Than Mice, and That's Important

    HughPickens.com writes: There has long been a clear hierarchy of intelligence in the psychology lab, with monkeys are at the top, then rats, and finally mice at the bottom, "cute and fluffy but not all that bright." For at least a hundred years, researchers have used rats in their psychology experiments, assuming that they were the smarter of the two lab rodents. Now, Rose Eveleth reports at The Atlantic that new research shows this might not be true, suggesting mice can perform decision-making tasks in the lab just as well as rats can. "Anything we could train a rat to do we could train a mouse to do as well," says Tony Zador. This finding is important because using mice in experiments instead of rats could open up all kinds of new research options. For one thing, scientists have been able to manipulate a mouse's genome in really useful ways, silencing certain genes to figure out what role they play. There are mouse models for everything from Alzheimer's to Parkinson's. Being able to put those mice through the paces of a psychology experiment could help researchers connect diseases with the behaviors they impact.

    So where did this idea that rats are smarter than mice come from, anyway? Zador says it's a historical bias. "There was 100 years of practice in training rats. And basically when people tried to treat the mice in exactly the way they treated the rats, the rats seemed smarter," says Zador. In other words, "over the course of 100 years people had figured out how to train rats, and that mice aren't rats." You might think that mice and rats would be basically the same when it comes to these kinds of things, but Zador points out that mice and rats diverged somewhere between 12 and 24 million years ago. For comparison, humans and chimpanzees split somewhere between 5 and 7 million years ago. So it's no surprise that mice behave differently than rats, and that the difference impacts their training in the lab. "The mouse is uniquely placed at the interface between experimental access and behavioral complexity, making it an ideal model for the study of adaptive decision-making. Successful behavioral paradigms, however, rely on targeting designs to the idiosyncrasies of the mouse from the outset, rather than simply assuming that mice are little rats."

    154 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Early Childhood Neglect Associated With Altered Brain Structure, ADHD

    vinces99 writes "Under the rule of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, thousands of Romanian children were placed in overcrowded orphanages with bleak conditions and minimal human contact, a legacy that continued even after the 1989 revolution. Only recently have research and public concern caused policy changes.

    University of Washington research on children who began life in these institutions shows that early childhood neglect is associated with changes in brain structure. A paper published this month in Biological Psychiatry shows that children who spent their early years in these institutions have thinner brain tissue in cortical areas that correspond to impulse control and attention. "These differences suggest a way that the early care environment has dramatic and lasting effects for children's functioning," said lead author Katie McLaughlin, a UW assistant professor of psychology.

    Since 2000, the Bucharest Early Intervention Project has worked to document and treat the children's health. McLaughlin joined the team about six years ago to focus on brain development. This study is among the first in any setting to document how social deprivation in early life affects the thickness of the cortex, the thin folded layer of gray matter that forms the outer layer of the brain. The study provides "very strong support" for a link between the early environment and ADHD, McLaughlin said.

    87 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Oxytocin Regulates Sociosexual Behavior In Female Mice

    Chipmunk100 writes In a research article in the journal Cell scientists report that there is a subset of neurons that are vital in social interest of female mice for males during estrus, the sexually receptive phase of their cycle. They say that these neurons are responsive to oxytocin. The level of oxytocin rise when we hug or kiss a loved one. The BBC has an article on the findings as well, and reports that Without [oxytocin], female mice were no more attracted to a mate than to a block of Lego ... [The affected] neurons are situated in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain important for personality, learning and social behaviour. Both when the hormone was withheld and when the cells were silenced, the females lost interest in mating during oestrous, which is when female mice are sexually active.

    216 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Prosthetic Hand Capable of Delivering Texture Sensations

    Zothecula writes: A new prosthetic system allows amputees to feel familiar sensations and also, somewhat unexpectedly, reduces their phantom pain. Researchers at Case Western Reserve University and the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center developed the system to reactivate areas of the brain that produce the sense of touch, but recipients of prosthetic hands reported their phantom pain subsiding almost completely after being hooked up to the system.

    30 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Why the Trolls Will Always Win

    maynard writes: Kathy Sierra spent a tech career developing videogames and teaching Java programming in Sun Microsystems masterclasses. Up until 2007, she'd been a well regarded tech specialist who happened to be female. Until the day she opined on her private blog that given the crap-flood of bad comments, maybe forum moderation wasn't a bad idea. This opinion made her a target. A sustained trolling and harassment campaign followed, comprised of death and rape threats, threats against her family, fabricated claims of prostitution, and a false claim that she had issued a DMCA takedown to stifle criticism. All of this culminated in the public release of her private address and Social Security Number, a technique known as Doxxing. And so she fled from the public, her career, and even her home.

    It turned out that a man named Andrew Auernheimer was responsible for having harassed Sierra. Known as 'Weev', he admitted it in a 2008 New York Times story on Internet Trolls. There, he spoke to the lengths which he and his cohorts went to discredit and destroy the woman. "Over a candlelit dinner of tuna sashimi, Weev asked if I would attribute his comments to Memphis Two, the handle he used to troll Kathy Sierra, a blogger. Inspired by her touchy response to online commenters, Weev said he "dropped docs" on Sierra, posting a fabricated narrative of her career alongside her real Social Security number and address. This was part of a larger trolling campaign against Sierra, one that culminated in death threats."

    Now, seven years later, Kathy Sierra has returned to explain why she left and what recent spates of online harassment against women portend for the future if decent people don't organize. The situation has grown much more serious since she went into hiding all those years ago. It's more than just the threat of Doxxing to incite physical violence by random crazies with a screw loose.
    Read on for the rest of maynard's thoughts.

    728 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Carl Sagan, as "Mr. X," Extolled Benefits of Marijuana

    New submitter Colin Castro writes with an exceprt from the San Francisco Chronicle that reveals a different side of Carl Sagan: MarijuanaMajority.com founder Tom Angell spent a few days this summer in the Library of Congress researching the iconic American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist and author and has come away with a bounty. Angell says he found some never-before-released writings on marijuana policy from the author of classics such as 'Contact' and the TV show 'Cosmos', which is the most widely watched series in the history of American public television. ... I am convinced that there are genuine and valid levels of perception available with cannabis (and probably with other drugs) which are, through the defects of our society and our educational system, unavailable to us without such drugs,' Sagan wrote in 1971, under the name Mr. X.

    263 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Biofeedback Used To Make People Anxious

    vrml (3027321) writes Biofeedback is well-known as a relaxation technique, but the HCI Lab of the University of Udine has tried to use it for the opposite purpose: making people anxious. The technique, described by a paper in the November 2014 issue of the Interacting with Computers journal, exploits heartbeat detection. While users navigated a 3D world, the computer detected and played their actual heartbeat (users were not told it was theirs) in the audio background of the virtual world. At a couple of times during the experience, the application artificially increased the frequency of the played heartbeat and then reverted it to the actual one after some seconds. The study described in the paper contrasts the technique with aversive stimuli frequently used in video games when the character gets hurt such as decreasing health bars or increasing the frequency of an heartbeat sound that is not related to the user's actual heartbeat. The biofeedback-based technique produced much larger (subjective as well as physiological) levels of user anxiety than those classic aversive stimuli.

    33 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Study Weighs In On the Reliability of Eyewitness Testimony

    sciencehabit writes The victim peers across the courtroom, points at a man sitting next to a defense lawyer, and confidently says, "That's him!" Such moments have a powerful sway on jurors who decide the fate of thousands of people every day in criminal cases. But how reliable is eyewitness testimony? A new report concludes that the use of eyewitness accounts need tighter control, and among its recommendations is a call for a more scientific approach to how eyewitnesses identify suspects during the classic police lineup.

    102 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Nobel Prize For Medicine Awarded For "Brain GPS" Research

    Dave Knott writes U.S.-British scientist John O'Keefe and Norwegian married couple May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser won the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for discovering the "inner GPS" that helps the brain navigate through the world. O'Keefe, currently director of the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre in Neural Circuits and Behaviour at University College London, discovered the first component of this system in 1971 when he found that a certain type of nerve cell was always activated when a rat was at a certain place in a room. He demonstrated that these "place cells" were building up a map of the environment, not just registering visual input. Thirty-four years later, the Mosers, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, identified another type of nerve cell — the "grid cell" — that generates a coordinate system for precise positioning and path-finding, These findings on rats — and research suggests humans have the same system in their brains — represent a paradigm shift in our knowledge of how cells work together to perform cognitive functions and could help scientists understand the mechanisms behind Alzheimer's disease.

    33 comments | about three weeks ago

  • How Computer Vision Algorithms Cope With Detecting Human Figures In Art

    KentuckyFC writes The human visual system has evolved to recognize people in almost any pose under a vast range of lighting conditions. But abstract art pushes this ability to its limits by distorting the human form. In particular, Cubism seeks to represent three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional plane by juxtaposing snapshots from different angles. The result is that a Cubist picture contains many 'fragments of perception' of the same object. That's why it is often hard for people to recognize the human figures that these pictures contain. Now a group of computer scientists have tested how computer vision algorithms fare at the task of spotting human figures in Cubist art. They compared a variety of different algorithms against humans in trying to spot human figures in 218 Cubist paintings by Picasso. Humans easily outperform all the algorithms at this task. But some algorithms were much better than others. The most successful were based on so-called "deformable parts models" that recognize human figures by looking for body parts rather than the entire form. Interestingly, the team says this backs up various studies by neuroscientists suggesting that the human brain works in a similar way.

    22 comments | about three weeks ago

  • It's Not Just How Smart You Are: Curiosity Is Key To Learning

    Scientific American reports that a UC Davis study (paywalled) on how learning interacts with curiosity indicates that curiosity can lead to demonstrably better recall. From the SciAm article: Neuroscientist Charan Ranganath and his fellow researchers asked 19 participants to review more than 100 questions, rating each in terms of how curious they were about the answer. Next, each subject revisited 112 of the questions—half of which strongly intrigued them whereas the rest they found uninteresting—while the researchers scanned their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). During the scanning session participants would view a question then wait 14 seconds and view a photograph of a face totally unrelated to the trivia before seeing the answer. Afterward the researchers tested participants to see how well they could recall and retain both the trivia answers and the faces they had seen. Ranganath and his colleagues discovered that greater interest in a question would predict not only better memory for the answer but also for the unrelated face that had preceded it. A follow-up test one day later found the same results—people could better remember a face if it had been preceded by an intriguing question. Somehow curiosity could prepare the brain for learning and long-term memory more broadly."

    83 comments | about a month ago

  • Lost Sense of Smell Is a Strong Predictor of Death Within 5 Years

    HughPickens.com writes: Mo Costandi reports at The Guardian that a new study shows losing one's sense of smell strongly predicts death within five years, suggesting that smell may serve as a bellwether for the overall state of the body, or as a marker for exposure to environmental toxins. "Olfactory dysfunction was an independent risk factor for death, stronger than several common causes of death, such as heart failure, lung disease and cancer," the researchers concluded, "indicating that this evolutionarily ancient special sense may signal a key mechanism that affects human longevity." In the study, researchers tested a group of volunteers for their ability to correctly identify various scents. Five years later, they retested as many of the volunteers as they could find.

    During the five-year gap between the two tests, 430 of the original participants (or 12.5% of the total number) had died. Of these, 39% who had failed the first smell test died before the second test, compared to 19% of those who had moderate smell loss on the first test, and just 10% of those with a healthy sense of smell. Despite taking issues such as age, nutrition, smoking habits, poverty and overall health into account, researchers found those with the poorest sense of smell were still at greatest risk. The tip of the olfactory nerve, which contains the smell receptors, is the only part of the human nervous system that is continuously regenerated by stem cells. The production of new smell cells declines with age, and this is associated with a gradual reduction in our ability to detect and discriminate odors. Loss of smell may indicate that the body is entering a state of disrepair, and is no longer capable of repairing itself.

    139 comments | about a month ago

  • Study: Compound Found In Beer Boosts Brain Function

    An anonymous reader writes Researchers have found that a chemical found in hops may actually improve memory. Unfortunately, a person would need to drink 3,520 pints of beer a day to get a high enough dose of the chemical to boost their brain power. A daunting task for even the most enthusiastic Oktoberfest participant. From the article: "Researchers at Oregon State University discovered that doses of xanthohumol, a flavonoid found in hops, improved memory and thinking in a lucky group of mice. Flavonoids are a class of compounds present in plants, known to have numerous health benefits. Last year, researchers discovered that a flavonoid found in celery and artichokes could potentially fight pancreatic cancer. The researchers treated the mice with dietary supplements of xanthohumol over the course of eight weeks. Their goal was to determine if xanthohumol could affect palmitoylation, a naturally occurring process in animals (including humans) that's associated with memory degradation. The mice then went through a series of tests—including the popular Morris water maze—to gauge whether or not the treatments had improved their spatial memory and cognitive flexibility. For the younger mice in the group, it worked. But on the older mice, unfortunately, the xanthohumol didn't seem to have any effect."

    119 comments | about a month ago

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